Awareness Empowers: Taking Ownership of Mental Health

“I should be stronger,” “I can get through this on my own,” “I can self-help this,” “I can avoid this,” are a few examples of the things we tell ourselves to justify not seeking support.

What is the this? The this is the obstacle that gets in front of or in the way of your goal and/or happiness and the obstacle is different for every one of us. What is the same for all of us is that we are all in need of and empowered by awareness.

Slow down. It is time to be aware. Aware that we need to take care of all parts of ourselves. We will schedule our yearly physical, flu shot, and bi-annual dental appointment, but what is currently in place for our mental health? So many of us walk around in silence, trying to get over the obstacles in our lives while feeling exhausted, anxious, and/or lonely.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, yet by the time we realize it needs attention we have lost friends, gained weight, maxed out our credit, become disenchanted with our jobs, spouses, and ourselves!

It is time to check in on your mental health. It is time to evaluate what your life looks like. It is time to implement more of what makes you feel most yourself, what makes you feel most alive. If you need more time, create more time. If you need more support, create more opportunities for support. If you do not know where to start or do not have the energy to begin, reach out to a therapist who can collaborate with you and get you closer to living the life you deserve to be living.

I talk a lot about perception with my clients, how you see things and how you experience life are based on what you are extracting from your experiences. If you find yourself having a difficult time extracting the lessons and positives from any obstacle/struggle, you may be experiencing negative sentiment override or a depressive episode. If you find that you are not feeling yourself, it is time to do something different.

What we know for sure: You will be challenged. You will have heartache. You will feel lost. You will feel abandoned. All of these things will happen at various points during your life. It is important to have an awareness and acceptance that OBSTACLES WILL COME. This is a truth that is hard for us to embrace. What we do have is choice. We are empowered by understanding that our mindset is a choice and that there are steps we can take to not only get through a rough period in our lives but to also elevate while doing so.

What else we know for sure: We are all in this together. Mental Health challenges are Universal and touch all of us. The Joker movie with Joaquin Phoenix was just released a couple of weeks before Mental Health Awareness day and it helps to shed light on many issues that are relevant today. The movie, although extreme and controversial gives us the perspective of the one and the many. Arthur Fleck, who later becomes The Joker, experienced trauma as a child and has a mental illness. Through the love and nurturing of his mother and finding a job as a clown which he did well, he was able to lead a quiet and simple life. Society crept in and made fun of, taunted, laughed at, and abandoned him partly due to a lack of empathy and understanding. There were times throughout the movie that people/society had an opportunity to do something or say something different that may have changed his path. While there is never an excuse for resorting to violence, the movie does a good job of pointing out the impact of our actions on ourselves and others. The harsh reality is that sometimes we are unintentionally cruel and insensitive and we are unaware of how our actions impact others, as well as ourselves. We all get to take a look at how we are showing up in the world for ourselves, the people we love, and for the collective.

When you get knocked down, what do you do? When there is a hurdle or barrier in the way of getting what you want, how do you get over it?

When we get knocked down, we get to lick our wounds, take care of ourselves, extract the lesson, seek support, and get back up. If you are experiencing a hardship, if you are feeling sad, alone, and overwhelmed, if you feel as if things just continue to keep getting in your way, IT IS TIME. It is an opportunity. Those feelings and obstacles are pointing you in the direction of paying attention to your mental health. It is time to be aware of it, get in front of it, and understand it. You do not have to go it alone, you can seek support from others. Today is the day.

What can you do in honor of Mental Health Awareness day:

  • Do something for yourself. Fill your tank back up. Nourish your soul and quiet your mind. Go for a walk, go to the spa, connect with friends, paint, write, cook, laugh, swim, watch your favorite movie, go for a drive, engage in your hobby, whatever your thing is, go do it! If you are struggling to find a way to nurture yourself and have been contemplating finding a therapist, find one. Look on psychologytoday.com or another website, or ask friends and family if they have a therapist they can recommend. Make today the day you give yourself permission to seek additional support.
  • Be kind to others, sometimes your interaction with others makes all the difference. Some people are just one bad day away from their breaking point. Make a positive difference in the world. It will support your mental health as well.

