Returning to wholeness

Women Returning to Wholeness

feeling responsible

Nip Holiday Stress in the bud with these 3 Mantras Ideally the Holiday Season is a time of fun, celebration and connection. Unfortunately for many of us it becomes also a time of increased stress.

Before you continue reading, I’d like you to mentally or, even better, physically write down the three top stressors for you when you think about the time between now and Christmas.

 

Okay, now read them and check off which category they fall into:

Feeling overwhelmed – for example

  • having too much to do (and not enough time)
  • by the crowds and the busyness everywhere
  • relapsing into an addictive behaviour

Worrying about expectations – for example

  • disappointing others and/ or being disappointed
  • not doing it right
  • not being good enough
  • lack of harmony with family members

Money – for example

  • overspending
  • going into debt

Weight gain

  • Worrying about how to navigate your relationship with food and your body with all the extra parties and tantalizing food

Here are three mantras / mind shifts to help you manage and significantly reduce  stress not only over the next few weeks but in general.

  1. I will not abandon myself when I most need my own supportHow to Manage anxiety and stress during the Holidays

It is so easy, and often an ingrained habit and what were taught as women, to put  our own needs at the bottom of the list. Every time you do something that you think you should, you’re most likely abandoning yourself. 

Every time you’re saying yes when you want to say no, you’re abandoning yourself. Especially during the holidays, if it’s not fun don’t do it. 

A good way to identify whether you’re caught up in a “should” is to stop and check in with your body. Typically when you’re honoring your own needs, when you’re trusting your inner voice, your body will feel more open and relaxed. When you’re doing something because you think you “should” your body will be contracted or tense in some way, you’re probably attached to the outcome, and you’re somehow trying to convince yourself that this is a good thing.  Whenever you’re caught up in a “should” there’s some sort of expectation attached to it. Which leads us to the second mantra or mind shift.

2) I am not responsible for nor do I have the power or control over other people’s thoughts and feelings

When you’re worrying about disappointing others, not meeting expectations and trying to avoid Let go of co-dependent behavior conflict, you’re typically caught up in the myth that somehow you can control the outcome.

But you have to remember that people are going to have their own thoughts and interpretations, independently of what you do. We all choose the thoughts we think and nobody can control that.

We’re all responding to a story we’re creating in our mind based on something that happened in the past or that we anticipate in the future.

If you can truly accept that you can only do your best, while coming from a place of love and you let go of the outcome, you will be able to shift  into a lot more spaciousness in your life.

3) This is not a crisis 

Most of the things that we get stressed out about are not a crisis.

If you stay in the present moment only moment, and take a deep breath and reframe, most likely Stress and anxiety management for womennothing terrible is happening right now.

All the things you’re getting stressed out about are happening in the future and in your mind.

If you are going to honor your budget and buy less expensive gifts for others and for some reason they interpret that as a lack of love on your behalf, that is a choice and a consequence you have no control over.

If you’re stuck in traffic or in a lineup and you’re freaking out about your to do list and the time schedule, most likely many of the things on your list are not essential to life and survival. Less is more 🙂 Take a breath and use the time creatively. Listen to an audiobook, call a friend…

If you do allow yourself to indulge in dessert and you gain 3 pounds, trust your body and trust that you will self regulate especially if you’re learning to listen to your body. (email info@goddessrevealed.ca me for a free set of eating guidelines that will help you thru the holidays)

When stress sets in we tend to do upper chest and shallow breathing. So instead of getting caught up in the stress and putting yourself last, increase your level of self-care. Take mindfulness breaks during the day that nurture you. Make a point of regularly taking five big breaths into your belly to get grounded and reconnect to yourself and the present moment.

Repeat the three mantras to yourself as often as needed and remember that you are not alone, we are all connected to Source energy and the Divine. Focus on having positive thoughts and trust that everything is always working out for you.

I wish you serene and stress-free Holidays.

Stop feeling shame with Burnaby Sex TherapyWhy do I feel sad and angry when I listen to women talk about feeling inadequate in bed during  Sex Therapy and Intimacy Counselling? Usually these feelings of not measuring up are accompanied by shame and hurting self esteem, and very often they originate because of what is displayed in public media. Especially pornography has created an expectation for men and women regarding foreplay, arousal, capacity to orgasm and what or what “should” be enjoyable for women when we have sex. I feel sad and angry when I witness the consequences for  both men and women who have bought into what is being presented as “normal.” I don’t think it is acceptable that you may feel afraid to ask for what you want or need when having sex because you don’t want to be “difficult.”

When we have sex we are on many levels at our most intimate and most vulnerable. Feelings of shame or inadequacy can turn an wonderful experience into a nightmare.

Can you relate to Claire?

