5 Tips for Staying Mindful

March 31, 2017

                                               

                                                                        Written by 7 Cups therapist: Jessica McDaniel, MA, LPC

Need help getting centered, feeling calm, or decreasing anxious thoughts? Try these 5 tips.

1. Mindful Breathing

Pay attention to your breathing. It’s so automatic that we rarely do this! Take 1 deep breath in through your nose, making sure you can feel your abdomen rise as you inhale. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Mindful breathing can make a huge difference  when we’re feeling stressed!

2. Mindful Observation

 People watching is so fun! Sit outside at a park or coffee shop, and just observe the people around you.

3. Just Be

When was the last time you just sat and stared off into space? I bet you don’t remember! Any down time we have the first thing we do is turn on the tv or reach for our phones. Try to do absolutely nothing for 5 minutes and see how you feel afterwards. No tv, phone, or other media.

4. Just Say No

Can you help with this project? Can you go on the field trip? Can you make cupcakes for this work holiday? We’re wired to say yes! After all, we all want to make other people happy. But doing too much leads to overload, and there are no awards for taking on too much. Practice saying no thanks, more!

5. Stop Multitasking

Along with #4 above, stop doing more than one thing at a time! Cognitive processing research studies have shown that our working memory, where we store small amounts of information for short-term use (think phone numbers!) can only process enough information for two tasks at a time. TWO. Any more than that and accuracy and performance suffers. Try to do only one thing at a time; finish it, then move on to the next one on your list (maybe take a 5 minute breathing break first!

Want more tips, or guidance, to help you achieve more peace and calm in your life? Connect anonymously with Jessica for therapy today. (CTA) (https://www.7cups.com/@JessicaMcDanielLPC)

Tags:mindfulmindfulnessmindfulnesspractice

4 Signs You Should Probably See A Therapist

March 23, 2017

                                                          


                                                                               Written by 7 Cups Therapist, Luma Naccache

As human beings, we are all unique and different than each other. However, we are, at the same time, very similar and we experience the same emotions and go through the same internal conflicts as one another. Sometimes, what is happening inside of us can begin to show in several aspects of our lives and cause major disturbances. These are some of the signs you should be watching out for:

1.  You get the feeling that there’s an aspect of your life that keeps on repeating itself even if some of its minor features are slightly different. This can apply to any personal or social facet of your life; something that you begin to feel is almost like a trend for you: relationships with a certain type of person that tend to develop (and end) in a familiar way, jobs or projects that eventually don’t work out for almost the same reason every time, or any kind of “failure” that you could swear keeps happening to you. This usually means that you’re playing a major role in the negative outcome of these events, possibly without realizing it. Seeking professional help can make you aware of your own impact and give you the awareness you’ve been missing in order to stop the repetition.

2.  You’re experiencing drastic changes in your mood, behavior, thoughts or interests. This could’ve happened slowly over time or unexpectedly out-of-the-blue, but in both cases, it feels like something has caused you to no longer act, think, or feel the way you usually do. Keeping in mind that change is a normal part of everyone’s life, the particular shifts I’m referring to actually feel out of character and tend to have a negative undertone to them. It could be that you’ve suddenly started to hate an activity that you loved, or began to eat or sleep a lot more than you used to, or even feel an extreme sense of cheerfulness for no particular reason. Most of the time, people around you are the ones who point out these changes. This might indicate that you’re dealing with some sort of internal distress but you’re starting to get emotionally tired of trying to stay on top of it. Changes in behavior are a sign that you need to be engaging in self-exploration and finding out the real root of the problem.

3.  You have a sense of constant worry or fear that is impossible to shake off, no matter where you are physically or who are the people around you. This feeling might be stronger at certain times and get a little less intense when you’re distracted, entertained or busy but somehow it feels like it’s always lurking somewhere in the background. This might indicate that you’re suffering as a result of a stressful or traumatic experience that you’ve had recently or even some years ago. This feeling might be a sign that you haven’t worked through some emotional issues and they have lingered on after the fact. Talking about your experiences and expressing how you feel to a professional can make your nervousness a lot more manageable.