Today is Mental Health Awareness day 2019 but regardless of the day that you read this post, it is a day that you get to evaluate how well you are attending to your mental health needs. Choose to walk in awareness around what is holding you back, around what needs attention, and around how you are showing up in the world. If you are struggling to get past the obstacle on your own, please seek professional help. Tending to mental health is not an other person issue, it is a Universal issue. Be kind, be empowered, be AWARE!

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!

 

One Simple Question can Create One Amazing Life…Stop Self-Limiting Beliefs Now!

Keep Climbing. Limits are an Illusion.

I can’t because...(insert excuse here)

I would but I….(insert self limiting belief here)

I am not able to because….(insert your rationalization)

It will not work because….(please list all the reasons that voice inside your head has given to convince you that your idea will not work)

Stop it, please stop it, and please do us all a favor and shut up!!!!! Not you the person, just that voice inside your head that keeps stopping you from living your best life and keeps you so busy with negative chatter you stay stuck! Why does that voice always do that? You can quiet that voice with a question.

Questions? Questions. Questions….they really are so powerful, what are just as powerful are our answers. Questions prompt us to respond, but how much of that is scripted? in other words shared exactly the same way all the time, as if on autopilot with no thought whatsoever. It is part of our programming, years of doing the same things, speaking to ourselves the same way, and others reinforcing those beliefs.

In graduate school we are taught questions to ask clients during the therapeutic process. The right questions prompt us to think deeply, force us to reflect, and once answered, especially once voiced out loud, our words, which are fueled by our thoughts and emotions have immense power. Power to cripple and power to create. So, we get to answer the questions with the understanding that there is a direct correlation between the words we choose and what we bring to fruition/manifest in our lives.

There is one question, that impacts me more than any other. I was asked the question some time ago during a time in my life when unbeknownst to me, I was living a life filled with self-limiting beliefs. I walked through life with thoughts that there were things I could not, should not, and would not be able to do because of a bunch of (fear based) reasons. My perceived inability to do something was linked to the belief that it was beyond my ability/control, and that other people would determine whether or not I would be successful.

I did not know then that we create our limits, others (parents, teachers, society) may have imposed limits on us but how long can we allow ourselves to have a cap, a ceiling, a limit, on our dreams? I see it now, I see it clearly and it supports me with supporting all of my amazing clients, friends and family with their self-talk and their self limiting beliefs.

I was presented with an opportunity at a time in my life when I had a lot on my plate. Family commitments, a career transition, a fitness journey, etc. At the time I truly believed I could not do it, it was unrealistic, and it would not be as important as everything else because it was more of an indulgent passion than a priority or what I felt I “should be doing,” so, I answered:

Reason/Excuse #1: “I can’t because I do not have enough time to prepare

Reason/Excuse #2: I am really not that good, it is just a hobby

Reason/Excuse #3: I am just not able to do it right now

The person presented me with the “one simple question” I will share in a moment and I felt invalidated, misunderstood and frustrated around why I was continuing to be asked to do something I clearly “could not” (not true) do.

And then I had to get very real with myself and ask the tough questions, “why do I keep pushing back?” “why am I defensive?” why am I struggling to answer this question?” “why am I not entertaining this concept, this idea that I can?” why won’t I allow myself to envision something different? (asking yourself those types of questions is crucial to self-awareness and self-actualization).

One question can create a whirlwind of thoughts and creativity, digging deeper and pushing limits. It inspires

THAT ONE SIMPLE QUESTION THAT CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING IS:

BUT, WHAT IF YOU COULD? 

It’s always interesting to me because the word “but” negates and so we know not to use the word “but” because it negates everything that came before it and with this question in particular, I am in love with the word BUT…why? because but is absolutely necessary for effect around saying, “let’s forget all of the reasons why you are claiming that you can not do this thing and talk about what it would look like if you could!” How freakin’ empowering!

Why? because when asked the question, it forces us out of the story we have been telling ourselves about our problem/situation and about who we are. It forces us to rewrite the script and create a version of our story where we get to have an empowering outcome, a more peaceful existence, a story of hope rather than a reiteration of all that is wrong in our lives.

