The Seven-Day Criticism Free Challenge

I love being my own guinea pig. If I’m going to suggest an exercise or technique in my private practice, you better bet your booty that I’ve tried it myself to see if it actually works. This month I’ve decided to try my very own Seven-Day Criticism Free Challenge. For seven days I will attempt to refrain from verbal criticisms (towards myself or others). You’ll find the rules below if you wish to partake in the adventure. For those who’ve subscribed to my newsletter you’ll see the first hand account of my attempt. *Spoiler Alert – I made it three full days!

Rules of the Challenge:

1) Know the difference between complaints versus criticisms. Complaints are okay, and necessary at times, criticisms are not. During the challenge it is acceptable to produce a complaint about a situation or event but it must follow this guideline:

Express your feelings about a specific important event and then what you would like to see differently. You can do this in your mind or though a dialogue. (“It hurts my feelings when you’re looking at your phone during our time together. I would like you to enjoy dinner with me.”)

Criticisms include expressing negative feelings or opinions about yourself or about someone else’s character or personality. It counts as criticism if you use the words “you/I always” or “you/I never”. (You’re always late; You never think about me; I’m always horrible at public speaking.)

2) It’s all about the tone of voice. If you’re making a necessary complaint, see if you can make your voice more soft and gentle. Imagine you have a puppy or baby in front of you.

3) The Seven-Day Criticism Free Challenge includes omitting your negative self-talk. Self-criticism is sooo not allowed. Any time you begin to notice that judgmental voice being harsh and mean, remind yourself of the challenge. You can simply replace the thought with a more helpful one or remind yourself that you’re taking a break from negativity right now.

4) If you’re starting to get critical about a person or situation (traffic, long lines in the grocery store, empty toilet paper roll) immediately make yourself say a positive about that person or event. (“Empty toilet paper roll?! Huzzah! Now I can perfect my waddle stance!”)

5) Lastly, this will be the hardest of all the rules in the challenge. Do not speak out loud, or to another, a criticizing thought. How many times do we come home and unload all of the day’s misfortunes upon an unsuspecting ear? For one whole week see if you can avoid this. (Sorry, criticizing Sally for leaving her spoiled lunch in the office fridge again will have to wait).

What’s the purpose of all of this, you ask? To witness how criticisms and judgments prevent us from connection. I realized the other day how incredibly guarded I was being when I participated in some group work. I was judging myself and others within the first five minutes of our introductions! As the day progressed and the group focused upon witnessing these judgements, I felt an incredible shift in my heart. I felt open to receiving love. If I would have kept that door closed I would have missed out on the amazing connections I made with some of the other participants.

So give this challenge a try my friends and leave your experience in the comment section below. Try and beat my three days and celebrate in victory!

*More on criticisms versus complaints can be found in John Gottman PH.D. literature.

How To Trust Your World, Yourself, and Everything in Between

WE MADE IT! Another year has come and gone and we’re continuing to progress forward. Congratulations! Thank you to everyone who continues to improve their lives and trust in the process. This is no easy accomplishment and I see you.

One could easily say that the theme of my 2018-year was to “trust”. From venturing into private practice to making the commitment to cohabitate with my partner, 2018 was full of big transitions. At times everything felt shaky, like a toddler taking his first steps, venturing into a world where he finally realizes: Whaaa!? I now have the ability to stand on my own two feet!? There were moments of fear and doubt but surprisingly I found wise messages of direction waiting around the corner to comfort and guide me. During this month’s resource I share two ways that you can cultivate trust and hear your own inner wisdom.

1) Break out the crayons and draw your experience.

