Mindful Parenting

Learning to Love Yourself

Blond woman lying in fieldMany parents have a very difficult time making themselves a priority. From the time your children are born, you have most likely learned to put your needs on hold to care for them. When they cry in the night, you give up your sleep to attend to them. As toddlers they need close attention, and again your routine changes to ensure their safety and contentment. If your children are involved in sports, then you learn to adapt your schedule to take them to their activities. In essence, your life revolves around your children and your desire to raise them to be healthy and well-adjusted.

However, if you are in the habit of caring for your children, your partner, pets, etc. at the complete expense of caring for yourself, you will come to identify yourself solely by this caregiving role. Doing so puts you at risk of losing sight of your own individuality. Making yourself a priority, treating yourself kindly, nurturing yourself as well as the others in your life, is crucial to maintaining balance. It can also sustain you during stressful times, buffer against feelings of anxiety, and aid in the development of self-love. Everyone has time to care for themselves throughout the day: we just tend to use that time for other things. And the truth is, it doesn’t have to take a great deal of time.

For example, your plan to care for yourself may involve choosing to speak kindly to yourself (to be less critical with your self-talk). This process could involve enhancing self-awareness, which would enable you to start catching yourself when self-talk becomes critical, and then replace it with something kinder. Such a process wouldn’t necessarily take time out of your day, just a shift in your thinking process! Read and work through the steps outlined below, and make a plan to build some self-care into your week.

Part 1: Identify

In your journal, or on a piece of paper if you do not use a journal, write the title “What does it mean to love myself?”. Then, divide the page into 2 columns, with “Behaviour” on one side, and “Thoughts/Beliefs” on the other side. Take a moment to think about what it means to truly care for yourself. Once you have an idea of what this looks like for you, put your ideas on the paper, in the appropriate columns. For example, on the behaviour side, you might include things like: eating right, allowing yourself enough sleep, calling friends, reaching out for help when necessary, relaxing regularly (perhaps with a bath, meditation, yoga, reading, etc.), exercising, going for walks, gardening, limiting stress in your life, having strong boundaries with difficult people in your life, and so forth. Examples of thoughts/beliefs are: using positive affirmations, saying kind things to yourself such as “I can do this”, “I can learn to do that” (rather than “I’m such an idiot”), “I can handle my anger”, “I’m currently struggling with this because I am new at it” (rather than “I can’t do this”), “I have the power to take charge of my life”.

Part 2: Plan

Now that you have identified the ways in which you can care for yourself, take steps to incorporate loving yourself into your daily life. Review your list, and select the items on it that you identify the most with – the ones that really stand out for you. With these you will create a plan to incorporate them into your life: write down all the details necessary to carry out your plan during the following week. For example, if you want to eat better, you could review a recipe book, make a menu plan for the following days, and a grocery list of necessary food items. Or, if you commit to going for walks, but it is wintertime and you don’t own a pair of winter books, make a plan to purchase winter boots. When you are creating your plan, think of anything that could get in the way of carrying out your plan, and then deal with it. Identifying the obstacles ahead of time is important and will enable you to better change your routine in your desired ways. Start small. Be realistic. Once your plan has been created – start living it!

Reference:
Yes You Can! 16 Steps for Discovery & Empowerment, by Charlotte Kasl (1995)

This article was originally posted on October 28, 2010, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge

Mindfulness · The Process of Therapy · Trauma Therapy · Uncategorized

Living Life: Even on the Tough Days

On the darkest of nights, when there seem to be no options – no solutions to the despair you feel, how will you find your way? When it seems like there is no hope left, will you hold out hope for your own fire?

I’d like to write about suicide, and the option that takes just the tiniest spark of hope: living.

Ask 10 people for their thoughts on suicide, and chances are you will receive 10 completely different responses. Suicide is a word packed with 100 times more emotion than syllables. And even in sitting down to write about it today, I had to wait for the whirl of emotions to slow before I could hear the one constant resounding  thought: I value life. 

I value life.

