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Self Worth

Looking Back: Finding Triumph over Failure

I work with many clients in counseling who have been through some very difficult situations. They often have a lot of shame and regret when they look back on the situations and experiences they have encountered. I encourage them to look back and find the triumphs; not everything was a failure. And depending on how we look at things, we can choose to see things in a different light. There are times in our lives that we were doing the best we could at the time; we can choose to give ourselves grace during those difficult seasons and see small triumphs rather than only seeing failures. This can reframe how we see our situations and ourselves and give us momentum to move forward. Seeing only failure often leaves us paralyzed and unable to grow, change or move forward. Sure, there are things in our lives we would have done differently and there's nothing wrong with thinking about ways we might handle things differently in the future and from learning from our pasts. But holding our actions against ourselves and shaming ourselves because of them doesn't do much good for us. Are there small triumphs you can see in your past rather than only focusing on the failures? Wouldn't it be helpful to learn from the things you could have done differently and give yourself grace rather than continuing to spin in the cycle of shame and regret? If you have trouble doing this, reaching out for counseling can be a rewarding experience! 

Self Care

Carving out time for yourself is an important piece of good mental health. Having something that rejuvenates you is important. It's different for everyone; some people need more time than others. Some people need this self care time to be alone; others may be able to do it with people around them, perhaps even doing the activity with them. But having something that pours back into you is important to living a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps it's exercise, reading, journaling, a hobby or playing music. Whatever it is, prioritize some time each week, or a little each day to help you stay energized and refreshed. When our day to day life is consumed with giving, whether to work or family or other things, we are easily drained. This can lead to elevated levels of stress, anxiety or depression. Spending some time in self care can help bring these levels back to a healthier place. Other ways to keep yourself in a healthy place are referenced in other blog posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here. So if self care isn't already a regular practice for you, try something today; start small and see how it impacts you! If you find that self care and other elements of a healthy lifestyle are not helping to decrease your stress, anxiety or depression, consider counseling!

Don't Wait!

I see so many clients who have waited so long to start dealing with their heart wounds or relational conflicts. By the time they come to counseling patterns are deeply ingrained, relationships are on the verge of tearing apart, and hearts are badly broken. We wait to get help for so many reasons. Perhaps it's because we are ashamed to need help or scared of reaching out. Maybe we wait because we don't know if therapy will help or if it'll make things worse. Whatever the case, I encourage you to go ahead and reach out now. Waiting will most likely not make things any better. There is no shame in reaching out for help. When we are sick, we see a doctor. When our heart or relationship is broken, we see a therapist. Read about therapy, do some research; you'll find it's not as daunting as you might think! Call or email around to various therapists; find one that seems to fit your personality or values. Set up a few initial meetings after you've narrowed down your selection of counselors. Choose wisely! Counseling is a great thing. Don't wait!

Choices & Self-Esteem

Oftentimes we realize or others point out to us, that we are not making healthy choices for ourselves. Perhaps it's in nutrition, exercise, daily routine, job, or relationships that we are making poor choices. But at some point we realize we are not doing good things for ourselves. I work with many clients in counseling to identify what those choices are and the underlying factors driving them towards those unhealthy choices...

Being Active Together (even in Winter)

When I'm working with clients in counseling for stress, anxiety or depression, we discuss how good nutrition, sleep and exercise are healthy coping skills towards managing their symptoms. I've blogged about that here, here, here and here. Staying active is important! And if you can incorporate activity in relationships, then that's even better! Doing something good for yourself with a member of your support system is a double dose of healthy coping skills! There are great ways to be active even in Winter in Raleigh! Raleigh Winterfest is going on Downtown right now and ice skating is a fun and active way to spend some time with a friend or loved one; I talked about that more in detail last week here! When it's not too cold outside, there are great places in Raleigh to walk or hike or run together. Even if it is cold, bundle up - the hat, gloves, scarf and all - and head outside. The Capital Area Greenway Trail System has trails all over the city. Umstead State Park is another great place to walk, run or hike. Lake Johnson is one of my favorites; it has some good hills to get that heart rate up! Plan some time this week to get outside and get active with a member of your support system; I bet it'll have a positive impact on your mood or stress level, or both!

Introvert or Extrovert: Which are you?

When I'm working with clients in counseling we explore where clients draw energy, whether they gain more energy from being around others or from being alone. There are many misunderstood ideas about the term introvert; often clients think if they are shy then it means they are an introvert. But this is not the case all the time. Introversion and Extroversion have to do with where you pull energy. Introverts rejuvenate by spending time alone; extroverts get charged up in the presence of others. It's helpful to understand this about yourself so you know how to refill your cup when you're drained. It's also really helpful to understand this piece of yourself in context of your relationships with others; many conflicts can be avoided when we understand this piece of ourselves and can communicate about it to our friends, family and significant others. Here is a basic overview of the difference between introversion and extroversion. If you are looking for some further info, start here!