Claire came to my office because she wasn’t enjoying sex very much with her boyfriend. Even though in a previous relationship there hadn’t been any “problems”, with this particular partner she was experiencing pain during penetration. She also seemed to “need” more foreplay these days. What frustrated her the most about her own body was that it was always changing. If one day she enjoyed her nipples being stimulated with more vigor, another day that same stimulation felt uncomfortable if not painful.

She didn’t want to hurt her boyfriends feelings or make him feel like he wasn’t a good lover. Some previous requests about changing positions had been met with some defensiveness. This had left Claire feeling awkward and like she “was being difficult.” Her current solution to the problem was to “praise” the things that her lover was doing which felt good in the hopes that he would catch on…and to suffer in silence when she was experiencing pain. However after having felt pain during lovemaking she would often feel disconnected and sad. Then her inner critic would kick in and she would feel inadequate and ashamed.

Let’s dispel 3 major myths:

1. Your body should respond to similar stimulation in similar fashion at different times. 

Our bodies change thru the monthly cycle as hormones fluctuate. What may have felt fantastic 3 days ago may not feel so great today. Educate your partner and clarify that this is not about him (or her) doing something wrong. This is about you honouring the changing sensitivity of your body and inviting your lover to do the same.

2. You should be lubricated and “ready to go” in about 5 minutes otherwise there is something wrong with you.

When Glamour did a survey about how much foreplay and sex women were actually having over 50% reported a time span of approx 5 minutes. Let’s get real. There are those days where you are horny, for whatever reason, and most likely don’t need a lot of foreplay. But 90% of the time, between fatigue, lack of time, multitasking, stress and anxiety, your body needs foreplay and  a little time to slow down. You need time to connect and not only open your pelvis but open your heart space. As you relax and enjoy, your body responds naturally. But if you are worried about “taking up too much time” or BORING!!! your lover, then you will actually need more time. It is

3. If you don’t get wet, you’re not turned on.

I have listened to countless women express their frustration and embarrassment because even though they felt aroused, their vulva and vagina were not very lubricated. There can be a number of reasons from hormonal changes to stress that could be contributing to lack of lubrication. Remember – our bodies are not machines that respond in some logical and predefined way. But most of all – stop feeling inadequate or settle for painful sex. Use lubricants! They are not an indication of there being something wrong with you (or your partner for that matter). Here in the greater Vancouver area we have many good sex shops. One that I recommend in particular is Womyn’s Ware. You will be able to sample different lubricants and get knowledgable  and matter of fact advice from staff.

stop feeling inadequate and start feeling sexyStop feeling inadequate or ashamed of the beautiful body you have. No matter what size, what shape or what particular sensitivities it may have, it is yours for this lifetime. Every body is beautiful and a gift so we may go out and experience life every day. Asking for what you need sexually is an act of self care and self-respect. Practicing excellent self-care is a gift to your lover, because it will mean that you can show up, stay present and be authentic, which will lead to a deeper intimate connection. 

Has the idea of sex with your boyfriend or partner lost its luster? Are you wondering if there is something wrong or you need help with your libido because North Vancouver Intimacy counsellor and sex therapist can helpyour sexual attraction to him has waned?

As a sex therapist who specializes in counselling for women and relationship therapy, I sometimes hear women wonder why they don’t find their partner that sexy anymore. Upon further discussion we often identify that over time, the power dynamic in the relationship has had significant impact on the sexual attraction factor.

5 questions to help you identify if the “power dynamic” in your relationship is the underlying cause for decreased desire:

  1. Has your partner come to rely on you to make all the decisions at home – from what meals you’re going to eat to what type of new clothes he needs to buy?
  2. Are you doing all the “housework” while he is enjoying screen time (such as video gaming) and then you call him for dinner?
  3. Are you always “reminding” him to pick up his laundry, help with the dishes, contribute around the house?
  4. Is he willing to contribute with chores but always waits until you tell him what and how things need to get done?
  5. Do you take care of his personal belongings by tidying them up, fixing them, finding them for him ecc?

Burnaby Sex therapy for women can helpIf you have answered yes to at least 3 of the above questions, you are no doubt a very supportive partner. And while that is lovely, there is a fine line between being supportive and care taking. Ask yourself – do you sometimes feel like you are taking care or “mothering” a child or teenager? Does your partner’s behavior make you smile but also irritate you on some level because secretly you wish “he would grow up”?

There is nothing sexy about mothering your boyfriend or spouse. It creates learned helplessness. It breeds resentment that slowly grows over time. It often sets up an “unwritten” contract between the two of you which backfires. Because rather than loving you and making you feel special and courting you, most likely your partner has accused you of nagging all the time. He feels frustrated because he can’t figure out what he is doing wrong. After all – you only need to tell him what to do and he will eventually do it.

And you feel frustrated because he is not taking the initiative. He is not acting like an independent, strong man who can take care of himself. (of course he can…but your loving support is dialing the clock backwards). Some women start feeling like the “house slave” and that doesn’t feel very sexy either, right?

