Do We Really Need A Meme To Tell Us How We Feel?

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Last week I shared the meme shown above on my Woman Worriers Instagram and Facebook pages. It’s titled What I Tell Myself When I’m Discouraged. I liked it because I know how hard I can be on myself when I’m feeling down. It’s easy to forget to be kind to myself when things aren’t going well and I feel discouraged.  

When I feel discouraged, the nice things I could say to myself aren’t always the first words that come to me. It’s way to easier to treat myself harshly. I tell myself things that I would never say to someone else.

While I was away on vacation, the meme I shared blew up on my Facebook page. As of today it’s been shared over 800 times. 800 times! It’s my most popular post. I was kind of excited when I saw on my notifications that a post was being shared repeatedly. I’d just dropped a blog post and was hopeful that the content was really touching my followers.

As I looked more closely, I realized that it wasn’t the blog, but the meme that was being shared over and over again.

When Imposter Syndrome Strikes

As I watched the number of “Shares” increase, I talked to my son about it. I was in awe that a meme could generate such a response. I told him how conflicted I felt in that moment about sharing the meme. I was excited that I was getting a lot of engagement about one of my posts, but I also felt like a fraud. I hadn’t created the meme myself; I’d just shared it from someone else’s feed. So, my most popular post that was shared again and again wasn’t even something that had truly come from me.

I work very hard to put together meaningful blog posts and great interviews for my podcast, and I create a lot of really good content. They might get a few shares and likes but none of my original content has ever been shared over 800 times. I realized, ironically, that I was feeling a little discouraged. A meme that I randomly re-shared had become my most popular content.

Reflecting on Social Media Responses

I’ve been home for a week since that conversation with my son. In that time, I’ve made a point to look through the shares and comments about the post. It obviously struck a chord with a wide variety of people. As I read through the comments on my original post and the shared posts, I saw how deeply the meme had touched others.

Most of the comments included the sentiment, “Thanks, I really needed this today!” In that moment I realized that no one cared about the authorship. It didn’t matter who created the meme. People shared and commented on it because the idea that we could be kind and compassionate with ourselves when we feel discouraged felt novel and it was welcomed with joy.

Why Aren’t We Kinder To Ourselves?

If we can be kind and compassionate towards others when they’re struggling, why is it so hard to say those same things to ourselves? Logically you’d think we’d be nice to ourselves. After all, we are our own constant companions. Shouldn’t we want to have a healthy healing relationship with Self?

But, in my experience we’re harder on ourselves than we would ever be with anyone else.  I know I was actively questioning the value of my content when this meme started gaining popularity. Some of the things I was telling myself were not very kind.

We somehow believe that we don’t deserve kindness. We think that saying compassionate words to ourselves will somehow make us weak, or non-productive or lazy. But the harmful, shaming things we say to ourselves aren’t motivating us; they’re just making us feel bad.

Share A Little Self-Compassion

We can learn to be more self-compassionate and kinder to ourselves, even when things aren’t going our way and we feel discouraged. It takes some practice, and it isn’t always easy, especially if we had very critical caregivers.

I still have some discomfort and worry about the popularity of a post that I shared but did not create. And I’d like to give credit where credit is due! I’m also recognizing, experiencing and feeling the joy of sharing the idea that we can, and should, offer ourselves kind and compassionate words when we feel discouraged.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979.

 

Can Mindfulness Help My Anxiety?

Let’s Talk About Anxiety

When we feel anxious, it’s because our bodies are responding to a threat. Sometimes the threat is real.. Other times, we perceive, or believe, that a situation or person is a threat when it might not be. Anxiety can even come from a conscious or unconscious memory of a past trauma or threat.

But even though perceiving that something is a threat is very different than facing an actual threat, we react the same way. In those moments, our body believes that the situation is life or death. It responds as if a tiger were about to pounce on us, when maybe we’re only worried about meeting new people and how we’ll be received.

Social Media and Anxiety

Many present-day things can activate our fight/flight/freeze response, making us feel stressed, overwhelmed and anxious. Social media is one of them. For example:

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  • Not getting enough likes on a social media post

  • Not getting a quick enough response to a text message

  • Feeling left out when friends post about their activities

The ping of your cell phone is all it takes for your body to respond as if it were it were having a life-threatening experience. In contrast, feel-good hormones called endorphins are released when we do get the “Likes” and responses we hoped for. Our brain is feeling the perceived “love” coming from those likes and texts.

It’s not just social media that can trigger anxiety. In today’s world where we’re impacted by a constant flow of news. We hear about mass shootings, disasters and conflict all over the world as it’s happening. It can feel like we’re there, and our bodies will respond in kind.

Those of us who have experienced trauma (which is many of us) are already primed to respond to potential dangers and perceived threats. So even small things can makes us feels stressed, overwhelmed, or terrified.

Living in this constant state of what therapists call “hyper-arousal” can impact our physical and mental health. We’re producing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline all the time. That’s not good for our body or our sense of well-being.

So how do we help ourselves manage the bombardment of perceived threats we encounter everyday?

Using Mindfulness to Help Ground and Be Present

Mindfulness can help us increase our awareness of:

  • Where we are

  • How often we get distracted by our worries and thoughts

  • How our bodies react to all of the potential threats we encounter throughout the day

When we focus our awareness on the things that are happening right now notice what takes us away from the present moment, we’re being mindful. Focusing our attention on our body’s sensory experience means we’re getting out of our heads. When we focus on the body, we can’t be focused on our worries and thoughts. 

Here’s a meditation that will help you with that practice:

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Get yourself into a comfortable seated position, either on a cushion or chair. You can lie down if you’re feeling awake enough not to fall asleep. I’ve written this as if you’re in a seated position, so modify it as needed if you’re lying down.

Take three slow, deep breaths. Try breathing deep into your belly as you inhale and exhaling all the air out contracting your stomach. Do this two more times.

Now let your breath resume its natural rhythm.

Bring your focus to your breath as it enters and exits your body. Where is your breath most noticeable to you? On the tip of your nose? At the back of your throat? Your chest or your belly rising and falling? Wherever your attention is drawn to, notice that. You can place a hand on your belly or chest if that helps.

Your mind will wander, because that’s what our minds do. Each time you notice your attention has been drawn away from your breath I want you to notice that.

  • If you’re thinking about the day ahead you might label it “thinking” or “planning.”

  • If you’re lost in a daydream you can say to yourself, “daydreaming” or “imagining.”

  • If you get caught up in your worries jut label it “worrying.”

Each time you notice you’ve been carried away, bring your awareness back to your breath.

Next, bring your attention to the sounds in the room. Maybe you hear a clock ticking, or the air-conditioner or heating system. Then focus on the sounds outside the room. Maybe you hear voices, or the wind or birds chirping. Just notice whatever it is.

When your mind wanders, and it will, make note of where it goes. Try labeling it thinking or planning, daydreaming or worrying. Then bring your attention back to the sounds.

Next shift your focus to your body. Notice where your body makes contact with the chair or cushion. Notice where your feet touch the floor, notice where your hands touch your body or the chair or floor.

When your mind wanders, make note of where it goes. Label it thinking or planning, daydreaming or worrying. Then bring your attention back to your body.

Finally, shift your focus back to your breath as you breath in and out. Take one last deep breath in and out. And when you’re ready, open your eyes and slowly bring your awareness back to the room.

Mindful Awareness in Everyday Life

You can bring this mindfulness practice into any activity you do. Driving your car, taking a walk or brushing your teeth all can be done with mindful awareness. Each time you notice that your attention is drawn away from the experience of whatever it is you’re doing, label where it goes.

When you bring an attitude of mindful awareness and notice without judgment how often your attention is pulled somewhere else, and how often you get caught up in your thoughts and worries, you can then kindly bring your attention back to the activity.

Mindfulness is a simple concept, but it’s not always easy. It takes practice and a non-judgmental mindset. But, with practice you too can feel more grounded, present and less emotionally reactive.

There are still a few spots left in the Tuesday afternoon Mindfulness Group that starts in October! If you live in the greater Annapolis, Maryland, area, consider joining us!. I’d love to have you be a part of our group! You can find out more about the groups here.

You can also listen to the Woman Worriers podcast episode on this very topic and the guided meditation included.


  If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

 

 

 

 

Why Self Care Feels Selfish—And Why You Need To Do It Anyway

 On last week’s episode of the Woman Worriers podcast I talked about the practice of self-care and offered some small, simple ways to care for yourself. Even as I was writing up some notes for the recording, I was asking myself, “Am I the right person to tell others how they can better take care of themselves?”

Although today I’m much better at my own self-care, I didn’t always take great care of myself. There were times in my life that I drank too much, I wasn’t a very healthy eater and I was more concerned about taking care of others than paying attention to what I needed.

Our Past Can Shape Our Present Behaviors

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When we’re stressed or anxious, we tend to fall back into old patterns of behaviors. Chances are, the old patterns are things we did for a very long time. Sometimes that means we forget or choose not to care for ourselves, even when we know it’s good for us.

