Setting Down Your Emotional Baggage.... For Good!

Years ago a fellow colleague of mine likened therapy to flossing your mind. She believed it’s a way to clean out the emotional clutter that gets tucked away, but really does no good in your life.  She advocated that everyone should have therapy ‘check up’s’ at least every six months to purge the emotional stuff.

While not everyone needs a therapy session, a regular check-in with yourself to purge the unwanted emotional baggage isn’t a bad idea!

Step 1) Identify what “baggage” you are holding onto.

It may be that there are things in your life that are draining your energy (a job that is unsatisfying or extra responsibilities that take away instead of add to your day). Possibly you’re experiencing emotional pain because of a loss (a breakup, death, or separation from a loved one).

Spending some time getting really clear on what it is consuming your emotions in your life is important. For many people the act of actually writing it down is vital.  Describe the events/ experiences/ interactions that fill up your mind. Put in details.

This clarification may feel unnecessary, but it can be eye opening to how you're investing your energy. You may find that you’re focusing on one topic more than you expected.

With this list be sure to include all the emotional energy you spend, both positive and negative. You’re probably not going to want to decrease the positive experiences you have, but list anything that consumes your thoughts/emotions even if it brings happiness.

Step 2) Identify what doesn’t need (or deserve) your energy right now. 

Ask yourself: Looking back on this list how does it fit for the life you want? Does where you are focusing your energy match with your priorities in your life? What would this list look like if things were more in balance in your life?

When you’re able to shift your thoughts around an event to remove the judgments or expectations we have (either toward yourself or others) it will help you to release those thoughts from your mind (a.k.a letting it go).

Removing the judgement is tricky and challenging. It’s one of those “easier said than done” tasks.  One trick that might help is to recognize that you did the best you could in that situation, given the circumstances, limitations, and your knowledge and skills at the time.

Simplifying your emotional life means making choices that will remove unneeded stress. If you skip the unnecessary errands you will have time to engage in those activities that build energy, instead of draw from it.

Sometimes what we need do to simplify our lives most is changing our emotions and decreasing the amount of time we worry, stress, feel angry, or sad.  In doing your emotional inventory you may identify a source underlying some of your emotions; if so, make those changes. You have two choices if you want to create change in your feelings:  change the situation so you no longer feel that way, or “let go/accept” the uncomfortable energy-sapping feelings.

Getting mindful of our feelings is a great way to identify what is underlying and the source of our feelings.

Step 3) Take time to reflect and reevaluate.

Ask yourself what’s working and what isn't. Creating your emotional inventory hopefully opened your eyes to areas large and small that you can start changing, shifting, modifying. This is an ongoing step that takes patience.

Creating balance and caring for yourself as you’re simplifying your emotional spaces is also important.  Nurturing yourself as you identify and strengthen your self-worth and self-assertion can come in many forms. If you’d like some ideas, I created a free downloadable Self-Care Checklist that you can use to make sure you’re nurturing your body, mind and soul!

Be bold in being you!

Adriana

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway ‪50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call ‪(916) 547-3997 or email adriana@adrianajoynertherapy.com.

How to Control your Self-Doubt

Self-doubt.

That nagging thought that burrows into everyone’s minds at some point or another.  It comes in many forms, but usually sounds like “I’m not good enough.”

Maybe it’s when you have a major presentation for work, in how you feel when you’re around your in-laws, when you question your parenting abilities during your two-year-olds tantrum, or when trying on bathing suits for summer. We all doubt ourselves at times.

Changing our thoughts, feelings and actions is a challenge. There are literally thousands of books written on the topic!

There is a strong connection between our thoughts, feelings and actions. Picture a triangle where each of the three points are interconnected and flow back and forth.  Creating change in one area will impact the others. Our thoughts, feelings and actions flow and interact in all directions.

If you change your behaviors, your thoughts and emotions will follow suit. You’ve heard the phrase “fake it till you make it” right?

This is probably easiest to visualize this interconnection with physical exercise. If you commit to working out several days a week for a few weeks, you will eventually start to notice changes in your thoughts (improved self-image, more confident), feelings (more upbeat, better mood) and actions (craving healthier foods, feeling more toned, higher energy levels). This creates a positive cycle that will help you continue working out because you enjoy the benefits.

In general, it takes about 21 days to create a change in behavior.  Which means it may take three weeks of working out before you start to notice changes in your thoughts or emotions.

And for some of us, it may take longer than 21 days. I mean who really likes getting up before dawn to work out?

This change works in all directions of the triangle. If you change your thoughts around an activity, it will be easier and more enjoyable to do that activity.  If you change your emotions, your thoughts and behaviors will follow along.

So you’re asking: what does this have to do with self-doubt?

Self-doubt is a thought.  Now that you know the formula, you can change your thoughts easier!

Let’s look at ways you can approach self-doubt from all directions of the triangle.

Here’s an example: imagine you’re questioning your parenting skills. Say your toddler has thrown the largest temper tantrum of his life in the middle of the grocery store check-out line. You see other people whispering and staring at you. It’s difficult to focus and finish checking out; you know you can’t just leave the basket and head home because you need those groceries for tonight and tomorrow. You’re feeling like the worst parent in the world.

If any of this is connecting with you, let me reassure you, you are not alone.  This happens to the best of us!

Changing your behavior in this instance might mean:

  • taking a deep breath,
  • bending down to your child’s level and speaking with him calmly,
  • being clear and directive in setting limits,
  • possibly ignoring the tantrum while you check out.

Remaining calm will help you finish the chore at hand and you can get to the car and address the tantrum in a more private setting. Keeping your behavior in control will also help you feel confident that you are making the right choices in handling the tantrum. Sometimes the right choice in parenting is to ignore the behavior (even if others look and stare).

To change your mood around in this situation you could try:

  • taking a deep breath,
  • reflecting on what other feelings you’re also experiencing in the moment (besides frustration/irritation at your child),
  • reflecting on times when you feel proud and strong as a parent will help you recognize your skills don’t always correlate to your child’s behaviors and may help you shift your mood around,
  • expanding your focus to more than the self-doubt and frustration to also incorporate other more positive feelings. Maybe you’re excited for the latest episode of your favorite show tonight, happy for a friend who just announced their pregnancy , or relieved because you finished a major project at work.

This broadening of your ‘feelings spotlight’ to experience more than just the frustration in the moment helps integrate the fact that sometimes challenging things happen that create self-doubt, and you can still be happy.

Changing your thoughts around self-doubt in parenting can start with:

  • finding ways to change the meaning you attribute to your thoughts.

It’s possible that your automatic thoughts are: “My child is throwing a tantrum in public = I’m a crappy parent.” Identifying things that are accurate and also true about your parenting can be helpful to start to change your thoughts: “My son skipped his nap today and is very tired, of course he’s going to melt down when I say no to him having chocolate.”

These shifts away from negative self-talk to understanding the bigger picture will help you begin to see yourself and your parenting skills in a new light. Shifting to this mindset may not change the situation, but will help let go of your self-doubt around your parenting skills. In turn, your mood will lighten and your interactions with your child will be more at ease.

Just like heading to the gym every morning, taking a deep breath during your child’s tantrum or reframing your thoughts of self-doubt may take a few (or 21) tries to stick and become a habit. And the result will be a calmer, more confident you.

 

If you find that you would like extra support in changing your thoughts, feelings or actions, or gaining confidence in your life, I’d be glad to help. Click here to find out ways to get in touch with me. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.

Create Change in Your Life - How to Make a Plan

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek” ~Joseph Campbell

Change is uncomfortable and can be scary. In many situations, it’s much easier to stay with what you know even if it is not aligned with your goals and desires, than to venture out into the unknown. 

Possibly you’ve come to the point where the unknown (change) sounds more desirable.  Maybe what is currently happening is so painful you’re ready for something different.  If so, you’re in the right place.

Last week I shared some tips on how to become mindful and aware of the emotional patterns in your life.  If you’re following along, go and grab that list of thoughts and patterns you are starting to notice in your life.

Now that you have some awareness into the patterns, or muscle memory responses, that are in your life…

Let’s create a plan for change!

 

Reflect on your patterns.  Look back over your notes from last week. Did you identify any patterns that are occurring in your life?  Are there themes present – for example maybe you noticed you experience XYZ feeling when faced with XYZ situation? Is there anything you learned about yourself in doing this activity?

What is working? Were there patterns you identified that are healthy and adaptive in your life? Patterns that you want to keep? An example of this could be that you realized even when you are stressed and exhausted you general respond well to your children. Or maybe you realized when you are feeling sad you reach out to friends and make plans to get out of the house. 

Examine what is working in your life; what patterns, routines, responses fit well and don’t need any adjustment.

What’s not working?  Were there patterns you noticed in your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings last week that are not helpful to your life? It takes courage and self-reflection to admit that we are acting or feeling ways that aren’t adaptive to our life.  Possibly you noticed that you yell at your loved ones when you are really angry at your boss and stressed over work. Maybe you recognized that you unfairly blame yourself when something doesn’t go right; your initial response is to label yourself as “stupid” or “a failure.” Jot down any patterns you noticed that could use some revision.

Define a goal. For each of the patterns that are on your “not working” list, let’s identify some alternatives that would work better for you. What would you like to happen instead?  For example, let’s use the above example of blaming yourself when something doesn’t go right. How would you like to talk with yourself? What about being more gentle and compassionate toward yourself, saying things like “I tried hard” or “That didn’t work like I wanted it to.”  Shifting and recognizing what the goal is will help us figure out steps to get there.

Create a plan. Identify three things you can do to create and reinforce this new behavior in your life.  It’s best to start with small, manageable changes that you are sure you can implement consistently.  Sticking with the same example above, your goal is to speak gentler and more compassionate to yourself.  Some ideas of ways you can get there would be to catch yourself when you are speaking unkind and to say something compassionate immediately. You could watch for situations where you find yourself putting yourself down and shift to avoid those situations. You could also ask friends to catch you if they hear you make a negative self-comment and help you reframe your talk. Be creative and open to many different ways. Sometimes it takes trying a few different steps to create change.

Stay in the moment.  Using mindfulness to check in with your patterns will help you evaluate how you’re doing with reaching your goal. You will be able to check in with your progress toward the new pattern (and self-correct quicker if you stray) if you’re staying in the moment.

How to pick yourself up when you fall. We all stumble and fall when trying to create change in our lives. It’s ok! Change is hard to create. There will likely come a time where you slip back into old behaviors, old routines. The real challenge in life is how you pick yourself back up from a fall. This is where a solid plan is helpful.

Using the example of negative self-talk from above, let’s say that you were in a work meeting and left feeling deflated. When you return to your office you start berating yourself.  “I’m so stupid. I’m such a failure.”  When you catch yourself STOP the negative talk and make a change. Immediately tell yourself “Nope, I’m not going to do this, I’m worth more than this. I would never talk to a friend like this, why am I putting myself down like this?” Find something genuine that you can say that’s positive about yourself, maybe “I tried my hardest” or “I know this will get easier the more I try.” 

Then try making some other changes: change the music you’re listening to, take a break and go for a walk, change what you’re working on to a different task. Do what it takes for you to get back on track with your goal of increased self-compassion.

Leave the self-judgment at the door.  Notice how nowhere in this example was a statement about being self-critical or judging. In fact, you will be more likely to successfully change patterns in your life if you find ways to accept that every once in a while you will fall into that old routine. Recognizing when this happens, changing course and returning to your new pattern, without judging yourself, will help you create that new path.

 

Each time you successfully practice your new pattern you are strengthening your new path. Pretty soon this new healthier pattern will become muscle memory.

I love helping people create transformation in their lives. If you are ready to break free from old patterns please call me at 916-547-3997 or email at adrianajoynermft@gmail.com to schedule a free no-pressure consultation to see if working together will help you toward your goals.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist who specializes in providing counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.