10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Mental Fitness NOW

Preventative care is all the rage in medicine these days, and with good reason. It works. There are things you can do to improve your physical well-being and when you do them everything from cholesterol numbers to disease risk can be reduced or prevented. The same is true for prevention in mental health matters. There are adjunct therapist and preventative measures we can take to both support mental health and boost therapeutic efforts like counseling and medication.

That said, I know everyone is after the quick fix these days. It can be hard to give up old habits or create new ones on the promise that someday things will get better. It may seem overwhelming to take on too much at once, especially without seeing results fast.

While these tips won’t work overnight (seriously, does anything?!) if you give them a go for 7 days I promise you’ll see and feel a difference in your mental wellness. If all 10 are too much at once pick a few you feel you can manage or that will target your specific needs and start with those.

  1. I’m positive you’ve heard this a million times before. Exercise boosts feel good neurotransmitters. It relieves stress and acts as a natural antidepressant of sorts. It isn’t necessary to jump around and spend an hour doing it. Yoga has been found to have great effects on mental and physical health. Vinyasa yoga that has constant movement linked with breath is my personal favorite. I’m a fan of both yogavibes.com & gaia.com where you can find a practice that fits your abilities and your schedule from home.
  2. Start taking lunch breaks. This is something we’ve let fall by the wayside but is really important to our work performance and how we approach problems and handle stress at work. Check out this blog on why lunch is uber important.
  3. Journal every night about the nice things you did for others during the day. This may seem cheesy, but doing this at night is a serious self-worth and self-esteem booster. This exercise helps kick self-esteem into a higher gear. You may think you barely do anything that could make this list, but think about it. Opening doors, smiling at strangers, or helping a coworker put away chairs all count and most of us hardly think about these “little things”.
  4. Journal every morning about what you’re grateful for. The saying goes that “an attitude of gratitude promotes happiness.” True! Research in the field of positive psychology shows that people who do this boost their happiness. Happiness lends itself to higher productivity overall.
  5. Perform a daily random act of kindness. Science shows that we get a feel-good buzz from these acts and they help our fellow humans. Bonus: this can go on your list of nice things you did during the day.
  6. Get some sunlight. Many of us spend most of our time indoors. In Texas I find myself outside just long enough to sprint to my car to avoid the heat during summer and that isn’t enough. It’s important to have some sun every day. It helps boost vitamin D, which has been found at lower levels in people with depression. Sun also helps support healthy serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter some research links with depression.
  7. Begin your day with protein. Feeling sluggish in the mornings can put a damper on the whole day. Add to this that often times sugary foods are the ones we reach for as breakfast and a recipe for crash and burn is made. A protein based breakfast can help keep energy levels smooth as your morning kicks off and prevents the sugar crash later in the morning.
  8. Hug someone. Hugging others increases the bonding hormone oxytocin and solidifies our bonds with those we love. Touching is important to connection and connection is what humans are designed for! If you don’t have a person in your vicinity to hug, grab a hug from Fido or FeFe!
  9. Doodle, color, paint, or draw. We’ve all seen and heard the buzz on the adult coloring book craze. There is merit to it. These calming activities help tame stress and anxiety.
  10. Get some sleep. We’re busier than ever and sleeping less and less. Train your body’s clock by getting some sun first thing in the morning. At least an hour before you’d like to be asleep kill the TV, tablet, and phone. Choose reading as a pre-bed activity and avoid all sources of “blue light”. The blue light put out by electronics is a complete zap on the brain’s ability to shut down and allow you a sound snooze.

If you’re in Texas and you find that you need some help getting through life’s tough spots, reach out! I provide in person and online sessions that will definitely fit into your schedule and your budget.

Wishing you wellness,

Whitney

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Pet Grief: Losing your non-human family

Within the last few weeks several of my friends have lost their beloved animal best friends. Each loss reminds me of the pain I felt when I’ve lost pets. For many of us, our pets are better friends than our relatives, and losing them after years of their eager unconditional love can truly be a most painful experience.

