Returning to wholeness

Women Returning to Wholeness

low self-esteem

Do you limit how good you feel? Your first response may be “Of course not, why would I do that?”

Might it be possible that you do this unconsciously because this is what you were taught?

Sometimes what we have learned  becomes so much part of what we do and who we are that we don’t think about it. It is part of our “normal.”

For instance, I don’t imagine you spend a lot of time thinking about how you walk. You learned how to walk a long time Happiness coaching and stress and anxiety management Burnabyago and now you just get up and move. Most likely it would only be if you were in unfamiliar terrain, or if you had been injured and needed to relearn how to walk that you became more aware of your gait.

As a therapist who is passionate about supporting women return to wholeness, I am committed to  doing my own personal healing and growth work.  So it was an interesting process for me to ponder a question a colleague asked me the other day.

You see, I have been experiencing a “mysterious” pain in my body for the last few months. Doctors haven’t been able to figure out so far what is causing it. All we know  is that I am pretty healthy. All tests have come back negative. And yet, here I am, often feeling exhausted from being in pain at random times.

So when my friend casually threw out “Who would you be without this pain?” it made me pause and ponder. Well… life is pretty good. I love having family close by. I love the work I do. I love where I live. Every day my heart is filled with a long list of things that I am grateful for or that I appreciate.

So without the pain, I would have more energy and feel more expanded than I do. And that is where I had an “aha” moment.

how to heal trauma and cope with low self-esteem, counselling for women BurnabyPerhaps I am coming up against old speed limits. Growing up, the focus in my family was placed on performance, hard work, duty, doing one’s best. I was a pretty lively child and my grandparents who raised me were probably overwhelmed by all my energy. So I often heard “Don’t be so excited!” or “Settle down.” For various reasons my environment wasn’t very tolerant of my exuberance.

So I became quite a serious little girl. I learned to focus on doing it right. In fact that has become so much part of my nature, that a beloved partner once gave me the nickname “Ernestine.”

While there wasn’t a very high tolerance for fun and mischief, laughter and play or happiness in my family, there was a very high level of acceptance around anger, victimhood and the motto “life is hard.”

What were the emotional speed limits in your family of origin?

I invite you to take a moment and identify, on a scale of 1-10 your comfort level with

  • joy and happiness
  • feeling good about yourself
  • making mistakes
  • receiving gifts – receiving love
  • feeling and expressing excitement
  • feeling and expressing love and affection
  • anger
  • sorrow
  • pain
  • confusion

Of course we come from the place that our parents loved us. They did the best they could with who they were, what they had been taught and what was available to them at the time.

Sometimes you receive contrasting messages. Maybe the speed limit around feeling good about yourself was high in your family but changed when you went to church, or school or were with your peers.

Either way, you internalize how comfortable you are with feeling good and expanded, and it becomes your “normal.”

But your ability to feel happiness and love and joy is limitless. It is not something you have to work at – it is something you have to ALLOW.

The other day I was listening to Barbara De Angelis’s new book “A Choice for Love.” I love the mantra that she offers to help us shift  from the perception of limited well being to one of expansion and joy.

Positive Psychology and Somatic Psychotherapy for Women in Burnaby“I open myself to the presence of love within me.” 

What that implies of course is that the love, the joy, the good feelings are  already there.

Imagine a plant. Even though you may “train” that plant to grow a certain way to suit you and the environment you would like to enjoy it in, you cannot change its essence. You can do a lot to contain it’s growth and expansion, but once the restraints are removed and it is ALLOWED to grow freely it will find it’s own balance.

What “restraints” do you need to remove? What old thought patterns are you ready to let go of?  Where in your life would you like to expand beyond the limits you have internalized or that are being set for you?

Because remember, there is nothing you need do or change or fix. You are already good enough. All you need to do is  allow the good feelings to surface.

I invite you to take some time and explore these thoughts and questions in your journal.

And then stay tuned for Part 2 of “Expanding your levels of well-being” where we look at what might get in the way of this process and how to overcome your speed limits.

