Mental Health (Self-)Awareness: 6 Tools and Insights to Support You with Yours!

Are you Aware that…ASKING FOR HELP IS COURAGEOUS? It is.

Here’s what you will get in this blog in a nutshell: Mental Health defined, questions and journal prompts that will help you identify the current state of your mental health, lots of affirmations, validation, some information regarding how self-judgment can lead to anxiety and depression, a list of 6 things you can begin TODAY to support you with your mental wellness and links below if you are interested in learning more!

When it comes to being consistent around mental health, many are still struggling. There are more people than ever, reaching out for therapy, wanting to learn coping skills to deal with life transitions and world events, explore past trauma, connect with their inner child, understand self-care, and acquire tools to support their relationship. The recent world events from the global pandemic of Covid-19, racial tensions, and escalating violence worldwide has led to an increase in the diagnosis of anxiety and depression. People who never experienced anxiety are having full blown panic attacks and experiencing depressive episodes without realizing what they are. Information on mental health is all over social media, which as a licensed psychotherapist and lover of all humans makes me very appreciative of the movement towards increased self-awareness. Our mental health impacts everything in our lives. It plays a part in all the dimensions of our health. Our mental health impacts every relationship, every interaction, and our overall state of wellness. What have you done to support your mental health lately?

Mental Health Defined: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Mental Health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”

Now that you know the definition, grab a pen and get ready to write. I am about to ask you some questions about your own mental health:

  1. Do you realize your own abilities? If yes, what are they?
  2. Do you have and use coping skills to support you with the normal stresses of life? If so, what are they?
  3. Are you productive and making gains at work? If yes, what is the evidence/what are the gains?
  4. Are you making a positive contribution to your community? If so, what is your contribution?
  5. How are your relationships with others (close, distant, conflictual, etc.)?
  6. Would you say that you are currently experiencing a state of well-being? Please elaborate on your answer.

How do you feel about your answers?

The reality is, most people struggle with writing down concrete answers in regards to their mental health. Some believe that if they do not have a prior diagnosis, they do not have to do a wellness check in with themselves. The thought of needing additional support or not having control of our emotions can be scary and avoidance can seem like the best way to cope. The truth is we get to check in with ourselves daily around our mood, our emotions, and why we are feeling the way we do. When was the last time you checked in with yourself, asked yourself these questions, and actually gave yourself the time to think about them? If any of your answers concerned you, I am hopeful that you will continue to read and get information that may support you.

Balance looks different for everyone, have you found your balance? All dimensions of health matter: emotional/mental, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social. They all impact one another, perhaps it’s time to check in with yourself around what your balance looks like. You can always move things around and create something different.

While I believe that being aware of ourselves and our state of wellness gets to happen every single day, it is great to have an entire month dedicated to creating mental health awareness (thank you Mental Health America for starting this tradition in 1949). We are currently reinforcing and amplifying the need for more support around maintaining mental wellness and understanding mental illness as a collective.

Are you Aware that…MENTAL ILLNESS DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE? It effects all cultures, all ages, all genders, and all races.

Every person deserves to lead a fulfilling life. We all have a mind, we all have been hurt, we all have felt grief, we all have faced change, no matter the age group, socioeconomic group, culture, race, political and/or religious belief, we all have life experiences. If we are alive, we are experiencing. The fact of the matter is that sometimes we do not feel okay, sometimes we get mentally exhausted and frustrated, and that gets to be acknowledged. Not feeling okay gets to be validated. We get to not judge ourselves, our struggles, and/or our reactions. Unconditional love, acceptance, and understanding of self are required to be able to show up that way for others. How wonderful it would be to live in a world where we are able to accept ourselves in all ways, on all days, and be able to hold that space of love and acceptance for others! Even if you are not interested in the collective, you can learn a lot about yourself by observing how you think and talk about others.

Are you Aware that… WHEN YOU JUDGE OTHERS, YOU ARE REALLY JUDGING YOURSELF? Self-love and compassion are vital to your happiness and outlook towards yourself and others. Your pain, hurt, trauma, and mental illness do not need judgment, they need you, in the form of love and compassion.

Are you aware of the judgments you have of yourself and others? It is challenging to catch ourselves each time we are judging other humans, it is even harder for us to catch ourselves engaging in self-judgment/negative self-talk. When we judge ourselves, we limit ourselves and get in the way of our own happiness and state of well-being. Judgment shames, blames, and criticizes. What you can do instead is observe your thoughts and behaviors and if there is something you do not like, change it. If you can not change it, work on changing your perspective. Judgment towards ourselves and others creates a divide/separation at a time when we get to focus on love and acceptance. Self-judgment can ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, and isolation. It can separate us from our authentic selves because we are not allowing ourselves to be free flowing. Judgment confines. Judgment restricts. How can you be in an organic flow while practicing judgment? The answer is, you can not. Working towards quieting the negative chatter in your mind, can support you having a greater sense of connectivity to self and therefore increased mental wellness. Replace judgment with observation. You do not have to judge something about yourself to make a decision to do it differently!

Are you Aware that…..There are Things you can do RIGHT NOW? Here are 6 Tools that May Help: Pick at least one and do it today!

  1. Go Out in Nature and Get grounded through Earthing and/or Breathwork: Go out in nature, take off your shoes and walk barefoot or simply sit in the grass. There have been many studies that have shown grounding/earthing therapy to be beneficial. Thousands of people have claimed to experience elevated mood/decreased stress by connecting to the Earth’s natural electric charge. You can also get grounded by walking on the sand at the beach, walking in the grass at a local park, or swimming in a lake. Face the sun and get some natural Vitamin D. Studies have shown a link between a deficiency in Vitamin D and depression. While growing and keeping potted plants in your space is not considered earthing, there are many benefits to keeping plants/nature in your home. If you have an appreciation for nature and are not able to get out as much as you would like, consider keeping plants in your home.
  2. Start Drinking Plenty of Water: Dehydration May be Contributing to Your Anxiety and/or Depression: According to Medical News Today, as well as the Dent Neurologic Institute, our brain is comprised of at least 75% water. Serotonin is known as “the happy chemical,” in the brain is literally blocked when we are dehydrated. Serotonin is considered the most important or “key” hormone in our body, it impacts our mood, happiness, digestion, and sleep, along with other pretty important components to our health and well-being. Dehydration is one of the least talked about and/or known contributing factors to low mood and anxiety. When we do not drink enough water, our brain does not make enough energy or get enough oxygen which leads to less productivity and struggle with focusing. When we do not drink enough water our body sends signals to the brain that heighten emotions by making us feel anxious.
  3. Validate your Inner Child: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Inner Child is defined as “the childlike usually hidden part of a person’s personality that is characterized by playfulness, spontaneity, and creativity usually accompanied by anger, hurt, and fear attributable to childhood experiences.” Many of us have wounds that stem from childhood and adolescence. We also have dreams, hopes, and a sense of self that sometimes gets forgotten when we have become so influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others that we struggle to access our authenticity. Be good to yourself today, talk to yourself with compassion and give yourself the validation, warmth, and even the physical touch you wish you would have received as a child. Take care of your inner child and they will support you feeling better now. Inner child work is growing in popularity, I have done it personally, and use it in my practice. It may feel uncomfortable at first, I encourage you to stick with it as it supports healing the wounds of origin therefore decreasing the likelihood of operating out of your wounds present day.
  4. Start Writing, Visualizing and saying Affirmations out Loud: What do you want? How do you want to feel? What makes you smile? What makes you want to laugh? Write those things down and then visualize yourself getting what you want, envision your beautiful smile, perhaps even laugh out loud, just to hear your own laughter. Sometimes we need a reminder that no matter how drained or overwhelmed we may feel in a given moment, we still have the power to dream, strive, and hope. Below I have shared some affirmations, you can begin with one of them or create your own. Write it down and post it someplace you can see it, visualize yourself being courageous, exuding love, radiating joy, etc. and then speak your affirmation out loud every day to reinforce it!
  5. Be Present: Sit quietly and/or meditate and breathe deeply. After a few minutes of sitting in silence, ask yourself this one question: What do I need in this moment? (A glass of water? Are you hungry? Is your body tight and would a stretch help? Would you like to listen to your favorite song? Do you need a nap? Would you like to go for a walk? Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to forgive yourself? Do you simply want to continue to sit quietly and breathe?) Only you can answer that question. In this moment, what is something that you appreciate. Start teaching yourself to listen to the needs and desires you have in any given moment, then give yourself permission to do/get/experience it (I love to paint, so after I write this blog, I will create art). Now you try it…what do you need in this moment?
  6. Get Support and/or Start Supporting Others: Call a friend or family member and have an open, honest conversation around mental health. You can share ideas around self-care and how to experience a better sense of well-being. Let your friends be there for you, do not cheat the people who care about you out of the opportunity to be there for you. If you are in a relationship, talk with your partner and let the topic of mental wellness be something that you support one another with just like an annual physical check-up. Partnering around your mental health may support you as individuals as well as support your couple relationship. Support can also come in the form of a Podcast on mental health, picking up a self-help book, and/or scheduling an appointment with a mental health professional. If you have tried all of the above tools and are still struggling, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional.

