How To Live With Intention In The New Year

Making intentions for the New Year

Making intentions for the New Year

Last year I decided that instead of making New Year’s resolutions, which I rarely fulfilled, I would make New Year’s intentions. The idea was to focus on the things in my life that mattered to me on a more personal level. I was thinking that I would be more likely to use the intentions as a guide toward a more fulfilled life, rather than resolutions I would feel guilty about if I didn’t heed.

I was surprised when I looked back at last year’s post. I had followed through with every one of my intentions! What surprised me most was that I wasn’t constantly looking at my intentions to measure my success. A couple, like going on a retreat and taking more time away from work, felt a little outside my comfort zone, so they were on my mind more over the course of the year, but overall, my intentions fell into place naturally.

Did I hit each and every intention on the mark and cross it off my list? No! But I did move toward them. The intentions are things that truly matter to me, so I will continue to strive to bring them into my life in meaningful ways.

I’m not writing this post to boast. Instead, I want to reinforce that creating purposeful intentions in your life, whether they’re about personal or professional things, can help you live your life with more fulfillment and contentment. That said, here are my 2018 intentions for the New Year. Following up and expanding on my last years’ intentions I hope to:

Attend another retreat.

Connecting with horses is a healing magical experience.

Connecting with horses is a healing magical experience.

This fall, 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, but after this day-long retreat with two beautiful horses, I was hooked. 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 going on a retreat or reading a self-help book, can be a powerful, self-affirming experience. I highly recommend it.

Continue to take time off.

I was able to take a few trips to travel to see family and friends and to spend time with my husband and kids this year. It required that I take time away from work, which isn’t always easy to do.

Taking time away from work, even just a long weekend, can make the work so much easier to come back to. You’ll come back refreshed and fulfilled with more brain space available so you can be creative and more present at work and at home.

Continue to make meditation a priority.

This past year I meditated much more regularly than I have in the past. I find that when I do, I’m better able to be mindful, to pause before reacting and to be fully present with my clients and the people in my life.

Meditation takes an effort, and it’s easy to stop meditating when things in your life get busy or stressful — but that’s when it’s most effective! A regular meditation practice helps you be more aware of the times when you’re stressed so you can manage it more effectively in the moment.

I’ve also begun to recognize other areas of my life that I’d like to be more intentional about going into 2018. Here are a few:

Make my health a priority.

It’s easy to put off addressing your health issues or to put your physical well-being at the bottom of your priorities list — but if you don’t attend to your physical health, or it gets off track, it affects you both physically and mentally.

Here are the ways I hope to bring my physical health to the top of my list:

  • Practice Yoga. Now that I’m approaching 60 (!), I want to get back to doing yoga for body strength and flexibility in the New Year. By bringing your attention to  your body, yoga promotes mindfulness, and the movement is healing in many ways.
  • Get a physical check up. I haven’t had a physical in years! It’s so easy to put off taking care of yourself, but I know that attending to my physical well-being is taking care of Me. By making self-care an intention for the New Year, I’m telling myself that I care about Me.
  • Pay more attention to what I consume. It’s easy to eat and drink without paying much attention, and that can lead to over-eating and drinking! Going into the New Year, I intend to be more mindful of what I put into my body.

Show up more fully in my personal relationships.

Feeling more connected with yourself creates more connection with others.

Feeling more connected with yourself creates more connection with others.

It’s easy to assume that the people in your life know exactly how you feel and what you’re thinking. Maybe you assume that you know how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking, too. The reality is, unless you express how you’re feeling, the people around you are making assumptions about you, too.

My intention is to pay closer to attention to how I’m feeling and share my feelings with people who matter to me. When you affirm your feelings to yourself or with the people you care about, you can be more present and feel more connected.

Explore new areas professionally and personally.

Getting trapped in old patterns or doing things the way you always have can leave you feeling stuck, bored and uninspired. Shaking things up by trying new activities, going new places and putting yourself out there in new ways can help keep things interesting. I intend to explore new areas in my business and in my personal life. By stepping out of my comfort zone and doing new things, I hope to bring more life into my life!