February is often considered “the month of love” or “ Heart” month. This may be a time when you think more about relationship than usual. Whether you have a partner or not, I want to invite you to  make February the month where you fall in love again… with YOU.

When you’re falling in love with someone, you’re  not only excited to spend time with them, but you’re also focused on wanting to express how you feel about them and make them feel wanted. Are you familiar with the languages of love?  In 1995, Dr. Gary Chapman identified that we can  use five channels to express  love. Most of us  have one or two predominant languages that we use and that make us feel special.  Today I want to invite you to explore and utilize these languages as you rekindle your love affair with YOU.

Counselling for women Burnaby and North Vancouver love affairOne of the love languages is words. Do you speak nicely to yourself or is your inner critic alive and well? What would it be like if you made a point of not judging yourself? What would it be like if you practiced self compassion? How might you feel if your inner narrative was patient, kind and loving?

A great way to change your narrative is by shifting focus.

Exercise: between now and the end of the month start your day by looking into the mirror and saying “I love you.”End  your day by writing down five things about yourself that you appreciate, that you are excited about or that you are proud of.

Another love language is touch.  Do you receive  enough loving touch in your life? Do you offer loving and sensual touch to your body or do you tend to engage with your body in a more “functional” or perhaps even critical way?Sex Therapy and intimacy counselling for women Burnaby and North Vancouver

Exercise: between now and the end of the month, I invite you to focus on a mindful engagement of your senses. Treat yourself to a special cream or body wash.  Get a massage.   Slow down when you eat and truly enjoy your food. Luxuriate in the feeling of fresh sheets or special lingerie against your skin.  When you put cream on your face (or your body), touch your skin with love and mindfulness. Honour this body of yours  with its scars, stretch marks and fat rolls. It is carrying you thru life. 

The third and fourth love languages are “acts of service” and “time.” Do you tend to put your own needs at the bottom of the list?Do you have a long list of things that you “should” be doing? (If you have done the 21 day practice of “Letting go of “I should” you have probably shifted that dynamic in your life 🙂 )  When is the last time that you just spent time being rather than doing?

Exercise: Make a list of things you love to do but haven’t done for a while. Whether it is reading a book, going thru you closet and letting go of all the things you don’t love anymore, meeting with a good friend or just “hanging”…write down at least 12 things that make you feel good. Between now and the end of the month,  plan your next day on the evening before. Schedule and prioritize one of the things from your list. 

Finally, the fifth language of love is “gifts.” If you had just met this amazing person that totally stole your heart, you would probably delight in spoiling them with small gifts here and there. Whether it was that specialty coffee you know they loved or something else. Gifts don’t have to be expensive.

Exercise: between now and the end of the month, extend that delight, love and care in gifting something to yourself. Find at least 5 opportunities to make yourself feel special with a treat.

As you read this article, did you have any thoughts about being too busy or too tired to do any of these things? Busyness and fatigue or often a place of resistance. If you close your eyes for a moment and go back to a time when you had just fallen in love and connect to that energy in your body – would you have felt too busy or tired to do any of the special things suggested today? Would you have thought that this person you loved didn’t need all that fuss, that there shouldn’t be so much focus on them or that they weren’t good enough yet? I’m sure the answer is NO 🙂

I hope you enjoy the journey of falling in love again…with YOU because it is the most important relationship of all for you to nurture and care about.Counselling for Depression and anxiety relief Burnaby and North Vancouver

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.

About 50% of women come to see me for Sexual Healing Therapy or Sex Therapy Relationship counselling, because they are driven by an underlying feeling of inadequacy and/or their partner having expressed dissatisfaction about their shared sex life.

At the beginning of healing work, 80% of my clients are initially somewhat disconnected from their bodies and their sexual energy. Sadly, for some this is linked to previous trauma such as sexual abuse.

