The Benefits of Journaling

Journaling is a practice I recommend for many of my clients. When I make this suggestion, I sometimes get a wide-eyed “oh, no!” look in return. I quickly try to take the fear out of journaling and explain the benefits of a regular practice of keeping a journal.

First of all, journaling does not require you to be a great writer. The personal experience of keeping a journal only requires a bit of discipline and a few minutes of quiet time. The important thing is to simply begin. The words that make their way on to paper or the computer screen are for you alone. If you feel blocked and nothing comes to you, begin by writing “I don’t know what to write,” or “I can’t think of a thing to say,” or whatever comes to mind. I’ve even started my personal journaling entries with “blah blah blah!” An interesting thing happens when you just start writing something…anything. You may remember that dream you had last night and begin to wonder what it might mean. A work frustration makes its way on to the paper and you may find a resolution or a reduction in stress by being able to get it out of your mind. Feelings of anger, or sadness, or happiness, or gratitude can surface spontaneously as your write, and then you can write about those feelings. As you continue the practice of journaling regularly, it becomes easier, less intimidating, and I find that many people look forward to the time devoted to journaling. Some may include poetry, sketches, or diagrams with the thoughts expressed in words. A journal is whatever you want it to be. It’s a way to process thoughts, feelings, and emotions which can lead to insights, problem-solving, creativity, self-discovery, reduced stress, and inner peace.

In the book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron writes about a journaling exercise she calls “morning pages.” She instructs readers to write two pages of something upon waking each morning. The content is not as important as the exercise and discipline of writing every day, because the content will come. I even suggest to clients that if two pages sounds like too much, start by writing one page. You might set a specific amount of time to journal and not define journaling by the number of pages. Set a timer and write for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or whatever amount of time fits your schedule.

Journaling can provide these benefits and more:

  • Stress reduction
  • Increased focus
  • Improved mindfulness
  • Clarifying and processing thoughts, feelings, and emotions
  • Knowing yourself better through personal insights and self-discovery
  • Increased creativity
  • Defining dreams and goals and plans to attain them

Journaling is a personal experience and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Just grab a pen and paper (or your computer) and give it a try.

15 Ways to Attend to Self-Care

Self-care is certainly not a new topic of discussion. However, I think checking in from time-to-time about how we are managing our self-care is important. I often discuss with clients ways they are attending to care of self and work with them to identify ways in which they can nurture themselves. Sometimes there is confusion that self-care is equal to narcissism. Let me make this very clear: Self-care is not narcissistic! Narcissists have little regard for the feelings of others. People who struggle with caring for themselves are usually not those who lack care and concern for others. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. They are very concerned about the feelings and care of others to the exclusion of taking care of themselves. Men and women both struggle with taking the time to care for self. As a counselor who works primarily with women and their emotional health, I know that women often take on the responsibility to be sure all is well with their children, families, partners, and careers and leave little time for themselves.

What are some ways to implement self-care? Here is a basic, short list of things you might consider as you plan to take care of yourself.  If you are already attending to some of the items on the list, give yourself credit for that! You might want to try a new way of self-care, as well. If you find self-care difficult, pick one or two items and try it out to see how it feels. And always remember that taking care of yourself means that you are also being good to those you care about and who care about you. Make self-care a priority!

Physical Self-Care
    1.       Healthy Diet
    2.       Regular Exercise
    3.       Sufficient Sleep
    4.       Medical Care (regular check-ups, medication compliance, being proactive about healthconcerns,  etc.)

Emotional Self-Care
    5.       Counseling
    6.       Journaling
    7.       Meditation, mindfulness, or relaxation practices
    8.       Solitude

Fun and Leisure as Self-Care
    9.       Sports and Hobbies
   10.      Date Night with Partner
   11.      Night Out or Trips with Friends

Self-Care in Relationships
   12.      Supportive relationships with friends and family
   13.      Setting boundaries or limits – (It’s OK to say “no!”)

Other Ways to Attend to Self Care
    14.     Technology breaks
    15.     Use your calendar to schedule and prioritize self-care activities

Is it Domestic Violence If There is No Physical Abuse?