We now know that when we practice new behaviors we can create new pathways in the brain. It’s called neuroplasticity. However, we can easily revert back to our old ways of doing things when we feel overwhelmed or triggered. Those old neural pathways are well established, like deep ruts in a road. When life makes us stressed or anxious, we can get stuck back in those old ways of doing —or not doing— things.

This past weekend I took some time away from work to spend with family. I noticed that I was really tired when I got home. I had planned to take a day off to do the usual weekend things that help me prepare for the week ahead, but, I filled that first day back home with business instead of using it to rest.  I was exhausted from travel but felt guilty when I thought about lying down, so I pushed myself until it was time for bed. Then —no surprise—it was hard for me to fall asleep! 

Why Self-Care Can Be So Hard

Does that scenario sound familiar to you? We have lots of reasons to put off taking care of ourselves. What I see so often in my psychotherapy practice is that the clients who have a hard time prioritizing self-care had caregivers who didn’t take care of themselves, or parents who were too strict or who didn’t enforce rules, boundaries and expectations for their kids.

We learn how to take care of our needs, create boundaries, and do things we don’t want to do from our parents. In her very informative blog on childhood emotional neglect, Dr. Jonice Webb writes :

“Most people don’t realize that we humans are not born with the ability to structure ourselves. Nor are we born with a natural ability to make ourselves do what we don’t want to do. In fact, quite the opposite.  We learn this skill from our parents. As a child, each time your parents called you in to dinner, interrupting your play with the neighbor kids, made you take a bath, clear the table, clean your room, brush your teeth, hang up your clothes, weed the garden or empty the dishwasher, they were teaching you the two most vital aspects of self-discipline:  how to make yourself do what you don’t want to do; and how to stop yourself from doing what you do want to do.”

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So, if your parents didn’t teach you when to stop playing and get a drink of water, to have a snack or a meal, or to go to bed, it’s very hard to reinforce those self-care activities now that you’re an adult. Making those behaviors a habit takes conscious effort and reinforcement. Even then, when we’re stressed, we might fall back into old patterns.

Having a parent who is always spending their energy and time on others’ needs can also make it hard for us to prioritize our own needs as adults. If you had overly strict parents or parents with narcissistic tendencies, you might have been taught that having your own needs was selfish or self-centered. You might have been shamed or made to feel guilty when you tried to get your needs met, so you learned that caring for yourself shouldn’t be a priority. The shame and guilt you carry with you from childhood can also make you feel very anxious when you do try to meet your own needs in adulthood.

We Can Learn To Care For Ourselves

But we can make changes. We can choose to do things differently. It might feel really hard at first, because those old patterns of behavior get triggered and are very ingrained in us. But through mindful awareness, continued practice and reinforcement, we can learn to take good care of ourselves.

Mindful awareness in daily life helps bring a focused attention to the present moment and gives you some insight into how your thoughts, feelings and behaviors impact your body and your mind. For instance, if you take a moment a few times throughout the day to ask yourself what you need in that moment, you might find that your body is telling you it’s hungry or thirsty. You might find that you’re extremely stressed and you need to take a few slow deep breaths to calm yourself.

You might find that you know what you need but have come up with reasons for not taking care of yourself. Reflect on these moments with compassion. When you can listen to the part of you that believes that taking care of yourself isn’t important, and you recognize that self-care sometimes makes you feel uncomfortable, you can often recognize that those feelings and beliefs are rooted in your past. That’s a moment of mindful awareness. That’s the moment you can choose to do things differently.

If you live in the greater Annapolis, Maryland, area, consider joining one of my mindfulness groups for women. I’d love to have you be a part of our group!  You can find out more about the groups here.

You can also find more episodes of the Woman Worriers podcast here.


 If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

 

Healing Your Wounded Parts

Recently, I’ve been reading through some of my old journals, exploring who I was so many years ago. I used my journals to record events but they were also a place where I wrote about my fears, desires, frustrations and all of my feelings.

When I’m reading about those long ago experiences, I find myself feeling as if I’m still there—as if I’m 15 or 19 or 25 again. I’m right back there with all the emotions. My journals give me some perspective on my younger wounded parts, but at times I can feel myself judging those younger selves for not behaving in more socially acceptable ways, for pushing hard against boundaries or for not meeting others’ expectations.

In those moments, when the judgmental part shows up, my anxiety begins to rise. Most often it’s a burning feeling in my chest and throat, but the anxiety can show up as an upset stomach or a tightening in my throat that makes it hard to eat and digest anything.

I’ve worked hard to manage my anxiety. When it does show up, it can be very frustrating. I begin to feel like a fraud, because my critical part starts questioning my abilities. “How can you help others when you can’t even help yourself!”

The 15-Year-Old Rebel

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My 15-year-old self has been making herself known to me lately. In my journal, she recounts all the parties she went to or wants to go to, all the boys she has crushes on or kissed, the distress she feels when she’s alone, her feelings of loneliness (although she seems to have so many friends), her constant need of stimulation, either through substance use or business.

As I read through page after page of my journals, I find that a part of me wants that 15-year-old to behave better, to be more in control, to be less reckless, to stop pushing back so hard. She makes me uncomfortable, and her wildness scares me a little. I want see her clearly. I want to feel compassion and acceptance for her and all that she went through, and yet I don’t want feel her pain or see her vulnerability and loneliness.

But she keeps showing up and she wants to be seen.

Rethinking and Ruminating

If you’ve experienced childhood trauma or childhood emotional neglect, there’s a good chance you also have some younger parts that feel wounded. They show up in our lives because they’re tired of hurting and they want us to help them heal. They show up in our dreams, they show up when we feel triggered, and they show up in our relationships.

When we shame our younger parts with expectations that they couldn’t live up to then and certainly can’t live up to now, we retraumatize them again and again. If we approach our wounded parts with judgment and we shame them with our present-day expectations, we’re sending negative messages: they’re not enough, they need to change to be loved, they need to get over the hurt. These messages are probably pretty similar to those they heard when they were struggling.

Our parts feel wounded when we judge them instead of seeing them with compassion and love.

Healing Old Wounds

We can’t change the past but we can heal. The healing happens when we can show our wounded parts unconditional love and acceptance. There are many ways to explore all of your parts. Here are a few suggestions:

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  • Individual or group trauma herapy

  • Journaling

  • Artwork 

  • Dance or  movement

It’s important to remember that when we’re exploring our wounded parts, we want start with an intention to bring an attitude of curiosity, compassion and caring to that part. The goal is to accept and love all of our parts in an open and non-judgmental way.

I recognize that I sometimes find myself wishing that my 15-year-old part had behaved in more socially acceptable ways. But when I hear the judgment or fear in my approach, I try instead to welcome her with curiosity, kindness and caring.  She reminds me how hard she was struggling. She had a lot of changes and upheavals in her life. I can see now that she was surviving the only way she knew how.

She’s not going anywhere and she wants me to know that. She’s a part of me. She’s my fighter, my boundary pusher, my resilience, my strength, my princess. I’ll continue to work on being with her without any expectations other than her just being one part of me.

For more insights…

If you’d like to know more about recognizing and challenging some of the expectations we put on ourselves and society puts on us, you can listen to my conversation with Dr. Agnes Wainman on the Woman Worriers podcast.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

 

 

Why We Need To Talk About Domestic Violence

We don’t talk about domestic violence (DV) much, although people are abused more often than you might think. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the United States alone more than 10 million people each year experience intimate partner violence. That’s 20 people per minute each day. Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced extreme psychological aggression by an intimate partner at some point in their life. And according to the Global Study on Homicide, in 2012 an intimate partner or family member killed half of the women who were murdered worldwide.

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Sadly, we don’t hold domestic violence to the same standards as other forms of violence. In fact, the media rarely names intimate partner violence when reporting on it. When you pick up a newspaper or watch the news on television about an abuser killing their partner, it’s called homicide, murder or labeled a murder-suicide. The reporters rarely talk about the ongoing abuse and intimidation. In most cases of domestic homicide, there’s a long history of violence leading up to the killing. Media stories rarely discuss that.

We don’t want to hear about domestic violence

For a recent episode of the Woman Worriers podcast, I spoke with Rachel Louise Snyder about her book No Visible Bruises: What we don’t know about domestic violence is killing us. In a subsequent episode, I shared my own story of being in an emotionally abusive relationship. What struck me while I was preparing for and recording those two shows is that people shy away from talking about or wanting to hear about domestic violence.

When I shared with colleagues and friends how excited I was about getting an interview with a nationally and internationally recognized journalist, they were very excited—until I told them the topic of the podcast was domestic violence. And the numbers prove my point. The downloads for my shows on DV are lower than any others.

When one in three women and one in four men are being injured by their partners, you’d think we’d have a lot more interest and motivation in learning about stopping or preventing the problem.

Why we’re silent—and what we say instead

There are many reasons for not talking about DV if you’re you’re in an abusive relationship. Not talking about it keeps you safer.  But why as a society aren’t we saying, “This is a problem that needs addressing”? Why do we shy away from naming it when it’s happening all around us?

I sat long and hard considering these questions, because I’m a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship and I rarely talk about it. I find that at times I still feel ashamed to talk about a relationship that happened over 30 years ago! The shame can’t all be in my head. The shame also comes from the messages received from family, friends and our culture’s views of domestic abuse.

