Your Weekly Meditation: It is Okay to Trust Yourself

It is okay to trust yourself.

So often we look to our past for evidence that we can trust ourselves in our present. But we know more now than we knew then. We are stronger now. We are wiser. Our past has taught us valuable lessons we are now able to apply right here in the present moment. When you are not sure what to do next, start by asking yourself. Listen within. And remember – it is okay to trust your own inner answer.

This week I resolve to: Try trusting myself for a change, and expect to be pleasantly surprised!

Your Weekly Meditations: Emotional Sensitivity is a Strength

Emotional sensitivity is a strength.

There are so many levels of emotional sensitivity. Often, the most emotionally sensitive individuals are also introverts, but both introverted and extroverted people can be extraordinarily sensitive to the presence, depth and breadth of their own emotions, as well as to the same in others. While emotional sensitivity may initially feel like a liability, with time and practice, this same sensitivity becomes a strength. If you are emotionally sensitive, you are exactly the empathic, caring individual this hurting world needs and craves.

This week I resolve to: Recognize that my enhanced ability to feel emotion allows me to tune in to the presence of suffering and joy in others, to comfort and celebrate those around me as needed, and be a reminder to everyone I meet that we are all in this thing called “life” together.

 

Your Weekly Meditation: Emotions, Like People, Often Need to Be Unfolded to Be Understood

Emotions, like people, often need to be unfolded to be understood.

Sometimes a person may appear quite reserved – even unfriendly – but then over time, with trust and consistency, layer by layer gets unwrapped and that person’s true personality and warmth finally shines through. In the same way, just because an emotion may initially introduce itself to you only on one level, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other, deeper emotions at work beneath it. For instance, “anger” may in time reveal itself as “fear.” “Elation” may turn into “anxiety.” “Sadness” may make way for “peace.” Just as a friend often requires time and attention before the fullness of their personality is unfolded, so too do your own emotions often require your consistent time and attention to become fully known.

This week I resolve to: Notice the presence of initial strong emotions and take the time to greet them, sit down, have a conversation, and get to know them in their entirety.  As I do this, I also more fully meet myself.

 

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: 5 Reasons to Love Your Male Brain

My motto was to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was to keep swinging. –Hank Aaron

Life takes on meaning when you become motivated, set goals, and charge after them in an unstoppable manner. –Les Brown

In part one of this post, I shared 5 reasons to love your female brain. If you are one of my female readers, you no doubt enjoyed part one immensely! If you are one of my male readers, you might have been left wondering, “hey, what about me?”

Not to worry. This week’s post should have you covered – and in a way that will more than make up for the apparent oversight in part one.

The two quotes above are also ones I picked out for the Southlake Counseling website. Through the difficult daily journey of my own recovery work, these goal-oriented quotes helped me feel the positive energy of taking action and reminded me that it is just when a goal seems most distant that I often receive the most benefit from redoubling my efforts.

I chose Les Brown’s quote for the Southlake website because I knew from the first day I set my sights on achieving full recovery from my eating disorder, anxiety and depression, that I wanted my life to take on meaning – much more meaning than life could ever have or hold when I was spending the bulk of my time and energy managing my moods or the symptoms of an eating disorder.

In the same way, Hank Aaron’s quote really spoke to me because I deeply admired other people, mentors, therapists, public figures, family and friends, who would “keep swinging” no matter what life handed them. These people seemed so strong, radiant really, and I looked up to them. They were my heroes then, and they still are today.

What I didn’t know when I was working so hard on my recovery is that my female brain wasn’t quite as genetically well-equipped to focus single-mindedly on a goal or task as some of my recovering male friends’ brains were. They would get ready, get set, and GO….hauling butt down the field while I was still negotiating my first steps out of the gate.

I blamed myself – thinking it was my fault, or a character flaw. I didn’t know it was a simple case of feminine brain DNA at work. Female brains and male brains may share 99 percent of their genetic coding, but it is the one percent that differs which accounts for these variances in personality, behavior, and focus. While my brain was busy navigating the how-to’s with its emotional circuits, my male friends were dipping in to their analytical brain structures to make quick work of A to Z. We eventually got to the same place with equally fine results. It just took me a bit longer.

