Happy New Year! I hope your 2019 is often to wonderful start. If you’re like most people you’re probably saying to yourself, “it’s a new year which means it’s time for a new me”. Yes, it is a new year, but something to remember is that we can take steps to change our lives any day of the year. If you happened to have created a new year resolution and started it on the first but have fallen off, don’t worry tomorrow is a new day and you can pick up where you left off. As you’re making changes, try not to be too hard on yourself and remember that change is not linear and is a process. Plan for setbacks because they will happen. Also remember that if you experience a setback, there will be an opportunity for a comeback and to start again.
Photo By Arek Adeoye/unsplash
Change can be fun when we’re the one creating it in our life. On the flip side of that, change is difficult when it has been forced on us. The impact of forced change (like a break-up, loosing a job, loosing housing, health crisis) on us can at times be overlooked or misunderstood by the people in our lives. We can be told by loved ones to keep moving forward, that everything will be okay or even to pray about it. Our loved ones often have our best interest in mind but can unintentionally invalidate what we’re feeling with the old pull yourself up by the bootstrap’s statements. One feeling that often gets invalidated is anger. Anger is often overlooked by us and/or our loved ones when we have been forced to deal with change that we did not create or initiate.
Overlooking anger happens for different reasons. One reason being that anger is an emotion that is sometimes feared. There are people who believe that anger is a sign of weakness or that someone will lose control if they allow themselves to experience the anger they feel. Anger in and of itself is not bad or something to be feared. Like with all unpleasant emotions, it’s what we do with it that matters most. Something to remember is that anger needs an outlet. We can run into trouble when we try to stuff it down or ignore it because it will display itself in ways we may not like or later regret. For example, trying to avoid feeling anger may cause us to act aggressively or mean towards our loved ones, or start consuming unhealthy foods or substances.
If you’re feeling angry because you’ve experienced change that you did not intentionally create, there are some things you can do with the anger you feel. One thing you can do is to give yourself permission to admit that you feel angry and not deny it. Ignoring or denying your anger will only cause it to grow and show up in ways you may later regret. Another thing you can do is write about whatever has caused you to feel angry. I know some of you may be thinking I don’t like journaling. Stick with me. Writing all the angry crap you want to say but don’t feel comfortable saying to another person can feel really good, especially if you rip up the piece of paper after you’ve gotten out everything you’ve been wanting or needing to express. If you haven’t tried that before, give it a try and see how it goes. Another thing you can do is move your body in whatever way feels best for you. Some people enjoy dancing while others enjoy kickboxing. Moving your body helps to release the pent-up energy you are holding from feeling angry and can help you to feel more relaxed. One more thing you can do to deal with the anger you’re feeling is to talk to someone you trust will listen to you without trying to fix it or you. We all experience crappy moments in life that make us feel angry and talking to someone who isn’t going to judge you or cause you to feel even more angry from advice giving can be extremely helpful.
If you’re feeling angry, remember that even though you did not have control over whatever caused you to feel angry, you have control over how you respond to the anger you feel.
Photo By Alex Alexander/Unsplash
Well, I fell down again today. It’s the third time in less than two years that I’ve hit the concrete. The first time I fell I broke one of my ankles. The second time I fell I sprang my other ankle. Today when I fell, I twisted the ankle that I previously sprang. I may sound clumsy, but the funny thing is that after both the first and second fall, I’ve been extra vigilant to avoid falling again. I do my best to look for every crack in the concrete, every twig or rock that may cause me to lose my balance, and extra care stepping off curbs. Even after feeling super alert and careful, I still managed to fall down. My traumatic memories of breaking my ankle and fear flooded my mind as I was falling. I don’t think it’s any wonder that I’d spent time today reflecting on my fall and questioning why I’d been in such disbelief that I had fallen again. After all of the reflecting, I eventually remembered that each significant life experience helps us to learn more about ourselves and to remind us of how resilient we are. After I hit the ground and the initial split-second shock of falling faded, my mind immediately told me to get back up and I did. I’m telling you this story in hopes of triggering memories of the times that you too have fallen down, physically, emotionally or both. We’ve all experienced painful situations in our lives where we questioned whether or not we were going to get back up, try again and keep going. Some of you may be feeling down as you're reading this. If you are, please remember that sometimes we fall down and it hurts like hell but we always have options and the power to choose how we respond after the fall. And hey, it’s okay to fall down. We all do at some point in our life. It’s not the fall that reflects us. It’s what we do after we’ve fallen that reveals who we are.
Photo by Vinicius Amano
Well All, it’s that time of year of again where we are asked to think about all of the people, things and situations that we’re are grateful for. It’s great to give thanks on Thanksgiving but it’s even better to reflect and give thanks on a daily or weekly basis. Ask yourself these two questions: “when was the last time I stopped and reflected on how great my life is?” and “what makes my life so great?” The second question is something we should ask ourselves on a regular basis so that we can remain aware of all that we have to be grateful for. Developing a routine of reflecting on what we’re grateful for is a great way to help ourselves to feel more joy, peace, and less sadness and anger. One easy way to develop this habit is using a gratitude journal and keeping it on the nightstand next to your bed or on your work desk. Keeping it near your bed or on your work desk will help you to remember to stop, reflect and write in it every day. It's good to remember that taking the time to acknowledge what makes our live so great, the better able we'll be to deal with all of the not so pleasant things that happen in our daily lives because we'll know that at the end of the day, we have lots to be thankful for and that life isn’t as bad as it may seem.
Photo by Gabrielle Cole
Sometimes we can get attached to people and situations that aren’t the best for us and it can feel hard to walk away or leave. Along with feeling attached, we can become addicted to the drama we experience with the person or situation. Feeling stuck can also cause us to not to walk away even though we know in our heart that we need to go. Worrying about how others opinions can also cause us to stay and to feel stuck. Whatever the reason, it’s good to weigh the cost on our health when we stay in situations that makes us unhappy or unhealthy.