Burnaby Sex and marriage counselling can help you define your sexualityBut for many this stems from having consciously or unconsciously internalized intergenerational, cultural and societal messages that define

  • what it means to be sexy and what sexy should look like
  • how a woman should act during sex
  • what gives a woman pleasure and how much pleasure women should experience during sex
  • how often a “good” wife or girlfriend is willing to have sex

this list could go on…

In the past, Religion and financial power have often kept women in a place of accepting that their sexual needs or desires were not as important as those of their male partners. Today, women are less dependent on men for survival. But now we are confronted with images from media and pornography, that create an entirely different set of expectations to live up to.

 

As Kacey Musgraves says so eloquently in her song “Follow your Arrow”:

If you save yourself for marriage
You’re a bore
If you don’t save yourself for marriage
You’re a whore-able person
If you won’t have a drink
Then you’re a prude
But they’ll call you a drunk
As soon as you down the first one

If you can’t lose the weight
Then you’re just fat
But if you lose too much
Then you’re on crack
You’re damned if you do
And you’re damned if you don’t
So you might as well just do
Whatever you want

Change how you feel with Burnaby Self esteem counselling for women But here is the crucial question… what do you want? What do you like? Can you connect to your body and sexual energy and lovingly accept your unique self? Can you  let go of all the should’s and all the judgment and give yourself permission to explore what turns you on… and then ask for it?

Or are you too busy inventing who you should be, pretending to be and feel things you think others expect and want from you… so you can avoid all your doubts and low self-esteem?

The first step to sexual healing and to enjoying sex is connection… and the most important connection you need to cultivate is the connection to yourself. 

Sometimes you first need to peel away some layers before you can connect to what is; before you can connect to and celebrate who you are sexually.

I invite you to do the following exercises to connect to yourself:

Stand naked in front of the mirror… and listen to your internal monologue… write down everything you think and Body image counselling and self esteem counselling can improve your sex lifetake a look at all the negative comments. Identify where those comments come from…when did you start to think thoughts such as your breasts being too small or your belly too big? Did it start with the voice of  your mother who told you to suck in your stomach in or all the other girls in high school developing more quickly than you?

Strip away all these external constructs and see what is left. Can you embrace your body and love it? Can you not only love it but appreciate this vessel that allows you to do life every day? Can you forgive yourself for perhaps having neglected to take good care of your body? Can you let go of the notion that parts of your body are dirty or weird looking? Can you welcome the sensations in your body when you touch yourself without feeling guilty or wanting them to be different?

Now take a moment to write down everything you have learned or heard about sex and sexuality…from the comments your grandmother made… to what your first boyfriend said to what you have seen in movies… read thru all these messages and eliminate what you don’t like, what isn’t yours…and expand on what feels like a fit.

Remember that sexual energy is connected to your second chakra and this is also your center of creativity. Sexual energy is passion and creation. 

Sexual empowerment therapy North Vancouver Be creative courageous and define as well as design your sexuality… which is uniquely yours… yours to be proud of, to embrace and celebrate.

 

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?

 

You don’t expect your counsellor to talk about your closet. However, how you do anything in life is how you do everything. In this series, we’re taking a look at how loving your closet can be a springboard towards the transformational journey of self-love and acceptance.

In part one we looked at how keeping clothes that don’t fit can contribute to that feeling of standing in front of your closet and saying “I’ve got nothing to wear!”

In part two, let’s take a look at

You’ve got nothing to wear because your closet and clothes need some TLC

Are you chaotically messy or does your closet house a random collection of things that don’t belong; such as gum wrappers, old tissues, broken shoes, books, ecc.? Are all your accessories thrown in a drawer or are they nicely organized?

Do you have a mix and match of hangers and piles of clothes that need serious mending, torn off buttons and stains that didn’t come out in the wash?

While a busy schedule may create a temporary backlog of things to attend to, a permanent lack of TLC for your clothes and accessories points to a general attitude about your self-care.

Remember we said that how you do anything is how you do everything? Do you have unfinished situations in your life which need “cleaning up” or “mending”? Do details bore you or simply cost too much energy? Do you tend to “fly by the seat of your pants” and generally don’t like to spend too much time planning ahead?

