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.

 

 

 

 

DBT’s Interpersonal Effectiveness: Building Mastery and Self-Respect

“Do you think it’s important to nurture genuine respect for oneself?” I would be shocked/stunned/mind-boggled if the majority of people to whom I asked this question replied with some variation of, “no, thanks, it’s been quite pleasant disrespecting myself and my beliefs and sincerely thinking that I am incompetent.” In fact, while it might be almost impossible to believe, most of the people who walk into my office voice some type of desire to feel good about who they are and at peace about the decisions they’ve made with regard to their interactions with others.

So, just how important is self-respect? Let’s look at a recent situation in my personal life that pertinently and efficiently reminded me of the vast importance of self-respect. Recently, I found myself in a situation with a friend that, over a two-week period, proved to be particularly distressing. Two weeks prior to this realization, I identified my need to express my feelings about his actions, or in this case, lack of action. However, I wanted the discussion to take place in person, not via some sort of electronic medium, and I wanted to find the appropriate time, a combination of desires that proved to be especially difficult to attain as day after day blew by.

Upon his most recent departure from an in-person interaction between us, during which I, again, could not seem to recognize this seemingly elusive perfect time, I found myself bombarded by uncomfortable thoughts/feelings. The most common thought: “You failed. Once again, he left and you did not say anything,” followed closely by the feeling of shame. Then, I watched, mindfully, as the thoughts/feelings cycled through my mind. Shame triggered the thought, “you’re weak, you’ll never find the right time. You’re using this right time notion to avoid talking to him,” followed closely by more shame, who brought with it its two acquaintances, guilt and sadness (nice to see you, again!).

And that’s when it hit me. Why wasn’t I eagerly having this seemingly necessary conversation? Well, that was a fairly easy one for me…fear. Fear that he wouldn’t like me. Fear it would ruin our relationship. Fear that he’d leave. And I didn’t want to discount, invalidate, or avoid this fear, as the fear of losing or damaging significant relationships in one’s life can be daunting, vastly uncomfortable, and even paralyzing. However, what was the cost? By avoiding the first situation of having a discussion due to potential negative consequences, I was causing other, very real, negative consequences to occur in the place of ones that had not even occurred yet, and might not even occur. Based on consequences that had a 50% chance of materializing (It might ruin our relationship, it might not. He might leave, he might not.), I was creating a second situation with a 100% chance of damaging my self-respect…and I still didn’t even know what might or might not happen in the first situation!

The founder of DBT, Marsha Linehan, describes mastery as doing something that increases one’s feelings of competence, and sometimes, if you fail, doing it over and over and over again until you succeed. With regard to self-respect, Linehan notes that one builds self-respect when he/she acts in ways that support his/her personal beliefs, morals, and opinions. Mastery builds competence. Competence builds self-respect. Take the example of a newborn learning to walk. When little Joey takes his first steps and falls, what would happen if he never got back up? Would he ever learn how to walk if he never tried again? How would he feel about his walking abilities? Furthermore, would he be more or less likely to get up and try again if he were to succumb to his inundating thoughts of, “I’m a failure. I’ll never learn how to walk. All the other babies will learn how to walk and I’ll be stuck here, crawling on the floor, forever (insert sad-face emoticon here).” I’m concerned about Little Joey’s self-respect already.

It’s not easy to do things we perceive as potentially threatening, and it’s also not easy to deal with the inevitable thoughts/feelings that show-up when we don’t take action when we want to (or act when we don’t want to). And while the blow to our self-respect can be equally devastating, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn how to skillfully manage difficult situations.  So, the next time you find yourself in a particularly tough situation with another person, just remember this is probably not the last complicated situation/interaction you’ll be faced with in your lifetime… AND every difficult situation you encounter is another opportunity to build your mastery at effectively handling tough situations and to enhance and deepen your self-respect! Be kind to yourself, validate your fears, and grow.

For more information on me, visit my profile on psychologytoday.com

Julie

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: V is for Validation, Part One

This month we continue our exploration of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and its effect on BPD sufferers and their families.

