Thoughtful Therapy

  Helping women find freedom and peace

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This blog is not intended as a substitute for therapy sessions with a licensed therapist. If you are looking for help, please contact me at [email protected] or 214-736-7438.

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Examples of Routines

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 8:00 AM Comments comments (0)

As a follow-up to my blog about the necessity of routines, here are a few examples of routines you might put into practice. These are only examples; you should modify them to suit your needs, and create other routines that are helpful to you.


Laundry

Try picking one day (or two or three, if needed) per week for doing laundry: the same day every week. This can help minimize worries of running out of clean clothes. Sort clothes into light, dark, etc., as you put them in the hamper, or maintain different containers for each category. This cuts down on sorting on laundry day. After the clothes have been washed and dried, go ahead and fold or hang them and put them away. Consider this part of doing the laundry and just do it.


Morning Routine

Get up at the same time every day, and allow yourself at least an hour (or two) to get ready. Plan what you will wear the night before, and lay it out so that you don't have to think about it in the morning. Eat breakfast. Make sure you have food on hand that you will actually eat at breakfast, and plan the meal (even if it's just cereal and milk) so that you don't wind up staring wistfully into the refrigerator or pantry, wasting precious time. Have a place near the door (kitchen counter, washing machine, hall table) where you put things you need to take with you to work or school. Always put your keys in the same place (preferably not in the bottom of your purse), so you will be able to find them easily. Make a rule for yourself that you don't watch television until you are fully dressed and ready to walk out the door. Knowing what the plan is can help reduce anxiety that you will forget to do something or take something with you when you leave.


Bedtime Routine

About an hour before bedtime, turn off all devices that emit blue light (cell phone, television, computer). Take a warm bath if that is relaxing to you. Wash your face, brush your teeth, and put on your pajamas. Take some time to choose your outfit for the next day and lay it out for tomorrow. Spend time doing something relaxing, such as reading or listening to soft music. If you have difficulty turning off your brain, make a list of worries, tasks for the next day, or anything else that is on your mind. Turn out the light and sleep.

Exercise

Make this a priority. Set a regular time to move your body, and write it into your calendar. It could be first thing in the morning, after work, or on your lunch break, but get it done. Even though it is hard to get started, you will not regret doing it after it is over.


Grocery List

Put items on the grocery list as soon as they are used up, or when they are running low. This keeps you from forgetting what you need to get next time you go to the store. You might even organize your list by areas of the store: produce, frozen, canned goods, dairy, etc. It can also be helpful to pick a certain day of the week to go grocery shopping. That way you don't have to worry about running out of food or worry about when you will be able to get to the store because you know you will be going on [chosen day of the week for grocery shopping].


Dinner

As you plan your grocery shopping, start planning in advance your meals for the week. Ask your family, or yourself, what you want to eat in the coming week. Evaluate which meal is appropriate for which day based on who will be home, and when, and what other activities need to be worked around. For example, on a night when the kids have soccer practice, or you have to work late, you don't want to have planned a complicated meal that will take a couple hours to prepare. That might be the night to pop a frozen pizza in the oven, make scrambled eggs and toast, or heat up planned-overs (leftovers you planned to have again). On a night where everyone will be home, you might want to involve the whole family in cooking dinner or make something a little more complicated or that takes a little longer. Knowing in the morning what you are having for dinner that night takes the pressure off, and also reminds you if you need to thaw something in order to be ready to cook when you get home or throw something in the crock pot right now.

Tunnel Vision

Posted on May 5, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

What is tunnel vision?


According to Merriam-Webster, tunnel vision is an extreme narrowness of viewpoint, a constricted field of vision, or a tendency to think about only one thing and ignore everything else. Basically, your vision is focused on a very small area, blocking out anything in the periphery. This can be a physical problem, but it can also be a mental issue. The mental form of tunnel vision is what I will address here.


How does it work?


Depression is one of the most common causes of mental tunnel vision, based on clients I have worked with, people I have met, and my own personal experiences. Remember that depression is a disease of lies. It tells you things that are not true, trying to trick you into believing you are not likable, you are not worthy, you have no friends, no one wants to hear from you, etc. Well, tunnel vision plays right into that by increasing your focus on the lies in the center, and eliminating any peripheral truths floating around the edges. Everything becomes mentally dark except for the lie in your psychological bull's eye. That lie becomes bigger and bigger, more and more in focus, as it elbows out the truths around it. Pretty soon, you find yourself believing the lie and looking farther and farther into that tunnel. But it doesn't have to be this way.


You can beat tunnel vision


First, you must recognize what is happening. Notice when you get stuck on a negative idea or thought. Knowing is half the battle (see: G.I. Joe cartoons from the 1980s), so once you realize you are perseverating on something unhealthy, you can harness your mental power and change it.


Next, you must decide to call the lie a lie. You decide you are not going to buy into it. You tell yourself, "No. That is a lie. I do have friends and they do want to hear from me."


Then, you expand your view. Open up the tunnel and let the light in. Allow those truths around the edges to float into the middle as you push the lie out and away from your line of vision. Focus on the truths: You are likable; you have friends; they do want to hear from you; they care about you.


