I have been continuing my project of recording new mindful meditation exercises. Here is my latest! Enjoy and feel free to share with anyone who you think would might benefit.
When a new baby is born there are many factors that will lead to changes in mood:
-mom experiences large hormonal shifts
-mom is healing from childbirth
-both parents experience sleep deprivation
-both parents experience concerns around new baby’s health and wellbeing
Given these circumstances, most new moms will experience some mood swings and worry within the first 2-3 weeks after a child is born. This period is commonly called the baby blues. The baby blues generally subside on its own without counseling or other professional support.
How can I tell if I’m experiencing the baby blues or if it’s postpartum anxiety or depression?
The first indication is how long you have been feeling lower mood or more worry. If it is longer than 2 or 3 weeks after the birth of your child, you might be struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression.
Here are other indications of postpartum anxiety and depression: You don’t feel like yourself. You have disturbing thoughts that keep popping into your head. You feel more irritable than usual. You have trouble sleeping when you have the opportunity to sleep. You don’t have much of an appetite. You feel teary or sad much of the time. Your fears/low mood is interfering with activities you would like to do.
I think I might be struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression. What should I do next?
Reach out to a professional! We will help you sift through your experience and support you, wherever you might be on your journey.
I have an exciting announcement! I love incorporating mindfulness in my work with my clients (and I like it personally as well), so I have decided to start recording my own mindfulness exercises. Here is the first one! It is a short breathing meditation.
I have decided to record my own exercises for a few reasons. I have found that I enjoy guided meditations more when I have taken a class or worked with the person who recorded the exercise. I wanted to provide my own exercises for my clients. Secondly, I wanted these free exercises and meditations to be available to anyone who might need them, whether they are working with me or not. If you enjoy this breathing meditation, feel free to spread the word!
This exercise and any additional exercises can be found here.
I want to reflect on something I am hearing from many clients and have been experiencing myself. Over the past few months, there have been so much tragedy and pain showing up around the world. From natural disasters to human made disasters, people are hurting around the globe. Anger from injustices are boiling over in a way I have not seen during my lifetime.
I have been hearing from my clients that unlike other times in their lives, they can’t take a break from the news. They hear it from friends, from coworkers, from strangers on the bus. The bad news seems to just keep coming. My clients are feeling the pain around them and they are hurting. I am hurting.
When I become overwhelmed with what is going on in our country and the larger world, I try to ground myself. I think about what’s going on in my small, immediate world. Then I try to think how I can make an impact on my community. Recently I have been touched by learning a local family shelter can’t consistently provide diapers to children who stay there. I am going to collect diapers for this organization.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, I suggest reaching out (in person, not just through social media) to friends and family. Let’s support each other.
Most importantly, I want you to know you’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or angry around what’s going on in our community, country, and world.
When we are driven, goal oriented people it can be difficult when we don’t reach our self prescribed obligations. As a working mom to an infant, I find that often I’m not meeting my own expectations. For example, I am not updating this blog as often as I would like. It’s in these moments I start hearing my inner critic ramp up. My critic likes to say “What’s wrong with you? You should be able to find the time to write a few posts! Don’t be lazy!” Ouch.
When I catch that my inner critic is going wild (which I don’t always catch immediately), I like to slow down and take a breath. I call my critic out on her ridiculousness. “Hey now. I’m pretty busy now that I’m working and have an infant. Sometimes little things are going to slide, like blog posts. That doesn’t make me lazy.”
Noticing our inner critic and responding kindly, like we would to a dear friend, is self compassion. Have you even noticed that you say mean or rude things about yourself that you might never say to anyone else? Often we are so much harsher with ourselves than with others.
If you notice that your inner critic is getting to you, take a moment to slow down. Say some kind, compassionate statements to yourself. If you have trouble coming up with statements, think about what you would say to a dear friend or relative.
One of the leaders on self compassion is Dr. Kristen Neff. I recommend you check out her website to find wonderful practices to help cultivate self compassion:
I wanted to write a quick note that I will be returning to my practice starting in July. I'm excited to return to the work! I currently have openings for new clients and new supervisees for Saturdays in my Mountlake Terrace office. To schedule an appointment, please send me an email or give me a call!
You may have seen the bumper sticker stating “Don’t believe everything you think.” When I first learned about this concept, it blew my mind. I had always thought of my thoughts as facts. I mean, if my mind has me think something, it’s probably true, yes? I began to realize I had whole storylines I would think about myself or where I should be in my life. I had always taken these thoughts at face value. One day, I realized not all of these thoughts were helpful or even true. It was just a pattern of thoughts I had been stuck in for years.
