Learn to Love Your Body

With the Winter Olympics taking place right now, I have been thinking about how in AWE I am of what people can do with their bodies! It’s inspiring to watch our athletes compete, but it can also be frustrating to compare our bodies to World-Class Athletes…What they are able to achieve, what they look like, etc. Being unhappy with our own bodies can make us feel discouraged and envious. It might be chronic pain, past trauma, injury, illness, fatigue, or wishing your body would look a certain way that brings dissatisfaction. Re-framing can help combat these negative thoughts. Here are some ideas:

  • Focus on the Positive: Our bodies are AMAZING, even when they don’t function perfectly. Our bodies serve practical and recreational purposes for us every day. Using a gratitude exercise can help us to refocus on what IS working. Ask yourself: What can my body DO? What are the functions that it provides that I may not usually think about? Make a list of what you are grateful for that your body does. This might be as simple as breathing or going on a weekly walk. Or the list could include the incredible and life-altering things that our bodies can do like fighting illnesses and giving birth! Focusing on all that our bodies afford us can help to blossom a new mindset.

 

  • Take a Media Break: The internet/movies/social media/magazines/TV are full of unrealistic images. We all know this, but it still affects the way we think about ourselves! Research has consistently shown this. In fact, one study found that when girls and women look at fashion magazines their confidence lowers and, as a result, they have lower performance on tests! This may also be true for boys and men looking at bodybuilding magazines. The idea is, looking at unrealistic images can be damaging to the images we have of ourselves. Social media can be fun, but it also breeds comparison. People tend to put their best selves out there and don’t always advertise their challenges. This may make it feel like no one else has struggles. So take a break! Facebook and Instagram will always be there when you are ready to return. And when you get back to social media, try to surround your virtual world with Positive images and Supportive connections.

 

  • Reconnect: Connect with your body in a positive way. For many of us, disconnecting body from mind is a survival strategy to keep us safe from various traumas–past and present. We disconnect in all sorts of ways–with alcohol, overeating, under-eating, and the list goes on. Getting back in touch with your body is so important to the process of healing. Yoga is one of the best evidence-based ways to process trauma and begin the process of connecting mind and body. It is an intimate practice that begs us to be in-the-moment with ourselves just as we are. This is hard for someone who is dissatisfied with their body! It is a life-long practice that has life-long benefits. Other ways to reconnect include: dance, meditation, theater, and art. These activities tend to engage multiple senses at once. When our senses are fully engaged it’s hard to stay “in your head” and easier to be “in the moment.”

 

  • Remember That You Are a Whole Person: I think most of us know this, but we can all use more reminders! You are not your thighs, your acne, your aching knees, your chronic illness, etc. You are a whole person! You are a complex, messy, beautiful organism with so much meaning to the people around you. What makes you “You” is not your body. It’s the all-encompassing package and essence of you. You are your sense of humor, personality, compassion, wit, thoughts, feelings, history, relationships, and more! For this one, think of the fabulous song “I Am Not My Hair,” by India Arie. The chorus goes:

 

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am not your expectations

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am the soul that lives within

 

This is a priceless reminder that our value is so much more than skin deep.

 

Lisa Wilmore, LPC

Healthy Relationships

As you probably have already figured out, relationships are not easy. They take a lot of work and dedication to make them last. Often times, the longer we are with someone the more we take them for granted and tend to see less and less of their good qualities. If you are struggling with your relationship,  there is still help and there is still a chance that things can be fixed. You can start by practicing gratitude. Showing gratitude is a great way to show your appreciation to your partner, but it also improves the quality of your relationship. Practice at least one gratitude exercise everyday, here is a small list to help you get started:

  1. Show interest in their life. This can be done by asking specific questions about your partner’s day, making eye contact, communicating with them without a device in your hand!
  2. Give compliments. Giving someone a compliment really goes a long way. Even if you have given hundreds of compliments in your relationship, they still matter. It will also help you to see the good qualities and help you remember why you fell in love with your partner to begin with.
  3. Surprise them. We all love surprises now and then. Surprising your partner with a date night, a small gift, or even a sappy note will help keep your bond strong and will let your partner know that you have thought about them during the day.
  4. Do more than your share of chores. Chores are often a big bone of contention in relationships due to one partner feeling like they do more around the house than the other. When helping with chores, don’t just do the dishes and call it good. Do something you don’t have to do, like filling up your partners gas tank, just to show that you care.
  5. Use your manners. Saying “please” and “thank you” are important because it shows your partner that you acknowledge what they are doing for you, and helps you not to take their helpfulness for granted.
  6. Spoil them. Make their favorite meal, give them the night off from everyday tasks, and let them engage in their favorite hobby or leisure activity.
  7. Pay attention to your body language. Sometimes our body language tells more about a person than the actual words that come out of our mouths. Often times we don’t notice the scowl on our faces, but our partner will. Make it a point in your relationship to smile, laugh often, and touch your partner.

