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Giving Your Rocks Away

Giving Your Rocks Away

I like to use symbolism and metaphors when I work with both my clients and my students. I’m sure I get an eye roll every now and then with, “Here she goes again”. But it offers an opportunity to visualize our experience of life in a way that may seem less abstract, more solid or relatable and understandable.

One analogy that I use often is the idea of rocks in our backpack. Imagine that you are wearing a backpack. This is obviously an invisible backpack, but imagine it hanging on your back. You can feel the straps coming across your arms and feel the weight at the top of your shoulders across your back lightly pulling down. Now imagine that there are rocks in the backpack. The rocks represent things that are bothering us, things that we are holding onto, things that take up space in our lives. For some of us we have small rocks, like pebbles. Rocks that represent our day to day stresses and responsibilities, the things on our to do list.  Maybe there is just a handful, for some of us maybe a bucketful. Maybe some days those rocks are bigger and heavier because of some stressful event going on in our lives. Or maybe we are just having a rough day and the rocks seem just a little heavier. Can you feel the heaviness of your own backpack?

Now, imagine if those rocks were even bigger like bricks or boulders. So heavy that it makes life hard to walk through because of the shear weight of the backpack on your shoulders. These brick or boulders represent the trauma we have experienced, the pain, the resentment we are holding onto, the depression, deep anxiety or fear, maybe anger or resentment, loss or grief.

Walking through life every day with a backpack full of big rocks is hard. Sure, we could carry a heavy backpack on our shoulders for a mile, maybe a few…but to get up everyday and carry boulders on our back as we try to go to work or school, try to raise children, be present in our relationships, attempt a social life, be there for others or even take care of ourselves?

I often encourage my clients to make some decisions about the rocks. With a backpack full or rocks, holding you down, it may seem impossible to pick just one rock to focus on, but we must start somewhere. Maybe pick an easy rock first. Create a plan, take care of the rock and your backpack will be lighter. Maybe just a little lighter…but with time, one rock at a time, life will be easier to walk though when there isn’t so much weight.

Another option is to give some rocks away. Sometimes we hold so tightly on to a large rock because the thought of ever being able to tackle it feels scary and overwhelming. Or maybe we have had this large rock for so long it feels like it is forever attached. But how much lighter would your backpack be if you gave a rock away? Seek out others to hold space for you… for your rocks. This could be a family member, a friend or a counselor. Anyone who will support you, not hold judgement against you and who will validate your experience and your feelings. Maybe offering your rock to God, to nature, to the universe. Allowing someone else to hold a rock for you means some of the weight is taken away, making life a little easier to walk through.

Why Don’t People Go To Therapy

Why Don’t People Go To Therapy

Why don’t people go to therapy? We go to the dentist every six months for cleanings and check-ups. We go to the doctor when we are sick. We get our hair cut or our nails done as needed, or as desired to feel and look our best. We get a massage or go to the chiropractor when we are in pain. But why do so many people avoid addressing the mental or emotional needs. Why don’t people go to therapy?

After working in the mental health field for many years I can say that taking the leap and reaching out for help is the hardest part. There are many reasons that people either don’t reach out or they take a long time to finally take that leap.

I have heard many people say that they would rather talk to their friends instead of a stranger. It is so important to have someone to talk to. You should talk to your family and friends and utilize your support system. But friendship is not psychotherapy. In a therapeutic relationship you are getting support and being challenged to take a deeper look at your life, your emotions and your motivations. Through therapy you gain valuable insight into yourself and the source of your problems. Not only are therapists trained listeners, but they are also trained to work alongside you as you address those problems. Remember that therapy is confidential too. Sometimes we can’t guarantee that with friends or family.

People have also shared that they can take care of mental health issues by visiting their doctor. Yes, if necessary, your doctor can provide medication to address a diagnosed mental health issue, and they can also help you rule out any medical condition that may be contributing to your mental health. But medical doctors are not trained therapists. Therapists will listen, provide feedback, help you identify healthy coping strategies and work empathically to help you find joy in life and in your relationships.

I have also heard people say that they went to a counselor once and it just didn’t work. I always say that every therapist has a different style and approach to their work. Just because it wasn’t a good fit the first time doesn’t mean it wont work out if you try someone else. Our personal perspectives and circumstances change with time. Sometimes we are more ready for therapy than we may have been in the past.

Another excuse is time and money. For any real change you want to make, it will also take real resources. Time does not just appear; you must make the time. Making time to address your mental and emotional needs will save you time. Consider all the time spent being unhappy, time spent fighting, scared or unsure. Taking the leap means more control over your time in the long run. It’s true that therapy can sometimes be costly as well, even with insurance, but consider it an investment in yourself, in your relationships, in your well-being. You are worth it.