“It’s not our business.” “It’s a relationship issue.” “It’s a private matter.” “If she wanted to leave, she would.” Unfortunately all of these statements paint the victim as the problem or they ignore the fact that there is a victim.

Understanding why people stay in abusive relationships

When I was struggling in the emotionally abusive relationship in college, I could see the disappointment in others’ eyes that I was still in it. I could feel their judgment around me not leaving. I felt the shame of that judgment and my own confusion about why I would stay when he was so terrible to me.

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But I’ve learned from personal and professional experience that emotional and physical abuse usually happens over a long period of time. It slowly diminishes your feelings of self-worth, your confidence and your mental health. You’re vulnerable and abusers often leave you feeling alone and isolated. They make you believe that no one would love you like they do.

And you do feel loved, but those moments come farther apart and less often. They’re paired with gaslighting— the art of making you feel crazy and questioning reality— so you’re left off balance and you can no longer trust yourself or others.

Being in an emotionally and physically violent relationship can impact your mental and physical health, leading to medical bills, lost wages, lost jobs and long-term mental health struggles. The economic impact alone is concern enough for us to be doing more to prevent domestic violence.  According to the Women’s Institute for Women’s Policy Research the healthcare costs for women who experienced abuse were 42% higher than for women who were not abused. The overall costs to society in the U.S.— including healthcare and productivity losses— was estimated at 9.3 billion dollars.

Let’s start the conversation

It’s time to get domestic violence out of the darkness and into the light. The #MeToo movement went a long way toward helping victims and survivors of sexual assault feel heard and for our society to say sexual assault isn’t OK. So let’s start talking about domestic violence.

If we were to champion a movement for DV survivors, what would we call it? #MeToo2? #DVSurvivor #NoMore? #StopTheViolence? #LetsTalkAboutDV? #SupportVictims? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

If you’re struggling with how to support someone you love and care about who might be in an abusive relationship, one of the most helpful things you can do is to let the person know that you’re there for them, no matter what. If you’re concerned about their safety, let them know you care and you’re worried. You can offer to look at DV support and informational websites, including sites that offer a danger assessment.

Offering advice or suggestions about what you think they should or shouldn’t do can leave victims feeling ashamed and less willing to talk the next time they need help. Non-judgmental listening and letting them know you’re there for them if they need or want help can go a long way in supporting those who are struggling.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

How To Declutter Your Mind

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Decluttering is all the rage. If you have Netflix, I’m sure you’re aware of the show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. They’re promoting it like crazy! Ms. Kondo also has a book about decluttering called Spark Joy. In both she encourages you to get rid of the things in your life and your home that no longer—or maybe never did—bring you joy. 

This week on the Woman Worriers podcast I spoke with Vidyamala Burch about her book, Mindfulness For Women: Declutter Your Mind, Simplify Your Life. We talked about how by choosing to place our attention in our bodies through mindful activities, we’re choosing not to get caught up in the worry, planning and negative thoughts that clutter our minds.

Ms. Burch also shares her experience with mindfulness and why she believes it’s so important for women to bring more mindfulness in to their daily lives.

Last week on the podcast I shared three nature-based strategies to help you be more mindful in daily life.  And next week I talk with, Mari Lee, from Growth Counseling Services and The Mindfulness Academy For Addiction and Trauma Training, about why finding a therapist who’s been trained in mindfulness and trauma therapy is so important.

Mindfulness Helps Keep the Clutter in its Place

Imagine what it would be like to declutter your mind. What might you discard? Maybe you’d get rid of racing thoughts, constant worrying, ruminating, judging others, judging self, memories of all the things you might have done differently…. The list could go on and on.

What would remain? If you pay attention and focus on the present moment, what  brings you joy or a sense of awe? Sunlight shining through a window? A child’s laughter?  A favorite song or piece of music?

What helps you feel more grounded, calm or settled? Being with or petting your dog, cat or horse? A warm blanket? Your feet on the floor? When our thoughts and worries take over, we might miss all of these experiences.

Being caught up in worries and fears makes our brain think we’re under attack. It jumps into fight/flight mode. We feel anxious, and our fears and worries intensify. It’s a vicious cycle. And it’s hard to come back down.

When we practice mindfulness, we begin to notice how often we’re caught up in the clutter of our minds. Rehashing, retelling, re-worrying. Each time we find that we’re caught up in thought and worry, we can choose to shift our attention to the things that are happening right now.

Here’s a quick example:

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The worry:  “Oh no. We leave for our trip tomorrow. The Weather Channel says it might rain while we’re there. Should I bring my raincoat? What if I bring it and it doesn’t rain? Then I took up all that space in my suitcase for nothing. What if it rains the whole time? That would be terrible. The trip would be such a waste of time away. Just stuck in the rain everywhere we go. I wouldn’t have any fun and I’d come home from the trip more stressed than I am now.”

Mindfulness in action: “As I notice where my thoughts have taken me, I can pause and say to myself, ‘Wow! I just recognized that I’m caught up in my worries again and it’s making me really stressed out!’ I can take a slow, deep breath right now to help me tune into my body. 

“Instead of getting caught up in the worry, I can choose to pay attention to what’s happening right now, where I am. So instead of being in my head, I can pay attention to folding this sweater for the trip. I can feel the softness of the fabric and I can see its beautiful texture. As I hold it closer to my face I can smell its clean scent.  As I move about the room gathering my stuff, I can choose to notice how tense my shoulders and back are. I can breathe into that tension and notice if it changes.

“I can remind myself that I can’t predict the future, but I’d like to be prepared, so I gather my raincoat from the closet. I notice the sounds the fabric makes as I zip the zipper and fold it to fit into my suitcase.”

A mindfulness practice can help you declutter your mind. Focusing your attention on your body and breath will help you come back from runaway thoughts and worries. Mindfulness actually helps to build new neural pathways that allow you to break the cycle of the worry—>fight/flight—>more worry. You might still worry about things you can’t control, but mindfulness helps you to recognize that you have a choice in how you respond to the worry.

Woman Worriers Mindfulness Groups

Here in Annapolis the Woman Worriers mindfulness groups will begin again this Fall.  If you live locally, or in Maryland I’ll be offering in-person and online groups. The groups are designed to support you in your new or ongoing mindfulness practice using meditation and other mindful activities. If you’d like to know more call or email me!


 If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

 

 

 

Horses As Healers: Personal Experience with Equine-Assisted Therapy

Me and Clyde.JPG

A little over a year ago I joined some colleagues on an Equine-Assisted Daring Way retreat hosted by Laura Reagan, LCSW-C, and Charlotte Hiler Easley, LCSW. It was a magical, healing experience. Until then, I hadn’t spent much time around horses. After this day-long retreat with two beautiful horses, I was hooked.

This week on the Woman Worriers podcast, Charlotte and I talk about why horses are particularly gifted at picking up what’s happening in the moment. They might be picking up the herd’s experience, an individual horse’s experience, or that of the human in the arena with them. They are very attuned to what’s happening in relationship to others.

Charlotte explained that a well-cared-for horse is present minded and grounded, and it picks up on whether or not we’re also grounded and safe. At the retreat I attended, I noticed that at times when other people weren’t comfortable, the horses were calm and quiet. With others, they could be very playful. For example, I was feeling very comfortable in the arena the horses. Clyde, the horse I worked with was very playful. He nudged me, bared his teeth in a smile (horses have very big teeth). At one point as I sat with the group on the other side of the fence, he came and stood very close to me, with his head near on my shoulder and his face next to mine.

When the horses are grounded and present, it’s much easier for us to be in that experience with them, and that can ease our anxiety and stress.

Feeling so connected to a huge animal I’d met for the first time, and being able to share the experience with like-minded people, opened up something deep inside me. It made me feel more connected to the universe in a way I hadn’t felt before.

Setting aside time for your own personal growth, whether it’s doing an equine-assisted therapy workshop, going on a retreat or reading a self-help book, can be a powerful, self-affirming experience. I highly recommend it.

I hope you’ll tune into this week’s episode to find out more about Equine Assisted Therapy with Charlotte Easley.


  If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

 

 

Making Friends With Your Inner Critic Can Ease Your Anxiety

When you make a mistake, are you overly critical? Do you blame yourself for even the smallest mistakes? That’s your Inner Critic talking. It’s the part of you that wants to point out your faults, to warn you about your potential mistakes in the future and remind you of all your mistakes in the past. It’s the part that expects perfection and won’t accept anything less. It’s the part that believes it can read other people’s minds to know what they’re thinking and feeling about you. Focusing all your attention on your Inner Critic can make you feel really terrible.

Why Do We Believe Our Inner Critic?

On this week’s Woman Worriers podcast, I spoke with Michelle Richardson about Internal Family Systems (IFS), or “parts,” model of therapy. She explained that IFS is based on the idea that each of us has many different parts inside us and they all serve a purpose, although sometimes it’s difficult to figure out just what that purpose is. 

Why do we bully ourselves?

Why do we bully ourselves?

