May is mental health awareness month. Society has come quite a long way towards normalizing the need to take care of our mental, emotional health. We still have a long way to go but we are making progress. I believe it's because individuals are recognizing the harmful impact a lack of addressing mental health issues can have on an individual, a family and community.
Here is a resource that you may find to be helpful as you decide when you need to seek professional help. After completing the test, you will also be sent resources.
"Healthy self-esteem is created within an individual who knows that he has inherent worth that is equal to others. The codependent individual relies on others to determine his worth or gets it from comparing himself to others, so his self-esteem fluctuates between feeling worthless and better than."
1) People who are codependent do not know who they are. They have difficulty recognizing and defining their own reality. Reality is defined as the following 4 aspects: 1) The body: how we look and how our bodies are operating, 2) Thinking: how we give meaning to incoming data, 3) Feelings: appropriate expression of our emotions, 4) Behavior: what we do or don't do. Not being able to own our reality is experienced on 2 levels: I know my reality and I won't share it or I don't know what my reality is. Codependents then, must make up a personal identity and reality out of what they think they should be.
2) Difficulty acknowledging and meeting our own wants and needs: Everyone has basic needs and wants. One may fall into these 4 categories: 1) Too dependent: expect others to meet our needs completely, 2) Anti-dependent: I alone can meet my needs, 3) Needless/wantless: I am not aware of my needs or wants, and 4) Confuses wants and needs: attempts to meet needs with wants."
*Taken from 'The Meadows, Summer 2002
Good Morning America highlighted autism awareness month with a segment on Tommy and Dee Hilfiger's experience with raising children with ASD, as well a segment on adults with autism. Click the link of GMA above You may also find interest in checking out Eric Garcia's book, "We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation."
3 R's of recovery from mistakes within relationships:
Recognize: This involves identifying the mistake. There has to be empathy and understanding of the hurt caused to your partner. They have to be seen and heard. If one doesn't recognize the mistake accurately, this will create more distance.
Reconcile: This involves communicating that you've made a mistake. It is not only acknowledging and identifying, but seeking to bridge the gap of distance that the mistake created. This happens through love, listening and leaning into your partner.
Resolve: This involves seeking a collaborative solution. I always say that conflict is not only necessary but a vital part of growing in intimacy. It is through positive conflict resolution, that you can grow in deeper understanding and empathy for your partner. You can learn the hurts caused and grow in adjusting to your partner.
All these steps are easier said than done, and is only made possible when both partners are able to enter into vulnerability with each other.
1. Cultivating authenticity: Letting go of what people think.
2. Cultivating self-compassion: Letting go of perfectionism.
3. Cultivating a resilient spirit: Letting go of numbing and powerlessness.
4. Cultivating gratitude and joy: Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith: Letting go of the need for certainty.
6. Cultivating creativity: Letting go of comparison.
7. Cultivating play and rest: Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
8. Cultivating calm and stillness: Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
9. Cultivating meaningful work: Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”.
10. Cultivating laughter, song and dance: Letting go of being cool and “always in control”.
What to explain and how
• Explain that children are not responsible for the divorce
Tell children that the divorce is not their fault. Many children who are 4 or 5 or older believe that the divorce is the result of something that they did. For example, some children may think that parents are divorcing because the child misbehaved or received bad grades in school. Children need to be told again and again that they are not responsible for the divorce.
• Explain that the divorce is permanent
Make it very clear to children that the parents will not be getting back together. Children need to hear that they cannot rescue or restore the marriage. At some ages, children may also make up stories about their parents getting back together. It is okay to pretend, but explain that the parents are really separated. This can help the children move on and accept other changes that may come into their lives.
• Explain that the parents love them, and the parents’ love for them will not change
Help children understand that the love shared between a parent and a child is special. It is different from the love shared between a husband and wife. Husbands and wives might get divorced, but parents are always parents. Children need to know that the love parents have for them will last.
• Help children deal with the balancing act of relating to two divorced parents
Help children understand that it will be confusing to deal with their two parents. It may be hard to love both of them at once when the parents don’t love each other. Tell children that it’s OK to love both Mom and Dad. Children should not feel they have to take sides or worry about losing the love of either parent. After a divorce, children’s loyalty may become split. They may feel caught between the parents. Though the parents may never ask a child to take sides, children can still feel they have to choose one parent over the other. Many children take a long time to work through feelings of split loyalty. This is a normal process of children adjusting to their parents’ divorce. As a childcare provider, you may be able to help the child deal with these issues. You may say, “Sometimes you may feel guilty for missing Dad while you are staying with Mom. Sometimes you may feel you have to choose whether you love Mom more or Dad more. It’s OK to feel all these confused feelings and thoughts. Many children feel that way when their parents get divorced.”
• Give children a chance to express their feelings, and name the different feelings they have
Sometimes younger children do not understand what they are feeling. You can help them learn about feelings by reading books to them about divorce. You can read books about feelings, too. You also can do activities that will help children understand feelings.
• Explain that they are not alone in the way they feel
Children can feel that they are the only ones who have these troubles. They may feel that their family is the only one that has ever gone through divorce. You can help children learn that divorce happens in many families. This can help the children feel less alone. If you have divorce in your family, you could share how you feel about it. For example, you may say, "I’m sorry that this is so sad for you. I can understand. I feel sad, too. I remember when my parents divorced…” Help children understand that they are not the only ones feeling sad or angry or relieved. You may help the child understand the parents by saying, “Mom and Dad are probably sad about the divorce too. I am sure they are sorry this had to happen to you. They may wish that your family did not have to separate just like you do. How do you think they are feeling? What do you think makes them happy and what makes them sad about the divorce?” This can teach children that everyone has some of the same feelings. It is OK to have feelings and express them to others.
