3 Ways to Cultivate More Self-Compassion

Many people are brought up to always be kind to others. But how many of us were taught to be kind to ourselves? Self-compassion, or self-love, can often seem like a foreign concept, particularly to those raised in an abusive or unloving home.

Self- compassion and self-love are not to be confused with arrogance or conceit, which are usually indicators of a lack of self-love. Self-compassion has nothing to do with faux superiority and everything to do with being kind and gentle with oneself. It allows us to treat ourselves as we do our greatest loved ones. Instead of harshly judging ourselves for any personal shortcomings, we can instead give ourselves unconditional love and acceptance.

Why is Self-Compassion Important?

Over the last decade, research has shown a correlation between self-compassion and overall psychological well-being. Self-compassion helps us recognize the difference between making a bad choice and being a bad person. It also helps us have greater connections with others and less depression, anxiety, and fear of failure.

A lack of self-compassion can take a toll on our personal and romantic relationships. How we treat ourselves is typically an indicator of how we let others treat us. The less love and compassion we have for ourselves the more likely we end up in abusive and dysfunctional relationships. But, when we have self-compassion, we are less likely to depend on others to validate our self-worth or “complete us.”

Here are 3 ways you can begin practicing self-compassion:

1. Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

You would never treat a small child the way you may sometimes treat yourself. You wouldn’t call a child “stupid” for making a poor decision. And you certainly wouldn’t tell them they are unlovable and “will wind up alone forever.”

It may be hard treating yourself with such kindness in the beginning because you are not used to it. But in those moments, decide to treat yourself as you would a child and much progress will be made.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Self-criticism is a mental habit. In order to replace self-criticism with self-compassion, we must practice mindfulness.

When you find yourself caught up in that negative noise and mind chatter, stop, take a deep breath, and refocus your thoughts on something more positive about yourself. What qualities do you like about yourself? What have you done recently that you feel proud about? It can be anything, “I am always on time,” or, “I made the cashier smile.”

When you do find yourself having negative thoughts, DO NOT chastise yourself for having them. Thank those negative thoughts and tell them you no longer need them, then send them on their way to make room for positivity.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Be Human

At the end of the day, self-compassion is about being okay with our own humanity. It’s important to recognize that being human means being flawed, and that’s okay. You and the rest of the world have imperfections in common.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes and accept yourself, warts and all. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much lighter and happier you will feel.

While it’s incredibly important to learn self-compassion, it’s not always easy cultivating new thought and behavioral patterns on your own. A therapist can give you the support, encouragement and guidance you need to help you make these positive changes in your life.

If you or a loved one has struggled with self-compassion and would like to speak with someone, please give me a call. Let’s discuss how I may best be able to help.

10 Signs You Might Be a “Highly Sensitive Person”

Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)? If so, you’re not alone. It is estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. In fact, scientists now believe there is a gene behind this trait.

But what does it mean to be highly sensitive? The HSP is generally defined as someone with “acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli.”

The bad news is, being highly sensitive can make many “normal” life situations feel awkward and downright uncomfortable. But fear not, there are some benefits to being highly sensitive, and I’ll share those a little later in this post.

Signs You May Be a Highly Sensitive Person

If you are curious whether you may be part of the population that is highly sensitive, here are 10 signs to look for:

  1. You are quick to feel negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety.
  2. You may feel physical symptoms in relation to these emotions, such as headaches and muscle tension.
  3. You become overwhelmed with physical stimuli such as sound, light and smells.
  4. You have never felt comfortable around crowds. The energy of the crowd easily overwhelms you.
  5. You become very emotional over the injustices of the world. (you cry or become angry at the thought of children or animals being harmed, as an example)
  6. You often worry what others think of you.
  7. You take things personally.
  8. You have a hard time letting things go and receiving critical feedback.
  9. You avoid most social situations and prefer to stay home alone.
  10. You startle easily to loud noises.