So, why are some parts of us so mean and unforgiving? We all have an Inner Critic, but for some of us that critical part is much louder and meaner than it is for others. A loud Inner Critic can make you feel anxious or depressed by telling you that you aren’t living up to others’ expectations. I doubt you would ever be that hard on a friend or family member—or anyone other than yourself. 

Many people believe that without their Inner Critic, they’d never get anything done. It’s the part that always reminds them of the things they didn’t do. The reality is, bullying doesn’t make you more productive. In fact, research shows that bullying in the workplace lowers productivity and increases depressive symptoms. Research has also shown that self-criticism goes hand in hand with social phobias and depression. Self-criticism also seems to increase the severity of combat-related post traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD), eating disorders and body image issues.

What’s The Purpose Of Our Inner Critic?

So, if our Inner Critic leaves us feeling bad about ourselves and increases the risk of some mental health disorders, can we learn anything from listening to that part of ourselves? Is it possible that the critical part of you come from a place of good intent?

If you approach the Inner Critic from the IFS model, you begin to understand that your critical part is working really hard to protect you from harm. It says all those mean things with the best intentions. It truly believes that it’s helping you.

So how do we get the Inner Critic to quiet down? To be less critical?

Tune In, Get Curious, And Be Compassionate

Tune in. The first step is to really tune into the Inner Critic. Try to draw a mental image of, or actually draw, that part of you. How old does it feel? What does it look like? Does it sound familiar—like a person from your past, a parent or an ex-partner—or like someone currently in your life?

Get curious. As you begin to have a clearer picture of that critical part, the next step is to start noticing, without judgment, how often it shows up. Does it chime in when you make mistakes or when it worries about being judged? Does it tell you to avoid new places and situations? How often is it present? Does it show up once in awhile, or is it a constant stream of negativity?

Ask some questions. You might notice that the critical part hangs around a lot, especially if you’re feeling anxious or depressed. The next time you hear your Inner Critic, here are some questions you can ask to help find out more about it:

  •   “What does my Inner Critic need me to know?”

  • “What is my Inner Critic afraid might happen?”

  • “Is there another part that’s showing up?”

You can also explore your parts with creativity too. In episode 55 of the Woman Worriers podcast I talked with Jennifer Wolfe-Hagstrom about using SoulCollage® to explore all of your parts.

Love all your parts

Love all your parts

Use compassion and curiosity. As you take time to listen, see if you can be compassionate, present and curious. Would you like to ask that part some other questions? Each time your critical part answers a question, let your Inner Critic know that you heard what it said.

You’ll probably learn that your critical part is reacting from deep-seated fears. It’s trying to protect you from future harm. It wants to keep you safe. It wants to protect other parts of you from getting hurt. When you learn that the critical part wants to protect you and your wounded parts, you may feel less likely to tell it to shut up and leave you alone. You might even begin to feel some compassion for the critical part because it’s always responding from fear, and it works really hard.

Listen and respond. As you become more familiar with when and how your critical parts show up, you can start responding differently. You can take a deep breath and say something like, “I hear you. I know you’re worried that I’ll make a mistake or get hurt by others. Thank you for worrying about me. Can you step aside while I decide what I’m going to do?” You’re telling that part that you hear it. With compassion, your more grounded self is asking your critical part to trust you to take care of it and all your other parts.

Talking to your Inner Critic takes a lot of practice. I bet that part has had your ear for a long, long time. With practice, you’ll find it’s easier to notice when it shows up and easier to get it to calm down as you try new things and maybe even have fun doing them!


 If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 .

My Interview With Tamara Powell

sacredpsychology.png

This week I had the pleasure and honor to be interviewed by Tamara Powell about the practice and the power of self-compassion. Tamara’s amazing podcast, Sacred Psychology, uses stories and interviews to take listeners “behind the veil of psychology to a place where neuroscience and spirituality go hand in hand.”

Imposter Syndrome

Because of my podcast I interview a lot of people, and I’ve been interviewed before for other podcasts but this time I was feeling some anxiety about this interview. Imposter syndrome snuck up on me and was whispering in my ear that I wasn’t “expert enough” to talk about self-compassion.

As you know I write and talk a lot about bringing more self-compassion in to our lives. The practice has helped me be kinder to myself; it’s helped me to quiet my inner critic and reduce some of my anxiety. So the anxiety over not being “enough” gave me the opportunity to practice what I preach! I took a moment to use my self-compassion tools and I think the interview went really well!

From Tamara’s website: “We do a deep dive on self-compassion: what it looks like, what it takes, problem solving our self-talk and finding some loving truths for ourselves.” I hope you enjoy it!

You can listen to the interview here or here:

Find out More About My Journey With Self-Compassion:

Sacred Psychology show notes

Biz’s Blog- Mindful Self-Compassion: How To Be Your Own Best Friend

Woman Worriers Podcast- Elizabeth Cush on Self-Compassion


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979  

Keeping It All Together When You Feel Like You’re Falling Apart

Anxiety often intensifies when your life feels out of control. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, work hard to maintain control. We schedule, we plan, we make lists, we think, we worry…. We imagine all the bad things that might happen and all the potential solutions for when they do.

man on cell.jpg

We might turn toward things that help us forget or ignore the anxiety and stress we’re feeling. For example, we turn to our phone, laptop or iPad for distraction, or stream Netflix shows we’ve already seen. Or we use substances, food or exercise to try to calm down and move the anxiety to a back burner.

All of these behaviors make us feel as though we’re managing our anxiety when we’re probably making it worse. Those behaviors are aimed at ignoring, avoiding or distancing ourselves from the stressed anxious feelings. And the energy we put into not feeling the anxiety can leave us feeling exhausted, unfocused and unmotivated.

Focusing attention on the physical sensations of stress—a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest tightness, a stomachache or headache—is another unconscious strategy for avoiding anxious feelings. We put our physical health foremost in our minds instead of the difficult feelings. Again, we are probably making our anxiety worse!

Often the source of the stress and anxiety lie beneath the surface. Even though we’re not aware of what lies in our unconscious, we know we feel uncomfortable—and we don’t like discomfort. We want it to go away!

Planning every perfect moment, until…

I’ve struggled a lot through the years when I felt like things were out of control and in this week’s episode of the Woman Worriers podcast I share my experience with managing my anxiety in the moment when things didn’t go as planned.

make a list.jpg

When I was a young mom, my anxiety centered on knowing what was next. I made lists. I’d plan lunch, dinner and the kids’ activities. I’d need to know what time we were leaving to go wherever it was we were going. I’d want to know who would be there. I think I drove my husband a little crazy! The problems came when the “plans” didn’t go as planned. Maybe a child got sick, or the car wouldn’t start or my husband got stuck at work. Suddenly I would be filled with anxiety because we couldn’t stick to the plan. My anxiety would come out as irritability or anger. I’d snap at those closest to me.

The anger and irritability were easier than the emotional pain I was feeling. I focused so much of my energy on taking care of everyone else’s needs that I often felt unseen, resentful and under-appreciated. But those feelings were buried below the surface, and I rarely expressed them to myself or anyone else.

Unfortunately all of the ways we try to put off or avoid feeling the discomfort only work in the short term, and sometimes they don’t work at all. The anxiety is usually our body’s way of telling us that it’s distressed. We continue to tell it that we don’t care, that we don’t want to hear it or see it or feel it. And so the anxiety and stress don’t go away. They keep coming back.

Facing the feelings is the way to go

What I’ve learned over the years through therapy, meditation and a mindfulness practice is that the more I avoid the anxiety, the worse I feel. That turning toward the anxiety, feeling the discomfort and identifying what’s below the surface can actually make you feel better!

I’m not saying that it’s easy, or that change happens overnight. But with effort, practice and mindful attention, we can learn to tune into our feelings and feel them when they surface. We might still have some anxiety, but as we learn to soothe ourselves in difficult moments, we can make feeling our feelings our superpower and keep anxiety in the passenger seat where it belongs.

If you struggle with starting or maintaining a mindfulness practice, and you live in the Annapolis, Md., area individual and group therapy is available to help get you started and keep you going.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979  

Medical Anxiety: When We Worry About What's Going On Wtih Our Bodies

Anxiety comes from many sources: old physical and emotional wounds, trauma and childhood emotional neglect, just to name a few. The feelings from these issues are often buried below the surface, and anxiety bubbles up when we feel distressed.

Other times, our anxiety stems from things that are much more tangible, like infertility, miscarriages or medical conditions that we have little control over. On the Woman Worriers podcast these last two weeks, we explored how polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and infertility can impact women’s anxiety, their health and their sense of self. These and other medical conditions can leave us feeling anxious and depressed and can cause strain in our relationships. 

We end up feeling like our bodies are the enemy because they’re not conforming to societal and biological norms. Our sense of control and well-being is disrupted when medical conditions impact how we feel about our bodies. These concerns can shake our sense of self and leave us feeling like we no longer “fit-in” or that there’s something “wrong” with us.