Our minds are amazing thought creators. We are constantly thinking, even if we are doing routine, mundane tasks. Our minds our thought machines, constantly churning them out.
For me, I had (and still do sometimes) perfectionistic story lines. In college, I was disappointed if I didn’t get the A in every class. I would have thoughts that “I’m not as smart as my classmates” and “Maybe I don’t belong in this school.” I really believed these to be true at time. Eventually, I came to learn that my intelligence is not a measure of grade in class. I now know my own worth and don’t let outside forces (school, work, other people) determine it for me. Although I still have my moments of course!
If this is a new idea to you, I invite you to roll the idea of “don’t believe everything you think” around your head. Have you noticed any thoughts about yourself that are not serving you? After a difficult interaction, say a rejection of some sort, do you notice that a pattern of thoughts comes up? For now, I just invite you to notice.
In counseling with me, we will look at your patterns of thoughts. With some practice, you will be able to identify patterns of thoughts and not feel as connected to the less helpful ones.
Hello Wonderful People!
There will be a gap in new blog posts for a few months, as I will soon be embarking on maternity leave.
If you are looking to return to counseling with me or are searching for a new counselor, I do have room for a few new clients upon my return in June or July. If this timing aligns with your needs, please reach out! Email will be the best way to contact me during leave. Please be advised that I won't be responding as timely as normal, but I will respond.
In the meantime, feel free to peruse my older blog posts on topics such as relaxation, stress reduction, and how to cope during uncertain times.
I am excited for my new journey into motherhood but will look forward to rejoining this wonderful work this summer! I hope everyone has a peaceful Spring!
During the last 3 weeks or so, the political climate has come up in more than 50% of the conversations that I’ve had with my clients. No matter the political leanings, the current atmosphere of unknowns and divisiveness is causing feelings ranging from anger, stress, despair, confusion, and sadness. These feelings are particularly challenging for those who are already struggling with anxiety or depression.
After the election, I wrote a post on anxiety during uncertain times and I give tips on managing the stress with many unknowns for the future. For the people I have been working with, I have seen a higher level of distress in the last few weeks than I saw initially after the election. If you are feeling this, you are not alone.
Today I want to focus on using some mindfulness techniques to stay grounded during the current political climate. These techniques are not meant to encourage a “bury your head in the sand” attitude, but rather encourage ways to stay clear and focused during these difficult political times. If we become overwhelmed and burnt out, we won’t be much help to ourselves or our communities.
Here are some ideas around a few ways to tune into the present moment:
- Take a mindful walk. Notice the feeling of your feet hitting the ground. Really soak in your environment. Notice when your mind brings you to thoughts about yesterday or tomorrow and gently bring it to the present. Notice the sounds around you. Tune into the little details in your environment.
Take a mindful shower. Showers are a great sensory experience and a great way to tune into the present. Notice the temperature of the water falling on your skin. Notice the feelings of the water hitting your skin. Notice how the shampoo feels on your hair and scalp.
Eat a mindful snack. Take slow, deliberate bites. Notice what it feels like to chew. Really tune into the taste as it hits your tongue. Notice what it feels like to swallow your food.
After taking a few minutes to tune into the current moment, you’ll likely notice a new feeling of calm and clarity.
For many of us, it’s easy to be drawn into the world of “shoulds”. We get messages from our parents, our friends, our teachers, and our coworkers around the way we “should” be living our lives. This can be having the “right” job, dating the “right” person (or dating at all for that matter), looking the “right” way, or having the “right” kind of house or apartment. It’s easy to let these “shoulds” creep into our mind and make us feel inadequate.
The thing is, we’re never going to meet the requirements for everyone else’s “shoulds”. If you find yourself living in the world of “shoulds”, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to bring yourself back:
- Where is this “should” coming from? Is it a message you’ve heard from someone else?
When you really think about it, do you actually agree with this “should”?
What do you find important in your life? What are the values that are most important to you?
What are some of your life goals? Are they in line with your values?
When you start feeling your mind is full of “shoulds”, I suggest taking a step back. Ask yourself the above questions. You might find out that the “should” isn’t really that important to you, even if it’s incredibly important to your mom or friend. Once we clarify what’s important to us, it’s easier for us to not give the “shoulds” so much power.
The holidays bring up different emotions for different people. For some, it brings excitement for spending time with family, having time off of work, and getting to celebrate with family traditions. For others, spending more time with family can be stressful. For some people, holidays remind us of friends and family who are no longer with us. Many of us also compare our celebrations to those we see on tv and the movies. Sometimes, we feel our own celebrations aren’t what they “should” be.