4.  You’ve become convinced of a new lifestyle or belief system, one that you didn’t have before, and it has caused you to slowly push away people who were important to you, such as friends and family. You feel like they can no longer “get you” or understand the way you see things, which has made you shut them out and isolate yourself or only associate with people who think and behave exactly the way you do. Although you’re free to have your own perspective and value system, an over-attachment to a component of your life that causes serious distance with your surroundings and forces you to change your social habits might be doing you more harm than good in the long run. This might be very difficult to be aware of or admit, although, odds are that your friends and family have been talking to you or even fighting with you about it. Seek some help in order to find out if your adherence to this new-found hobby or interest or belief is helping you stay balanced by making constructive choices for yourself or is it hiding an attempt to run away from a problem that needs to be confronted or dealt with in your life.

If any of these signs are applicable to you, or to someone you know, speak to a therapist about them now. Everyone deserves some help in order to understand themselves well, resolve their personal conflicts and see themselves clearly.

Tags:therapyonlinetherapy

Never Say “I’m Stressed” Again

March 19, 2017

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                                                                                Written by 7 Cups Therapist Adrienne Baggs, PhD, LPC

“I’m so stressed!”

We hear ourselves and others say it all the time but what does it really mean? We just know stress is bad for our health and causes us to devour chocolate chip cookies, consume stiff cocktails, and get snippy with the people we love the most.

Even saying the words “I’m stressed” can be addicting, and sharing our stressed-out states can help us feel connected to other frazzled beings. After all, if you are not stressed in “this economy,” you certainly won’t be sitting at the cool kids’ lunch table.

Stress is Not an Emotion

Karla McLaren’s Language of Emotions is a must read, and she teaches us that stress is not an emotion. Tough to digest, I know. Let’s just say it’s true for a moment. Then, a big question arises, “If stress isn’t an emotion, then what am I feeling?”

Here are some examples of what might arise:

I’m stressed…I mean, I’m ashamed of that cigarette I just smoked after leaving yoga.

I’m stressed…I mean, I’m envious of the perfect lives portrayed on Facebook.

I’m stressed…I mean, I’m afraid of sharing my authentic self and creative ideas with the others and people thinking I suck.

The lunch table just got quiet. But at least we have an idea about where to go from here:

What is that cigarette feeding for me (other than the physical addiction) and how can I relax and reflect in healthier ways?

Can I log off Facebook and turn inward? What do I want in my life and how can I take actionable steps to get there?

How can I embrace fear as a powerful intuitive force but not remain so hyper-vigilant that it stifles my dreams and desires?

This task is not for the faint of heart. It makes us more vulnerable and way more responsible for our lives. Some days we might consciously choose to wade in the familiar waters of the “stressed out” kiddie pool. And that’s perfectly okay. In fact, it may be exactly what we need in that moment.

But for today, I’m putting on my floaties and choosing to paddle a little deeper. I’m thinking it will be worth it.

Tags:stressmanaging emotions

Grief and Loss

March 14, 2017

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                                                                              Written By 7 Cups Therapist, Melissa Muller, LMHC

In my counseling practice and in my personal life I am always in contact with people who have lost someone through death, break up, or other reasons.  At some point in our lives we all experience loss.  Some losses may be more difficult than others.  Some losses take less time to recover from.  The pain of some losses never goes away.  In the last year, I have worked with individuals experiencing grief and loss, had people in my personal life experience grief and loss, and experienced it myself.  

Although all situations take a different path to grief we all experience grief and loss in a similar way, Painfully.  Grief is a universal emotion.  All people go through it in a similar manner.  No matter where you are from, the color of your skin, your religious beliefs, or your political views.  We share this process. Loss can be; a loss of a friend through a disagreement, a break up with a partner, a death of a friend, a parent, a child, or a loved one.  Loss and grief can come from natural disasters such as the hurricane that recently devastated the town I live in.  Following the storm there was a collective grief.  So many experienced so much loss but had the opportunity to come together, understand each other’s grief, and mourn as a unit.  In this aspect grief had a positive effect on the town and relationships between neighbors. Loss and grief can be a lonely process or a collective process.  The better support system available to an individual who is grieving the less likeliness of feeling alone.