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a “Creative Mastermind” art therapy group. Let me tell you, it has changed my life. The facilitator, Jodi Rose, gently guided group members to create a drawing of their current emotions. Once the drawing was born onto paper we were instructed to have a conversation with it. (That’s correct, I am to talk to my picture). The drawing would take on a voice of its own and address its creator (me). The neatest part was that we had to write the drawing’s response with our non-dominant hand. I’ll admit I actually declined this part, initially, criticizing that it would take too long and that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Luckily I gave it a shot and let the magic unfold. The wisdom of my pictures shared everything from cutting out caffeine to specific instructions on how to let go of my stress. It’s a truly incredible technique. Jodi Rose explains it like this:

“The process of art journal/dialoguing is powerful because it shows you how to tap a deep, ever-present source of wisdom. The images are derived from a more emotional, symbolic and metaphorical part of the brain, and when you process them through journal dialoguing, you literally translate their meaning. The resulting messages offer solutions that are ever-present under the surface of your brain’s busy mind-chatter. You’ll find that the messages are typically soothing and wise, and what is so cool is that this isn’t information that’s advised to you by another: the knowledge and wisdom is YOURS, and it’s available any time that you choose to check in and listen. Transformation and breakthrough is available to you when you decide to act on what you hear.”

Well said.

***Jodi is an artist, art therapist, author, yoga teacher and coach who has developed her integrative methods over the past decade. To explore her techniques you can register for her free e-book at https://jodirose.mykajabi.com/p/website-ifo . 

2) Go on field trips…by yourself.

Bookstores, museums, street fairs, all of these count as solo field trips. Setting an intention to discover something before you set out is a surefire way to receive inspiration. I had such an experience during one particularly hard time while working at a drug rehabilitation center. I was having difficulty connecting with the inpatient clients and every attempt I made seemed to set me backwards. One day, at my wits in, I found myself praying before entering my local Bookmans Bookstore. I asked for every type of universal help that I could think of as I gazed up at the tall stack of books. Comparing this experience to the cliché “needle in a haystack” I nonetheless pressed forward. As I combed through the titles one particular book stood out. It was a book titled, “Choice Theory” by William Glasser. Inside the book I found a blue index card with, I kid you not, my first name printed on it! It was even spelled correctly! Needless to say, my search ended there and I continue to use the material I found with my clients to this day.

Hopefully these short stories have provided some trust and faith in whatever it is that you may be experiencing. If you have your own trust story I would love to hear about it in the comment section below. Take care my friends and be well!

Romantic Relationship Help

Ahhh, the holidays are here. We’re in full swing with family gatherings, office parties, holiday traffic, and cooking galore. Our “to do” list has started to grow in length like the checkout lines at Walmart and all of sudden we’re feeling overwhelmed. All of these festivities are directed towards the common goal of coming together with friends and family members; but what about the connection closest to home, with your significant other (SO)? This month there has be an overwhelming request for romantic relationship help and I have come to deliver! It seems that even when we’re not bustling around, attempting to stay connected with our SO can be as difficult as getting Aunt Edna to leave after all the pie has been served. So here are the top three ways to make sure your relationship stays inviting and calm during this holiday season.

1) Know exactly what your needs are and how to describe them.

One of the main pitfalls of explaining yourself is that we tend to assume the other person knows what we’re talking about. “We’ve been together for 10 years, you should be able to know what I want.” is a common thinking mistake. Everyone brings to the table a different perspective and a different way of processing information. Here, we must spell out what our desired behavior looks like. For example:

“Clean up after yourself!” versus “Please put the ketchup back in the fridge after you’re done using it.”

“Just Love Me!” versus “I would like it if you sent me a “thinking of you” text message on the days we don’t get to see each other.”

2) Ask your partner to repeat back to you, your requested need (Also known as reflective listening or parroting).

This technique has to do with that silly little thing called listening. Sometimes, when attempting to apply tip number 1, our partner may be distracted. They may be hangry, sleepy, sick, or watching funny video animals on Youtube. To make sure you have your partner’s undivided attention, notice their eye contact and body language. If they’re knee deep in their favorite sitcom, you might want to postpone this conversation. When you have the opportunity to ask your partner to repeat back what they’ve heard it creates more space for clarification.

3) Know that it’s okay for you, or your partner, to have standards.

This lesson took me years (okay, decades) to fully understand and start to practice. When you set standards or “nonnegotiables” of the way you want and deserve to be treated, the universe will deliver. Through my experience, the quicker I set boundaries with unacceptable behavior and moved forward, the quicker I found my ideal partner. If you need support with this concept please visit my favorite dating advice guru Matthew Hussey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdaNmF-vtnc&list=PL9ZCLnpne9aS7c7KLSOXf89QD9G0_TFp_

Have an awesome holiday season with joy, laughter, and love! As always, if you feel this material could help out a friend or family member please be sure to pass it along.

