How many times do you catch yourself saying things like, "I don't do well in social situations," "I don't like going to the city." "I don't like animals." This type of thinking is called overgeneralized thinking; which means, you store one single negative event in your memory, and then use it to make wide, across-the-board generalizations. It's not ALWAYS bad to think in this way IF you have gathered sufficient evidence to make such a claim. Sometimes, thinking negatively going into a situation can cause the situation to go sour because of a sour attitude. Overgeneralizing is a way for your brain to skip over thinking deeply about what caused frustration, anxiety, fear, or disappointment in a situation. Your brain will create an untrue belief based on a sweeping statement. This type of thinking is MORE likely to cause more frustration, anxiety, fear, and/or disappointment because it is making a negative generalization about your self that usually infects your thinking to make you believe it can span other situations too.
Take control of your thinking by recognizing when you are overgeneralizing and you may realize that your days might start going better because you are giving yourself the benefit of the doubt in situations you have already encountered that may just not have gone well once.
I love this time of year. September is my "happy new year." It may have been the 18 1/2 years of school that make me think of fresh starts in September but I fully embrace and accept it. I enjoy this new year much more than the actual new year. New school supplies. New school clothes. Favorite TV shows returning or new shows beginning. I have created a renewal time for myself in September. Fall is almost easier for me to embrace change because of all the changes happening all around me already. Leaves changing from green to gorgeous yellows, oranges, and reds. The weather changing to the incredibly enjoyable sweatshirts and jeans weather. And the beloved return of pumpkins, apples, and pumpkin spice lattes.
I figure, if I can focus on how positive and beautiful all those other changes are, I might be able to convince myself that my change is going to be positive and "beautiful" as well - which is really an accomplishment in itself because change can sometimes be pretty "messy" in my eyes. The fighting that happens in my head between old habits and new habits seems like a war zone sometimes. My brain definitely is not all about switching from a four lane highway of habit to a dirt road of uncertainty. Fall helps me see that sometimes we fight change too much when it's really such a natural thing of life. (read more here!)
I have always struggled with feelings of disappointment, whether it's that I don't want to disappoint someone or I don't want to disappoint myself. The feelings that come along with disappointment almost seem to hard to bear sometimes. Feelings like guilt, shame, and fear. Sometimes we go to some pretty big extremes in order to prevent the feeling of disappointment because it can lead to damaging our feelings of self-worth too. "I'm not good enough." "I don't measure up." "WHy do I even try because I just suck."
Fortunately, I don't think disappointment is really all that bad. There are a lot of really good things disappointment can bring. It can help you do better, even "raise the bar." Say you were really excited about something, say making a new recipe. You are all pumped about it the whole time, thinking about how good it's going to taste when you're done. All the praise will be coming in from your family about what a great cook you are. When you are all done cooking and everyone sits down to eat, you realize it doesn't taste that good. You are immidiately slammed with disappointment. You start thinking about how terrible it tastes and how you are a TERRIBLE COOK because of it. Now, if you were to see disappointment as a good thing, you might start thinking about what didn't go right. Did you miss an ingredient? Did you rush the process because you were so excited to eat it? Did you add to much of something? This thought process would lead you to actually becoming a BETTER COOK because you would be much more focused the following time and you would try harder.
Disappointment should not attack your character. It's brought on by something you did, not who you are. Change your behavior! (read more here...)
Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with problems at work, before taking a test, or having to make an important decision. Anxiety is defined by Mirriam-Webster as "an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it."
Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. Worry and fears are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling. Some anxiety disorders are panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder. It is not known for certain what causes anxiety disorders, but it is guessed that it is a combination of environmental factors, genetics, medical conditions and psychological factors. Here is a very helpful article that discusses some examples of these factors that can play into the development of an anxiety disorder (read me). With proper treatment from a medical provider and counselor, the crippling caused by anxiety can be lifted and a person can feel like themselves again.
