Returning to wholeness

Women Returning to Wholeness

self-compassion

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

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?

 

Do you make negative associations with Anger? You’re not alone. Few of us had “healthy anger” role models. For many, expressing anger or being at the receiving end of anger brings up a whole range of uncomfortable emotions.

If you’re a woman, you might struggle even more, because you may have been taught to internalize your anger.

When anger has you heading to the cupboards, you can easily end up overeating while trying to express or rather repress what you’re feeling.

Did you know that suppressed negative emotions have been linked to causing serious illness like cancer?

Scientific research shows that negative emotions can affect the pH level of your body. Feelings like anger, revenge or hate create metabolic acids. When you suppress these emotions, over time, you increase your potential of high acid levels that can impact the potential for cancerous growth in your body.

So let’s step away from hurting yourself and look at some ideas for expressing your anger rather than stuffing it down.

  •   Vent on paper – do “the angry opera”

Use your journal or perhaps you have a file on your computer… and tell it like it is. Don’t  hold back. You don’t have to worry about anybody hurting you back, or about stepping on someone’s toes.

Express how you feel and how angry you are and get it out of your system. You could even write a letter (that you may choose to send or not) to the person who hurt you or who you are angry with.

Often getting it all out without holding back can give way to calmer feelings.

Because in my counselling practice, I  use an integrated mind – body approach I always encourage you to also release that pent up energy in some physical way.

Writing gives shape to your thoughts of hurt and anger.

But what about your clenched jaw, your tight throat, the knot in your stomach and the tension in your body?

Ideally you would have a safe space where you could shout or holler, make faces to stretch your jaw. Jump up and down, stomp your feet, do an “anger dance” or pound a pillow. Your car (not moving in traffic or with passengers) can be a great place to give vocal expression to your anger.

And always… don’t forget to breathe. Belly breaths activate the para-sympathetic nervous system and will calm you down.

  • The Serenity Prayer

Do you know the serenity prayer? It starts like this

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

When you’re angry or frustrated about something, it helps to have some sense of control. Take a look at what’s going on for you and decide if there’s anything you can do to improve the situation.

Sometimes there is and sometimes all you can do is learn from what happened so it doesn’t happen again.Consider that by eating you are stepping into the passive role of the victim. By taking assessment of what you can do, you also take some of your power back.

  •  Be assertive

Do you eat when others talk down to you, criticize you or take advantage of your good nature?

Don’t forget that you have a right to your own views, emotions, values and opinions. You have the right to say NO. And you have a right to feel good about yourself.

Get into the habit of sticking up for yourself. Someone picks on you – tell them to stop it. Set boundaries. By being assertive, you may find that some people will back down. Nobody has the right to treat you badly.

If you’re not used to asserting yourself, you might consider taking an assertiveness training class.

If anger has caused trauma in your life and is impacting how you respond and deal with this emotion today, solution focused counselling can help you.

 

Many years ago, when I was training in Dance Movement Therapy and Ritual Theater, at some point during the exercises I would find myself overwhelmed with feelings. At the time, that felt scary and “not good enough” and a typical reaction was to tell myself that I had to “get a grip.”

How often do you tell someone in your life…yourself perhaps… to get a grip?  To get it together?

Other versions of this are “What’s the matter with you?”

Because really and truly, what is the matter with you? Why are you unhappy or depressed or feeling anxious? Why are you unsatisfied with your life? You have no reason. You have a good life, a good partner, a job and a roof over your head. Think about all the people on this planet who are so much worse off than you are.

It doesn’t make sense!!

If this type of inner dialogue sounds familiar, then you also know that these kinds of thoughts and feelings are very unsettling. If like many, you manage uncomfortable or painful feelings thru emotional eating, you might find yourself standing in front of the fridge or cupboard looking for that special treat which will make you feel better.

But what if it did make sense? What if there was NO thing wrong with you?

What if you were able to stop, breathe and stop censuring yourself?

If you were to allow yourself to sit in authenticity, your feelings surfacing without judgment?

What would happen?

You could find a gateway to your true self. You would be able to still the longings that have somehow gotten on the “forbidden” list.

