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

 

Your Weekly Meditation: It is Possible To Embrace Change

It is possible to embrace change.

Sometimes, when we have been in crisis for some time, we feel like we are fighting everything. Whether the crisis is self- or other-imposed, after it has dragged on for awhile we can feel exhausted, worn out, out of options. Yet, it is what we tell ourselves about the change that matters the most, and also contributes to whether we feel drained or renewed when change occurs. For instance, when spring shifts to summer, and then summer to fall, we just accept it. We don’t fight and resist, wearing ourselves out by railing against the unfairness or telling everyone who will listen how unnecessary it is. In the same way, when we can drop our sense of being at odds with change as it arises, we can see that any temporary discomfort we may feel is not from fighting change, but rather is the direct result of our efforts to embrace change as it occurs.

This week I resolve to: Recognize that often what I perceive as fighting change is really my attempts to accept it, and change my story about what is happening to give myself more credit and support.

 

Your Weekly Meditation: Rest In What Is

Rest in what is.

When we really stop to breathe in the moment, rarely will we discover that our world is actually falling apart, regardless of what we may have been telling ourselves. Rather, it is just a moment in time, followed by another and then another, and for each of those simple, single moments, we truly are okay. We can get through anything when we remember to come back to our breath and rest in what is. We can also more fully enjoy life’s good times in this way.

This week I resolve to: Stop, breathe, and simply rest for a moment when I find myself feeling wound up, stressed, out of myself, out of control, or otherwise ill at ease in my own skin, in the midst of living my own life.

Your Weekly Meditation: This Too Shall Pass

This too shall pass.

It’s not clear whether anyone ever claimed that life would be easy, but somehow we are often tempted to believe it nonetheless. It is not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be life. These are not one and the same. Part of life’s job is to produce challenges. From these challenges, we get to learn valuable things about ourselves – like how strong we really are, how caring we can really be, how much compassion we truly possess for ourselves and others. Through times when the most we can say is “this too shall pass” we are given the opportunity to fall in love with who we truly are….and pass it on.

This week I resolve to:  notice how much I learn and grow from the hard times in my life, and thank myself for being willing to endure temporary pain and hardship so I can become a better friend to myself and others.

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Self-Care During the Holidays

Your spouse just told you that your in-laws are coming to your house this year.

Again.

But what is different this year than before is that your cousins have decided to caravan down with them and come to your home for the holidays too.

Furthermore, since you have a large backyard, they have decided not to kennel their two dogs, one gerbil, and three cats. No need – your house has enough room for them all!

As your spouse relates all of this to you, you feel your blood pressure starting to rise.

You try to explain, but your spouse just doesn’t seem to get it. And it is little wonder that he doesn’t – you can still remember last year, when you envied him his stressful, hectic city job that allowed him to escape the bedlam and chaos that was your home this time last year.

He didn’t see how demanding his folks really are of you. He didn’t realize how worn out and exhausted you felt at the end of every day – how spent, and drained, and just ready for the whole thing to be over.

You are dreading it at a level you didn’t even think you were capable of. The holidays haven’t even started yet, and already you are ready for them to end.

Luckily, you have been taking a group therapy course in Dialectical Behavior Training (DBT) over the past several weeks, and what you are learning is giving you a fresh perspective on how to handle the family situation this year.

First things first – practicing mindfulness, you note your reactions to your spouse’s announcement. The rage. The frustration. The resentment. The air of finality to it – you are being told, not asked, if it is okay to host his extended family this year. You bring your newfound ability for “radical acceptance” to bear on the situation – calmly, you practice simply accepting the moment for what it is, rather than what your mind thinks or wishes it to be. First, accept. Next, work to change.