If you’re feeling like you want to walk away from something or someone but aren’t sure if you should, it can be helpful to ask yourself these questions:
How long have I been wanting to walk away?
Am I consistently unhappy or just unhappy in this moment?
Do I see myself in the same place 5-10 years from now?
Is it worth staying?
What am I worried will happen if I stay? And what am I worried will happen if I leave?
Who in my life can help me when I decided to leave?
Change can be scary but sometimes walking away from someone or thing that makes us unhappy is the best thing we can do for our self-esteem, mental health and even physical health. Remember, when we walk away from the people, things and situations that make us unhappy, we put ourselves in the position to live a happier and healthier life.
Photo by Mantas Hesthaven
Being stuck is often thought of as being problematic. Our worry about being stuck can unintentionally cause us to become more stuck in the process of whatever it is we’re working on. Being stuck doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think it can be helpful to think of stuck periods as a part of the process. Think of a caterpillar in the process of becoming a butterfly. When the caterpillar is in the chrysalis, it can seem as though nothing is happening but in reality transformation is occurring. It’s easy to overlook the fact that when we feel stuck, we are presented with the opportunity to take a break, reflect, plan and then execute whatever it is we’re trying to do or hoping to create, in a better, more thoughtful way because we allowed being stuck to benefit us versus hinder us. Remember, every perceived challenge in life provides us with the opportunity to learn something and to be better because of it.
Photo by Hutomo Abrianto
There is a lot of pressure in our society to seem like everything is always okay, that we’re always doing great, and to always keep a “happy face” on even when we’re not okay. The reality is, is that there are going to be some not so fun times that happen in life. Life can’t always be easy and stress free.
Many of us have been taught that it’s not okay to be sad or to be angry and to stuff those feelings down or tuck them away. When we’re not okay, we can set ourselves up to feel worse if we try to ignore the feelings and attempt to go through life wearing a “happy face”. Not taking off our “happy face” can unintentionally cause us to feel isolated or alone because we’re not allowing others to know that we’re not okay. Also, when we hide feelings that are considered by some to be bad feelings, like sadness or anger, we deny part of our experience. When we put our “happy face”, we can forget that we human beings are complex with complex feelings. When we pretend that everything is okay, we fail to remember that those less appreciated feelings, like sadness and anger, are part of who we are as human being, and that those feelings are often our body’s way of telling us or reminding us that somethings off.
It’s okay to take off your “happy face” and to experience and share what you’re feeling. If you’re struggling to take your “happy face” off, know that there are people in this world who will support you even when you’re not okay.
Photo by Kaci Kellman
We can get in the habit of doing something we don’t really care to do because we are afraid of taking the first step to create the change we desire. We may stay at a job too long, in a relationship that no longer makes us happy, or hesitate starting a passion project. Also the fear of failure or things turning out badly can cause us to not take action. The longer we wait to take action, the harder it can become to do something different and then we settle. We settle staying at a job that we don’t like, staying with a partner that doesn’t appreciate us, or settle on not achieving a dream. We all have the option to take a risk and face our fears, or to stay put where we know what to expect from our unhappy situation. It’s important to remember that we always have a choice. If we decide to do something differently, we set ourselves up for accomplishing something that we may have thought we’d never be able to do. A small act or step towards our desires and needs, can create a positive ripple effect in our life. Every small or large action that we take can help us to find the courage and the motivation to take more steps towards creating the life we desire and need. Know that the change will be worth it, and take that first step. You’ll then find yourself one step closer to living the life you’ve dreamt of.
Photo By Samuel Zeller
By a show of hands, how many of you have felt pressure to be perfect? I know I have. With every new adventure (getting married, having a child, starting a new career) we can strive to be our most perfect selves. We can want so badly for everyone to know how great we are and that we have every aspect of our lives in order, that we sacrifice our inner peace, joy, and health. The pursuit of perfection can become a vicious cycle if we become to accustomed to trying to be appear as though everything in our lives is perfect and worthy of praise. On top of that, we may fail to realize that we lose parts of ourselves during those moments when we are striving to be perfect. The less than ideal or desirable part of ourselves, that help to makes us who we are as an individual, get pushed away and denied every time we try to be perfect. We can become fractured when we deny the less ideal or desirable parts of ourselves to show or be known which can cause us to experience low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, regret and depression. If you’re struggling to achieve perfection, ask yourself, is it really worth it? Or will it even be worth it 5, 10, or 20 years from now?
Photo by Jonathan Hoxmar
Life can be full of hard-knocks, and at times it can feel as though we can’t get a break. Throughout life we will experience the loss of a loved, job, housing or something else that impacts our sense of comfort. When we experience a difficult loss or a series of losses, we may question if we’ll be able to go on living. We may feel stuck and not sure how to get away from the pain and discomfort we are feeling. The pain can be so blinding that we forget that help is nearby and that we are not alone. If there is something painful that has occurred in your life, there are people who can help you get through it.
People often ask me why I chose to become a psychotherapist. The answer is simple but complicated just like life. I’ve experienced my fair share of heartbreak, pain and struggle. I also know how important it is to have someone to walk the path towards healing and recovery with versus walking it alone. I also know how hard it can be to admit to another person when the hurt and pain becomes unbearable. As difficult as it may be during moments of extreme emotional pain, remember that there is always help nearby. Taking that step towards a helpful hand will require you to be vulnerable and admit that you can no longer carry the weight of the pain by yourself. If you do not feel comfortable allowing a friend or family member to help you, reaching out to a support group, spiritual or religious leader, or counselor can be helpful.
Photo By Gus Moretta