Choosing Him vs. him

I counsel many young women and teen girls who struggle with finding their identity and worth in what young men/guys think of them. If they have a boyfriend then they feel confident and worthy. But when the relationship ends they feel unworthy and insecure until the next guy comes along. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and adored; we were created to be loved and to love, to know and to be known. But when that desire is put into the hands of humans and it becomes the basis for our worth and security, then we are on dangerous ground. We will never be fully satisfied or secure if we place our worth and value in other people. For my clients who are Christians, we talk about finding our worth and value in the fact that we were created by the Lord and that Christ loves us first and most! When we choose Him (Christ) rather than the "him's" of this world, we find fulfillment and joy unlike what any "him" could offer us. Here is a great article about seeking the Lord Himself rather than what His hand can offer. 

Good Mental Health Needs Exercise & Nutrition

Taking care of your physical body is such an important part of taking care of your mental health; I talk about this quite often with the clients I see for counseling. Our bodies, minds and souls are all connected; we are a whole human being. The different parts of ourselves all impact and influence the other parts. If I'm not taking care of myself emotionally, at some point that will manifest itself in some way in my physical body. However, if I'm taking care of my physical body, then my mind and emotions have a better potential for being healthy as well. Healthy nutrition and exercise are such important pieces of good mental health. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that help us actually "feel" better; this is just one great benefit of regular exercise. A healthy, well-balanced diet is essential to great mental health as well. Eating junk and not getting enough vitamins and nutrients our bodies need causes things to run more sluggish inside our bodies and minds. There are great ways to be healthy, inside and out. I love going to the Farmer's Market (they are open 7 days per week) and stocking up on fresh, local fruits and vegetables for the week. I really enjoy supporting local farmers and eating what is in season and knowing I'm also giving my body some of the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function as it is designed! For those of us that work, live and play in Downtown Raleigh, there is a great farmer's market there too in City Plaza on Fayetteville Street on Wednesdays from April-October. Exercise can be fun as well and really helps boost mood and take care of our bodies. Grab a buddy (or just some headphones) and head to Lake Johnson; it's a gorgeous place to walk or run! Try incorporating some healthy eating and exercise into your weekly routine. It can be hard to implement new changes but they are so well worth the effort!

Great Teen Workbooks

I see a lot of teens and their families for individual and family counseling. The teenagers I see struggle with various issues; some face anxiety, depression, stress, family issues, self injury, self esteem issues, bullying, etc. Many of them are in some serious pain and are looking for an outlet for that pain but do not have healthy coping skills. Some of them have difficult family situations or struggle with being bullied at school. I have found some great resources that I use with many of my teen clients; several of them have had great success using these resources! These workbooks contain short exercises that are geared towards helping teens cope in healthy ways. Stopping the Pain is a workbook for teenagers who cut or self injure. Beyond the Blues is a workbook for teens who experience depression. The Anxiety Workbook for Teens helps teenagers cope with anxiety and worry. Don't Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens teaches teens Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills that can help them manage mood swings, control emotional outbursts and get along with others better. The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens teaches teenagers mindfulness skills that helps them decrease stress. The Bipolar Workbook for Teens helps teens learn Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills for mood swings they may experience. Think Confident, Be Confident for Teens teaches teenagers Cognitive Therapy skills to increase their self image and improve their self esteem. These workbooks may not be helpful for every teenager but I find many teens respond well to the short lessons they contain!

Care for You too, Ladies!

I work with many women in my counseling practice: single, married, divorced, kids, no kids, women who work inside the home and women work outside the home. A running theme with the women I counsel is a lack of self care. They are stressed out, burnt out, anxious, depressed or just flat out tired and they haven't been caring for themselves well. Self care is taking steps to be good to yourself, care for yourself, soothe yourself, nurture yourself, grow yourself, reflect on yourself. It's a time when you are only taking care of you. Self care isn't being at dinner with a friend and helping them through their problem; that's caring for them. Self care might look like a leisurely walk, reading a book, sitting and resting with a cup of tea, taking a class on something that interests you, getting a massage or pedicure, exercise, getting counseling for yourself individually. There's no right or wrong self care as long as it's caring for you and not others. Women tend to pour out more naturally than they tend to pour into themselves. Pouring out might look like work, career, child-rearing, taking care of the house, errands, time spent helping friends, etc. Anything we do to give of ourselves, our time, is us pouring out. Pouring out is not a bad thing at all; it's a healthy part of a balanced life. Most women love it, even thrive on it. It becomes destructive when we are not pouring back into ourselves or allowing others to pour back into us. When was the last time that an hour of your day was all about you, no one else? I know, I know..."I don't have that kind of free time." Truth is you must create it, carve it out of your day or else it won't happen. The day will slip away and you will have cared for everyone else except yourself. Some women find this kind of self care time to be selfish. It feels wrong to spend a few minutes a day on themselves. If this is you, it could be time to slip into counseling and explore this negative self talk or beliefs that prevent you from pouring into yourself so that in turn you have more to pour out into others! Take some time today, even 15 minutes and do something that pours into you, that requires nothing of you but instead gives back to you!