Are you Aware that…DAILY POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS CAN CREATE A MORE RESILIENT BRAIN BY GOING INTO YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS AND CREATING NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS? Start affirming yourself today!

AFFIRMATIONS:

My diagnosis does not define me.

I am love, and deserving of love.

Today I will hold space for myself and all of my emotions without judgment.

I am healing my inner child, I am loving my inner child and therefore I am healing and loving myself.

Today, I choose to have a positive attitude.

I have made it this far, and I will continue to carry on.

Each time I fall, I have the courage to get back up.

Today, I will observe myself without judgment and grant myself love, compassion, and acceptance.

Asking for help is courageous, and I embrace the courage within.

I believe in myself and my ability to heal.

I am not my mental illness, I am ( ______ ), and I am living with and managing my mental illness.

My mental health and well-being matter because I matter!

I accept myself completely and I love myself unconditionally.

Where there is love, there is no place for judgment, they simply can not co-exist and I chose love.

I am strong, I am courageous, and I will persevere.

Are you Aware that…YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE? You are absolutely worthy of love. Say it out loud… “I am worthy of love and offer love to myself fully and without conditions.

There has been an increase in people seeking therapy and many are having a difficult time connecting with a mental health professional. Many therapists are filled to capacity as more and more people are reaching out. If you, or someone you know has been trying to connect with a therapist, I encourage you to keep trying. I know it is not an easy road and I am hopeful that you will be able to connect with a therapist soon. Keep being courageous, please do not give up. If you need support, please consider talking to a friend or family member who may be able to support you by lending an ear or doing some of the outreach around finding a therapist with availability. You can also reach out to your insurance provider and they may be able to support you with connecting with a therapist. If you have any thoughts of harming yourself, please call 911 immediately. Please see the following links for additional support and information:

For the latest information, support, and statistics on Mental Health conditions and Mental Illness:

https://www.nami.org/mhstats

https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america

https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Health-Awareness-Month

How much water should you drink a day?

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20National%20Academies%20of,fluids%20a%20day%20for%20women

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-percentage-of-the-human-body-is-water

https://idontmind.com/journal/youre-probably-dehydrated-and-it-can-affect-your-mental-health

https://www.drinkoptimum.com/the-connection-between-dehydration-and-depression/

Everything you need to know about serotonin (the happy hormone):

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin

If you are interested in getting grounded through Earthing, you may be interested in the following article and The Earthing Movie Documentary (free on youtube):

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378297/

https://www.earthingmovie.com/

Are you Aware that…YOUR LIFE MATTERS? YOUR LIFE ABSOLUTELY MATTERS.

With love always, Tamara

Valentine’s Day Revamped: 13 Self and Universal Love Tips!

Valentine’s Day. The controversy around whether or not Valentine’s Day is a “real holiday,” and how it “should be” celebrated continues. Some people are all about the hype, the gifts, the display of devotion, the romance, the sex, etc. There are an equal amount of people who believe it is a made up “holiday,” rooted in consumerism and societal brainwashing around how people in committed relationships show their love on February 14th every year. Regardless of your stance, the fact is that we as a society are inundated with advertisements, articles, blogs, social media posts, etc. around this day of red heart shaped boxes filled with chocolate, glasses of wine, sexy lingerie, and love. Question, what’s so bad about a day of celebrating love? Actually, nothing if we keep it all about the LOVE, and not just romantic love. This Valentine’s Day give yourself some self-love and for those of you who like challenges, how about a Universal-Love Gesture?

I have clients that are single and/or in relationships with people who do not celebrate Valentine’s Day and they share that they feel left out. Many people who are single are struggling with being quarantined and unable to date and are dreading this day that has historically represented romantic love.

How about you create a day of love that focuses on you being the love, sharing the love, and spreading the love?

The thought of existing as a loving being can be challenging if you are not feeling loved. Self-love is the answer (it usually is). How will you be showing yourself love this Valentine’s Day? I recognize that sometimes people have a mental and/or emotional block. They decide not to participate because they have an idea of what Valentine’s Day is “supposed” to be and the thought of making it an opportunity to show themselves love feels like admitting defeat. I challenge anyone with that thought to reframe it and feel empowered by the thought of making a choice to love themselves fully that day and show it in action. Yes, action! The action of love.

You can do this whether you are in a romantic relationship or not. I am sharing this concept because self-love is essential for loving others and gets to never be off our radar or saved for later. Self-love gets to be ever present and always practiced, not instead of loving others but rather, along with love of others. So even if you are in a relationship, you may want to consider spending a portion of your day, acknowledging and loving on yourself while putting some good ol’ positive energy out into the Universe.

The following are concrete ideas for how you can spend your Valentine’s Day 2021, however, these ideas of self-love can be practiced any day of the year!

