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.

 

4 Things to Know About Communicating With the Opposite Gender

If you are a female, communication is likely second nature to you.

As a female, you communicate without even thinking about it. You use every faculty at your disposal to communicate and take great pleasure in doing so. You understand – without giving it your conscious attention – the complex interactions that can take place between body language, facial expression, tonal nuance, word choice, eye contact, and other particulars in your extensive toolkit of human communication skills.

If you are male, however, these skills may come more dearly.

120709-older-couple-walkingAs a male, you may prize directness at the expense of nuance, or confrontation over conciliation. You may find yourself getting frustrated with linguistic flourishes, and have little awareness of or patience for the need to “warm up” your audience or find “just the right words” before launching into a challenging topic.

The good news here is that these differences in communication skills and preferences are only to be expected once the unique genetic coding in the female and male brain is factored in.

Louann Brizendine, M.D., author of “The Female Brain” and its twin bestselling volume, “The Male Brain”, points out that while 99 percent of the genetic code in male and female brains is identical, there is approximately one percent that could not be more different. It is here that problems often arise in learning to communicate effectively and enjoyably with the opposite gender.

Since nearly all of past research into human brain structure, biology and function has been conducted on male brains, researchers’ understanding of female brain structure, usage, and genetic coding is more recent. As more of this information is obtained and shared, the genders can finally begin to mend shattered verbal fences and build satisfying communication bridges, and then turn around to pass along their hard-won knowledge to the next generation of men and women in turn.

In addition to basic communication skills, there are four things to know about communicating with the opposite gender that can be helpful under any conditions – in the workplace, in a friendship, in a romantic relationship, between family members, with peers or acquaintances, and even among total strangers.

Communication Basics But first, it can be helpful to review communication basics. These six essential skills can pave the way for successful communication whether gender differences are involved or not:

1. Remain calm: Speaking when you are angry or feeling any strong emotion risks the message getting lost in the expression of the emotion itself. If you want someone to really hear what you want to communicate, wait until you are feeling calm to speak. 2. Choose your words concisely and carefully: Everyone has had the experience of laughing over a choice bit of movie dialogue, or feeling tears well up from an especially moving literary turn of phrase. But while flowery language may do very well for artistic endeavors, in human-to-human communications, careful and concise language serves you best. If the communication is somewhat difficult or emotional, this rule is even more critical to follow. 3. Take your turn: While speaking your mind may not provide the resolution you are hoping for, it is a sure bet that not saying anything will deliver a less than satisfactory result. Whether someone else is hogging the conversation, or you simply feel too timid to speak up, be sure take your turn. It is yours – you deserve to speak every bit as much as anyone else. 4. Do not interrupt: Have you ever had a conversation with another person that was so one-sided that all you did was listen? And then at the end of the “conversation”, the other person announced that they enjoyed speaking with you so much that they hope to do it again soon? Everyone loves a good listener. Just as it is important for you to take your turn to speak, when your turn it is over, it is equally as important to listen attentively to what the other person has to share. 5. Try to stand in the other person’s shoes: While in most cases, women are more easily able to access and display empathy than men are, everyone has the ability to communicate in a way that conveys “we are in this together”. In sales, in service, between lovers and best friends, or even between two strangers, a genuine expression of mutual empathy is the communication trait that is most likely to pave the way to happy conversational results for both parties. 6. Know when to stay and when to walk away: Sometimes, and especially if the communication is particularly difficult, more than one conversation may be necessary to obtain resolution. Sometimes, no resolution will be possible. When entering into any communication, be aware that there is a time to stay and a time to walk away. If the conversation is becoming unproductive, it is often best to simply “pause” it and resume again when calmer waters have returned.

These six skills lay a firm foundation upon which to become a communications expert. As you practice and master each basic skill in its turn, you can then proceed forward and use this next set of four skills to build on what you are learning.

Gender Communications Because of the one percent of the brain that is different between the male and female brain, gender communications require the development of an additional skill set for optimal results.

Part of this skill set comes from a willingness to learn about the opposite gender’s genetic difference as the basis for a corresponding difference in communication style and preferences. The rest of the skill set comes from learning to communicate to play to the strengths of the other party, which may change depending on whether the conversation taking place is happening between a male and a female (inter-gender), two males or two females (both intra-gender).

These four skills can enhance your gender communications and provide for more enjoyable and satisfying conversations regardless of age or level of prior familiarity.