Many years ago, a friend who was in a bad relationship commented to me, “At least he doesn’t hit me.” While I understood that my friend was grateful she was not being physically harmed, I realized that the emotional abuse she was suffering in her relationship was just as damaging as physical abuse.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and domestic violence has been prominent in the news recently after a professional athlete very publicly battered his wife in a hotel elevator. Physical abuse is never acceptable. Emotional abuse is never acceptable either. And yes, emotional abuse in a relationship is considered to be domestic violence. Domestic violence is not only physical abuse.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you always giving? Is there a lack of reciprocation from your partner?
  2. Do you feel like your partner tries to make everything your fault?
  3. Does your partner refuse to listen to you, discount what you have to say as unimportant, talk over you, yell at you, try to intimidate you, shame you?
  4. Do you sometimes think your partner is trying to make you think you are “crazy?” (It has a name: it's called “gaslighting.”)
  5. Do you second-guess yourself most of the time? Do you feel like your self-esteem is being slowly dismantled?
  6. Do you feel isolated? Have you limited or lost contact with friends and family because your partner doesn’t like them?
  7. Is your partner jealous? Does he/she want to know where you are all the time and check on you frequently? Accuse you of being unfaithful?
  8. Do you minimize the times when your partner is coercive, controlling, disempowering, demeaning and/or humiliating? When this happens do you tell yourself “it’s not a big deal,” or “he/she didn’t mean it,” or “I’m being too sensitive?”
  9. Do you have to ask your partner for money because you don’t have access to accounts?
  10. Do you have sex with your partner when you don’t want to, because you want to “keep the peace?”
  11. Do you feel exhausted most or all of the time? Have difficulty making decisions for yourself?
  12. Have you left your relationship before, gotten back together when changes in behavior are promised, only to have your partner’s pattern of behavior return?

Answering yes to any of the questions above may be indicators that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship. Emotional abuse, like physical abuse, is about power and control. It’s a pattern of behavior over time. It’s very different from the ups-and-downs or occasional fight or disagreement with your partner. Emotional abuse is confusing and it breaks you down.

If you think you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, reach out to someone who will listen to your story – a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. The shame you may feel will begin to lose its power when you bring it into the open within a safe environment. With help, you can regain your personal power, identity, and self-esteem.               

5 Natural Ways to Cope With Anxiety

If you currently suffer from anxiety, you may sometimes feel like you are trapped. Anxiety is a very serious condition that can severely alter your ability to function and focus on a daily basis—but you should never feel like you are out of options.

With the right approach, anxiety can be controlled and greatly reduced. In addition to prescription medications and professional therapy sessions, you have access to countless natural anxiety remedies within the comfort of your home and community. Below, five natural anxiety remedies are discussed in more detail:

Change your diet

While it may not be an easy thing to hear, diet plays a huge role in maintaining the body’s emotional health. Individuals who eat a healthy, balanced diet are at a smaller risk for developing both anxiety and depression. If you find yourself constantly worried and unable to relax, take a closer look at your daily food intake—excessive consumption of sugar, refined flours, and processed foods is linked to increased anxiety. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages will also alter the brain and make it difficult to focus and stay still. As you plan your meals and snacks, factor in situations and times of the day where you are most susceptible to anxiety attacks and eat accordingly.

Use calming scents

Smell is considered to be the body’s most powerful sense, and there are many fragrances known to specifically reduce anxiety levels. Researchers test different scents, narrowing them down to the ones that help you relax the most. Common anxiety-reducers include lavender, peppermint, jasmine, lemon, and other citrus fruits. Look for these fragrances in the form of candles, lotions, air fresheners, shower gels, and essential oils. Surrounding yourself with a calming scent during the day, or even just catching a whiff or two during a particularly anxious moment, can help keep you grounded and allow you to cope.

Exercise mindfully

Hand-in-hand with dietary choices, exercise habits influence the overall state of our bodies and minds. Exercising mindfully is just as important as exercising regularly—that is, your exercise needs to counteract your anxiety and not increase it. Twenty to thirty minutes of moderate exercise each day can help reduce anxiety levels, but over-exercising or an obsessive need to exercise will only make your anxiety worse. Start off slow, and try to incorporate yoga or other types of meditation into your routine. A brisk walk followed by ten minutes of stretching and controlling your breathing may be all you need to calm down.

Attempt to relax

While this coping mechanism may seem counterintuitive, attempting to relax can help your mind slow down and allow you to actually relax. If you are experiencing severe anxiety, sit down in a quiet, dark room. Focus on your breathing, and attempt to bring your heart rate back to normal. Close your eyes, count to fifty, play calming music, lie down, call a friend . . . anything that distracts you from the present situation. It's never easy to relax in the middle of an anxiety attack, but making a conscious effort to combat your fears is the first step toward beating them.