That accomplished, you pull out mindfulness’ trusty sidekick, emotion regulation. Using your new skills in emotion regulation, you begin to name each emotion objectively, like a witness or observer, rather than an active (and highly emotional) participant. Yup, that really is rage. Yes, there is frustration too. And resentment. Definitely resentment. Some sadness too – when will you and your spouse ever get a chance to enjoy the holidays just relaxing together? Okay, and relief is also coming up – because this year, you have a plan to use your new DBT skills to transform events in a way that includes your need for self-care and alone-time, as well as couple time and family time, into the mix.

Next up is distress tolerance. You realize you are feeling a lot of distress due to all the emotions suddenly arising and colliding within you. You take a deep breath, relax into an awareness of a bigger picture behind your momentary stress, and then let your breath out again, dropping your shoulders and softening your facial muscles as you do so. You remind yourself that you can deal with this situation, you do have it in you to find a workable solution, and you are okay, even in the midst of some significant emotional distress.

Finally, you begin to pull it all together into interpersonal effectiveness. Now is the moment when you will assert your needs – and household ground rules – with your spouse, sharing with him how you are feeling, what you need, and what you can and cannot offer to make the holidays with his family a success this year. You decide that you will initiate a calm, objective conversation with your spouse, free from excess emotion or last year’s holiday baggage, blame, or shame.

Still very calmly, you ask your spouse if he could join you at the kitchen table for a few moments to strategize. You share with him that you did not enjoy the holidays last year and have a plan for how this year’s time with loved ones can be different. You outline what you are willing and able to do to support his in-laws’ visit, and what you need from him in terms of his participation in the family holiday preparations. Then you ask him how he feels about participating in the ways you have outlined, and whether it is something he can commit to. You ask for his feedback as well, and together, you begin to open up to one another and admit that having the whole family in to stay is stressful for you both.

In other words, as you open up, mindfully, with calmness, centeredness, focus, and objectivity, sharing what you need as well as what you wish to offer to make the family holiday season a success, you give your spouse permission to do the same.

Together, using DBT as your guide, you begin to talk through creative ways to turn last year’s holiday woe into this year’s holiday 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: Turning Holiday Woes into Holiday Wonders

Oh boy. The holidays are here.

Again.

You are not sure whether you have been anticipating this moment all year, or dreading it.

Or maybe a bit of both.

Nevertheless, here they are again – upon us for yet another season, and once again before we are ready for them to come. So now the question becomes not “where can I hide?” but rather “what am I going to do differently this year?”

That is what we are going to discuss in this month’s blog series “Turning Holiday Woes into Holiday Wonders.”

For our series, you have been my inspiration, because each one of the woes I have selected is one I have heard you share with me in private session year after year, right around this time.

For instance, you have shared with me how hard you find it to carve out time for self-care while feeling called to take extra special good care of others as well.

You have told me that sometimes it feels simply impossible to locate the fine line between treating yourself to holiday goodies and maintaining your physical health and nutrition.

And you have confided that you sometimes – often – find it incredibly difficult to release a whole past year’s worth of errors and triumphs only to discover an entirely new, sparkling fresh year sweeping down on you before you have had any time to prepare for its arrival.

So this month, we will examine strategies to turn each of these woes into wonders, one week at a time. To do this, we will revisit one of my favorite therapeutic approaches for recovery and life – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT for short.

DBT is a wonderful pathway to effective daily living authored by Dr. Marsha Linehan. The focus and goal of DBT work is to stay centered, present, open, and willing to do our best in every moment.

The teaching tools that DBT uses include mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Each tool builds upon and integrates with the others, and when used together can produce a centered, balanced, present-focused approach to daily life during the holidays and at every moment of the year.

So before we begin our “woes to wonders” adventure together, let’s just take a quick review of each of the four key DBT tools we will be using:

  • Mindfulness training equips us to take back control over our mind’s thoughts and our reactions to those thoughts
  • Emotion Regulation teaches us to name and experience our emotions without allowing them to overtake us
  • Distress Tolerance cultivates our ability to stay present and focused for each moment of our lives regardless of what the day may bring
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness helps us to develop assertiveness skills to ask for what we want and need in safe, healthy, and affirming ways

It is easy to see how each of these tools becomes particularly essential during the heightened energy and emotion the holiday season ushers in. During the next few weeks, we will look at how to apply each of these skills to transform a traditional holiday woe into a true source of delight and 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 Ask for Help

In the last blog post, we discussed how we can re-activate our felt sense of needing help, and from there begin to identify what kind of help is needed. In this second blog post in our “asking for help” series, we will discuss the actual process of how to ask for help.

