Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
Throwing out the microwave has helped improve my mindfulness practice and skills in real life. Microwaves are cool. They cook things superfast. Anything from warming up a cup of coffee, cooking a frozen dinner or even making popcorn. They make life easier because they are fast and they cook food "good enough". Some people have suggested there are health risks with microwaves, but that wasn't really my reason for eliminating it. The problem I was having was that because it was "efficient", I tried to be efficient too, by doing everything at the same time. And I have noticed that when I try to do too many things at the same time, I don't pay attention and I don't do any of them very well. I don't do them mindfully or with intention. And if we are being honest here, which we are, it wasn't really a planned choice to go microwave-less. It was a coincidence that at first seemed like more of an annoyance. I moved into a new place and it had its original kitchen from the 50's. Original... like sink (without garbage disposal), stove, oven and cupboards. Nothing else. Originally I thought I would just buy a microwave when I got a chance, not thinking it was a big deal.
Not surprisingly, suddenly not having a microwave, after having one everyday of your life up to this point, is hard. What does a person do when their coffee gets cold? Duh, put it in the microwave. What did people do before microwaves? Well, I realized I could put it in a pan and warm it up that way. I sort of felt like I was either camping or reliving the pioneer days. It was a strangely proud moment for me. I had to stand at the stove and stir my coffee in the pan so the milk wouldn't burn. I couldn't make toast, sweep the floor and make my daughters lunch. I could just stand and stir my coffee. I noticed it's color and it's rich and roasty toasty smell. I think I actually enjoyed my coffee more than I had in a long time. I noticed how warm it was now and felt the steam rise up onto my face.
This was kind of cool. Yes I had to slow down, but it almost felt like time slowed down too. I still got everything done AND I didn't feel totally flustered by the time I dropped my daughter off at school. That was new! It felt like I had actually lived those moments on this morning, even though I had done all the same things the day before that and the day before that. Back in the day when I had a microwave, all those mornings sort of combined into one big foggy sort of memory. All of these "mundane" moments are what make up our lives.
There is joy and beauty in the simplest of tasks. Imagine cooking veggies in a pan. The sound of them sizzling in the pan and the smell of the onions and bell peppers as they cook. The vibrant reds and yellows and greens and the warmth of the flame as it cooks the food. It is a chance to engage your senses and notice the lovely little details. When you microwave some veggies, they get hot and you can eat them, but they are not the same. I really love that feeling of cooking and paying attention to what it is I am doing. I swear the food actually tastes better.
Microwave-less mindfulness helped me not burn food, as I reminded myself " be here now" or "notice what is happening now" or simply "pay attention". It also spilled over into other parts of my life as I had such a great feeling when I did pay attention to this moment.
In maintaining the spirit of honesty, I will admit that sometimes it's just a pain in the butt when the kid asks to have her mac and cheese warmed up and there is not clean pan in the house or all you have is microwave popcorn and you really want popcorn. By the way, did you know you can make popcorn on the stove? The things I have learned!
I think you get the idea of how this simple change has made big improvements to my daily life. And that's only the stove. Don't even get me started on how much better things taste when they are cooked in the oven rather than microwave. But I will save the magic of cooking food in the oven for another day.
Getting rid of the microwave may not be your thing. I get it. But I bet there is something you can change to bring more mindfulness into your day. When you get the chance to notice all the little things that happen between the big things, life feels fuller. Those little things can add up to feelings of wonder, fulfillment and calm sometimes.
To learn more about Sara Cole MFT and her practice in San Diego, visit www.saracolemft.com. You can also find lots of other blog posts there to enjoy.
We Need To Talk About Suicide
Suicide can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it is a something we must address. When someone has come to a point where they are considering killing themself, they are feeling alone, scared, hopeless and they need help. Just the words of one person can save a suicidal person. There may come a day when you could be that person. Because you may come into contact with someone who is contemplating ending their life, it is important to know what to look for as warning signs and what you can do to help. These same tips can also help if you find yourself thinking of suicide.
Suicide warning signs include:
Talking about suicide – Any talk of suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means – Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death – Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family/friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others – Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Acting as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm – A sudden sense of calm or happiness after being extremely depressed can mean the person has made a decision to kill themself.
Tip One: If You are not sure, ask.
If you see the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may not be sure what to do or say. In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs help right away.
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be really hard for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask them.
You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may actually prevent a suicide attempt.
Here are few ways to you can start a conversation about suicide:
Here are some questions you can ask:
What you can say that helps:
When you are talking to someone who is suicidal do:
Tip 2: Know How to respond in a crisis.