 

Showing gratitude everyday will help your relationship to grow, will help your partner feel like you care about them, and will also in turn encourage them to show more gratitude to you.

Finding a Therapist

The process of finding a therapist can be intimidating. There are plenty of factors to consider that are akin to finding a doctor: Does she accept my insurance? Is his office close enough to where I live? Does she have special training in the areas that I need help with? These factors are just as important when looking for a therapist. And yet there are some additional factors to finding a therapist that make the process altogether different from finding a doctor. A therapist is someone that you will be talking with for almost an hour at a time! This is someone with whom you will be sharing intimate details about your relationships, your feelings, and painful memories. In order to find healing the therapist must be someone who you trust and who can also help you grow.

 

As someone who has seen a few different therapists, I know that this process takes time and can be frustrating. Oftentimes we can’t put words to what we really want or don’t want in a therapist. Sometimes there is something specific that we want but don’t pause to consider why. It’s more of a feeling of connection that we look for, which is an elusive concept. This feeling of connection means that there are qualities in a therapist that really work for me, but that someone else is turned off by, or vice versa.

 

To make the process more challenging, these “qualities” that we all look for are not typically advertised. We most often “find” a therapist by doing a Google search, getting referred by a friend, or being referred by a medical professional. None of these give us the information that we are looking for: Will I have a connection? Will I be challenged to grow? I have received a few referrals from acquaintances over the years. One of those therapists I met with a few times, another I continued to see for over two years. Both were warm, compassionate, and very knowledgeable. I felt understood and accepted by both. I happened to find a better fit with one in particular. There probably isn’t a “right” therapist out there for any of us. The therapist that I stayed with for over two years was probably not perfect for me, but she was what I needed at the time.

 

The good news is that therapists and social workers are all trained to serve the public. We are trained to put our personal needs, beliefs, and traditions aside to meet the client’s needs. This includes supporting individuals when they want to look for a different therapist and helping them process it. We are trained to understand that everyone is unique and comes with unique needs. The best therapists understand this and support you and help you find what you need wherever you are at in your journey.

Lisa Wilmore, LPC

The Best Medicine

Are you struggling with the stress of this holiday season? Does your to do list seem never ending and a little overwhelming? Are you struggling with the cold Idaho weather?

If you are like many of us, you have answered yes to at least one of these questions! Making simple everyday changes to your routine can help reduce negative symptoms, while increasing positive mood. One of the simplest changes you can make is to increase your laughter.

Did you know that laughing has a positive effect not only on your physical health, but on your mental health as well. According to the Mayo Clinic laughing enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Want to know what else laughing can do?

Laughing will relax you, stimulate circulation, boost your immunity, fight stress, ease physical pain, make it easier to cope with difficult situations, help you connect with other people, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and will make you feel happier in general!

If you are finding it hard to laugh, it’s okay. You can actually force yourself to laugh at the beginning. The more you laugh the less it will feel forced, and the more naturally it will come to you. You can find laughter in many situations, however it is important to note that you don’t ever want to laugh at the expense of someone else.

Give laughter a try during the hard times and see what difference it can make in your life and the lives of those around.

To find out more on the benefits of laughter or to get ideas on how to increase laughter in your life visit:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

Julie King, LCSW

Struggling with Self-Talk

We all have an internal voice that we engage with on a daily basis. In the counseling world we like to call it “Negative Self Talk.” This voice narrates your day from sunrise to sunset (and maybe even while you sleep). At times this voice can highlight your successes and bring encouragement to you when you need it most. Yet, many of us experience this narrator as an opponent, a critical parental figure, a hovering manager, or a schoolyard bully. It picks at your words and actions meticulously. Frankly, this narrator can make you miserable! It’s that voice in your head saying that you are not enough: you are not deserving; you are not desired; you do not belong; you are not lovable. This voice can warp a single experience or interaction into a generalization about you that is hurtful and self-limiting.

