My George

When I was first in therapy for anxiety and panic attacks, my therapist gave me an exercise: draw the anxiety. It ended up looking a little like E.T. but with a sour disposition. I named it, “George.”

The purpose of naming the anxiety wasn’t to adopt it permanently into my psyche; it was to have something that was NOT me to “blame” for anxious thoughts, feelings, etc. Though I don’t have panic attacks or much anxiety anymore, I still call George out when negative or illogical thoughts come to mind, causing me distress. This is a technique that I have shared with clients, most with success.

Here’s an example:

Jan works in an office with several other people. Because of her upbringing and low self-esteem, Jan believes that people don’t like her very much. In her quest to feel better about herself, Jan started therapy and named those ugly thoughts, “The Hulk,” because they feel angry and green.

On her way out to lunch, Jan passed her co-worker in the hall. Jan smiled, but the co-worker’s face did not change from one that looked a bit angry. “Oh no!” Jan thought. “Sheila is mad at me! What did I do?” Recognizing the angry, green feeling of her “Hulk,” Jan started questioning her thought.

“Have I had any interactions with Sheila that would cause anger on her part? No. I haven’t even spoken to her in a few days. Could there be another explanation for Sheila’s mood? Of course! She could be irritated or frustrated with a number of things that have nothing to do with me.”

As Jan focused on these questions, her “Hulk” turned back into mild-mannered Bruce Banner, who is way more manageable than his alter ego.

If you deal with anxiety, depression or just negative thinking, what does your “George” look like? What color, shape and texture is it? What is its name? By having a third party to “blame” for these thoughts, you are living healthier – for you are NOT your thoughts. And your thoughts do not have to direct your behavior. I have taken away George’s power to control me, and I’m much healthier for it!

Namaste’

 

Summer: A Time of Wonder

By Diane Sanford, PhD

Summer is a wonderful time to reflect on the magnificence of being alive. Enjoy reading Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day” below. This week, see what you can discover in the magic of a summer day and savor each moment. If you need a little help, the hummingbird picture above can be the focus of your contemplation.

Hummingbird photo from Maggie.

“The Summer Day”

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

~~Mary Oliver

Namaste.

 

Mark Twain’s Top 9 Tips For Living A Kick-Ass Life

I actually came upon this article on Facebook, where some of my favorites come from The Mind Unleashed. I’ve always been a fan of Mark Twain, and he has some pretty good quotes regarding Self-Care. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! Namaste – Stacey

***

mark-twainYou may know Mark Twain for some of his very popular books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He was a writer and also a humorist, satirist and lecturer.

Twain is known for his many – and often funny – quotes. Here are a few of my favorite tips from him:

1. APPROVE OF YOURSELF. “A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”

If you don’t approve of yourself, of your behavior and actions then you’ll probably walk around most of the day with a sort of uncomfortable feeling. If you, on the other hand, approve of yourself then you tend to become relaxed and gain inner freedom to do more of what you really want.

This can, in a related way, be a big obstacle in personal growth. You may have all the right tools to grow in some way but you feel an inner resistance. You can’t get there.

What you may be bumping into there are success barriers. You are putting up barriers in your own mind of what you may or may not deserve. Or barriers that tell you what you are capable of. They might tell you that you aren’t really that kind of person that could this thing that you’re attempting.

Or if you make some headway in the direction you want to go you may start to sabotage for yourself. To keep yourself in a place that is familiar for you.

So you need give yourself approval and allow yourself to be who you want to be. Not look for the approval from others. But from yourself. To dissolve that inner barrier or let go of that self-sabotaging tendency. This is no easy task and it can take time.

2. YOUR LIMITATIONS MAY JUST BE IN YOUR MIND. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

So many limitations are mostly in our minds. We may for instance think that people will disapprove because we are too tall, too old or balding. But these things mostly matter when you think they matter. Because you become self-conscious and worried about what people may think.

And people pick up on that and may react in negative ways. Or you may interpret anything they do as a negative reaction because you are so fearful of a bad reaction and so focused inward on yourself.

If you, on the other hand, don’t mind then people tend to not mind that much either. And if you don’t mind then you won’t let that part of yourself become a self-imposed roadblock in your life.

It is, for instance, seldom too late to do what you want to do.

3. LIGHTEN UP AND HAVE SOME FUN. “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

Humor and laughter are amazing tools. They can turn any serious situation into something to laugh about. They can lighten the mood just about anywhere.

And a lighter mood is often a better space to work in because now your body and mind isn’t filled to the brim with negative emotions. When you are more light-hearted and relaxed then the solution to a situation is often easier to both come up with and implement. Have a look at Lighten Up! for more on this topic.

Read quotes 4 – 9 here…

Credits: Written by HENRIK EDBERG of www.positivityblog.com, where this was originally featured.

Simply Self Care

By Diane Sanford, PhD
photo1I took a break last week from posting. I needed it. The holiday weekend had me “holidayed” out. I didn’t do much but I felt like it after weeks of too much doing and not enough being.