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
If the person has suicidal thoughts, a specific plan that is highly lethal and the means to carry it out, or they say that they will attempt suicide, you need to respond as follows.
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.
Tip 3: Offer help and support
If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for healing your loved one. You can offer support, but you can’t make a suicidal person get better. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.
It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or therapist—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.
To help a suicidal person:
You can also check out this list of additional resources related to preventing addressing suicide.
New Parents Are In For A Bumpy Ride. Here are some of those relationship bumps and ideas on how to survive them.
New Parents have no idea what they are in for. Even if people were brutally honest about what to expect, new parents would still be totally surprised and overwhelmed once baby arrived. Having a baby creates real struggles for new parents, on so many different levels. Their relationship is put to the test and forever changed by having children.
But the good news is that not every new family is not destined for divorce or misery. To do this topic justice would require writing a long book, so in this blog post I will just discuss a few of the biggest obstacles new parents face and some ideas for how to get past those obstacles.
1. Changing Roles - This may seem obvious, but the profound level of change is truly amazing. For a woman, she is now a mother. Her body feels like it is no longer hers alone. Her body has changed physically and hormonally. If she was a professional prior to childbirth, she is not sure where that fits in now. SHe used to only be responsible for herself and now there is this tiny, helpless little being she is responsible for keeping alive.
Most moms also feel like they don't know how to do this mother thing and that can be very uncomfortable and anxiety provoking. For dads some of these same shifts are happening. He is suddenly a father. He may feel ignored by his wife because of the level of attention and care a new baby has. He may feel disconnected from his wife emotionally and physically as sex may be infrequent or non existent for a while.
2. Distribution of labor- even in families that report both parents sharing duties, it is usually found that mom is permanently the one "on call". If she is breast feeding, this alone can feel like a full time job. Dad is not tied down in the same way mom is in most cases. This can lead to resentment and frustration. Couples often tend to fall into the traditional gender-stereotypical ways of parenting.
Women are more likely to become the “on call” parent, the one who gets up in the night to feed or comfort baby or who misses work if child is sick. As this pattern progresses, women take on more of the household and childcare tasks and men spend more time outside the home at work. This in turn can lead to feelings of resentment and guilt for both parents. Even is these rolls are reversed or in a same sex marriage, similar patterns and reaction can be seen.
3. Sleep deprivation- Did you know that sleep deprivation can be used as a form of torture? Continual deprivation of sleep can have serious effects on a person. A significant loss of sleep can result in depression, anxiety, moodiness, confusion, paranoia, feeling sick, reduced cognitive functioning, forgetfulness and even in extreme situations death.
We need sleep and babies can make it very difficult to sleep. So it's not surprising that the first few months or even the first year can be very taxing on a person and a family. After my daughter was born I came to the realization that up until that point I had never really know what it was like to be truly exhausted.
4.Hormones- We all have hormones. During pregnancy a woman has all kinds of new things going on with her hormones. After the baby is born, even more changes happen and that has dramatic effects on a woman and her body and in turn her relationships. After giving birth, a woman's body gets ready to feed the baby, causing surges in some hormones and lulls in production of other hormones.
All of these changes can be emotionally challenging. Her body continues to change as she becomes the source of nourishment for her child, whether or not she decides to breastfeed. She is also still recovering from giving birth and may be sore and swollen and tender in all sorts of parts of her body.
In addition to physical restrictions on sexual activity, the hormone changes also may cause a drop in desire for intimacy. Her husband may feel rejected or unwanted. She may feel guilty or pressured to resume sex. They may both feel a disconnect due to little or no sexual activity during this time.
5. Expectations- Whether we realize it or not, we all have expectations as we enter into the unknown. New parents may attend classes about giving birth or parenting and they might even talk about what it will be like to have a child. Other parents don't really do any of this. Either way, things will not be just like they expect.
I think that if fathers and mother to be were given really honest information about what to expect in terms of things they might experience, things their partner might experience and how they each might respond to these things, the struggle might be a little less overwhelming once the baby comes home. You can never prepare for every possibility, but for example, if men were told that they really shouldn't expect to have sex for the first 6 months after baby is born, some of the stress around sex might be reduced. Then if they happen to be sexually active before 6 months, it would be a pleasant surprise instead of a source of possible conflict.
Expectations about everything from sex to division of labor, parenting style and even sleep could also be partially managed by talking ahead of time and trying to plan how it might work. Of course, also keeping in mind that things don't always go as expected.
