It is human nature to want to avoid painful emotional situations and turn towards comfort. Avoiding pain can become automatic and in emotional situations it can be easy to seek comfort in maladaptive behaviors. Accepting painful psychological moments can become mentally taxing and become a big commitment. Turning the mind is a conscious decision to accept the reality of the situation and cope accordingly so it does not turn into denial. Turning the mind requires the act of choice, it is like hitting a fork in the road. The decision to accept is one that takes an inner commitment. The commitment does not mean acceptance has to happen first; it just means the road towards acceptance is the choice that has been made. To the turn the mind means the commitment must be made over and over again. The commitment must be conscious and consistent in order for the wave of pain to dissipate. Some examples of when to use turn the mind is when you are between a rock and a hard place. To choose the more effective choice can be very difficult when the maladaptive choice is the more comfortable choice. The maladaptive choice could be impulsive, not aligned with overall goals or can cause more suffering in the long run. The choice to reduce suffering can be a difficult one, which is why the commitment to acceptance is crucial.
Most of the festivities we enjoy during the holidays surround family, friends and above all else-food. Spending time cooking and sharing traditions with loved ones is a beautiful way to connect, but can be stressful to those who struggle with their relationships to food and body image. Challenging family dynamics, travel stressors and the pressure to eat big meals are just a few factors that make this time period particularly triggering.
Below are a few ways to encourage a peaceful relationship with food for the rest of the Holiday season.
Be aware of diet culture: Messages like “new year, new you”, “eat healthy during the holidays without sacrificing fitness goals“, and advice on how to” make up for”/ “reset” after eating throughout the holidays can have damaging effects on those who struggle with food. These messages often convince us that the way to achieve happiness and fulfillment is through changing and shrinking our bodies. I urge my clients to challenge these ideas and search for joy through self-acceptance and trust in your body.
Clear boundary setting: Put a stop to others comments about your food or body. Remarks like, “ do you really need more?” “Have you lost/gained weight?” “What about trying ___” or listening to loved ones discussing their diet plans can make your holiday food experience anxiety provoking. I suggest that clients come up with a simple script each time they encounter this issue. You can practice kindly explaining to others that diet and calories are not topics you want to discuss or try requesting to change the subject.
Create like-minded community: Perhaps you have a friend of safe person who is also working on making peace with food- can they attend holiday events with you? If not, are you in touch with a community of people who are on the same journey? I suggest starting by checking out accounts like @trustyourbodyproject, @chr1styharrison, and the @intuitive_rd to start this community online.
Change the focus of your health goals: You can still prioritize health and well being without traditional diet and fitness goals. For example, consider reframing your goals from weight loss or body changes to increasing strength and aiding in stress relief and sleep. The goal here is to step into food choices and exercise from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing for a more restorative and compassionate experience.
When I am working with clients, self-acceptance is one thing I always want to teach them. Regardless of the primary issue they walk into therapy with, I want them to learn to like themselves …because no matter where you go; there you are.
Self-acceptance is key to growth, fulfilling relationships, and self-esteem. It unlocks our ability to face our struggle head on and reach our individual goals. True self-acceptance is not about turning your back on the challenges you face but about compassionately turning toward the parts of yourself that you want to improve. This is very different than the “tough love” approach I hear so many clients refer to in therapy. The idea that if you beat yourself up about something enough you will find the motivation to change it will only lead to more negative self-perception and suffering.
Below find 4 practices to welcome more self-acceptance into your daily life.
In a commercial culture that is often trying to convince us that we need to be more or better than the current version of ourselves, it can be easy to forget what we actually want. I encourage all of my clients to notice the “shoulds” that implicitly put pressure on us. Messages such as “you should establish a career by 25”, “you should start a family by 30 (or at all)”, etc. Instead, focus on developing the path that feels authentic to you and aligns with your values.
Perfectionism is the secret killer to success. It stops us from being present in our own growth and convinces us that we aren’t good enough. Try to notice when you are engaging in comparison thinking and challenge it by honing in on the parts of yourself you are proud of. Move past the notion that you will be happy if you reach the ideal in all areas of life.
Mistakes are a beautiful opportunity for growth. Practice self-forgiveness and think of how your “failure” re-defines how you want to move forward.
Activity: Voice of Confidence Journaling
Draw a line down a sheet of paper creating two columns. In the left column, name your self-critical inner voice. This can be anything you want. I have clients call it “mean girl”, “negative Nancy”, “inner bully” or simply the “self critic”. In the right column, name your voice of inner confidence. For each message of negative self talk, provide an example of how the voice of inner confidence would challenge these messages.
By: Katrin Steinert
Holidays can become a stressful time when we include families, friends, traditions, traveling, and unspoken dynamics. Thanksgiving can be a time for gratitude and reflect on what positive intentions can be set for the rest of the year. Here are a few ways to explore gratitude and positive intentions during the Thanksgiving holiday:
Affirmations: Create a new affirmation that is spoken every day in order to create gratitude and appreciation for one-self.
Reflection: Mentally reflecting on what the past year has brought, the wish for what the new season will bring and ways to achieve the goals will help shed light on what you are grateful for.
Meditation: Meditation can help you focus the mind and be present. Being present helps you be one mindful which allow space to invite what you are most grateful for. It blocks out all the noise and focus the mind on what is important.
How to tell the difference so you can move towards more self-esteem
Shame and guilt often get used synonymously as we talk about our struggles. Although both shame and guilt have the potential to be destructive in people’s lives, drawing the distinction between them can be a powerful tool to move past self-deprecation and into self worth.
So, how can you spot the difference and why is it so important?