And yet we rarely think about how true these statements really are. Even when the inner voice criticises and puts you down, you believe it! This narrative seems so credible that you see it as a fact. The voice can be particularly convincing in making you replay the past or obsess over the future.

The truth is, we ALL have a unique “inner voice” that is colored by our past experiences. And, oftentimes, it has grown over the years to help us adapt to distressing circumstances. For example, if you you come to believe that you are not deserving of something, say a healthy relationship, then it will not hurt as much when you find yourself in a disappointing or dysfunctional relationship again. This voice may be trying to protect you from re-experiencing pain from your past. It may be creating a shield to keep others from seeing the REAL YOU. And yet, this voice also limits you by wielding feelings of self-deprecation, doubt, shame, and fear.  It limits you from seeing and believing other possibilities.

I think I have established well enough at this point that this inner critic can be a real drag! So how can you get it to leave you alone?! The idea here is to become more mindful of the voice. This is where some techniques can be a great help:

  1. NOTICE IT. Without attacking the critic, simply notice it. Learn what it says, what it’s pattern is, when it shows up, etc. When we finally realize that the critic gets louder when we fight back, it makes sense to start simply noticing it and not fighting it. When it shows up, treat it with curiosity, like a biologist studying an animal in the wild.

 

  1. LABEL IT. Ignoring the voice will not make it go away. Acting like it does not exist will simply allow it to grow more fierce. The first step involves acknowledging that the voice exists.  It is a REAL aspect of your internal thought processes and it ABSOLUTELY affects you. It affects how you feel about yourself, how you feel about others, and how you act. By labeling the voice it begins the process of SEPARATING it from YOU. You could even give your critical voice a name (Get creative here 🙂 ). This separation is so important because it is the start of teaching ourselves that these statements are not true about who we are. We are not our thoughts.

 

  1. HAVE A CHOICE.  Now you have taken a step back. You’re noticing and labeling. It’s almost as if you have detached from the voice and can now see a few things clearly:

    1. These statements that I have believed for so long are not facts!

    2. I wonder about where this voice came from?

    3. I have various choices for how to respond.

Consider your options to engage with the critic or not. It is a matter of feeling the control to RESPOND vs REACT.

 

So the next time your critical, negative self-talk shows its ugly face DON’T PANIC. Notice it, label it, and know your personal power to make a healthy choice.

Lisa Wilmore, LPC

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

My name is Julie King, and I graduated with my Masters degree from Walla Walla University in 2011. I  started my career working with children and teens that lived in residential treatment facilities. From there I worked with people doing CBRS, and worked with people who had an open CPS case and were working to get their children back. I started to do counseling with children, teens, and families and have loved working with that particular population. I have been with Healthy Care Solutions for just a couple of months and have loved working with the elderly population. When in sessions, I enjoy using Cognitive Behavior Therapy, better known as “CBT.”  CBT works by re-thinking our reactions to an event instead of trying to solve the event itself. The thing I love the most about using CBT is that you can use it to help a wide range of struggles  including anxiety, depression, panic, low self esteem, etc… You can help reduce symptoms by using coping skills. Coping skills are methods a person uses to help manage and reduce different situations. Having good coping skills does take time and practice. However, when you are able to apply them on a consistent basis, you are better able to manage your mental health symptoms. It is also important to note that not all coping skills are the same for everyone, and that is okay. Find coping skills that work best for you, your symptoms, and your situation. The first coping skill I like to teach is the technique of deep breathing.  There are a lot of physical and mental benefits to deep breathing, most importantly is that it works as a calming aide.

Try this simple deep breathing exercise today:

1. First, force all of the air out of your lungs

2. Inhale a deep breath through your nose

3. Hold your breath for 5-8 seconds

4. Slowly release the air through your mouth

5. Repeat the above steps at least 10 times, but repeat more if you are still trying to calm down.

Julie King

How Forgiveness Affects Your Health: 8 Steps You Can Take Now  

Forgiveness is critical in this life and even more crucial when working towards health goals! Asking for forgiveness is huge and offering forgiveness is equally important. When we let either of these hang onto us our bodies struggle. This adds a lot of stress causing excess cortisol release, which makes your body think it needs to hold onto weight -literally. Furthermore, this can lead to compromising your immune system, mood, and so on!