The more you repeat these truths to yourself, the more likely you are to believe them. Yes, it takes time. No, it may not feel like it's working all the time, but keep practicing. Do not give up. The reason you believe the lies is because they have been repeated to you so many times, either by yourself or by others. Truths become ingrained in the same way. Through repetition. Start repeating the good stuff, the truths, as much as you used to repeat the bad stuff, and watch that tunnel disappear. Soon, you'll be able to see the light all around you instead of being stuck in the dark and searching for that elusive light so far away.

Choices in Relationships: You Get to Decide

Posted on April 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

From time to time couples have disagreements, or even fights. That's completely normal. Actually, it's the couples that say they never argue that are the most concerning to me. That likely means there are many things left unsaid that need to be discussed, potentially resulting in festering wounds that will appear at some point down the line, worse than they would have been if talked about when they first occurred. We all have pet peeves, and we all experience little annoyances from time to time. These things must be dealt with, though. You get to choose how. You either decide to bring it up and discuss it, or decide to let it go. But, remember to pick your battles. Not everything is worth making into a big discussion. Figure out what's important and what really isn't, and let go of the stuff that really isn't important.


Now, that said, there may be times when you and your partner are so far apart on an issue that it seems impossible to resolve it. This is, presumably, not something like how to load the dishwasher "correctly." This type of issue likely runs along the lines of how to manage your money, how to raise your children, or religious or political beliefs. Ideally, you have talked about these things before forming a partnership, but maybe it didn't come up at that time, or maybe viewpoints have changed since then. Whatever the case, these issues and others can be polarizing in a relationship.


So, what do you do? Do you just walk away? Do you put your all into trying to resolve things? Do you accept having different viewpoints and allow that to be okay? Yes. These are all options you can pick.


Walk Away. You are allowed to end a relationship because you have different points of view. Sometimes this is what people choose. They may decide that it is not worth it to try to work through the issue, or it may become apparent that it is not possible to work through it. This could be because neither part of the couple is willing to give an inch, or it could be that one person wants to work on it and the other does not. Before walking away, though, consider all that has been put into the relationship. Are you ready to put that aside and start over? Is it worth it? Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. You get to decide.


Resolve Things. You are allowed to put everything you've got into making the relationship better and trying to resolve the issue. Again, you have to decide if it's worth it to put the work in, and it is certainly most effective if both parties are willing to do this. It is difficult to do marriage counseling when one person is clearly not interested in staying. This is, of course, devastating for the one who wants to stay. However, if both people are working toward the same goal, much progress can be made. It's not necessarily easy to resolve things, but for those who feel strongly that they want to fulfill their commitment no matter what happens, this may be the way to go. You get to decide.


Accept Different Viewpoints. You are allowed to let different viewpoints coexist in the relationship. For some couples, they are able to hold conflicting or differing beliefs while staying together harmoniously. They each release imagined control over the other, which lessens the pressure of being responsible for someone else's views. They choose to let it be okay that they don't agree. They accept the differences instead of allowing them to drive a wedge into the relationship. Can you move past the need to control or to feel responsible for another's beliefs? Can you let go of embarrassment over disagreement on a serious issue? You get to decide.


You get to decide how to handle your relationship. What works for you and your partner may not work for another couple, and that is okay. Find what you can live with, and decide to live with it.

Four Myths About Counseling

Posted on April 14, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

People have varying feelings regarding counseling. For some, counseling is an essential part of life. For others, even thinking about therapy is uncomfortable. There are different perceptions about what it means to go to counseling, and society and culture definitely play a role in this. Depending on your viewpoint, counseling may be looked at as a legitimate way to deal with problems. Or it may be something that only "crazy people" do.


Here are a few myths about counseling and the reality checks that go with them.


If I go to counseling it means I'm weak. I should be able to handle my problems on my own, without help. The reality is that some problems are too big, messy, or painful to handle alone. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to reach out to someone outside your friends and family for an unbiased perspective. A counselor can provide that perspective for you, pointing out things you may not have considered before, asking questions that get you thinking, and helping you identify choices and options you didn't realize you have.


Everyone will know my business. The reality is that everyone will NOT know your business. A counselor has an ethical obligation to keep client information confidential. There are certain exceptions to this, such as a client expressing the desire to hurt herself or someone else, or a report of child abuse, but these exceptions primarily involve people's personal safety, and not the issues many clients bring to counseling. 


Counseling doesn't work. The reality is that counseling won't work if you go into it with that attitude and a closed mind. If you refuse to share, open up, and deal with your issues, you will not get very far with counseling. However, if you believe counseling can help you, and you go in with an open mind, counseling can make a positive difference in your life.


Only crazy people go to counseling. The reality is that counseling is for people who want to make a change in their lives. Asking for help with this doesn't make you crazy. It makes you smart, and it means you are ready for things to get better. It means you are tired of being stuck in a rut and you're looking for something to change. Yes, there are people who have very serious mental disorders, but I don't see many of them in my office for counseling. If someone has a considerable amount of mental disturbance they are more likely to be on strong psychotropic medications, and may not be able to sit in a counseling office to discuss their issues.


These are only some of many myths about counseling, and everyone has their own fears and worries about sharing their issues and inner thoughts with a stranger, but going to counseling doesn't mean you are weak or crazy, or that everyone will know your business. And if you want it to be a good experience, start with a positive attitude and the idea that counseling can help.


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