Anger

5 WAYS #BADASSWOMENRELAX

 

 

11257317_10103761700563768_1297433871694723985_n

For part two of my blog series on my favorite kind of women – the BADASS WOMAN – I thought I would write a little about how to incorporate relaxation in to the badass woman lifestyle.

Badass women are women who function highly in many different areas of life and career paths. If you are a BADASS WOMAN, you refuse to take shit from others and stand firm in your beliefs, ideals, and life choices. You are not afraid of climbing the ladder, telling someone what they think, and being successful. You know what the line between right and wrong and you make sure others follow in the lines. You almost never choose the easy road, you chose the road you want. You are polite and caring, generous, yet, no one can stand in the way of what you want. You may be in a high powered position or perhaps you have chosen an alternative career, but you are most definitely great at what you do and an invaluable worker.

For all you badass women out there, you know how difficult it can be to really take time for yourself to relax. You are set on “DO” mode and may find it a struggle to just “BE.” Perhaps you relax with TV series, netflix movies in solitude and/or spend free time socializing. Your socializing includes time out with friends drinking or using substances to relax and you feel like you have to be “ON” all the times, maybe even as if you are the entertainment for the crowd.

You wear a mask and seldom feel as if you are yourself while out with friends. In your solitude, you may fill the hours with entertainment and while it is relaxing to numb out in front of a screen, you feel as if you there is something missing. You may even try yoga, running or other sports and still feel disconnected from receiving benefits of the activity. You feel inauthentic, as if you are acting a part, a fraud. You want to DO SOMETHING, but you are not sure what. 

As you tune into your body, you come into the awareness that you often feel either angry or anxious. It feels like this fluctuation is present almost constantly. At times you may rage out, only later to come to the realization that you overreacted and likely regret your behavior. In times of anxiety, it is difficult to settle, to sitstill and think clearly. You hide from others the distressful state of your internal world and push through the day. You cannot seem to just relax anymore.

The real trouble is that you feel out of control of your internal world. You can’t believe it has gotten to this place and you are ready to do something to ease the pain and struggle. 

The great news is that you did not chose to create this internal world for yourself, it has happened over time and you can recover. Your behaviors, while no longer serving you, are protective in nature and have kept you safe.

Here are some places to start to relax. 

  1. Gratitude.  Thank your mind and body for protecting you. Anger and anxiety are animal defense mechanisms. When they arise, your mind and body are trying to keep you safe. Remember to be thankful for your body and mind’s protection rather than beating yourself up for having these reactions. Adding a layer of guilt and shame to your worries can further exacerbate your overall stress level.
  2. Breath.  Breathing is a powerful mechanism for turning on the self-soothing chemicals in your mind and body. Breathing in 3 counts and out 6 counts can turn on soothing chemicals in your body, turning off the stress response. Try breathing in the 3 inhale, 6 exhale count about 4 times and notice how it changes your body state.
  3. Progressive muscle relaxation. Before going to sleep, spend five minutes tensing and then relaxing each muscle group of your body, one at a time. Or if you prefer, just relax and don’t tense muscles. Start with your toes and move to the top of your head, relaxing one muscle group at a time with each exhale.
  4. Connection. Humans are wired to connect for survival. It is important to spend time connecting with people while doing calm activities. Yoga, meditation, hiking, making art, and attending religious services all can be very soothing. Spending a few hours of your week participating in these activities can improve your mood and help you feel relaxed throughout your week.
  5. Solitude. Spend some time in soulful activity on your own. Explore meditation, mindful walking, making art, dancing, or any other soul nourishing activity for just one hour a week on your own. Notice how that one hour a week can affect your week.
  6. Reach out. Because connection and relationship is such a large part of our functioning, reaching out for help and receiving help may be the most powerful tool for overall relaxation and mood stability. Often dysregulation of your mood and mind is a result of very old wounds in our relationships. Repairing these wounds with a therapist is powerfully healing. The great thing about this is that it does not necessarily mean sharing traumatic stories, instead the focus is on the limiting beliefs you may have.

Much love and gratitude to you in your journey,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute phone consult with Kim for art therapy, talk therapy, or sensoriotor therapy or to work with a therapist who knows badass women in Washington, DC, email her at kim@yoursoultherapy.com

Why Badass Women Come to Therapy

In our private practice, we see some of the brightest and most ambitious women in Washington. They are well read, highly accomplished, and typically have checked off most items on their bucket lists. Outside of a deep wanderlust, what is missing in the lives of these women who know how to fully live? If you’re their friend, colleague, acquaintance, it looks like they have it all. These women would agree that most of the time, their lives feel amazing.

One might wonder why are badass women coming to therapy? Relationships.