I am grateful for people in my life who forgive me. I’ve had to ask for both small and huge forgiveness. When people have forgiven me I feel more motivated to do my best in life. Receiving and offering forgiveness is a gift that allows both parties to move closer to their fullest potential. That said, it can be hard to work towards!

I want to speak to a specific piece of this for a minute…

I’ve noticed that when I hold onto grudges I feel stuck in my own life. I also have noticed that when I am not working towards forgiving others I start to experience this messed up thinking that I’m better than them or they are lesser than me- totally inappropriate and harmful on all accounts. Besides, we don’t know where other people are at in their lives. Often times we don’t know how hard others have worked to correct the wrongs. It’s not our place to hold them back.

NOW, forgiveness has to be genuine. And, sometimes things have happened that are very hurtful and you still dislike that person.. maybe really, really, really, dislike the person that hurt you. You don’t have to pretend to forgive. First, forgiving is NOT agreeing with the behavior. Second, simply working towards forgiveness is good enough. Just making the decision that you want to eventually forgive is a great path to start down. You don’t have to decide to forgive and then just quickly say I forgive. Instead, work towards it.

Sooooo… don’t underestimate the power of forgiveness. I’m sure stuff has happened in your life this week. Look to start down the path of forgiveness and don’t let it hold you back and don’t let it hold others back!

Let’s take a deeper look into forgiveness, after all I often hear the question, “How can I forgive when it hurts so bad?” In order to understand forgiveness, we must first look at what forgiveness is NOT.

Forgiveness is…

    1. NOT signifying that you want, or need, to include the person in your life.

 

  • NOT forgetting what happened.
  • NOT meaning you no longer feel something nor excusing the hurtful behavior
  • NOT always telling the person they are forgiven. That’s correct, you don’t have to tell them. Forgiveness is not really for them. It’s for you. Don’t take me wrong here… there is great power in personally forgiving someone in a direct manner BUT it is not always necessary!
  • NOT signifying that everything is returned to normal and there aren’t further things to workout in the relationship (assuming it’s a relationship that continues).

 

I want to reiterate the idea that forgiveness is NOT for the person who caused the pain, or made the mistake. Yes, it is a gift that someone receives when they are forgiven… but it really is for you.

You see, when we forgive we are acknowledging what happened and creating a way to find resolution with the situation. But, sometimes you don’t want to forgive because :

  1. When you get angry you experience adrenaline and that becomes addicting. I know, it sounds so odd but its true.
  2. You want revenge. You want the other person to hurt.
  3. You might feel unsafe or exposed if you forgive. This especially happens when you have the false belief that you have to admit forgiveness to the person.
  4. You over identify with the “victim” mentality. That sounds rough- but it can sometime be true.
  5. You don’t feel like the person is actually sorry, which might be the case.

***Remember, forgiving is a new opportunity to free up all that energy that has been used in all the internal battles regarding the pain.

Sooooo… how do we start forgiving?

  1. Forgive yourself: You might not see this discussed elsewhere. HOWEVER, I see way too often when people struggle with feeling like they are to blame for some of whatever happened. Most of the time, it’s probably not your fault.

 

One main problem we have here is when someone who you turn to doesn’t really understand trauma, or traumatic situations. It’s not okay to respond to someone who was assaulted by questioning what they were wearing, where they were at, and why they were there at a certain time. This all suggests that someone made a mistake that contributed to them being harmed. Questioning someone like this will only leave someone believing they are partially to blame for someone else’s behavior. Not appropriate!

Even if no one has questioned you, it’s likely that you are going to scrutinize yourself for whatever happened. I hope you can actively work towards letting go of this thinking. Sometimes this requires professional help. Furthermore, you can work on your own forgiving yourself and ridding yourself of self-blame.

  1. Accept the past as the past and not something still happening: When someone has been hurt it’s normal for the brain to hold the memory of the event/s in the emotional memory area of the brain (bottom of hippocampus). The idea is to help the memory shift to the upper part of the hippocampus, which is the narrative memory area… this means one can say “it’s something that happened and not still happening.” It’s key for memories to shift to narrative memory. We are able to detach from the experience and not become activated when stimuli related to the events occur.