Nearly every client I’ve sat across from has talked about the pain of losing a loved pet. Most of those clients also tell me about the comments they receive from their friends and family who aren’t pet people: It’s just an animal. For those that experience the great joy of pet ownership and devastation of pet loss, the feelings are very real.

People often apologize in the midst of their pet loss grief and try to explain it to me in session. They don’t believe that others fully understand because of the reactions they’ve had in past or that they’ve seen others experience. Why should someone be sorry that they’re sad at the loss of a member of their family? Death of a family member is painful, whether that family member is human, horse, dog, cat, or any other animal. Expressing that pain is healthy, normal, and expected.

Coping with the grief from losing your loved pet can feel confusing and lonely. Try these tips for helping yourself out:

  • Accept the grief and give yourself permission to express it
  • Talk with supportive friends who are pet people
  • Write about your loss
  • Create a memory book where you and family members write down the funny stories you remember about your pet
  • Contact local veterinary clinics to find out about pet loss support groups in your area
  • Volunteer at your local Humane Society or other animal shelter
  • Give yourself time to grieve before adopting another pet
  • Donate your pet’s toys or items to a local pet charity if the idea that they may bring another pet happiness is soothing
  • Frame a picture of your pet to keep to help you remember their presence in your family – just as you would with a human relative who passed away

Remember that grief has no timeline or boundaries. Each person will grieve differently for their pet. Seek support from friends or a professional when you need it.

Blessings of Healing,

Whitney

 

*If you’re looking for a counselor to help you sort out feelings of grief after the loss of your pet and you’re in Texas, visit my contact page for online and in person services options.

10 Reasons You Really Should Take a Lunch Break

Fewer American workers are taking lunch breaks. About 1 in 5 American workers are stepping away from work to enjoy a midday meal or break. Most of us are eating at our desks, hunched over our work with some confused ideas circling our minds about why doing so is actually a good thing. It isn’t. (Interesting side note: it is mostly white collar and salaried workers who have given up lunches or are expected to work through them.)

1. Changing your environment can help you boost your creativity. The longer you’re in one spot, the lower your creativity dips. Creativity isn’t just for artists or designers, either. The way you approach problems of any kind is helped by a creative mind that constructs solutions.

2. Fresh approaches to work come from getting away from the work. Just like creativity, the “aha” moment that you’re needing to catch an error in a report, or adjust some project at the office is more likely to happen when you’re not sitting in the same spot for hours on end. A stroll to the local park may have you diving back in with new pizazz on your return.

3. Lunch breaks feed your brain. By making an exit and grabbing a lunch, your brain gets food, oxygen, and water, which lead to better work in the afternoon.

4. Breaks increase your productivity. Research has shown that if you take small breaks throughout the day, even if it isn’t a lunch, to do something creative or fun (think: coloring or a walk outside) you’re more productive.

5. Eating at your desk equals stress eating over time. We associate places with activities and no matter where you work, you likely experience stress in your work environment. Once your brain and body realize that eating at the desk is acceptable behavior, you’re likely to keep it up and do it more often. Snacking at your desk during high stress tides while your body is producing more cortisol can lead to a whole new issue: weight gain.

6. Taking a lunch sets a positive example and can establish a healthy habit in your workplace. Even if you work somewhere that taking a lunch break isn’t the norm and people typically gather around the conference table or sit at their desks while eating, you can help change things up. Peer pressure works in both directions! Instead of following along, invite some people to eat with you. The more of you that leave work behind to eat or take a walk during lunch, the more of you are likely to join in.

7. Breaks boost your concentration. Taking a lunch break that is even 15 to 20 minutes long can help improve your concentration! You’re more likely to catch mistakes, stay on task, and have focus when you return from a healthy lunch break.