When you store little value in taking care of your clothes, there’s often an underlying theme of less than stellar self-care or self-esteem. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to feel like a million bucks in the clothes you wear. You do have to cultivate an attitude of deserving positive attention and good feelings about yourself.

To help you shift to a stance of valuing and loving yourself, evaluate what you would like to repair and mend in your life and in your closet….and what would you finally like to throw out.

Perhaps the time has come to trash the shirt with the stain and the tear just like it’s time to say good bye to that friend who keeps letting you down and whose toxic energy has left a stain in your heart.

 

Stay tuned for part 3, the closet full of “mistakes.”

 

 

Summer is coming to an end, temperatures are dropping and you’re most likely rearranging your closet for the upcoming fall/winter season. Do you love your closet?

Is it a place of affirmation of who you are? Is it filled with beautiful colours that enhance your skin tone and make you look great? Is it easy for you to put together an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks?

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “How you do anything, is how you do everything.”

Often the relationship with your closet and the clothes you own is quite revealing about how you live your life and feel about yourself.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the classic and frustrating situation of gazing at the array of garments we own only to conclude “I’ve got nothing to wear!”

Did you know that, according to fashion experts, most women wear only 20 per cent of their wardrobe 80 per cent of the time?

Let’s examine three typical “closet situations” that can be a springboard for personal awareness and positive change. In part 1 of this 3 part series let’s look at

# 1: You’ve got nothing to wear because your size has changed and /or your wardrobe is outdated.

If your closet is filled with a number of garments that don’t fit or are no longer appropriate for your current stage of life? Ask yourself…how long has it been since they were a fit? Months, a season or has it been years? Why haven’t you given them away? Is it a budget question or is there more to it?

A survey conducted in the UK at the beginning of the year found that eight out of ten women – that amounts to 20million across the UK – are hoarding millions of pieces of clothing that they can never wear.

Two thirds admitted of keeping the clothes in the misguided hope they will one day be able to wear them again. I’m sure that women on this side of the ocean can relate.

When you hold on to clothes that are too small (most likely you aren’t keeping a sexy dress you want to grow into) it can be symbolic of a general struggle to let go of things in your life. Keeping clothes that were appropriate when you just got out of high school or were still a student can also indicate that you haven’t fully moved forward and stepped into your current life or life style.

Sometimes there is an emotional connection to once favorite items of clothing because they remind you of happy times in your life. There is nothing wrong with keeping things for sentimental reasons. But they shouldn’t be part of your everyday wardrobe because rather than evoking positive memories, they risk triggering negative self-talk and stress in those moments when you’re trying to find something to wear.

 If you’re struggling with giving away what’s no longer a fit because a part of you longs to feel like you did “back then”, if you associate feeling good about yourself with being different from how or who you are today, try the following exercise:

Divide a piece of paper into two columns. In the first column make a list describing all the positive things you associate with the woman who wore the clothes that used to fit. In the second column, write down all the things you value and celebrate about who you are today.

Now compare the two. What stands out for you? Are there any items in the first column that you want to integrate into your life today? For example, if you used to feel sexier or more carefree, what can you do to welcome those feelings back into your current life? Perhaps you could take a belly dancing class. Maybe you could join toastmasters.  If you’re feeling really stuck, counselling can help you come to a place of greater self-love and acceptance as well as cope with the inevitable grief that comes with change. There are many options to help you change.

The only limits to being who you want to be, are the limiting thoughts you have bought into.

Do you listen to “I’m too fat FM”? Over the years of counselling women I have discovered that perfectionism and low self-esteem or poor body image are often connected.

Being synchronized to “I’m too fat FM” is a painful experience with ripple effect.

Many women pretend that they don’t listen to this station by putting on an air of self-confidence when they go out into the world.

Only closest friends and partners become privy to the painful internal struggle that gets triggered with every glance in the mirror. What happens is that once in a while, “I’m too fat FM” gets interrupted by spontaneous broadcasts of messages from “Maybe I’m ok FM”.