There are stages of grief and loss which all people go through.  Let’s use an example of a break up.  Two of my loved ones recently experienced relationship break ups.  Being close to both of them I watched them each go through the painful process and provided support to them as they moved through the stages.  

The stages of grief and loss, presented by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, are:  
1.  Denial and isolation  
2.  Anger
3.  Bargaining  
4.  Sadness
5. Acceptance
The stages are not necessarily sequential and once you get through them you might return to any of the stages.

As an example, we will use Suzy.  Suzy’s partner of five years recently broke up with her seemingly out of nowhere. She found out he had been seeing another woman.  When the break up happened, Suzy initially did not believe it.  (Denial and isolation).  She tried desperately to talk to her partner, who only kept telling her this was what he wanted.  She took to her bed and cried.  She called out of work and remained in bed, crying for three days.  She did not want to see or talk to anyone other than her best friend whom she spent hours talking to on the phone.

After several days, Suzy began to think about what she could have done differently so the break up wouldn’t have happened.  She even tried to make a pact with God that if her partner returned to her she would never ask God for anything again.  (Bargaining).

Soon, Suzy became angry (anger).  She couldn’t believe he actually broke up with her.  What a jerk!  This is who she was supposed to have spent the rest of her life with.  How could he have hurt her so badly?  What did she do to deserve this?  How could he have been cheating on her?  Suzy became so angry she thought about ways she could get back at him.  Anger took over her mind and she had difficulty focusing on anything else.

After a few days of anger, Suzy became overwhelmingly sad (sadness).  She was so sad she could barely move.  She cried constantly and felt as though her heart had been ripped out of her chest and stomped on.  She howled when she cried.  She clutched her dog closely and sobbed into his fur.  This alternated with the anger she had towards her ex-partner.  Most days she wanted to be alone and isolated herself.

One day, Suzy woke up feeling better.  “I got this” she said to herself.  “I don’t need that jerk anymore”.  Suzy had come to accept that the breakup had happened and that her life was not over (Acceptance).  She could and would move on.

Although Suzy had gone through the stages of grief and loss she did go back and forth between the anger and the sadness for several more months.  Especially when something reminded her of her ex.  After several months, she was ready to date again and continued to look forward.

Loss is usually something we cannot prepare for but by keeping ourselves as mentally and physically healthy as we can we will ensure when we meet up with loss we will have adequate coping skills to help us through the process. It helps to know the stages of grief and loss because when we go through them we understand all people have to deal with loss at some point.  We are never alone in our grief.  If you are grieving reach out to those who care about you.  We all go through it and we can all take our turn supporting those who are grieving.

Tags:grieflossacceptancerelationshipsdeath

The Normalization of Narcissistic Personality Traits

March 3, 2017

                                                 

                                                                      Written By 7 Cups Therapist, Myrna Pledger

I remember learning during the first week of psychology class that a famous psychologist stated that the mental disorder of the millennium will be narcissism.  As an undergraduate student, I was not a psychology major so I envisioned a society of people obsessed with mirrors.  It didn't sound that terrible.  It actually sounded comical to me.  It wasn't until a few years later when I began working with domestic violence group that I learned just how superficial my thoughts about narcissism had been and just how dangerous these people are.

The women I worked with had managed to leave violent relationships and were receiving counseling as part of a jobs training program.  What I noticed about these women was that in some way or other they were all exceptional.  Some were extremely attractive physically.  Some had intellectual gifts.  Some had great social skills.  Some were gifted communicators.  Each and every one had something unique and special to offer the world.  And each one told a story of being subjected to emotional and verbal “put-downs” that preceded the physical abuse and in some ways was far more devastating in that they did not at that time have scars or bruises or injuries to prove the abuse.  It was after this that the physical abuse would start.  