As you may recall from last month’s posts, May was Borderline Personality Month. BPD is now known to be a brain-based emotion regulation disorder that often begins to arise in early adulthood and affects more women than men. The disorder manifests in a devastating emotional sensitivity that makes it difficult for some and impossible for others to maintain the type of close, nurturing, mutually supportive relationships that make life feel worth living.

This explains why, out of the 18 million Americans who have BPD, 10 percent will commit suicide before adequate diagnosis and treatment is offered. Additionally, current statistics state that 33 percent of all youth who commit suicide are found posthumously to have displayed symptoms characteristic of BPD that went undiagnosed.

In my work as Program Director with Southlake Counseling, I have seen firsthand how a lack of knowledge, lack of or improper diagnosis, and inadequate or improper care can lead to the tragic loss of a loved one who has BPD, and the unnecessary total breakdown of family systems. I say unnecessary, because there are some practical, accessible skills that loved ones of a BPD sufferer can begin to employ right now to ease the tension in their relationships and restore valued connections.

In this post, I would like to introduce one such technique: Validation.

Validation is a term that was first employed in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is a therapeutic method designed by Dr. Marsha Linehan specifically to treat BPD. Validation is a DBT-based technique that is carefully designed to counteract the natural emotional response nearly every important communication has the potential to evoke in a BPD sufferer.

In the normal world of a person with BPD, their brain is not wired as sensitively to relational cues as a non-BPD individual’s brain is. So it is much easier for a BPD sufferer to feel invalidated or rejected by even a mundane or routine interaction with a loved one.

Validation is a direct counter to the BPD individual’s assumption that every communication is invalidating until proven otherwise. The rage, the suicidal actions, the emotional outbursts, the self-harming behaviors, the expressed fearfulness and the impulse control issues all stem from a feeling of being rejected, abandoned or invalidated by a person who holds an important role in the BPD individual’s life.

Learning how to successfully communicate with a loved one who has BPD is based upon understanding their inner emotional landscape and working with rather than against their BPD-influenced perception of relationships and events. Using Validation promotes that awareness and understanding, and opens up the door to better communications between the BPD sufferer and those who share their life.

In our next post, we will explore how to use Validation to facilitate communications with a BPD sufferer. So stay tuned!

If you or someone you care about is suffering from symptoms that appear to be related to Borderline Personality Disorder, don’t wait! Seek help right away as BPD can be life threatening. At Southlake Counseling, our staff has received extensive training from Dr. Linehan’s Behavioral Tech Institute. We have more than two decades of experience successfully treating BPD through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. We also offer supportive DBT-based skills-building groups for family, loved ones, and friends of BPD sufferers. Learn more at www.southlakecounseling.com.

Be Well,

Kimberly

 

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Good News – BPD Brains ARE Different!

This month marks the 4th anniversary of May as National Borderline Personality Awareness Month.

Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD, is a serious psychiatric illness which affects an estimated six percent of the population – approximately 18 million Americans. BPD is an excruciatingly painful emotional dysregulation disorder that can be both debilitating and deadly.

Affected individuals frequently first begin showing signs of the illness in early adulthood, often suffering for five years or longer before an accurate diagnosis is made. In that time period, BPD sufferers are 400 times more likely to commit suicide than non-affected peers. Affected individuals often cycle in and out of psychiatric care centers, encountering blame, shame, and stigma instead of the knowledgeable treatment BPD demands and deserves.

Symptoms of BPD include recurrent suicidal urges or attempts, chronic emotional instability, relational chaos, intense and persistent fear of abandonment (real or imagined), impulse control issues, rageful outbursts, and self-harm. While some BPD-affected individuals are able to function well in certain areas of life, others are unable to hold down a job or maintain basic relational connections.  Medical professionals estimate that as many as one in five out of every patients admitted to psychiatric care centers are suffering from undiagnosed BPD.

With these statistics, it is clear that much work remains to be done to better understand the origins and development of BPD, and what type of treatment most effectively assists affected individuals with recovery.

What is already known is that BPD is often passed from parent to child, with a nearly 70 percent likelihood that an affected person has had a parent who also suffered from the illness.

What has not been understood to date is whether or not there are true grounds for treating BPD as a brain-based illness, but recent studies at Baylor College of Medicine and The Mount Sinai Medical Center are now changing that.