In these moments, the woman usually turns to her spouse or friend asking for reassurance. What follows is a dialogue which, repeated often enough,
leaves both parties frustrated and / or annoyed.

Can you relate to this scenario?

“Honey, do you think I look ok in this dress?”
“You look great babe! How many times have I told you that I think you’re sexy and I love your body?”
“Oh, you just say that because you love me. I guess I wouldn’t look too bad, if only I didn’t have ____________ (choose from these options – this big belly, such bad skin, fat thighs, bigger breasts ecc).”
“That’s nonsense! I’m telling you, you look great!”
“You don’t really understand. Like I said, you love me so of course you think I’m ok.”
“If you don’t believe me, why do you even ask?”

 While listening to “I’m too fat FM” or “I’m not good enough FM” maybe a habit you’ve picked up during childhood, today, as an adult, you have a choice to choose a different radio station.

You have a choice regarding the thoughts you think. Perhaps you feel  that changing these thoughts is difficult if not impossible.

If you can’t seem to break the habit of negative self-talk, ask yourself these questions:

What is the benefit of negative self-talk or keeping yourself small?

Here are some answers I have heard while counselling women for anxiety and depression: It makes me work harder and always strive to be better, it allows me to see nice things in other people, it makes me a good friend,

What is the cost of negative self-talk?

Answers women have shared: Depression, anxiety, I don’t go out and do things I want, I hide my body, I’m inhibited in bed, I become obsessed about being perfect in other areas, I obsess about my body and weight loss, I’m unhappy

What would be the benefits of listening to “I’m perfect just the way I am FM”?

Answers women have shared: I would have more freedom, I would have more energy, I would feel great about myself, I would do more things, I would have more fun, I would dress differently and wear what I want, I would initiate sex and feel less inhibited

 What would be the (imagined) costs of stopping negative self-talk?

Answers women have shared: Having to step out of my comfort zone, people thinking I’m conceited or arrogant, losing friends, conflict with partner or family, realizing that I want to live my life differently,

Here are 4 tips to help you stop negative self-talk and shift low self-esteem / poor body image:

1) Do mirror work: Many of my clients resist this exercise, but mirror work is very powerful. To avoid getting distracted by your body, start with a hand mirror and look into your eyes when you say the following:

I love you. It’s not what you do but who you are that I love. You are perfect just the way you are. You are special to me. I have confidence in you.

Start with one of these messages. Take a couple of minutes in the morning after you wake up and in the evening before going to sleep to connect with yourself. Breathe into these messages. Notice any voices in your head that disagree and just let them go. You may choose to journal about what the voices in your head are saying.

2) Practice gratitude: Thanks to your amazing body, you get to experience life. You get to enjoy the beauty of nature, taste good food, touch the people you love, hear beautiful sounds, do the work you do. You might think you’re thighs are too fat… but imagine missing a leg. You might worry about your breasts being too small but imagine losing them to illness.

3) Start a daily practice of writing and saying positive affirmations to yourself. There are lots of great books that you can use to inspire you.

4) Start doing some of the things you now don’t allow yourself to do because you imagine everybody is looking at you and thinking horrible thoughts. Learn anxiety management techniques such as EFT and thought stopping to help you cope.

You don’t have to be a hostage of your inner critic and “I’m too fat FM.” You can and you deserve to own your greatness.

Do you have questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you.

Ina Stockhausen is a psychotherapist in Burnaby and North Vancouver, specializing in counselling women for anxiety, depression and stress management. She offers solution focused counselling and helps women navigate life transitions.