Creating Your Own Intentions

If you’d like to create an intention list for yourself but you’re not sure how, here are a few pointers:

  1. Think about what matters most to you. What do you value? Is it love, connection, family, work…, something else?
  2. Using the things you value most, ask yourself if some values aren’t as much a part of your life as you’d like them to be.
  3. Then try to create a statement that that brings together the things you value and what’s missing, “My intention for the New Year is to spend more time ________ (you fill in the blank).
  4. Lastly I want you to write down your intentions. Having them in writing keeps them front and forward in your mind as you enter the New Year.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She 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 and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-339-1979. 

New groups are forming now!

Photo by NordWood Themes & Kenny Webster & Joseph Pearson on Unsplash

Accepting All Your Parts

Connect with your true self and all your parts

Connect with your true self and all your parts

In my Good Therapy topic expert blog this month, How To Keep Your Anxiety From Ruining A Good Time,” I discuss why, for women, our anxious parts often lead us to minimize our successes and magnify our failures. The resulting disconnect implores us to own and accept all that we are.

For me, being a business owner, I don’t often share my successes or my stumbling blocks. I worry that I’ll seem overly confident, or I’ll disappoint the people in my life that I care the most about.  But, as I share in my blog, by embracing all of our parts and “… accepting ourselves for who we are—owning both our assets and our imperfections—it becomes easier and more comfortable to share our true selves.” And by sharing our true selves we feel more connected to ourselves and more connected to the people around us.

You can find the blog here-

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below or by commenting in Good Therapy.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She 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 and group therapy can help ease anxiety and stress call me 410-340-8469. 

Photo by Alicia Steels on Unsplash

Symptoms Of Anxiety You Might Not Recognize

Some Not So Obvious Symptoms of Anxiety

Part 1 in a two-part series.

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Anxiety causes many physical and emotional symptoms. Some are more obvious and you can read more about them here. Others are subtle, so you might not recognize them. Maybe anxiety leaves you feeling disconnected from the people you care most about and wondering if there’s something “different” about you that keeps you from making deeper connections. Or maybe you believe that other people have some “thing” that enables them to pursue and maintain relationships with ease, and that you lack whatever that “thing” is.

That deep-down sense of difference can keep you stuck in the same patterns and justifying your isolating behaviors. You might tell yourself:

·      “I’m too busy to hang out.”

·      “I don’t want to be a burden.”

·      “I’m just not feeling social.”

·      “I prefer to stay home.”

·      “I’m not a ‘people person.’”

These statements keep you from reaching out and asking for help, or getting involved in things that might make you feel closer or connected to others in a deeper way. These thoughts reinforce your belief that you don’t have whatever that “thing” that others seem to have and can lead to feelings of difference and unease, loneliness, sadness or desperation.

What Makes It So Hard To Connect?

We all were born with the need to feel connected to others but, for some people, making or keeping close relationships can feel threatening or unsafe. You might read that last sentence and think it’s ridiculous. “I don’t feel unsafe! No one is going to hurt me!” But if you were emotionally neglected or abused in childhood, opening up and showing your true self can be a frightening experience. A deeply held sense that you can’t trust the people in your life, even those closest to you, to support and be there for you can keep your true self from showing up. When we hold back, other people sense our reserve; they feel our reluctance to bring them in close. This keeps them at a distance, leaving you feeling unsatisfied with your relationships, and reinforces your belief that there’s something wrong or different about you.

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When we are children, our needs are met when we're taken care of emotionally, physically and spiritually. If some of those needs are neglected, punishment is severe, or nurturing is intentionally withheld, you wind up feeling disconnected from yourself. If your parents didn't model how to manage difficult feelings, if they ignored your feelings or punished you for expressing them, you learned that feelings are bad and should be disguised or hidden. When you don’t learn how to manage emotions, you wind up as an adult without the ability to recognize what you’re feeling and you don't know how to regulate your emotions or soothe yourself.

We Blame Ourselves

As children, we often blame ourselves and feel shame when the caregivers who are supposed to love us aren’t able to meet our needs. Those feelings shame and the inability to understand what we’re feeling in the moment can lead to an underlying notion that you’re flawed or damaged, believing that there is a “thing” about you that’s different from everyone else. Dr. Jonice Webb calls this “The Fatal Flaw,” and describes it this way:

“A deep-seated feeling that something is wrong with you. You are missing something that other people have. You are living life on the outside, looking in. You don’t quite fit in anywhere.”