For those of whom the holidays are a stressful time (which is many people!), here are some tips for keeping calm during the holiday season.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. When you spend time with family, think about your needs. For example, maybe your family wants to you to spend a long weekend with them. You enjoy your family, but you know that you start to struggle after spending a full day with them. That’s okay. Plan to stay one day! It’s okay to modify plans for own needs, rather to conforming to the wants of others.
If you are feeling sadness or grief over a family member who has passed, don’t try to push those feelings away. The feelings of sadness show how important that person was in your life and that you miss them. Give yourself room to feel what you need to feel. Then try to do something to honor that person’s memory.
Check in on yourself care. In this busy season, are you taking time for yourself? (This can be 5 minutes, as many of us have busy lives). If you’re into meditation or yoga, have you done a practice recently? Remember, self care doesn’t have to mean spending money or time. It’s about doing something that’s just for you, that you find fun or relaxing.
I hope these tips help you enjoy your holiday season!
No matter what your political beliefs or associations might be, most people in America are having feelings of uncertainty around the future. If you are someone prone to anxiety or worry, this might have been spiked during the past few weeks. No matter what you believe or what you think the best direction for the country might be, it’s hard not to be affected by the large divisions and unrest that have arose in recent times.
As caring individuals, many of us are concerned about the possibilities of what could happen in the next few years. Many of us are concerned for our country’s most vulnerable populations.
Like with most situations, if we do not care for ourselves and our mental health, we won’t be much help to others. So again, what to do? Here are my humble suggestions for calm in uncertain times:
- Take it day by day. None of us can tell the future and exactly is what’s going to happen moving forward. Try not to let your mind go towards the worst possible scenario and instead focus on what’s going on in your life and the world today.
Take a social media holiday. While many would advocate we need to stay informed, taking a break from the news for a few days or a week will not keep you totally out of the loop. Sometimes we need a break from the constant bombardment of information we have available these days.
Take time to appreciate the good things that are going on in your life and your broader community. This will help you stay grounded and remember the strength of our communities.
Get involved! For many, being politically active can help give a voice to their concerns. This also would help connect you to a group of like minded individuals. There are many ways and forms to be involved and luckily the internet makes it easier than even to connect to these opportunities.
I realize everyone’s reactions and feelings to recent political events are varied, personal, and complicated. If we do take some steps to care for ourselves and our mental health, we we will not be in healthy enough state to help and advocate for others.
I'll leave you with a quote:
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that when I first heard about meditation, I was not super interested. Like a lot of people, I didn't see the point of sitting around doing nothing. I mean, why would I want to be sitting around just thinking? How would this help anything?
After taking a mindfulness meditation class, I finally understood why this could be helpful. After a few weeks of meditating, i noticed my thoughts slowed down. I also became more aware of my body sensations and my thought patterns. I realized this was pretty powerful stuff.
I’m a therapist, so why am I talking about meditation? Well, there is an increasingly large research base showing that regular meditation actually helps improve anxiety and depression, among other mental health and physical health conditions. Western science is catching up with what eastern traditions have known for hundreds of years. This is why I integrate mindfulness and meditation into my counseling, if the person I am working with is interested.
If you’re new to mediation and want to give it a try, stay tuned! In the next few weeks, I will be posting a free guided meditation for you to try. Feel free to use and share if you like!
We all have times in our life when feel like everything feels overwhelming. You might feel pulled in too many directions. You might feel irritable or exhausted. Here are a 5 activities you can try to quickly bring some calm into your life:
- Get Warm! Take a warm shower or bath. Get in a hot tub or sauna if you have access to one. Many people find heat to have a strong calming effect. Taking a warm shower or bath can also help you fall asleep faster.
- Get moving! Any kind of exercise will help bring your body more into a state of relaxation. You’ll find your mind will slow down and become calmer. For relaxation, you don’t have to do a rigorous workout. A 10 minute walk around the block can have a profound impact on stress
- Get Writing! Sometimes when we’re stressed, all of our thoughts seem like a jumble. Many people find getting their thoughts on paper (or the computer screen) allows them organize what’s going on in there mind. You can keep your writing or delete it after you write. It’s up to you!
- Get mindful about food! Start noticing if you feel any more stressed after eating sugar or caffeine. From a mental health perspective, these are too foods that can cause some people to feel stress more easily (but not everyone!). Starting to notice how sugar and caffeine effects you will give you information around if you want to make any dietary changes.
- Get Breathing! Try this breathing exercise from my last blog post! Doing slow, controlled breaths send messages to your brain that you are okay. In turn, the brain send messages to the body to calm.