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

As I mentioned earlier, while being a HSP can cause you to feel awkward or overwhelmed at times, there are some definite perks to being highly sensitive. For starters, you are someone who can enjoy subtle sensory detail that a majority of the population misses. You get pleasure from noticing the end of day light play. You’ll notice subtle shades of color and texture and feel immense pleasure at the complexities of Indian cuisine.

You’re also someone others like being around because you are aware of others’ feelings, needs and emotions. Because of this natural empathy, HSPs make great teachers, managers and leaders.

HSPs are also incredibly creative. Many artists, musicians and famous actors are highly sensitive people who have gifted the world with their talent and insight into what it means to be human.

As you can see, if you can manage the negative aspects of being a highly sensitive person, you can reap some pretty great rewards.

If you or someone you love suspects they are a HSP and would like to explore treatment options to manage those negative aspects, please get in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help.

3 Great Phone Apps to Help Improve Self Esteem

People who struggle with low self-esteem often hold themselves back from making intimate connections with others and reaching their most desired goals. Luckily, technology is making it easier for these people to give their self-esteem a boost.

Here are 3 great phone apps that can help you improve your self-esteem:

Simply Being

A positive self-image is the result of a positive mindset – and that can be the result of daily meditation. Simply Being is a guided meditation app. Users can intensify the experience by adding their own choice of music or selecting from a list of soothing nature sounds. The app is available on iPhone, iPad, Windows, Android, and Blackberry.

Confidence Coach

Here’s an app that was actually developed by two British Clinical Psychologists. Confidence Coach takes a psychological approach known as Cognitive-Behavior Therapy or CBT for short.

With over 25 years of experience between them, these clinicians combine numerous techniques that, when used, can help change thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Users can monitor their behavior by tracking their strengths in the “Positive Quality Diary” and making use of the “Confidence Commitments” features. These remind users of their daily to-dos for boosting self-esteem.

Happier

Coming at self-esteem from a different angle, Happier focuses on inspiring individuals to gain self-esteem by “mindfully curating what makes you happy.” The app illustrates the many simple ways happiness can be instilled in one’s life. Users could spend a few moments with their pet or volunteer at their local soup kitchen. The idea is that by feeling grateful we can feel more positivity about ourselves and our lives.

Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help

A low self-esteem shows up in our lives as a wall; a wall that keeps us from reaching our full potential and fulfillment. To live an authentic life, these walls need to come down. Cognitive Diary  aims to do this by teaching users to establish certain triggers and thought patterns that lead to a negative state of mind. Once these triggers are identified, it becomes easier to stay one or more steps ahead.

Like “Confidence Coach,” Cognitive Diary is based on tools of cognitive behavioral therapy and was developed by a licensed and practicing psychotherapist.

There’s no denying that personal development takes time and commitment, but luckily various applications are helping people reach their full potential.

If you’ve tried some of these apps, or, deep down, believe you need more help in boosting your self-esteem, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Signs You Aren’t Practicing Self-Care

Self-care is complex. Anyone can tell you to do it, but only you can bestow the gift of self-care onto yourself. But before you can begin bestowing, you’ve got to first recognize that you are worthy of caring for yourself as you do others.

How do you do this? By noticing the ways in which you are currently not taking very good care of yourself.

Here are 5 signs you aren’t practicing self-care. If any seem familiar, it is time to make more time for yourself:

1. You Get Sick More Often

When we don’t take proper care of ourselves, our health takes a big hit. Lack of proper sleep and nutrition can lead to a taxed immune system, which in turn makes you vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.

2. Increased Moodiness

What happens when a child does not get the care and attention they deserve? They begin to act out in order to get any attention. In much the same way, a lack of self-care and feeling of unimportance can lead to increased irritability. Leaving this unchecked can result in personal and professional relationships being negatively affected.

3. Unpleasant Physical Symptoms

What can start out as unpleasant (and even scary) physical symptoms, can be a sign of poor self-care. Symptoms may include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, headaches, and fainting spells. All of these symptoms should be checked out by your healthcare provider immediately.