Today, I can appreciate these differences in DNA brain coding, which allows me to maximize my enjoyment in working with a diverse group of male and female professionals at Southlake Counseling and to play to the strengths of each. My knowledge of the genetic differences in male and female brains also helps me help my clients to delve down deep and create a sense of themselves that goes far beyond simple environmental experiences.

This is also why I so loved reading Dr. Louann Brizendine’s twin bestsellers, “The Female Brain” and “The Male Brain”. Dr. Brizendine wrote “The Female Brain” first, and she always intended to stop there. She even jokes in the introduction to “The Male Brain” that when she first proposed the idea of a complementary volume on male brains, her colleagues laughed and said, “That will be a short book! Maybe more of a pamphlet.”

She then goes on to share her own reaction to the joshing as both a wife and the mother of a son. Simply put, she was struck by how unfair it is to both women and men that, while past research into human biology has largely ignored the female brain in favor of the male brain, we as a society can still so casually reduce the state of maleness down to a stereotype that focuses on the “brain below the belt.”

With “The Male Brain,” Dr. Brizendine set out to level the playing field. She did a fantastic job, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the wonderful world of the male brain and how well matched male and female brains really are to complement one another.

So for post two in our series on the brain, I give you 5 reasons to love your male brain.

5 Reasons to Love Your Male Brain:

  1. As Dr. Brizendine says, your brain is a “lean, mean, problem-solving machine.” What’s not to love about that?
  2. You thrive in the presence of competition.
  3. Your “brain below the belt” drive from your teen years onward literally ensures survival of the species – and your fertility remains for the balance of your lifespan.
  4. You have the capacity to love and bond with your mate and children every bit as deeply as any female brain does.
  5. You will fight to the death to protect loved ones from harm.

If you found this list interesting, I also highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Dr. Brizendine’s “The Male Brain.” You will thank me later – I promise!

Be Well,

Kimberly

If you are struggling to make sense of your inner mental and emotional life and often feel like you are on ever-shifting sands, Southlake Counseling can help. There are many genetic as well as environmental factors that can affect mental and physical health and emotional and relational wellbeing. Southlake Counseling’s comprehensive individual and group services and our highly trained, empathetic professional staff can partner with you to help you troubleshoot areas of concern and make the most of your strengths, gifts, and dreams! Visit www.southlakecounseling.com to learn more.

5 Reasons to Love Your Female Brain

There is no freedom like seeing myself as I am and not losing heart. –Elizabeth J. Canham

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. –Lao Tzu

When I was developing the Southlake Counseling website, my team asked me to share some of the quotes that kept me going when I was working on my own recovery from an eating disorder. They planned to post these quotes on the new website to encourage visitors to embrace their own potential to fulfill their recovery, health and wellness goals.

As I pondered this assignment and reflected back on my recovering years, I realized that one of the biggest recovery goals I set for myself almost right from the very first day I started trying to beat my eating disorder was this: I wanted to have an experience of actually loving myself.

LOVING MYSELF. It sounded so wonderful.

However, while marooned in the depths of my eating disorder, it also sounded like way too much to ask. Tolerate myself maybe. Throw myself a kind word every now and again, perhaps. But love myself? Hah. As if. Nevertheless, my therapist had encouraged me to add this biggest of my big recovery dreams to my goal list, and so I did.

Recently I read a book that would have helped me so much during the growing pains years as I began to practice self-love and learn the art of self-care. The book is called “The Female Brain”. Written by Louann Brizendine, M.D., “The Female Brain” took me on a fascinating genetic journey through my own female brain, allowing me to have an experience of each of the quotes I mentioned earlier in a brand new way.

You see, loving myself, which can also be rephrased as “seeing myself as I am” and “knowing who I am” requires first studying myself, learning about myself, and attempting to truly comprehend “why I am the way that I am” from both a biological and an environmental perspective.

As a therapist I may get myself into hot water with colleagues for saying this, but over the years as I have built my own practice at Southlake Counseling, I have come to believe that too often we attempt to treat ourselves through an understanding of our environment only.  We enter into therapy and immediately begin to delve into the experiences of our environmental past. What happened when we were a child, a teen, a young adult? Where did we go wrong in handling our first relationship, our first job, our first promotion?

These are important historical questions to ask, for sure.