Suffering In Silence

struggling alone.jpg

Dealing with very personal medical problems is especially hard because talking about them can make us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. We’re not sure how others will react. We’re not sure if we even want to share what’s happening. We end up feeling isolated and alone. This can be especially the case if, when we seek medical help, the healthcare provider isn’t able to diagnose and treat your condition right away or dismisses your symptoms. That can leave us feeling as though maybe we’re imaging the problem.

 I’ve heard stories from women whose physicians told them that their fatigue, their physical pain, or their menstrual cycles wouldn’t be a problem if they’d just loose weight, gain weight, take better care of themselves, not worry so much…. And while all of those things might cause other medical issues, these women had diagnosable conditions that were ignored or the women were blamed for the symptoms by doctors who didn’t take time to listen and look for a cause.

We’re left feeling like it’s all in our head, or our body is the problem. If it would just stop feeling so _______ (you fill in the blank) we’d be fine.

Don’t Assume It’s Your Imagination

But women are prone to get certain medical conditions that are often overlooked. Many women’s-health issues are under-researched and physicians receive little education about them. If our physician isn’t willing to dig a little deeper, we’re left to figure it out for ourselves.

Reach out for support

Reach out for support

I can remember when my peri-menopausal symptoms began. I was convinced I had early-onset dementia. I was so forgetful and clumsy. It was hard to focus my attention on anything. I was scared, and scared to talk about it. In my worried mind, I would go over and over whether it was better to know if I had dementia and live accordingly or better to move forward in ignorance and just live my life.

I finally talked to my sister, who is older than I am, and she shared some of her friends’ experiences with menopausal symptoms. I realized the forgetfulness and clumsiness were frustrating but temporary. I was relatively young to be starting menopause, so I didn’t have friends who had gone through it. I had no idea how impactful hormonal changes could be on my mental health. If I hadn’t talked about it, I would have struggled through that time being more anxious and worried than I needed to be.

Reach Out To Resources

If you feel that your symptoms aren’t being taken seriously and there are medical issues you’re concerned about, keep pushing for better answers. Ask for help if you feel the process is causing you to feel anxious or depressed. Explore online forums, ask friends, search out non-profit organizations and mental health clinicians that can work with you.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979  

Mindful Self-Compassion: How To Be Your Own Best Friend

I’ve been practicing mindful self-compassion for about five years and I recently gave a presentation on the topic.  Being an introvert, I found it extremely hard to stand up in front of 500 people and share some of myself! I was nervous and a bit anxious, but I practiced a lot of self-compassion and I did it! You can see the video below.

Intensive Practice

The following week, I attended an intensive self-compassion retreat. Going into the retreat, I figured it would be a bit of a refresher for me. I’d been practicing for years. I write about self-compassion in my blog pretty often. I advocate for clients to adopt a self-compassion practice, explaining what it is and how to incorporate into their lives. In the women’s group that I facilitate, we talk about it a lot because women tend to be pretty hard on themselves. How much more could I learn?

You might wonder why I decided to spend a week away from home if the material wasn’t new to me. The presenters were Kristin Neff and Chris Germer— pretty big name in my world. They’ve pioneered the training, writing and research on self-compassion. When I learned that Kristin Neff would be stepping away from presenting for a while, I didn’t want to miss a chance to meet her, so I signed up for the retreat with two friends/colleagues.

The six-day intensive was designed for therapists and laypeople. It was filled with meditations, experiential activities, education, movement, laughter, tears, bonding with friends and lots of sharing with the other participants. I came away with a much wider perspective on self-compassion and how much more difficult it can be than I ever expected.

Self-compassion encourages us to be our own best friends with kindness and compassion when we’re suffering. And through the practice, we gain greater compassion for others’ suffering.

What Is Self-Compassion?

The practice of self-compassion has three main tenets, or principles—mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness.

Mindfulness allows us to be aware of the present moment and how we treat ourselves at any given moment. Recognition of our common humanity helps us recognize that we don’t suffer alone. Everyone has struggles because we’re human, and being a human involves experiencing emotional and physical pain from time to time. Self-kindness encourages us to be gentle with ourselves when we’re struggling— to treat ourselves with the same kindness that we would offer a friend.

I learned a lot at the retreat. Some points were new and some reinforced my ongoing self-compassion practice. What I didn’t expect was how hard it was for me to feel truly compassionate towards myself at moments throughout the week.  I found myself up against some pretty strong resistance.

Looking back, I get it! Mindful self-compassion can make us more aware of how often we haven’t been kind to ourselves. It also brings in to our awareness the times when others didn’t show us compassion when we were struggling.  

Training Highlights

Our last day together at the intensive mindful self-compassion retreat

Our last day together at the intensive mindful self-compassion retreat

Although I don’t have space to give a full synopsis on the training, here are the highlights that stuck with me:

  • Compassion feels more deserved when I’m offering it to others than when I’m offering it to myself.

  • Finding the right compassionate phrases to offer yourself is incredibly important for self-compassion to feel true.

  • There are two types of compassion: the Yin, which offers more caretaking and comforting support, and the Yang, which is more fierce and protective support and motivated towards change. We need both comfort and protection when we’re suffering. Both together are a fierce, caring force!

  • Using tender, compassionate touch, such as a hand on your heart or cheek, and a soothing voice helps to reinforce and internalize the compassionate messages we offer ourselves.

  • Tuning in to our physical response to stress and distress helps identify where to offer ourselves soothing touch.

  • The number-one block for people around the idea of self-compassion is that it will undermine motivation. But the research shows that a self-compassion practice is a better motivator than self-criticism!

  • There can be a back-draft effect from self-compassion. As we offer ourselves love and compassion, we might become aware of the times when we weren’t received with compassion. We can meet that pain with a mindful compassion for what we didn’t get.

  • It’s really important to have grounding skills in place and to be aware of self-care routines that help us feel nourished so we can manage when back-draft, resistance or traumatic memories show up.

  • Offering ourselves loving-kindness isn’t focused on fixing the problem or trying to make us feel better but because we feel bad.

  • Our critical voice often stems from the need for protection and safety. It wants to keep us from making mistakes, to keep us safe from others’ judgment, and to protect us from emotional harm.

  • Our compassionate voice can actually create emotional safety.

  • When we can embrace who we are with all of our imperfections and our human suffering, we are creating space for a radical acceptance.

  • Difficult emotions are a part of daily life. As we practice being mindful of our emotional and physical state, we can choose how to respond to those feelings. No choice is better or worse. It just depends on where you are in that moment. We can:

    • Resist them

    • Be curious about them

    • Tolerate them

    • Allow them

    • Befriend them

  • Self-compassion takes practice. The goal is not to be perfect at compassion but to be a compassionate mess!

It’s also important to know that mindful self-compassion can trigger traumas that we might not be aware of. If you decide to practice self-compassion and it feels more distressing than helpful, take some time to ground yourself, provide self-care in ways that are meaningful to you and seek professional help with a therapist for support and to explore alternative ways to keep you grounded in your practice if needed.

You can find out more here:

Elizabeth Cush on Self-Compassion

Ignite Annapolis

Self-compassion.org

Center for Mindful Self-Compassion

Kristin Neff, Ph.D.

Christopher Germer, PhD.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979  

Understanding Attachment And Finding Genuine Connection

Therapy is like peeling away the layers of an onion

Therapy is like peeling away the layers of an onion

Therapy is often like peeling an onion. As we peel away each layer, we’re offered new insights and understanding. Often my clients seek help initially for anxiety and stress, but as therapy progresses, it becomes evident that they’re not just stressed about what’s going on in their lives today. What triggers their anxiety is a feeling that they’re not living their lives as fully or consciously as they’d like. They describe feeling as though they don’t feel connected to themselves or the people in their lives.  

Feeling as if you don’t know yourself, or not being connected to your feelings, are usually the result of very early childhood experiences. From the moment we’re born, our relationship with our parents or caregivers affects our ability to feel at ease in the world as adults.

Feeling unconditionally loved and accepted gets reinforced as our parents respond to our cries and hold us when we’re distressed, feed us when we’re hungry and keep us warm and dry. When parents consistently provide us with unconditional love and caring, we learn as infants that our parents will always be there when we need comfort. We call this “secure attachment.”

Disrupted Attachment

Sometimes parents aren’t able to attend consistently to a child’s needs. This week on the Woman Worriers podcast, Marie Celeste shared her adoption story and her experience working with adoptive families and adoptees. She said that when children are adopted, they often feel an unconscious sense of loss and disconnection because they weren’t able to build that bond and connection with their birth mother.

Some other circumstances that can cause disruption in attachment are:

  • The parents must focus much of their attention on a sibling with physical or emotional disabilities.

  • The parent has mental health issues that limit their ability to be emotionally connected to the child.

  • The parent is overwhelmed by the child’s needs and isn’t able to respond with love and affection.

  • The parent wasn’t given what they needed growing up so they don’t have the internal resources to attach to the child.

  • One or both parents struggle with addiction.

  • Physical or sexual abuse by a parent or caregiver.

The list could go on, but the point is that even when a parent’s intentions are good—they want to have and build an emotionally secure environment for their child—they might be unable to provide it because they aren’t emotionally grounded themselves.