Instead, I spent the afternoon relaxing in the thirty dollar wading pool (for adults), my daughter and I got at Sam’s Club earlier this season. I was so happy sunning and doing nothing. It reminded me (once again) that I need to stop more often and experience life with “ease and joy” as one of my mindfulness teachers says. Likewise, it doesn’t take a “special” situation or circumstance for this to occur. In mindfulness we call this as “informal” practice. Simply, paying attention to what you’re doing.

This week, I encourage you to take 5 minutes a few times each day to pause and become fully engaged in the moment you’re in. Then take 15-20 minutes once or twice during the week to intentionally choose an activity that eases stress and brings you joy. Your to-do list will still be there when you’re done but it may not seem as urgent or oppressive. A little “time-out” can go a long way.

Namaste

Rough Seas Ahead

I have been working with a certain client for a few years now. For simplicity, let’s call her Sarah (not her real name). Sarah is debating a common issue: what to do with a loveless marriage. Since divorce is no longer taboo these days, more women are considering it as an option than ever before. There are still women like Sarah, who believe that marriage is for “forever,” but at what cost?

I have to say something straight-up: I am not an advocate for divorce. Many couples still have a strong foundation that the rest can be supported upon and fixed. In my practice, it is always my intention to help two people salvage their marriage if both are willing to work at it. That being said, I am also not an advocate for the stagnation and lack of self-care that can come about when two people really don’t need to be together.

Sarah has only recently included divorce as an option for herself. She’s been married almost 20 years and has two children with her husband, Bryan (not his real name). She has cited history, children, not wanting to “fail” and not wanting to hurt “anyone” as her reasons for staying. She has not really loved Bryan for 2 or 3 years now, and they have grown apart, each focused on paths that don’t intersect any longer. Bryan is a good man; he is not abusive or adulterous. He is also not present in the relationship until Sarah brings up her discontent (usually after Bryan asks for sex). Then, he may focus more on the marriage for a week or two. But Sarah always ends up in the same place: alone, despite another person being there.

Bryan and Sarah have gone to couples counseling a few times and their therapist tells me that she doesn’t see much of a foundation there. Because I agree, I have been questioning Sarah about what her life would look like if she could wave a magic wand. Her magical world doesn’t involve Bryan.

This issue all boils down, as most issues do, to Self-Care. We all know that life is short, so why would we stay in an unhappy situation for one minute longer than we have to? Because we think we “have to!” Should Sarah decide to separate from Bryan, there will be some rough times. If she stays focused on her own needs and doesn’t try to own Bryan’s or the kids’ reactions, she will come through it in a healthy manner, being honest and open with her family.

Because women are raised in a society that teaches us to nurture at the expense of ourselves, the notion of doing what is best for us sometimes is very scary! But as Sarah and Bryan’s couples therapist said, “She needs to put on her big girl panties and do the ethical – and honest – thing for herself.”

What are some things in your life that you’re maintaining the status quo with because you can’t imagine another option? Are there really no other choices or are the other choices just things that you can’t imagine doing? If you don’t change your situation, how do you think this will affect you in the next year, 5 years, 10 years?

Sometimes, we have to weather the storm to get to calm, peaceful seas. Namaste.

at sea

An Unstoppable Spirit: Paula Sims Turns 55 in Prison

By Diane Sanford, PhD

This post is in honor of my friend, Paula Sims, who’s been incarcerated for the past 20+ years following the deaths of her two daughters due to postpartum psychosis. In spite of serving so much time in prison and countless denials of her appeal for clemency, her spirit remains strong and resilient. She inspires me to be a better person because she continues to rise above her circumstances every day of her life. What follows is part of a letter I received from her this past week.

“Yesterday was Summer Solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. In many cultures, it is a day of celebration. So, a few of my friends and I celebrated the radiance of summer by giving extra thanks for the sun and its life giving warmth of our planet. Plus, we honored the beauty of creation by enjoying it by going outside to the “Yard,” walked in the grass and simply sat in the sun at a picnic table and socialized. Also, I enjoyed the fresh air, basking in the warmth of the sun, and marveling at the beauty of the day. We always revel in the bounty of creation and are thankful for all our blessings.

I continue to keep real busy with my ADA (service dogs) attendant job, Toastmasters, etc. I had a great 55th birthday a month ago, and my room-mates and several friends down the hall showered me with cards, gifts and sang “Happy Birthday” to me:). On the unit, my room-mates and friends had a party with good food and fellowship. My brother, Aunt and Uncle, were able to visit for 4 hours. We had a super time and they’re fine. They plan to visit again around my brother’s birthday in August.