But even the excellent present-day problem-solving data these environmentally focused answers give us will remain forever incomplete without a complementary investigation of our underlying biological origins. To truly know ourselves, to understand why we are the way that we are, why we do the things we do, and why we are so uniquely lovable exactly as-is, we must also strive to study and comprehend the aptitudes and interests embedded into our genetically unique brains.

Speaking to this point, Dr. Brizendine highlights in “The Female Brain” how, while approximately 99 percent of male and female brain genes are identical, the one percent of our respective genetic codes that is gender-different will give us more trouble than all of the other identical 99 percent combined if we don’t learn how to understand, accept, and support these DNA differences from both the female and the male perspective.

So for this first of a two-part post for this month, I give you five reasons to love your female brain.

p.s. If you are a female, you are likely already eagerly skimming down to the next section to find out all the great things your brain can offer you! If, however, you are one of my male readers, you may catch yourself thinking that you are being overlooked.  Don’t worry. Stay tuned for part two of this post and you will get your day!

5 Reasons to Love Your Female Brain:

  1. You have an exceptional ability to read and accurately interpret facial expressions and verbal and emotional cues
  2. You are naturally oriented towards collaboration and defusing or preventing conflict
  3. You have an innate ability for relationships and a natural empathy towards others
  4. You have a smart and savvy inner “partner picker” that stands at the ready to help you pick wisely when you are ready to choose a mate
  5. Your brain can take you into any career you want to focus on (yes, ladies, if you love math, science and technology, your brain will go toe-to-toe with the guys any day!)

If you found this list interesting, I also highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Dr. Brizendine’s “The Female Brain”. You will thank me later – I promise!

Be Well,

Kimberly

If you are struggling to make sense of your inner mental and emotional life and often feel like you are on ever-shifting sands, Southlake Counseling can help. There are many genetic as well as environmental factors that can affect mental and physical health and emotional and relational wellbeing. Southlake Counseling’s comprehensive individual and group services and our highly trained, empathetic professional staff can partner with you to help you troubleshoot areas of concern and make the most of your strengths, gifts, and dreams! Visit www.southlakecounseling.com to learn more.

15 Ways to Say “I Love You” to Yourself

Depending on whom you ask, self-love is alternately over and underrated.

In some circles, self-love can be viewed as bordering on narcissism, where a concern for self and self-needs edges out the ability to strike that necessarily delicate balance between one’s own good and the greater good. In other circles, self-love is all too often confused with self-critical behaviors that read like an endless litany of guilt-laden motherly instructions “for your own good”.

As with anything else, extremes seldom yield anything truly useful, healing, or inspiring over the long term.

In a related note of interest, scientifically it is now known that the act of loving releases a powerful surge of feel-good endorphins throughout the lovers’ systems. Even better, for new pairs of lovers, that twin surge of endorphins can be expected to last up to 18 months before it begins to fade biochemically.

But the surge can be extended – up to forever – by making the effort to keep the romance alive. The most common advice given to achieve this extension is for couples to remember what they spent time doing together in those heady first months, and to start doing those things again.

Not rocket science…..like most wise advice.

In the same way, self-love can be cultivated through a simple application of similar principles to those that bond couples together for months, years, or a lifetime. All it takes is a few doses of pure wisdom, some willingness, and a spirit of adventure.

So in the spirit of a more self-focused love-related adventure, why would it potentially be beneficial to proactively cultivate a loving relationship towards one’s own self?

Whether the goal is to enjoy life more, cultivate more satisfying and nurturing relationships with others, experience greater self-efficacy in making desired life changes, explore new challenges with increased self-confidence, actually try some of those items from a so-called “bucket list”, and many other reasons besides, there is nothing that is not advantageous to self or others about increasing one’s own regard, care, and love for oneself.

In other words, self-love is simply a win-win for all concerned.

It also just so happens that February is the perfect month to embark upon a self-love adventure. Why is this?

Well, February, of course, is the permanent month of residence for Valentine’s Day, a holiday that is neck-and-neck with Christmas as perhaps the most over-marketed, over-hyped, and overtly stressful annually recurring holiday.

On Valentine’s Day, those who have the romance of an “other” in their lives are given a gold star and carte blanche to empty their piggy banks in true Western consumer capitalism style to display their love to the envious world. Those whom are not so lucky are encouraged to alternately display their defiance of the holiday by celebrating the anti-Valentine’s day, or to simply keep their heads down and hide out in their houses for a proscribed 24-hour period.