INTIMATE SELF-LOVE VALENTINE’S DAY GESTURES

  1. Cook yourself a Meal from Scratch – Ask yourself, if the only way I could let someone know I love them was by making them a meal, what meal would I make for them? If the answer is their favorite meal, how about making yourself your favorite meal? Show yourself some love and make it just for yourself!
  2. Order a Meal from your Favorite Restaurant – Give yourself permission to be as indulgent or as simple as you would like. You can show yourself love by treating yourself to a meal, while also showing some love to a local restaurant, and tipping the delivery person generously for their service. You can take it one step further by leaving the restaurant an amazing review!
  3. Treat yourself to the Beverage of your Choice – Perhaps it is a cup of specialty tea, homemade lemonade, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a milkshake, a healthy smoothie with all your favorite fruit, a cocktail you usually go out to drink, a bottle of your favorite wine, or perhaps your preference is whisky? Whatever your pleasure, you may want to give yourself permission to enjoy it(in moderation of course).
  4. Bring Music Into the Equation to Enhance your Experience – Have a dance party all to yourself, create a playlist of songs that make you want to move and turn the volume up! If the music makes you smile, go for it! Feel good music is super uplifting and if you want to be in a more positive space, picking songs that evoke positive/light feelings can support you. Perhaps you prefer a more mellow experience? Consider songs that evoke feelings of calm and/or gratitude, such as instrumental jazz, gospel, Tibetan singing bowl, and/or classical music. Tip: If possible, create the playlist ahead of time to ensure you do not come across any music that may trigger negative emotions.
  5. Buy yourself a giftIs receiving gifts a love language of yours? If it is, why not treat yourself to something you may have had your eye on for a while or make a spontaneous purchase? A new bath gel or candle? Perhaps a new electronic like a foot massager, speaker, diffuser, or anything that makes life easier or more enjoyable? Maybe a sexy little something that makes you feel beautiful, whatever makes you feel your best! Many people are into crystals now, do you have a collection or have any interest in starting one? If so, a rose quartz is a nice place to start as it represents unconditional love. You can treat yourself to an online meditation, yoga, or language class. Take some time, check in with yourself, what is it you would like to treat yourself to this Valentine’s Day?
  6. Physical Touch – Get to know your body. Currently, touch is not as accessible as it was pre-Covid-19/quarantine. In an October 2020, New York Times article, “What All That Touch Deprivation Is Doing to Us” by Maham Hasan he quotes Dr. Field of The Touch Institute who shares the concept/action of “moving the skin,” as a treatment for touch deprivation. Dr. Field provides a few different techniques, two of which are scalp massages and brushing your skin in the bath. If you are spending time by yourself on Valentine’s Day, you do not have to go without touch, you can embrace touch to the extent you are comfortable. Whether it is massaging your legs or feet while putting on lotion, or more sensual self-touch as you bathe, rest in your bed, or view yourself in the mirror, you get to choose the option/method you feel is a good fit for you. Who knows your body better than you do? So, if you would like to get to know your body more intimately, this can be the perfect day to do so. .
  7. Do Something YOU Love to doWhat makes you smile? What do you love to do? Write? Sing? Paint? Workout? Meditate? Binge Netflix? Watch old sports footage? Paint your nails? Watch documentaries? Puzzles? Play video games? It is a day of love, give yourself permission to do what you love!
  8. Use your Words and Tell Yourself Something Sweet – Is your love language words of affirmation? It may be time to speak to yourself lovingly. Words do matter, in fact some believe that we manifest that which we speak and/or put energy into. When was the last time (if ever) you wrote someone a love letter? Writing a love letter to self can be one of the most empowering exercises you engage in. You can use prompts such as, I love you because…, I will show you love by…, what I find most lovable about you is…, I think the most beautiful quality you possess is…, etc. Another way you can use words is by creating an affirmation rooted in love. EXAMPLE AFFIRMATIONS: “Love is my beginning, middle, and end,” “All that truly exists is love,” “I am love, I am light, and I will exude both in all I do,” “I am beautiful everyday, I am beautiful in everyway.” “I am strong, I am divine, I am worthy, I am whole, I am love, I am you, because I am.”
Rose Quartz Crystals in Raw and Polished Form – Stone of Unconditional Self and Universal Love

UNIVERSAL-LOVE GESTURES THIS VALENTINE’S DAY

Make this a big deal. Challenge friends, family, and co-workers. You can put it in your social media feed and tell it to everyone who will listen. This Valentine’s Day, let’s all hold ourselves accountable for a Universal-Love Gesture…Donate Money and/or Volunteer Your Time. The great thing about volunteering is that you are giving to others and giving to yourself at the same time. There is no greater, more selfless and fulfilling gesture than to donate your time to a cause you believe in and that is helping others, nature, animals, the environment, etc. In a 2019 article, “Does the Warm Glow of Giving Ever Get Old? in Greater Good Magazine, Science based Insights for a Meaningful Life of Berkeley, by Elizabeth Hopper, experts share scientific evidence of how helping others/volunteering/donating provides more happiness than giving/doing things for ourselves, at least in the short term. What does this mean? Spread love this Valentine’s Day, it will feel good! Volunteering also supports social connection, so whether it is virtual due to quarantine or you are able to volunteer in person safely, it can expand your community. What can you do to help someone in need?

  1. Volunteer Your Time – Go out into the community. You can do so by hands on support with local charities, libraries, hospitals. If Covid-19 has you home and under quarantine, perhaps you can volunteer your time with a service you provide. You can make an organization have more recognition with your social media presence. You can offer a workshop/tutorial around something you are good at for a small fee or free. A cooking class, craft, do it yourself home project. Anything that is supportive and can help.
  2. Donate Money, Furniture, Clothing, Office Supplies, etc. – Donating feels good. Identify an organization and make a decision to take an action that will offer support. You can donate money or things your already have, especially if you have an abundance. How are you sharing? giving? showing up?
  3. Gifts/support for the Homeless– A friend of mine, SR, shared the idea of going outside and giving masks away to the homeless. You can also give food, warm tea, hats, scarves, or anything you feel comfortable with during these times.
  4. Treat Someone to Something – If you are going through a drive-thru, pay for the person behind you, just because. Sometimes when you do something kind it is contagious and people are inclined to pay it forward. You can treat a neighbor to lunch or a home cooked meal, the idea is to treat someone to something.
  5. Positive Feedback – Look up organizations you think are doing a great job and write to them to let them know you appreciate the impact they are having on the World. Expressing appreciation to individuals and organizations goes a long way. Sometimes words and acknowledgment matter to people more than you know.

Valentine’s Day with Children

  1. Family Dance Party – Gather everyone’s favorite songs and create a family playlist alternating every family members favorite songs ensuring that it is fun and fair for everyone.
  2. Family Meal with Everyone’s Favorite – Make a meal with everyone’s favorite included, even if they do not go together. You may be eating hotdogs and kale or fried chicken with eggplant! If not the main meal, maybe have everyone’s favorite dessert! If you have never cooked dinner together, how about many Chef’s in the kitchen? Make it fun!
  3. Family Movie Night – Pick a movie everyone agrees on, make some popcorn and spend the day loving and lounging.
  4. Family Volunteer Project (I personally LOVE this one) – Talk to the family about creating a love project. You can work together to create anything you like with the goal of giving back and being a good human! Pick a cause, educate one another, and find a way to support the cause. If you can find a documentary that provides more information, even better. Perhaps it’s a project where you are giving to the homeless with money or donating clothing, animal rescue organizations, local churches, etc. Ask your children, “Do you know anyone who needs help and how would you like to help them?” or “How do you think we can spread love this Valentine’s Day?” Let’s teach this generation how to be considerate and loving people. It all starts at home.
  5. Family “What I love About You” – Create an activity where everyone in the home shares, “What I love about you,” and why. Examples: I love that you are always telling jokes and the reason why is because sometimes when I am feeling down, your jokes make me laugh or I love that you ask me how my day was the reason why is because I like to know that you care and I get to share my experiences. You can also include extended family in this one. Do the rounds with family on Zoom, Facetime, Skype, etc. Whatever the virtual platform, have your love messages ready and invite other family members and friends to join. It is a fun, free, and uplifting activity that supports sending and receiving love.