Use heat

Heating up the body forces muscles to relax, which in turn can help reduce anxiety. In addition to the physical alterations heat causes in our bodies, our minds associate warmth with a state of comfort and relaxation—the opposite of anxiety. Try taking a hot bath, sitting in a steam room, reading by the fireplace, drinking a cup of tea or hot chocolate, or walking around in warm weather. Even a few minutes of daily “heat therapy” can make a big difference when it comes to managing anxiety levels.

If anxiety is something you are trying to get under control, please contact me for a free consultation. I'm here to help you.

Moms with ADHD - 7 Practical Ways to Stay Organized

ADHD Moms.jpg

Raising kids and managing a home are two of the most demanding and time-consuming jobs for mothers. Even without ADHD any mother eventually feels overwhelmed, over-extended, and totally exhausted. If you are a mother dealing with ADHD, your challenge is even greater and will require even more determination to keep your family and personal life as healthy as possible.

There are many ways to stay organized despite the chaos of family life. Here are 7 practical ways that can make a big difference:

1. Take Care of Yourself

As caregivers, we forget and erase our own needs all the time. Though every mother should make sure she lives a balanced life, mothers with ADHD need to pay even more attention to that aspect. In order to organize your life, your mind and body need to be sharp and relaxed.

  • Take short ‘do nothing’ breaks daily
  • Get plenty of sleep and good nutrition
  • Physical activity, meditation, and yoga are great ways to relieve stress and stay focused

2. De-clutter

De-clutter your mind and your home! Clutter has been proven by neuroscientists to affect our concentration, increase our stress level, and reduce our performance. You have enough going on with your busy family life; you don’t need additional visual distractions to drain your energy.

For physical clutter:

  • Get rid of the clutter, one room at a time
  • Keep every room clutter-free by picking up as you go

For mind clutter:

  • Write down everything you have to do
  • Organize by priority
  • Focus on one task at a time
  • Use color-coded calendars for everyone in the family

3. Plan Ahead

Life throws surprise events and activities at us all the time and we can’t avoid it, so when it comes to school, work, and day-to-day stuff, make it as predictable for everyone as possible.

  • Morning tasks, such as packing lunches and preparing snacks should be done the night before. This will reduce morning stress and increase your chances of a restful night.
  • Notice which part of every day is more chaotic, and make small changes to prepare as many things in advance as possible.
  • Establish daily routines anywhere from bedtimes to free time, so they become predictable for every member of the family, and there’s less on your mind.
  • Avoid situations that can lead to meltdowns in your children, for example, have someone watch the children while you go grocery shopping.

4. Team Work

In addition to educating yourself and your family about how ADHD works and effects you, you also need to engage everyone in family teamwork, so they all take part in helping you cope with day-to-day life. Delegate as many tasks as possible.

5. Simplify!

Stop multitasking. Multitasking is a go-crazy habit that is extremely counterproductive. When there is too much going on at once, nothing gets done properly and tension rises.

Another big stressor and attention drainer is electronics. Get rid of all electronics during meals and stay clear of computer screens and phones while doing something else. Set some uninterrupted time each day to catch up on social media and emails.

6. Support System

ADHD is a big challenge in itself; make sure you have a solid support system and professional help for you and your family as needed. They can help you stay focused and organized when all you feel is unraveled.

7. Lighten Things Up

Staying organized does not only mean serious work and planning, it also means a lighter, more joyful mind. Try to turn your own meltdowns into something funny, so everyone can laugh about it with you. Laughter is the ultimate tension diffuser, saving your mind and energy for more important things.

Life can be demanding and stressful. Keeping things clutter-free and organized is extremely important — especially when dealing with ADHD. Take it one day at a time, one task at a time, and ask for help as needed. You can do this!

Your Friend is Depressed - How Can You Help?

When your friend is depressed it can feel as if your own life is crumbling. It pains you to see your friend suffer and it hurts you to feel so helpless. Your caring instinct will urge you to help and do everything you can to lighten your friend’s burdens or worries but, at the same time, you may also feel overwhelmed or scared by the situation.