4. A Feeling of Isolation

When you feel you don’t deserve to care for yourself, you naturally feel unworthy of enjoying other aspects of life, like socializing and a true connection to friends and family. This can lead to a detachment of others and a sense of isolation.

5. Depression

Feelings of worthlessness can snowball into feelings of hopelessness and depression. If you have noticed yourself slipping farther and farther into a depression, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional. They can help you recognize where the darkness has come from, and how to break through back into the light.

If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, or would simply like some help practicing self-care, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Daily Self-Care Exercises for Survivors of Abuse

Unfortunately, being a survivor of trauma or abuse is exceedingly common. According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. And according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2017 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

While it is challenging to be a survivor of abuse, the journey to a place of peace and acceptance can be an empowering one. No matter if the abuse you endured was recent or long ago, a daily self-care regimen will help you cope with what still affects you today.

1. Quality Sleep

Ensuring you have adequate sleep on a nightly basis is an essential component of maintaining optimum physical, mental, and emotional health. Fundamentally, your body needs regular rest to operate properly. A good night’s sleep will uplift your mood and energy, improve your memory and help keep stress levels at a minimum.

2. Meditate

Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus, and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Find an easy or beginner meditation to follow with a Google search, smartphone app, or the free meditation exercises available on YouTube.

3. Exercise

Finding some forms of enjoyable exercise will help you feel more energized. Exercise is also a great physical outlet to release pent-up emotions you likely have as a result of your abuse or trauma. Try taking up walking, jogging, yoga or anything you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to do anything wholly unpleasant or push yourself too hard; exercise is an act of self-care, not a punishment.

4. Positive Affirmations

It’s all too common for abuse survivors to feel shame about it and blame themselves; for that reason, it’s important to program yourself with positive thoughts and beliefs. You can tell yourself, for example: “I am valuable,” “I am worthy,” “I am capable,” “I am strong,” “I am intelligent.” Pinpoint negative self-talk and counter those thoughts with positive affirmations.

5. Support

Engage your support system by calling a friend or family member, joining a support group and/or finding a therapist. If your support system is lacking, use a smartphone app or the Meetup website to find a local, like-minded group and make some new friends. Sharing your struggles with people who understand and care about your well-being is an important aspect of your healing journey.

 

Are you a survivor of trauma or abuse? A licensed mental health professional can help you so you don’t have to go through this alone. Give our office a call today so we can set up a time to talk.

 

SOURCES

http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/nca-digital-media-kit/national-statistics-on-child-abuse/

5 Ways to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem has become an epidemic in this country, and one that negatively impacts our quality of life. Feelings of unworthiness can begin at a young age and, if neglected, can potentially lead to depression and anxiety.

Because low self-esteem can be so damaging, finding ways to feel better about ourselves and our abilities is vital to our well-being. Here are 5 ways to increase your self-esteem:

  1. Quiet That Inner Critic

Negative self-talk is a common issue for people with low self-esteem. If you’re one of those people whose inner critic is constantly beating them up, it’s important you quiet that voice. Try to replace any negative comments with positive ones. Stop focusing on your weaknesses and instead focus on your strengths and abilities.

  1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

We are all so unique. Sadly, instead of celebrating what makes us individuals, many of us spend time comparing ourselves to others. And, should we find we don’t quite measure up to others’ standards, we feel inadequate. Stop comparing yourself to others and instead concentrate on being the best version of you that you can be.

  1. Give Up the Quest to be Perfect

Being human means being imperfect. We all have flaws, we are all works in progress. And that’s okay. Striving to be something that simply doesn’t exist is futile and exhausting. And before you say that so many celebrities are perfectly beautiful and lead perfect lives, guess again. Hollywood’s A-listers are typically photoshopped and many have been treated for depression and addiction. They are human and struggling like anyone else.

Stop trying to be perfect and instead set attainable goals for yourself.

  1. Start Loving Your Body

Many people struggle with body image issues. Much of it is because of the photoshopping I just mentioned. It’s hard to love your body when you are expected to look like the people that grace the covers of magazines.

Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, on how much you weigh or how big your muscles are, focus on being healthy. Be grateful for your health and make healthy choices so you can always feel good and vibrant.

  1. Cut Back on Social Media

Social media has its good points, but it can also set unrealistic expectations regarding relationships and lifestyles. It’s important to remember that online, people tend to only post images that make their lives seem awesome. But that’s not always an accurate presentation. Spending too much time looking at other people leading fun lives can lead us to spending less time enjoying our own.

If self-esteem issues have become a serious problem in your life, leading to anxiety and depression, consider working with a therapist who can help you work through your memories and emotions.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Ways to Learn to Like Yourself Better

Quick question: Do you like yourself?

When asked this question, most people respond by saying something like, “Of course I like myself.” While their words say they like themselves, what do their actions say?

Are you someone who’s comfortable in their own skin? Are you happy with your appearance, or are you constantly comparing yourself to others, wishing you could be more like them? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? A superstar, or someone who doesn’t quite live up to your own expectations?

The thing is, our self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves, right now in this moment. Sure, it’s okay to strive to become a better version of ourselves, so long as we accept this current version, flaws and all.

If you’re someone who is overly self-critical, here are 5 ways you can learn to like yourself better:

1. Enjoy Your Accomplishments

Some people are so focused on everything that’s wrong with them, they never take a look at what’s right. When you’ve done something well, it’s important that you admit this success and enjoy it.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, either. It could be that you made a really delicious lasagna. Allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying every single bite, and happily receive any compliments from those you cooked for.

2. Understand That No One is Perfect

If you’ve been comparing yourself to other people, it’s time for you to stop and realize that no one is perfect. Not the models you see on the cover of magazines, nor the actors in the movies. They have professional makeup artists and are lit perfectly Heck, most of them have been photoshopped.

Not even the so-called perfect among us are actually perfect. The sooner you can accept this fact the sooner you can relax and like who you are.

3. Have Patience with Yourself

Perhaps there are things about yourself that you would like to change. Do you want to lose weight, get healthier, learn a new language?

Often we hate ourselves for not reaching impossible goals we have set for ourselves. If there are goals you would like to reach, be realistic in setting timelines and be patient with yourself.

4. Look at Your Past with a Kind Eye

Sometimes we don’t like ourselves because of past actions and behaviors. It’s important to give yourself some slack. When you were young, you may not have always acted kindly toward loved ones or strangers. Maybe you acted selfishly more often than you care to admit. But this is a part of being young.

The best thing to do is embrace your past, warts and all, and see what you can learn from your actions and behaviors.

5. Like “Most” of Yourself

You may never like 100% of yourself, and that’s okay. Strive to like 80% or 90%. You can still live an incredibly happy life when you think ‘only’ 85% of you is awesome.

A healthy self-esteem is important to our overall well-being, but getting there can be difficult, especially if you’ve suffered from a low self-esteem your entire life. Working with a therapist can be very beneficial. Someone who is impartial and completely new to you can help you gain clarity and a new perspective on yourself and your life.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Ways Codependence Can Be Overcome

Do you find you accept responsibility for a loved one’s emotions or actions? Are you constantly trying to please others? Do you neglect your own needs and have difficulty setting realistic personal boundaries? Do you often feel resentful yet have difficulty stepping away from a dysfunctional relationship?

These are some of the symptoms of codependency. Codependent people look for external cues from others to tell them what they should feel, need and act like. While most would agree that sensitivity to others is a wonderful trait, codependents take it to an extreme because of an inability to create healthy boundaries.

But healthy boundaries are important. These boundaries draw a line of distinction and responsibility between our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and those thoughts, feelings and behaviors of others.

While it may take time to break lifelong patterns of codependency, there are things you can do to overcome it.

1. Recognize Any Denial

The first step to recovery is to be honest with yourself and acknowledge the problem. There is a very good chance you have rationalized your codependence over time. While it can feel scary to admit to being involved in a dysfunctional relationship, honesty is the first step toward healing.