In 2008, Baylor College of Medicine conducted a first-of-its-kind research study that aimed to identify whether the brains of BPD-affected individuals function differently than the brains of non-affected peers. This study paired a BPD-affected individual with a non-affected partner to play a game of trust. Researchers used fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans to measure how the brains of BPD-affected individuals processed emotional and relational cues from their non-affected partners as the game progressed.

To do this, Baylor research scientists measured blood flow to the anterior insula of the brain, the region that is thought to be responsible for sending up a “red flag” that something is wrong.  As the games of trust progressed, fMRI scans showed that when trust was broken, the anterior insula in the brains of non-affected individuals would register increased blood flow. No such activity was measured in the brains of BPD-affected game players, which for scientists was a clear signal that BPD sufferers do not process relational cues with the same acuity and intensity as non-affected peers.

The outcome of the Baylor study showed that BPD-affected individuals lacked the basic ability to pick up on social cues from their non-affected partners. Scientists now believe this difference in brain function is responsible for the persistent and often pervasive relational instability which BPD sufferers exhibit.

In a second study conducted just one year later in 2009 at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, research scientists snapped into place yet another piece of the brain-based puzzle that is BPD. In the Mount Sinai study, researchers set out to discover why BPD-affected individuals experienced chronic inability to self-regulate emotions. Paired against a control group of non-affected peers, 19 BPD sufferers viewed a series of pleasant and disturbing images, and researchers used fMRI scans to measure blood flow to the amygdala, or emotion processing center of the brain. When BPD-affected participants viewed the disturbing images, blood flow to their amygdala far outpaced amygdala responses of their non-affected control group peers.

Mount Sinai researchers are using this information to better understand the origin of the extreme emotional reactions BPD sufferers often display. The hope is that in the future, this information can be used to target medications and treatments to better serve the recovery needs of BPD-affected individuals.

Both the Baylor and the Mount Sinai studies offer good news to BPD-affected individuals and their loved ones. With now conclusive evidence that brain-based differences exist between BPD sufferers and non-affected individuals, a new and hopeful horizon for better treatment options for BPD sufferers is coming into view.

To read more about the Baylor study: CLICK HERE

To read more about the Mount Sinai study: CLICK HERE

If you or someone you love is suffering from BPD, or if you have or observe in a loved one symptoms that match those outlined in this post, I urge you to contact Southlake Counseling today for assistance in recovering from this painful but very treatable disease. Learn more at www.southlakecounseling.com.

Be Well,

Kimberly

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Putting Fear in its Place

Many of us have been shamed at one point or another in our lives for the simple expression of fear.

Feeling fear – it is something that animals, small children, birds, express so naturally. They feel fear, recognize it for the messenger that it is, and do the next right thing. This is because in its primal state, fear is built into our primitive limbic brain – the part of the brain that is wired to alert every sentient being to danger and give us a head start in finding safe shelter.

So how did fear evolve to the point where the simple expression of feeling fear can lead to shame, a desire to hide, or a need to camouflage fear with anger, rage, sadness, blame, or various addictions, just so we won’t be found out?

The actual definitions for fear range from an unpleasant feeling of perceived risk or danger, real or not to a reverential awe.

One interesting question I often ask those I work with is – “who told you fear was unpleasant?” Who would we be in the presence of our own fear if we weren’t so keen on labeling it as unpleasant? These are interesting questions to ask.

Another revealing question those I work with sometimes find helpful is, “since when is risk or danger ever perceived?” By this I mean that when we say these things to ourselves, we are in essence saying to ourselves, “I don’t trust you.” This is very frightening, and our fear only grows.

The truth is that when we feel fear, it is real to us – period, the end. We won’t accept others’ assessments that we really aren’t afraid when we are. We don’t have to stop and ask ourselves, “are you sure you are afraid?” We know. Questioning our fear shames us, and cuts us off from taking the necessary action to move through our fear towards resolution.

