mindful awareness

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

woman on a road.jpg

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.”

hand on face.jpg

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 .

 

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. 




 

 

 

 

A Minute of Mindfulness

It Only Takes a Minute

Take time to pause

Take time to pause

I created this quick video below to demonstrate how easy it is to be mindful. Wherever you are, take a moment to slow down and tune into the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touch the things that are there with you in the present moment.

No matter where you are — on the street, in the city or country, forest or ocean side, at home or at work — you can take a minute and pause.

If you’d like to do more meditating and don’t know where to begin I have a FREE guide to get you started! Fill out this form and I’ll send it along to you with a free meditation too!

If you’d like a longer meditation that also incorporates your senses this week on the Woman Worriers podcast I offer a guided imagery meditation using your sensory information to create a calm, safe space.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, 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. 

Photo and video by Elizabeth Cush



Manage Anxiety With Mindfulness & Meditation

Meditation and mindfulness can ease anxiety

Meditation and mindfulness can ease anxiety

If you’ve read my blogs or listened to my podcast, you know that I’ve struggled with anxiety throughout my life. I also share that my mindfulness practice, including meditation, has made a huge difference in how I feel and how I view my anxiety. I went from hating my anxiety and avoiding it to learning to appreciate it as my body’s signal that something doesn’t feel right.

Turning toward, instead of away from, the anxiety opens up space to allow the feelings to come and go. Feeling the feelings without judgment allows your body to understand that the situation you’re worrying over isn’t life or death — that it’s not going to last forever. It’s just a worry you’re struggling with right now. That non-judgmental awareness gives you the space to be more present in the moment for whatever is happening right here, right now.

In the end, just three things matter:
How well we have lived
How well we have loved
How well we have learned to let go
— Jack Kornfield

Mindfulness can help you learn to live with and allow difficult uncomfortable feelings. It brings a greater awareness of self, and that helps you feel connected to yourself and to others.

3 Mindful Activities For Managing Anxiety

So how do we bring more mindfulness into our daily lives? Here are three tips to get you started:

1. Practice mindful meditation every day.

If you’ve never meditated before, this can be a challenge so start small — five minutes a day. If you’d like help getting started, you can request FREE Get Started Meditating Guide and find some guided meditations here .

The goal of mindful meditation isn’t to clear your mind of all thoughts. The goal is to notice each time your mind wanders and bring your attention back to an anchor of your choosing — your breath, a sound, a sensation or something else.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”
— Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation

2. Pick one activity a day and single-task.

What is single-tasking? It’s the opposite of multi-tasking! Pay attention to your five senses while performing a single task. You can choose any daily activity you usually do without thinking — like brushing your teeth, washing dishes, driving your car, walking your dog…. You get the idea.

Instead of tuning out or being inside your head or on your phone, bring a mindful attention to the activity. What do you see? What colors, shapes, objects? What can you feel? Do you feel water running on your hands, the ground under your feet, the toothbrush on your gums? What are the smells? Does the soap have a scent, or do you smell flowers blooming? What noises and sounds do you hear? What do you taste? Each time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your senses and the task you chose.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

3. Tune into and name your feelings.

As you begin meditating and being more mindful, you might begin to notice that feelings arise, sometimes without warning. When we’re more in tune with our bodies and ourselves, our feelings become more present. As you notice discomfort or joy, take some time to pause. Feel what you’re feeling. See if you can name what the feeling is, without judgment. Say the name of feeling aloud or to yourself, and see if the word resonates with you. If not, try to pick a different word that might describe what you’re feeling. If you find yourself judging yourself about how you feel, remind yourself, “All feelings are welcome.”

One is a great deal less anxious if one feels perfectly free to be anxious, and the same may be said of guilt.
— Alan W. Watts

If you’ve been meaning to start a mindfulness practice but keep putting it off, consider participating in a mindfulness group. Groups forming now will start in the fall. I will be holding Facebook Live events in August with weekly mindfulness tips to help you get you started. You can follow me on Facebook for more information on the live events.


Elizabeth Cush, LCPC is a therapist, blogger,  creator and host of the Woman Worriers podcast, 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. 

Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash

Have A Mindful Valentine's Day!

Be mindful of your feelings this Valentine's Day

Be mindful of your feelings this Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine’s Day and whether or not you celebrate, or consider a “valid” holiday it’s hard to miss all the hoopla. I went to the drugstore to buy a condolence card yesterday and I overwhelmed by all of the Valentine’s Day merchandise­ — and I like to celebrate!

If you’re like me and enjoy the holiday, Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

If today makes you sad or depressed, or angry because it’s a made up “Hallmark” holiday then be mindful of taking care of yourself today.

  • Acknowledge your feelings and allow them to be there.
  • Offer yourself some compassion and love, and remember that others are struggling too.
  • Ask what you need to take care you yourself. Maybe you buy yourself some flowers, or maybe you choose to ignore the holiday altogether.

With that I wish you a happy, mindful, wonderful Wednesday!


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. 

The Power of Making Movement Part of Your Journey

Recently, I’ve been exploring movement in my life. I don’t just mean my physical movement, but also movement through painting, movement in my psyche and movement in my environment.

Movement Helps Heal

Movement helps heal

Movement helps heal

I’ve been more mindful of movement because I’ve been incorporating movement into my own therapeutic journey. I’ve found it incredibly healing. I was traumatized as a young child, so I learned early on to disconnect from my physical experience. Because of that, it’s taken a concerted, mindful effort to get back in touch with all of my body’s sensations.

Our bodies can tell us a lot if we’re willing to be attentive and listen. The problem is that sometimes we get so caught up in our daily grind that we forget to pay attention. We ignore what we’re feeling, or we might have disconnected from our physical experience in order to cope with trauma. 

How Mindful Awareness Helps Us Stay In Touch With Our Bodies

Our bodies talk to us everyday. Actually they’re talking to us every moment of every day! Your stomach might growl because you’re hungry, or your bladder might feel full because you need to go to the bathroom. Maybe  a tightness in your chest signals that you’re feeling anxious. But often, we don’t tune into the physical sensation. We continue on with what we’re doing until the signal is hard to ignore.

The sensations that occur within our bodies aren’t always uncomfortable. You might feel a lightness in your chest or heart when you feel joy, or gratitude might make your heartspace feel warm and full,. Laughter can make your whole body vibrate.

Bringing a mindful awareness to the movement and sensations in your body can help you feel more connected internally and externally. The aliveness that’s there, at all times can help you recognize that all sensations and movements within will come and go. So you might feel good or bad for a time, but by being more aware you come to understand that you’re in a constant ebb and flow of feelings and sensations.

3 Ways To Bring Awareness To Movement

1. Move Your Body! Yoga, exercise, walking, dancing or whatever moves you! When you allow your body to move in ways that feel good to you, it can bring a whole lot connection and awareness to how your body feels and when it wants you to hear.

Art can make us aware of the power of movement

Art can make us aware of the power of movement

I’m taking an Authentic Movement Group with other healers. Without going into too much detail, the idea is that you trust your body to communicate with you about how to move in a way that feels true and authentic. (And you do it with your eyes closed!) It’s been an enlightening and freeing growth experience for me in ways I can’t even put into words.

3. Explore Through Art. Whether you draw, paint, sculpt or weave, it’s all about movement of the medium. I know you might say, “But I’m not an artist,” but guess what? It doesn’t matter! I’m not an artist. Without any formal training, I’ve begun painting with watercolors, and it’s fun! I try to approach it with no judgment. Some of my creations I love. Some, not so much — but expressing myself through the movement of color on paper has been another surprisingly powerful experience.

3. Notice Movement In Your Environment. As you walk, drive, run and move throughout your day, notice the sounds that move in and out of your awareness. Notice others moving around you. Notice how your own movements change as you walk, go up steps or sit down. Pay attention to the wind as it blows branches or trash or stoplights. Or notice how the wind passes by your cheek or blows your hair. Here’s a video I took of waves and the motion of water on a beach.

Movement is ongoing. What can we learn from that? The thing I’ve taken away from paying attention to all of this movement in and around me is that whatever I am experiencing at this moment, it’s likely to change. Maybe not right away, but it will change. So, I might be feeling anxious now, but it’s not going to last forever — and that’s reassuring.