8. Lunch is a great time to practice mindfulness. Enhance your mindfulness, which improves literally every aspect of your life. By eating during your lunch break and just eating you can be mindful of what you’re eating and use the time to tap into the mindful practice we all claim we haven’t got enough time for. Sitting quietly and focusing on your food and your changed environment is a small act of mindfulness that can go a long way.

9. Taking a lunch nap can rejuvenate your body and mind. Even if eating isn’t your “thing” and the idea of walking at lunch curls your toenails, there is always napping. Napping is Chuck E. Cheese for adults, and during the work day it can be a real boost to your mood, concentration, and productivity. Research shows that we’re designed to have a second short sleep during the second half of the day. To avoid sleep inertia (when you wake up feeling like you’ve been run over and don’t know who you are) don’t sleep for more than 20 minutes. One of the most pleasant people I ever worked with told me she took naps at lunch. I gave up loading my dishwasher and tidying my house on my lunch hour and took up the power nap and it was miraculous.

10. Lunch is a great time to get some “me” time. At work you’re with coworkers, clients or patrons, etc. all day. You go home in the evening to do the dishes and make dinner while everyone in your home talks about their day and your cat or kids are begging for attention. Use lunch to be you and have some alone time with yourself!

I worked in an office that very much frowned on lunches out unless they were for meetings or parties. When they were out it was typically a place that serves grease as a side dish, and I’m a picky eater to begin with. I survived over a year of “I never take lunches”, side glances, and even nasty comments (from mental health pros who should know better!) about my lunch habits.

Thing is, I don’t think I’d have made it in that environment for as long as I did if I hadn’t guarded my midday lunch time as both precious and MINE. Any day where I was working out of the office, I made sure to take at least a 20 minute break to run home, check my mail, walk around, or go power nap. It made all the difference!

Now you have a list of all the reasons that lunch breaks, at any time of day, are a good thing for you and the work your employer needs from you – and from a mental health pro to boot! Use them! Change your day and your work by taking lunch breaks daily for a week and monitoring the results!

Happy lunching!

Whitney

If you’re in Texas and looking for a counselor or a little bit of pro help check out my contact me page! Online & in person services 🙂

Does Counseling Work?

A few years ago following an injury to my back I was face down on my chiropractor’s table with him adjusting me back into normalcy when he began talking to me about my profession. The standard, what do you do and where questions. I proudly replied, “I’m a professional counselor.”

He made some sort of rumbling noise and offered, “A few years ago my church sponsored a nonprofit counseling center, but we stopped because it was a bit of a money drain and there’s really no research to show that it works. It’s just talking.”

Had I not been pinned to the table being popped and prodded I would’ve bounced right up to tackle this argument toe to toe and eye to eye. I replied, “And you’re just making miniscule adjustments, like cracking knuckles, but here it is, working.”

Counseling does indeed have a wealth of research support. As a profession we struggle to be heard over the drone of much louder and better-funded medical research. So when you’re thinking about counseling or your friends or family say, “You could just talk to me!” – here’s some information to support you choice to seek out some professional guidance through life’s ups and downs.

1. Counseling is research supported to treat many mental health problems including but not limited to depression disorders, anxiety disorders, grief and bereavement, PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.

2. Specific approaches like DBT or dialectical behavior therapy are clinically proven to help alleviate suicidality, borderline personality disorder, and self-injury. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is also clinically supported for treatment with an array of issues.

3. Therapeutic alliance is the number one factor in successful therapy outcomes. This means that finding the counselor you “click” with best is vital in a successful outcome in treatment.

4. Counseling has been shown to help people wishing to cease the anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines.

5. Counseling can work with medication and when clients wish, without it. Counseling is an effective alternative to medication and an effective adjunct therapy that works with medication. In fact, a recent study shows that CBT is just as effective as medication.

6. Counseling isn’t just talking! It’s true, you can “just talk” to friends. Friends and family may have a stake in your life and your decisions, and so there may be things you feel you can’t tell them, or they may give advice that benefits them, even if unintentionally so. Counseling will challenge you in good ways, and the interventions therapists use are often innovative and creative and don’t just include couch-sitting until your buns are numb!