Similarly, when we spend precious moments believing that the emotion of fear is unpleasant, unwanted, unnecessary, or untrue, we resist the fear and….you guessed it….become even more afraid.  It is at this point where we may find ourselves turning to various thought or behavior patterns or addictions such as drinking, drugging, using other people’s bodies, stuffing our own bodies when we are already full or not feeling hungry, watching hours of mindless television programs, losing ourselves on the internet, or otherwise “checking out” from our own lives and the people around us.

We are afraid. We don’t want to feel afraid, we don’t know if we can trust that that feeling is fear, we judge ourselves for feeling the fear, we resist feeling the fear….and yet still we are afraid.

I’d like to propose a simpler way to put fear in its place. Let it stay where it is.

Fear is there, knocking on our awareness, for its own reasons. It has a message for us. It comes respectfully, and not without its own trepidation given the often cold reception we offer it. Yet it continues to come. Fear is kind. Fear wants us to deal with what is causing the fear and find resolution and peace.

So the next time you feel fear, before you move on auto pilot into arguing with its presence, discounting it, shaming or judging yourself for feeling it, blaming someone or something else for inducing it in you, hiding from it, or drowning yourself in addictive thought and behavior patterns to escape it, try this.

Simply stop.

Breathe.

Notice.

Ask yourself kindly, “What am I feeling afraid of?”

Write down your own answer.

If you find you are turning towards any exterior crutches or supports, like alcohol or other people, before doing a thorough self-investigation of your fear, then notice that too, and ask yourself kindly if you can wait just a few moments to do self inquiry on your fear before you have that first drink, make that phone call, or switch on the computer or television set.

And if you find that you are still too afraid to proceed without those crutches, it may be the right moment to consider reaching out for help.

Fear is a great teacher – if we will allow it. Fear can be a good friend – if we will allow it. Fear can teach us that it is okay to reach out and ask for help, and that in the very act of asking for help, we find our first taste of freedom from the fear of our own fear.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than two decades of expertise with guiding people just like you through the experience of their own fear towards understanding, action, and resolution. Our caring professional staff is skilled in individual and group facilitation methods which can allow fear to safely arise, deliver its message, and depart, leaving us stronger, wiser, and more confident for the experience. Contact us today to find out how we can help you say “no” to discounting, shifting or hiding from your fears, and “yes” to learning from a very wise teacher – fear itself. www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

Kimberly

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Treating Yourself During the Holidays

When you think of the word “holidays,” the vision that comes to mind is of treats.

Specifically, holiday treats.

Specifically, those marshmallow chocolate sprinkled things your mother always makes….the ones with the mint centers and gooey tops.

And the peppermint ice cream with hot fudge that your family always has as a Christmas evening tradition. And the spicy-sweet popcorn mix with extra real butter for the night you watch “Twas the Night before Christmas” with all the kids. And the annual community-wide block party with the neighbor’s homemade fudge, and the home-fried doughnuts, and the…..

Your mouth is watering already. You have been SO good all year long…. for just such a season as this. While you can already see the New Year (and the New Year’s diet) looming, that dread can be put off for a month or so yet. You tell yourself that you will tackle the diet when you get to it.

To be honest, you are aware that you tend to indulge to excess during the holidays, to the point where you have an extra set of clothes waiting in the wings – all a size larger – and you dread New Year’s Day, when you have to squirm your way into something extra-tight to go to your annual family get together.

You’re just not sure what to do about it. Just the thought – not to mention the sight – of all those holiday treats, and you seem to lose all self control.

But this year, you have a new bag of tricks up your sleeve. You have been studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and your group leader has told you that using the four principles of DBT might help you.

Your goal is to maintain better self-control during the holidays, but balance that with a less restrictive, treat-aversive attitude throughout the rest of the year. Your group leader thinks that with some balance year-round, and a bit more willingness to indulge in treats here and there throughout the rest of the year, you won’t be as prone to excess when the holidays roll around.

You sure hope she is right!

You start by practicing mindfulness. As your table fills up with holiday goodies each night, you simply observe, with radical acceptance of what is, that they are maintaining a presence there. You feel that familiar craving deep in your abdomen. You witness yourself imagining how each treat will taste.

From there, you notice the frustration arising within you. You want all of the treats! Now! You feel stress – which ones should you start with? How many of each? What if you overindulge again and feel guilty like you did last year? You use your new emotion regulation technique to name each emotion as it arises – not engaging, but simply naming. Frustration. Fear. Anger. Sadness. Regret. Guilt. Shame.

