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5 Easy Ways to Overcome Negative Thinking

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

shutterstock_80347894This past weekend, I found myself 400 miles and 3 states away from home with $16 of cash, a half tank of gas, but no credit cards.

I pulled into a gas station and asked if they would take a check. Nope.

How about a credit card number phoned in from my husband? Nope.

My random gift cards were worthless here. I was worried.

I was desperate. I went back to my car where my young daughter sat and asked her if I could borrow the money in her coin purse. She had $2.38.

Digging through the crevices and corners of my car yielded another $1.03. I went inside and placed the pile of change in front of the cashier. The total amount was $19.41, a little less than 5 gallons of gas.

In my mind I was going through everything that had gone wrong. Why did I forget my credit card? Do hotels take checks from out of state? Do restaurants? What would I feed my daughter? Where would we sleep? How could I be so stupid???

I was going full force into negative thinking. I finally realized that my thoughts weren’t doing me any good at all. In fact, they were harmful. With my mind full of what if’s, there was no room or energy for realistic problem solving.

Once I slowed down I realized that my daughter wouldn’t starve, I could find a way to get some cash back from a store, and that I was resourceful enough to deal with this situation.

I did some mental arithmetic and discovered that I could keep my miles per gallon quite high if I used cruise control and didn’t rush. At 42 miles per gallon or more, I could possibly make it. And if I didn’t, I would be close enough to have someone come and get us.

Negative thoughts often sneak up when people are stressed, anxious, or depressed. And once they take root, they can impede more helpful, critical, and logical thinking.

Here are 5 simple and easy ways to manage negative thoughts when they appear.


Excuse or Explanation: Is There a Difference?

Friday, August 30th, 2013

shutterstock_43783042“It wasn’t my fault!”
“She made me do it!”
“Everyone else was doing it!”
“I’m sorry, but…”
“He started it!”

Do these sound familiar?

For some people, these phrases may bring back memories of their childhood, or they may have heard these statements from their kids.

Despite sounding childish, everyone has said something similar in their adult life to a spouse, police officer, family member, or friend.

In counseling sessions, I frequently hear how people struggle with the difference between excuses and explanations.

Some people hesitate to give any explanations; they see explanations and excuses as the same thing, and they don’t want to be seen as giving excuses.

Others go to the other extreme and take no accountability for his or her own actions, blaming everything from their upbringing, their stress load, their partner or kids, for their wrongdoing.

Although it can sometimes be unclear, there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation.

People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Excuses are often used to deny responsibility. People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Explanations help clarify the circumstances of a particular event. Explanations are less emotional and less pressured than excuses.

Sometimes, the only one who can really know if their statement is an excuse or an explanation is the one saying it. Telling the police who pulled you over that you are running late for work is a good example of this. If you were hoping to get out of a ticket or lying, it was probably an excuse. If the officer asked why you were driving 30 in a 25, and you answered honestly, it was an explanation.

Why does it matter?

Consider the following situation:

Your 14-year-old daughter has brought home a failing grade on her science report. You ask her what happens. She says:

  1. “It’s not my fault! The teacher wasn’t clear on what to include in the project. Everyone else got a bad grade, too.”                                               or:
  2. “I didn’t understand what the teacher said, and …

7 Things You Can Do NOW to Make Yourself Happier

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

 

 

Have you ever felt as if happiness is something that you have to wait to come to you?

Do you ever wonder why other people are happy, and you’re not?

The good news is that being happy is more of a choice than you might think.

Happiness doesn’t have to be an elusive idea that only some fortunate people are able to obtain. Here are seven simple things you can do to increase your happiness.


Talking to Your Children About Mental Illness

Monday, January 28th, 2013

 

If you’re a parent with a mental illness, or if someone in your  family is mentally ill, you may struggle with how to talk about it with  your children. You may feel embarrassed or even ashamed about your disease.

Even thought it can be difficult, it’s important to create a safe space for kids to hear and ask questions about the illness that affects you or your partner.

Here are five tips to help you get started.


4 Common Misconceptions About Introverts

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I was at a workshop recently, and the topic of introverts and extroverts emerged. I commented about my own introverted nature, and was met by surprise. Apparently I didn’t fit the image of an introvert that my new friends had in their minds.

Plenty of people in the United States are introverts. The figures vary, but currently it’s generally accepted that about half of the US population are introverted.

The term introvert was first introduced by Carl Jung. And interestingly, the notion of introversion and extroversion is not a matter of being completely one or the other. Personality types, like introversion and extroversion, are on a continuum, and all people have a mixture of both in their personalities.

In this article,  I use the term “introvert” to describe someone who interacts with the world mostly in an introverted fashion, rather  than an extroverted one, and vice versa for extroverts.

The definition of what extroversion and introversion mean is based upon on how an individual sees and reacts to events, objects, or people. Introverts spend a great deal of time monitoring how things impact their inner world. An outside event (or person or object) is described and examined in regards to how it affects them and their history, thoughts, emotions, and feelings. For example, if an introvert is watching kids play, they may be reminded of themselves when  they were little, imagining how care free they felt. An extrovert might comment on how crazy kids dress these days.

In a similar way, introverts gain energy by focusing inward. After spending time around a group of people, introverts feel tired and depleted. It takes effort for them to socialize, and in order to feel more energized they may pull away from the outside world and spend time by themselves. Extroverts find spending time with groups of people or activities to be energizing, and solitude is taxing.