• Help children understand that their feelings may be different from the parents’ or siblings’ feelings
Let children know that members of the family may not always share the same feelings about the divorce. Explain to the children that it’s all right to feel differently from the parents and from brothers and sisters. A child may not understand why Mom or Dad is relieved about the divorce while the child is sad and hurt. Explain to the child that people have different feelings and that feelings are neither right nor wrong. For example, you could say, “I know you are hurt that Daddy left home. But he and Mom may have been unhappy for a long time. This divorce may be a relief for them. But it is OK for you to be sad.” Tell them that feelings may be different on different days, too.
• Check with the children often about their fears and concerns
Watch for signs that show how the children are feeling. Let them talk about their fears, concerns, and feelings about the divorce or about what is happening at home now. Give children time to think about the divorce and the changes it may have brought about. Don’t expect to have only one big discussion. Talk as many times as the issue may come up. Children will want to talk about different issues as time goes on. Take children's questions and concerns seriously and LISTEN to what they say. As one older child said, "this is gonna affect the rest of my life and I don't know if they just don't realize that, or don't care, or what, but I don't feel like I'm being heard." Children need to know that adults (caregivers, parents, and concerned others) want to help them deal with the divorce and are concerned about how the divorce is affecting them.
What are some things you are most thankful for this year?
"Gratitude can be a natural antidepressant. When we take the time to ask what we are grateful for, certain neural circuits are activated. Production of dopamine and serotonin increases, and these neurotransmitters then travel neural pathways to the “bliss” center of the brain — similar to the mechanisms of many antidepressants. Practicing gratitude, therefore, can be a way to naturally create the same effects of medications and create feelings of contentment" (Emily Fletcher).
Challenge: Take some time today and make a list of all the things you're thankful for. Try to maintain this exercise everyday for a whole month.
When we look into receiving therapy, we may carry some unrealistic expectations of what therapy is and what we are wanting to receive from it.
Therapy is not a magic pill where the therapist is able to heal you from the things you are currently going through. (Although I, along with many other therapists sometimes wish we had such powers). The therapist is there to support you, reflect with you in order to raise self-awareness, provide ways to consider how to challenge negative destructive unhealthy ways of thinking, point out potential blind-spots, provide coping skills and tools, and even help provide insight (in collaboration) with the client on their situation.
It's been shown that a client's motivation for change is one of the most important factors for effective therapy. All that to say that client's are not always at a stage of being willing to "change," because of a trauma they are going through, or because of recent events that is causing them to experience feelings of depression and anxiety, or because simply, they're just not ready. And all that is ok! Just don't expect a therapist to push you towards change because it's been shown that a client must be ready for that step before the therapist. A good therapist will check in with the client, and make sure they are not going too far ahead, but rather, side by side. That is to say that the therapist may have a general roadmap, suggesting and directing in certain ways, but it will ultimately be the client's decision to make a step in that direction.
Healthy communication takes practice and planning. Here are some tips to help you get started.
· Use "I statements.” Say things like, "I feel upset when you ___" instead of, "You're making me upset." Steer clear of blaming or accusing them of purposely trying to hurt you.
· Be clear and direct. No one can read your mind, so tell them what you think, feel, and need.
· Don’t push aside your feelings. Bring up things that bother you early on so they don’t build up and become bigger problems.
· Build trust. Unless someone has given you a reason not to, believing that they’re telling you the truth and assuming that they mean well helps establish trust.
· Ask questions. If you don't understand what they're saying or why, ask questions. Don’t make assumptions.
· Talk in person. It's really easy to misunderstand or misinterpret a text message or email. Talking in person (or through video chat) will allow you to hear their tone of voice and see their body language.
· Don’t yell. Getting angry or defensive during an argument is totally normal. But if you’re feeling upset or angry, take a break until you both cool off.
· Be willing to apologize. Everyone makes mistakes. Saying you’re sorry (and meaning it) goes a long way in helping to move on after a fight.
All these tips are easier said than done. Entering into couple's counseling can help partners understand each other's blind spots with the goal of increasing empathy and understanding. I have found that the issue for most people is not that they don't know what to do, but rather having the ability to change. Book a free consult and invest back into your relationship today.
(Taken from Therapistaid.com, 2012)
Recognize your Anger Early: If you’re yelling, it’s probably too late. Learn the warning signs that you’re getting angry so you can change the situation quickly. Some common signs are feeling hot, raising voices, balling of fists, shaking, and arguing.
Take a Timeout: Temporarily leave the situation that is making you angry. If other people are involved, explain to them that you need a few minutes alone to calm down. Problems usually aren’t solved when one or more people are angry.
Deep Breathing: Take a minute to just breathe. Count your breaths: four seconds inhaling, four seconds holding your breath, and four seconds exhaling. Really keep track of time, or you might cheat yourself! The counting helps take your mind off the situation as well.
Exercise: Exercise serves as an emotional release. Chemicals released in your brain during the course of exercise create a sense of relaxation and happiness.
Express your Anger: Once you’ve calmed down, express your frustration. Try to be assertive, but not confrontational. Expressing your anger will help avoid the same problems in the future.
Think of the Consequences: What will be the outcome of your next anger-fueled action? Will arguing convince the other person that you’re right? Will you be happier after the fight?
Visualization: Imagine a relaxing experience. What do you see, smell, hear, feel, and taste? Maybe you’re on a beach with sand between your toes and waves crashing in the distance. Spend a few minutes imagining every detail of your relaxing scene.