If you have ever struggled with depression you can probably relate to feeling stuck and/or overwhelmed. When I am counselling clients for depression, most often in our sessions we address a combination of four  mind states:

  1. Grief and loss:
    – trying to come to terms with change and grieving what once was or could have been
  2. Low self-esteem:
    – being caught up in not feeling good enough
    –  self-blame / inability to love and accept yourself where you’re at
  3. Lack of hope:
    – an inability to formulate or connect with a new inspiring vision for the future
    – feeling overwhelmed trying to imagine the energy needed to surface from the layers
    of depression
  4. Feeling shut down to cope with anxiety and overwhelm

As I was sitting down the other day to write a condolence card for a dear friend who has lost her partner of 40 years, I pondered the cycle of life. The term cycle reminded me of movement.

I thought about the delight and happiness we experience when a child is born. Usually there is lots of excitement connected to witnessing every new step of development and growth.

Watching someone we love grow old and slowly lose more and more of their vitality tends not to be a joyful process. Having to say good bye to a loved one is painful.

 Joy and happiness, grief and loss these are two sides of a coin.

Help for overcoming depression and anxiety / counselling BurnabyOnly seeing one side of the coin means the coin has stopped spinning. When you stop moving thru emotions,  you can get stuck in between “spin cycles.”

We live in a society where we tend to focus on the “bright side of life.” Little time is afforded to not feeling good. Great efforts are made and products are offered to make you feel better quickly.

I believe that in this process we have lost our ability to  dig deep and connect with our inner strength.

We have internalized a message that we need external means to help us move thru “negative” emotions as quickly as possible. If we don’t get over our grief and loss there is something wrong with us. Our environment is uncomfortable witnessing despair for extended periods of time.

As a collective we have lost touch with our place of trust and hope and acceptance. Acceptance of the cyclical nature of life.

There is a difference between acceptance and resignation. There is a difference between supporting and holding space for someone who is grieving and seeing their grief and trying to hurry them along to be happy again. In order to appreciate and be able to see the bright side of life, we have to be willing to dwell in the darkness.

When you suppress how you really feel and put on a bright face for the world to see, when you abandon yourself by neglecting to get your needs met at the benefit of making sure the needs of others are met, you pay a price.

This price can come in the form of depression, which is really a place of shutting down.

 Burnaby counselling for women and depressionSometimes, you need a helping hand to dig deep when you’re depressed, sad and unhappy.
You need someone who is willing to keep you company in the dark places.

When you open the door to a dark room, some light enters. With the light, comes an awareness of other things that have gotten lost in the darkness and thus temporarily invisible.

When you’re depressed it’s only too easy to move from low self-esteem and despair to a place of shame. Sharing how you really feel and being seen and heard can be a very vulnerable place.

Finding the courage to allow yourself to be seen however is also an empowering place and the first step towards getting the coin to spin again.

If you’re struggling with depression, I invite you to give yourself permission to love and accept yourself exactly where you’re at.

Dig deep within yourself to connect to your place of faith; trust that this too shall pass.

Carefully select someone who you can trust  to help you stay in touch with your own courage and hope. Choose someone you can trust to see and hear you without having to fix and change you.

 This is what you don’t want to have happen:

  • Rather than expressing empathy, your friend feels sorry for you thus reinforcing your shame and feelings of hopelessness
  • Your friend gets triggered and takes on your problems and you end up having to take care of him or her
  • Your friend has a need to fix and rushes in with solutions rather than just hearing you
  • Your friend has a habit of one-upmanship and proceeds to tell you how her problems are much worse than yours

Burnaby counselling / psycho therapy for depressionConsider getting professional counselling support for depression if you don’t have someone in your life who has sufficiently strong boundaries and the emotional resilience to come and connect with you in the darkness when you need company.

Finally, continue to engage in movement. Continue to breathe. It literally takes energy to keep the coin spinning. Get help  to keep yourself moving physically.

It is difficult to remain stuck mentally when your body is in movement. If activities like swimming, dancing or walking seem overwhelming, start small. Connect to the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.

Take several moments each day to breathe with awareness. Taking in air and life force, letting go of tension.

Connect to gratitude. There is always something to feel grateful for. Use gratitude and the good feeling associated as a stepping place to climb the ladder towards feeling good.

As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Smiles,

Ina