So the challenges are many, but there are also lots of things you can do manage them. Here are a few ideas.
If your relationship does not work out, it's okay. Sometimes there are other factors that contribute to a relationship ending and there is only so much you can do. Most of these tips can be used to successfully co parent as well. Happy healthy co-parents are great parents too and they can raise happy healthy kids.
For more on parenting, new parents and relationships and self care check out some of my other blog posts here.
Sara Cole MFT is a San Diego Therapist and has been providing mental health support to San Diegans for over 15 years. To learn more about how she can help you, visit her website at www.saracolemft.com.
Hibernating isn't just for bears.
The benefits of quietly turning inward once in a while and why winter makes you want to.
This winter try to enjoy a moment or more of quiet alone time and honor that pull you feel to hibernate and be cozy. While it's quiet, I am taking this time to review the successes and disappointments of 2018 and set intentions for 2019. If you have the opportunity to do this, it can be a meaningful and inspiring practice. The following is written by Brigit Anna McNeil and she has said everything I have been thinking, so eloquently. Take a few minutes to read it and let in resonate with you.
I am excited to see what this year will bring.
Happy New Year to everyone and may it be your best year yet!
"We are approaching the threshold of winter.
Life is being drawn into the earth, painlessly descending down into the very heart of herself.
And we as natural human animals are being called to do the same, the pull to descend into our bodies, into sleep, darkness and the depths of our own inner caves continually tugging at our marrow.
But many find the descent into their own body a scary thing indeed, fearing the unmet emotions and past events that they have stored in the dark caves inside themselves, not wanting to face what they have so carefully and unkindly avoided.
This winter solstice time is no longer celebrated as it once was, with the understanding that this period of descent into our own darkness was so necessary in order to find our light. That true freedom comes from accepting with forgiveness and love what we have been through and vanquishing the hold it has on us, bringing the golden treasure back from the cave of our darker depths.
This is a time of rest and deep reflection, a time to wipe the slate clean as it were and clear out the old so you can walk into spring feeling ready to grow and skip without a dusty mountain on your back & chains around your ankles tied to the caves in your soul.
A time for the medicine of story, of fire, of nourishment and love.
A period of reconnecting, relearning & reclaiming of what this time means brings winter back to a time of kindness, love, rebirth, peace and unburdening instead of a time of dread, fear, depression and avoidance.
This modern culture teaches avoidance at a max at this time; alcohol, lights, shopping, overworking, over spending, bad food and consumerism.
And yet the natural tug to go inwards as nearly all creatures are doing is strong and people are left feeling as if there is something wrong with them, that winter is cruel and leaves them feeling abandoned and afraid. Whereas in actual fact winter is so kind, yes she points us in her quiet soft way towards our inner self, towards the darkness and potential death of what we were, but this journey if held with care is essential.
She is like a strong teacher that asks you to awaken your inner loving elder or therapist, holding yourself with awareness of forgiveness and allowing yourself to grieve, to cry, rage, laugh, & face what we need to face in order to be freed from the jagged bonds we wrapped around our hearts, in order to reach a place of healing & light without going into overwhelm.
Winter takes away the distractions, the noise and presents us with the perfect time to rest and withdraw into a womb like love, bringing fire & light to our hearth."
•illustration by Jessica Boehman•
•words Brigit Anna McNeill•
Sara Cole MFT is a San Diego therapist providing services in Banker's Hill and Scripps Ranch areas of San Diego. To find out more about her services and how she may be able to help you, visit www.saracolemft.com.
If you were told that there are 5 things you could do to increase your happiness, would you do them? Well research is showing that these five things, if done daily, have been proven to increase people's happiness. Would you believe that some of these things only require two minutes per day? Happiness researcher and expert Shawn Acher talks about these five things and how he sees them improve people's feelings of happiness. So without further ado, let's talk about these five activities you can start doing right now.
1. List three things you are grateful for and why. Do this everyday and also try to make it three new things each day. By making the effort to look for more and more things you are thankful for, your brain starts to get better at this task. It becomes a habit throughout the day. As for saying why you are thankful, that is a way of reinforcing the gratitude and also going more deeply into the experience. Acher suggests doing this daily for 90 days.
2. Take two minutes to text, email or tell someone why they are important or special to you. Again, make it a new person each day for as long as you can. Again you are training your brain to look at the positive. The other reason this works so well it that it is increasing and strengthening your social connections. Social connects are the number one predictor of happiness as we age.