You'll be supervised how just taking a few minutes of your day to try one of these activities will leave your mind clearer and your body calmer.
As human beings, we all have moments when we feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Everyone experiences stress a little differently. For some of us, our thoughts will seem all over the place and we might not be able to think straight. Some people have some stomach distress or have muscle tightness. We usually all have some place in our body where we hold stress, such as our neck or back.
What can you do when you realize that you’re overwhelmed or stressed? One tool that can help us find calm is breathing exercises. This might sound overly simplistic. After all, we are constantly breathing are whole life, right? While this is true, we tend to not pay attention to our breathing most of time. (Our body is really smart this way. How annoying would it be if we had to concentrate on every breath? How would we have time for anything else?)
How we breath actually has a large impact on how we feel. You’ve probably seen someone hyperventilating before (at least on tv). Breathing shallowly and quickly brings air too quickly into the body too quickly, leaving us feeling light headed and adds to stress and confusion. This is why the old advice is to breath into a paper bag, as it forces us to slow down our breathing.
We can use breathing to help tell our body that we are okay. By doing some slow, controlled breathing, the body sends out signals of calm. Our thoughts slow down and clear. Our muscles relax.
Here are some instructions to start using breathing to find calm:
I encourage you to play around with exactly how long you hold the breaths on the inhale and exhale. If 4 seconds feels good, try 5 or 6. Follow what your body says feels right. Give this a try and you’ll find this simple exercise way more powerful than you’d expect.
For me, it’s easy to be mindful by the sea.
A few weeks ago, I went to Ocean Shores. I took my shoes off to put my feet in the water. In that moment, it was easy to be mindful. I felt the cool water flow over my feet and toes. I felt the brisk wind against my skin. I heard the gentle crashing of water upon the shore. My senses were entranced by the beauty around me and it was easy to be present. My mind was still.
I do not find it easy necessarily to be mindful in my everyday life. My mind loves to plan and live in the future. I purposely have to devote time to be still and really notice what is right in front of me.
Learning to be mindful in our hectic, everyday lives takes practice. I will be recording some simple mindfulness exercises (breathing, meditations, and more!) to help you take a few minutes out of your day and be present. Stay tuned!
Years ago, someone suggested to me that I would benefit from mindfulness and meditation. I shrugged off it off. Yeah I was having some stress in my life, but how was sitting around doing nothing going to help? I associated meditation with being really out there and alternative.
For some reason, I ended up signing up for a 6 week mindfulness meditation class. The first few weeks of the class I thought it was interesting enough, but it didn’t resonate. I still didn’t get why some people were so into meditation.
This class had a one day silent mini-retreat. By the end of the day, my mind was still and quiet. I could not remember the last time my mind wasn’t running with a to do list or some worry or concern. My mind was just...quiet. That’s when I knew there was something to this mindfulness stuff.
Since then, I’ve incorporated mindfulness into my personal and professional life. Personally, I find mindfulness brings me out my busy mind and helps me appreciate what’s right before me. I’ve taken several trainings on mindful therapy techniques and have found it has a powerful impact on the people I work with. Whether it be a formal meditation practice, slowing down to really taste food during a meal, or taking a moment to step outside and absorb nature around us, mindfulness brings us out of our head and into our body and environment. It’s powerful stuff.
Most of us have some exposure to the idea of psychotherapy through pop culture. We’ve all seen some movie where the star is sitting on a couch, talking to some older guy who just says “mm hmm” while scribbling notes. Sometimes pop culture gets therapy right but more than not, it gets it pretty wrong.
One reason why it might be hard for Hollywood to get therapy right on screen is that it looks really different depending on the therapist. Some therapists use very structured approaches with lots of homework. Some therapy focuses on the here and now, while others will focus on childhood experiences. Research shows that many different approaches can help bring us improved wellness. The important part is finding the right fit for you. Particularly, the right therapist for you.
You might be wondering, well if therapy can look so different, what will I be getting from Jane?
Let’s think of therapy as driving a car. With me, you will always be in the driver’s seat. We are driving your car and you know your car best. I have some great knowledge and experience getting to our destination. I’ve helped a lot of people get there before. I will give suggestions on how to best navigate the twists and turns. I will offer ideas on driving practice for when I’m not in the car with you, because I won’t always be in the car with you. If you’re not finding benefit from our current path, we’ll change course and find another route that works better. I understand that there is no one path for everyone.
To achieve this, I tend to focus more on the here and now, although we can revisit the past if it’s helpful. I collaborate and frequently check in with you on how the therapy process is going. I tend to use mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy as my theoretical frameworks.