Giving Back at the Holidays

Christmas can be both an exciting time of year and a difficult one. All the decorations, music and festivities can be great when things are going well for you. But when relationships are difficult, when you've experienced loss or when you are depressed, holidays can be very hard. If you are experiencing a recent loss, consider reading this short article or reading some previous blogs that reference grief. If you find yourself feeling sad or depressed, here's a short article on depression and here are some blog posts about depression. Whether the holidays are an exciting time or a difficult time for you, giving back can be a powerful, wonderful thing! I encourage you to take a look at these Raleigh organizations and find a way you can use your time or your resources to give of yourself! Doing this can reduce stress, decrease anxiety, improve mood and give meaning to your grief and loss. There are so many in need and so many small but meaningful ways you can help someone else. The Salvation Army, the Raleigh Rescue Mission, the Women's Center of Wake County, InterAct of Wake County, SAFEchild, and the United Way are just a few local organizations that have a multitude of ways you can help someone this holiday season. Take some time this week and find a way to give back. Schedule time to follow through. See if it doesn't improve your mood and lighten your load! If you are having difficulty this holiday season with sadness, depression, anxiety, grief or loss, consider giving the gift of counseling to yourself! Allowing someone to walk through your difficult time with you can be such a gift. Happy Holidays!

Gratitude Improves Mood!

Thanksgiving is this week and is a good reminder to focus on being thankful for all we have! Gratitude helps improve our mood in so many ways. It takes the focus off where we aren't, what we don't have and puts it on where we are and what we do have! This greatly boosts mood and can decrease stress and anxiety too! When all we think about is what we are lacking or where we wish we were, we are dissatisfied with life and sad or angry. But when we shift our focus to the positive things about the place we are and the good things we do have, we have a more healthy perspective and our mood improves. In addition, stress and anxiety often decrease. Try making a list this week of all the things you are thankful for, all the things you do have and the things that are good about the place you are in right now. Be specific, think of small things too! For example, do you have a place to lay down at night that is safe and warm? Some people do not. Do you have clothes to wear and food to eat and a way to get from point A to point B? Many people don't. We tend to take things for granted and we need to remind ourselves that we have quite a bit! The fact that I can walk, talk, see and hear are great blessings that I often take for granted. It's good to get in the habit of being thankful for the things and abilities you do have as well as the opportunities available to you; this helps you get outside of your current situations or problems and remember that there is so much to be grateful for in your life! Happy Thanksgiving!


Chasing Happiness

I hear so much in daily life (TV, movies, commercials, magazines, blogs, radio, etc) about "being happy". "I just want him/her to be happy." "If I just had (insert object, relationship, career), then I'd be happy." Chasing happiness has become something so central to our American society. I hear it all the time in my counseling office from various clients; teens, couples, families, men, women...they all claim if they could just figure this or that out, have this or that, or get rid of this or that, then they'd be happy. "Really?", I want to say. Really do you think you'd truly be happy then? Do you really think that getting him/her/it will make you happy? Of course, I tend to say those things with a bit more therapeutic tact than that. But my message is the same: do you think that getting what you want will make you happy? If happiness is your goal, will you ever truly find it and be able to maintain that state of happiness? I think not. Getting that relationship, career, object, or getting rid of either of those will not make someone happy. The way I see it, the problem is in the goal. If the goal is happiness found in the hands of other people or things, it will never last. People will disappoint us, there will always be some new object out there we just have to have, jobs are lost and interests shift. When happiness is our driving motivator, we'll always get let down. We'll always be chasing one thing or another or one person or another. As a Christian, happiness is not my goal. My goal is to know and love the Lord, to know and love others. If anything else is my goal, I'll be unfulfilled. If being happy is my goal then I'll be let down constantly. As believers in Jesus, we weren't promised happiness nor were we told that happiness should be what we incessantly strive after. We were actually told the opposite...Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Wewill have trouble, things won't go our way, we will be let down, disappointed, suffer, hurt, etc. Those disappointments, hurts, sufferings can lead us to intimacy with Jesus and closeness with others. And in those things, there is great joy. Joy is deeper and much more lasting than happiness. Happiness tends to be based on situations and is fleeting. Joy is something that cannot be taken away by loss or change in situation. If you find yourself chasing happiness and ending up sad and disappointed more often than not, I'd encourage you to reassess your goal. Chasing happiness doesn't lead down any lasting path. Counseling can help you do that if you desire!