Valentine’s Day – Couples

If you are in a romantic relationship, you can tweak some of the self and family suggestions to meet your needs. You can even do the Universal-love gesture together! There are so many wonderful blogs and articles with suggestions around things to do for/with your partner and I am hopeful that you are able to support your partner with feeling seen and special to you, not just on Valentine’s day, every single day you are fortunate enough to have a person that is trying to figure this all out with you. Good luck and have fun!

New Year’s Eve gives people an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and create goals for the year ahead. Let Valentine’s Day be the reminder to check in with yourself around how you are experiencing and spreading love.

We really do have the power to create a different experience of our lives and this world. I often hear people asking the Universe for things, praying to God, asking about why they are not getting the things that they want. We get to be the love we want to get. One love, really, truly.

“Remember, US?” Wake Up, Your Relationship Needs You! 5 Tools to Help…

Hey, the world is changing (newsflash, it always is) and it is hard to feel grounded in times of so much uncertainty. I get that you are stressed…and confused. I know you are battling with your own challenges, and work is probably CRAZY right now, that’s if you are lucky enough to be working right now. Right now? Let’s be honest, it has probably been crazy. If it is not one stressor, it is another, and another, most definitely another. One thing I have learned personally is that, there will always be ANOTHER FREAKIN’ STRESSOR! We can not help all that happens in this world, but we can learn how to manage how we deal with it and how we treat the people we care about in the process. So you need “me” time, “self-care” time, “alone” time. You need time to decompress, relax, connect with others, and of course connect with self. When you are doing those things, when you are deep in thought and giving yourself permission to be selfish, do you think about how that impacts the person you decided to be in a relationship with? While it is crucial that you take time to connect with/understand self, I have a question for you…

What about your relationship?

The world is indeed in flux right now. We have all been impacted in one way or another. Whether we have been directly impacted or we have been impacted in relation to others, we have been impacted because our world has been impacted. What does that mean? It means you have been impacted. What else does this mean? It means your relationships have inevitably been impacted. It is tough, it is different, why not turn to your partner and team up. Turn towards your partner and get through it together.

Whether you categorize the impact as “good” or “bad” I am not here to support you with putting a value on the perceived current state of your relationship. Perhaps you found this blog because you are looking to save your relationship, fall back in love, or simply feel more connected. The purpose of this post is to remind you that if you have a partner, someone you care about, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or a spouse, etc. Your relationship has been impacted by life events (baby, marriage, death, infidelity) and world events(politics, racism, pandemics, unemployment). As you change, your relationship shifts, and in order to move through those ebbs and flows together, you have to talk.

While I highlight the need to take care of yourself quite frequently in my blog posts and affirmations, I have an internal obligation which compels me to share (just in case it has been off your radar) your relationship with your romantic partner needs attention and relationship-care as well.

In December of 2019, I wrote a blog called, “Remember, “ME,” in which I talked about getting to know yourself fully, intimately, and unconditionally. The message of the blog is important and is always relevant. Self-love is necessary to fully love another person free of co-dependency and wounds. Today I right a blog entitled, “Remember, US.” Us, being your chosen romantic partner. The person you decided to be in some kind of relationship with, spend time with, share life with, marry, be entangled with, have children with, live with…

Your relationship needs you. We are all quick to point the finger at our partner when we are unhappy. We blame them, we resent them, we vilify them. My question to you is, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE CURRENT STATE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP?

Whether it is smooth sailing right now or the two of you are contemplating separation, you share in the present state as well as the outcome. You contributed to the current state of your relationship. What is your vision for tomorrow? What do you want for your relationship?

Begin to envision the relationship you want. Do not try to make it how it was. Think about what you want to create for your relationship moving forward. If you want a more loving, warm, and supportive relationship then envision yourself being warmer, being supportive, and being loving. Ask your partner to join you on this quest for a happier and healthier relationship. Are you both invested? Again, IF YOU ARE BOTH INVESTED, you can create the amazing relationship you both deserve.

Even if there has been hurt, infidelity, and/or breach of trust, you can work towards creating a deeper level of understanding and connectedness moving forward. Sometimes, that is not possible. Sometimes, relationships end. If you do not want your relationship to end AND your partner shares the same goal, you still may have a chance to not only save your relationship but also be happy within your relationship! I encourage you to seek couples and/or individual therapy if one or both partners have emotionally checked out and are struggling to engage in the tools section of this post.

5 TOOLS TO BEGIN RELATIONSHIP-CARE:

  1. Identify your strengths as a couple. Question: What do I consider our relationship strengths? (Examples: we are both family oriented, we are supportive of one another, we have shared goals, we have great sex and are satisfied with our current sex life, we have stimulating conversations, we are both neat, we value friendships, we are both independent, we share the same spiritual/religious/political beliefs, we both like to exercise, we are both vegans, we are in a similar/same profession, we love pets, we both respect one another’s alone time, we both take on problems head on, etc…). When you know your strengths, you can use them in other areas of your relationship. It helps when you can remind yourselves that there are ways in which the two of you navigate that are unique strengths that you can build upon.
  2. Ask yourself, what type of relationship do I want? (examples are, how much time you spend together, what do you want to do when you are together, how you show compassion to one another, how you listen to one another, activities you want to try together, how you appreciate being supported, how you enjoy supporting your partner). Schedule time to SHARE your answers with one another, explore what your partner shares, gather information to learn how your partner feels, validate and listen to understand. Remember, in order to create the relationship you both want, you each have to be willing to do your part!
  3. Assess: Are there things you may need to let go of in order to create a relationship you are both happy with? Are there negative narratives about yourself/your partner’s habits, personality, and/or activities they enjoy? Identify what those narratives/stories are, the stories about your partner and the stories about your couple dynamic (examples are: she is closed off and cold, he never listens, we are just not that type of couple, we are a couple that likes to argue, we don’t need all that time together, he/she/they will never change, etc.) Are you willing to let go of past stories? What about your own self limiting beliefs about who you are? You have to be willing to create a new story for yourself as well. You have to be willing to let the old viewpoints go. It doesn’t mean being ignorant of past behavior. It means giving each of you and your relationship room to grow and see things differently.
  4. What are some new things you would like to practice/embrace? The two of you can check in with one another around any ideas you have for new, concrete practices. (Examples: the use of terms of endearment, date night/sacred time, more tender/adventurous/playful/spontaneous/scheduled sex, cooking together, more communication throughout the day, a spiritual practice, an exercise regimen, going for a walk holding hands, taking a class together, more time with other couples, etc…). Step #2 talks about sharing what you want to create, this step puts those ideas into tangible and concrete practices you can take action to achieve. Once you create a plan together, step 5 will support you both with staying consistent and continuing to have connecting conversations.
  5. Action: Create a plan and designate a day to check in with one another. It can be a weekly check in over coffee/tea/wine or a monthly check in. Figure out the time and activity together, considering each of your individual schedules. Holding yourself accountable is crucial. You want to come together as a team and see how each of you are feeling about the relationship. Go into the conversation with a positive/proactive approach, one in which you are taking accountability and are giving your partner the benefit of the doubt. You both get to create an emotionally safe environment for one another. No blaming. No shaming. No name calling. Remember to validate before you share, and navigate from a place of love. If you need additional support, it may be time to get the support of a relationship counselor/therapist.

The above questions and outline can support getting you started and beginning important conversations that can lead to relationship transformation. Relationships take work, they require time, and commitment. Oftentimes, we take our relationships for granted, we do not take the time to support them with growth and expansion and then we get frustrated when they are not thriving. Your relationship is not separate from you. You are part of your relationship. Do you want to feel differently about the relationship? Show up differently and build on the strengths your relationship already has. As a couples therapist it has been my experience that in order for healing and rebuilding to take place, BOTH partners have to be willing to challenge themselves to grow and be fully invested in the process.