3. Concentrate on deep slow breathing for two minutes. It slows you down, increase oxygen flow in your body, slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and brings you back to the present. People who take the time to do this during the day actually find that they are happier and more productive. This is actually a simple way of bringing mindfulness to your daily routine.
4. Look back over the last 24 hours and pick something good that happened. Now visualize that experience, including the feeling you had. When you visualize doing something, it like your brain doesn't know you aren't really doing it. So its like you get the benefits of that positive experience twice and all the benefits of having a positive experience. This is also another way in which you are training your brain to scan for positive events, people, etc. You are strengthening that optimist muscle.
5. Do 15 minutes or cardio activity. Preferably something you enjoy doing. Exercise causes your brain to produce "happy chemicals" which can boost your mood for hours. Also, when you pay attention to doing something positive like exercising, there is a chain reaction and you start paying attention to other things like the food you eat or getting enough sleep. It is a positive self care domino effect that you put into action.
If you can maintain even one of these practices for 90 days, it is likely that it has become a habit and part of your daily routine. Do as many of these as you are able to, on a daily basis and I know you will feel the benefits.
*This is not intended as therapy or a replacement for therapy or medication. These are activities that you can do in addition to any other treatment you may be currently receiving. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, or stuck it's always a good idea to talk to someone. A therapist is a great person to talk to. If you are feeling suicidal, please call an emergency number such as 911 or the access and crisis line (888) 247-2470 to get immediate help.
For more from Acher, check him out on youtube and Ted Talks.
Sara Cole MFT, San Diego therapist, has been providing mental health services in San Diego for 15 years. If you would like to find out more about her or her services and how she may be able to help you, check out www.saracolemft.com.
7 Essentials of Succesful Self Care
When you feel like stress is ruling your life, It’s time to step up your self care routine. Here are 7 ideas to keep in mind as you develop your own self care plan.
Living your best life starts with successful Self Care and that doesn’t mean taking an OCCASIONAL Bubble Bath. True self care takes commitment to you and the ability to stick with your plan.
Self Care involves addressing 7 areas of your life for maximum benefits.
Few realize that these areas exist and very few are addressing ALL of them.
*There’s no “one-size-fits-all” plan but it’s certain that to best care for yourself, these 7 domains need to be nurtured.
And now ....
The seven Domains of Self Care
1) Physical: This means being active, eating well and taking care of your physical health. It’s going to the doctor for a checkup or when you don’t feel well, regular dentist care, etc.
2) Emotional: This is attending to your emotional or mental health. It means identifying, accepting & expressing a range of feelings, which is vital to your health. Try finding outlets for your feelings. This could be anything from drawing to landscaping or playing an instrument. Relaxation techniques are also helpful. Try guided meditations or yoga. Seeking therapy is a great way to care for yourself. **If you’re having a challenging time, it may be time to see a therapist.
3) Spiritual: The idea that we are in “an ongoing search for meaning in life and what may extend beyond”. It’s exploring and expressing our beliefs and values. This also means understanding your place in the universe and connecting to something larger than yourself. Spirituality isn’t necessarily religion, but it can be for some people.
4) Intellectual: This is all about using your brain. This involves critical thinking, an interest in ideas & creativity. You can approach this type of self-care in many ways. You might focus on career development or your favorite hobby.
5) Social: This part of your life involves nurturing relationships with people outside of your immediate family. Friendships are critical to our quality of life. Friendships become especially important over time, because as we age, we face difficult challenges like sickness, divorce and the death of loved ones.
6) Relational: This means strengthening and maintaining relationships with significant others, kids, parents and other family members. Daily familial interaction is a key factor in promoting your overall health.
7) Safety and Security: Involves being proactive about ensuring personal safety, understanding your finances. Always remember that regardless of how busy you are, you deserve to feel safe, secure, happy and fulfilled.
As you can see, this list is just touching the surface of what your self care plan can look like. Use this as a jumping off point and find what works for you. I would love to hear what you come up with.
Sara Cole MFT provides therapy in Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill. For information about how she can help you, check out her website www.saracolemft.com or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-316-3171.
They laughed, they cried, they did everything in between...
I don't feel the need to be serious all the time in order to take my work seriously. When a client and I can laugh or cry together in session, it suggests to me that we have really reached that point where there is trust and a solid connection. I think that some therapists avoid humor in their work for a number of reasons. There is a fear that if someone laughs or says something funny, that they may come across as uncaring or cold. There are obviously times when a joke is not appropriate, as we all know. But sometimes a funny comment or observation is exactly what is needed to break the tension or give a new perspective.