1. Pay attention to your word count and conversational speed: According to Dr. Brizendine’s research, females on average will use about 20,000 words per day, while males come in at a mere 7,000 words per day.  In addition, females tend to speak faster than males on average. This means that if the communication is happening between a male and a female, some word count sensitivity and speed can smooth inter-gender communications. a. Helpful tips: Females, try to choose your words with care, and slow down when you speak them. When speaking with a male, use less words and a slower pace than you might normally choose in your intra-gender conversations and see if your communications results improve. Males, think about conversation as a three-phase process: “warm up”, “game time”, and “cool down”. Since your communications likely normally consist of “game time” words only, add in some “warm up” and “cool down” communications when talking with the opposite gender to smooth the path. 2. Balance listening with action: Because males have a more direct, “fix it” oriented brain, while women have a more well-developed ability to read subtle nuances into even the most casual statement, the ability to balance listening with action is critical to success in inter-gender communications. a. Helpful tips: Males, if you are unsure whether she is asking you to help her fix or solve a problem or if she simply needs you to listen, then ask her. It is respectful to ask what she needs from you, and this will also help you to feel more satisfied in the exchange as well. Females, if you feel frustrated that he doesn’t “talk to you” or “share” more, understand that for many males, no news means good news. If he isn’t talking, chances are he doesn’t have anything to say or he isn’t ready to say it. When he is ready to speak, he will. 3. Remember your inverse needs: For females, cuddling and intimate conversation can frequently meet their needs for physical connection. For males, however, there is a near-continual drive for physical consummation. Because these needs are hard-wired into the brains of females and males, respectively, being part of a couple means balancing these needs so that each partner feels they are getting their basic physical intimacy needs met. a. Helpful tips: Females, there are some very real physical discomforts for males that are associated with too infrequent consummation. And because males on average are less verbal, physical consummation forms an important communicative bridge that males crave. Also, the common phenomenon of males falling asleep right after consummation is more biological than environmental, according to Dr. Brizendine and other researchers. Males, she needs cuddling just as much as you need consummation. If you do tend to fall asleep immediately after consummation, be aware that you haven’t lost your opportunity to show her attention and to cuddle later on. 4. Respect different tolerances and preferences for conflict: One of the most important gender brain differences recently uncovered by Dr. Brizendine and other scientific researchers points to differences in tolerances and preferences for conflict versus congruence in interpersonal connection. Whereas males are often quite confident and comfortable with conflict, females often do whatever they can to avoid conflict. There are hormonal and biological reasons for these differences in preferences for conflict. The differences in large part relate to the different roles males and females take on when it comes to fostering family and community relationships and raising children and are hardwired into male and female brains, respectively. a. Helpful tips: Males, remember that most females do not enjoy nor seek out conflict or competition in their intimate personal relationships. Since there are often several ways to approach even the most difficult communications, whether in the work place or in the home, remember it can be helpful to “dial it down” when having an inter-gender conversation. Females, remember that males are not conflict-avoidant and are not biologically programmed to seek congruence in relationships and communications. Take a few steps back before overreacting to inter-gender communications that appear strongly worded or overtly conflict-oriented. Train yourself to take a few deep breaths before responding, and remember that as negative as conflict feels for females, it can feel equally and inversely positive for males.

“The Female Brain” and “The Male Brain” by Dr. Brizendine offer many more valuable insights into the mechanics of intra- and inter-gender communications. With these basic communication skills in hand, coupled with newfound understandings and knowledge about gender brain differences, scientists and researchers are paving the way for more productive and satisfying communications for both genders.

 

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: Feeling, Learning From and Releasing Emotions is a Skill to be Learned

Feeling, learning from and releasing emotions is a skill to be learned.

 It is quite tempting to assume that people who appear as “still waters” with vast reserves of inner calm were simply born that way. However, appropriately feeling, learning from, and releasing emotions is a skill to be learned, just like any other. When you find you are having trouble managing your emotions, this is a sign that you may need to spend some time “exercising” your emotional muscles, feeling the depth and breadth and scope of your own emotions, becoming strong and courageous in the face of those emotions which attempt to overwhelm, and maintaining perspective to see that all emotions, like waves in the ocean, have a rise, a crest, a fall, and an inevitable release. As you practice the skill of emotional management, you will find it easier and easier to feel-learn-release, feel-learn-release.

This week I resolve to: Recognize that it is worth my time to learn how to effectively feel, learn from, and release my own emotions. This builds trust and solidarity in my relationship with both myself and with others.

 

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Declaring Our Independence

Each year on July 4th, I celebrate my independence from my eating disorder once again.