I have two other blogs, “Validation Do’s and Don’ts for Couples” and “Talk to Me, 6 Ways to Create Emotional Safety in your Relationship,” that can support each of you with additional tools for tough conversations.

Wishing you the very best and hoping that you find the courage and inner strength to identify what it is that you want, and then do your part to create it!

As always, with love, Tamara

If you are or believe you may be a victim of Domestic Abuse, please see the following links for support:

In New York City: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/hra/help/domestic-violence-support.page

In New York State: https://opdv.ny.gov/help/dvhotlines.html

National Hotlines: https://victimconnect.org/resources/national-hotlines/

YES, IT’S TRAUMA: 5 Tools for Coping with the Trauma of Covid-19, Police Brutality, and Racism

Breathe…I know it’s hard and I know you’re tired. The world is different and the same; all at the same, damn, time.

All the lives. All the loss. People were coming together fighting their fears of an external force of nature that does not discriminate. A disease that takes lives and livelihoods, uproots families, and shut the world down. Covid-19 has taken and it has given. The impact of Covid-19 has illuminated what is outside of us, and even more importantly, it has illuminated what lies within, forcing us to take a look at our lives, the relationships we have created, our world, and our selves.

The last few months have been filled with uncertainty, one transition after another. No more office settings, no more gyms, no more school, and no more human contact! Change. Distance. Isolation. Finances impacted, relationships strained, reevaluation and adjustment of what needs to be prioritized, all while trying to get to know this “new world” we are existing in. It is no wonder why people are experiencing anxiety and depression. Take another breath.

Some were beginning to feel like we are all in this together. While others experienced a disparity around resources available and not available to them mainly based on socioeconomic status. Enter in the next, not new, but highly visible demonstration of racism, police brutality, and continued ignorance around the one simple fact that color of skin does not make one person more human than another and what do we have? Uncertainty, anger, hopelessness, exhaustion…So what do we do next?

What happened to what seemed to be the simple world we lived in just 6 months ago when we all made our New Year’s resolutions?

What happened?

What has been happening externally and internally has been illuminated. Our humanity. Yes, OUR HUMANITY has been impacted (yet again) by hate and division. We have experienced a trauma with the impact of Covid-19, an external force of nature which we all feared and still fear. We have also experienced a trauma from within. Within humanity and within ourselves. The trauma around how one person could have a complete disregard for the life of another person. Have you ever had complete disregard for the life of another person? (something to think about).

How can we possibly measure the depth of that wound?

The events around the arrest, treatment, and death of George Floyd have triggered many around both racism and police brutality. The image, video, and discussions have led many Black American’s to experience retraumatization of what they themselves or those closest to them have experienced. Black America has been traumatized AND HUMANITY IS TRAUMATIZED…

IS IT TRAUMA?

  • Acute trauma results from a single incident. (can be an abrupt change due to Covid-19, job loss, riots, dropping a loved one at the hospital when they were overcrowded due to the pandemic, etc…)
  • Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged (examples: Covid-19 and its resurgence and racial trauma (information on racial trauma – https://www.thecut.com/2017/06/the-little-understood-mental-health-effects-of-racial-trauma.html)
  • Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events. Such as a pandemic, police brutality, overt racism, civil unrest, etc…

Now that we have named what is happening for many people. What’s next? Dealing with the emotional impact.

Which one is it? ANGER, FEAR, SADNESS, ANXIETY

Are you angry? Furious? Enraged? Please check in with yourself around which of the following primary emotions you may be feeling…

Fear (anxiety and worry) are you angry that you are afraid? Angry that you are experiencing anxiety? Do you fear for the world your child is growing up in? Are you worried about getting Covid-19? Are you afraid to visit a loved one? Do you have concerns around how you will make ends meet?

Sadness (disappointment, loss, discouragement, mental exhaustion) – are you angry because you are experiencing disappointment in others? yourself? Discouraged with society? Humanity? Are you exhausted from listening to one tragedy after another? Did you loss your job?

What does this all mean? Anger can be a primary emotion, however it usually masks another emotion. It means that usually beneath that anger there is deep hurt. As you watch people who are angry, as you check in with yourself around your own anger I encourage you to dig deeper and get to the emotion that makes you uncomfortable enough to experience anger. If anger is the primary emotion, you can validate it as well, ask yourself specific questions so you are aware of exactly what you are angry about. Having the self awareness around the primary emotions you are experiencing will support you with finding ways to cope.

HOW TO COPE:

  1. Validate your emotions, whatever they are. If you are experiencing anger, ask yourself how come? What are you angry about? Are you experiencing any other feelings? If so, what are they? Are you nervous? Are you having trouble sleeping due to racing thought/feelings of anxiety? Write them down. When we write things down, they become more manageable. Getting it out of your head and onto paper/note app, can empower you to do something about it.
  2. Nurture and Nourish yourself aka self-care. Hold space for the feelings that you do have. Once acknowledged, gently walk yourself through the emotions. If you need to rest, rest. If you need to get off of social media for a while, get off. If you need to stop talking to a negative friend, start creating boundaries. Handle yourself tenderly as you learn what your needs are and meet them. Your form of self-care gets to be tailored to meet your needs, it is different for everyone. Take care of you.
  3. Find support. Reach out to like minded friends, family, and support groups. Talking to others reminds us that we are not alone. If you are in a quiet space and rather not engage with others directly, you can join on online support group, or read stories of other people who are feeling the way you feel and discover what steps they took to feel better.
  4. Get Grounded by focusing on the things you can control. There is a ton of uncertainty in our external and internal world right now. Many have lost their grounding. Get grounded. You can do this by creating rituals/practices that are in your control. Examples would be exercising, writing, meditating, tending to plants, cooking, praying. Do something everyday that supports your growth in some way. Sometimes, just having something you can count on such as 15 minutes of yoga, meditation, listening to music, sipping tea, or sitting in silence and setting an intention can make all the difference.
  5. Lastly, BE EMPOWERED as you SHINE YOUR LIGHT. Your light, which is authentic to who you are and how you choose to show up in life. What does that mean? It means do something! We all have unique gifts and passions. How can you use your gift, passion, position, and/or platform to contribute in a positive way. You already have that power. Be empowered by the uniqueness of you! Everyone does not have to contribute in the same way. Figure out what your way looks like and then do it!

The world has seen darkness. Many of the events of the last 3 months have been traumatizing. Division among us is being reinforced at a time where we should be coming together. This is all true.

Another truth; nature is thriving, the air is cleaner, families are growing closer, parents are supporting their children, individuals are getting to know who they really are, and although it may not look like it, people are coming together. People are using their voices and their eyes differently.