If any of the above resonates with you, I invite you to become very clear on what your part is in this dynamic. And then talk to your partner. Share your experience – rather than fingerpointing at all the things he is or isn’t doing. Talk about how you feel and what you value or desire. Discuss together how you can shift out of the particular flavor of the role you have stepped into. Focus on your shared goal of wanting to find each other sexy and attractive and what a fulfilling sexual connection would look like for each one of you.

Are you wondering if you are a perfectionist?  Take a look and see if you can relate to these statements: how true are they on a scale of 1 to 10?

  • Nothing good comes from making mistakes
  • I must do things right the first time
  • I must do everything well, not just the things I know I’m good at
  • If I can’t do something perfectly then there’s no point even in trying
  • I rarely give myself credit when I do well because there’s always something more that I could do
  • Sometimes I’m so concerned about getting one task done perfectly that I haven’t have time to complete the rest of my work

If your total score is higher than 32, your life is undoubtedly being affected by perfectionism.

As a perfectionist you’re every employers dream. You’re usually willing and ready to work overtime and always go the extra mile. Your colleagues come and hand you projects they don’t have time for because they know you will take them on… even though your own to do list is stretched to the max.

You would think that with all this extra effort you would be particularly appreciated. Instead your boss has grown to expect you to be always available and the promotion went to Jane in accounting. Furthermore, your boyfriend, partner or family is not impressed. What is wrong with this picture you wonder?

As a perfectionist you’re also every employee’s nightmare. You can’t relinquish control over anything and your stance is: why bother delegating to get the job done with mediocrity when you can do it yourself perfectly the first time. Your team is used to receiving mostly criticism rather than praise and everybody has long stopped to come up with innovative ideas.

At home you wonder why you always have to do everything yourself. The truth is that others just don’t do it well enough for you. Because, didn’t you know, there is a right way and a wrong way to stack the dishwasher…

Perfectionists can be in the habit of engaging in a number of unhelpful behaviors to make sure that they continue to meet the incredibly high standards they set for themselves.

 

Difficulty in making decisions is one of these unhelpful behaviours that you might be engaging in if you have perfectionistic tendencies.

Let’s say you’ve had a long day at work and all you really want to do is have a quiet evening in front of the TV. The voice in your head however is of a different opinion. It is suggesting that really you should be going to the gym because otherwise you’re going to gain weight. Or, you should work for another hour on that report you have to present tomorrow. Or, you should have sex tonight because that’s what your boyfriend or partner has been hoping for. When you have all these shoulds going on, it can become very confusing and feel overwhelming.

In the end you don’t know what you really want to do. All you do know is, that you want to do the right thing, you don’t want to upset anyone and you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Every should has a whole chorus of voices advocating its validity.

So here you are, struggling to make a decision.

If the should virus has taken over your life and your trying to figure out what you really want to do, you need to go back to the body. Remember, while all the voices in your head are competing for your attention, your body already knows the truth.

 So the next time you’re undecided, take a moment and close your eyes. Take a few breaths to become calm and grounded. Then visualize each of the options proposed by the should voice. Finally visualize your original thought of what you wanted to do.

Notice how your body feels with each image that you produce in your mind. When your body feels open or relaxed, you have connected to what you really want to do and ironically what you should do.

The short-term benefits of allowing your inner truth to be your compass are authenticity and an increased ability to be fully present with what you’re doing.

Confronting the double edged sword of perfectionism isn’t always easy. It requires courage and a certain willingness to feel vulnerable as you show up in the world as your authentic self. The long-term benefits of this act of courage and of letting go of perfectionism are deeper connections with others and yourself.

 

Are you a perfectionist? You might be nodding your head vigorously and saying “Yes, that me. It’s what has gotten me to where I am today.” Or you might think that you’re so laid back and relaxed, perfectionism plays no role in your life whatsoever.

No matter what your stance, perfectionism can be a double-edged sword because it can lead to counter-productive behaviors.

Marketing and advertising strategies tend to exploit the image of “the perfect woman.” What’s wrong with doing and looking your best, you may ask? After all, many would concur that being a high achiever is what makes you successful.

As a perfectionist you may be familiar with  certain behaviours that are actually counter-productive to your desired outcome.

We all know the quote “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” One might think that perfectionists would be the first ones to put this into action.

Yet a common behavior for perfectionists to engage in, is procrastination. You see, what we haven’t really talked about yet, is that perfectionism is connected to anxiety. The anxiety or the fear of not being good enough, of being rejected, of being a failure or displeasing someone.

Let’s take the example of Susan. Susan is a successfully self-employed interior decorator. Recently her business coach suggested that she should start blogging to establish herself as an expert and connect more frequently with her clients. On Friday, when Susan had planned to blog, she found herself very busy. She caught up on all her filing, she did her invoicing and she cleared her desk. Because her office is located in her home, Susan then decided she should bake some muffins as an afternoon snack for the children. Susan got a lot accomplished on that Friday, except the one thing that was on her schedule: write the blog post.