I’ve got more “great news.” On June 10th, I completed my goal of doing 10 speeches in Toastmaster’s which I’d been working on since April 2, 2013. My 10th speech, “Don’t Give Up” based on a story about how the great Russian writer, Alexander Solzenheitzen, overcame his prison experience, led to my winning “Best Speaker of the Night.” This story has inspired me for years. I hoped it would inspire my audience and I believe it did. Also, I shared one of my many dreams as a young girl, to become an artist. At the end of my speech, I showed a few of my drawings.

Drawing by Paula Sims

Drawing by Paula Sims

Now, that I’m a certified public speaker on Toastmaster’s International website, I hoped to get some speaking engagements to share my story about my daughters and my postpartum psychosis, bringing more awareness to PPD/PPP, and helping to save lives. But until that happens, I’ll keep working on being and advanced speaker at our weekly meetings! I’ll keep you posted. Okay?”

Paula concludes her letter by asking me to send a birthday to Andrea Yates who turned 50 recently.

I believe that we can all learn from Paula, her strength, her generosity and her gratitude for the gift of life. Happy birthday, friend.

Namaste.

I Cannot Be This Person

In honor of National PTSD Awareness Day, please read this brave Marine’s story below:

***NOT FOR RESALE OR DISTRIBUTION*** Laura Hendrixson, 29, a former marine that was raped in the military and suffers from PTSD, alone at home and with her husband Craig, 30, in San Diego, Ca. on July 20, 2013. Laura was a US Marine, stationed South Carolina (or somewhere in the south) when she was sexually assaulted by "friend" – someone in whom she had recently confided some deeply personal information.  This was traumatic enough but the way the military handled it compounded the problem.  She was confined to barracks - to the same barracks as her attacker.  She was told to wear baggy sweats so as not to attract men.  She had to continue working with her attacker.  She was denied promotions and labeled a trouble maker for having reported the incident.  She became a pariah.   The result was that she left the military deeply afraid of the world, unable to do much – she rarely went out, was afraid to sleep with the light on, or take a shower, etc.  Therapy has helped her a lot.  She is still pretty timid but she now holds a job and is working toward a college degree.  She is married and has a Chihuahua.  She is getting better at doing the little things.   Shooting her will be a bit tough.  She doesn’t do a whole lot.  She doesn’t want us to shoot her at work.  I’m thinking that we’ll shoot a lot of details of her home – the showerhead dripping, lights on the ceiling, etc. to represent the stuff she could not do.  We’ll also shoot her studying and may go with her to San Diego State University where she is a student.Finding it hard to be home alone or feel comfortable in public places, Marine and MST survivor Laura Hendrixon is determined to get better for her family.

Laura Hendrixon had always thought PTSD came only after combat exposure–until it happened to her. “After being in the Marines for a year and a half, I was sexually assaulted by another Marine who was also a co-worker and a friend of mine,” she said. “It’s embarrassing to talk about, but I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to be stronger.”

The trauma affected her so much that she was afraid to take a shower when she was home alone. “…I would basically be in panic mode the whole time,” she said. “I would think…”Oh my gosh, I want to get a shower, but I can’t get a shower because I’m home by myself, and if I’m in the shower, I’m not going to be able to hear if somebody comes in the house.” I would get scared to the point that I wouldn’t close my eyes when I’m taking a shower.”

Laura was diagnosed with PTSD. Her doctor at VA suggested she get into treatment. “I finally had a doctor point out to me that, you know, it would be really good if I went through this treatment,” she recalled. “I knew I needed to do it because I can’t wait to have kids, and I was like, “I cannot be this person with kids. I’m going to, like, wrap them up in bubble wrap.”

Laura’s treatment at VA was a form of talk therapy called Prolonged Exposure (PE). In PE, the goal is for the patient to have less fear about her memories. It is based on the idea that people learn to fear thoughts, feelings, and situations that remind them of a past traumatic event. By talking about her trauma repeatedly in a safe environment with a therapist, the patient learns to get control of her thoughts and feelings about the trauma. She learns that she does not have to be afraid of her memories.

“I made a list of things I needed to be able to do: make left-hand turns, ride in an elevator, go somewhere by myself, get showers. It’s like, I need to learn how to deal with this stuff, now,” she explained. “It was very difficult at first. I had to go back to that moment and, you know, describe exactly how I felt, and emotions and fears, and everything about the moment. It did get easier. You actually record yourself, and then you listen to it, so in some way it tricks your brain into accepting that this did happen to me and, you know, I’m going to be OK, and it’s going to get better.”

Laura also credits her husband for much of the progress she has made. “My husband is a lifesaver,” she said. “We’re going to counseling together, and they’re helping us talk through some of the daily struggles that I have with PTSD. He’s so good for me; he encourages me to do things I’m not comfortable with. I definitely plan to keep moving forward with it. I’m always thinking, like, “Just do it!” I can do all kinds of stuff.”

You can see the entire AboutFace video profile of Laura Hendrixon on YouTube.

For more information on PTSD and ways to raise awareness of this mental health problem during June and throughout the year, professionals and members of the public can visit our PTSD Awareness page.