2015-06-Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-llove-hands-water-santalla

Whether they are single, dating, partnered, or divorced, these women don’t feel like themselves in intimate relationships.   They feel anything but badass.

Exhausted, Frustrated, and at times Heartbroken by a Never Ending Dating Process

Many single women have no problem dating, but they have not found the one despite many dates or relationships. A number of these women date the same partner twice, for 3 weeks, or things end by month 4.

Each time they meet a new someone, they continue to walk on what feels like the tight rope of dating. Should I be excited on the first date even though it probably won’t lead to anything? Maybe I should take a break from dating because it all feels like too much? They have no idea why they continue to get the same results.

They can’t understand why so many women around them are happily dating or partnered. They feel that something is innately wrong with them.

Women Dating Unavailable People

This often starts with dating the most charming, passionate, or promise-you-everything man or woman. The initial dating process is mind-blowing on many levels.

Then a shift happens. The women see that their man or woman is unavailable in one or more ways. The partners live in different countries and won’t move or meet in the middle. They may be workaholics and prioritize work over the relationship.   They may be in the pull me close, push me away dance with touch, play, interest, and intimacy on many levels.

Where there previously was all passion, spark, and play, there can be equal amounts of disappearing, confusion, passive aggressiveness, or anger. These women find that most of their partners are not just emotionally unavailable but are not wanting to make any promises or commitments.

They don’t understand why the continually find themselves with the same unavailable partners and burned at the end of the short lived relationships. When they dig deeper, parts of them don’t feel that they know how to be close to a healthy partner.

Women Who Struggle to Believe that Their Partners Love Them

For many partnered women in our practice, they cannot believe that their partner could love them as much as they do. Their partners continually show up, believe in them, and love them even in some of the most challenging situations.

These clients struggle with receiving love from their partners.

No matter what they read or how hard they try, they don’t know how to let love in. They don’t know how to feel the love that their partners are consistently giving them.   They are blocked for many reasons from trusting themselves and the person that wants to be close to them.   Fear, longing, anger, and grief along with chatter laced everyday worthlessness can be some things that take these women down emotionally.

 

Partnered Women: Who Want More

These women are in relationships that aren’t working anymore. Often the relationship was what they needed for months, years or even decades.

In recent months or years, these women have experienced a deeper sense of self awareness about their needs and desires or may have even had a spiritual awakening. Their partners have struggled to pace with them or grow in their own ways.

These women are wanting more for themselves, their relationships, and lives. It is often complex because families, friends and even children are intertwined. Some of the women are torn between taking care of someone who isn’t fully able to emotionally care for themselves. The dance of overfunctioning and underfunctioning resentment is released with forgiveness and compassion with the work.

Other women are able to finally take a stand for themselves. They have learned that taking up space in a relationship is a brave and healthy decision.

Moving from the Fight to Being ALL IN

None of the decisions or paths is easy, but these women have walked through the one or more dark nights of the soul in their relationships and dating experiences. In our work together, they learn the meaning and purpose of suffering. They connect with themselves as not to recreate that path or dance as means of waking themselves into consciousness. They have taken their learning and stepped into deeper connection with life, themselves and the people they care most. This process of transformation is radical and subtle at the same time. Badass women might fight this quest at the beginning, but are all in by the end.

If you are wanting to be ALL IN in your relationships, connect with Kim@yoursoultherapy.com or Amy@yoursoultherapy.com

Top 10 Recommended Books

My clients often appreciate receiving resources and homework as a part therapeutic process.  They are ready to continue moving forward toward their goals.  I provide book recommendations as one avenue for clients to maintain their momentum and support with self care between sessions.

           Top 10 Recommended Books

Top-10-Books 1.  Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Dr. Brene Brown
Vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.  Brene has a gift for languaging people’s experiences, and men and women alike can connect to taking different paths in their families, organizations and communities.

2. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Dr. Kristen Neff
If you are able to extend kindness, generosity and compassion to others, but you often go to being self critical before thinking of showing yourself compassion, this book may be for you.  Dr. Neff  provides the research on benefits of building a practice of self-compassion to cope with life’s big and small challenges.  If you would like to learn more about Dr. Neff’s research, read more in this post.

3. Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie
Do you have a need to control people or relationships or put them before yourself or believe if they would just change, you would be happy?  Melody offers a variety of stories, exercises, and questions to help you navigate codependency.

4. Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change by Robin Norwood
Are you interested in emotionally unavailable men and do you find nice guys to be boring?   This book can help understand the roots of your patterns in relationships and is another lens to look at co-dependency.

5. The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate by Dr. Harriet Lerner
Anger can be a difficult and complex experience for many women.  For women struggling with anger, Dr. Lerner teaches you  how to identify the true sources of your anger and use anger as a powerful vehicle for creating lasting change.

6. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
If your marriage is dominated by criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawal, consider committing to reading this book and using Dr. Gottman’s four-step program as a couple for breaking through negativity and allowing one’s natural communication and problem-solving abilities to flourish.

7. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Dr. Daniel Siegel
No matter if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, or trauma, Dr. Siegel shares his research around the non-spiritual practice of mindfulness based techniques as a means of managing symptoms, stressors and challenges to lead a more healthy and fulfilling life.

8.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. If you are an introvert or in a relationship or work with an introvert, this is a must read.

9. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron
Traditional Buddhist wisdom is offered with radical modern clarity and accessibility.  Most people try to avoid pain and discomfort, which only leads to more pain and discomfort.  Pema offers advice that goes against the grain of our usual habits and expectations that helps one to navigate painful and uncomfortable situations and experiences.

10. A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life by Jack Kornfield
Another Western Buddhist master, Kornfield shares everyday wisdom for developing a spiritual practice of awakening.  He offers great insights around metta mediation or the practice of loving kindness, which can provide much healing.

Seeking More Motivation, Stronger Relationships, and a Healthier Lifestyle, Begin a Self Compassion Practice

The idea that a practice of self compassion will offer more motivation, stronger relationships and a healthier lifestyle is in direct conflict to our strong cultural norm.  Within American culture, we are taught that self criticism leads to stronger self motivation and less laziness.  The research indicates that a practice of self compassion improves various aspects of lives, whereas self -criticism actually has the opposite effect. The self compassionate practice is linked to increased motivation, stronger relationships and taking greater responsibility for a healthier lifestyle.

Dr. Kristin Neff is an expert and pioneer researcher on self-compassion.  She has published numerous journal articles, a book, “Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind,”  and has presented: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion: Kristin Neff at TEDxCentennialParkWomen.

self-compassion

Dr. Neff’s research outlines that our self-esteem driven culture in which feeling special and above average is the expected norm and feeling average or less than usually feels devastating.  There are many costs to a self-esteem focused society: the highest rates of narcissism in history and a bullying epidemic to name just two.  Focusing on advancing our own self esteem, feeling stronger and better than the other depends upon success.  Failure is not an option, especially when the self critic is at the helm. We are often our own worst enemies.  Many people rarely treat themselves as they would their closest friends or partners.

In contrast to a self critical focus, a practice of self compassion is one where we relate to our whole selves for our strengths and challenges.  It is a practice of treating yourself with the kindness, understanding, gentleness, encouragement that you would extend to your closest and dearest friends.  The practice of self-compassion connects us to ourselves and to others in our own humanness.

The practice of self-compassion is also at its core, a practice in mindfulness.  Being with what is in the present moment is central to a self-compassionate practice.  In essence,  we accept that we are suffering to give ourselves compassion.  If we go into self-criticizing mode, we get lost in the role of the critic, and don’t realize that we are suffering.  When in self compassion, we acknowledge the moment and experience of suffering, which leads to the resolution of the suffering.

The research shows that when we self criticize,  adrenaline and cortisol are released, which activates the fight flight response.   The threat to self is attacked, setting up a dynamic where we are the attacker and the attacked. In this constant state of stress, we are more prone to mind and body illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, adrenal failure, fatigue, and sleeplessness.

In contrast, when we are in a self compassionate state, we feel safe and comforted.  Dr. Neff’s research reveals this is an optimal state of success strongly related to having less depression,  experiencing greater motivation,  taking more responsibility for healthier lifestyle choices, and enjoying better interpersonal relationships.

There are so many ways to begin this practice.  A yoga of teacher of mine in graduate school used to end each class with this self-compassionate filled statement.  See how it resonates with you.

Walk gently and sweetly with yourself.
Take each moment to love who you are.

Let us know your thoughts about self-compassion and self-compassionate practices.

Warmly,
Amy

Why Art Therapy Works When You Are Feeling Stuck

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. ~ Albert Einstein

unstuck-butterflies

When I tell people that I’m an art therapist, they often ask lots of questions about the field.  One of the most common questions I receive is, “Why Art Therapy?”  The conversation can unfold in numerous directions depending on who is inquiring about art therapy.  We typically spend at least part of the discussion exploring: Why Art Therapy Works When You Are Feeling Stuck.

In my work across settings in public mental health and private practice, I have seen that art therapy can be effective for adults, teens, children, and their families when they are feeling stuck.  This can occur in problems with identity, relationships, depression, anxiety, play, work, school, faith, community, and countless others.  Often, clients report that they have seen a problem from many different perspectives and tried various ways to address and solve it.  No matter how hard they try, stuckness seems to prevail.  Albert Einstein offers a great explanation of why people remain stuck: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Art therapy via the creative process offers access to untapped levels of consciousness.

When clients engage in the art making process, they start to see their problem and themselves from previously unknown perspectives.  Whether it is painting, drawing, sewing, building, or beading, the problem and its characteristics are being embedded in the art making process and product.  Once the client and I see it from multiple perspectives, the subsequent discussion can illuminate new levels of consciousness. From perspective taking to consciousness expansion, people begin to shift out of feeling stuck. What do these shifts from a new conscious level look like? People begin taking healthy risks from a place of authenticity, courage, compassion, and vulnerability, rather than making decisions from shame, fear, or unworthiness.

Letting Go: Taking the First Step. Welcoming What Needs to Come.

Every ending is connected to a new beginning.  The holidays and year end lay the ground work for contemplation in the quiet of winter and the new year.  Post celebration, activity and travel, we are in a new space of openness.  This reflective space can especially illuminate the endings and beginnings in relationships with ourselves and with others. We may find ourselves considering what we need to release and what we would like to invite into our selves and lives.

Within our hearts, minds and bodies, we may want to let go of obstacles put in our paths.  When the obstacles have served their purpose and lessons have been learned about why they were put on our path, we are often most ready to begin letting go. Even with this understanding, it is common for the anticipation of letting go to bring many concerns and feelings into the mind body.

A metaphor that speaks to this for me is captured in the image below of the North Kaibab Trail of Grand Canyon (credit NPS).  Similar to taking the first steps of a long journey along a steep canyon, when we take the first steps in letting go of something or someone, we often feel and recognize the risks at hand because we know the bottom and focus on it.  This emotional and relational bottom can be about not having that something or someone in our life and being disconnected from them and ourselves. The fear of the falling to the bottom can stop some from taking that first step of letting go on the journey because it obscures the bigger picture.

However when we look at the larger view of the journey ahead, we can sometimes lean into the first step knowing that letting go  will release the obstacles, allowing something new to take its place.  This new aspect of ourselves or opportunity in our life may lend itself to being more connected.  Welcoming what needs to come in its place is often key.  With the metaphor of walking along the steep canyon, taking the first step reconnects one to the path, moving one forward on the journey.  This preparatory welcoming truly invites the opportunity to take in the full views and experience of being in the canyon, eventually allowing one to see  and be in the spectacular that was initially hidden by the perceived fears by focusing on the bottom.

steep-canyon

Tosha Silver is an eloquent and profound story teller of life.  I share her words below. Consider them as a parting gift to yourself as you venture into the open space by taking the first step in letting go.  This will help to welcome the new connections in relationship to yourself and with others.  Read them aloud to fully feel them resonate in the mind body.  You may even want to write them or make art about them.

“Let what needs to go, go. Let what needs to come, come.”

With openness for what needs to go and come on the journey,

Amy

Making an Offering of Love and Hope

Offering-Love-and-Hope

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light get’s in.
~ Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Thinking about the 20 precious children and 8 adults, who were lost, and the families, schools, and communities, who are crumbling at this time, I believe that one of the remedies to this darkness is to bring light.

I believe that we can offer our own light, as a means of shinning into the collective darkness.  One of the most powerful ways to share our light is through making an offering of love and hope.  By making a deliberate and conscious decision to do one thing that offers hope and love, you can honor the lives lost.   This offering also allows our light to seep into the cracks of  our own hearts and hearts of others.  The heart ~ mind ~ and body integrative wisdom used to create this offering will provide light to you and others.

One’s love and hope offering can manifest in many forms.  The offering can be alone or the community of family, friends and others.
~Prayer
~ Extra hugs for loved ones
~ Preparing meals with love
~Blowing bubbles filled with love and hope with your children or friends
~Going to water and floating hope on the water or down the stream, river or ocean: fresh cut flowers, intentions and wishes
~Burning a candle and offering something in this light
~Attending a vigil
~Exercise: talk a walk, run, swim or yoga practice filling each movement with love and hope
~Offer the gift of sound and music
~Create: making something with your hands with hope and love
~Reconnecting with whom you have lost touch
~ A random act of kindness for a stranger
~Metta Meditation
~Raising awareness around mental health needs from a place of hope and love
~Raising awareness around gun control and safety from a place of hope and love

Talking with your children about this tragedy can be filled with love and hope too.  If you are wondering about how to process this with your children, Brene Brown offered a heartfelt post about how to move forward with resources.  My local colleague, Dr. Rebecca Resnik provided practical steps in her blog.

What will your offering and hope and love be…?

Honoring the hope and loved filled light in you and those who have past,

Amy