As the emotions present themselves and you give them names, you are simultaneously practicing distress tolerance – the ability to stand in the presence of strong emotions without allowing them to overtake you. You accept that these are today’s events, like them or not, accept them or not. You choose to learn from (if not like) them, and to accept them by reminding yourself that you are stronger and wiser than any temporary disturbance that you may happen upon in the course of a day.

Finally, you use your newfound interpersonal regulation skills to remind yourself that food treats are not the only way you can reward and treat yourself. You can brew yourself a lovely warm cup of tea. You can invite a loved one for a brisk walk and watch the snowflakes fall while the moon shines above. You can pop in a good movie that you love to laugh at. You can draw a bath…or turn in early to get a few extra winks of sleep. You can read a favorite book or snuggle with your spouse.

In this way, you begin to relate to yourself as a whole being rather than as an emotion-driven stomach, and slowly, those cravings in your abdomen begin to unclench you and leave you in peace….turning a longstanding holiday woe into a true miraculous wonder.

If you are finding that you are struggling this holiday season to find the wonder in the midst of the woes, Southlake Counseling can help. Our compassionate and skilled staff has more than two decades of experience with guiding individuals in how to effectively use the DBT principles of mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Learn more by visiting us at www.southlakecounseling.com.

Be Well – and happy holidays!

Kimberly


Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: How to Know When We Need Help

In the more than two decades I have spent assisting courageous individuals who come to me seeking help for how to transcend challenges and embrace opportunities, I have noticed over and over again how hard our culture makes it for us to ask for help.

We may think that it is hard to accept help when it is offered, and that is often true as well. But that difficulty is nothing compared to how hard many of us find it to reach out and ask for help when we need it.

In fact, I have also noticed that the difficulty only sometimes lies with an actual inability to ask for help. For many of those I have met in the course of my life and work, the true challenge seems to be even knowing for sure when help is needed!

So I thought we would spend some time this month discussing how we know when we need help and how we can ask for help when we need it.

When we were little, we probably asked for help by crying. We had a limited emotional vocabulary, and tears were one of the few reliable ways we could communicate a felt need – even if we did not have a clear understanding of what that need was. We just knew we needed….something….we cried….and someone noticed and offered assistance. If necessary, we figured out what kind of assistance was needed together, but the presence of the tears was enough evidence in and of themselves that help was in order, and enough to send it running our way.

As we got older, however, it became less socially acceptable to literally “cry out” our need for help. As our tears went underground, our ability to sense our felt need for help went with it.  We learned that there was a cutoff age by which we could unselfconsciously ask for help without fear of ridicule, rejection, or censure. Once that cutoff age had been reached, we were deemed “old enough” to figure out how to help ourselves and we were on our own.

It was at this point that we most likely withdrew permission from ourselves to ask for help, or accept it when it was offered, or both.

However, even if it has been awhile since we have used it, we have never lost this ability to sense when we need help. Rather, we are just out of practice with tuning in.

This week, spend some time tuning in again to that innate felt sense of when you need help. As you do this, suspend any learned adult requirement that you must question your own felt sense of needing help, regardless of whether your need is small (lifting a heavy bag out of the car) or big (addressing a difficult relationship or work situation).

If necessary, pretend you are small again, and your felt sense of needing help is pure and trusted. Allow it to come up. Notice if it is preceded by a sudden feeling of sadness, anger, fear, or other emotion. Notice how you feel as you begin to translate a wave of previously inexplicable sudden feeling into a need for help. Do you feel fear? Resistance? Reluctance? Relief?

Being able to tune in to when you need help is the first step to being able to ask for help – we simply cannot ask for what we do not know we need. Knowing we need help is also the first step towards trusting ourselves enough to ask for it – if we cannot admit to ourselves that we need help, then we cannot allow ourselves to accept it, even when it is freely offered!