Top 3 Ways to Eliminate Unhelpful Thoughts

Hello beautiful souls! Thank you for stopping by the resource section. This month’s resource is brought to you by my November Newsletter, which includes tales of the pesky mosquito. These critters tend to remind me of those relentless and incessant thoughts that can consume our mind. Whether it’s about finances, what you said to your co-worker the day before, or being worried about catching germs, sometimes these thoughts take on a life of their own. Below I have included the top three techniques to stop those thoughts in their tracks.

1) The Rational versus Irrational Rule

Step 1: Identify annoying thought. “It’s flu season, I know I’m going to get sick!”

Step 2: Identify your goal related to that thought. “I want to stay healthy.”

Step 3: Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Is this thought based on fact and not opinion, assumption, or a belief?
  • Does this thought help me achieve my goals?
  • Does this thought help me feel the way I want to feel?

If you answered “no” to ANY of the questions, eliminate and replace thought immediately!

Step 4: Formulate a replacement thought and repeat as necessary: “I listen to the messages of my body and support it in creating perfect health.” – Louise Hay 

2) Think of Someone You Love

This is a distraction method, which works to disconnect the neural pathways in the brain responsible for the repetitive thought. You could also think of three things to be grateful for or a recent funny moment.

3) Practice Letting Go

This technique involves identifying your higher power and then making a statement that releases the fear, problem, or thought to that higher power. For example, “I surrender my fear of getting sick to God and the Angels.”

*If you missed this month’s newsletter be sure to subscribe below. Also, as always, if you’ve found this information helpful feel free to share it with loved ones.

Five Things That May Be Robbing You of Your Happiness

Hello Dear Friends and Happy October! The new year is slowly creeping upon us with talks about new year’s resolutions just around the corner. I say, why wait 2 more months when we can start making small changes right now. In the material below I have listed five unsuspecting things that may be robbing you of potential joy and happiness. What better way to prepare for the new year and get a good head start on feeling your best?! Enjoy!

  1. Trolling Facebook and other social media outlets. We’ve all heard about the dangers of too much screen time. From increasing symptoms of ADHD, depression, suicidal ideation, to being a total distraction from getting enough sleep, researchers are now publicly expressing screen time concerns. Another effect that people don’t realize is the negative impact it can have on your self-esteem. Many people on Facebook start to fall into the “comparison trap” while scrolling through countless pictures of seemingly “happy” people. If they feel that others on Facebook are prettier, happier, or more satisfied with their lives, then the viewers confidence levels can plummet. Try an experiment and go on a social media detox for one day and see if your mood improves. It’s worth a shot.
  2. Not getting enough exercise. I’ve mentioned this one before in my last blog, but felt it was too important not to mention again. The best thing about exercise, in my opinion, is the release of those feel good endorphins after a hard work out. Endorphins are the happy chemicals that your brain produces, like when you laugh so hard your belly hurts. Today’s top fitness motivational speakers always say the same thing: you can’t work out and feel depressed at the same time, it’s impossible.
  3. Hangovers. One of my clients, *Linda, was shocked to find that after she quit drinking and smoking marijuana her anxiety significantly reduced and her mood improved. Linda stated, “When I would drink or smoke it was like a vicious cycle. I would wake up with severe anxiety and then drink or smoke again to get rid of it. It would only come back worse the next morning so the cycle continued”. For those who equate the holiday season with alcoholic beverages see if you can substitute a drink with something fun and carbonated, like Kombucha.
  4. Forgetting to practice gratitude. This one is easy to skip when the stress of daily life gets too heavy. For my devoted subscribers I’ve included a gratitude/morning practice in this month’s newsletter.
  5. Forgetting to pursue your dreams. If time or money was not a barrier what would you be doing with your life? Would you be traveling, painting, going back to school? I always advocate for action baby steps so dust off your old dreams and see how you can make them come to life. If it’s traveling that’s your passion, research books or blogs on how to travel on a budget. If it’s going back to school research some financial aid options. Make it fun and act as if it’s already yours!

