awareness

The Truth About Emotional Health: Part 1

Want to know the truth about emotional health? I think we all want to know what we can do to have it and keep it. No one really enjoys being in an emotional spiral or even an emotional swirl. We like it best when we are stable, when life around us is stable, and we have a sense of all is well. Unfortunately, that is not reality. And that is the first truth.

Accepting the hard moments or hard days is necessary for experiencing emotional health. Emotional health is not synonymous with emotional neutrality. Living in a narrow range of emotion with no high or low is denying reality. Life is full of pain, hardship, uncertainty, disappointment as well as exuberance, explosive joy, and celebration. Actually feeling the rhythms of life is not being bipolar. If you find yourself so low you cannot get out of bed for several days in a row and at others so high you don’t sleep at night for several days in a row while rearranging your home for instance, it’s possible you are bipolar and you may need an evaluation. The normal highs and lows of life however are not a cause for alarm. But many of us don’t like those highs and lows. What’s your alternative? To live in a restricted response to life around you and that is not emotional health. You are stunting your true experience. 

To enlist the first truth of emotional health, start noticing what you are feeling. Allow the feeling to be there for as long as you are comfortable with it. Name it. Are you feeling sad, discouraged, disgusted, pissed off, concerned, unsure, afraid, content, excited…? Notice the full expression of the emotion in your body not just the cognition of it. If you are feeling pissed off, what does it feel like in your body? Be aware of its physical sensation. Simply let it be there. You don’t need to do anything with it, just notice and let it pass, like a wave.

For some, allowing emotion to be fully experienced is unsettling and may even trigger such an extreme connection that you feel out of control, like the emotion is going to take you over. If that’s the case, don’t feel it. Shut it down. Anchor yourself to the given moment: My feet are touching the ground, I can see the clock on the wall, I hear it ticking, I am right here in this room. Then, find a good counselor to help you with processing your emotion.

Sometimes, especially with sadness tied to grief and loss, it feels so strong that we cannot sleep well or we sleep too much, our appetite changes, our interest in things we once enjoyed disappears, we have lethargy, maybe even an increase in anger. These are all signs of depression. Depression can be situational: I lost my job, I’m going through a breakup or divorce, my child died, I have cancer. It can also be a physiological issue in your brain. For both, see a counselor and a medical provider. You may benefit from working through the situation with a counselor and taking medication, either to help you through a really challenging time or to help balance your body’s chemical production. 

To sum up this truth: feeling deep feelings is normal, being neutral all the time is not emotional health. Sometimes we do feel too deeply and we can serve ourselves well to get that checked out by a counselor and a medical provider. If looking for a counselor, check out your insurance for covered providers or PsychologyToday.com. You can put in parameters for location, insurance they take, therapy techniques they use, and more. 

If you can’t wait for the rest of this series, check out my book: The Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance and Healthier Relationships or my course The Journey Forward Workbook Series

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, Emotional Healing, emotions, Growth, Journey Forward Workbook, Recovery, Self-Help, The Truth About Emotional Health | Leave a comment

Savor The Season

This holiday season is different in so many ways. We are being asked to limit our interactions with one another to avoid putting more pressure on our already taxed health care workers. So what do the holidays look like in this case? For me, it means decorating the house as usual and having more time at home to enjoy it. Taking time to savor the lights, the colors, the smells and the meaning of this season. It’s pondering the love of God and the gift He gave us through His son. It’s remembering that we are called to love one another. God’s gift through Jesus is a reminder to keep our judgments of others in check, to look at our thoughts, attitudes, words and actions, and put them through the filter of: is it loving? I’m not perfect at this, but I do try to live it out.

Perhaps you do not share the same beliefs as I do. What does this time of year mean to you? I’m assuming it’s something positive, in which case, ponder it. Reflect it to those around you, even if ‘those’ are limited to just a few people. Put up your decorations as usual or maybe for the first time. Sometimes even just a simple strand of white lights can brighten up our long nights. Maybe bake gingerbread cookies and notice how the fragrance lifts your spirits. Take in a slow deep breath and soak in the sights and scents around you. Exhale and notice your body relaxing, even just a little bit.

Maybe you have nothing. You can’t bake cookies, you can’t or don’t want to put up decorations. Look outside at the night sky, soak in the beauty of the stars or moon. Notice the changes of the seasons (if you have seasons!) or just notice what you see around you. Listen to the sounds. Simply notice…breathe…relax.

Savor the moments. Let them restore you.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, holidays, self care | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving in the Midst of the Pandemic

For those of you who read my blog regularly I have no explanation for why I haven’t written a post in a long while. I just didn’t feel like it. That’s all. Some days…or months! are like that. We are all doing well, including Anna.

