Let’s face it, change is hard. If it wasn’t so hard more people would be living their dream lives. It’s important to remember that even though change is hard, it’s a necessary part of life. Change is also very natural. Think about how the seasons change multiple times per year. Trees and flowers bloom in the spring and summer, and then change when fall and winter arrive. We too experience seasons of change. Some changes are more pronounced while others are subtle. When I reflect on my journey towards becoming a licensed psychotherapist, it’s easy for me to remember the times when change was tough versus when it was easy. It took close to a decade to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. Yes, a decade when you factor in earning a bachelor’s degree, attending graduate school, gaining the required hours of practice to become licensed, and studying for and taking the licensing exam. It was a slow and steady climb to my goal, and I thought about quitting lots of times when it was hard to accept that I would need to change more than I already had. I didn’t give up, and I grateful that I didn't because I love being a therapist and can't imagine being happier doing anything else.
Wherever you are in the change process, don’t give up. Routinely remind yourself about the reasons why you wanted or needed the change when you started your journey. It’s also good to think of all the amazing things you'll gain from changing your life. The rewards will be worth the discomfort and hard-work but you won’t discover them if you don’t keep going. So, keep going. You’ve got this.
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Believe it or not there are approximately 12 million posts on Instagram that contain #selfcare. Why? Do the millions of people who used that hashtag really believe that self-care is important or is it the popular thing to tag these days? Personally, I don’t care the reason why people choose to add #selfcare to their post. I do care that the conversation about self-care is happening because we all deserve to do things that help us to feel better.
When it comes to self-care, we can sometimes get caught-up in wanting to perform the “right” kind of self-care. When we’re too busy thinking about what self-care should look like, we can miss out on recognizing our current self-care habits or worse unintentionally prevent ourselves from doing any type of self-care at all. It’s important to know that what constitutes as self-care varies from person to person. One person may enjoy receiving massages while another person hates massages. Just because massage can fall into the category of self-care doesn’t mean that someone who hates massages or someone who has PTSD flashbacks during certain forms of touch should force themselves to get a massage. It’s wise to think of self-care as activities that bring YOU joy and makes YOU feel better overall. Cooking, weight lifting, reading a book, time with a friend or engaging in a religious practice can all be a form of self-care just as much as a visit to the spa.
Now here’s your call to action…What’s one thing you can do for yourself today that is self-care? Choose it, do it, and see how much better you feel. Happy self-caring!
Photo By Josh Wilburne
Have you ever changed your mind and wanted something different? Of course, you have. At some point in your life, you decided to do something differently, even if it was a simple as ordering tacos versus a burger. Yes, tacos versus a burger isn’t a super stressful decision (but it can feel like it at the time if you’re hangry) in comparisons to deciding whether to make a major life change such as leaving or starting a new job or choosing to move to a new state. The decision to make a major life change requires some time and reflection before acting. Taking time to weight the pros and cons is wise and helps us to prepare as best as we can for the changes we’ll experience. If you have been contemplating whether to do something different in your life, ask yourself these questions:
Why do I want to do ________?
How will doing ________ make me feel happier or more satisfied with my life?
Who will support me when I decide to do ___________?
Do I really want ______ or am I doing it to make someone else happy?
What am I seriously willing to do to make _______ a reality?
On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10(highest) how committed am to ___________?
These are all good questions to ask yourself so that you can figure out what your motivation is for wanting to do something different. When we take the time to understand our motivation(s) for making changes, we can become clearer and more at peace about our choice to do something different. Remember, it’s okay to change your mind after taking some time to decide what you want to do. The choice is yours.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Christina is a Psychotherapist in private practice in Oakland California.