An Ode to Play

Recently, I have been nostalgic for the carefree days of childhood. I was privileged enough to have most days feel free and fun, filled with crafts and creation. Whether that be in my imagination, with friends, or alone for hours at a time caught up in a project.

When we get older and have more responsibilities, a lot more independence and a different kind of fun comes with that. We can get caught up in routine and focus of making money, consuming, striving and pushing through. But when striving and surviving become autopilot, and one day turns into most days, those days compile your life.

If I were to ask you when was the last time you had a spontaneous, aimless hour or day, where you did things without purpose but simply for shear enjoyment, what would you say? Does your answer surprise you?

I am in support of you taking off the productivity hat for a short while, be it 15 minutes, an hour or more. And in this time, prioritizing play. Unbridled joy. Allowing yourself to sink into less structured time, like you did when you were little. We were so good at that as kids, and I think its an art we often lose as we grow up if we’re not careful.

“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies” – Edna Millay

This quote really resonated with me, because I think about childhood as a place we can visit if we want to. We can stay a while, spend time with our younger selves, escape adulthood expectations for a little bit, and get really present. Children are excellent at being present until they learn otherwise.

Lets allow ourselves to have moments of child-like wonder. Just moments. Spending time in nature, touching flowers, tree bark, water. Writing a story. Swinging on a swingset. Dancing to your favorite songs.

What ever it may be for you that you deeply enjoy, allow yourself to receive that nourishment. Your inner child will likely thank you.

This blog and blog post are not a substitute for therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please seek out a therapist or mental health practitioner for personalized therapy.

The Power of Change

Photo from Bella Stitchery on Etsy

Often, we fear change. Humans seem to be incredibly adaptable. We get comfortable, get used to something, and we enjoy that predictability, even if we don’t like what it is we’re doing.

Often, change knocks us off our feet, takes us by surprise, and shifts our footing. Most of the time, we don’t want it. If we do want it, we want it in a specific way.

Change is neither good nor bad. We tend to put these labels on it to identify whether it goes along with our wants or not.

As much as we try to create a predictable, patterned way of living, life is change.

The more comfortable we get with that idea, rather than fighting to make things stay the same, the more we will flow with life. We will have more ease through transitions.

This doesn’t mean that we won’t struggle. It’s about giving yourself unconditional understanding and acceptance when you do.

Giving yourself permission to mess up, cause well, we all do.

This blog and website are not a substitute for therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please seek a mental health professional or therapist for personalized therapy.

How to Deal with Negative Thoughts

When it comes to negative thoughts, illnesses, defeating the “bad guy”, monsters or what have you, our culture is obsessed with fighting.

If you’re reading this, I bet that fighting your thoughts hasn’t worked for you.

When we consistently try to ignore, suppress or push away something, it only gets stronger. The same goes for our emotions. The more you fight with your feelings about your feelings, the more they seem to stick around. When I say feelings about feelings, I’m talking about how you feel about being angry, restless, lonely, sad, shameful, guilty, etc.

What is the meaning you assign to feeling those things?

What if there was another way that seemed somewhat counter intuitive?

Allowing yourself to feel them.

The most common response I hear to this is, what if I cry forever? what if I stay angry forever? What if I can’t stop?

Well, it already seems like if those emotions are with you right now anyway, so what have you got to lose?

Also, I have yet to meet someone who is willing to experience their emotions and yet remains in a permanent state of one emotional state that they don’t want to be in.

Emotions are meant to be felt. They are called e-motions. Movement.

We often build up how scary it is to experience them. This makes sense, and is from an early time in our lives. When we were little, and not aware of our bodies, our emotions were all consuming, they felt like they could destroy us. We learned for our safety to dissociate, shut them down, distract ourselves.

But those beliefs that emotions will destroy us aren’t true as adults. We won’t be destroyed, we have bodies that are containers. We have an awareness of the outlines of our bodies, where the emotions begin and end.

We are human, and this is a part of the deal.

So here it is. Allow yourself a place where you feel safe, and tune in.

If we haven’t done this in a long time, or ever, I recommend seeing a therapist so you have someone there to hold space for you.

The practice is giving yourself complete acceptance of what comes up. Compassion for the pain and hurt. And knowing that they are just thoughts, and you are not your thoughts. They are well crafted stories that we have carried with us, inferences we have made about ourselves from reactions of others, stories that sting.

Acknowledging our thoughts, letting them be there, inviting them in without engaging with whether they are true or not is a way to stop fighting. It’s a way to put down the weapons. We’re not going to always have thoughts we like, we can’t always control our thoughts.

I believe in your ability to be there for you.