If you are tired of talking about it and ready to be about it, here are just some of the things my clients of ALL RACES are doing:

  • Peaceful protests – NE, SE, HT
  • Using their art to capture images of what current day U.S./N.Y looks like as well as supporting groups and organizations that uplift others through their art. – AB
  • Speaking to their HR departments around training for racial sensitivity, inclusion, and diversity which can support both black and non-black employees and decrease tension/anxiety – MPA
  • Through their music and radio platform- MR
  • Mixed race clients (one black parent), talking to their siblings, parents, and friends around how this in impacting them. KT, AB, MA, NC
  • Through their media presence and open-mindedness around seeing people as people and being appreciative of the genuine gestures of others- BJ
  • Asking questions regarding inclusion during a company Town Hall and holding upper management accountable for creating change – SB
  • Educating themselves and speaking to friends and family members and providing resources to support educating them around racism – BP, BK, JW
  • Using their Linkedin platform to share information with organizations around how to begin diversity programs, as well as extend support and grace to their black employees at this time. NE
  • Putting out self-care content on social media emphasizing the value of taking care of plants and creating a safe haven in your home – RD
  • Speaking to their children about what they can do and encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves – MI, JW
  • Donating money (nearly every client)
  • Instilling hope and inspiring a group of High School students by having a public figure they admire drop in to their virtual classroom, telling them to stay focused and keep working hard. – SN
  • New York based client using his own money and social media presence to create awareness and support raising money for businesses damaged during the riots in Minnesota, as well as providing food to families in neighborhoods where local supermarkets were destroyed. – MT
  • Lastly, many of my clients are trying to navigate this from a place of peace and love and doing their inner work to fight past their own negative emotions and fears. If nothing else, be a kind human.

Thank you all for your courage, for spreading love, and working towards supporting all of humanity during this time.

Bury the fear, the hate, and the violence. If I keep not trusting you and you keep not trusting me, how will we ever change Humanity?

Sit up straight and breathe…

Remember, you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed or are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please reach out to a mental healthcare professional.

Here are some resources to either call or text for immediate support:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ https://www.crisistextline.org/

With love, Tamara

9 Tools for Mental and Emotional Wellness in the Midst of Covid-19

What’s happening? I feel anxious. What do you mean I have to work from home indefinitely? Indefinitely sounds scary, I do not have room in my apartment to set up a workstation…I have a roommate who also has to work from home…now I am feeling more anxious. Remote work, remote therapy, remote dates? I can’t see my parents because they are over 60 and I might give it to them…I am on self imposed house arrest…I mean quarantine. Oh my God…could I have it, am I sick?!? The anxiety is taking over. There’s no more toilet paper? How? What? When? Why?…I can’t breathe, I think I’m having a panic attack!!!

Stop…Sit up straight, place your hands on your lap, take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Continue…

Many of my clients are rattled, their world is changing. It feels abrupt and unfair. Many have shared that it feels like a movie, and one client, SB shared, “and we all know how that movie ends…”

What each of us is worried about during this very real and present day pandemic is different when we look at the content. I have the pleasure of working with clients from various socioeconomic groups throughout New York City and Westchester County, from television personalities to Broadway actors to teachers to artists to entrepreneurs to stay at home mom’s to Graduate students. Single and married. Everyone’s content is important to them. You have a right to be concerned about what matters to you. We can get lost in the content, we may question ourselves and our humanity when we think about the things that we and others are concerned about, yet none of us are in a position to judge what someone else deems important and is afraid of losing. If we focus on the content, it’s what makes us believe we are different. If we focus on the process and commonality around fear, we are all pretty much the same.

One thing we ALL have in common is that we fear the unknown, the fear of uncertainty. Our brains are not fans of uncertainty and will actively try to find the answer. Our society has become accustomed to having, knowing, forecasting, and predicting. Some argue that it is not fear of the unknown, but rather fear of losing the known that scares us.

What happens when we Google the answer only to receive conflicting information? What happens when the grocery store runs out of your newborns formula or you lose over $100k in the stock market? What happens when your children are home from school and you do not have childcare? What about hearing ourselves or our loved ones cough and wondering if we are actually getting sick? What happens? We get uncomfortable. We get scared. We get overwhelmed. We get mad. We cry. We have feelings and right now, we get to give ourselves permission to feel those feelings.

We feel various emotions from one moment to the next because we do not know what is lurking around the corner. It can actually feel like rapid cycling. We want to run and be in the act of doing, but right now we have to sit and wait until the indefinite becomes definite. We are being forced to sit in the unknown and that uncertainty is what drives anxiety. Things are changing around us and our brains are left to create stories and those stories are usually the worst case scenario, which then makes our feelings of anxiety that much worse. Anxiety weakens our immune system and finding healthy ways to cope can lead to better health.

We have to be intentional around validating yet facing our fears to ensure that although some of the fears may be warranted, they do not negatively impact us to the point where it becomes debilitating and is making us physically ill.

We are all one and no one is spared during a pandemic. There are many things out of our control right now, it is important to remember that there are some things that we can control.

YOU HAVE THE POWER OF YOUR MINDSET!

Change is not easy and right now things are different and they are changing. How you respond to these changes can make all the difference. All you can do, is ALL you can do, so identifying what you can “control” may help.

How’s your breathing going? Remember…Sit up straight, hands on your lap, take a deep breath in through your nose, slowly exhale through your mouth. Continue…

9 TOOLS TO SUPPORT MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLNESS

  1. Make your space comfortable, try to surround yourself with things that make you feel safe and bring you joy. Engage in an at home activity that supports your mental health. Some examples would be, reading, writing (you can journal about this experience), catch up on some television shows, paint, cook, play board games with the kids, listen to music, clean your space. You can have deeper level conversations with loved ones. Being home provides an opportunity to stay put and catch up.
  2. If you live alone, consider having virtual dates. You can meet your friends, family, or significant other through a video platform and have a virtual meal date together. Technology can connect you with others throughout the day. If you are worried about someone you love, reach out to them and let them know how much you care. Being confined to your home can make you feel stir crazy and lonely, be sure to find time to connect with others, even if you are doing so remotely.
  3. Create and embrace a new routine (Working from home) Things will be different and you can make the choice to either feel defeated or use the opportunity as a chance to create something that works for you! Be intentional when you create your new/adjusted routine. Try with making your bed every morning, there is a ton of research about how the act of making the bed elevates mood. Structure is important, especially if you are new to working from home. Continue to have a set time for lunch and breaks. Ensure you have a hard stop time because working from home can make work/life challenging, so boundary setting is crucial. Setting up a work station/designated work area will increase productivity and support not allowing working from home to negatively impact your sanctuary. Most people transition from home to work via their commute. Keep in mind you will no longer have commute time, yet you still need to create an opportunity to transition. The transition can be changing clothing, making tea, shutting down the computer and lighting a candle, and/or doing what you would have done during your commute. Lastly, do not work on your bed. It can negatively impact sleep.
  4. Limit social media and news intake, shut off those notifications. You can pick a time of day to prepare and give yourself permission to find out the latest news. It is understandable that you may want to stay informed but when you are on constant Covid alert, you do not give your mind an opportunity to be present in the other things you are doing. You will stay in a constant heightened state of anxiety if you stay plugged in to the news all day. Pick a time, midday usually works nicely, to read about changes/breaking news of the day. Try not to look at news close to bedtime as it may negatively impact sleep.
  5. If you are home with your loved one, snuggle up. You can use this as a time to connect. You can watch movies, share a late night snack, work on intimacy.
  6. Reflect on the lessons this experience is teaching you. While learning about and living in the midst of Covid-19 is uncomfortable and even terrifying for some, with every change there are consequences, and some of them are actually positive. Ask yourself, “how can I make the best of this situation?” “What am I learning about myself and how I handle change and stress?”
  7. Reach out to a mental health care professional if you are feeling anxious and or depressed. Many therapists now offer tele-medicine for remote therapy. Ask your current therapist if they are able to convert to tele-medicine.
  8. Stay present and on task when engaging in daily activities. If your mind wanders and you have intrusive thoughts, bring yourself back to being present and fully immerse yourself in the activity. Creating a mantra to support keeping you grounded may help. Examples: “Let go,” (breathe in through your nose with “let”, breathe out through your mouth with “go”) or “I will stay calm and be here now” or “In this moment I choose trust,” etc.
  9. Meditate and/or practice yoga. Our society has been practicing meditation, yoga, breathwork, mindfulness and the art of staying present over the past few years. Many already have the tools, it is about accessing and practicing them. There are also apps that can support decreasing anxiety/bringing down your heart rate. If you have not downloaded them yet, consider getting the Headspace or Calm app which can support you with relaxation, sleep, meditation, and breathing.