Is it possible to do great work and have fun doing it?
I think that sometimes people make the assumption that you must be very serious to be an expert in something. I also disagree with this idea. Einstein was not a serious person and it's clear that he was a genius. I am an expert at what I do and I love it. I know that I can do great work with my clients and that we can both even enjoy it sometimes. For me, the therapeutic relationship makes room for the whole range of emotions. Because, after all therapy is all about all the feels.
Humor Can Change How We Think About Events
For a very long time I have strongly believed that humor and laughter play an important part in therapy and healing. We have seen that laughter improves physical health. An example is the story of the Doctor Patch Adams, in which Robin Williams plays the main character of the movie Patch Adams. But, Humor, laughing, smiling can also improve a person's mental health. Researcher and Psychologist Steven Sultanoff PhD writes that "humor helps us change the way in which we perceive events. One way humor helps change thoughts is by providing perspective on a situation. Consider the Ziggy cartoon where Ziggy is lying on the psychiatrist's couch and the psychiatrist says "The whole world isn't against you...there are billions of people who don't care one way or the other.""
Sultanoff also writes that some of the benefits of humor go beyond, the humor itself. He explains that "benefits of humor are not in laughter, but in the cognitive and emotional management that humorous experiences provide. The experience of humor relieves emotional distress and assists in changing negative thinking patterns.”.
How Smiling Affects Your Brain
Laughing feels good. I think we were meant to laugh and smile and experience joy everyday. Everytime you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The actual act of smiling alone triggers neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness. In the article from Psychology Today, titled There's Magic In Your Smile: How Smiling Affects Your Brain , Ronald E. Riggio PhD writes the following explanation:re going to eventually discover that the most dramatic health
For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress (3). Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, or excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well (4). This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Smiling Not Only Changes You, But Those Around You As Well!
Wow! Try it right now. Put on a great big smile.
Can you feel it? I can. I can feel that little shift in how I feel and how I think.
Now try smiling and look at yourself in the mirror. You'll feel it even more.
It might seem a little extreme, but think about this. You can change the world around you by smiling or making someone smile.
Smiles really are contagious. I always try to smile when I greet my clients in the waiting room and I swear it puts us on a good track for the session. I smile and they smile back. We have connected and now we can get to work.
To learn more about therapy or how you can start feeling better, check out Sara Cole MFT and her practice. She provides therapy in Scripps Ranch and Banker's Hill. For more information please visit www.saracolemft.com
4. R.D. (2000). Neural correlates of conscious emotional experience. In R.D. Lane & L. Nadel (Eds.), Cognitive neuroscience of emotion (pp. 345–370). New York: Oxford University Press.
5. Karren KJ, et al. Mind/Body Health: The Effect of Attitudes, Emotions and Relationships. New York, N.Y.: Benjamin Cummings, 2010:461.
There are times in life when you are having a hard time, yet nothing you try seems to help. Talking to a friend or family member has helped in the past, but it just isn't feeling right. You tried journaling and have maybe even looked at self help books. These are the times when you might wonder if therapy could be helpful to you. You have looked up therapists online but never followed through with calling or scheduling an appointment. You don't make the call because you think "things could be worse", "I don't want to be the kind of person that goes to therapy" or maybe you are having some anxiety. You really don't know much about therapy and you know your not "crazy". There is this idea floating around out there that only "crazy" or "emotional people" go to therapy. OK. Let me stop this right here and tell you that therapy can be helpful to anyone who is willing to participate. Therapy is for anyone who could benefit from talking to a person that is not otherwise involved in their life and who may offer a new perspective and/or skill set.
The idea of sitting with complete stranger who is asking you to talk about things that may be very personal to you, can be extremely intimidating. Therapists know this and that is why licensed therapists and counselors have made it their life's work to help people feel comfortable talking with them about anything and everything. Sometimes people tell me they have waited so long to start therapy because they were afraid their therapist would judge them. The goal of therapists is to understand you and not to judge you. As you work with a therapist, an important relationship develops. The therapist works to help you feel comfortable, safe, accepted and to earn your trust.
Other clients have told me they were worried that they would look ridiculous because they don't know how to "do therapy". If you know how to talk with another person, you know how to do therapy. Your therapist is trained to not only help you feel comfortable, but to guide you through the process. So you can let that worry go. Once you establish that your therapist is a good fit, you can trust them to take the wheel when needed.