You would not have to go looking for food again and again until you decide to punish yourself with a diet.

Three things are needed for the process of “allowing it to make sense.”

You need to let go of shame and find your courage so you can cultivate self-compassion.

If you can embody who you already are rather than trying to be something you’re not, you’re on your way to uncovering compassion.

Be present with yourself and trust your knowing.
Accept the awareness of your feelings and allow them to be good enough, to be perfect just the way they are.

That is your first step towards letting go of shame and practicing self-compassion.

Initially, this place of authenticity can be scary and uncomfortable, because the old voices in your head telling you that your feelings don’t make sense and you should “get a grip” do not disappear quietly. However, a practice of mindfulness and loving kindness towards what defines you in this moment will allow you to linger more often and for longer periods of time in your place of truthfulness.

Remember, authenticity is not a quality, it is a collection of choices that you make every day and every moment. The more you can love yourself and who you are, the less you will need to turn to food to stuff down how you really feel.

 

This in turn will allow you to heal your relationship with food and your body and break free from the pursuit of weight loss thru yo-yo dieting.

I leave you with a quote from Oriah Mountain Dreamer:

“What if the question is not why I am so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?”
Warmly,

Ina

Eating Disorders Therapist North Vancouver, Counselling Burnaby

You might be tempted to do so  if you happen to watch the latest Nabisco Cookie commercial for the “Chips Ahoy Chewy Gooey Cookies”  because… “they are crammed with joy.” In my counselling practice for women, I specialize helping clients overcome emotional eating and address the root causes of depression.

Burnaby counselling for women helps you stop emotional eatingIn these times of stress many individuals struggle with increased depression and anxiety. As you may know, when you’re depressed, your serotonin levels are low. Low serotonin levels in turn trigger cravings for refined carbohydrates like cookies or chocolate.

When advertising helps instill the belief that a cookie is “crammed with joy” is it any wonder that the rate of emotional eating related weight gain is also on the rise?

Let’s not forget that children watch TV as well.
(The cookie commercial is geared towards children)  Between the age of 4 to 10, children develop  their ability to think. How many of us think to point out to a 6 year old that a cookie is actually not crammed with joy? To the average adult it is just advertising that we tune out. But somewhere in our brain and somewhere in the developing brain of our children this message gets logged.

So let me repeat my earlier question. Is it any wonder that emotional eating, Food Addiction and obesity are on the rise?

If we take another look at the connection between serotonin levels and cravings we also need to remember that low serotonin levels affect how you feel about yourself. Anyone who has ever felt depressed will recall that they weren’t exactly bursting with self-esteem at the time.

One of the most common grievances accompanying low self-esteem that clients share with me is their fear of weight gain and feeling too fat.

It is a dilemma. Sugar does raise serotonin levels momentarily, so it would appear that the Chips Ahoy Chewy Gooey cookies are indeed “crammed with joy”.

Personally I think I would like the ad better if it ended with one of those rapid monotonous voices we recognize from drug commercials which could say “Some side effects may apply. Eat with caution when depressed. The intense flavor may trigger binge eating, overeating or continuous grazing until the box is empty. After effects may include and are not restricted to weight gain, self-loathing, feelings of powerlessness”.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Chewy Gooey cookies. As I always say to my clients:
There are no forbidden foods as long as you eat mindfully. So the next time you have a cookie, do enjoy and savor the smooth creamy fudge in the middle.

Then consciously take a breath, connect with your body and check in to see if you really want another cookie. Perhaps you do. If you find yourself eating  more than a whole handful, ask yourself what you are really hungry for in this moment.

Get help for depression and anxiety with Burnaby counsellingIt may well be that you are looking for a little bit of joy. And that is ok. But remember that you can make a choice. You can eat more cookies, or take another breath, put down the cookies and take a moment to remember what else gives you joy. Maybe you like to hug your pet, kiss your child, play a game, do some gardening…

Now check in again with your body. What is truly going to meet your need for joy in this moment?

No matter what choice you end up making, be present with yourself and give yourself permission to truly savor the moment and your chosen activity.