Lastly, keep in mind that this crisis is not just about the individual, it is about the collective and even if you are not in a “risk” group, you may carry the virus to others. You probably know at least one person in the high risk group, your parents, grandparents, or friend/family member with a compromised immune system. This is an opportunity for individuals in our collective to come together to support the we. We are one dealing with this pandemic and where some are behaving as if it is every person for themselves, I am hopeful that there will be many more that take precaution not just for themselves, but for the others that are more vulnerable. This is presently an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to connect.

When new information comes in, as things continue to change and you are faced with uncertainty, try not to panic…acknowledge the fear, validate it, and use the techniques above to support you with moving through it. You get to decide where you want to put your energy. Yes, that is your choice. We can engage in spiraling thoughts around what we have no control over or we can remember to take it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and in this moment sit in appreciation for what we do have, and try to access trust. Be you, be resilient, be courageous, be safe, and be kind (to yourself and others)

If nothing else, remember to breathe…

How to Stay Physically Safe/Latest News:

If you are interested in obtaining information on how to stay physically safe I have attached a link to the CDC website that discusses the Coronavirus (COVID-19):

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

We have one world and we are all in this together. Stay well…

Remember, “Me?” A Question for the Most Important Person in Your Life!

Naked in the mirror, I see an image reflected back to me, familiar, yet unfamiliar, I seek clarity. I look intensely for understanding, as deep as my eyes can see but that vision is skewed by what I decipher mentally. The truth is my soul has the sight I seek, I look in the mirror, and speak out compassionately, Remember me?

How can we remember someone we do not know? Many of us know ourselves in the context of others and the roles we play in our lives.

Many moons ago, when you were a child, you were told and taught who you were and got cast in a role that supported you around creating a persona, “a mask.” You were shown how to show up in the world and you have probably been following suit ever since. You get to challenge what you have been told about who you are!

What was your role? Were you the smart one? The professional one? The Comedian/class clown? Maybe your caregivers told you that you would run the world, that you were a “heartbreaker,” that you would be “successful,” that you were “selfless,” or that you were “selfish.”

Whatever the narrative/script was in your family of origin, it absolutely impacted you…How can I make such a strong declaration? Because our family of origin/childhood impacts all of us!

We all come out of childhood with wounds and a role. Our wounds and roles get reinforced throughout our lives because we create filters and begin to only extract information that supports our belief around who we are and how others will treat us. How aware are you of your role? of your wounds? How is that showing up in your life today? Do you want to continue operating out of them or do you chose to heal them, find yourself, and live the fullest life possible?

(Disclosure: As most children, I loved to draw as a child, and one day after making a creation I thought was spectacular, I was told, “an artist you’ll never be” and that stayed with me for the rest of my life. It turned something I did for fun into something I was not good at. A comment made by a parent in innocence can be a wound that stays for a lifetime)

What if we no longer decided to play our role? What if the part you have been playing your entire life no longer works for you? What if you are tired of being the responsible one that everyone turns to for money? or the strong one that everyone dumps their emotional wounds on? or if you are the single one that gets to be the babysitter for everyone else’s children and should be readily available for anything? You may have been the one that people did not believe in and now lack self confidence because you learned not to believe in yourself. Are you the one that always takes care of everyone else and has been taught (and learned well) how to put your needs and feelings on the back burner to take care of everyone else’s needs first and now struggles to use your voice?

You can rewrite the script. How? Check in with yourself, get to know yourself, and then live in your truth. YOUR TRUTH, not someone else’s truth about who you are.

You can be taught new language and acquire new boundary setting tools that support you with creating and existing in a world that works for you. Not in a selfish, narcissistic way, but more so in a way that you are considering others while ALSO CONSIDERING YOURSELF! Self consideration sounds simple enough, yet so many of us struggle with it!

When we are getting to know someone new, what do we do?

  • Spend time with them
  • Create a space where they feel safe to share (non-judgmental and supportive)
  • Ask them a TON of questions
  • Watch how they interact with others
  • Watch how they take care of themselves

We get to know and learn about ourselves in the same way. Curiosity, empathy, openness, and honesty. Forget all you have been told about who you are and continue on your journey of self exploration….

REMEMBER, ME? 4 STEPS TO GETTING TO KNOW YOURSELF

  • SPEND TIME ALONE (go off the grid aka no electronics!!!): I encourage you to spend time alone with yourself, not judging, just observing. Take a full day to spend time by yourself and engage in an activity that you enjoy. Being in nature greatly supports this process, however doing anything that brings you peace works (painting, writing, walking, singing, dancing, baking, people watching,) Let your loved ones know that you will be taking some “me” aka “self-care” time to relax and reflect so that you can give yourself permission to go off the grid comfortably.
  • ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS COMPASSIONATELY: (create a safe space for yourself by not engaging in negative self-talk and showing yourself compassion) ask yourself questions such as: When are you happiest? When are you most proud of yourself? (how come? who told you that was important?) What is your passion? What makes you, you? Who are you closest to in your family?(how come? since when?), What do you do when you need help? (do you ask for help or do you figure out a way to do it alone, and how come? when did you learn that behavior? for how long have you handled needing help in this way?), What are your fears? (how come they are your fears?, what have you tried to overcome your fears?) What are your strengths? (how do you know? what makes them your stengths) What do you like most about yourself? (how come?)
  • ASSESS RELATIONSHIPS (your role): Take a close look at your relationships, how are you showing up for and around the people closest to you? Are you holding yourself accountable for your role in interactions? (do you validate the other person, are you blaming someone else for your inability to self-soothe and/or for your unhappiness? are you name calling? are you being condescending?) Are you enjoying your relationships with others? (if not, what are you doing about it?), What type of relationships do you want? How are you showing those you care about that you care about them? Are your actions aligned with what you say you want? If not, start taking the actions needed to create the relationships you want. You are responsible for how you show up!
  • PRACTICE SELF-CARE and EMBRACE SELF LOVE: Observe how you take care of yourself, aka self-care. How do you speak to yourself?(do you beat yourself up with your words or do you speak to yourself with love and compassion? how come? how did the people you loved talk to you? how would you like to be spoken to?) How do you handle situations in which you feel you have been treated unfairly? (do you use your voice or do you retreat/hide and if so, why?) What do you do for yourself that fills your soul/tank? How do you decompress after a tough day? (long bath, write, exercise, help others, paint, spend time in nature, cook, etc). Create a plan to do at least one of the things you identified as filling your tank every week and label it self-care. You will be sending a message to self and to others that you matter!

I once lived life thinking I had to do what others expected of me based on limitations they imposed and that became my truth. I began to buy into the limits, reinforce the limits, and eventually unknowingly limit myself. BUT, then I woke up, I did “the work,” and realized that I can be free, and that most limits are self-imposed and rooted in fear and insecurity. You are your greatest love, I encourage you to make your life and relationship with self the most beautiful love story ever!