An extremely common reason people give for avoiding therapy is that they think "going to therapy will make me look weak". OMG, if only the public understood that it is the courageous, the strong and the determined that seek therapy. It is much easier to just coast along surviving, than to admit that things need to change and to take the actions required to make those changes. It is easier to deny that there is a problem than to face a problem and resolve it. Consider this idea. The best athletes, actors or business people in the world seek out coaches. They got to be the best because of support from experienced professionals. This applies to living life as well. Mental health, life changes, relationship problems and other hiccups in life happen. It's how you handle these events that makes the difference. Why not get the help of an expert to deal with your problems in the most effective ways?
You would be very surprised at just how many people are either in or have been in therapy. There is no reason you should feel ashamed for doing everything you can to help yourself feel better and make yourself a better person. When you feel like you are not living your best life, it's important that you find help and support in some form, so that you can get back on track.
In the past I have written about important questions to ask a potential therapist. In that article I talk about some of the questions you may want to ask a therapist in order to see if they are right for you. I also wrote about some of the reasons you should go to counseling. So if you have more questions about therapy or how seeing a therapist could help, check out these other posts.
Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person, in order to gain more power and control, makes their victim (friend, family, co-worker, cult follower, etc) question their own reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. Addicts also use this technique as a way of maintaining their drug use. The addict will tell those around them that they are imagining things or over reacting when confronted about their use or changes in behavior. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed. Not all gaslighters know they are doing it. It may be a learned behavior or a way of feeling okay about themselves. Others know exactly what they are doing. The bottom line however, is that it is an abusive behavior and should not be tolerated by others.
If you are at the laundromat and you discover that someone has thrown their laundry in the washer with your clothes, will you wash it for them or will you tell them to do their own laundry? In most cases, you would hand their laundry back to them. Similarly, if someone lets their dog do its business in your yard, would you think "oh gosh I am so messy. I better go clean that up" or would you think "that person needs to clean up after their dog"? Are you seeing a theme in these examples?
Let me take it one step further. Imagine you own a little dog and your neighbor owns a horse. Your dog goes out and does her business in the yard and you, being a responsible pet owner, go out and clean up it's mess. But one day your dog and the neighbors horse are both out in the yard. You come out and see that the dog and the horse have been busy, you know, leaving presents. Well you can look around and you and your neighbor both see that you have some cleaning to do. In this case it's pretty easy for you to tell what work you need to do and they can see where they need to work. Now apply this to issues of self esteem, mood, and other personal sorts of issues or problems. Can you apply the same "sorting" in a personal interactions and relationships?
I saw the same thing this week, from one client to the next. It is a simple concept, but confusing in practice sometimes. The confusion is about what is your own stuff and what is someone else's stuff (issue, insecurity, problem). How do you sort through and decide what to take in or take on and what to give back to the other person or at least let go? Now I am not saying you shouldn't be there for people when they have a problem. Absolutely be there for them if you can, but don't make their problem your problem.
In other words, the struggle is a part of defining your own healthy boundaries. It is important to hear what people have to say and to consider their input. But it is just as important to recognize when a criticism or comment is not really about you and is instead a someone else's issues showing up. For some people, it is easy to just take it all in and believe at face value. For other people, it's hard to hear anything negative or even consider that it may be true. Ideally you can find a place in the middle of these two extremes.
You won't always make the right call, but you have to try.
If you find yourself thinking or talking about someone else's problems a lot or maybe your mood is easily affected by other people's moods, you may be taking on their stuff. This is super obvious but important to remember. You are your own person. You are not your friend. This means that you can feel differently than they do and it's okay. You can be there for them and still be seperate.
If you are a pretty sensitive person like me, you may notice that you easily pick up on other people's mood or energy. That can be a strength or weakness depending on what you do with that info. If you recognize it as what is going on for them, you can use the info to decide how you want to respond. If you recognize and feel their mood or energy and make it yours personally, you have crossed over into the problem zone. Knowing this difference can be helpful as you begin to develop your own boundaries and adjust how you respond to other people. Having this ability will actually allow you to be there for friends or family who are in need. Instead of joining them in their struggle you can be there to help them get out of it. I have written some other blog posts about boundaries. So for some more ideas you can click here or for more ways to take care of yourself, click here to read more.
To find out more about self care or healthy relationships visit www.SaraColeMFT.com. Sara Cole MFT has been providing services in San Diego for 15 years and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for over 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression, going away to college, marriage, etc. Sara also loves to help people get their anxiety under control. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.