Read all about finding the right counselor on my ACA blog here.

For my research lovers, check out a couple of my favorite studies (but this isn’t by any means ALL of what is there to support many forms of counseling):

Butler, A., Chapman, J., Forman, E., & Beck, A. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses [Electronic version]. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 17-31. doi:doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2005.07.003

Westra, H. A., Constantino, M. J., Arkowitz, H., & Dozois, D. A. (2011). Therapist differences in cognitive–behavioral psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder: A pilot study.Psychotherapy, 48(3), 283-292. doi:10.1037/a0022011

Driessen, E., Hollon, S., (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy for mood disorders: Efficacy, moderators, and mediators. DOI 10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.005

Halverson, J.L., Bienenfeld, D., Leonard, R.C., & Riemann, B.C. (2014). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression. Medscape.

McHugh, R.K., Whitton, S.W., Peckham, A.S., Welge, J.A., & Otto, M.W. (2013). Patient preference for psychological vs pharmacologic treatment of psychiatric disorders: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2013

Safran, J.D., Muran, J.C., and Proskurov, B. (2009) Alliance, negotiation, and rupture resolution, in Handbook of Evidence Based Psychodynamic Psychotherapy (eds R. Levy and S.J. Ablon), Humana Press, New York, pp. 201-5.

Ackerman, S. and Hilsenroth, M (2003) A review of therapist characteristics and techniques positively impacting the therapeutic alliance. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 1-33.

Ardito, R. B., & Rabellino, D. (2011). Therapeutic Alliance and Outcome of Psychotherapy: Historical Excursus, Measurements, and Prospects for Research. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 270. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00270

Dorsey, S., Briggs, E. C., & Woods, B. A. (2011). Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20(2), 255–269. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2011.01.006

*If you’re counselor shopping in Texas contact me! I offer both online and in person services 🙂

Benefits of Private Pay Over Insurance

There are lots of benefits to not using your insurance for counseling services. You read that right!

Insurance companies often don’t pay for the entire cost of your session, which leaves you still footing a sizable cash bill even though you used it.

When you use your insurance company they have access to certain things you may rather keep private like what you’re being seen for, what your diagnosis is – in fact, most insurance companies require a counselor to provide a diagnosis to justify your treatment. This means that even if you don’t merit a “diagnosis” you may land one.

Your insurance company will dictate how many sessions you’re entitled to and what modality of treatment you receive, as well as who you receive it from. It doesn’t make a lot of sense considering that the counselor in front of you knows best what methods will fit with you and you and your counselor should work together to decide how frequently and for how long you’ll go to counseling.

All the research shows that your outcome is best predicted not by method or length of treatment but by your relationship with the counselor. Your insurance may cover a counselor or two, but are they the right counselor for you? Counseling is both science and art – the art lies in the personal connection and if you don’t click with someone on your insurance you aren’t likely to get the results you’re after.

Lastly, most counselors will work with you on rates, depending on the area you’re in. You won’t know if you don’t ask! So, when you find a counselor whose picture, Psychology Today profile, or website clicks with you for some reason, go ahead and call them – even if they aren’t on your insurance.

Consider what’s most important in successful counseling outcomes:

1. The “click” or connection, which we call the “therapeutic alliance” (Read about finding the right counselor on my ACA blog here!)
2. Your privacy (or at least I hope you care about it!)
3. Getting treatment that will work
4. Determining how often and what type of counseling treatment you receive – having a say in how you’re treated

Happy counselor-shopping!

Whitney

*If you’re counselor shopping in Texas contact me! I offer both online and in person services 🙂

Smack-Talking Yourself: What to do with Negative Self-Talk


It’s happened to everyone. A bad day at work, a mistake in paperwork, and then the aftermath of talking to yourself:

I can’t ever do anything right. I’m such an idiot. No wonder I haven’t gotten a promotion. Of course this happened, because I don’t ever do well enough. I’m worthless.