Yes, I was told, “an artist you will never be,” and one day I looked in the mirror and remembered myself and how peaceful I felt when I was creating art, and now I paint to paint and draw to draw. It may have taken some time but I could not be happier with the new narrative I have created for myself. Every piece I create would not exist had I continued to be bought into the narrative that someone else created for me.

EXERCISE: (BE PRESENT, no electronics) Take a 20 – 40 minute bath/shower, preferably with a calming scent/bath gel such as lavender or vanilla, allow yourself to be immersed in the experience as you observe the water touching and cascading over your body. Allow all thoughts to drift as you allow yourself to be in peace (visualize the ocean, or laying in the grass, or listen to calming music with no words just melodies or nature sounds that soothe your soul). After you dry off, look at yourself in the mirror and take 5 deep breathes, while looking deeply into your beautiful eyes, ask yourself out loud, Remember me? take one last deep breathe. Find a quiet place and create a three page journal entry about the experience.

This reflection and exercise are meant to support your process around self-actualization/awareness and living a fulfilling life that you feel connected to. If you need additional support, please reach out to a therapist, or other health care professional. You came to this blog for a reason, perhaps it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to know the most important person in your life! I am excited for you and the new narrative you will create around who you are and what you want. Wishing you the very best, with love.

Validation Do’s and Don’ts for Couples: An Essential Component to Finally Feeling Understood!

interracial couple hetero

“Listen to me, indulge me, allow yourself to be immersed into our process and together we will come to understand the power of “we.” TF

Ever feel like screaming “Validate me!!!!!!?”

It probably sounds more like, “You just don’t get it,” “you don’t understand me,” “I give up trying to make you understand.” “Can you just listen to what I am saying.”

How many times have you and your partner had the same argument?  Many disagreements have occurred so often that individuals can predict their partner’s responses, as if the argument were scripted.

So many couples get stuck in what feels like Groundhog’s day, that same old argument and it can be about the same or different topics, the issue is the process, not the content. In other words, it is not about what you are disagreeing about, it is about how you communicate with one another.

The same old same yields the same results, yet so many of us continue doing what we are accustomed to doing. There is one sure-fire way to change the conversation, one sure fire way to feel heard and understood, one sure fire way to feel like your partner finally gets it. That sure fire way is validation!

It shows up in the therapy room quite frequently, at least 8 out of 10 couples are struggling to validate one another.

Top reasons why people find it difficult to validate their partner:

  • They do not feel as though their partner understands their point and they are not going to validate them, until they are validated.
  • They believe that they must agree with their partner to validate them and usually they do not agree. In fact, some people feel as though the other person is completely wrong and if so, can refuse to validate their feelings
  • They do not believe their partner should be experiencing the feelings that are coming up for them and try to convince their partner how come they should feel differently

Usually when someone shares something that they are experiencing strong emotions around, they do not want advice, they do not want someone to come up with solutions, they do not want to feel judged/as if they did something wrong, and they do not want someone to tell them not to feel that way. If the person would like advice, they will usually ask. Providing unsolicited advice without validating first and empathizing can leave a person feeling misunderstood, dismissed, and/or invalidated. Most non-validating responses are said with noble intent, however, to the person on the receiving end, they can still feel frustrated and misunderstood.

 Common Non-Validating Responses:

“Well, let me tell you about how bad my day was and then you’ll see that yours wasn’t so bad”

“How many of your friends wish they had a provider like me, so I missed our anniversary, I have a lot on my plate”

“Well you work hard for us, you’re supposed to work hard, you’re the provider”

“You’re too sensitive”

“You should have handled it differently, next time try to do it like this”

“Sleep on it, tomorrow is another day, let’s not talk about this now”

“I can’t believe you are that angry about something that doesn’t matter”

Some of the above are well intended attempts to “make” the person feel better, other responses sound dismissive, mean, and blaming. They are all equally non-validating. Have you said any of the above? Have people in your life responded to you this way? If so, how did that make you feel?

Then there are the attempts at validation such as:

“I get it, but…”

“I hear you, and….”

“I understand what you’re saying, so….”

The above ARE NOT validating statements, they come across as, “I hear you, and let me tell you why you shouldn’t feel that way.” Step one, slow down.

What Validation is and How to Validate Your Partner:

  • For starters remember, you are validating feelings and EVERYONE’S FEELINGS ARE VALID. The reason why they feel the way they do is not as important as addressing the feelings that they are expressing to you. Once you are able to let go of the content (which you may not agree with) and focus on how they are feeling (which is always valid), you will be able to support them.
  • Validation is the affirmation, recognition, and acceptance that another person’s internal experience aka FEELINGS are valid. 

 

What can I do? What can I say?

1. Listen, listen, listen. Listen to understand how they are feeling, do not internalize and make it about you, do not get defensive, do not try to solve. Again, listen to understand and be there for them. Simply being present and patient. You will have to let your guards down to be able to listen unfiltered. It is a practice, practice listening to your partner. You will have your opportunity for them to validate you later.

2. Empathy goes a long way. Again you may not agree with the content, however, you can empathize with the emotions they are feeling.

  • “It can be difficult to focus on the children, when you are feeling so hurt by what I said”
  • “I understand that our arguments drain you, it really bothers me when we argue as well.”

3. Repeat what they share in their own words or rephrase their words to show them that you are paying attention and that you understand. Ask questions about their feelings, to show genuine interest and gain a better understanding.

  • “So when I told you I was tired and wanted to go to sleep, you felt as though I was bored of your company”
  • “I am so sorry that when I did not pick up my phone when you called it brought up feelings of anxiety for you”
  • “I did not realize that when I walk away when we are arguing it brings up feelings of abandonment and makes you feel angry, I can see why that would upset you and I am sorry those feelings come up for you”

4. Normalize their feelings by sharing that most people would feel the way that they do if they were in a similar situation. Share with them that their feelings are “normal” given the circumstances.

  • “Anyone would probably feel hurt if their partner forgot their anniversary”
  • “It makes sense that you feel lonely, anyone who has a partner that travels as much as I do would”

5. See it through their eyes. Try to see the situation from your partner’s perspective and think about other times similar feelings have come up for them, or other times they shared their feelings with you and you might have missed them.

  • “This reminds me of last year when I forgot our Anniversary and you felt as if I do not share your values, I am sorry for forgetting something that is important to you”

6. Touch them. Physical touch is one of the 5 love languages. Sometimes a simple, gentle gesture such as taking their hand, rubbing their back, stroking their hair, or giving them a hug can be all your partner needs. During conflict, this may not be the best time to get physical, however if you are discussing the situation calmly, it can be an opportunity to connect.

7. Use your Body Lean in, make facial expressions that match theirs (if they look down, you look down, if they shake their head, you shake yours). Do not stand with your arms crossed; do not look away when you do not agree. Stay open to your partner and they will be more inclined to stay open with you.

When couples do not see eye to eye, it can be challenging to validate. It is important to remember that both partners, regardless of their stance, deserve to have their feelings validated. It is a reciprocal process, which can turn that same old argument into a brand new effective way to communicate! Validation creates a feeling of safety and trust. Validation allows defenses to go down. You both deserve to feel heard, loved, and understood. The tools above will support that process. Find a method or methods that you feel most comfortable with and feels authentic to you, and then put it/them to practice!

Wishing you the best in creating the relationship you deserve and desire!