So, what’s holding you back from taking the leap? Ready to make an appointment? Call us at 231-714-0282 or visit www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com

Dating your Spouse

Whether you have been with your spouse for 2 years or 20 years, it’s normal to hit a period of boredom in your relationship. The everyday responsibilities of life like taking care of the household, going to work, taking care of the pets or children and the many other roles each partner may take on; all add up. And it is often your relationship that comes last on the list.  This often means lack of quality time, romance and adventure in the relationship. And this lack of quality, intimate or fun time together can lead to less connection, distress in the relationship, potentially to lead to conflict and feelings of being unsatisfied.

One way to address this is to ‘date your spouse’. Most couples know the importance of quality time together, but making it happen is another story. Many things can get in the way such as schedules, money and other responsibilities. But by making the commitment to each other and to the relationship, it can not only bring a much-needed spark, but an also prevent hardships in the future.

First make the commitment mutually. Talk with your partner about the importance of quality time together. Discuss what the hopes are for this commitment and the outcomes for your relationship. Then decide together what that time could look like, how that times together will be decided and how often if could realistically happen. Make it a team effort with commitment on both sides.

Next decide on a budget. Committing to ‘dating your spouse’ should not break the bank or cause financial stress. It may be unrealistic to go out on a dinner date once per week. So, decide on what else could be a date. A walk together, a picnic, or a movie on the couch after the kids have went to sleep.

Maintenance is key when you make a commitment. Do not let other things get in the way of your time together. It’s so easy to push aside a scheduled date when life gets in the way. ‘Dating your spouse’ is not easy. So set a schedule and do your best to stick to it.

And if life does happen to get in the way, don’t be afraid to get creative with your time; a breakfast or coffee date, a quick lunch, a nap together, a mid-day walk or even intimate conversation over the phone.  Yes, sometimes things get in the way that are unavoidable, like an important event, travel plans, sick children or pets. But maintaining the commitment means sticking to it and making it a priority. Put your relationships first.

Battling Negative Thinking

Battling Negative Thinking

Many times you may catch yourself with negative thoughts running rampant through your head. Although it may feel that these thoughts have a mind of their own, you have much more power than you may believe. The good news is that you are able to switch out those negative thoughts for positive ones with the right practice and techniques. First, you must identify those not so fun thoughts, the negative ones. Here are a few common forms of negative self-talk you can find yourself using:

  • Filtering. This is when you magnify the negative aspects of your life and filter out all of the positive ones. Instead of focusing on the compliments you may have received on a work task or personal endeavor, you chose to focus on what could have been done better and what you still need to do.
  • Personalizing. When something bad happens, you automatically blame yourself. Your friends canceled the plans you had set for the night? Oh it must be because they don’t want to hang out with you. That is most likely not the case, but that is what you tell yourself.
  • Catastrophizing. You automatically assume the worst is going to happen. For example, you may worry that you will fail an exam. That thought snowballs into thinking that failing the exams means that you are a bad student, therefore you will never pass the course, graduate, or find a job. 
  • Polarizing. You see things only as either good or bad, there is no middle ground for you. This could mean that you need to see yourself as being perfect in all aspects of your life or you’re a total failure.

Now that you have identified some possible types of negative thinking, let’s move on to positive thinking. Like mentioned before, this may sound simple but it takes time and practice – after all you are creating a brand new habit. Here are some tips on how to think in a more positive way:

  • Identify areas to change. If you want to find yourself engaging in more positive thinking, you first need to identify areas of your life that you typically think negatively about. This could be your daily commute, relationships, or work. There is no need to tackle all of these negative areas at once, which can be overwhelming. Instead, start small and focus on one area that you can begin to see in a more positive light.
  • Check yourself. Throughout the day stop what you’re doing and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are going down a negative path, try and find a way to put a positive spin on them. 
  • Be open to humor. Don’t forget to crack and smile or let a chuckle out, especially during these difficult times. It is important to seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is proven to positively affect your mood and reduce stress, while following a healthy diet can help to fuel your mind and body throughout the day. Finding the time to exercise can seem daunting, but we can make it less scary by splitting it up into smaller chunks. A 5 minute stretch here, a 10 minute walk there, and next thing you know you’re halfway through your daily exercise goals. 
  • Practice positive self-talk. Sometimes it can be hard to think of positive things about yourself, but here is a trick to help. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. We are often our own harshest critics, remember to be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If negative self-talk enters your mind throw up the yield sign and explore that thought further. Take the time to evaluate the negative thoughts rationally and respond with affirmation of what is good about you.

Just remember, this will not happen overnight. Do not wake up tomorrow and expect your head to be filled with rainbows and butterflies. This takes practice, those negative thoughts can have a strong hold but eventually by putting these tips and tricks into play you will be able to have a more optimistic outlook on your everyday life.