Benefits of Getting Alone

There is relevance in being alone; solitude is important. It's beneficial to be able to be by yourself and be OK. If you are not able to be alone for at least small periods of time and be OK, something is going on. Being alone helps us to know ourselves and grow in comfort with ourselves. Solitude can increase self awareness through reflection on how we are doing, what we like, how we feel, etc. I encourage my clients in counseling to set aside time regularly to be alone. Perhaps it's going to a coffee shop, like Cafe Helios downtown, and journaling. Maybe it's taking a scenic drive or going for a hike (safely) at Umstead State Park. Consider it investing in yourself. Ultimately this helps all aspects of your life: work-life balance, relationships, friendships, even self-esteem. The more we know ourselves, the more we can invest in ourselves, the healthier we can become. In a world full of distractions, it is important to be able to get alone and rest, reflect and sift through all the noise. This way we can determine who we are, what we like, what we need and what is healthy and true. 

Living a Love Story

A dear friend of mine led me to this blog by Donald Miller. I've read many of his books but haven't followed his blog. This post stopped me in my tracks and was inspiring. He talks about how to live a great love story (and while this one is for the girls, he posts here for the boys). I see many young girls - teenagers and young adults - in counseling and we always come around to the topic of boys eventually. I hear from them (and experienced in my own life) the pressure from society to be alluring, perfect and easy sexually. But for those of us who live our lives according to God's Word, Scripture tells us something completely different. We are told not to conform to what the world says, but to be transformed by the Word so we can know what God's will is for us (Romans 12:2). We are told that marriage is sacred and the marriage bed (intimacy, sex) is to be protected (Hebrews 13:4). We are called to live a life counter-cultural. Society says "have fun", "do what feels good", "give yourself away freely in order to get anything in return". But this only leads to damaged hearts, low self esteem and broken relationships. If we live as Scripture teaches, we are truly living a great love story and set ourselves up for an incredible love story of our own. I encourage you to take some time and read Donald's blog referenced above. If you're looking for more reading about premarital sex and what Scripture says, take a look at this article.

Serve your Community & Boost your Mood

A great way to kick depression, increase self esteem and get involved in your community is through serving. Volunteering in your community can significantly impact your mood for the better and increase self esteem. Getting outside ourselves helps us to realize things for which we can be thankful; it helps us to know we can make a difference. The surprising twist of volunteering is that typically we end up feeling joy in return for helping others! It feels good to get outside ourselves and help. When all we do is stare at our own circumstances, we can feel hopeless. But when we take time to serve others, we see a bigger perspective; life isn't solely about what is in front of our faces. There are great organizations in the Raleigh area that need volunteers. The Raleigh Rescue Mission and the Shepherd's Table Soup Kitchen are just two of these local organizations where you can serve and volunteer. These are great places to serve on your own, with your family or grab a bunch of friends and volunteer! I encourage clients that I see in counseling to get outside themselves every now and then and volunteer! Depression keeps us focused inward on our pain, discouragement and current circumstances. Volunteering helps us to see that life isn't just about what we are experiencing currently; there are others in our community who are also having a difficult time, struggling to make ends meet and needing help. When we can reach out and help others, we feel more connected to our community and also a sense of empowerment that we can make a difference! I encourage you to look for opportunities to serve in your area. If you live in the Raleigh area, consider contacting one of these agencies to volunteer!

The Self Esteem Struggle

Many female clients that I see struggle with low self esteem. In fact, many people in general (myself included) struggle with low self esteem at times. We often play the comparison game; a horrible game that we rarely win. We attempt to fight and often give into messages we hear from those around us, from society, or from the media (Internet, TV, Hollywood, magazines). These messages rarely tell us truth about ourselves, our hearts or our bodies. The messages we receive tell us to change ourselves, fix ourselves and improve ourselves but rarely is it towards is often to push ourselves toward some unhealthy, irrational ideal. We are lied to by these messages yet often we change our habits and our lifestyles (and our budgets) to fit into what these messages tell us to become. How crazy is this?! I encourage clients I see in counseling to filter the messages they hear and determine how true they are, how rational they are, and if they are even near healthy. We discuss the foundation of their identity and who they are allowing to dictate changes in their lives. We discuss rational views of self and ways to challenge the irrational views we often hold for ourselves. We can improve the way we see ourselves and feel about ourselves if we will monitor the messages we listen to and ensure we are listening to messages of truth. Then we must fight to talk to ourselves in kind, truthful and positive ways that lead to healthy lives. We must determine if the sources we are allowing to dictate our identity and feelings about ourselves are valid. If you struggle with feeling low about yourself at time, counseling can be a great outlet to assess your basis of identity and to learn how to filter and challenge unhealthy and unhelpful messages you are hearing!