You can read more about this in her book, Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Feeling inherently different from others can make it incredibly difficult to feel connected. If you think you’re flawed, then you might think that you’ll never change, that you’ll never have what others do. This can lead to feeling isolated, unsatisfied and anxious or depressed.

But there’s hope! Feeling disconnected or flawed isn’t a life sentence. In my next blog post, I’ll discuss ways to help you begin to recognize your feelings in the moment, and how to self-soothe when you’re feeling difficult emotions.

Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

Photos courtesy of Daria Nepriakhina and Kevin Gent for Unsplash





New Ideas For A New Year

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. They always feel like a “should” list: I should exercise more; I should eat healthier; I should be a better friend, partner, parent or daughter. Later, I usually wind up feeling guilty about my resolutions, because I don’t follow-through with them. The guilty feelings can then easily turn into anxiety and stress.

This year, instead of making resolutions, I’d like to focus on the things I’d like to grow and sustain in my life. Here are my thoughts on ways to make my New Year more fulfilling:

Spend time with people I care about.

connecting with others eases anxiety

I recently had lunch with a colleague and friend. She had encouraged me when I went back to school, told me to apply for a job I didn’t think I was qualified for (but which I got), and gave me support and guidance when I decided to create my own therapy business. We hadn’t seen each other since the summer and it felt so great to connect again with her. In that moment I made myself a promise, and I shared that promise with her: “I will make an effort to spend time with the people in my life whom I care about but don’t see often enough.”

Take more time away from work.

I love my job and my clients, but taking time away from work recharges me. It makes me appreciate the work I do that much more. Taking time off also gives me the opportunity to travel, and I love traveling!

Connect with my kids more regularly.

I LOVE MY KIDS, and now that they’re grown and living in other states, I don’t see them enough. This year I’m going to make the effort to phone, email and see them more often.

Meditate more regularly and maybe attend a retreat.

Meditation helps manage stress

Meditation has been a real asset for me. It calms me when I’m feelings stressed and anxious, it grounds me when my worries are in overdrive, and it creates a space for me to be in touch with myself and my feelings. In 2017 I want to make meditation a part of each day. I also want to go to a retreat to meet people who share my interest.

Make my own therapy a priority.

Therapists need therapy too! My therapist supports, listens, guides and provides the healing space for me to process the difficult experiences that I’ve struggled with in my life. I encourage everyone to be in therapy (and not just because I’m a therapist)!

Create art and journal regularly.

Creating art and writing can be very grounding. Once upon a time I journaled regularly and I created artwork. I’ve been journaling again sporadically and feeling the pull to paint, so I’m going to try it! I’m not sure if I’ll take a class or jump right in, but just thinking about it makes me smile.

I would love to know what you’d like to focus on in 2017. Send me an email or leave a comment below!

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a therapist and the owner of Progression Counseling in Annapolis, Md. She helps busy, overwhelmed men and women manage their anxiety and stress so they can live their lives with more ease, contentment and purpose.

How To Start Connecting When You’re Anxious

In my last post, I told the story of a friend who’s been struggling with anxiety and depression, and who found that connecting with others had a meaningful positive impact on her mood. Humans are social beings, so connecting with others is vital to positive mental health. The problem is, when you feel down or anxious, it’s hard to get motivated or to make yourself reach out.

Some Reasons Anxiety Keeps Us Disconnected

When we feel anxious or depressed, negative thoughts can get in the way of making connections. We might tell ourselves:

Anxiety can disconnect us from others
  • “I don’t want to be a burden to others.”
  • “I should be able to handle my problems on my own.”
  • “Asking for help is a sign of weakness.”
  • “I might get rejected.”
  • “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

The problem is that the longer we stay disconnected, the longer we feel isolated, lonely and sad. It becomes a negative cycle: “I’m not reaching out because I’m sad and anxious, and I’m sad and anxious because I’m not reaching out.” Like the chicken and the egg, it’s hard to say which comes first. Either way, it becomes a negative loop.