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. 

Photo by Nadim Merrikh and Rifqi Ali Ridho on Unsplashon

 

 

 

Top 10 Questions About Therapy And My Counseling Practice

Progression Counseling Office

Progression Counseling Office

If you’ve thought about getting counseling but haven’t taken the first step, you probably have questions. Everybody does. In this post, I’ll share the questions I hear most often — and the answers. If I haven’t addressed your specific question here, please feel free to ask.

1. Do you take insurance?

New clients who call or email often ask this question first. Research shows that the most important component of effective therapy is the therapeutic relationship, which means that if you feel connected and aligned with your therapist, you’re more likely to feel better sooner. Regardless of whether you need to use insurance, my advice is to interview a few therapists to find the one you like who seems to truly understand what you need from therapy. Word of mouth, Google searches, your insurance company, Good Therapy and Psychology Today are good places to start looking for therapists in your area.

I am an Out-of Network provider, which means that you pay me my full fee and I give you paperwork to file with the insurance company for your partial reimbursement (if they provide out-of-network coverage).  But I understand that health costs are crazy, and being able to use insurance is a real consideration for many people.

2. Are you accepting new clients?

I am! I have openings for individual and group therapy.

3. How does counseling help?

The therapist should be someone you feel comfortable with, someone you trust, and someone you feel understands you and your perspective. When you find that, therapy provides a safe, supportive space for you to share your stuff. The therapist should also be qualified to do the kind of work you need. For instance, if you’ve experienced trauma in your life, you want a trauma-focused therapist. I you’re looking for therapy for your child, you want someone qualified to work with kids. 

Many clients either don’t know how they’re feeling at any given moment, or their emotional state feels like it’s in charge. For them, it feels as though their emotions are invisible or uncontrollable. Counseling can help through exploration and development of relaxation strategies, mindfulness and grounding techniques that help regulate emotional states — an important step in therapy. 

Therapists work at your pace to explore and bring to light life the events or feelings you want to understand better. They help you practice skills for coping when life circumstances trigger you. Counseling also gives you the opportunity to examine new and different perspectives about yourself and your life, creating greater self-awareness. When we feel connected to ourselves, it’s easier to feel more connected to others.

Working with women who struggle with anxiety is my specialty

Working with women who struggle with anxiety is my specialty

4. What’s your specialty?

I work best with women who struggle with anxiety. I experience anxiety myself and I know how hard it can be to feel like you’re always reacting instead of responding! I know how difficult it can be when anxiety affects your sleep, your peace of mind and your relationships. I’ve worked hard to manage my anxiety, and I want to help others on their journey.

5. Can you help me get rid of my anxiety?

I can’t. Being anxious is a natural state when we’re afraid and feel threatened, so it doesn’t go away. But therapy can help you learn to manage the anxiety better through a greater awareness of what triggers the anxiety, and by practicing self-compassion and self-care, practicing relaxation skills, and using mindfulness to help you get out of your head (where we get stuck when we’re anxious) and more focused on the present moment.

I often tell new clients that managing anxiety means that you learn to be more comfortable with the discomfort that anxiety brings. 

6. How often do we meet?

Therapy works best when it’s consistent, so I recommend meeting weekly to start.

7. Are my issues more severe than most of your clients?

I get this question a lot and my answer is always pretty much the same. Everyone enters therapy from a different place. And each person’s journey through the counseling process is different. You are where you are. As we work together, you’ll gain a greater understanding of who you are and how you got to be the person you are today.

I don't prescribe medication

I don't prescribe medication

8. Do you prescribe medication?

No. In Maryland, therapists are not allowed to prescribe medication. If needed, you would see your primary care provider or a psychiatrist for medication management, and we would all work together to help you find the medication that works best for you.

9. Is group therapy for me?

Group therapy is a unique experience. Unlike individual therapy, where it’s just you and the therapist, group therapy gives you the unique perspectives of all the people who share the group with you. Their insight and experience often brings a greater awareness to what you’re experiencing. It’s also incredibly supportive and connecting.