Resources:

actmindfully – free resources about this very idea. Russ Harris created Acceptance and commitment therapy which is all about allowing and accepting your thoughts, while not attaching to them or their meaning

This blog and website are not a substitute for therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please see a therapist or mental health practitioner for personalized therapy.

There is No Perfect Way To Live

This evening I tucked myself into my favorite corner by the window, a few candles lit, sitting cross legged on my bed. I was studiously listening to the Bliss and Grit podcast with my notebook opened in front of me so that I could write down the little tidbits of gold that come out of these two therapists having a conversation.

This podcast episode, called ‘When the Rules Dont Apply’, touched on the rules we often set for ourselves, be it consciously or unconsciously about how we “should” be living. These restrictions that were once for our safety that now are keeping us living small.

These are ways that we project the past onto the future. We don’t live in the now and we play out old scenarios with new people. This is a way of keeping ourselves safe since we sense some predictability with it, so we act as if what has happened in the past is happening now.

Not only do we project old scenarios or experiences onto others, we also try to tell the future of what will happen next if we do or don’t do something. Fantasizing about the future, whether that be positive or negative ideas, can keep us from moving at all.

What I’m getting at here is, there is no perfect way to live. No one has it all figured out. You can police yourself until the cows come home, but the rules have been maintained by you. It’s up to you to choose how you want to live. It is up to you to choose to rebuild the foundation, to renovate the belief system.

Both the beauty and the beast is that you get to be the one to decide. As with many things in life, this can carry a duality- conflicting emotions. But when we keep ourselves in helplessness and the victim role, sure we keep ourselves safe in old familial ways, but we also keep ourselves stuck.

So I leave you with something a good friend of mine said to me when I was stuck making a decision. She said “What is the sign you are waiting for? What are you wanting to have happen in order for you to be able to decide?”

This catapulted me back into my own responsibility, and an awareness that maybe what I am hoping to happen likely isn’t going to happen. This is an opportunity. A reframe. A way out of fantasy.

It’s up to you to choose.

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This blog and website is not a replacement for personal therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please see a therapist or mental health practitioner for personalized therapy.

Why Taking Care of Yourself is Not Selfish

When we sacrifice ourselves to please others, be it saying yes when we mean no, or listening to your friend rant when you don’t have the mental energy to really be there, we do a disservice to ourselves. Often we see these self sacrificing behaviors as admirable, when we put another’s needs before ours.

Its deep within Western cultural norms to just push through, hustle and do everything we possibly can. Being tired is a badge of honor. But these norms aren’t typically centered around our mental well being, they are more around money, achievement and capitalistic expectations.

Sometimes we need to put others needs first. Stuff comes up, we’re human. We help each other out. But when its a regular ocurrance, its an invitation to step back and take a look under the hood. It must be exhausting helping others all the time. When was the last time you took some space for you? Is there something calling for you that feels nurturing?

Maybe its sitting outside under that willow tree with a good book, or noticing how the warm water feels running over your hands as you do the dishes. Maybe its sitting with your dog, watching the clouds go by.

When we honor ourselves by respecting what we need, we are better able to show up for others in our lives.

If there is an imbalance in the amount of output or input, the system can go awry. We get exhausted, irritable, cynical, sad, angry, you name it. And being those things isn’t helping anyone out.

When we can practice noticing what it is that we need from moment to moment, we are better able to show up for ourselves and others when it matters. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

So what calls to you, right now. Sure, you may be in an office, or at home, on your phone, wherever you are, what is the first thing that comes to mind that you feel you need? Ask for it, make space for it, make it a priority. You’re worth it.

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This blog and website are not a substitute for therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please see a therapist or mental health professional for personalized therapy.

Image from https://ourfoodstories.com/2018/06/elderflower-syrup.html/

Who Are You Doing This For?

You are not required to be anything for anyone but you.

When we hear this, we start to come up with reasons why we can’t be who we want to be, usually because of other peoples needs.

And this is understandable. We get into patterns of being things for others to survive when we’re little, and then we grow up continuing to be those things for others when we don’t need to anymore, and we get resentful.

What if I told you that you have more freedom than you think you do?

Yes, others may not receive this well. Our fear of how others will take our decisions, judge us, or feel hurt is often why we decide to not take steps for ourselves.

This is often the case when we set up a boundary that wasn’t there before. Others don’t like it. They may fight it, get angry, sad, whatever it may be.

But if you are putting up a boundary in order to take care of yourself, you are not responsible for how anyone else reacts to that.

Let me say that again. You are not responsible for how anyone reacts to you putting up a boundary.

When we fail to set a boundary, what we are telling ourselves is that our needs are less important than the other persons. This part of you needs compassion and understanding that at one time, you may have needed to believe that in order to survive your childhood.