Thanksgiving in the US is tomorrow. Normally my family has a large gathering. This year it is not happening. I know this is the case for many others. Our plans have changed in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. We are also trying to be mindful of the impact this pandemic is having on many medical facilities. Given all that, what can we do to honor the reality of the changes this year while still celebrating the holiday?

I think it’s helpful to be aware of what you are feeling and why. This is not new to anyone who reads this blog. I frequently write about the importance of awareness: knowing what you are thinking as well as what you feel physically and emotionally. Stuffing our feelings inside does not taste nearly as good as the stuffing we shove inside a turkey! It might make the moment easier but in the long run you are setting yourself up for some kind of unhealthy leakage or explosion. I know this first hand 😉

So start by honoring your true experience but not letting it dominate you. You notice what you are thinking and feeling. You find the parts of your thinking that are based on made up stories or predictions i.e., “We’ll never have another family gathering!”, “Thanksgiving is ruined forever!”, “This pandemic is never going to end!” Those predictions could come true but we don’t know for certain. All we know right now is it is safest to limit our gatherings, our usual Thanksgiving traditions will need to be altered, and we are living in the midst of a pandemic. Keep your thoughts reigned in to what is true. The truth is painful enough for us. We certainly don’t do ourselves any good by adding the emotionally crushing predictions.

Next, consider what you are grateful for. When the pilgrims celebrated their first harvest celebration, they had already endured tremendous hardship, illness, and loss. Sometimes the less we have, the more grateful we can become. The little things begin to take on more meaning. Many of us have a roof over our head, food to eat, and technology that allows face to face communication. We can step back and be grateful for those. We can look around us, at nature, the sky, sun, moon and starts and marvel at their beauty. Take a moment, breathe as deeply and slowly as you can, and soak in the beauty…the gratefulness. Let this moment bathe you and nourish your soul. Carry it with you and share it with others.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, COVID-19, emotions, Growth, holidays, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery | Tags: | 4 Comments

You Always Have A Choice

Some might disagree with my title. That’s OK. I believe no matter what is happening to or around us, we can choose how we will respond. As we enter into a Presidential election here in the States, it’s easy to allow other’s words or actions dictate our words and actions. You have more power than that.

I like to start with breathing. Slow your breathing down. Let your exhale be longer than your inhale for a few breath cycles. Begin to notice what you are feeling emotionally and physically. Notice your thoughts. Allow the situation to just “be” without having to judge the situation or act on it. Just pause, breathe, and notice.

After a few minutes, consider if there is any action you still want to take. Standing up for something you believe in is healthy but not if it is meant to be intentionally hurtful to another. That’s retaliation. I generally don’t think retaliation comes from a centered, grounded place inside. I think of it as a reactionary way to hurt another because you believe they hurt you. If it’s retaliatory, go back through the breathing, non-judgmental, non-reactive, just be with it place. Give it some time. Perhaps you will change your mind and find a healthier step you choose to take.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, emotions, Growth, integration, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Relationships | 1 Comment

Breathe

Pause for just a moment to take a breath. Make it as deep and slow as you can without feeling pressure to go beyond what you are capable of. Notice what it feels like to breathe, the sensation of breath coming in. Notice your body expanding as you inhale. Now exhale everything out and notice what that feels like for you physically.

Take another deep slow breath, noticing what that’s like. As you exhale allow your shoulders to relax. Notice other areas of your body that are tense and imagine letting the tension go with your exhale.

Take one more breath in and out repeating the steps above. Take this moment with you as you go about your day. Repeat as necessary 🙂

Categories: awareness, Growth, Healing, Recovery, self care | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Feeling Is Not Necessarily Reality

Our feelings about situations or relationships can be misleading yet we often base our understanding of reality on a feeling we have. Shift your thinking to the data. Does it prove your feeling is right or does the data offer up a shadow of doubt? If you feel your friend doesn’t like you ask yourself why. What tells you your friend doesn’t like you? Is it because she hasn’t called in awhile? Do you know why she hasn’t called? Probably not. You are likely starting to build a case for your feeling but it’s based on assumptions and skewed data in an unwise attempt to prove your theory. Be very careful how you read into information. Step back and take on a neutral stance. Then sort through the data. Also, it helps to contact those involved, in this case the friend, and ask. We have a tendency to create stories without checking our facts.

Categories: awareness, Growth, Processing Thoughts and Emotions, Recovery, Self-Help | Leave a comment

Thoughts Keeping You Awake?

Having trouble sleeping? Are thoughts running around your mind and keeping you awake? One technique I find helpful is reciting verses in my mind. Perhaps you don’t read the Bible but you know some positive statements. You could recite those. You’ll need to put reins on your mind to keep it focused on reciting which helps you stop thinking about the things that are keeping you from sleeping. Before long you will just drift off to sleep. If you wake up during the night, just do the same thing again.