These thoughts then prompt feelings of self-hate, disappointment, and sadness. Suddenly the bad day at work is becoming a bad life.

So, if talking this way to ourselves causes and promotes feelings we find uncomfortable, why don’t we just stop it?

We use super critical or harsh self-talk to try to motivate ourselves to do better, to avoid doing things that frighten us, and to try to control situations. Think about the last time you did something or attempted to do something that pushed you toward the edge of your comfort zone.
What things did you tell yourself in preparation? Did you completely talk yourself out of applying for an awesome position because you thought “I’m not good enough for that job,”? Did you sit on a bench while your spouse zip lined through the trees because you told yourself how stupid you’d look in the harness or screaming?

We avoid fear of public rejection or ridicule by internally rejecting ourselves through negative self-talk, which has us avoiding the possibility of public rejection altogether – we end up waiting on the sidelines of life.

Negative self-talk is often rooted in the voices we internalize. A fearful or controlling caregiver that minimizes the things we attempt to do or criticizes efforts we make early on can become our own inner voice.

Talking smack at ourselves is a learned behavior that becomes a habit, and just like any other habit, we have the power to change it.

What Lies Beneath
To start your journey toward dismantling the negative self-talk habit, start with exploring what is underneath that talk. Step back from the situation that generated the less than helpful talk and ask yourself, what you’re afraid of in that situation. Become a detective and dive into the fear that underlies much of that negative talk with questions about where it comes from. When you’re able to see what’s really there the self-talk that masks it diminishes.

Learn
Relearning what to say to yourself in moments of discomfort that prompt negative self-talk is another powerful tool. When self-talk is rooted in controlling outcomes, like preventing rejection, taking the opportunity to be realistic about things can be helpful in creating new responses to these situations. So what is the most likely reality of whatever situation you’re facing? That you’ve been in hard places before, that they aren’t avoidable, and that kindness can help you survive. Pause your negative self-talk with a phrase like that to return to reality that is more balanced as opposed to more negative-leaning.

Thought Stopping
Thought stopping is an important component of both of the practices above. Get in the habit of noticing when you’re speaking poorly to yourself and politely remind yourself to stop it. Follow this with your more realistic statement or something compassionate like, “Everyone makes mistakes.”

Self-talk is an underlying cause of many uncomfortable emotions, chances not taken, and “bad” days, weeks, or months. Working toward curbing it using these three steps is guaranteed to help you on a journey toward a happier and more compassionate life. Like anything worthwhile, this takes practice and time. Counseling can provide additional support in uncovering your self-talk and its roots, too.

Whitney

*If you’re in Texas & looking to find a pro help you conquer negative self-talk, check out my contact me page!

When Someone You Love Won’t Change (or listen)

Someone posed an interesting question to me the other day. 

It went something like this: If someone you love does things that hurt you over and over despite you telling the them repeatedly how you feel about things, what do you do? 

That’s a good question and there is no easy answer. For some people change is difficult or they simply don’t get it. Some may not truly care enough to make the effort. 

The most important thing to realize beyond the basics (which you can find here) is that another person’s behavior doesn’t say anything about you – it speaks only about them. 

If someone treats you badly, it simply says that they treat people badly. It absolutely does not indicate that you’re unworthy of being treated well (an extrapolation that will leave you blaming yourself for someone else’s behavior, which you can’t fix & leads to hopelessness). It says that maybe your loved one has some underlying issues, poor priorities, bad attitude, or is inconsiderate. It doesn’t say that you are bad, unworthy, not enough, or unimportant.

As tough as it may be, not taking this sort of situation personally is the best ticket to not being pulled down into a pool of self doubt and pain. It isn’t personal, because it isn’t your behavior, it is theirs. It’s about them. 