Growing up, I always had a changing relationship with food. I would think that a lot of my habits and thinking about it was normal because it didn't meet the criteria of an eating disordered so I figured I was probably fine, right? I know there are eating disorders (like the well-known anorexia and bulimia), but what about the other people that struggle with different types of food issues? I like to call the other eating issues eating dysfunctions. I'm talking about chronic dieters, emotional
eaters, extreme exercisers, health-food junkies, yo-yo dieters, etc. This makes up more of the common eating struggles that people battle with.
I have struggled with my fare share of eating dysfunctions. My most memorable moment was when I was alone at home while my husband was away on a weekend fishing trip. I was bored. I was lonely. I was... hungry! I love to bake so I headed upstairs to make some chocolate cookies. I sampled the dough as I made it... to make sure it was good enough. Then I decided I had eaten too much cookie dough so I better make some actual cookies and put the dough away so I won't be tempted to eat it all. After I had taken out the cookies, I ate one before it cooled. I ate two after they cooled. I ate another one while deciding what I should store them in. Then I went back to the cookie sheet and realized only 1/2 of the cookies I made were left. I got so mad at myself for losing control. I somehow decided that the best way to deal with this was to get rid of them. ... No I did not throw them in the trash.
My son is 4 months old now. It seems like it was ages ago I just had him. Almost as if he should be a year old already! I know I had this with my first kiddo but it was stronger with this one - I'm talking about the desire to get into a "normal" routine and feel like I could go about my life almost as if I hadn't just had a baby. I feel like you go through phases when you finally have your baby. First you have the overwhelming joy, excitement, and astonishment that you actually grew this live being inside of you over the past forever amount of months. Then you go home and you start feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and frazzled (when did I last shower?).
Most of the time you kind of start understanding how things work... baby cries a lot and there isn't always something you can do about it, showers are not very easy to come by but they have never felt better, you are amazed at how fast you can fall asleep when you feel accomplished knowing your little one is happily sleeping as well, and I am always amazed at how well I can hear. Then comes my favorite yet least favorite phase - the one where you decide that things are mostly normal again and you can go about life almost how you did before you had a new infant. You start making more plans, you start venturing out of the house more, you actually feel somewhat confident inviting people over to your house! Before you know it... you get so into "normal" life and routine that you soon find out you are EXHAUSTED!!! (read more here)
When life is going “good” for you, what do you find yourself saying internally? “When life is going good, I’m just waiting for something bad to happen.” Or maybe “when life is going good, I try to enjoy it while I can.” How about when life is going “bad?” Do you think to yourself, “When life is going bad I just want to give up because I feel like I can never get ahead” or “When life is going bad I know I just have to keep pushing through because it’s just got to get better?”
How you answer these questions may have a lot of influence on many areas of your health and well-being. Typically your answers will fit into a pessimistic view or an optimistic view. Mayo Clinic states, “The positive thinking that typically comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.” (find article here)
I used to not have the most optimistic outlook on life, especially when I was making my way through college. I felt like nothing was going my way. I was constantly stressed out from dealing with one thing or another. The thought that frequented my mind was, “Can’t I just catch a break?!” (read on here...)
Today I ran the color run . If you haven’t heard about this 5k that’s sweeping the nation as “The Happiest 5k on the Planet,” then let me catch you up. This is a 5k that is not timed and is a “unique paint race that celebrates healthiness, happiness, individuality, and giving back.” THOUSANDS of people sign up for this race (600,000 in 2012 and over a million already in 2013!), decked out in colorful tutus, wigs, socks and clothes, most of which starts out white and ends up covered in a nice variety of purple, green, blue, and orange. (Color Run)
While I was running with a friend of mine, we decided to take a walking break and have a little conversation. I asked her why she thought so many people get so into a race where people throw colored cornstarch at you that gets EVERYWHERE – hair, face, eyes, and mouth included. We concluded it is rather bizarre. You either get it or you don’t but I’ll tell you one thing, this race is open to anyone and everyone. We saw young children, older couples, bridal parties, teams running in memory of someone special, people in wheelchairs, on knee scooters, and walkers!! There is no pressure to finish within a
certain amount of time so people just cruise along at their own pace, enjoying the company of a friend or someone they just met.