When Anxious, Start Small: 3 Tips for Making Connections

My clients will often say that they’re introverts, so connecting with others doesn’t come easily. I usually suggest that they start small and in ways that feel most comfortable and natural for them.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Ease anxiety through connection
  • Connect with friends you’ve lost touch with, such as college roommates, old work buddies or family members you haven’t seen in a while. Give yourself a modest goal to call or meet up with a friend or family member once a week. Re-connecting with someone can be easier and more comfortable than trying to start up a conversation with someone you barely know.
  • Volunteer or get more involved in an activity that you enjoy. It’s easier to connect with people who have similar interests. If you love hiking, taking photos, playing soccer, running, supporting the homeless, working with the infirm or elderly, dogs, cats or all animals, you can get involved in a wide variety of related activities. You can go online to find Meet-up groups of people in your area who share your hobbies and interests. Pet shelters, hospitals, homeless shelters and elder care facilities are always looking for volunteers. The nice thing about all of these activities is that you only commit to what you have time to do.
  • When going to a large social event, remember that you only need to connect with one person at a time. You don’t have to talk to everyone. Connecting with an individual is a lot less stressful than thinking about all the people you don’t know. Practicing conversations and your responses before you go can help ease your anxious feelings. In an article called “The Introverts Guide to Connecting,” author Maribeth Kuzmeski suggests, “Anticipate how people might react to what you say. Rehearse conversations in advance. Develop a vision for yourself and how you’d like to change.”

Connect One-on-One With a Counselor

Sometimes even the steps above can be difficult when you’re struggling with anxiety and depression. This is where counseling can help. Working one-on one with a counselor can be a less threatening step toward connecting with others, understanding that you’re not alone and being heard with openness and empathy. If you’d like more information on how counseling can help you reconnect with your life, please call me at 410-340-8469.

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a counselor in Annapolis, Md. She owns and operates Progression Counseling.

How Connection Can Help Ease Anxiety

In a recent blog post, I shared my own struggle with anxiety. Afterward, people gave me a lot of great feedback, and a few shared their own personal stories about their struggles with anxiety. I got permission from a friend to share her story so that others might be able to gain some insight from her experience. Although her story is uniquely hers, I have experienced similar feelings, as have many of my clients.

Anxiety Can Leave You Feeling Disconnected

Anxiety can leave you feeling disconnected.

My friend has battled anxiety and depression for some time. She’s been doing all the right things — seeing her primary care doctor, using medication and going to counseling. She said she also tries things like “getting a massage, taking time to journal, reading self help books and listening to CDs about happiness, joy, guided imagery, affirmations, mindfulness etc.”

All of these things were helpful in the moment. She said she would be left with “fleeting moments of feeling uplifted and then fall right back to feeling overwhelmed by life, anxious and depressed.”

The thing about anxiety and depression is that they can take over your life on many levels. For example, when you’re feeling down or overly stressed, it’s hard to reach out for help; in turn, this can leave you feeling isolated, as if you’re alone with your struggle. Even though you might see co-workers, chat by text, or connect on Facebook, feeling disconnected can stop you from reaching out in meaningful ways to the people in your life who matter most — your partner, your best friend, your college roommate… You fill in the blank.

As for my friend, she had slowly lost touch with the people in her life she felt the most connected to. One of her friends was busy with her own issues, so she was no longer as available as she had been, leaving my friend feeling even more disconnected. “I was hit with the fact that my support system had become WAY too small, and her ‘disappearance’ really left me floundering.”

Reconnection Can Help Ease Anxious Feelings

Many studies have shown that a sense of being disconnected can lead to feelings of loneliness, alienation and a lack of purpose. The authors of a study published in the January 2015 issue of Psychology in the Schools found that that students with anxiety are at significant risk of loneliness, which can then lead to depression. The good news is that connectedness has been found to help protect against depression.

My friend sought counseling. When she continued to fall back into her anxious and depressive feelings, she and her counselor realized that she was missing the kind of human connection that allowed her to feel heard and supported.  Together, they came up with a plan and homework for her to reach out to people she’d lost touch with.

Reaching out to friends can lessen relieve anxious feelings

My friend said, “the reconnection has been a real lift” for her and the friends she reached out to. She decided to make more of an effort to talk to her friends more regularly. She plans to continue to reach out to old friends and work toward building new meaningful relationships. For the moment she is feeling optimistic. “I have been impressed with how much better I feel after a meaningful 15-minute conversation.”

Do you have a story to share about your journey with anxiety? Please share your comments below.

If you are feeling disconnected, anxious and in need of support, please call me at 410-340-8469 for a free 15-minute consultation.

Photos by Abi Lewis and Priscilla Westra for

Elizabeth Cush, MA, LGPC is a counselor in Annapolis, Md. She owns and operates Progression Counseling.