Every time you tell yourself you can’t, every time you are bought into the fact that something is impossible either because other people have told you it is impossible or your negative self-talk has convinced you that it is impossible, stop, be intentional and ask yourself but, what if I could? what if it was possible? Give yourself permission to answer that question, to see yourself differently, to create an opportunity. Rewrite your story.

Get empowered by the answer and then go out and do it! Do the thing! Recognize the fear. Validate your feelings, ask yourself the question, and then decide to either make a decision based in fear or one based around belief in self and self-love. Remember this is not about being unrealistic or invalidating your circumstances. It is about challenging the beliefs you have about yourself, other people, and the world.

Fear will convince you that you can not

Fear will make you think you don’t care

Fear will tell you that it will not work

Fear will stifle your creativity

Fear will cheat you out of opportunities

Fear will steal your time

Fear will tell you that you are not good enough

Fear was created to protect you, thank it for bringing things to your attention and then put it on the shelf while you ask yourself…..

But, what if I could start that business I’ve been dreaming of ?

what if I could audition for my dream role?

what if I could commit to my partner?

what if I could start dating again after heartbreak?

what if I could pursue or figure out my passion?

what if I could go back to school?

what if I could tell her I love her?

what if I could come out to my family?

what if I could heal from the trauma I have experienced?

what if I could be happy?

what if I could forgive myself?

Ask yourself, what if I could?….

You can! You can! You can! It will take action and once you ask yourself what if I could? the next step is to Create a PLAN and then PUT IT IN ACTION. You may need the support of others, perhaps networking more often (try meetup.com), it may take gaining a new skill, or finding a therapist, it may take time, it may not happen overnight, and one thing that it will absolutely take to do this is courage!

Be courageous! If there is a goal that you have, if there is a dream that you aspire to, if there is a talent you would like to explore, if you would like to take your relationship to the next level, if there is a degree you would like to obtain, if there is a career change you have been considering making, if you would like to shoot your shot and just go for something…..before talking yourself out of it, before shutting the door that you never allowed to fully open, the next time you tell yourself you can’t, remember me asking you this one simple question….

BUT, WHAT IF YOU COULD?

Everything you need is everything you are. Wishing you love, light, clarity, and perseverance on your very amazing and necessary individual journey. Remember, you can!

5 Ways to Protect Your Energy, Stay Hopeful, and Spread Love No Matter WHAT!

light within

If you look at me with hate in your heart, if you treat me like a burden, I will shine brighter than the brightest light of that you can be certain. For each hateful word, and mal-intended action directed outward, my love will grow so strong within that my light will counter all hatred. -TF

What can you do when you feel alone and you look around and the world feels like it is in chaos? When true connection with others is scarce because superficial relationships bred online are fed through “likes,” right swipes, and “follows.”

Thanks to the  news we have gruesome video and audio footage of the injustice in the world and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep from falling into a depressive and helpless state. Many would rather go off and be on an island alone than to face the current state of civilization. At a time when many are feeling lonely and detached, we are faced with the reality that, there is a lot of sadness and hatred in our present day America. So how do we stay positive when we are inundated with negativity throughout each day?

Many potential clients reach out sharing that their hearts hurt. They feel connected to the world and therefore feel the pain and heaviness of others. Some identify as HSP (highly sensitive people), others as Empath’s who can feel emotional and physical symptoms of others and of the world. In Judith Orloff’s book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, she shares tools on how Empath’s can protect their energy and use their empathic abilities to support others.

Other clients who are not necessarily bought into the the idea of people being Empaths, are also reporting feeling negatively impacted by the state of the world because it seems like there is one unfortunate event after another leaving them to experience symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. They are feeling as if the world is unsafe and unfair. They are searching for something to make them feel safe, give them hope, bring them happiness, and return their faith in humanity.