Asking for help can be problematic. Should we ask? Who should we ask? How should we ask? When should we ask? All of these questions and more jump in line ahead of the actual action of asking for the help we need. Each question demands our attention and detailed consideration before we can move a muscle or utter a word to say, “Help me.” Understandably, by the time we wade through the emotional and mental clutter these complicated questions cause, we are often too weary or discouraged to actually do anything about trying to locate the help we know we need.

I have lost count of the number of times I have discussed with someone at Southlake Counseling about their need for help, and after explaining the whole issue, analyzing it from every angle, and even working together to come up with a plan to address it, the person says, “but it would probably just be easier to take care of it myself after all.”

My question then becomes – easier on WHO?

Definitely, it would be easier on the recipient of the request for help…at least in the short run. But when we factor in resentment on the part of the party who has decided asking for help is not worth the hassle, and confusion on the part of the party who is aware of resentment building but not of its causes, it is clear that un-asked for help has a limited shelf life, and the fall-out later on can be disastrous for any relationship, whether it is romantic, family, friendship, career, or community-related.

So let’s spend a few moments right now simplifying the complex web of questions lying in wait just around every bend where genuine help might also be found.

Should we ask? I have observed that those who wrestle with the question of whether or not to ask for help are rarely the ones who will ever be guilty of not taking enough personal responsibility to do with they can on their own, the answer to this question is almost always a resounding YES.

Who should we ask? This question is best answered once we have identified exactly what type of help we need. Once we know what type of help is needed, the right person for the job becomes much clearer as well. So the answer here is – we should ask the person who can offer the type of help we are seeking.

How should we ask? Rejection is always a potential risk factor in any request for help. However, again in my own years of working with individuals who have been struggling with asking for help, I have also noticed how rarely the person they eventually work up the courage to ask actually rejects them. It seems we all like to feel needed, useful, and valuable, and it is harder than we might assume to turn down someone who sincerely approaches and says, “I need your help.” (NOTE: If you are still doubtful, think of how you would respond if someone walked up to your right now and said to you, “I need your help.” What would you say? Probably, “how can I help you?”!)

When should we ask? Ideally, within a few moments of becoming aware of the help is needed and identifying the appropriate party who can help. However, it is also important to be aware of our own inner state as well as the situation of the other party when we ask. Are they in the middle of a meeting? Did they come home announcing they’ve just had the worst day ever? We should approach the other person when they are free to talk, and ideally when they are calm enough to be attentive to our request. There is no reason to set ourselves up for reinforcement of the belief that no one will help us by choosing to ask at a moment when the other party cannot give any time or attention to our request.

So take some time this week and try these ideas on for size – don’t tackle all the areas where you need help at once. Just pick one area where you’ve been trying to deal with an issue or situation on your own and it is not yielding the desired results. Think of who you can ask for help. Journal about how you want to ask. Then pick a moment when the other person can talk, simply say, “I need your help” and describe the issue you need help with.

If you find that you are having a hard time with the process of asking for help, we invite you to contact Southlake Counseling. Our compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced staff can support you as you practice asking for, and accepting, the help you need and deserve. If you are ready to say “no” to wearing the weight of your world on your shoulders and “YES” to sharing your burdens with others who can and want to help and support you, then contact us today at www.southlakecounseling.com

Be Well,

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


Are You Willing To Do What It Takes?