The more air time you give to thoughts that keep you from sleeping, the worse it gets. We train ourselves to ruminate by doing it again and again. Notice it, stop and switch to reciting. Try it tonight and see what happens.

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What Is Our Freedom For?

We forget some of the principles this country was founded on. Yes, it was for freedom. Freedom not to be under a tyrannical government. Freedom for citizens to practice their own religion, get a good education, move from one class system into another, have a voice in the way the government was run, and to care for one another.

The United States is a place of freedom for all to have a good life. The preamble of the Constitution sums up what this country is founded on best: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” 

The role of the government and citizens of this wonderful experiment is to support justice, do what we can to insure peace for everyone as well as see to it that all people have basic physical, social and economic needs met. We are to think about how our actions will affect the general population now and in the future. 

Sadly, many people have forgotten these basic tenets our country was founded on. We do things that benefit only ourselves. We cut corners to save ourselves money (or make more) but then sometimes in the process we hurt others (letting toxic waste flow into a stream). Laws have had to be added to help protect us when people don’t care. We don’t like laws. I don’t think our founding fathers intended for us to have so many laws but I think they were naive and blinded to their own selfishness: women didn’t have rights, slavery was legal, and they viewed Native Americans as savages, just to name a few.

We’ve had to do a lot of growing as individuals and as a nation. We’ve had to enact laws to step in and make it harder to violate justice, domestic tranquility and general welfare. As technology and situations change, new laws have to be put in place to address the ways we hurt others. And on this July 4th, the hot topics are racial injustice and wearing masks.

As we approach the celebration of the founding of this truly wonderful country, perhaps memorize the preamble (School House Rock put it to music way back when I was young, it’s catchy and easy to remember). Put what you do through the filter of: is it just, does it perpetuate domestic tranquility, does it promote the general welfare of others, will it be a benefit to future generations? Consider being a model of what freedom is really for by bringing goodness and kindness not only to our country but also to this world.

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, COVID-19, Growth, Healing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Heal Your Heart, Heal The World

My heart is grieved. I see so much hate being thrown around on social media and in the news from Black Lives Matter to Anti-Mask protests and beyond. I’m pretty sure people on all sides of the issues are not stupid, wicked people. I think, for the most part, we are all scared and hurting in some way. Some fear the loss of control, “If I give in to the demand to wear a mask you’re going to just keep taking away my rights.” Some fear culpability, “If I say black lives matter, then I have to admit there is something inside of me that thought they didn’t or perhaps I am some how complicit in their oppression.” Some fear the loss of protection, “If you don’t wear a mask you might infect me.”

I think our hate for those on the other side of an issue comes from fear, anger or sadness. I think the fear, anger or sadness come from wounds from our distant or not so distant past. We were hurt in some way and now we let that hurt spew out on others. We were oppressed by another, we experienced hurt at the intentional or unintentional words or actions of another, we felt misunderstood, unheard, or not good enough to another. Something happened and the hate toward others started to take root and grow into something dark and hurtful inside. Left unhealed, we just repeat what was done to us, only we think we are justified some how. We’re not. We’re just as guilty as the person who hurt us. We are repeating the cycle.

We have this wonderful aspect to our humanity that enables us to change. We can look at ourselves, learn about the hurtful parts of us, heal the pain, and function in a kind, understanding way toward ourselves and others. This takes work. It takes humility and it’s worth it. I don’t say this from an “I’m all that” place but rather from knowing what it’s like to be the one hurting others, doing the hard work with others by my side to delve into the why, and find healing. I’m not always good at it but I try to see the other side. I try to understand where the other is coming from rather than demand I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s freeing, really it is. It feels so much better to put down my arsenal of attacks and listen instead. I don’t have to agree with you to listen and understand your view. Listening to you helps me soften. We might not end the conversation in agreement, but we will still be friends. Try it, you might find freedom if you do. 🙂

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, COVID-19, Growth, Healing, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Help | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Do Good Anyway

I posted this in 2017 and it’s time to bring it back.

“The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don’t appreciate it. Making the world a better place can’t depend on applause. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don’t, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.” ~ Kent M. Keith, author of Anyway – The Paradoxical Commandments

The Paradoxical Commandments by Keith M. Kent:

  • People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  • If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  • If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  • The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  • Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  • The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  • People favor underdogs but follow top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  • What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  • People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  • Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

I resonate with Kent Keith’s ideas. Our job is to leave a positive mark on this planet through our actions and words. Our ripples may be small or large. The size isn’t the point. The healthiest approach is to detach from the outcome or reach of the good we do and do good anyway! 🙂

Categories: Acceptance, awareness, Growth, Recovery, Relationships | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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