Once you’ve done all you can with words, look at your boundaries. For example, if the issue is a friend who cancels plans a lot, stop making plans with them. If it’s someone who doesn’t communicate their desire to spend time with you but does expect you to make time for them short notice, stop complying. It is hard to say no to people we love, but allowing a pattern of hurtful behavior to continue may hurt worse. Setting and sticking to some boundaries may be a more effective means of communicating with this person than simply telling them something – and then continuing to go along with the behavior. 

Yes, all of this will still leave you with hurt feelings and the pain of someone you care for ignoring your feelings or wishes. There is no magic cure to help that. 

Nurse those feelings by accepting the relationship for what it is: difficult. Determine what’s ok with you and what isn’t and stick to it. Remind yourself, “This person’s behavior isn’t because of me. I don’t have control of their actions and they don’t have control of mine.” Repeat it each time you feel the pang of pain or guilt about the boundaries you’ve set, etc. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and do care and listen! Delve into your own *thang* – spend time on finding out what you enjoy or doing what you enjoy, caring for yourself, planting flowers, sprucing up your home, rooting for your favorite athletes or sports teams, taking day trips, anything that is for you. This helps reinforce your own self worth and boost your happiness – two things totally in your control! 

Happy healing! 

Whitney 

Dealing with ‘Toxic’ People


I see lots of articles shared on social media about “cutting” toxic people out of your life. I even see fellow mental health pros sharing such tips for removing people from our lives completely.
We all know someone that is simply unpleasant to deal with. A nosy mother-in-law, a friend that is in some unspoken competition to one up you at every turn, or a boss who makes hurtful comments about you to coworkers – we’ve all experienced something that falls under the heading “toxic relationship”.

The idea of simply never seeing anyone who upsets you ever again is appealing. What a wonderful world that would be – no stress, ever.

Cutting someone out or off may not always be possible and in some cases it can be unhealthy or add to the present stress levels. Here are a few boundary-based tips to help navigate the troubled waters of toxic relationships.

1. Call it what it is. When you’ve got no choice but to carry on in the face of toxicity embracing that is freeing. It may feel forced and you could spend all your time in dread, sweating it out, complaining about the toxic person to anyone who’ll listen, but that’s likely to leave you feeling even worse. You could keep throwing yourself at the problem by vowing to be nicer/indifferent/whatever to thaw the person or ease the situation, but then you’re trying to control something you don’t have any control over (another person). Instead, just call it like it is. “This relationship is just difficult.” This relieves the pressure on you to play Mr. Fix It and allows you to live freely without having to hide in a closet at family holidays. It seems simple, but often when we quit struggling when trying to untangle a knot, the slack we’re given makes it easier to work with.

2. Your emotions are yours, theirs are theirs. The toxic person may enjoy telling you and others that you’re the source of the uncomfortable emotions they feel. That isn’t true. It can’t be – otherwise, somehow you’re in charge of that person’s thoughts and feelings. You’re somehow driving their bus. Since that isn’t possible at all, let this go, and don’t argue about it. You can’t be responsible for anyone’s actions or emotions but your own.

3. Breathe. When you’re in an intense situation and feeling intense emotion, don’t respond to whatever external stimuli the other person is offering you. Be quiet and breathe in and out. Focus on your breath until it becomes normal and slow again. Be aware that intense emotions weaken your ability to think clearly in the moment. Walk away when you need to.

4. Stick to the truth. It’s tempting to lie to avoiding hurting other people’s feelings. “Why didn’t you tell me you were in town?!” Instead of responding with how little time you had or that you just forgot, be honest. Share the truth without any harsh value judgments on them like, “Well, I just knew you’d be negative, so I didn’t want to.” That statement puts your prediction and feelings onto them. Try, “I feel nervous when I’m a guest with you. I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.” Lying can further perpetuate the reality that the toxic person lives in. In this example, what if their gripe about you is that you never make time for family? You feed into it by making it seem as though you didn’t make time for them with your potential lie. Lying is stressful, period. It’ll only add to the issues in the relationship.