I had an interesting conversation with a guy I know at a bicycle shop the other day. We started talking about my bicycle seat options and what might be more comfortable for me, so I asked him if it makes a difference that my pelvis healed into an uneven position after a car accident about 20 years ago. This led to a further discussion of lower back issues…neck and shoulder tightness, and he asked me if I have any chronic pain as a result of my injuries. I hadn’t really considered this in a while, so I shared with him that I had been a chiropractic patient for nearly two decades, visiting several times a year, anytime I felt a flare-up in my back, neck, or shoulders. However, I have been able to stay out of the chiropractor’s office for about the past two years, despite doing more physical activity such as cycling, which can exacerbate back problems.

“How do you explain that?” he asked. The answer was easy, “I practice yoga.”  He agreed that yoga is extremely helpful in developing what people need to stay active – balance, strength, and flexibility – and as a trainer he recommends it to nearly all his serious cyclists, but added that most people just won’t take the time to practice it. Hmmm…so this made me think.

In my work with clients, we quite often discuss ways that they can feel better – coping skills that they can use when they feel distressed, instead of returning to their old patterns of using food, alcohol, sex, self-injury, isolation, purging, or any other maladaptive trick that they have tried. The problem with these patterns is that, although they may temporarily “numb” us from feeling what is causing emotional pain, they end up causing harm and making things worse. So, like I tell my clients, when you take what you have been using away, you must learn to replace it with something that works…and here is where many people have a problem. Although we make a list of many other ideas that they can try when they start to feel uncomfortable, and they even admit that the new coping skills actually work, they fail to practice the willingness to continue to do what they know will help them…so why is that?

In our DBT groups, we learn about willingness vs. willfulness, and specifically how these concepts help or hurt us. Willingness is when we know what will help us feel and function better without making things worse in the long run, and we actually put those skills into practice in our daily lives. Willfulness, on the other hand, is when we know what would be the most effective way to handle a situation, what would work the best for us, and we choose not to do it.

There are many reasons why a person willfully chooses not to do what he knows will work. Sometimes people are familiar with and comfortable being in a constant state of chaos, and don’t believe they deserve anything better or different. Other times the pain of the harm they are doing is not enough to motivate them to change. Until that balance shifts and their suffering becomes worse than the discomfort associated with doing something new, many people won’t make the effort to help themselves.

In my own life, self-care is something I must stay willing to practice in order to be the best mom, daughter, friend, and therapist that I can be. It’s often difficult for me to carve out time to practice yoga, ride my bike, spend time with friends, read, and pray/meditate, on top of all my other responsibilities. But I have found that the more demanding my schedule is, or the more stressors I am experiencing, the more imperative it is that I take care of myself by doing all those things. It requires willingness on my part to make the effort, and the results are worth it in my happiness, stability, and peace of mind. I know what makes me feel better, so it’s my fault if I choose not to do those things.

Ask yourself today, “If I am unhappy with the way things are in my life, am I willing to do what it takes for me to feel better?” If your answer is Yes, and you need some guidance in figuring out what might work for you, schedule an appointment at Southlake Counseling and take the first step toward being in charge of your own happiness.

In good health,

Debbie





Wednesday’s Weekly Inspiration: Are You Choosy About Offering Your Support?

As women, we often assume that we must bear the relational weight of the world on our shoulders. We are so accustomed to supporting everyone – from kids to pets to neighbors to colleagues to spouses to friends to family – that sometimes we forget we never gave up our right to say “yes” or “no”!

As you go about your day today, make a mental list of everyone you offer your support to. Then make another little note beside each person’s name about why you offered your support. Did you want to? Did you instead do it because you felt obligated? Did you offer support just because you were worried about what they would think or say about you if you said no? Or was it a joy to reach out a hand, speak a kind word, offer a hug?

Today, remind yourself that you have the right to be choosy about whom you offer your time, your energy, your strength, and your heart to.

Today’s affirmation: Today, I will be choosy about saying “yes” and “no” to requests for support

© Kimberly Krueger- Meditations for Recovery