If you notice you are struggling to tune back in to your felt sense of needing help, or you are struggling against admitting to yourself that you are worth receiving the help you know you need, Southlake Counseling can help. Our professional staff is compassionate and experienced in helping individuals of every age and from every walk of life to relearn how to ask for and accept help. To find out more about how you can begin to say no to “going it alone” and YES to accepting and embracing help, visit us at today at www.southlakecounseling.com.

Be Well,

Kimberly


Wednesday’s Weekly Inspiration: It is only a mistake if you don’t learn something from it.

Human beings make mistakes.

Yes, that means you too.

We all make mistakes. What separates success from failure in recovery and life has nothing to do with the amount of mistakes you make and everything to do with what you learn from each mistake.

So today, when you make a mistake (and you most likely will), instead of berating yourself, ask yourself, “Self, what can I learn from this?” You can even journal about it and set aside a few minutes tonight to read back through all the knowledge you have gained in one single day!

And here’s one more radical idea – just if you are feeling really brave – how about choosing to THANK each mistake for the lesson it brings! You can say, “Thank you, mistake, for being such a good teacher. I appreciate the chance to learn and grow that you have offered me.”

Today’s affirmation: Making mistakes means I am brave enough to learn something new, and I celebrate myself for that!

The Shame About Shame in Mental Health Recovery

Shame. Just thinking the word brings a powerful experience of shame into our awareness.

We don’t even need to read the definition to know that shame is “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace” because we can feel it….feel its effects instantly. Like kryptonite, shame seeps into our being, sapping our sense of personal empowerment, our enthusiasm for life, our zest for self-discovery….and our dreams of recovery. In the wake of shame, we are left in the grips of a profound and enervating hopelessness that erases any recollection of why we ever thought we were worth recovering for in the first place.  

If you have personal mental health recovery experience, you have felt shame. You have most likely also been shamed by others who, in their ignorant but well-meaning attempts to motivate you to get better, have issued un-helpful advice like “just eat more!” and “snap out of it!”, and berated you for your seeming inability to “just get over” your issues with food, weight, body image, self-esteem, anxiety, depression……

This is exactly why it is so critical to say no to shame and say yes to knowledge as the first step to making real, lasting progress towards your recovery goals.

The more you learn, the less shame you feel. The more you learn, the less shaming you will tolerate from others, and the more you will be willing to educate yourself and others on the truth of mental illness. Most importantly, the more you learn, the more you can do to work towards your own recovery. Knowledge is a win-win for you and for everyone who cares about you – and where shame, like mental illness, kills, knowledge saves lives.

So here is what you need to know NOW to begin to replace shame with the factual knowledge that leads to lasting recovery.

Mental illnesses (including but not limited to eating disorders, anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and body dysmorphic disorder) are at their core biological brain disorders.

These illnesses arise in large part due to genetic predisposition, and become greatly exacerbated in the presence of environmental triggers including but not limited to innate emotional vulnerability, experiences with personal trauma, grief, loss, unavoidable sudden change, and repeated exposure to our media’s focus on finding perfection in body image, career, love relationships, material possessions, and lifestyle.

Mental illness affects females and males of all ages, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds – which is why there is no place in recovery work for the presence of shame. With the statistics* we have, chances are there is someone in your life who also struggles with mental illness…and the only reason you do not know of their battles, or they of yours, is due to shame.

Consider this example. We know so much more today than we did even five years ago about treating cancer, diabetes, and ADHD. Today, we would not dream of shaming a cancer patient for not being able to “just get rid of” the presence of cancerous cells in his body. We wouldn’t even think of shaming a diabetic for her inability to “just regulate” her insulin levels. Not a one of us would consider refusing further help or support or compassion to a child with ADHD because he can’t “just sit still already”!

So why do we persist in shaming ourselves – or in allowing ourselves to be shamed – for needing help and expert medical guidance to overcome the effects of the biological brain disregulation that is at the root of mental illness?

It is time to get smart about our disease. It is time to say yes to knowledge…so we can say no to shame, and yes to life!

Be Well.

Kimberly

*Eating disorders are responsible for the deaths of twelve times more females between the ages of 11 and 25 than any other mental illness-related disorder
*Depression affects an estimated 9% of the population in the United States
*Approximately 18% of adults suffer from anxiety; anxiety is the most common mental disorder in teens