5. Grace. When I’m upset I’d prefer to receive public or written apologies from people who I believe have wronged me. That simply isn’t going to happen. I finally figured out that I could fume about their lack of initiative or simply make up for their shortcoming by issuing grace in their direction. I step into that gap with kindness. I do whatever I can for that person through prayer, sending good vibes their way, smiling at them more, holding a door, or simply accepting them for whatever it is that they are, even if it is an inconvenience to me.

When you can practice these things little by little with your most difficult relationships, you can start to use them elsewhere. You’ll begin to be just as kind to yourself with grace, acceptance, and honesty.

Whitney

Surviving a Verbal Attack

A couple of years ago I headed over to my neighborhood McDonald’s and pulled through one of the double drive through lanes. I ordered a salad, which is literally something they can throw in a sack and hand you, so its a fast process. Because it took me so little time to order, I finished before the car in the left lane and I pulled forward.

The driver in that lane finished a few seconds later and pulled inches from my bumper. She rolled down her window and yelled at me. A pile of curse words, things I am, and things I should do to myself came pouring out of her. She even threw some trash out of her floorboard at me. She was still screaming as I made my way up to pay.

Honestly, I was a little scared. When I put my window down to pay she kept it up and the cashier assured me I’d done nothing wrong, my order had been finished before hers. I helpfully (not!) half-hollered back to the woman, “I finished first! That’s just how it works! I hope your day gets better!” I couldn’t just not say anything to someone yelling at me like that.

After that incident in my day I recalled it several times for friends seeking some emotional validation. Was I wrong? Should I have just slowed my roll through the drive? Did I know somehow she was going to finish just seconds after me? Was I being insensitive? Was I all the awful things that stranger yelled at me? Was it my car? My hair? What thing had I done to communicate that I was a drive-through snob? Had I reacted appropriately?

Sometimes through no fault of our own we’re the recipient of horrible words and we just have to endure whatever insults are hurled at us. The lack of choice in the situation doesn’t mean we have to take those words and insults at their face value. No matter what, no one deserves to be verbally berated and abused.

Sure, if you’ve wronged someone they have a right to tell you how they feel about it and you have a duty to make amends in the relationship. That said, letting someone’s insults chip away at your peace, self-esteem, and value is not an appropriate atonement for any wrong you may have committed.

You don’t have any control over someone else’s behavior or words. The only thing you can control is how you respond to whatever insults get hurled your way. The best way to do that is to remind yourself that another person’s behavior isn’t about you. It’s about them. Their words and their actions speak about them and who they are, not about the person they’re flung at.

The words aimed at you in situations like these are personal insults, but the real culprit is the other person’s inner world. Their feelings, life circumstance, and choices have nothing to do with you. You’re not at the controls, they are. It isn’t logical to assume responsibility for the emotions of other people.

There could be any number of things rubbing a person who launches a verbal attack on you the wrong way. They may be coping with a sick relative, health struggles of their own, a recent death in their family, divorce, family problems – any number of things that might affect their emotional status. Whatever lies beneath the anger, isn’t about you.

The lady at McDonald’s could’ve reacted differently. She could have hollered that she was late for work and I would have absolutely let her go ahead of me for whatever minutes it would’ve saved her. She could have kept it to herself, noting that it isn’t usual to scream at people in public that way. She had choices based on her emotional status that comes from her life circumstances – not my fast food salad order. It had nothing to do with me. When similar happens to you, it has nothing to do with you.

When you truly understand that you aren’t responsible for other people’s behavior or emotions it feels like a giant weight is lifted. When you get that words spoken toward you in a verbal attack are unpleasant, but not about you, the hit to your self-esteem lessens and dissipates. When you realize you aren’t responsible and it isn’t about you it also becomes easier to forgive the other person.