I didn’t always though. I was once an impulsive and shy kid with few friends, the target of ridicule by classmates – once or twice even by teachers. I knew rejection. I knew loneliness. I even knew the pain of grief when cancer claimed my mother . I knew feeling directionless. Feeling unsure of myself. Of having no one to turn to who would truly have my back.

One day, during my Masters degree training, I took a class on suicide risk and intervention. After learning crisis intervention and theory, we were required to demonstrate our suicide intervention abilities by role playing client and clinician. When it was my turn to play the role of the ‘client’, I  harnessed those many years past from my youth, when living another day felt unbearable. And while I could still acknowledge the pain of those days, I could barely get the words out in order to “act” suicidal in the moment. And that was when it dawned on me: I value life. I could not even pretend for one moment that I didn’t want to be alive.

I have bad days and sad days. I have lonely days and grumpy days. But I also have good days and joy-filled days. I have peacefully quiet days and blissfully calm days. I have days when I feel invisible but I have so many more days when I love and value myself. The thoughts and emotions that awaken thoughts of suicide are a signal that you are in pain. That you are hurting and feel powerless to create change yet that you desperately need to create that change in order to be ok. Sometimes it might feel as though that change is impossible. Sometimes it might feel as though the energy required to act on creating that change is just too much. So what can you do?

We need to get out of our own heads. The view one takes of the world when feeling depressed or anxiety-ridden can become a habit and can breed more thoughts that are characteristic of depression or anxiety. We need to really look at the people in our life and ask the tough questions. We need to turn towards the people who care and we need to let them care. We need to be kind – even to ourselves. We need to listen. We need to be present. And in doing so, we can ignite the tiniest spark of hope to keep going, to find your fire – because this life really can be good.

If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out for help. Call, text, email, talk. You have more worth than you know.

If there isn’t someone you can talk to, or a Crisis Line in your area, check out The LifeLine App in the App Store.

SG blog

 

Affect Regulation · The Process of Therapy

Treading Water

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I have never been a strong swimmer. Despite many years that my parents insisted I take swimming lessons, I rarely advanced to next levels and struggled grasping the basic skills. I remember, from all those years ago, the importance that was placed on treading water. We would be taken into the deep end of the pool, and taught how to keep our heads above water. The rational was always should we ever find ourselves in deep water, we needed to be able to keep our heads above water. With our legs and arms moving rhythmically to the point of exhaustion, sometimes sinking under but popping back up again, we kept our heads above water. The exercise always ended before the point of complete exhaustion, when the instructor would throw us a life preserver of sorts. We would make our way to the side of the pool in relief, letting our exhausted limbs be still.

Today is World Suicide Awareness Day. Despite awareness programs in many communities and schools, suicide largely remains a difficult topic to discuss – shrouded in misunderstanding, denial, and secrecy. Those contemplating suicide often feel unheard, sensing help unavailable. (Please read on for resources that are available.) Those wanting to help often feel powerless, unsure of how to proceed – sometimes reacting in anger or panic.

When I think about the emotional turmoil someone experiences at the point when suicide becomes an option, I think about treading water. I think about the utter exhaustion they are feeling, often building overtime, of not being able to keep their head above water. When a life preserver isn’t thrown at the moment it is needed or when it is thrown but it seems just out of reach. When they feel there isn’t an once of strength left to keep their head above water. This is the reason I write this blog – to help even just one person grab that life preserver, and connect with a glimpse of
hope.

If ending your life is starting to make sense as an option, please reach out for help. Suicide is a permanent solution that we cannot turn back from. All other options may not seem adequate enough in your moment of despair. So many of us are conditioned to be self-reliant and self-sufficient and reaching out for help can seem like a weakness. It might even feel as though you are not worthy of receiving help, or that if you ask for help it will not be given. “Once you choose hope, anything is possible”. If there is no one you feel you can reach out to, please call the helpline, or use an on-line anonymous suicide prevention chat site. Suicide is not the only way out. 

quote_-far-better-things-aheadHere is a list of options if you are feeling suicidal right now: 

 

Reference: the quote “Once you choose hope, anything is possible” is from Christopher Reeve