If neither alternative sounds particularly appealing, luckily there is another route to enjoying, celebrating, and even enhancing the experience of taking part in Valentine’s Day this year – and also making the feel-good endorphins-inspired buzz last all year long, partner or no partner!

If you are dreading the prospect of spending Valentine’s Day without a lover-other in your life, if you are one of those lucky people who doesn’t need a holiday like Valentine’s Day to remember to treat your lover nicely or even spring for a fun token of your regard, or if you are simply exhausted by the same ole, same ole and are seeking a fresh approach to a tired holiday routine, then try these 15 fun ways to say “I Love You” to yourself this February.

(p.s. If you have a lover, you might even want to try them together-but-separately and then share your experiences as a guaranteed way to spice up both your relationship with yourself and with each other! )

Regardless of your reasons for trying these 15 sweet and simple ideas, I guarantee you – you will be glad you gave them a whirl.

©   Put on your favorite love song (Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is a sure-fire winner) and get out a handheld mirror. Gaze deeply into your own eyes while the song plays. Keep tissues handy.

©   Keep a self-gratitude journal. Every day, write down five things you are grateful to yourself for. You can also write down five things you are simply grateful for. But make sure you write your self-thank you’s first!

©   Write down five of your “favorite things”. Schedule a day this month to take yourself on a date “au solo”. On that day, try to do all five things. Repeat at least one time each month.

©   Listen to your gut when it is telling you to say “no”. Then SAY IT. Remember, sometimes saying “no” to someone else is also the only way to say “yes” to you.

©   Unplug. Yes, this means you. Yes, this means the cell phone, the laptop, the iPad, the iPod, the television, the CD player. When was the last time you just sat and listened to the wonder of your own breathing as the air flows in and out and in and out and in….wow. Life IS a miracle….YOUR life is a miracle.

©   Feel your anger. Your sadness. Your irritation. Your unforgiveness. Feel it all. You have every right to feel every single thing you feel. What you do with it is step two, and there you may choose to take different paths to deal with different feelings, including scheduling some therapy sessions, meditating or practicing deep breathing, writing a letter, saying what you need to say in person, screaming into a pillow or choosing to keep quiet. But step one – and a non-negotiable step to get through the process safely and healthily – is to give yourself permission to feel EVERYTHING. They are your feelings. If you don’t feel them, who will?

©   Apologize to yourself. You have said some pretty awful things to yourself, have probably even done some pretty awful things to yourself, over the years. Maybe they are things you wouldn’t dream of saying or doing to your lover, your family, your child. But you did them to yourself, and you owe yourself an apology – a very sincere and heart-felt “I am SO sorry.”

©   Apologize to others. Carrying around unforgiveness, resentment, rage, or even simple misunderstanding can make you feel like Atlas carrying the world delicately balanced on your increasingly exhausted shoulders. You are not carrying the whole world, but trying to carry around your own personal world can have the same effect as it crashes down, taking you and everyone you love with it. Don’t wait – whatever happens, it has got to feel better than staggering under the painful weight of holding it all up inside.

©   Take 5, 10, 15 minutes each day – however long you can spare without stressing about it – to do deep breathing, to meditate, and to just listen to yourself. What are you longing for? Whom do you miss? What do you hope for more of – or less of? Write it down. These are your soul’s messages to you – and the beginning of a potentially beautiful friendship.

©   Hear your shame out. Human beings feel shame – and this is an experience that can shut us down or free us depending on what we do with it. What are you ashamed of? What can you do about it? Is your shame coming from your own words or actions or from the words and actions of another? How old is your shame – are you a little girl, a teen, a young woman, mature in years? What do you need in order to feel safe and supported to let your shame out, take appropriate action where indicated, and then let it go and move on? Whatever you need, start by hearing your shame out, and then just take it one step at a time from there.

©   Remind yourself that this world CAN and WILL go on without you. This means you – the mother, the wife, the executive, the nonprofit leader, the community organizer, the caretaker, the (fill in the blanks). Use this healthy dose of perspective to deal yourself IN to your own life on a daily basis.