Why Secure Attachment Matters

Does attachment really matter? If the child was raised in a safe secure home and given food to eat, a home for shelter, clothes to wear and parents who loved them, isn’t that enough?

Unconditional love and acceptance is important for emotionally healthy kids

Unconditional love and acceptance is important for emotionally healthy kids

The answer is, it’s not just material needs that matter. If you didn’t feel loved, cared for, and accepted unconditionally, then that impacts how you feel about yourself. It’s more about what you didn’t receive.

When children don’t feel unconditionally loved and accepted—for whatever reason—they internalize the pain and blame themselves. When you’ve been raised in an environment where your emotional needs were neglected, ignored, criticized or shamed it can lead to feelings of disconnection, anxiety and depression in adulthood.

Here are some things I’ve heard clients say about the affect of being emotionally neglected and insecurely attached to parents or caregivers:

  • I am not enough.

  • I don’t know what I need most of the time.

  • I don’t know how to ask for what I need.

  • I want to have a close relationship but maybe I’m just not able to.

  • There’s something about me that’s different from other people.

  • I feel like no one knows the real me.

  • There is this feeling that I’ll never be able to feel at ease in deeper connection. It’s something about me.

  • When I see other people so at ease socially I wonder what is it about me that’s different.

  • I know that if they knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me.

Healing Attachment Wounds

So how do we move forward and find true connection, love and acceptance? To feel grounded, safe and secure in the world?

We need to build, nurture and grow feelings of connection within ourselves. We need to re-parent ourselves, to learn to love and accept ourselves with compassion and understanding. We need to heal the wounded parts of us that weren’t given what they needed when we were children.

Recognizing that our childhood emotional needs weren’t met can open the door for healing. As we learn to love ourselves unconditionally and embrace our imperfectness we can start the process of healing our disrupted attachment and begin to identify, understand and express our emotional needs.

When we can fully connect with our self with love and compassion, it makes genuine connection with others so much easier. It eases feelings of anxiety and depression to help you feel more grounded and present in the world.

If you yearn to feel more grounded, at ease and present in your life, come join our exploration of mindfulness. Mindfulness groups are forming now in Annapolis. If you’re interested you can find out more here.

Here are some additional resources on Childhood Emotional Neglect:

Dr. Jonice Webb on Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)™

Agnes Wainman, PhD, on Expectations & Anxiety

How to Take Control of Your Fatal Flaw


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979 

5 Paths To Discovering Your Body's Wisdom

Connect with your body’s wisdom

Connect with your body’s wisdom

Our bodies hold so much wisdom, intuition and awareness of how we’re feeling—yet we’ve become unaccustomed to listening or paying attention to what it’s telling us. Round-the-clock access to social media, news and entertainment can keep our attention and energy focused outward, increasing our lack of connection with our body and our desire to tune out instead of tune in.

Building a connection with the internal world of your body can help you heal from trauma, childhood emotional neglect and difficult life experiences. It also helps you feel more at peace and builds compassionate acceptance of self. 

Practicing mindfulness can help ground you.  As you start paying attention and become more aware of your body’s sensations, you grow more used to them—and more comfortable with the feelings that bubble up.

You might begin to recognize that some of those feelings are from long ago—that you’re not actually experiencing the pain right now, you’re just remembering. The growing awareness reinforces your understanding that the sensations and feelings in your body come and go all the time. Knowing that helps us feels less stuck.

Here are five ways to help you tune in to your body:

yoga and meditation can help you connect with your body

yoga and meditation can help you connect with your body

1. Yoga: Yoga is a mindful body-based exercise. Throughout the practice you’re checking in with your body, feeling the movement, paying attention to your breath and tuning into where your body is at that moment. Yoga helps you bring attention to the different parts of your body with compassion as you move. There are lots of different types of yoga—Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram, Kundalini, Ashtanga, just to name a few—so if you try one style and don’t like it, try a different one!

2. Body scan: The body scan is a meditation that gradually brings your attention from your head to your toes. This particular mediation has been shown to help people who struggle with chronic pain, but you don’t have to be suffering to enjoy the benefits of allowing your body to be where it is at any given moment, whether it’s relaxed, numb, tense or in pain. You can find a guided body scan here.

3. Meditation: Mindful meditations bring your awareness to your breath or another anchor. Each time your mind wanders, you bring it back to the anchor. As you meditate regularly, you begin to notice that your body reacts when you get caught up in thoughts, worries or plans. Practicing meditation helps you bring your awareness back again and again to a place of non-judgment, of non-reactivity and a place of calm.

4. Mindful walking: When you walk mindfully, you tune in to your body’s movements as you travel. You can do it indoors or out. Your body becomes your focus. You might sense how the earth feels under your feet, how the breeze feels on your skin or the sun on your face. You might notice the temperature of the air, or how your arms move and your hips sway as you walk. Maybe you can even feel some gratitude for the body that carries you throughout your day without you paying much attention to it. Here’s a guided mindful walking exercise to try.

5. Somatic interventions in therapy: If you’ve experienced trauma, you might not feel safe bringing more awareness to your body. Certain forms of therapy can help you get in touch with your body in the safe space of the therapist’s office. The therapist works with you to help you feel more grounded and present in your body. You work at your own pace and explore strategies to help you soothe yourself when you feel overwhelmed.

As with all new things, take your time, explore the different options and be compassionate for where you are on this journey. You’ll begin to open a path to a better understanding of what you’re feeling at any given moment.

In this week’s episode of the Woman Worriers podcast I talk about why body awareness is so vital to creating a better connection with yourself, and I share a guided exercise to help you tune in to your body.

Next week, we dive deeper into finding connection with the body on the podcast with my guest Lynn Fraser.

For readers who live in the Baltimore/Annapolis area, mindfulness groups are now forming for March. If you’re interested, you can find out more about the groups here.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979

 

Addressing Perfectionism With Compassion

When I think about a perfectionist, I see the woman who not only looks great — the right clothes, hair, car — she also has the perfect life. Nice house, lovely partner, well-behaved kids. She’s together and she does it with ease. She might work 80 hours a week but she’s happy doing it and gets it all done.

Perfectionism can be messy

Perfectionism can be messy

But perfectionism doesn’t always show up in obvious ways. In fact, perfectionism can even look a little messy! On this week’s Woman Worriers podcast, I spoke with Sharon Martin about her book, The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance, and she shared that sometimes perfectionism looks more like avoidance or procrastination.

Perfectionism could be stopping you from truly engaging in your life. You might struggle to send emails because you feel the need to check and re-check the wording to be sure you don’t offend or make a mistake. You put off doing work because you feel like you can’t — but should be able to — do it flawlessly. Or maybe you decide not to go to an event because you’re sure you don’t have the right outfit, the right job, or live in the right place. 

Perfectionism Can Make Us Feel Less Than Perfect

Believing that our mistakes reflect poorly on us, or feeling that other people are constantly judging us, can create a lot of anxiety. We think that need to be perfect all the time and if that’s not possible it’s not worth trying.

Being a perfectionist can make you pretty hard on yourself. You might make matters worse by allowing your inner critic to comment on how you’re failing. You might call yourself lazy, stupid or worthless. You might even tell yourself that you’re going to get fired or won’t get hired because you don’t have what it takes.

If you find that you’re holding yourself back or withdrawing most of the time, you might be stuck in a perfectionism loop. That’s when you don’t feel you can do the “thing” perfectly so you put it off. Putting off the task increases your anxiety, so you continue to avoid the task. Then you start to criticize yourself and make assumptions about your abilities. That makes you feel even worse, so you avoid or distract yourself some more.

You might believe that self-criticism will keep you on your toes and stop you from making mistakes, but more often it’s just encouraging you to stop putting yourself out there. Sadly, instead of making you feel better, fixing what went wrong or helping you learn from your mistakes, negative self-talk leaves you feeling worthless, less-than and sometimes hopeless.

Soothing Our Critical Parts

Self-compassion can ease distress

Self-compassion can ease distress

Self-compassion — treating yourself as you would treat others who are struggling — can help ease the burden of trying to be perfect and reframe your perfectionist thoughts into more compassionate ones. Martin’s book has some great exercises to help you cultivate more self-compassion and help ease the discomfort around being an imperfect human. You can find the book here.

Here are four tips I encourage my clients to use to help bring more self-compassion and mindfulness into their lives when the perfectionist parts want to take charge:

  1. Be mindful and start paying attention to your negative self-talk. When that negative voice pipes up, ask yourself, with curiosity, “What prompted that?” Try to identify what that part of you is afraid of or what you are worried about. Sometimes journaling when you’re most critical of yourself can help you identify the things in life that make you feel less-than. We call those things your triggers.

  2. Make a note of the negative things you tell yourself and ask, “Would I say these things to a close friend?” If not, then say out loud or write down what you might tell a friend who was struggling with the same thing. Try saying those things to yourself.

  3. Notice your triggers. As you begin to recognize when you get triggered and become more aware of your negative self-talk, pay attention to those moments. When they arise, I want you to try to say to yourself with compassion, “Wow! I just said some really mean things to myself. I would never say that to a friend. I was ready to put myself down for not being perfect, and my critical parts jumped in without my noticing! I’ll try not to be so hard on myself.”