Many people, both extroverts and introverts, carry misconceptions about what it means to be an introvert. Here are four commonly held beliefs that are not accurate.


6 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Another year of holiday joy is upon us; another year of holiday chaos, stress, and anxiety is here, as well.

For many families, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years are times for reunions, reconnecting, and enjoying one another.

Yet however great the celebrations are, holidays are stressful. Here are six tips for making your holidays as peaceful and stress-free as possible.

  1. Don’t over-plan. It can be tempting to arrange to first swing by grandma’s, then see your in-law’s at their home, then return and make a holiday dinner for your family and your out-of-town brother and his five kids. Don’t do it. The holidays are time for reconnecting, but if you’re bitter, grumpy, and yelling at your spouse, you (and the rest of your family) will be miserable and disconnected.
  2. Realize that you can’t please everyone. The more people who are involved in a situation, the greater the chance for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. This year your parents might not be able to see the kids open up their presents or you may miss seeing your sisters at Thanksgiving. Do the best that you can with the limited time and energy you have.
  3. Make a budget, and stick to it. Don’t go into debt purchasing things you can’t afford, or else come January you’ll regret it.  Families often will have a year when to make all of their gifts by hand, or they’ll do a gift exchange rather than purchasing things for everyone. The holidays are a time for sharing and showing love. You don’t need to purchase anything for this. Remember, you and your family and friends will not remember the gifts you gave them, or the amazing pies you baked. They’ll remember the feelings they experienced, and the stories and laughter shared.
  4. Think about what feelings you want to experience during the holidays. Do you want a frantic excited holiday, or a serene and peaceful one? Do you want to be surrounded by tons of people, or have a more intimate time with your loved ones? Plan your day with this in mind.
  5. Be aware of your anxiety and stress …

Surviving S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Friday, September 28th, 2012

It’s fall here in the United States. For much of the country, this means darker skies, shorter days, and colder temperatures. For many people, the change in season can also mean an increase in depressive symptoms.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD)?

SAD is a type of depression that occurs during a change in season, usually fall and winter. People who suffer from SAD have many of the same symptoms as those with depression: lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness, withdrawing from friends and family, weight gain, and not enjoying things that one used to enjoy.

How many people experience SAD?

Many people experience seasonal affective disorder. According to Dr. Norman Rosenthal,  6 percent of the people in the United States suffer from SAD 1. This does not include the number of people who experience a less severe form of seasonal depression – the winter blues. SAD is more common in the northern areas of the United States, and less common in areas of the south where there is more sunshine.

How is SAD treated?

There are several treatments for SAD. Like major depressive disorder, SAD can be treated with psychotherapy and medication. But SAD also responds very well to light therapy. Light therapy uses a full spectrum, intense light to help decrease depressive symptoms.

What is the difference between SAD and clinical depression?

People who experience SAD have the same symptoms as people with major depressive disorder. However, major depressive disorder is not limited to the darker days of fall and winter.

Tips for surviving SAD

  1. Watch what you eat. You may feel like loading up on carbohydrates, alcohol, and processed foods, but try and avoid this. Poor diet can contribute to mood swings and lack of energy. Fish has lots of good omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D, which people naturally get through sunlight, can be lacking in the winter, and is a good supplement to take.
  2. Make sure you get enough exercise, preferably outside. Exercise naturally improves mood and helps with sleep.
  3. Consider investing in a light box. You can pick them up without a prescription, and many people have found them useful …

The Amazing Connection Between Happiness and Kindness

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

The search for happiness is universal. People from everywhere and in all circumstance seek this illusive thing called happiness.

Can you remember the last time you were happy?

Was it hours ago?

Days?

Weeks?

Years?

What was happening in your life at the time? What made you happy?

Happiness is a goal for many people. But there are different ideas floating around about what exactly makes people happy.


4 Tips for Dealing With Procrastination

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Procrastination. In Latin, it translates as “in favor of tomorrow.”

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Never put off till tomorrow that which you can do today”. Procrastination is something everyone deals with.

So why do people procrastinate?

Some people procrastinate because of the intense adrenaline rush that comes from the stress of being pressed for time. It’s not unheard of for individuals to say that they do their best work when they are moments away from a deadline.

Others procrastinate because the task they face is unpleasant. A person’s better judgement might say that the 25 page paper should be started immediately. But then along comes other activities that are much more fun. Why clean the toilet when Dancing with the Stars is on? The temptation to avoid an unappealing task can be great.

There are people who procrastinate when they are afraid of an outcome. Children often do this when they get into trouble. They’re afraid of their parents’ reaction, and so hold off confessing as long as they can. Spouses have been known not to tell l their partners that they lost their job. Couples who are divorced or separated may hide this fact from their friends and family, waiting until ‘the right time’ to tell. This usually backfires, as you can imagine.

While some people feel like their procrastination is a part of who they are and they don’t wish to change this behavior, many others want to stop procrastinating. Here are some ideas to handle procrastination.


The Importance of Perspective

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Have you ever felt like the car you were in was rolling backwards, only to realize that your car was actually still, but the car next to you was moving forward?

You inadvertently judged your own movement based not on what was truly happening, but on what your mind thought was happening.

Sometimes what we see, experience, and believe is not completely valid or true. Like an optical illusion where what the eye sees isn’t accurate, it can be difficult to gain a correct perspective at times.

Here are some questions to consider when trying to gain a better understanding of the accuracy of your experience.


 
 

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