Here are some ways you can help your friend feel better, while also avoiding some common mistakes:

  • The first step in helping your friend is to take good care of yourself. Make sure you balance helping out with nurturing your own life and needs. Don’t let yourself drown in your friend’s sorrow; keep an eye on your mood and energy level.
  • Be there for your friend; let her know she can safely confide in you. Encourage her to talk openly about her feelings and what she thinks could have triggered her depression.
  • Show empathy instead of sympathy. Tell your friend that even though you might not understand exactly how he feels, you care about his well-being and you’re there for him.
  • Listen with a kind heart and a non-judgmental mind, even if you don’t agree or you think she’s being unreasonable.
  • Suggest professional help and read about depression together. Offer to go with your friend to his first therapy session.
  • Check in often. Be gentle and respectful, but persistent.
  • Give your friend a hug or a comforting touch on the hand or shoulder. Physical contact is important and very beneficial; of course, make sure she would welcome this special attention.
  • Nurture your friendship. Spend quality time together, go see a funny movie, go for a nature walk; a change of scenery will benefit you both.
  • Ask your friend for help with something. This will make him feel important and boost his confidence.
  • You might feel that sharing the events of your life is inappropriate at this time, however, if you feel your friend has some interest in what you are going through, spend time talking about what’s going on in your life as well.

Some things to be careful of:

  • Remember that no one can snap out of depression, it is a long and complex process.
  • Refrain from giving advice. Make an effort to understand what your friend is going through instead of trying to find solutions.
  • Don’t minimize or ignore depression. While it is important and healthy for both of you to find distractions from the situation, it is also crucial not to neglect treatment or to minimize the severity of depression. Take it seriously.
  • If you find yourself feeling drained or losing patience with your friend, find time to put some distance between you and replenish your own energy.
  • When you offer help, mean it and live up to it. Do not let your friend down, it would only send the message that he is not important or worth your time.

Some final notes:

  • Don’t give up. Be patient. Don’t lose hope even when your friend rejects all your caring gestures and efforts. Be an unconditional friend.
  • It might be good to find volunteer activities you could do together to help out in your community. In addition to helping others, this gratifying work might help your friend feel good about herself.
  • Always be on the watch for suicidal warning signs such as extreme isolation or anger, a clear loss of interest in life, or comments such as,”‘I wish I were dead” or “Life would be better without me.” Even if you only suspect your friend has suicidal thoughts, please alert someone–call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Women: Five Reasons It's Not Too Late to Start Something New

Whether you are forced into a change because of downsizing or resource actions, or because you are ready for a slower pace with less hours, stress, or responsibilities, a career change later in life is highly common and predictable.

You have already adapted to multitudes of unexpected changes in your life, what you decide to do with your career, and your goals at this time is no different: you can evolve, adapt, and succeed at anything you set your mind to. It’s never too late to start something new, here is why:

1. You know yourself better now

Your life experience has brought you undeniable knowledge about who you are as a person, your strengths, your likes and dislikes, passions, and hidden talents — things you didn’t know when you were 20. You know what sparks the light in your eyes, what drains the energy out of you, what gets you motivated. You know what you want and why you want it. You can find employment that better fits your goals, your expertise, and who you have become.

2. Maturity and knowledge

No diploma can teach the knowledge and life lessons you have acquired over the years. You are in a position to make mature decisions with a full understanding of possible real-life repercussions, efforts, and necessary investments to make it happen.

Take this time to reassess all of your skills and achievements. Make a list of all the experience and expertise you have accumulated over the years that are transferable to different jobs or careers.

3. Determination and motivation

Even though it may seem scary or even impossible to embark on something new later on in your life, the reasons behind your desire to do something different are filled with a determination, will power, and certainty that can only come with years of experience.

It takes motivation and determination to make changes in our lives, especially if it is a drastic or more elaborate transformation. However, age is not a factor when making positive changes in your life. Be open to something new and start networking as soon as possible to let people know you are looking for a new challenge.

4. Learning opportunities

Education opportunities are everywhere. From returning to college to earn a degree, to continuing education, community offered classes, to the internet, there is a vast array of ways to learn something new and get to the place you want to be. While entering a program that would require 15 years of education might not be an optimal solution for you, there could be several related opportunities that could bring you the satisfaction of contributing and working in a similar environment.

Whether you want to tackle the career you’ve never had, or want to do something that aligns more with who you are now, there are many accessible ways to achieve it.

5. Change is good!

Change keeps us afloat and keeps us energized. The ‘new you’ may be ready for a new step in life. Trust yourself and your decisions. Make sure to block out those inner voices that constantly try to ‘protect’ you from the unknown. Being smart with your choices is a must, but while keeping both feet on the ground and doing your research (what’s involved, finance, education, etc.), unleash your creative side and live the life you want to live.

If you are not interested or ready for a drastic change in your life, or maybe the career you would like demands too much time, money, or education, nothing stops you from volunteering or taking a different job within the field of expertise you are interested in.