But in adulthood, we do ourselves a disservice when we continue to believe that we aren’t as important as others, when we shut down those needs.

It can be helpful to identify whose needs we are putting first by asking ourselves: Who am I doing this for? Is it for me? Do I want to do this?

Its not your job to fix others. Its not your job to be attuned to others needs. Its not your job to say yes when you want to say no. You are not responsible for others. You are allowed to have your experience. You are allowed to ask for what you need.

Not everyone will understand this. How someone else reacts is a reflection of their internal world. We have no control over this, only control over how we respond to others.

You are not required to be anything for anyone but you.

This blog or website are not a replacement for therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please see a therapist or mental health professional for personalized therapy.

You Are Not Alone

It is easy to believe that we are sole entities having a unique experience, that we are the only one having that experience or feeling. Especially in our increasingly (dis)connected world that we live in.

And your experience is unique. But it doesn’t mean that others have never felt that way before, or experienced similar hardship. That we really are all humans having similar experiences that just look different.

Even though mental health is becoming more discussed and recognized, we are less connected to each other than ever. We are often alone with ourselves, or doing everything in our power to not be.

Our relationship to self impacts everything. This isn’t to suggest that each of us are the centre of the universe, but that how we meet ourselves impacts how we can meet others. It impacts how we show up in the world.

I believe cultivating a healthy relationship with ourselves is fundamental to our ability to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. When we aren’t trying to outrun ourselves, we seek people out to enjoy their company, not as a means of avoidance.

Your relationship to self dictates how you talk to others, what you pursue or don’t pursue, staying with things that don’t serve you, how you handle conflict, how you meet yourself when you’re not happy, what you’re drawn to or pulled away from, what you will or will not tolerate, codependency, the list goes on.

Cultivating a good relationship to yourself involves finding a safe space, preferably a therapists office, and not running anymore. Being alone with yourself in a supported space. Having curiosity about what comes up rather than fear of your own thoughts. Truly meeting yourself, and those unhealed parts that have never been tended to that have been calling for your attention for years.

You will always be with yourself, so why not befriend yourself? You’re worth it, and you are not alone.

This blog post and website are not substitutes for therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please seek out a counsellor or mental health professional for personalized therapy.

The Foundation of Our Mental Health

Being human is hard. As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it, “we are wired for struggle”. Yet we often continue to indulge in the fantasy of one day getting there, to that magical place where we are at peace, we’ve figured it out, got it together and we’ve made it. In a lot of ways, we adopt this mindset because its sold to us in a pretty package with the promise of a care free life. Just follow these steps, and maybe you can relax in retirement when you’ll have time. Wait, what?

Its so ingrained in us that we don’t believe we should struggle. We don’t understand it when we do, and often refuse, resist, or deny that we are struggling which you know, always helps.

This belief that we don’t think we should struggle causes us a lot of grief. When we constantly deny our reality and current circumstances, we are denying ourselves the experience of living fully. Of truly being alive. We deny ourselves the choice to move forward. We keep ourselves stuck.

Who says you shouldn’t struggle? Do you know anyone that has never struggled? If so, I think they deserve an Oscar for that performance. Call the Academy!

At the base of it all, it always comes back to our relationship to ourselves. Relationships and circumstances may come and go, but we will always be with ourselves. For some, this may be an “oh great” moment. I feel you. There is often an “oh shit” moment when we recognize the areas we are responsible for ourselves and our choices, and that we cannot always point the finger at whomever from 20 years ago that said that awful thing about us which is why we are where we are now.

I believe that when we take our healing into our own hands, we take our power back. When we stop trying to throw everything at someone else for them to handle, we actually unburden ourselves. When we can recognize the choices we already have to see a different perspective, choose another thought, accept that what is, is what is, we are better able to move forward. Where do you have a say? Where could you?

When we berate ourselves, overeat, escape, binge watch, use substances, people please, lack boundaries (and more), these are all ways we leave ourselves.

This is an invitation to encourage you to come back home and meet those scared parts of yourself that you don’t want to meet. The parts of you that you have denied for a long time. I believe that this is the foundation of our mental health, our relationship with ourselves first and foremost.

Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust, said “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”

When we can hold ourselves with compassion, the way we would our best friend or a small child, we meet ourselves in a way that allows us to be the way we are. We allow our experience to unfold, to be with, to stay. This is the ultimate act of bravery and of self love.

So as glamorous as it is, I dare you to allow yourself have your full experience. The highs, lows, and mediocre parts- its all a part of being human. You are absolutely allowed to have your struggles. Just as much as you are allowed to have your joys, your inherent beauty, the celebration of the unique being that is you.

This blog post and website is not a substitute for therapy or therapeutic intervention. Please seek a qualified Counsellor or mental health professional for personalized therapy.