When Susan and I talked about what happened, she realized that her procrastination was connected to anxiety. She was worried that her writing wouldn’t be good enough. She agonized that people reading her blog post would think she was stupid or was passing on irrelevant information. She was a hostage of perfectionism, which in turn made her feel vulnerable and afraid to fail.

 Do you ever find yourself putting off a task because you’re not good at it or you’re worried about the outcome?

While procrastination is actually a way to self soothe your feelings of anxiety, in the long run it makes things worse. Anxiety lives in the body, so one way for you to move forward is to literally move your body forward. Grounding breathing techniques such as belly breathing, visualizing a positive outcome, and repeating positive affirmations can help.

You can also break down the task at hand into small steps so it feels less overwhelming. Progress comes with awareness. Once you have identified that you’re procrastinating and why, you can do something about it. Journaling and exploring worst-case scenarios can be useful to dispel the story in your head.

Because it is a story, a story that you’ve been telling yourself or that you have bought into. And just like you can change your thoughts, you can choose and learn to change the story. Are you ready to let go of your need to do it perfectly?

 

Becoming a caregiver can activate a lot of emotions. Particularly when women become responsible for the care of a parent, I have noticed how easy it is to get caught in the perfectionism trap.   It becomes important to do a perfect job, to be a perfect caregiver…adding an extra layer of stress.

I have yet to meet a woman who isn’t familiar, at least to some extent, with the notion of not feeling good enough.

Today I’d like to share a story of how the need to do it right  can contribute to overstepping boundaries.

In the last little while I’ve been counselling and supporting women who are navigating that life transition piece of becoming a caregiver.

The story of Joan (name has been changed) illustrates how perfectionism, or  “extremely high standards” can be driven by the need for approval of others.

Joan’s mother is a widow in her late 70s. In the months, she’s been struggling with vision loss and recently she broke her ankle.  Because mother hasn’t felt very safe to go out on the streets alone or to do her shopping, Joan has stepped in and has been taking care of providing her with groceries.  Now that mother is fairly immobilized with a broken ankle, Joan has taken over the cleaning of her apartment as well.

When Joan came to see me she was feeling very frustrated.  Her mother was complaining to everybody that all she was doing was cleaning.  Here I am trying so hard and all my mother does is complain, Joan shared with a mixture of sadness, anger and confusion.

Then the other day Joan and mother had a big fight about mother’s housecoat. In her efforts to keep everything clean and tidy, Joan had also decided to wash mother’s robe. It was then that she noticed that the robe was starting to look a little worn and ratty.

She told mother that she thought she needed a new housecoat.  But mother didn’t agree. Not only did she love that housecoat – it had been a gift from Joan’s father. She  thought it was still good enough. Joan spent about 30 min. arguing but couldn’t sway mother.

So she decided to take matters into her own hands. The next time she visited, she replaced the housecoat with a new robe and took the old one with her for disposal. Instead of being grateful and pleased about the gift, Joan’s mother was furious and Joan felt very unappreciated.

As we worked together, Joan was able to identify what had happened. She’d been afraid that someone would come and visit her mother and see her old worn-out robe and decide that Joan was neglecting her parent.

Her cleaning frenzies had been motivated by the same fear. So rather than enjoying time with mother and keeping her company, she’d been driving herself crazy cleaning the apartment from top to bottom… even though her mother had asked her to stop.

Have you ever experienced anything similar?

Have you felt embarrassed by the behavior or circumstances of someone close to you because you felt it was a direct reflection on you?

Perhaps you worried about being judged a poor parent, an incompetent pet owner or a “not good enough” daughter or son. While this is a good example of how the desire for approval can activate perfectionism, it also illustrates the loss of boundaries.

The next time you feel an urge to step in and fix something or somebody, or take care of something for somebody that isn’t really your responsibility, stop and take a deep breath.

In fact take several deep breaths. Then connect with this mantra or truth:

“I don’t have the power over, control of, or responsibility for other people’s lives. I was taught that I had these powers. This is a lie I now tell myself.”

Of course you are responsible if you’re caring for an infant or child. But as the child grows and becomes more independent or when you deal with adults who have full mental capacity you are no longer responsible for their well-being, appearance or feelings.

While you may mean well when you step in and fix something, as the story of Joan illustrates, you’re not really doing the person a favour. Furthermore while it may look like it’s all about them, upon closer examination, you will most likely discover that you’re meeting a need of your own.

 If you’d like to ease the stress that perfectionism can create, I invite you to check out my new tele-seminar series about “Embracing the gifts of imperfection and letting go of perfectionism” in the Events section.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback to this blog post.