Life has changed, and so have you. Learning and doing something new, whether a hobby or a career, is beneficial for your overall health and well-being.

7 Ways to Maintain Your Spirituality in this Busy World

Spirituality is often a pillar of life; a system of beliefs or traditions that keeps us strong and hopeful. But when our world gets hectic and overwhelmingly busy, we often lose touch with those ground-hugging roots, and feel unbalanced and neglectful.

There is no need to lose your mind or your spirituality over busy times – here are seven easy steps to keep you connected:

1. Slow Down Your Mind

The one thing spirituality needs to exist in your life is you. In order to stay connected, it’s important to find ways to slow down your mind, even when running from one place to another. Try to stay in each moment, instead of letting your mind race to the next to-do on the list. Taking a deep slow breath will relax your body and clear your mind instantly, allowing spirituality to seep in and coexist with your busy life.

2. Be Grateful

The simple act of gratitude is in itself a form of spirituality. When you run around all stressed out, you will most likely forget to be grateful for the loving people in your life, for the chances you have that many don’t. When you are able to slow down your mind a few times a day, and be grateful for your many blessings throughout the day, you will be two steps closer to reconnecting effortlessly with your spirituality.

3. Increased Quality

If devoting 30 minutes of your day to your spirituality is making you even more stressed out because you are exhausted, or out of time, it will not be beneficial. Try dividing this time into smaller lapses during which you are fully present, giving each moment high quality and meaning. Adapt your spirituality to the rhythm of your life.

4. Sacred Time & Place

Allow time, every day, where you can enjoy a few minutes of solitude and gently tap into your spirituality. Nature is often a very good place to rejuvenate and quiet the mind. It could be a garden or a park close to work, or simply in a quiet room in your house. Find a place, and a time, that allows you to reconnect to yourself and your spirituality.

5. Set Your Environment

Another way to not ‘forget’ your spiritual life and stay connected is to set objects, paintings, or framed quotes in your environment, that remind you of your beliefs constantly. It can even be a bracelet, a pendant, a card in your wallet, something you can see or touch that will bring you right back to your root system and give you strength, even just for a moment. It becomes a connection.

6. Make it a Habit

In a very busy world, repetition is key when you want to stick to a new habit. Start by devoting just five minutes in the morning or before bedtime to meditate, pray or practice your spirituality every day. Begin with a small and easily attainable goal, and stick to it. Soon it will become a natural part of your routine.

7. Reevaluate

In addition to making time to stay in touch with your belief system, also reevaluate the activities and obligations you set for yourself each day, and decide if they are truly needed, or how they could be achieved more efficiently. Staying connected to your spirituality can help you see the unhealthy patterns in your life, and allow you to make changes.

Your spirituality never leaves you. It is there with you at all times, even when you are too busy to attend to it. The goal is to slowly make room in your schedule to let your spiritual-self flow back into your life, and rebalance your mind, body and soul. It doesn’t take much to lose track, but it also doesn’t take much to stay in touch.

"Comfort Foods" - Why Do We Turn to Them?

You’ve probably seen movies and TV shows that depict a person turning to ice cream or cake after a break-up or other emotional event. It’s likely you’ve done something similar yourself; maybe you craved pizza after a difficult exam in college or desperately searched for your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup recipe years after leaving home.

The connection between mood and food is complex. Regularly pulling out comfort foods like ice cream, cake, or chips might sound rewarding initially, but it could ultimately leave you feeling dissatisfied or embarrassed. On the other hand, seeking both comfort and nourishment from your food can give you an emotional boost.

So how can you tell if your comfort foods are helping or hurting you? Understanding why, when, and how often you crave certain foods can help you make sure your relationship with food stays positive and healthy.

Why do you turn to comfort foods?

You associate certain foods with happy memories – There are certain smells and tastes you carry with you into adulthood. The healing properties of your grandmother’s soup aren’t just nutritional, they’re sentimental as well: the soup reminds you of being cared for and nurtured. The social attachments you form to certain foods explains why you might want comfort food more when you’re feeling lonely.

You’re experiencing stress and feel overwhelmed – In times of emotional upheaval, you might set aside traditional patterns of eating if you think doing so might help you feel better. For example, you like cake but know you can’t have it all the time. It makes sense that when you’re feeling bad, you make an exception.

You had a really great day – Comfort foods aren’t just for bad days. Researchers have found that comfort food is often used as a reward for a job well done. Certain foods might symbolize pleasure or celebration, concretely commemorating a promotion or a finished project.