  4. When times are tough, remember that everyone struggles from time to time. It’s a part of the human experience. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or when that critical voice wants to berate and minimize your difficulties, try saying to yourself, “I’m struggling right now. We all struggle once in a while.” You can also place your hand on your heart and repeat these phrases: “May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May I be healthy and may I live my life with ease.”


I hope these techniques help you quiet your inner critic, ease your perfectionist urges and bring more self-compassion into your life.

For those who live in the Annapolis area, I’ll be leading mindfulness groups for women that help cultivate self-compassion. You can find out more here.


If you enjoyed this blog post and would like more insights into living with anxiety, tune into the Woman Worriers podcast. In each weekly 30-minute episode, host Elizabeth Cush, LCPC, and her guests explore living with anxiety, relationships, parenting, surviving trauma and other topics and offer insights into mindfulness, meditation and other helpful resources.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979

A Story of Survival and Healing: A Therapists Journey Into Seeing and Being

*This post was originally published on The Practice of Being Seen blog.

Healing begins when you’re seen. Healing deepens when you see yourself.

girl spinning.jpg

Throughout most of my life, anxiety has been a constant companion. As a young child, anxiety was part of my emotional landscape, and it also inflected my physical world. I needed to feel that my body was safe and secure. I’d get my mom to tie the ribbons at the waist of my dresses so tightly that I could feel them cutting into my skin. I couldn’t fall asleep at night unless the covers were tucked so tightly that I felt the pressure of the blankets pushing me into the bed.

As a teenager I often disconnected from my difficult feelings. I wasn’t fully present and it was as if I was in a fog. At other times, it was as if all the wires in my system fired at the same time. When I was stressed and anxious I became hyper aware of my clothes touching my skin. Irritable and angry much of the time, I struggled with depression. All of this confused me. I wasn’t making the connection between the physical sensory discomfort and my emotional discomfort.

I felt like I didn’t fit in. I believed that there was something wrong deep within me and that I was the problem. When I’d try to “fix” that, I’d mold myself to other people’s needs and agree to things I wasn’t sure I wanted. My body would try to get my attention: a heavy tightness would press down on my chest. To this day, that pressure continues to remind me when I’m holding back and not speaking up for my wants and needs.

Surviving Abuse

It’s not easy for me to open up and it takes a lot for me to let down my guard - to be vulnerable, to trust, to be me. So much of that comes back to my childhood. The physical and emotional symptoms that I described didn’t just crop up one day. When we were very young, my sister and I were abused by a powerful man in my family. The abuse was allowed to continue even after my sister and I came forward and told my parents and they consulted with the other adults in the family. It took a huge leap of faith to tell our story, but the adults we relied upon rationalized the abuse. My sister and I were told to figure it out on our own.

We were 4 and 6 years old.

I can picture my younger self in a starchy, smocked calico printed dress. Chubby legs, a smile on my face, wanting to be loved, cared for... I just wanted to be seen, heard, and protected. Instead the message I received was, “Don’t make a fuss! Please, go figure out how to protect yourself.” As we grew older the abuse stopped, but the emotional scars are still present and they show themselves when I’m feeling most vulnerable.

Seeing the Unseen and Hearing the Unheard

woman on a couch.jpg

I know what it means to feel like no one sees you and no one hears you.  I know the fear of showing my real self. And this is why I became a therapist, because I care so deeply about those who feel unseen and unheard.

As a therapist, I hold sacred space as I see my clients in their most vulnerable moments. I work with women who have trouble showing up as who they really are. They feel inauthentic in their lives and they struggle with anxiety and depression. As we work together, they experience what it’s like when their voices, their needs, their wants, and their pain are finally seen and heard.

Truly Seeing Myself

My own deep dive into therapy has helped me understand my shame and self-blame. It’s helped me to re-integrate the parts of me that I pushed away. I’m able to feel the power of those voices inside me that long to be heard. I’m able to acknowledge the parts of myself that need to have their stories told, shared, and embraced with compassion. I’ve begun the process of listening, loving, trusting, and seeing all of me.

I’m not sure I’ll ever rid myself of the need to protect myself, or the worry that I’ll show myself and there won’t be anyone to see me, but I’ve learned that I can be there for me. I am the one who will be able to see me, to hear me, to support me, and love me.

The abuse I experienced used to feel like a liability, but now I see it as my strength. I am a better therapist because of my story and I appreciate how it’s shaped me both personally and professionally. My clients feel that I truly understand their pain and trust that I can see their true selves in ways that might be hidden from them. I receive their stories with empathy and I support them with encouragement and compassion. As they reach out, as they explore their experiences and move forward on their journey, I continue to grow and heal right there beside them.

**You can hear me read this story aloud on the Woman Worriers podcast. episode 40.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979.  

You can follow me and the Woman Worriers podcast on these social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Twitter

11 Subtle Signs That You Might Be Anxious

Insomnia can be a sign of underlying anxiety

Insomnia can be a sign of underlying anxiety

Anxiety doesn’t look the same for everyone. It’s not always obvious. Anxiety can have subtle influences on your thoughts, behaviors and feelings. It shows up in different ways for different people.

The way you were raised, the experiences you’ve had in your lifetime, and your biology/genetics can all affect how you experience anxiety. Those factors can determine when you are likely to feel anxious, what you feel like when you’re anxious and how you respond to situations and things that make you feel anxious. That’s because anxiety is often triggered by an emotional memory that is stored both in the brain and in the body.

Here are a few traits and behaviors that might mean you’re anxious:

  1. Procrastination. If you constantly put things off because it feels uncomfortable to move forward, or you worry that you won’t be able to do something “right,” you might be anxious. If you find that you procrastinate a lot, putting things off might be a sign that you have anxiety about your abilities or about being judged by others.

  2. Perfectionism. Perfectionism and procrastination sometimes go hand in hand. You want things done perfectly. If you don’t think that will happen, you procrastinate. In reality, sometimes perfectionism leads to over-doing and over-thinking. Giving 110 percent to everything in your life might really be a sign of your anxiety working overtime. Part of you believes that avoiding mistakes, being perfect, going above and beyond in all areas of your life will keep you from feeling uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it often leads to exhaustion and burn-out. 

  3. Phobias of any kind. You might be afraid to cross bridges in a car, afraid of spiders or flying insects, or afraid of flying. No matter what you’re fearful of, if it gets in the way of daily activities, it’s probably due to your anxiety about the unexpected the unknown and the unpredictable.

  4. Fear of new situations. Do you avoid going places you’ve never been or being with people you’ve never met? It might be that your anxiety is making it hard to be in new situations because there are so many unknowns and things you can’t control.

  5. Indecision. Is it hard for you to make seemingly small choices? Do I exercise or not? Should I have the chicken or fish? Do I walk or drive? Sometimes small things can be very difficult to decide when you’re anxious. You feel stuck in the middle, unable to move toward either choice.

  6. Irritability. When anxiety starts to bubble up, it can leave you feeling uncomfortable. That discomfort can make you very irritable, especially if you’re trying to control uncontrollable situations. You might snap at your partner, friends or children for no reason at all, except that you’re anxious.

  7. Extreme distress when things don’t go as planned. Trying to control people, places and things is a hallmark behavior of an anxious person. You might think, “If I can keep everything under control, then I’ll feel calm.” But life is uncontrollable, so it’s a losing battle. The fight for control usually leads to more anxiety, because so little is really within your control.

  8. Insomnia. If you find that on many nights you lie tossing and turning, or just lie in bed awake, it might be due to anxiety. Anxiety can make it hard to turn off your mind and relax your body enough to fall asleep.

  9. Worrying all the time. We all worry sometimes, but if you find you worry all the time — and maybe worry about how much you’re worrying — you probably have some underlying anxiety.

  10. Assuming the worst. Worrying and assuming the worst are often partners in crime. If you find that you’re always thinking about all of the worst possible outcomes, and you tell yourself you just want to be prepared for what might happen, there’s usually some anxiety there below the surface. The problem is, we can’t control what might or might not happen. All that worrying about bad things just makes you more anxious.

  11. Frequent stomachaches or headaches. Anxiety has both emotional and physical symptoms. Frequent stomachaches, headaches, chest tightening, difficulty swallowing, feeling flushed and increased heart rate are a few of the physical symptoms of anxiety. If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms pretty regularly, and you’ve seen your doctor to rule out any health issues, you might be experiencing some anxiety.

Anxiety can take a toll on our daily life and our physical and emotional health. You don’t have to struggle with this alone. Know that others struggle, too, and that you can get help. Therapy, mindfulness practices, meditation and medication can help you better manage the anxiety so you can live your life with more ease and contentment.

On the Woman Worriers podcast this week:

If you’re anxious, does that mean you’re an introvert? Does being an introvert means you’re shy? In this episode of Woman Worriers, I talk with Nicole Burgess—a marriage and family therapist and life coach, an empowerment mentor for introverted women, and an introvert herself— clear up many myths and misperceptions about introversion. They also talk about how introverted women can come to find and embrace their unique strengths and find the quiet groundedness they crave.


 Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

 

 

Skip New Year's Resolutions — Set Intentions Instead

Create New Year’s Intentions That Put You In Touch With Yourself

January 1.jpg

The New Year is fun and exciting. It brings the expectation of new possibilities and the potential for new opportunities. The idea behind making New Year’s resolutions is to set goals for all the things you want to do differently or to change about yourself or your life. But if you don’t follow through with your resolutions, you can wind up feeling ashamed or hyper-critical of yourself.

It seems like many of the resolutions we make are about being “better” or correcting behaviors or habits we don’t like. Social media and advertisers push you to join a gym, a diet program, or a life-coaching program. Brick-and-mortar and online bookstores promote self-help books to guide you into a better way of life. 

But what if your resolutions only make you feel worse about yourself when they’re not fulfilled? For example, maybe you resolve to lose weight and exercise more. You start off strong but fall back into old patterns of behavior (they’re called patterns for a reason). You might feel pretty bad that you aren’t able to hold true to that resolution.

Add More Of What You Love To Your Life

This year, why not try making New Year intentions that can bring the things you love into, or back into, your life. Creating intentions means getting in touch with the things you value most, the things that give your life joy, meaning and fulfillment.

You might value family, friendships, self-care, compassion, self-compassion, nature, animals, service, quiet time, knowledge, creativity, reflection, mindfulness, adventure, trustworthiness or spirituality. Those are just a few. You can find a more extensive list here

New Year Intentions.jpg

To help you identify your core values, you can use the list provided in the link above or develop your own list. Choose three to five values that feel most important to you. Write them down and consider how you could bring those values into your life in 2019 in meaningful ways.

For instance, if creativity is one of your top values, then maybe one of your New Year intentions might be: “I will find creative outlets to express myself in the New Year.” The idea is to find intentions that feel uplifting to you. Create a list that feels positive and supportive with things that you feel good about instead of all the things about yourself that you don’t like and want to change.

Looking back at my intentions list for 2018, I recognize that I didn’t fulfill every intention. That’s OK, because my list was pretty long last year! The nice thing about using your values is that, if they’re broad enough, you can find ways to bring that intention into your life without too much effort, because it means something to you.

I’m looking forward to making my list for 2019!


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

What Helps Manage Anxiety During The Holidays?

holiday stress.jpg

The holidays can be stressful. Even if Christmas, Chanukah, Boxing Day, Diwali or Kwanzaa is your favorite holiday, this season can add stress to your life. And stress can invite its more difficult cousin — anxiety — to the celebration.

Because anxiety often makes us feel uncomfortable, many of us avoid or fight the anxiety in an attempt to make it stop. Those strategies might work sometimes, but usually the anxiety returns with greater force and can lead to a panic attack.

Below are some strategies to help you manage the anxiety so that you can enjoy the holidays!

Remind yourself that you’re not alone. A lot of people struggle with anxiety during holiday season. Knowing that you share this experience with others can help you feel less isolated and alone.

Acknowledge your anxiety and allow to be there. Think of the anxiety as a message from your body telling you that there’s some kind of danger lurking. Your anxiety wants to keep you safe. When you ignore or avoid it, it just gets louder, because it wants you to pay attention. Practice saying, “I’m feeling very anxious right now.” Or you can greet your anxiety like an old friend: “Hello anxiety. It’s nice to see you again.” Or, “Here you are again.” Then ask it, “What is it that you want me to know?” You might not find an obvious answer right away, but as you get used to talking with your anxiety, it can make the feelings less intense.

Get curious about your anxiety. Notice where you feel the stress in your body and tune into the physical feelings. Can you breathe into that body part? Does is shift or change? Is it hot or cold? If you could assign it a color and/or shape, what would it look like?

Tune into the present moment

Practice self-care. I’m not talking about facials or mani-pedis here — although they sound like great ideas, too. I’m talking basic needs like eating, hydrating, sleeping, exercising and going to the bathroom regularly. When we get stressed, anxious and overwhelmed, it’s easy to let go of or put off the moment-to-moment needs. So, take time throughout your day to pause. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” Notice how easy it is to tell yourself you don’t have time to pause or to take care of your needs, and then do it anyway.

Practice mindfulness. When the anxiety gets activated, we can get stuck ruminating over past and future events. When you notice you’re stuck in your head—re-thinking, planning, worrying — slow down and bring your attention to your immediate surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you are. You can pay attention when you’re driving, walking, shopping, laying in bed or at work. Tune into your five senses:

  • What can you see? Colors? Shapes? Lights? Shadows?

  • What can you hear? Horns? Cars? Music? Voices? Wind? Rain?

  • What can you touch or feel? Your feet on the ground? The chair under your butt? Your hands holding your keys or a drink?

  • What can you smell? Food cooking? Exhaust from cars or busses? Scented candles or perfume?

  • What can you taste? Sweet, salty, bitter, sour?

When you allow your anxiety to serve as a reminder that you might need to take care of yourself, it can help you feel less intimidated and overwhelmed when it shows up. I’ve also recorded two podcast episodes to help you manage holiday stress using gratitude, self-compassion and mindfulness techniques.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 




 

 

 

 

Nine Helpful Tips For Stressful Holidays

Handling The Holidays When You Don’t Feel Like Celebrating  

Holidays can overwhelm

Holidays can overwhelm

The holidays are here in full force with all the associated decorations, music, advertisements and crowds. For some, the season is a joyful, happy time; for others it can be difficult, stressful, even painful. Lots of articles focus on how to manage holiday stress — how to fit it all in without feeling overwhelmed. This  isn’t one of them. This post is for anyone who is struggling this holiday season.

Maybe your memories of holidays aren’t happy ones. Maybe you’ve lost someone, and celebrating seems impossible. Maybe you feel disconnected and lonely, or you’re living far from family and can’t get back to be with them. Maybe just the thought of spending time with family makes you anxious, depressed or stressed. Regardless of what you’re struggling with, if the holidays don’t seem like a time to celebrate, the constant seasonal reminders can make you feel pretty terrible. Below are nine tips to help you manage your anxiety or depression through the holiday season.

 9 Tips For Holiday Stress

  1. Take care of yourself. When we feel down or anxious, self-care is usually the first thing we drop. Taking care of yourself can be as easy as taking a bath, a walk or a drink of water. Whatever you do, it’s important to be kind to yourself when you’re struggling. If you need tips for practicing self-compassion, you can find some here.

  2. Manage expectations. Whether you’re spending time with family or friends, or you’re alone for the holidays, it can be helpful to manage your expectations. If your family or your friends are dysfunctional, combative, unsupportive or hard to be around, don’t expect them to be different or the holidays to be amazing. If you have friends who don’t connect unless you reach out first, don’t expect them to reach out just because you’re feeling down. Knowing that the holidays won’t provide a happy elixir to make all your troubles disappear can help you let go of the media’s portrayal of what the holidays “should” be.

  3. Create things to do. Whether you’re with family and friends or alone, having things to do can give you a sense of purpose and offer a distraction from holiday “stuff.” Planning a long walk, going to the movies, volunteering or traveling can provide some relief from holiday overload.

  4. Limit your exposure. Take your own car or have a separate mode of transportation, so you escape from a holiday celebration early if needed. Knowing you’re in control of when you leave can be very liberating.

  5. Find support. Reach out to those in your life who provide positive support if you’re feeling depressed and anxious. Connecting with others can be hard to do if you’re struggling, but it can provide a sense of belonging and meaning.

  6. Take time to be mindful. When we’re anxious, it’s often because we’re thinking about past or future events that make us uncomfortable. If you find that you’re rehashing the argument you had during last year’s holidays or worrying about what might happen this year, take a moment to pay attention to where you are. What do you see, smell or hear? What can you touch or taste? Being present in the moment can help get you out of your head and can ground and calm you.

  7. Feel what you feel. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. If you’re mourning a loss, feeling lonely, sad, angry, whatever… try not to push those uncomfortable feelings away. Instead, sit quietly for a moment and try to get in touch with them. Acknowledge and allow the pain, sorrow, loss or anger, and offer yourself, as you would a good friend, some compassion and kindness in this difficult time.

  8. Pause.  Things can get very busy around the holidays. Taking time to slow down, pause and reflect on your environment and your needs can be very nourishing. A great place to do this is in the bathroom. Take a moment to breathe deeply, look at yourself in the mirror, smile and take another deep breath.

  9. Get a good night’s sleep. Your body and mind need sleep to reset. If you’re burning the candle at both ends you probably go to bed stressed and wake up stressed. Make your bedtime routine a priority and try to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Your body and brain will thank you! You can find out more about sleep and stress here.

 

If you feel that managing the holidays seems too hard to do alone, counseling can help. Therapy can give you support, connection and a non-judgmental space to talk about what’s happening for you.

If you’d like help this holiday and aren’t sure if counseling is right for you, email or call (410) 339-1979 to set up a 15-minute free consultation.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md and she’s been featured in these major publications. Elizabeth helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose. If you'd like to know more about how individual, online and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

Photo by Johannes Hofmann on Unsplash