They spoke of the difficulty in leaving the relationship for various reasons.  It was rarely only the “but I love him” that we have come to accept as the reason why they remained in the relationships as long as they did.  Some stated that their religious leaders told them that they were not being submissive enough.  Some stated that they had been isolated from friends and family and did not have anyone to turn to.  Others stated that their abuser had not allowed them to work or when they did the abuser took their pay from them.   They were all eager to talk as they stated that no one would listen without blaming them and they themselves wondered if maybe they had contributed to their own abuse.  These women had been manipulated, isolated and used to bolster another's needs.  They had all been with narcissists or people who exhibit enough narcissistic personality traits to be dangerous to those who unknowingly attempted to become close to them.  And, from what I've seen, narcissists do not abuse just anyone.  Narcissists go for the best in some way that their environment affords.  It seems in way that their life goal is to destroy beauty.

Why did the victims have such a hard time obtaining assistance?

I pondered this question.  It is a large question with many facets.  I'd like to touch on one now that might be one of the major reasons and it is almost obvious in it's simplicity.  One of the reasons victims have difficulty obtaining assistance, even believability, concerning the abuse suffered is because narcissistic traits have been normalized, if not celebrated, in media.  

I remember in my freshman year of high school a good friend and I read Gone With the Wind.  The movie had finally come to TV and we decided to read the book first.  We were thrilled by Scarlett's ability to handle men.  She was vain, selfish, self-absorbed, had a bad temper and men loved her even though she wasn't considered the most beautiful.  She had power.  So, we tried to emulate her to various degrees of success.  And then there was Daisly in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.   I cried when I read of his Gatsby's and then when I saw the movie:  How could you do this to Leonardo DiCaprio?  Why does he die in so many of his movies?  Anyway, sorry I digressed.

In the nineties, Paula Abdul's video, Rush Rush shocked me.  I went to school and asked people didn't they notice that Paula's boyfriend drove over a cliff in the video and then she and Keanu Reeves had sex.  It's a nice song and I once declared Keanu Reeves as a work of art but still no one seemed to notice that Paula Abdul's character's boyfriend drove over a cliff.  And people looked at me like I was too sensitive.  

Then there were soap operas.  We watched All My Children.  There was Erica Kane.  Another vain, selfish, self-absorbed and ill-tempered woman who knew her way around men.  We learned to honor and admire manipulativeness.  We wanted to grow up to be Erica Kane.

More recently and as a male counterpart, we have Charlie from 2 ½ men.  He doesn't set out to hurt anyone.  But he is vain, lazy and immoral. He seems to   think of women as walking vaginal sex toys and yet he was rich and adored.  Generally his character was not censored for his extravagances, but was lauded because he was amusing.  Instead of being encouraged to run away from such a person, the audience is encouraged to laugh at his behavior as though it wouldn't in real life present sexual and mental health dangers to all he romanced.

If you look at The Walking Dead, it seems to show you varieties of narcissism in characters such as Rick's best friend who slept with Rick's wife and then tried to kill him; the governor he robbed other survivors to support his governance of his own camp and currently Negan who punishes dissenters with a heinous bat wielded death by his instrument Lucille.  

And then there's Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.  Everyone laughs while he treats his friends and colleagues with contempt and snug superiority.  He sexually frustrates his girlfriend and cannot even understand the concept of empathy.  Yet, he is adored by those friends he derides.  

As long as we as a society are encouraged to laugh at or identify or sympathize with the antics of these self-absorbed, manipulative and selfish people, we will trivialize the damage they cause to others.  I think this is at least one of the reasons why narcissism has become so much a part of the norm that we invite them into hour homes each and everyday through our TV's and other trendy devices and we often love them.  It would help if we thought about the victims.  Narcissism is not a victimless crime.  It always leaves victims who have to try somehow to carry on.

 Written By 7 Cups Therapist, Myrna Pledger

Tags:narcissismrelationshipstherapymedia