You need a break – One study conducted on comfort food found that women and men generally have different tastes when it comes to emotionally rewarding foods. The researchers posited that women generally turn to things like potato chips rather than prepared foods like soup because it signifies a break from providing for others.

When does comfort food hurt?

Because your emotional needs are more dominant than your physical needs in the push toward comfort foods, emotionally rewarding eating isn’t always the most nutritious. One recent study concluded that it isn’t actually the particular food you eat that affects your mood. Instead, you could feel better after eating because you’ve put time and space between yourself and your stressors.

If you find that you’re always seeking out unhealthy foods, keep in mind that you might feel just as good after eating a healthy substitute. You can also have the best of both worlds by putting a healthy twist on old favorites.

Other research suggests that ingesting fatty acids might improve your mood, but there’s a catch—you can become desensitized to the chemical boost the more you eat, meaning that your body will require more fatty acids for the same results. After a while, the food you’re eating for comfort might not comfort you anymore.

If you’re eating a certain food because it reminds you of the past, flipping through a photo album or calling an old friend might boost your mood more than emotional eating.

If you turn to food to reduce stress much of the time, you may be conditioning yourself to use eating as your primary method of coping with difficult times. The temporary emotional boost quickly turns negative if regular stresses in your life persist unresolved.

You don't have to deal with anxious and depressed feelings alone. Talk to a trusted friend, or see a counselor. Commit to finding help to sort through difficult aspects of your life. You can feel better in a way that’s meaningful and long-lasting.

Guilt or Shame? There is a Difference

A recent study conducted on the power of self-labels asked participants to decide whether or not to take money they hadn’t earned. One group was told the study aimed to eliminate cheating on college campuses; the other group was told the study aimed to eliminate cheaters. In general, participants for whom the decision was framed as cheating were much more likely to take money than those who believed they’d be cheaters.

What’s the big difference between “cheating” and “cheaters?” The answer—as well as the study’s outcome—has a lot to do with the distinction between shame and guilt. “Cheating” describes what you’re doing, while “cheater” describes who you are. Shame and guilt work in parallel ways: if you’re feeling guilty, you’re concerned about your behavior. If you’re feeling shame, your discontent is tied up in who you are as a person.

What is guilt?

Guilt has to do with the way you process your actions—what you’ve done, what you’ve failed to do, and how those things affected the people in your life. You can be wholly accepting of yourself, and still feel guilt.

Guilt can sound like this:

“I feel terrible that I had to let my employee go.”

“I said something hurtful to a close friend, and wish I could make it right.”

“It’s really bothering me that I didn’t pick up the phone when my mother called.”

Researcher Brene Brown believes guilt is a helpful tool. Guilt simply means that you’ve measured an action against your personal values and beliefs, and discovered friction. Feelings of guilt compel you to live consistently and in a way that feels right to you. Guilt tells you that the connections you have with other people really matter.

What is shame?

Shame is a belief that you’re fundamentally unworthy of love and support. Shame boils up out of fear: you’re afraid of being emotionally vulnerable, you’re afraid that you don’t deserve real connection with others, or you’re afraid you’re not yet whole.

Shame sounds like this:

“I’ll start dating when I fix this list of things I think are wrong with me.”

“If I make a mistake, I won’t be able to live with myself.”

“I don’t want to be close to anyone because I don’t want anyone to know who I really am.”

In short, shame tells you that you’re not good enough. Shame misleads you, telling you that if you’ve been mistreated or neglected, the reason has to do with you. Shame feels the same no matter who you are. You believe your flaws are fatal.

Shame perpetuates the harmful myths that you can’t be vulnerable, that you have to hold in your pain forever, and that the only way to live without negative self-directed feelings is to numb them. Large amounts of shame often coexist with aggression toward others, eating disorders, suicide, and addiction.

What’s the antidote to shame?

If you’re unable to extend a compassionate hand to yourself, it’s hard to have the time or emotional energy to feel compassionate toward others. Shame is also harmful for other reasons: In the attempt to numb your bad feelings, you might just numb the good ones too.

Brene Brown believes the most powerful responses to shame are empathy and vulnerability—allowing yourself to be truly seen without knowing or being able to control the outcome. Vulnerability is often mistakenly linked to weakness, but in reality, the opposite is true; opening up to yourself and others is a courageous emotional risk to take. Looking into a realistic mirror requires having strength and compassion to not condemn what you see—an internal well that you can learn to tap into and appreciate.

