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…..Yeah, but.

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“Yes! I’m listening, but….”

Have you ever talked to another person,  and become so distracted by the quivering of their lips?  I’m not talking, sad quivering, I’m talking, the quivering where you know they are dying! absolutely dying! to say something the moment you stop talking.  Or they actually do, and start by giving you an answer when you weren’t asking a question.  We all know that person, people, and at the end of those conversations, walk away feeling unheard and frustrated.  Like the big thought bubble is completely empty, because truly, there was no exchange of information. You were talking, but no one was really listening, and because no one was really listening, you disengaged.  At every stage of development there is a common thread, we are asked, ” are you listening,” told to “please listen,” and demanded, ” why aren’t you listening to me?”  The golden thread is listen, but no one truly defines what that means, or how to do it.

Listening is a behavior, an action, and with both of those one learns from a young age how to do it well, selectively, or not at all.  Now, yes there is some in between, and we can’t all listen  and listen well 100% of the time.  Let’s be honest, my kids saying, ” Mom, mom, mommy, mama…” over and over, I may stop listening.  But truly listening with intent, and purpose without having your hand on the “go” button for your turn, takes learning.

As a therapist, my sole job is to listen, be in the present moment, and hold space for another person to share, express, and process thoughts and questions.  Listening, but also hearing what is being said, or not being said for that matter.   Working to support a client in connecting dots, finding patterns, and triggers, and working toward a solution that feels attainable and productive. My job is not to tell my client what is the solution, or sit, mouth quivering until they stop talking, to give an answer that I think sounds fantastic.  That. is. and. never. will. be. helpful!   For anyone.   I am listening.  Hearing and observing.  I am not anticipating when it is my time, but instead hearing the words to invest in a connection.

I hear clients, be it individuals, teenagers, new mamas, or couples, talk about communicating their wants and thoughts, and not feeling heard. Not feeling like those they love, have relationships with, or work for, are hearing them or acknowledging what they are saying, asking for, or needing.  But instead are waiting for their turn to debate, contradict, redirect, or offer a solution.  Maybe, just maybe all you want to do is vent, feel heard and validated for the feelings and emotions you are having, be acknowledged for the idea you are taking a risk to share, or offered credit because maybe just maybe you truly know what you are talking about.

Full disclosure, I struggled for many years in my teens, to feel confident in my thoughts and idea because often in school,  even if I was talking, my information was not being heard. Risk taking to offer an idea or answer a question was exchanged for observation and agreeing with others, when I truly did not feel the same way.  Over the years, I learned to invest in the power of observation, and agreeing turned into questioning, and questioning turned into  opinions.  I learned that listening is an action of intent and connection, and working to slow down in all areas of our lives to not only observe ourselves, but others, and what they are really saying may entail.

  1. Am I listening more than I am speaking?:  Slow down, disengage from what you “have to say, ” or the point you have to get across.  Sometimes being able to be quiet, connect, and hear what is being relayed works to slow down your thinking so that your answer is about what is actually being shared, not what you want to be heard back.  In talking I define, and in listening I connect.
  2. Observation is powerful!  Listening is about being quiet, but it is also about the visual presentation, the environmental triggers, and what another persons body language is telling you in that moment in time. Its about observing self as well.  How am I physically feeling, and what are my triggers.
  3. It isn’t always about getting your point across:  Listening is not about keeping score, not about checking off tasks, and definitely not about how much more you know another.  If you are listening to another thinking these things, you might as well cover your ears and smile.  The other party will benefit more:)   But really are you acknowledging what the person is saying, and working to connect to the “behind the scene” meanings. Someone will always know more than you, and that is okay, awesome actually, but listening to what someone is saying (verbally and visually), is so important! Working to not always have a check list in your mind, or task list that YOU are trying to get across, but instead  listening with intent, knowledge, and connection in whatever way that may be, can be beneficial.

What are we teaching ourselves, our children about listening?  If I take myself for example, when my kids are talking to me, am I stopping, looking them in the eye, and engaging?    Or am I moving, multitasking, and answering or commenting at times in a way that makes little sense to the question they asked or story they are telling.  We learn from a young age how to listen and engage, how to communicate and get our point across.  The way those skills are modeled or acknowledged in our environment is what becomes comfortable and “right,” and in turn can work to impact relationships and connections without being aware of why. Listening is a life skill, a privilege to be heard and connected to, and its in taking the time to stop, look someone in the eye, and truly connect to what is being said.  Its about holding space for gaining knowledge, offering insight, or inviting a good vent session.  What it is not, is an opportunity to be heard without offering equal opportunity to another.