2. Study Your Past

The next step on your path to recovery is to take a look at your family history to uncover experiences that may have contributed to your codependency. What is your family history? Were there events that led to you disconnecting from your inner emotions?

This can be a difficult process and one that involves reliving childhood emotions. You may find that you feel guilty for admitting you were wounded in your formative years.
This type of work can be difficult and is best done in a safe therapy relationship.

3. Detach from Unhealthy Involvements

In order to truly work on ourselves, we have to first detach from what we are obsessed with. Personal growth will require giving up the over-involvement or preoccupation with trying to change, control or please someone else.

This means letting go and acknowledging we cannot fix problems that are not ours to fix.

4. Learn Self-care

Giving up your excessive attempts to please others is a good start to healing, but learning self-care is absolutely necessary. It’s important that you begin to become aware of your own thoughts, feeling and needs, and learn how to communicate them in a relationship. This may feel very wrong at first, as if you are being incredibly selfish. But that’s okay.

In order to form healthy relationships with others, you must first form one with yourself.

5. Get Good at Saying “No”

One of the best ways you can begin to set healthy boundaries is to learn to say no to situations that are detrimental to your own wellbeing. This will feel awkward at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will become.

Seeking the guidance of a therapist will be beneficial as you work your way through these five steps. They will be able to help you safely explore your painful feelings and experiences and learn healthy ways of relating to yourself and others.

If you or a loved one is codependent and interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

How To Stop Beating Yourself Up

When was the last time you heard from your inner critic? You know, that voice in your head that constantly judges you, puts you down and compares you to others. The one that tells you you’re not good enough or smart enough and says things you would never dream of saying to another person.

Now you may think this inner critic, while annoying, is relatively harmless. But this is simply not the case. This inner critical voice limits you and stops you from living the life you truly desire. It hinders your emotional well-being and, if left unchecked, can even lead to depression or anxiety.

Here are some ways you can silence that inner critic and stop beating yourself up.

  1. Give it Attention

That’s right, in order to gain control over your inner critic you have to know that it exists. Most of our thinking is automatic. In other words, we don’t give our thoughts much thought. We barely notice a critical thought has passed. Give attention to your thoughts, all of them. This will help you recognize the critical voice.

Here are some emotional clues the critic has reared its ugly head: whenever you feel doubt, guilt, shame, and worthlessness. These are almost always signs of the critic at work.

  1. Separate Yourself from Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic is like a parasite, feeding off you. You were not born with this parasite but acquired it along the way. Your inner critic hopes it can hide and blend in, and that you’ll think ITS thoughts are your own.

You have to separate yourself from this parasite. One way to do that is to give your critic a name. Have fun with this naming. You could call your inner critic anything from “Todd” to “Miss. Annoying Loudmouth.” It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you learn to separate it from your authentic self.

  1. Talk Back

In order to take the power away from your inner critic, you’ve got to give it a taste of its own medicine. As soon as you recognize your inner critic is speaking to you, tell it to shut up. Tell it that the jig is up, that you know it is a big, fat liar, and that you want it to go away. If you want to really make this voice recoil, tell it you are choosing to be kind to yourself from now on.

Self-compassion to an inner critic is like garlic to a vampire.

  1. Create a New Inner Voice

If you want to defeat an enemy, you need to have a powerful ally on your side. It’s important at this juncture to create an even more powerful inner voice. One that is on your side and acts as your BFF.

To create this new voice, start noticing the good things about yourself. No matter what that nasty critic said about you, the truth is you have fantastic traits and abilities. Start focusing on those. Yes, it will be hard at first to let yourself see you in a positive light, but the more you do it, the easier it will get.

Life is short. To have the most fulfilling one possible, we have to stop wasting time on beating ourselves up. Take these 4 steps and learn to quiet that inner critic. Your best you is waiting to be celebrated.

Some people’s inner critic is stronger than others. Sometimes the greatest ally you can have in your corner is an impartial third party, a therapist who can see you for who you really are.

If you or a loved one could use some help defeating your inner critic and would like to explore therapy, get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.