Coping with the "Invisible Disease" Fibromyalgia? Therapy Can Help

The mystery surrounding the arrival of fibromyalgia and the realities of living with it have confounded health professionals and scientists. If you have fibromyalgia, you might have heard, “your pain isn’t real,” or “there’s no cause for your pain.” Maybe you’ve even encountered doctors who don’t know how to treat you.

Facing disbelief and skepticism when you’re reaching out for help can be tremendously disheartening. After being met with what feels like silence, you could understandably feel disillusioned, angry, or alone.

Fibromyalgia is different from health disorders like arthritis, cancer, or diabetes in the sense that you might come to believe you’re only imagining your condition. “What’s wrong with me?” you might think.

So how can therapy help?

In cases of fibromyalgia, one of the primary goals of a therapist is to acknowledge and help you accept that the pain you’re feeling truly is real. That the causes and symptoms of fibromyalgia are still murky does not mean that causes and symptoms do not exist. A good therapist means to be an ally in a journey that can feel just too treacherous to venture alone.

Like many aspects of living with fibromyalgia, it’s not yet understood whether depression and anxiety occur alongside the disorder, or whether depression and anxiety occur in the wake of chronic pain. What is understood is that when you feel bad emotionally, the sleepless nights, sharp pains, and mental fog of fibromyalgia become worse.

When you’re not sleeping and everything hurts, it really helps to be able to turn to someone else for help with the emotional struggles that coincide with fibromyalgia. A therapist can help you cope in a few ways: you can begin to come to terms with the dramatic changes your life has undergone, you can practice happier and more productive lines of thinking, and you can brainstorm practical ways of managing fibromyalgia’s effects.

In therapy you can also begin to sort through stresses that are making the possibility of healthier living seem remote. Perhaps painful memories or vivid worries compound your pain in the struggle to fall asleep. Maybe you’ve struggled around your relationship with food and are finding it too difficult to eat well. It makes sense that in the experience of a disorder that makes everything feel like it hurts, what seem like normal hurdles can loom larger than life in your visions of the future.

Because fibromyalgia affects your ability to feel joy, pleasure, and hope, and because no one seems to fully understand it, the relationships that matter to you the most can face unique challenges. With a therapist you can explore what your own needs are when it comes to your friends’ and family’s support. You can begin to see how your own pain is affecting your loved ones and how they too can learn to cope.

There are many different ways going to therapy can help soothe the emotional wounds created by chronic pain, but perhaps the central benefit of seeking counseling for fibromyalgia is being able to talk about your experience with the condition. Little is known about fibromyalgia, and you’ve probably heard dozens of conflicting and possibly unhelpful responses to your experience from friends, coworkers, and doctors. It makes sense that you might feel confused, low, and unsure where to turn.

The chronic pain of fibromyalgia affects everyone differently; there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for coming to terms with what you’re going through. By talking about what you’re feeling, you begin to learn more about yourself and gain insight into what the painful changes wrought by fibromyalgia mean to you. You don’t have to struggle with the weight of fibromyalgia alone.

Women, Take These Steps to Cope with Migraines

There’s no doubt that suffering from migraines hurts. What can hurt just as much is the struggle to explain the life-altering episodes of pain to your boss, your doctors, and your loved ones. Migraines are unique for each person experiencing them; however, if you’ve lived with migraines for long, you likely have a few things in common with the millions of others who also live with the condition.

· Your migraines have forced you to be strict with yourself—you avoid having alcoholic beverages, go to bed early every night, restrict certain foods, and live in fear of the pain returning. Maybe you feel like you’re missing out.

· You’ve tried what feels like a hundred different treatments, yet still find yourself in a cool, dark room waiting out the storm.

· You feel guilty about the family gatherings, and workdays, your pain has forced you to miss. You start to get down on yourself, and may feel depressed.

Relatively little is known about where migraines come from, and why you get them, so it isn’t always easy to start effectively treating your migraines right away. It’s also possible that the people in your life don’t grasp the severity of your pain. It helps to remember that despite all the mystery surrounding these nasty headaches, the pain you’re feeling is real.

What is known about migraines?

· Migraines affect nearly three times as many women as men.

· Nearly 15% of migraines appear just before the menstrual cycle begins.

· Migraines do respond to different coping strategies. The hard part is finding out what works for you.

Steps you can take to cope with migraines

Talk to your doctor – There are various medications available to you that help reduce and treat migraines. Talking to your doctor gives you an ally in your struggle. If your migraines are related to getting your period, a doctor can help you find ways to balance hormonal fluctuations. Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist who specializes in headache pain management. Alternative treatments such as acupuncture and EMDR Therapy can also be helpful in treating and controlling migraine headache pain.