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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.

 

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Sara Nuahn – Licensed independent Clinical Social Worker (Jade Counseling, LLC): About

Sara Nuahn, is a mom first, navigating the amazing and messy life with two kiddos, a husband and to many animals at home to keep track of.  She is a Clinical Social Worker/Therapist with a private practice in Chanhassen, MN, providing counseling and therapy services for individuals, couples and families in and around Chanhassen and the Metro Area of Minnesota. Sara is also a 200 hour certified yoga instructor.

Source: Sara Nuahn – Licensed independent Clinical Social Worker (Jade Counseling, LLC): About

Myself

What is this feeling?

One morning, I woke up, drove into the parking lot of my then job, and didn’t want to get out of the car.  This happened, morning after morning, until I realized I was unhappy, and didn’t know what that meant.  What does being unhappy mean as an adult?  I also felt selfish thinking “I’m unhappy.”  I had a really great life, filled with an awesome husband, two fantastic children, a family I loved, and a job that felt pretty ok.  What was wrong?  and why now?  I had this feeling every day when I woke up, and couldn’t really put my finger on what it was.  I knew I was tired, I knew I had gained weight and wasn’t exercising, and I knew despite my beautiful family, I felt sad and angry.  I just didn’t know why, and that felt scary and out of control. I also felt hypocritical; I am working to send a message to my clients, my children, be present, be connected, and when you feel something, communicate to get what you need.  I was doing none of it.

I had been asked by my employer to put together a presentation on “mindfulness in the workplace and with those we serve.”  I thought to myself, UGH!  one more thing I am being “asked” to do, but really  being “told.”  One more thing, I was going to have to fit in to complete during an already busy day, one more thing I was going to have to take home, one more thing that was taking away from me being a mom, wife, and being me.  And it gave me that feeling again.  What is that feeling?!?  I left work that day, picking my kids up late from their after school program, late getting to over scheduled activities, and feeling like, “Why do I, we have no choices!”  and why am I so unhappy!  Yes, I was having an adult temper tantrum, internally, feeling tight in my chest, hot, and raising my voice at things, people who also didn’t know why I was feeling “that way.”

That night I was so frustrated, thinking about the presentation I needed to put together.  Thinking about notes I had to write, and assessments to complete.   My husband offered to put the kids to bed, and I snapped at him, “No! Its the only thing I like doing in a day!” When I walked in my kids room, my son said, “Mama, don’t be mad, but we want dad to put us to bed tonight, he reads slower.”  There was that feeling again!  And for this moment, it hurt, but also felt clear. My 6 year old had enough, and he was the only one brave enough to say it out loud.  My son wanted a small part of his night to slow down.   I was scheduling every minute of every hour of everyday of my life, our life.  I was angry with my job, activities I scheduled for my kids and our family because nothing was simple, nothing.  In that moment, I ached for the days my kids were toddlers, and we came home from daycare by 4 pm to just be home.  Nothing else. Life felt slower, calmer, more simple.  I listened to my  6 year old that night, passed the baton to my husband, and for once in many months, allowed my children to read a book, slowly, without the feeling we were ALL having.  That feeling!! I also created the presentation that night, working to connect to what I would want to hear from my employer, from anyone for that matter.Real talk.

Mindfulness is not about meditation on a beach. Well, yes it is, but not for everyone.  It was not something I needed to commit hours too, and it didn’t need to be silent.   I realized, you are not going to “do it right” everyday.  There are things I needed let go, and not every minute of every day was supposed to be scheduled.  I will not be able to participate in everything, and not everyone  will be happy with me!  Or even like me  for that matter.  Being mindful, meant being present, being connected in the moments, and not working to schedule every fringe second with an activity, task, or venture.  Being mindful was about reading to my kids, asking questions, and not having my phone in the room as well, so that I could multitask emails while we took turns reading.  It was about being  real, and being okay with how things were getting done, even if it didn’t feel complete and efficient.  Mindfulness and self care is truly about being present, engaged, saying no, and being aware of what your physical self is  screaming to your emotional self…..breath, connect, simplify.