It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, or how many other (and possibly even greater) challenges I may have faced since then. I still celebrate my recovery from “Ed”, as many eating disorder sufferers today term their disease, with all the gusto and force of the newly recovered, hardly believing my good fortune, scarcely comprehending the courage in what I have just achieved.

“This”, I find myself thinking to myself once again, “is worth all the hard work and effort and the years of struggle it took to get here. This is worth the time, the expense, the pain and suffering of the in-between days when I was neither as sick as I had been nor as well as I might yet be.”

In other words, each year, and yet again, I rediscover that recovery is worth it.

There are so many incredible experiences that I have had since that I could never have had while I spent my days engaged in the endless ruminations over weight, calories, numbers, sizes, shapes, portions, and reflections in a coated aluminum pane of glass that my disease required of me.

There are so many bright lights, interesting sights, fascinating people, fun hobbies, rewarding work, and loving connections that I never was able to participate in while my time was wrapped up with “Ed”.

But I can and do participate in them now.

While today, on some level, it is hard to believe that it took me as long as it did to choose to work as hard as I knew I was capable of working towards my own recovery, I liken that to the process that one goes through from denial to acceptance when they are dying, whether it be an emotional or mental, or a true physical death. 

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes about this process when she outlines her research into the Five Stages of Grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, grief, and acceptance. I went through all of these stages, and sometimes out of order, and definitely multiple times, on my own path towards choosing and then achieving recovery. Some days I was very accepting of the fact that I was ill and needed to work hard and follow the advice of my treatment team in order to heal. Other days I was not as accepting, for whatever reason, whether it was because I was scared I wouldn’t know who I was without a day consumed by “Ed”, or whether it was because I didn’t feel quite as sick that day and I thought that maybe it wasn’t as serious as my team had made it out to be.

There were also many other reasons.

But whatever the reason, I grieved, erratically but in time fully, and when at last I woke up one day to discover that I had been in sustained recovery for quite some number of days, I felt the impact of the independence I had won for the very first time.

120702-fireworkssIn those first moments of awareness, all the fireworks on the planet would not have been enough to express my triumph, or my joy. Every Fourth of July since then, as the fireworks explode overhead, another, identical set of fireworks explodes in my heart, and I count my blessings, and I thank myself yet again for displaying the bravery and the perseverance and the vision to pursue my recovery like my life depended on it….because it did.

Looking back, I can see that now. Even if I had managed to survive the ravages of my eating disorder and somehow settle into “maintain”, I would not have been living. I would have been existing, trapped in a cycle of endless painful application for acceptance from a part of me that would never willingly have given it, no matter how nicely I asked.

Today, I can ask for and receive my own acceptance, and all in the space of a few moments. I have learned how to extend the same kindness and compassion that I offer to others to myself as well. No longer do I find my principle source of self-esteem in what I achieve, but rather I take it genuinely from not even who I am, but from the simple fact that I am.

I am a human being. I have faced death, and not just physical death but death of all my hopes and dreams, and I have survived. Not only have I survived, but I have won my independence. Today my work and my passion is to share with others what I have discovered about the power of the human spirit to not just survive but to triumph over adversity. Through my work, through how I live my life, and most of all through how I celebrate the Fourth of July each year, I am living proof that recovery is not just possible, but real.

And I wish the same for you.

If you are struggling to overcome a significant life challenge such as an eating disorder, and you don’t want to wait until the next Fourth of July to get started towards your goal, then Southlake Counseling can help. At Southlake Counseling, we not only have more than two decades of training and expertise that supports us in our life-changing work, but each member of our staff also brings to the table their own personal experience of recovering from a significant life challenge. In other words, we get it, we have been there, we understand what it takes, and we can help you to get there too. If you are ready to say “no” to staying stuck and say “yes” to celebrating your independence, we look forward to hearing from you! Contact us at www.southlakecounseling.com for more information.

Be Well,

Kimberly

 

 

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.

Your Weekly Meditation: Emotions Are Friendly Messengers

Emotions are friendly messengers.

In the same way that you might feel overwhelmed by the sight of a tidal wave coming toward you, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the experience of your own intense emotions welling up within you – or the strong emotions of others headed in your direction. Emotions are not the enemy. They also do not necessarily belong to you. Sometimes you may be tuning in to the elevated emotions of peers, supervisors, or loved ones. Other times the emotions may belong to you, but their intensity may relate not just to one specific situation, but to one or more unresolved experiences you have had over time. In any case, emotions are not your enemy. They are friendly messengers letting you know that your own attention is needed.