10. How much?

The first session is $150 for one hour, and subsequent sessions are $100 for 45 minutes. Group therapy sessions are usually $45 for one hour, but often there are cost incentives to sign up early.


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. 

Photos by Jon Ly on Unsplash & pina messina on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying Mindful Through The Holidays

Struggling With Holiday Stress

Struggling with holiday stress

Struggling with holiday stress

Do the holidays totally stress you out? It’s hard to get away from all the TV and radio ads, social media and the decorations and music in the retail stores. I enjoy the season, but sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough — I’m behind in preparation, and if I could just be better organized, maybe that would ease my stress. In my home we celebrate Christmas, and the constant reminders of how many shopping days are left leave me feeling anxious and overwhelmed at times. But, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, the hype and pomp surrounding it can make you feel stressed out!

Mindfulness Can Help

Here are a few tips that will allow you to be present in the moment, instead of being caught up in the worry, planning and thinking that seem to be an integral part of this time of year.

Practice mindful awareness.

Practice mindful awareness

Practice mindful awareness

The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sensations of the season and the holidays can be soothing. I know that frantic shoppers or Christmas music blaring in your ear might not seem very calming, but if you take a deep breath and pay full attention to your senses, you might notice the different colors you see as you shop, or you might notice the smell of a fire burning as you walk outside, or maybe you can tune into the taste of a really good orange, or another delicious food.

When you can get out of your head and take the time to really notice what’s around you, it allows your body to relax. You might find something small to appreciate in all of the craziness.

Manage your negative self-talk and be OK with making some mistakes.

Letting perfectionism go can be liberating; we also need to be kind to ourselves. When you forget to order something or forget to be somewhere you were supposed to be, know that you are not alone. Thousands of us out there are forgetting things, too. Instead of beating yourself up, offer yourself some words of comfort and allow that you’re human. It goes like this, “Wow, I’m being really hard on myself for _____. I probably could have done that better, but it’s OK. I made a mistake, but we all do, and it’s OK.”

Practice feeling gratitude.

Practice feeling gratitude

Practice feeling gratitude

Feeling gratitude can improve your mood and your outlook if you practice daily. An easy way to bring more gratitude and thankfulness into your life is to write down one thing you’re grateful for each day. You can write in a journal, in the notes of your phone, or just make a mental note to yourself when you find something to be grateful for.

If you struggle with finding something to be grateful for, you can say, “I am grateful for this moment right now.” Or, “I’m grateful for this chair I’m sitting in, or the ground I’m standing on.”

To give your gratitude practice an extra punch, you can share whatever you’re grateful for with someone else. Saying it out loud and sharing it reinforces the positive feelings within you and creates connection with others. Two amazing benefits!

If you’d like to bring more mindful awareness into your life after the holidays, groups are forming now for January 2018. You can find out more here or you can call me at 410-339-1979.


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. 

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom.Clem Onojeghuo and Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Mindfulness In Times Of Uncertainty

This week Daniela Paolone guest blogs about using mindfulness when things in the world are feeling unsettled and uncertain. She is the owner of Westlake Village Counseling and she helps those with anxiety, chronic pain, chronic illness, and medical trauma find new ways of coping so that they can live their best lives. Daniela uses an integrative and holistic approach that helps clients feel both empowered and informed.  The approaches used are influenced by her experience as a person living with chronic pain and illness. You can read more about her practice, and how to follow her on social media at the end of the blog.


There has been so much going on in our world lately that it can leave us feeling worried and uncertain.  We may find it hard right now to stay focused on our day-to-day tasks because we keep getting flooded with new information regarding world events.

So what are we to do when we are feeling this way?

Perhaps in these moments we need to allow ourselves to feel what we feel.  Giving ourselves permission to express our emotions can help us to better cope and move onto a path of healing and recovery.

1. Active Meditation

This approach also happens to be a mindfulness practice. 

Bring attention to one activity

Bring attention to one activity

During hard times, thoughts and concerns can show up in a person’s mind that can be overwhelming.  However, when bringing attention to only one concern, the mind and body redirect their attention to that single thought.  When this happens, the mind and body begin to slow down and become more calm.