If you missed last month’s blog on how to reduce anxiety, depression, and other unpleasant feelings click on the link http://melissameyertherapy.com/how-to-reduce-depression-anxiety-and-other-unpleasant-feelings/ to find other helpful information.

*Names and other identifying information have been changed due to confidentiality.

How to Reduce Depression, Anxiety, and other Unpleasant Feelings

Life can be hard, overwhelming, and sometimes just downright unfair. There are so many life circumstances that can contribute to major episodes of depression, panic attacks, and/or frustration. Below I have included four techniques to help you reduce any current state of despair.

Write it out. Now I am aware that most people will read this first suggestion and state, “Ugh, I hate writing.” or “I don’t journal.” and that’s okay! If writing out your experience is uncharted territory, start off small, like post-it note small. The whole point in writing out your feelings, or who you’re pissed at, is to release those emotions out of your mind, body, and soul. When we let our thoughts and feelings spill out onto paper we are no longer holding it in. Remember, holding in unpleasant feelings can be toxic.

Get Moving. This technique has the same underlying principle as writing it out. Movement and release of negative energy equals healing. It may seem like just the opposite of what you want to do when you’re depressed, but you’re going to have to strengthen up some will power. Take a walk, do some simple stretches, punch a pillow, whatever it takes to move your body.

Think of time when you came out on top of something really awful. This technique has it’s background in solution focused therapy. When you concentrate and focus your energy on times of success, you’re shifting your feelings. Making a list of these occurrences and storing it for when you need a quick reminder about how strong you really are is especially helpful.

Practice using “I” statements. Sign up for my newsletter to receive the “how to” on using this method. There is a specific formula that can make expressing your feelings very safe.

Please also remember that you’re never alone in your struggles. If you find yourself in a crisis situation please call the national crisis line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Have a safe and wonderful September!

When “Shift” Happens

Raise your hand if you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “Why does this keep happening to me?” Whether it’s that reoccurring attraction to unhealthy partners; a mysterious and consistent string of unfortunate events; or the “I was just sick two weeks ago and now I’m sick again!” syndrome…these are all signs from the universe, GOD, higher power, mother earth energy (insert your preference) trying to alert your soul to a better way of living.

How do we listen though? How do we distinguish if we’re experiencing calls for a radical shift in our daily living or just experiencing a figment of our monkey mind wreaking unchecked havoc?

Here are five ways to know “Yes, sh*t is hitting the fan and it’s time to make a change”.

  1. Everyday is a struggle. The most important thing in your life is to be happy, healthy, and to experience the joys of life.  When you find that getting through a day of work is like walking through quicksand…it may be time for a change.
  2. Your health starts to deteriorate. Experiencing consistent upper respiratory infections on the weekly? Getting back lab results that require you to call the doctor back? Sarah* (one of my client’s whose name has been changed due to confidentiality) stated that it felt like she could never fully recover from one illness to the next. Stress on the mind and body equals a suppressed immune system.
  3. People are worried about you. Are your close friends and loved ones expressing concerns about your current circumstances? This could be a sign to ask for their feedback if you haven’t quite figured out what’s causing your challenges.
  4. You tune into your heart and it says “no”. This is the toughest sign to listen to because of the high level of societal distractions we encounter on a daily basis. Put down the social media and tune in, listen to your body. Are you feeling as if you’re being physically pulled in another direction or even paralyzed? When Liz* was feeling unsettled about her employment in a high end, quick-paced, restaurant she recalls trying to get ready for her evening shift. “It was like my mind was telling my body to put on my make up, get dressed, and go through the motions. But I was paralyzed, I couldn’t get off the couch. I knew then that I had to make a decision”.
  5. The thought, “I can’t keep going on like this.” is becoming a recurring theme. Madison* noticed that after drinking and becoming overly intoxicated she would be filled with shame and guilt the next morning. “When I realized this was happening every single time I went to a fraternity party, I had to make the hard decision to change my life style and friend group”.

We can’t ignore these signs because our lives depend upon it. Speak with a trusted source or counselor about the different ways that you can improve upon your current stressors. You deserve it and you deserve to be happy.

If you’ve had an extraordinary sign that alerted you to a lifestyle change, I would love to hear about it in the comment section below.

 

Overcoming Fear of the Dentist

Flashback to a few weeks ago:

I found myself being adjusted to the dental polishing position in the oh-so-comfy plastic recliner at my local dentist. At this point, my feet being above my head did not alarm me as I rationalized that the dental assistant just needed good leveraging. Several little mishaps, however, begun to occur: bits of plastic roaming around my mouth that needed to be suctioned out, a water spray to the face, and the assistant dropping the polisher on the floor. I was still okay, though. My mind had not yet begun to wander towards the doom and gloom anxiety (see previous post) that I am often prone to. Nope, I was cool, calm, collected, and managed to find humor in these little mistakes. But then, a big mistake happened. A malfunction with the cavitron (the piece of equipment that lasers off plaque) occurred, creating a small explosion in my mouth. End result: chipped tooth, anger, and no validation or accountability from the dentist that checked my mouth to see if everything was okay. The worst part though was experiencing the cognitive distortion (thinking mistake) called catastrophizing. Catastrophizing includes jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. After the incident, I had convinced myself that I would need follow up dental work, succumb to nights of dental agony, and end up being stuck in that dental chair for hours to come!

How I pulled it together: Lots and lots of deep breathing, communication with the dental team on how disappointed I was, and honoring my anger. I accepted that this was an accident but also that I was allowed to be angry. I transformed my anger into logical problem-solving skills, demanding that I receive documentation of the events that occurred.

Present day: So yes, I’m still dealing with insurance claim corrections and tomorrow I’m headed back to the dentist to get the tooth fixed. I do admit that I did my fair share of venting about the whole ordeal which probably didn’t serve the creation of positive emotions. Looking back, however, I can say that I dodged embracing the victim mode and switched gears into “now what?” mode, making necessary frequent calls to the dentist and the insurance company.

Accidents happen and many things in life are beyond our control. Trying to manage reactions to these events and turning upsetting emotions into constructive energy is one of the best ways to ride out life’s surprises.

Is there a time when you can recall falling down the catastrophizing rabbit hole and everything ended up turning out okay? If so, leave your story in the comment below, I would love to hear from you.

How to Manage Anxiety

Hello again friends, good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. I hope this blog finds you well. Today, I want to visit the topic of anxiety. Anxiety is a common experience these days. In fact, about 95% of my clients arrive to treatment with some degree of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be a tough symptom to manage because there are different types with various causes. For example:

Anticipatory Anxiety: When we worry about that big exam, first date, huge presentation, or having that tough conversation with a friend or co-worker.

Doom and Gloom Anxiety: A close cousin to anticipatory anxiety, this is a feeling that something is about to go terribly wrong. This could be anxiety that just seems to pop up out of no where as you’re peacefully going about your day. Or my favorite experience, that feeling that happens on Sunday evening around 8 PM when you began to create all sorts of stories regarding the upcoming work week.

Lack of Control Anxiety: This feeling tends to hit when everything in your world seems like total chaos. Attempts to organize and carefully plan your life fail at every turn. Nothing is going “right” and knowing which step to take keeps alluding us.

This is a very short list and we will cover more types of anxiety in the future. For now though, awareness that these are common experiences, helps us to recognize that a) we are not alone b) it is manageable.

Below I have included 5 ways to manage anxiety. These practices are simple and can be performed anywhere, at any time. Start off with practicing one strategy per week. The human brain likes small baby steps when it comes to getting motivated with a new practice. More importantly, have fun with it and use during times of non-stress too!

1) Scan your environment.

State out loud, or in your head, 10 objects and their color.

2) Send breath to your stomach.

On an inhalation, expand your stomach with air. Upon exhalation, squeeze navel back to spine. Repeat 10 times.

3) Think of a recent funny moment.

Replay the memory in your mind with as much detail as possible.

4) Listen to your favorite upbeat playlist.

This playlist is a compilation of positive, upbeat songs. Concentrate on the words and evoke opposite emotions and brain patterns.

5) Repeat an affirmation.

Say an affirmation out loud or in your head (out loud is best). Examples include: “I am okay.” “This is only temporary.” “I will get through this.” or create your own.

 

If you have found any of these techniques particularly helpful, please leave a comment below and share them with your friends and family!