What is it about that colored cornstarch though?! (read more here...)
One of my most recent challenging life transitions has been having kids. So far, hands down, this is the most difficult life transition I have handled yet. Last week I had blogged about life transitions being so difficult because of the flip flopping between the past and the future and I think this is no exception. I struggled with the idea of having a little one dependent on me and losing a good majority of my personal freedom (future thinking). I kept thinking about people I had known as parents and some of the issues they talked about were not having any "me" time (past thinking). "Say goodbye to your personal life" is what I heard most often. How discouraging. I was determined that I would still have a personal life and I would find a way to balance it all! (cough... control freak perfectionist anyone?!)
I don't know about everyone else, but avoiding things or pretending they don't exist does NOT work. I really struggled in the beginning of my first six months of being a new mom. No one really clued me in to the amount of time committed to your newborn baby; especially if you are a breastfeeding momma. My mind was completely preoccupied with the baby. What time did she eat? Is she eating enough? When did she last have a diaper change? Is she sleeping enough? How can I help her sleep more? Is it okay to hold her through out the day or should I lay her down more? What's the scoop on co-sleeping? Schedule or no schedule? How are these present situations going to affect her in the future?
No longer were my thoughts me-focused. How should I wear my hair today? Does this outfit look okay? What am I going to eat today? I had somehow convinced myself that I was losing me and all I was now was my daughter's mom. I quickly started thinking about how I was going to manage doing anything else in my life beyond being a mother (future thinking). How am I possibly going to figure out how to still be a wife, counselor, business woman, friend, and daughter? After six months of trying to split myself into parts, I realized that I hadn't been voicing any of my frustrations, anxieties, short comings, or even achievements with anyone because none of my friends had kids so I didn't think they'd understand (Past issue with friends still haunting my present relationships). How often do we not express what we're feeling because we assume others won't understand?
Thankfully I work with some pretty great counselors. I expressed what was going on to one of my coworkers and realized that what I was telling myself wasn't true. I had some idea of how I needed to be and it wasn't working out that way. After realizing I needed to share the load of my emotions and thoughts with my friends and family, I realized I needed to stop splitting myself into parts and realize that I am just one Rachael... with many different roles. I just needed to remember my values, realign my priorities, and everything would balance out. By flip flopping between past and future I was preventing myself from growing into a better version of myself because of the shoulds and fears that were preventing me from moving forward and adjusting to my "new" life. Who needs to think about themselves much anyways? I'm much happier NOT having my thoughts so "me-focused" and being able to embrace the present more fully. It's amazing how much more of life you pick up on when you embrace the "now."
"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which NEVER HAPPENED." - Winston Churchill
Have you ever had your worries take away from experiences you have had?
"If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present."
I read this quote a few weeks ago and have been really soaking it up lately. Its been helping me refocus to the present. When I'm feeling blue, I think about what's going on and it usually IS something from the past. I regret something I did or didn't do. I wish I would have done something different. I think about how I could have said something differently in order to get a different outcome. But what CAN I do about it? Is it wrong to think about our past? I think it depends how you do it. If you look to your past in order to learn from mistakes and make yourself into a better person, then by all means, keep considering the past. But when you LIVE in the past, continually problem solving something you can't do anything about, and you don't allow yourself to accept it, that's when it becomes a problem and depression sneaks up on you.
On the other hand, when I recognize I'm feeling tense, frustrated, and flustered, I find I am worrying about something that hasn't even happened yet, how it's going to turn out, and how I'm going to be able to handle it. Anxiety isn't a bad thing. It prepares us for things and helps us be proactive about situations we will face. (read more here)
Rachael Kool, professional counselor and normal, everyday adult screw up