This reminds me of an Ian Maclaren (John Watson) quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Help yourself out of the hurtful aftermath of verbal attacks by remembering that the person flipping you off on the interstate, sighing loudly behind you in the grocery check-out, insulting you at family functions, or belittling you at work, is simply fighting a battle you don’t know much about. Repeat to yourself, “Their behavior and words are a reflection of them, not me.”

Smooth Sailing,

Whitney

Self-Care (Not Just for Sundays)

In the process of writing another blog I went back through each of my blogs to find one on self-care. Surely I had one. Everyone and their dog is now a self-care blogging expert, right? Not me – it looks like I assumed everyone else had it covered.

On social media I see the hashtag #selfcare and #selfcaresunday a lot. On that note, here are some of my best self-care tips, rules of thumb, and ideas.

First of all, self-care isn’t selfish or rude. If you don’t take care of you, how will you care for others? Caring for others is the excuse I hear most often as a reason that there’s no time for self-care. If that’s your excuse, try this story out for size.

You’re on a flight somewhere with your children or your loved one. You know the speech they give you about the oxygen mask that will drop if there’s a pressure change in the cabin? That one. What do they tell you? To put your mask on first and then help others around you! Why do they tell you that? The airlines are smart. They know that you won’t be able to help others if you faint from helping one person first before your mask is on – meanwhile  if it’s in place you can help dozens or more get theirs operational if yours is on first. Pretty simple! This applies to self-care. You can’t help anyone if you aren’t properly caring for yourself.

Pick something out of the ordinary to use as self-care. I see a lot of bloggers and mental health pros advising people that hot baths and manicures and kale sandwiches are the key to self-care. I politely disagree. Self-care isn’t something that you have to do to maintain basic functions – like a bath or shower. Now, a bath with your favorite music or TV show playing from your tablet (at a safe distance away from said tub!) if that’s out of your ordinary hygiene routine, go for it. If you typically clip, file, and paint your nails every week as a part of your regular hygiene, it isn’t self-care so much as it is hygienic necessity. Pick something out of the ordinary to do for yourself.

Try these Self-Care Ideas from my personal vault:

  1. Cook a recipe that you’ve wanted to try.
  2. Notice when you’re tired on a day you aren’t obligated to the moon and back and take a nap for goodness sake! The world (and laundry) will be there for you to address when you wake. Too many people don’t take naps.
  3. Find a guided meditation on YouTube or check out one of Andrew Johnson’s off your smartphone’s app store. Listen and go with the flow.
  4. Go for a walk. Here’s another thing we’re missing out on (just like naps). We go to the gym, work, home, etc. – but we don’t get outside a lot. The Japanese call this Tree Bathing. Go outside and take a nature walk for an hour. Take your time. Stop and smell roses.
  5. Get lost in a great fiction book.
  6. Solo dance party! Throw on your favorite tunes and boogie.
  7. Stargaze or watch the clouds from your yard or a local park.
  8. Declutter a space in your home. I know this sounds like work, but doesn’t anyone else get the same “zing” I do after my garage is all sorted out and clean? Love it!
  9. Write for fun. Grab a notebook or your laptop and google creative writing prompts. Write for half an hour or more. You’ll surprise yourself.
  10. Pick up a coloring book, your favorite coloring supplies, and go to town.
  11. Go for an aimless drive. Do not go to the store. Do not pick up your dry cleaning. Just drive. Crank up the stereo and drive until you want to go home. Sing while you’re doing it. No one can hear you.
  12. Watch your favorite movie! I call my pile of favorites “comfort flicks”. Mine are Ghostbusters and Friday – movies from my younger years that still make me laugh.
  13. Plant some flowers. Get a pot, soil, and flowers from your local Lowe’s, etc. and make something beautiful.
  14. Get muddy. This is my favorite. When it rains (and sometimes I make my own rain with a water hose) I like to walk out into the lawn and squish around in the mud barefoot. It reminds me of my childhood and its great for connecting yourself to the present moment. Also – try wading in puddles that collect in the curb on your street.

Remember: Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is totally doable and you are worth the effort!

Whitney