So what can we do? How do we stay strong? How do we ensure that we are protecting our individual light? We stay positive! I recognize it is not an easy task but the only way to counter darkness is with light. We have to counter the negative energy with positive energy. Inner light, despite our surroundings. A positive energy that can reside within you regardless of external factors.

light within 2

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY TO PROTECT YOUR ENERGY and SPREAD LOVE

  1. Do NOT internalize: Create a Positive Mantra. You do not get to take it personally. Recognize that we are a part of a collective, none of us stand alone. Rather than give into the hate, and retaliate/react with an equally hateful remark, remind yourself that it is not about you, it is about whoever is doing or saying something hurtful. You are not the one who was carrying hate in your heart, they are. You are responsible for your own energy. Create a mantra or statement that will help you stay grounded and remind you that you do not have to get sucked into someone else’s negative energy/bad mood. Examples of mantra’s are: “In this moment, I choose love,” “I am responsible for my own energy and I choose to stay positive,” or “I am love and light, no one has the power to suck me into their darkness”. You have a choice in that moment, to either keep your positive energy/light or to get sucked into someone else’s negativity. You get to decide.
  1. Be Altruistic. For every negative slur spewed, share something positive. Give what you can in your own unique way. It does not have to be on a grand scale (although it can be). The most important thing is to remember that you are light and you can help others. We all have the ability to spread love. Some examples are, taking someone else’s shift at work, donating clothing, starting a food drive, helping out an elderly neighbor. It can also be as simple as giving someone a compliment, saying thank you, holding a door open for someone, or smiling while giving eye contact to another person. It can be as grand as being a hands on active supporter of a cause you feel passionate about. As long as you are giving, sharing, and supporting from a place of love, you are sharing and spreading light.
  1. Be in Nature. Go for a walk barefoot in the grass (earthing), touch a tree, swim in a lake, sit on the sand, feed an animal, water a plant. Visit a park with various plant life and lakes (if you live in New York City, stroll through Central Park in Manhattan or visit the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx). Nature is soothing, it will feed your soul. Allow yourself to embrace the beauty in the world, because beauty does exist in the world. Even though there are what feels like heartbreaking things happening in your personal life as well as the world around you, give yourself permission to experience the beauty. If you can not go into nature, take a cold shower or a warm bath and allow the water to cleanse your body and energy. Listen to calming springs, winds, rainfall on a sound machine or with a phone app, allow your mind to visualize the beauty you appreciate. You can bring nature into your home with a plant, a fish, fresh flowers, etc. What you consume can also connect you to nature, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, water and herbal tea. 
  1. Connect with others. Connection matters. In person, face to face, with touch, and laughter but beware of energy vampires (see the next step #5 regarding boundaries) who may dump negative energy on you. Rather seek out individuals who are uplifting and have a similar goal of wanting to spread and share in positive vibes. It matters. Instead of a text, invite a friend over, or meet for coffee, or my a personal favorite, pizza and wine. If you are struggling to get some of the people you know to meet up in person, meet new people! Find a Meetup! Either on Meetup.com or you can download the app to your phone and get started connecting with like minded people right now! Positive energy breeds positive energy and the more you put out, the more you will attract.
  1. Create Healthy Boundaries You do this by being in tune with your body. Recognizing when an interaction is having a negative effect on you. Your body will send you signals, rapid heart beat, a knot in your stomach, tightness in your chest, a pain in the back of your neck, shortness of breath, a headache that comes out of nowhere. If you are interacting with others one on one, or in an environment such as a social setting, at work, or commuting and begin to feel drained, nervous, or uncomfortable, you get to create a healthy boundary. If you are on a phone call, make a decision to get off of the phone, if you are in an environment that can not be changed, visualize a protective shield or bubble that surrounds you and does not allow the energy of others to penetrate. If you have toxic people in your life, begin to limit contact with them. Pay attention to the signals your body gives you, it is constantly speaking to you and letting you know what it needs. Many of us have gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable, I encourage you to create a way to find comfort within, despite external factors.

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There are enough things that will happen in your life that you will not have control over. The two things that we do have control over, are our energy and our reactions. We ultimately get to decide if we will keep our energy and our reactions positive.

This blog was written with an intent to instill hope, and as a reminder that when we experience hate in our lives, rather than falling into the deep abyss of depression, or retaliating with an action rooted in hate, we get to pull from our inner light, from a place of trust, and overpower the hate with love. Remember, hate breeds hate, love conquers it!

light within

“Hate is not conquered by hate; hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal.” -Buddha

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

“It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Light up the darkness” – Bob Marley