Don't Believe Everything You Think

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.

 

Maternity Leave

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!

Jane

A Dose of Mindfulness in a Stressful Political Climate

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Anxiety during uncertain times

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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:

When I was a boy and saw scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in the world.
— Mr. Rodgers

What does meditation have to due to with mental health?

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!

The Power of Breath

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.

Mindful by the Sea...

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!

What's the deal with mindfulness?

I find that being in nature makes it easier for me to be more present and mindful

I find that being in nature makes it easier for me to be more present and mindful

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.

What is mental health counseling?

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.