Reduce stress – Emotional and physical stress could be contributing factors when migraines persist. There are many different ways to reduce stress. Don’t feel guilty about making your own wellbeing a priority. If you’re at a desk looking at a computer for long periods of time, make a point of getting up, and stretching your legs. If your life at home and at work is stressful, practice deep breathing, and set aside time to unwind.

Stay healthy – Exercise, sleep, and nutrition are often the three biggest cornerstones of learning to cope with migraines. Eating regular meals every day and developing a consistent sleep schedule can harmonize your body and stave off the unbearable pain. Staying healthy is often an exercise in practical thinking—schedule an afternoon walk, avoid watching TV before bed, and give yourself enough time to eat breakfast each morning.

Know your triggers – In some cases, rigorous exercise, such as jogging or running, sets off migraine headaches. If this is the case for you, trying something like yoga or brisk walking can help you adapt and continue much-needed exercise. Undiscovered food allergies are another common culprit. Consider what foods you ate before each migraine’s onset; noticing patterns can help make life a lot easier for you in the long run. Migraine triggers can range from hormones to medications to too much sleep. Your trigger may not be a single thing, but may be several contributors with the last one putting you over a trigger threshold. Knowing the contributing triggers to  your migraines start can help you avoid or manage those triggers.

Reach out – Living with migraines can be very isolating. Many migraine sufferers feel discouraged. Consider admitting others entrance into your struggle. Seeking out migraine support groups, or the help of a therapist, might finally allow you to see that things really can get better.

Infertility: Let Therapy Keep You From Drowning in a Flood of Emotions

If you and your partner have been struggling to have children, you know how deeply the painful roots of infertility sink into your life. The hurt you feel isn’t confined within the walls of your home. You also have to consider who you want to tell, how much you want to tell them, how to cope with seeing your friends’ growing families, and getting yourself and your partner through treatment .

You can handle the difficult conversations, and you’ve managed the discomfort and sadness, but you weren’t prepared for what feels like an endless wait. Will this horrible state of limbo last forever?

If you’re feeling too small to bear the immense weight of infertility on your own, know that you’re not going crazy. Feeling a flood of emotions is to be expected, when it seems like your plans for a family are veering off course. No one prepares you for the possibility of not being able to get pregnant. This isn’t how things are supposed to go.

What do you do?

You might not think of going to a therapist to talk about infertility issues, but a qualified therapist can help you navigate the many emotions you are experiencing. Maybe you feel like your personal needs take a backseat during such a stressful time. Maybe you’re so focused on finding a solution that you push your emotions away—“feeling like this isn’t helping,” you might think.

In truth, what you’re feeling does matter. How you cope with the stress of infertility will determine how the experience will change you in the end. A therapist is uniquely qualified to help you mine answers from the expanse of impossible questions about what infertility means for you.

– Struggling with infertility can change a lot of things: how you see yourself, how you see your partner, and how you relate to those around you. It can help to have a counselor’s guidance, as you learn to adapt to a new kind of reality. What do you need to know about learning to cope? How can you and your partner help each other adapt?

– When the possibility of not getting pregnant first begins to dawn, the plans and dreams you’ve shared with your partner fade into a murkier picture. What will you do? Who will you be together? A therapist is a great sounding board for your uncertainties; moving forward can begin to seem less daunting with sensitive emotional guidance.

– You and your partner may handle infertility in different ways. It’s possible that difficulty having children will bring out submerged feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you aren’t sure how to comfort your spouse. Maybe your emotional reaction to infertility is too great for your partner to answer on his own. Even if you and your spouse are a really great team, things can come up in infertility that need special attention.

– In the struggle to start a family, you might feel so exhausted and drained that you don’t even realize how painful this time is for you. Maybe you just feel numb. Seeing a therapist during such a tumultuous time in your relationship—and your life—can help you recognize infertility for what it is: an emotional roller coaster that may include feelings of sadness, loss, grief, anger, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, and more.

– It’s a normal reaction to feel guilt or shame when you can’t have children, but the truth is that it’s not your fault. You did not ask for this. The truth of your blamelessness can be hard to accept on your own. Maybe you’re shutting yourself off from your partner because you’re afraid. A therapist can help you see the situation in a different light. Once you let yourself off the hook, conversations with your partner about how you’re handling infertility become a lot easier—and be more productive.