Holidays

/Holidays
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I Choose Peace

A client shared the following story during session last week and I want to share it with you. It’s about a friend of hers–let’s name him George.

George was recently divorced, living alone in an apartment in downtown Indianapolis. He awakened on Christmas morning feeling unloved and lonely.  True to tradition, however, he spent Christmas morning with his kids at his parents’ home engaging in the routines they had enjoyed for years.

Tradition abandoned him that afternoon when he customarily would have accompanied his family to his in-laws’ home. This year, his kids would leave to go with their mother while he traveled back to his apartment–alone.

Rejected, he made the decision to bundle up and face the frigid Indiana wind. He walked toward Massachusetts Avenue peering around each corner, normally alive with cars and people. Empty streets. Gray sky. He thought to himself, what a pathetic reject I am. Alone on Christmas Day while everyone else is with their family and friends. He walked, allowing himself to acknowledge the sadness. The eerie stillness of the usually bustling street was unnerving.

As he walked, snow began to fall and he was gently awakened by a sense of peace. A sudden awareness that the silence–the lack of cars and people–was actually a gift. He was able to smile, to pull his hood around him and experience the shelter against the gust. He saw the Christmas lights and neon signs in juxtaposition to the gray sky. I have a choice, he thought. I can wallow in my sadness and rejection, or I can claim this peace.

He walked another few blocks, energized, and toward a red neon sign, OPEN and walked into the neighborhood bar. He ordered an enormous plate of nachos and his favorite beer.

“So, what are you up to this afternoon?” the bartender asked as he set the feast on the bar in front of his lone patron.

“Well, after I enjoy these nachos and beer, I’m walking back to my apartment and I’m going to watch my favorite movies for the rest of the afternoon. Treat myself to a movie day. I’m going to  choose Peace.”

So many of my clients face special challenges during the Holiday Season. Recently, I’ve spent hours with clients processing the emotional onslaught brought on by loss and change. Or, for some, the added stress of extra time spent with family. Each of us faces his or her own set of challenges that the holidays magnify.

This year, I send for you a wish for the will to let go of perfection and any expectations thereof. The ability to accept others as they are. The gift of kindness to yourself. The gift of Inner Peace.

 May there be Peace on Earth.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ~Dalai Lama

The Dread of the Office Party

As I often do, I chose this topic in response to recent sessions. This post is specially written for the 1 in 8 people who suffer from social anxiety so intense that it interferes with normal daily activities. Most of us experience some heightened sense of nervousness in social situations but some are so highly anxious that they isolate themselves when possible and become physically ill at the thought of attending a necessary social situation, often attached to the workplace. The phobia stems from an intense fear of being judged by others. Clients report their fear is compounded by an obsession that others are watching them and will notice. Physical symptoms are often manifested in the form of an upset stomach, diarrhea, sweating, trembling, dizziness or rapid heartbeat.

I recently listened to a bright, talented, successful young professional share his struggle with an upcoming event he was dreading. Attendance was required by his work. I applauded him, as I do all of my clients, for being brave enough to admit his struggle and seek help. We identified specific causes of the heightened stress surrounding this function and potential ways to relieve the anxiety.

Causes:

  • This function was out of the normal work environment, resulting in a fear of being in a new place.
  • This function was outside the comfortable routine of the workplace.
  • A heightened fear of others noticing his anxiety.
  • Loss of control.
  • Fear of being trapped.
  • Fear of saying/doing something awkward. Humiliation.

Methods of Relief:

  • Recognize anxiety and the causes thereof.
  • Visit venue ahead of time to practice drive, secure parking information, and familiarize with the environment, limiting many unknowns.
  • Set an acceptable limited time of attendance.
  • Drive separately securing freedom to leave at will.
  • In advance, allow yourself permission to temporarily remove from the situation to text someone for support, listen to calming music, or meditate for a few minutes if feeling highly anxious.
  • Vow not to rely on liquid courage.
  • Claim an affirmation to repeat or write on a slip of paper as a reminder. Example: “I am not what others think of me.”

I cannot emphasize enough how effective it can be to meditate prior to an event, focusing on positive visualization.  See yourself having fun. Laughing. A successful outcome to the evening. The more we can replace worry with positive visualization, the better we will be.

I recommend meditation and positive visualization to everyone, but for my highly anxious clients, I prescribe it. It is not necessary to “know how” to meditate nor is it necessary to dedicate large blocks of time to benefit from the practice. Consistency is the key. Just five minutes once or twice each day is an great beginning. Free apps for beginners (Calm) and You Tube videos of meditation instruction are abundant.

This young man, as with most clients I see for social anxiety, did benefit from the tools we worked together to create. He was successful in not allowing fear to control his evening.

Next week: Fear of public Speaking, a form of social anxiety.

“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.” ~W. Clement Stone
October 12th, 2015|Anxiety, Depression, Fulfillment, Happiness, Holidays, Individual Therapy|

Joining the Top 40

A quick Google search yielded enlightening statistics: Nearly half of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions.  And six months into the new year, over 40% of those people remain successfully engaged in the resolved behavior.   Articles and blog posts regarding the over 60% who “fail,” exponentially outnumber those referencing folks who succeed.  Lists of popular resolutions abound.  Physical & financial health top most lists. But it’s as if we expect to make a resolution and expect to break it by Jan 7.  I choose, however, to focus on the powerful minority.  Those who succeeded in making positive change.

I do not make New Year’s Resolutions per se, but am adamant in my belief of goal setting, collages (vision boards), journaling, positive visualization, and manifesting a better life–at anytime throughout the year.  Not just at the onset of a new year. At the onset of a new month, a new week, even a new day. Especially at the onset of a new day.  On New Year’s Day, as on many days throughout the year, you will find one or both of us at the kitchen table with a journal and pen.  We create lists and goals as individuals and sometimes as a team.  The goals may be as simple as a daily To Do List or an involved, ten-year plan.

As we have done for many years, Debi and I will spend New Year’s Eve with a small group of dear friends sharing a pitch-in meal, games, and a midnight toast.  At some point in the evening, we will open the sealed, manila envelope that contains the goals and reflections written by each of us New Year’s Eve, 2013.  We will sit quietly for a few minutes, reading and reflecting, then each writing his/her own reflections upon 2014 and goals for 2015, creating a new envelope to open next year.

Reflection upon the previous year is equally important to the goals one sets for the upcoming year–an often forgotten piece of the puzzle.   Below is a short list of steps to success I have compiled from my own experience and those of others.

  1. Reflect upon the past.  Consider your individual circumstances.  Be kind to yourself.  Forgive and love. 
  2. Re-frame your “mistakes” as opportunity to grow, learn.  Understand that everything truly does happen for a reason.
  3. Celebrate your individual talents.  Write your new story.  One of success.  Dream.  Visualize.
  4. Write one or two realistic, measurable goal for yourself.  Think challenge, but be fair and reasonable with yourself.
  5. Create a plan of action and enlist support.  Seek an accountability partner in someone whom you trust.
  6. Forget perfection.  Acknowledge your challenges, forgive yourself for “slip-ups” and carry on.  It’s not about perfect implementation of goals, but rather long-term dedication to a happier you.
  7. Allow success to breed success.  Focus upon your successes–no matter how minute they may seem. 

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” ~Albert Einstein

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Join us in 2015 as we reach for the Top 40!

 

Resources:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201312/why-we-dont-keep-our-new-years-resolutions

http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2013/01/02/5-new-years-resolutions-you-wont-keep/

http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

https://hbr.org/2014/12/make-your-work-resolutions-stick