©   Notice what makes you spontaneously smile, and do more of that as often as possible.

©   Make a list of the people who inspire you the most. Recognize that something that is already in you resonates with something that is already in them. Pat yourself on the back for choosing to keep such good company!

©   Make a list of people who have a knack for making you feel worse about yourself, your life, your job, your relationships with others, etc. Spend as little time with them as humanly possible (and no time at all, ideally).

©   Do the same thing with music, movies, television programs, talk radio shows, books, and other “consumables” that have a depressive, negative, or hope-sucking effect on you. Move them to your “Do Not Do” list – permanently.

So there they are. 15 beautiful, simple ways to say “I Love You” to yourself. Happy Valentine’s Day!

About the Author: Kimberly B. Krueger, MSW, LCSW is the Founder and Program Director for Southlake Counseling and Southlake Center for Self Discovery. She has dedicated her career to helping people of all ages “say yes to life” and overcome their life challenges with compassion, professional guidance, and caring support. Southlake Counseling offers the most comprehensive counseling services in the Southlake area with a focus on eating disorders, mood disorders, nutrition and fitness, wellness, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, addictions, equine therapy, and a full range of one-on-one and group therapeutic services. Learn more at www.southlakecounseling.com.

 

 

 

 

Your Weekly Meditation: Love Yourself, No Permission Needed

Love yourself, no permission needed.

Maybe this Valentine’s Day you have all the romance you’ve ever dreamed of coming into your life from the presence of another person. But whether you do or you don’t, you can have that same amazing, whirlwind romance any day, at any time, when you remember that you can love yourself that way, no permission needed. YOU are amazing. You are one of a kind. Before you put it out of your mind, refusing to even consider the possibility that you might be the most incredible person you have ever met, give this idea a moment or two to simmer in your awareness. Consider it as if the wisest, most influential person in your life has just told you that it is true. How would it change your life if you believed their words, and fell deeply, madly, passionately in love with you?

This week I resolve to: At least consider the possibility that I can fall madly, deeply, and completely in love with me, and imagine how much richer my life could be once I do.

Your weekly meditation: You Owe it to Yourself to Embrace All of You

You owe it to yourself to embrace all of you.

While we may not necessarily enjoy the moments when we are feeling grief, anger, irritation, unforgiveness, or other so-called “negative” emotions, the truth is that every single human being on the planet feels these things too, and often on a regular basis. So we are in good company all the time, no matter what we are feeling! Furthermore, these experiences, like everything life offers us, will be what we make of them – but only if we learn to embrace them first, and then act on them. We owe it to ourselves to hear ourselves out, no matter what the message is. We owe it to ourselves to embrace all of who we are now on the road to becoming all of who we dream of being.

This week I resolve to: Embrace all of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions as love letters from me to me – messages giving me valuable information I can use to make the most of the chance I have right now to live the life I dream of living.

Wednesday’s Weekly Inspiration: Nourishing Friendship is Closer to Home Than I Might Think!

We expend so much time and energy worrying about our friendships with others. As women, we are especially programmed to fine-tune our emotional radar to pick up on others’ frequencies – are they happy ? Do they like us? Do we show them enough that we care?

But how much time each day do you spend asking yourself the same questions about your relationship with yourself? Do you make sure you have your own back during challenging times? Have you cultivated the ability to work a room, endure conflict, enjoy a hug, or host a dinner party standing by your own side like the good and supportive friend that you are?

If not, then today is a great day to start!

Today’s affirmation: Today, I value and cultivate my own friendship.

© Kimberly Krueger- Meditations for Recovery

Wednesday’s Weekly Inspiration: Defining and Experiencing “Beauty” is Up to Me

We have all heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

But how many of us have spent any time trying to figure out what image of beauty is in the beholder’s eye?

If we look at ourselves and attempt to fit the unique portrait of beauty that we present into a cookie-cutter image in our mind’s eye, we miss perceiving the truly unique beauty we actually possess!

So before we can behold beauty, we have to ask ourselves some simple questions, “What does beauty mean to ME?” “Do I think I/she/he/it is beautiful?”

It is very self-respectful to allow ourselves to choose whether to see beauty in a person, object, or experience.

And our own answer just might pleasantly surprise us!

Today’s affirmation: I get to choose my own definition and experience of beauty!