Helping the memories shift can sometimes require professionally advance therapy. For some people it just happens naturally. We cannot predict how our brains will react to varying experiences.

In order to help the memory shift, it’s important to look at how you have control over your life at this point. Look at when the event actually happened. Does the person who hurt you still have any power in your life? Is there something you need to take back in your control? Continuing to look as the past as the past is vital.

  1. Acknowledge the behavior isn’t always the person: we don’t have to agree with any behavior, in order to forgive. Nonetheless, we can benefit from understanding that people do crappy things because of situations, habits, and limited perspective. We might not ever know why someone behaved as they did. Or, the more we try to figure out the more confusing it becomes. It’s imperative that we separate the person from the behavior.
  1. Write down your intention to forgive: Saying you have forgiven someone when you really haven’t is not healthy. I like to look at forgiveness as a spectrum. You just need to initiate the process. The best place to start is simply writing down on paper that you want to start working towards forgiveness. If this is all you can do for weeks, months, or several months then it’s okay. Sometimes it might take years, but you writing down that you are working towards it will start the process.
  1. Don’t allow the actions of the other person to hold you back: Sometimes we fall into the trap of “I can’t do this because that person did that to me.” Without minimizing the pain, it’s important to look at the fact that you can now control your future. The more we let that person’s actions stop us the more power they have.
  1. How is it for the other person: Ouch! This one can be hard. But, sometimes we get stuck in our thoughts and emotions and we don’t realize how the other person might be trying to work through the actions. In some circumstances it can be useful to take a step back and consider where they are in their process.
  1. Notice without judgment: Hear me out here… it’s so powerful to simply notice the thoughts that come up. You don’t have to get caught up in them nor act on them. This type of mindfulness takes a lot of work. However, just noticing is crucial. It’s important to notice your emotions and feelings without feeling like you have to blame them on someone or something.
  1. Make it objective: Writing down your thoughts, emotions, and sensations regarding what has hurt you can be very helpful. It’s important to have a private journal, or notebook, where you can freely write down what hurts and any corresponding experiences. As you spend time writing you might notice the intensity of emotions lessening.

 

I hope this will bring you more happiness and health!

 

-Dr. Drew

Prioritizing Gratitude.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it” – William Arthur Ward

I saw a hand-made poster with this quote on it everyday while I worked at a public high school in Michigan. This flimsy poster hung on the cheap painted brick of our mailroom, staring down the decrepit coffeemaker.  Although I had the simple sentence memorized after my first week of work, I would re-read the sign each time I needed to nuke my frozen enchiladas or Papa John’s leftovers. Being in an environment with pervasive encouraging messages, such as a high school hallway or graduation ceremony, tends to leave me feeling desensitized to inspiration—overloaded with various life philosophies to “do better.” And yet, this poster had my attention. Each time I looked at it I would see it from a slightly new angle, pondering how it applied to my life.

After the quote had been sufficiently burned into my mind, I had a critical realization. Much of my energy in my relationships-to my family, my friends, my partner, and my coworkers- was focused on the day to day experiences that we were sharing. I realized that I had neglected to reflect to my dearest and most important people what was in my heart.  I had no idea how my life was about to change when I decided to live by this simple idea: focus on and express your gratitude.

This probably sounds easier said than done! How can I focus on gratitude when I’m failing my classes, broke up with my ex, lost my job, ETC! It not only sounds impractical, but scary too. Expressing gratitude asks me to say OUT LOUD the softer feelings inside of me that I don’t express. This may be because I assume the other person knows how I feel or because it would be uncomfortable to actually say it. It is not easy to be vulnerable, to continually try to reach new heights of honesty and exposure.

Yet, living by this philosophy fundamentally changed the quality of my relationships and my daily mindset. It asked me to stop, reflect on the people I see every day, and make a point to tell those people what they mean to me. Focusing on gratitude entails giving some credit to others for their influence in your life. It can be uncomfortable at first. Being vulnerable is something that we need to train for, and work up to, just like a marathon.

This quote stands out to me because it asks me to be myself, to be humble, and to be honest—all difficult things to do.  Everyday that I came into the mailroom and soaked in the essence of this quote, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy reflecting on the love, laughter, and meaning that my closest relationships give to me.

So, I ask you this: When you read the quote, who pops into your head?