Written by Katie McLaughlin, LPC
The other day, I came across a fun twist on a long-time technique used to understand and manage those nagging, gut-wrenching, fear-inducing thoughts. Here is the breakdown:
1) Write down your anxious thoughts daily
2) Rate how true the thoughts feel in the moment
3) Engage in healthy calming/relaxation techniques
Written by Katie McLaughlin, LPC
It is incredibly easy to become lost in thoughts and worries of the future. Especially in times of great uncertainty or turmoil. In these times, it is probably the last thing on our mind to remove ourself from these thoughts, from the daily grind of life, and intentionally allow ourselves to be still. Maybe this doesn't even seem like a possibility in your life.
I understand how counterintuitive it seems. You have a million things to do today and not enough hours to get it all done. I wonder, though, in your quest to accomplish the million to-do list items, how irritated do you feel with yourself and those you are around? Do you find that you are speaking to yourself and others with kindness or with criticism? At the end of a crazy day, are you looking back and wondering why you behaved in ways that didn't feel true to you?
What if I told you that setting aside just 5-10 minutes of your day could greatly improve your mood and decrease your stress for that day and for the long-run? Even if mindfulness and meditation seems a little out there to you, I bet your interest is raising even slightly at these prospects.
Research studies continue to show the benefits of mindfulness based practices on decreasing anxiety and improving our moods. When we give ourselves even just a few minutes per day to practice this skill, we are giving our brain the best opportunity to think clearly and rationally so we can go about our days feeling our best. Not only that, but this practice also helps our nervous system to improve regulation, meaning that we can calm down faster and with greater ease.
Whether our life revolves around school, work or with families, I would bet almost anything you'd like to respond with intention, purpose and alignment with your values.
If you'd like to take the challenge and see what a daily mindfulness practice can do for you, check out this blog post to get some ideas about informal practices, or this podcast for some guided meditations. My hope is for these practices to simplify the concept of mindfulness and allow you to find easy ways of finding peace in your life. Try them out for a few weeks and see what differences you notice.
Written by Katie McLaughlin, LPC, CCATP
There have been so many headlines recently, and really over the past year, that elicit concern, fear, anger...you name it. It can be hard to get away from the challenges this world brings as we face life in our respective societies. Sometimes these challenges sink into our being without us even being aware of it happening. You may find yourself feeling increasingly irritable, sad or anxious without really understanding why. And of course these difficult emotions so often lead us to project unfair reactions onto those we care about most.
It can be a vicious cycle.
Additionally, our incredible and protective brains take in these challenges and tragedies and make us focus on them even more. This negativity-bias was intended to be helpful, but really it leads us to being in our own world of despair. It's like tunnel vision and makes it challenging to see the good that is happening as well. To honor this process while also giving your nervous system a break, I created this 10 minute gratitude practice.
My hope is for this practice to be a reminder of the good in your life, even when it's hard to find.
Katie McLaughlin, LPC, CCATP
I have had quite a few conversations recently about emotions and emotional pain. Maybe that's a given seeing as I am a therapist,.. but I wanted to point out something important that so many of us overlook.
When we feel emotional pain and it feels like it will never end, it is not necessarily that first emotion that is causing us distress. It definitely could be, don't get me wrong. We humans certainly have the capacity to experience incredibly painful emotions, each of which are valid to experience no matter the circumstances. The aspect of this pain cycle that I want to focus on, though, is our secondary reaction. Even if you don't always catch it when it's happening, I bet you know what I am talking about. It is the judgement we cast on ourselves for feeling a certain way. Here are some examples:
"I have no reason to be upset right now"
"Why am I feeling this way?"
"I bet so-and-so could handle this way better than I am"
"How can I be depressed? My life is so good"
"I have no reason to be anxious. Why can't I stop myself from feeling this way?"
Of course, these statements only scratch the surface of the endless stream of judgement our inner critic enjoys throwing out. This type of secondary reaction often leads to guilt and an even lower mood than we had initially.
So what if we cut off our inner critic, even if only for a few moments, to see what it's like? I understand this is much easier said than done. More often than not, though, when we can simply allow ourselves to feel our first emotional reaction, and to really focus on it without getting caught in judgement, the emotion (and therefore the pain) passes much faster than when we harp on ourselves. I hear this happen time and time again in my work.
There are a variety of approaches to practice this. One of which is intentionally practicing being kind to yourself. While this may seem like a foreign concept, one way to ease into this is to respond to yourself in the way you would respond to your closest friend or a loved one who you respect. You can find a wonderful guide to this particular practice by the world renowned Self-Compassion expert, Kristin Neff. Her work is truly revolutionary. Click here to check it out.
Another way to cut off our inner critic is to focus solely on the experience of the initial emotion. To become curious about it. I recently uploaded a podcast episode on this very topic. You can find that here if you are interested.
I hope these practices help you find a bit more peace as you go about your day.