The advantages of mindfulness practices is that they can allow us to gain greater self-awareness and focus on what matters most. Putting these thoughts into perspective helps to quiet down all the noise and distractions. This then can lead to experiencing life with less overwhelm and distress.

2.  Dial Back On The News And Social Media

Feeling the need to stay up-to-date on world events can oftentimes leave us feeling stressed.  The constant information overload tends to turn on our stress response which then can be difficult to turn off.

Thinking back to the last time you watched the news, how did it make you feel? Did you feel drained and unwell afterwards?

If that has been your experience, please know you are not alone.  The truth is, is that the brain is designed to only handle so much information at a time.  When that time goes on indefinitely, the mind becomes overstimulated.  It can also be difficult for the mind to get back into a relaxed state even after you have stopped watching the news.

Take time away from the news and social media

Take time away from the news and social media

So if you reduce the amount spent with these activities, you may notice a shift in how you feel.  Do you observe a change in your breathing?  Do your thoughts become more clear? Are you feeling more grounded and present in your current surroundings?  Is it easier now to stay on task?

3.  Breathwork

Breathwork is another way to cope when feeling overwhelmed by current events.  When there is significant loss and devastation happening in the world, it is easy to feel powerless.  However a breathing practice is another way where we can work towards feeling more calm and in control.  

With a regular breathwork practice, the mind and body are learning how to slow down and both mentally and physically.  This is because you are directing your attention to the breath.  Moving from a state of trying to multitask, to instead focusing on one action, is what mindfulness is all about.

meditate.jpg

Breathwork serves as a great mindfulness practice because it reminds us about what we can control.  This can be such a welcome experience when we are going through difficult times.  Sometimes we need the reminder that there are aspects within us that we do have a say in.  Aspects such as how we are breathing, where we are sitting, and what activity we are taking part in.

There are a variety of breathing exercises, but the one I am sharing here is one that really seems to resonate with others. This exercise combines breathing techniques with visualizations.  So below, I put together a sample of a mindfulness script that I use both personally and with clients.

Sample Breathing Mindfulness Exercise

When in a seated position, I want you to have your feet planted firmly on the ground and your hands resting comfortably on your lap.  As you get comfortable in this seated position, you make small adjustments in your body to make sure you feel comfortable and well supported.  Once you find that comfortable position, you gently close your eyes and start practicing deep belly breathing.

As you inhale, you breathe in through your nose, and on the exhale, you open your mouth into a relaxed position and let the air go freely.  When on the inhale, you visualize your belly expanding out like a balloon, and on the exhale, that balloon becomes smaller.  As you continue to breathe in and out, you find a comfortable pace for each inhale in and exhale out.  With each breath, you start to feel your muscles relax because more and more oxygen is getting into you muscles.  You feel your body settle in more deeply and you continue to relax.

When you feel ready, you add in a thought on the inhale that you are breathing in calm, healing energy.  On the exhale, you visualize that you are breathing out your worries and concerns.  The more and more you breathe in and out, you continue to feel those worries leave your body. You begin to notice how you feel within, and observe it with curiosity. Your mind and body are also taking in all the healing and calming energy with every inhale, leaving you with the sensation of inner calm and peace.

You continue this breathing for a few more minutes in silence, and when you feel ready, begin to wiggle your toes and fingers.  Slowly open your eyes and look around the room, taking in what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste.   You are getting your mind and body back to where you are now.  You may feel like getting up and walking around to take note of what you see and hear.  Stretching and moving your body help you to orient yourself to where you are now.  Once you feel connected and present with the here and now, you notice how you feel physically.  You may feel more relaxed while also feeling energized and refreshed to continue on with your day.

Final Thoughts

While what is happening in the world may bring up feelings of instability and concern, there will always be aspects of life that remind us that we do know how to manage these worries so that they do not get the best of us. In the end, we get to have a say in many aspects of life.  How we set that up each day and implement it can make a big impact in how we feel each and every day.  We have the ability to reign in the distress by using mindfulness practices so that we can live our life on our own terms.  Small changes can lead to bigger shifts for the better to keep you grounded when upsetting world events takes place.