This week I resolve to: Welcome whatever emotions may come – and become willing to examine each in their turn, accepting and processing the ones that belong to me, and returning the ones that don’t, back to their rightful owners.

 

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: 5 Tips to Survive a Bad Day

Bad days happen.

Can three more trite but true words exist together in one sentence anywhere in the world?

Bad days happen to good people. They happen to bad people. They happen to bugs (FWAP!), animals (POW!), and even electronic equipment (*#&$ DVD player – SMACK!)

Yup. Bad days happen. But sometimes, a bad day well spent can also turn into one of the best days of your life.

Why would I say a crazy thing like this? Quite simply because bad days are often good days in disguise. Bad days give us the courage to see the important things we would otherwise not notice. Bad days can also serve to point out the necessary obvious we have been trying too hard not to notice.

Perhaps most importantly, bad days remind us that in all things, balance trumps both good and evil. Too much sugar, we decay. Too much salt, we shrivel. But with a proper balance of each, we begin to grow, to find empowerment through humility, to become wise.

In 2006, the musical artist Daniel Powter became a near-household name when he wrote and recorded what has become his greatest hit to date, the mega best-selling song “Bad Day”. Why was the song so popular? Not because of the admittedly charming video (a glimpse into the lives of two young people – a gal and a guy – who are having their own ‘sliding doors’ bad day experiences).

Not even because of the talent of the songwriter-performer, which is clearly robust.

The reason that “Bad Day” raced up the charts in the United States and around the world is because the song confirms what each one of us secretly hopes is true but can’t quite be sure of without more visible proof – that bad days do not happen to only us.

Knowing that bad days happen to other people too can be reassuring.

Knowing we did not necessarily do anything “wrong” to cause a bad day can be calming as well.

However, no matter how reassuring or calming this information may be, how popular a song by the same name might appear to be for all of us equally, or how wonderful our personal bad days may appear in hindsight, it is no joke that they can be challenging to live through in the moments when they are happening. In fact, one of the keys to benefitting from a bad day is being able to survive it with enough of you intact to be able to revisit it again later to glean the valuable information you need to move forward.

So for this blog post, I thought I would share with you my five favorite tips for surviving a bad day. Try them out and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Tip One: Listen to the song “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter and feel the peace and ease spread through your body at the sheer compassion in the lyrics. You had a bad day – are having a bad day. That is all that is happening. You will get through it – and quite likely will emerge stronger, more courageous, more grateful, and wiser than you were before (p.s. for extra credit watch the video and draw your own graffiti along with the two main characters!)

Tip Two: Figure out what you need that you are having trouble giving yourself. Do you need to cry? To laugh? To feel TOTALLY sorry for yourself? To do something TOTALLY self-indulgent (big or small)? Do you need to talk? To take a nap? To sit in the sun and soak up some vitamin D? If (fill in the blanks – aka items on your to-do list for the day) was optional, how would you comfort yourself RIGHT NOW? Pick at least one and preferably all of the things on your list and just start doing them.

Tip Three: DO NOT PANIC. I repeat – do not panic. It is just a bad day. You’ve had one before, and you will have one again. Take ALL the pressure off – yes, I mean right now.  You may not produce anything but carbon dioxide all day long. But just think – that too is an accomplishment! Later on you can tell your nieces, your grandkids, a stranger, “Let me tell you about the day I accomplished absolutely nothing. It was fabulous, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.” Then realize it now and get to work doing a really great job of accomplishing nothing.

Tip Four: If you can’t get out of work/school/volunteering/etc., be sure to alert others who may be affected by your inability to focus/concentrate/produce/string a sentence together/etc. Not only will you get healthy doses of sympathy from some quarters, and possibly entertaining stories that will make you laugh in spite of yourself from others, but you may also get some much-needed respite from demands and requests. Share appropriately, of course (the boss is on a “need to know” basis) but if there are potential sympaticos in your sphere of influence who are in a position of being able to lighten your load a bit until the black clouds pass, call in your turn to have a bad day. You can always return the favor later.

Tip Five: Be kind – VERY kind – to you. Period. (This is non-negotiable.)

If you have experienced that the number of “bad days” have begun to outweigh the number of good days in your life as of late, you may want to consider connecting with supportive professionals who can help you to say “no” to past hurts, limitations, and painful memories and “yes” to the full and wonderful life you cannot help but dream about. If this describes you, I want to invite you to explore everything that Southlake Counseling has to offer. Our highly skilled and compassionate professional staff has more than two decades of expertise with helping people just like you to take wisdom from the bad days to fuel the good. Please visit us at www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly