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I Think I Remember Me, Us…

Life can be fast and furious! Filled with the most amazing experiences, heart wrenching moments that can take your breath away, and day to day hustle!  In the middle of it all, are moments to connect to where we find individual purpose, enjoyment, and those things we call our own.   Married or single, as we grow older, life transitions and experiences recreate our person, and our partnerships with others.

What happens that one morning when you wake up feeling disconnected.  Disconnected from yourself,  your environment, and even your partner.  I have clients tell me, ” I found myself connected to my children, what they were doing moment to moment, how I could fulfill their needs, and the needs of their school community and extra-curricular activities, however at the end of the day as I laid my head, I thought… who is this person next to me, and who am I? ”  As a therapist, working with couples, I should know how to do this, and know how to do it well, right?  Wrong. And that is what I say to those I work with.   We are all human, and the disconnect that occurs in the middle of relationships, marriage, children growing up, work, and working to make time for others, the “I,” and “We,” we once did really well, gets lost.  Whose fault is this?  No ones!  It’s the middle of life, the hard part, where each and every one of us works hard to keep our head up as high as we can, and just keep charging the mountain.  The mountain of many obligations, emotions, and activities, and those days of “let’s go to dinner,” turn into days ending, asleep on the couch as soon as the kids are finally in bed.  It’s the time in life where as women and men, we long to reconnect to our individual self and interests, and reasons why we chose each other, but in all reality, this may be the last on the list of “to dos.”

We as human beings are built to be a pair, we are supposed to connect with another, we are supposed to find a partner, to experience life with whatever that may bring, and be able to connect in a way that feels unconditional and supported.  This is not reality, however and the “supposed to,” we were fed or not fed while growing up, turns into a tedious task, a checklist at times added to the day to day.  The reminder, I am an individual first!!

I sit across from my clients, and ask, “what brought you together,” “What were the turning points.” And “where do you want to be …”  This is a loaded question because it takes thought, reminiscing, and being present, and all those pieces take time, energy, and emotion.  “And how can I answer that when I don’t have time for any of those things.”

We were all someone pretty amazing as individuals, and partnering with another was “suppose,” to make me, us even more amazing.  The part we forget, however is the most important part, the part that if we really acknowledge it, feels selfish and unproductive.  Who am I? and where do I start?

Communication! Communication is something most of us think we do well, and when it comes down to it, we are doing the bare minimum, the basic interaction or conversation to check in.  How was your day?  How are the kids?  What’s for dinner?  We begin to lose track of the purposeful moments, and the deep, effective communication that allows us to not only check in with ourselves, but with our partner, and in a way that engages emotion, being in the present, and creating intimacy with not only ourselves but those we want so much to feel connected to.  When is the last time you sat across from your partner, and really talked about what you wanted, who you were, who “we are?” and how you have not only changed as individuals over time, but as a couple without talking about kids, work, and meal planning.  It’s difficult, and may feel uncomfortable, but it is so important for connection and growth.  You were an “I,” before you were a “we,” and taking time to acknowledge when there is more space than you would like, is not only beneficial, it is essential.   When was the last time, you looked in the mirror at yourself, and asked “who am I now, this amazing person I have lost for a bit, but am working to effectively communicate needs, wishes, and wants to, in a way that uplifts me first, to be the best me I can be in a partnership and family.  To truly be present, and effectively communicate the things that connect, reconnect, and create ongoing growth, one needs to take time to be still in the discomfort of change, and open to taking a risk that I, we are different.  Taking the time to stop and acknowledge how communication, reflection, and being in the moment, the here and now can turn those questions into answers for a renewed self, a renewed “we.”

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Don’t tell me “this to shall pass.”

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Anxiety can feel so overwhelming and out of control, going from 0 to 90, and having a difficult time refocusing or bringing  our thoughts, bodies, and emotions back to a place that feels “in control.”  Where does Anxiety come from?  Anxiety is caused by stress, the little things that begin to form into giants, and by the time an individual is in a space where the bean stalk, if you will is crumbling on top of them, it feels to late.  Feels, is the the key word.  Anxiety can be a great big feeling, and being able to connect ourselves at a 2 rather than a 10, when the giant is chasing us down the beanstalk, is so important.

As human beings, we all experience a anxiety in one form or another during the day, week, or month, however for those diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder, the amygdala (that almond-shaped thingy of gray matter inside our cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions), can most often if not always be in a state of fight or flight.

What does that mean for our nervous system, coping, and emotional regulation?  It feels out of control, uncomfortable, and overwhelming.   The body shifts all of its energy resources toward fighting off a life threat (feelings of no control, what will I do, how do I protect myself, my environment), or fleeing from an enemy (Run, disconnect, dissociate, feelings of helplessness and panic), and our adrenal glands  release hormones called Adrenalin and cortisol.  I have clients describe it as the burst before the let down.

What do I do?  First and foremost working to acknowledge the space you are in, be open to accepting  the feelings, and committing to strategies and tools that work to bring us through the emotion is essential.  What do I mean by that?  Ask yourself this question, “What happens when I am  feeling overwhelmed, worried, or scared, and my  best friend, though trying to be helpful says, ” this too shall pass, just don’t think about it.”  YOU THINK ABOUT IT! and you think about it with greater worry, greater intensity, until it accelerates to a point of panic.  With Anxiety, it can be very difficult to think logically because the pre frontal lobe (logical reasoning) gets put on hold, and the automated part of our brain takes over.

What should I do instead of trying to reason through it?

  1.  First and foremost stop and think, freeze, and work to breath.  Breathing works to reset the nervous system and reverse its response.  Pause, not disconnecting from the thought, but offering a time to stop and engage.
  2. Show empathy: I want to understand that those around me get that I am having a difficult time, and allow me to work through it while validating my process.
  3. What’s next:  Once there is greater calm and focus, what can I do to remain in this space, what do I need from others from my environment, possible solutions.
  4. Acknowledging worry as good: Worry in itself is a  positive coping response, it acts as a protection mechanism, sending off the bell to our nervous system and helps us work through danger.  Anxiety can be the “false alarm,” and being able to support an individual in deciphering the two can be so beneficial.
  5. Creating a space to organize, sequence, and break down feelings into tangible chunks. Step by step processing which in turn offers greater control, slowly shrinking the giant.
  6. Grounding: being able to connect and reconnect to the natural energy and “electricity,” of space, nature, and earth is so support mind, body, and soul.  We live in a world where artificial works to serve as natural, and often our bodies feel engaged and comfortable in simple spaces.  Walking with bare feet on the sidewalk, beach,  in the park, or even the hardwood floors   to reconnect to reality.  In the midst of overwhelm, worry, and fear, being able to feel your energy on the ground  below is beneficial.
  7. Practice acceptance and give yourself a break: Feelings are very real, and being able to accept “I am feeling this way,” that it is causing discomfort, and I am working through it step by step is important.  Work to accept and not deflect.  Deflecting the emotion only causes greater emotion.  You are doing great! and that is enough!

Anxiety is very real, and can feel very overwhelming.  Working to acknowledge and accept those feelings, question your thoughts, and reality check the tricks your brain may be playing on you, can work to slowly calm and reconnect to a space of healthy coping.