Daniela utilizes mindfulness based techniques, such as Emotional Freedom Technique, guided imagery and more. She helps them develop a new relationship with themselves.  As the body changes over time due to illness, which can be a difficult transition, Daniela honors where the client is in this process and helps them to become more in-tune with their body. She explores their emotions as different thoughts come to the surface.  

Daniela provides in-person and online counseling for California residents looking for more support.  You can find her offering free presentations in Southern California where she talks about pain management, the stress and pain connection, alternative techniques for improved sleep and more.  To find out where she is presenting next, or to learn more about her work and offerings, you can sign up for her monthly email newsletter here.

Daniela can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram

 


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. 

New Mindfulness Groups beginning in January, 2018. Email me if you'd like to know more!

Photos by Cassie Boca and Annie Spratt and  Aubin A Sadiki on Unsplash

 

What Is A Mindfulness Practice?

Meditation is one part of a daily mindfulness practice

Meditation is one part of a daily mindfulness practice

Meditation and mindful awareness are two components of a mindfulness practice. Both are equally important. Meditation helps you learn how to focus your mind, which in turn helps you focus your attention on the world around you in the moment. Mindful awareness, or focusing your attention on the present moment, can be as simple as paying attention to an activity you do mindlessly everyday, like brushing your teeth.

Because we’re so used to just doing, without thinking, each part of a mindfulness practice really does take practice. We’re so used to going about our day with our mind running in a million different directions that bringing it back to the here and now can seem difficult. For some it can be frustrating, because it doesn’t always come easily. 

What Is Meditation?

Learning to focus your attention is where daily meditation can help. Meditation is sitting quietly and focusing on an anchor. An anchor can be your breath, a mantra or something else you choose to bring your attention back to each time it wanders. And it will wander, because we’re human and we’re wired to be thinking, planning and worrying beings. Each time you bring your attention back to your anchor, you’re being mindful! It’s that easy — or not!

A key component of meditation is being compassionate and non-judgmental with yourself. Some days it might come easily; other days, when you’ve got a lot on your min or you’re easily distracted, it can be harder. What’s important is to enter into the meditation with the intention of being mindfully centered and try not to give yourself a hard time if it feels difficult. You can even say to yourself, “My intention was to meditate mindfully for 10 minutes today. It was very hard for me because my mind was all over the place. My intention is to try it again tomorrow.”

Mindful Meditation: Getting Started

Meditation can be guided or you can guide yourself. I think that when you begin a mindful meditation practice, it’s much easier to have some gentle guidance. A bunch of apps for you phone, websites with free meditations and YouTube videos are available to help you get started. I’ve listed a few resources at the bottom of this post.

Make meditation a part of your daily routine

Make meditation a part of your daily routine

When talking with my clients, I suggest picking a time of day when you won’t be disturbed and finding a place where you can sit quietly. I like to meditate in the morning when I’m at home by myself, or when I’m between clients in my office. To start, try meditating once a day for 3–5 minutes. It’s important to do it everyday, but if you forget, be compassionate with yourself and do it tomorrow.

Once you’ve established a routine, begin increasing the amount of time that you meditate. Ideally doing it for at least 10 minutes a day is a good goal. You’ll probably begin to notice that your thoughts automatically come and go, and it gets easier to come back to your anchor and to be less reactive about the thoughts that do pop up. That’s because you’re learning to let your thoughts pass through, instead of latching on to them.

My Experience

I find that when I take the time to meditate before I start my day, I can approach the day with greater sense of ease and intention. Do I still get stressed out? Of course! But I know that the stress will pass too, much like my thoughts. Meditation allows me to feel stress, but I don’t have to be stressed. If I don’t overly identify with the feeling, then I can acknowledge its presence without it pulling me under.

Do you meditate, or have your tried it? I’d love to know your experience in the comments. If you don’t meditate but would like to start and think having a group to support you would be helpful, I have an eight-week group, beginning later this month, where we will practice meditation and mindful awareness together. You can find out more here.

In my next post, I’ll talk about mindful awareness and how to bring more of it into your life.


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.

You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In

Photo by Natalia Figueredo and by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash