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Valentines Day is looming and for many it is a difficult day; a reminder of the love they are missing. However, Valentines Day can be the perfect day to show yourself love and practice self-compassion. You don’t need an intimate partner to celebrate this day. Make it a point this year to be your own Valentine. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Give yourself a valentine: get yourself a card and write a love letter to yourself identifying you attributes and values.

  2. Treat yourself: from chocolates to a massage, do something special for yourself that you enjoy.

  3. Send yourself flowers or balloons: you don’t need to wait for someone to get you flowers. Call a florist and send yourself your favorite flowers with a special note, mantra or scripture verse.

  4. Hug Yourself: literally wraps your arms around your body and give yourself a warm loving squeeze. You deserve it.

  5. Make yourself a beautiful dinner, and don’t forget the candles and your favorite dessert. This is your time. Make it special for you.


Gretchen is currently accepting new clients and may be contacted by email at gretchen@anxietytraumatherapy.com or by phone at 619-272-6858 x713

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Life can often feel like an endless checklist of tasks to accomplish and goals to achieve. Sometimes we can get wrapped up in the checklist and lose sight of the reason behind our actions. Allowing ourselves to take a step back and identify the why behind our actions provides space for us to live our lives with intention and bring greater meaning to the checklist of goals we make for ourselves. Living with intention begins with clarifying our values and creating goals that are in alignment with our values. Over the past few years as a therapist — and in my own personal life — I’ve found that the day-to-day stressors we face, and the goals we set out to achieve, can overshadow our values and we can find ourselves lost and unhappy.

To start off, let’s clarify what I mean by ‘values’. 

According to Steven Hayes, founder of Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) therapy, values are like a compass “giving direction and guidance [to an] ongoing journey.” 

Another perspective on values that I like comes from Russ Harris, who says that values are “your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave in life, the way you want to interact with and relate to the world, other people, and yourself.” 

The origin of our values can come from various sources and may change over time. Values are different from goals because they can never quite be “achieved.” Instead, they serve as motivators for us as we move through life.  

Hayes breaks down values into 5 key points:

1. Values are here and now; goals are in the future

2. Values never need to be justified.

3. Values often need to be prioritized

4. Values are best held lightly

5. Values are freely chosen

Our society is very much goal-focused, making it easy to get distracted and distanced from value-focused living. Without identifying our values, life can feel purposeless and without meaning.  Sure, we may be achieving goals and finding success, but our success may not be in congruence with what matters to us in the big picture. This disconnect between goals and values can impact our wellbeing and lead to mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Values are important as they allow us to appreciate the moments when we are fulfilling our values and find joy in the journey. 

As your understanding of values grow, you may wonder where you should start with your own value identification. As a therapist, I have found that many people feel uneasy when asked about their values; I remember having the same nervous feeling the first time I was asked. The question that Harris poses can feel overwhelming and too big to tackle: “deep down, what is important to you?” 

Thankfully, Harris and others have provided guidance to assist the process of identifying values. 

Worksheet Source:  Harris, R. (2009). ACT Made Simple: An Easy-To-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.


I invite you spend some time in reflection and begin your journey to discover your values. Identifying  your values is only the first step — committing living in harmony with your values is the second step. If you are interested in learning more about value identification and intentional living, I encourage you to reach out to me.  I may be reached by phone at 619-272-6858 X706 or by email at claire@anxietytraumatherapy.com

References: 

Harris, R. (2009). ACT Made Simple: An Easy-To-Read Primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Harris, R. (2008). The Happiness Trap: How to stop struggling and start living. Boston, MA: Trumpeter.

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The Word “Should” and Your Emotions Don’t Mix

In my experience of working with anxiety, “shoulds” play a huge part of that which distresses us. We often find ourselves falling short of the standards set forth by the “shoulds” in our life, especially when we try to apply them to our feelings. In many cases, the word “should” can create stress and prevent us from exploring the more nuanced, complicated emotions we’re feeling and issues we are going through. Let’s take a moment and explore a common “should” together.

“I shouldn’t feel this way”

“I shouldn’t feel this way" is a “should” statement that I hear all the time in my sessions. And I’m not surprised, because our society often dismisses feelings as inconvenient or symptomatic of being “weak”. If you have this belief about feelings, that they are somehow weak or shameful, when you find yourself having an emotional reaction you may feel compelled to shut it down with this “should”.

The effect is a feeling of shame. Humans experience much of the world on an emotional level – it is how we gather information from our environment. So getting mad at yourself for something that is literally a central part of being a human is only going to result in feeling like there is something wrong with you (e.g. shame). 

The result? This is a classic recipe for emotional buildup. We feel like we’re not allowed to feel our emotions, so they stick around, unprocessed, under the surface and we get mad at ourselves for having feelings, which only makes it worse. For some people, these emotions can transform into anxiety. For others, they can act like magma, under the surface of a volcano that can explode as anger, extreme sadness, or a panic attack at the slightest provocation.

What should I do with this “should” instead?

If this internal dialogue is sounding familiar, try and catch yourself before the “should” dismisses the emotion. Then, stop and take a breath. I like to think of “should” as a sign that there is an emotion that needs to be explored underneath. Take the time to look at and explore what you are actually feeling without trying to explain it away.

This can help you get down to what is really going on. If you’re in a situation where you’re offended by something somebody said, telling yourself you “shouldn’t feel offended” is not going to help you feel better. Maybe talking to them, rather than shutting yourself down, will help elucidate the situation and keep the emotions from building.

Telling yourself to feel a certain way is almost never helpful and can leave you feeling ashamed of your inability to control this part of yourself.  I leave you with this final suggestion, if you find that this is happening constantly, there may be some things that you might need to explore further with a therapist, especially if you are seeing the symptoms of emotional buildup I mentioned before. It’s never easy to figure these issues out by ourselves, and it can be amazing to embark on the process of getting to know yourself better with a therapist.

The author, Krista Cheuk, Associate MFT, is currently accepting new clients in our Banker’s Hill location and can be reached by calling 619-272-6858 x704 or emailing krista@anxietytraumatherapy.com

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Like so many others who suffer from chronic pain and related issues, it’s likely you’ve tried everything out there to address your pain and live a life free of pain. Appointments with specialists and one medication after another have cost you hundreds and thousands of dollars, often to no avail. The search for lasting pain relief can itself be an exhausting venture -- and can result in a general feeling of hopelessness.

On Sept 2008, The Journal of Pain published the findings of an 8-week clinical trial called the Mindfulness Meditation program where they reported immediate results that this approach is effective as a means of addressing and managing chronic pain. (Natalia E. Morone, 2008)

It’s important to note that proposing meditation as a method to manage your chronic pain is not an indication that your pain is imaginary, that your chronic suffering is something you’ve just thought up and can simply unthink. Quite the contrary. Many chronic pain sufferers become defensive at the notion of any Behavioral Health approach as a pain management tool, and inherently levy an asinine accusation.

But no, the purpose of mindfulness as an approach to pain management is based on the idea of changing the way in which you experience pain through focusing on the sensation from a reflective and accepting perspective.  Learning to accept its presence when it’s there and appreciate its absence when it’s not, unpacks the pain experience and renders its power over your life null and void.

The power of meditation for pain management lies in targeted focal energy. Our knee-jerk reaction to any pain sensation is to do what we can to turn our attention away from the pain. Whether by seeking to medicate the discomfort or by looking toward external distractions, we generally seek to resist and focus on eliminating this pain with something, anything in an anxiety driven manner.

So it sounds counterintuitive then, to propose intentionally turning your focus toward the pain. But this is precisely what mindfulness meditation for chronic pain management entails: turning your attention inward to observe the pain for what it is.

The nature of the inward focus is key for this purpose. Rather than focusing on the pain with dread or fear or really any sort of connotation, mindfulness means simply taking note of your pain -- observing the sensation, where exactly it takes place in your body, and what kind of pain you are experiencing. As you continue to observe, introduce a gentle acceptance and compassionate perspective.  In so doing, you enable yourself to cut through the abstract noise of pain and gain clarity to the nature of your experience.

As you continue to observe your pain without judgment, pay attention to your internal reaction. When you feel pain, do you feel panicked? Angry? Depressed? Hopeless? Learning to listen to your inner self in these moments will enable you to develop an awareness of your internal atmosphere and how you are responding. Once developed, that awareness will then empower you to alter the emotional aspect of your experience. 

Here's the science of it. Stress and pain go hand and hand, which then leads to fatigue and strain on the body, along with personal challenges with family, finances, isolation and decreased activity. When we use a mindfulness approach such as meditation, the nervous system signals a relaxed and peaceful state. As a result, stress is reduced and so does physical pain. It sounds simple and easy, and yes it’s simple but it’s not as easy. Practice, be consistent and persistent, and it won’t take long before one feels some relief. Quiet the mind, quiet the body.  Therein lies the power of meditation over your pain, and enable you to regain authority over your life. 

References

Morone, Natalia E. “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Older Adults With Chronic Pain: Qualitative Narrative Analysis of Diary Entries.” The Journal of Pain, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1526590008005440. Accessed on September 30, 2018.


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