Guilt: Brené Brown defines guilt as “I did something bad”. She explains that “Guilt is a focus on behavior”, it allows us to reflect upon our actions so we can move forward in alignment with our values. Making mistakes that result in guilt provides the opportunity to check in and make different choices in the future.
The key with guilt is that it often involves something we have the ability to change. For example, if I tell a lie to a loved one when I am committed to the value of honesty, I feel pretty crummy as a result (guilt). In this situation there is something I can do! I can go back to this person and make a repair. There is a step I can take.
Esteemed psychotherapist, Esther Perel, provides another way to understand guilt. She states, “Guilt is conscious” and “Shame is hiding”. It is important to stay connected to our inner voice that guides us towards right/wrong. I often explain to clients that guilt might sound like the internal voice that says, “That doesn’t feel like me”, “I think I can do better next time”.
Shame: Brené defines shame, as “I am something bad”. Shame is the belief that something is deeply wrong or inherently bad within you. It’s the belief that something that’s part of your essence is flawed. It is toxic and leads people deeper into symptoms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Shame often develops from the cultural, societal, historical and familial systems we exist within. Dominant discourses around how we “should” lead our lives, or what makes us worthy of love and acceptance. These messages get reinforced with media portrayals of beauty, success, sexual and gender identity, love and partnership, etc.
The problem with shame is that it often isn’t something we have the ability to change while remaining authentic to ourselves. This issue comes up with many of my clients who struggle with self-esteem regarding physical appearance, beauty or body image. For example, if I see countless images of thin and photo-shopped models promoting diet products, I can feel crappy (shame). I can feel like my body and appearance is bad or not good enough. In this situation there isn’t much we can do (or should feel expected to do) in order to change our appearance. Although there are steps we can take to make these changes, they don’t often lead to a decrease in shame over time. Your body and appearance are good enough and worthy of appreciation as is.
Put it into practice: How to start checking in with your value system and stop shame from eroding your sense of self-worth.
When you are experiencing an emotion that feels like it could be shame OR guilt try to see where guilt ends and shame begins.
Step 1: Make a list of the top 5-10 values that are important to you. I recommend looking up Brené Browns list of values if you are having trouble.
Step 2: Are you feeling guilt based on an action or choice you made? Does this feel out of alignment with the value list you made? If not, this may be a sign that shame is present.
Step 3: If it’s guilt: how can you learn from your choice? Go make a repair with someone, move forward with a new understanding, or journal about the incident that brought you here.
If it’s shame: practice self-acceptance and gratitude. Is there a small part of yourself that you can hold appreciation around? Think of how would you talk to your best friend in this moment and do the same for yourself.
“When life throws you lemons make lemonade” but how do we do that? A lot of our instincts when something does not go correctly is to react impulsively with strong emotions. Some situations require us to react emotionally and some require more of our rational brain. In order to help calm our emotional reactions we can employ a skill called IMPROVE.
Imagery: Transports your mind to a space that makes you feel calm and serene. Visualize imagery that helps soothe your sense and relaxes your muscle’s. Some examples could be your favorite childhood space, beach or even your own room.
Meaning: Find meaning in a distressing situation can help shift the perspective. By tapping into your values, it will help see the silver lining in a situation that may otherwise feel meaningless.
Prayer: Prayer does not have to have a religious connotation. The meaning of prayer is connecting with something that is greater than yourself. By focusing on a mantra, image or song can create a sense of peace in the moment.
Relaxation: Focusing on relaxing the tension in muscles can reduce the pressure build of distress. By reducing the tension in your muscles will help elevate emotional pain.
One thing at a time: Being mindful is focusing on one task or thought at a time. This can be a powerful tool to slow down the thoughts and worries that are popping up. By letting go of the future worry will allow space to focus on the moment.
Vacation: Vacation does not mean take an actual trip. A vacation is a brief respite from the monotony of daily life. An example of a vacation can be taking a different walking route, meeting friends or exploring a new part the city you live in.
Encouragement: Words are very powerful and that includes the words we tell ourselves. By practicing positive self-talk and self-encouragement can help give us the boost we need to take a distressing moment.
Color is not just for kids anymore. There has been an explosion of coloring books in the last few years. There are funny coloring books, intricate coloring books and even inappropriate coloring books. What is the reason? Coloring is proving to help when we feel highly anxious.
There are many benefits to coloring including feeling calmer, mentally clear and some even say happier. By engaging in coloring, it helps focus the brain similarly to mediation. People who have depression have found that by partaking in craft hobbies and art it has significantly decreased their depression. There are numerous studies that show by coloring it decreases symptoms in anxiety, depression and even PTSD.
Another benefit of coloring is if it is done before bedtime, it will help you sleep. By focusing on the coloring, it eases the mind of thoughts of the day and helps anxious sleepers fall asleep.
Coloring can also be a social activity by inviting others to come over and have coloring parties. Just like everything, there are phone apps for coloring if you need to color on the go. Some of the more popular ones include Color Mandala and Stress Relief Coloring for Adults.
DBT stands for Dialectal Behavior Therapy and was created in the 1990s by Marsha Linehan. Linehan was inspired to create DBT after she worked with chronically suicidal and borderline personality disordered patients. She recognized that having a one-way conversation with patients who suffer from chronic mental illnesses was not working.
In creating DBT she took principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and interjected eastern philosophies to her approach. DBT is comprised of four modules which include mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance. Each module is then broken down into easy applicable skills to help clients regulate their emotions. By creating these modules, Linehan hoped to create tools for clients who were suffering from lack of confidence and unable to think positively through their treatment.
In creating the dialect of acceptance and change, Linehan hoped to create enough space for the patients to see that their situations were not always hopeless and there was a life worth living. Today, DBT is not only effective with patients who suffer from borderline personality disorder but for an array of diagnoses.