News Diet

Do you need a news diet?

A news diet I say? Yes, I actually think it’s a good thing!

It was late this past summer that I found myself feeling overwhelmed to the point of not even being in my life — I mean I was in it, but somehow not really there. I was caught up in work, running around and more. I also thought about how much news I had been taking in — all of it going from bad to worse each day.

What I noticed even more was not even reading the article so much but scrolling through the comments to see what people were thinking and/or saying about the topic at hand. Comments made me feel all sorts of things — in good company, scared to death, and/or not knowing how I felt even though I was often more troubled than reassured. This was another level of reading the news that I hadn’t accounted for. All the opinions of the news was driving my news intake!

In an effort to regain some of my life, my time, and myself back, I decided to go on a news diet. Let’s face it it’s very difficult to avoid news altogether in this super connected, now society. I knew I could not cut it out completely, but I could cut out reading comments altogether, browse the headlines of the news sources, and tune into the local and national news having it on as almost background noise and not following it that closely.

Two months in, I am much happier than I have been in a very long time. First off, I have more time to live in my life. Not sure what I am doing is exactly newsworthy but these are my days that are making up my years and thus my life. Whatever I am doing, I want to be in my own life and not the life of the news cycle and all of the people spinning their two cents.

Now off that merry-go-round life feels a lot more open for me to live my life on my own terms and not via the next headline. I know many people have told me they have taken a news diet with great results. I am glad I finally moved on it as well. My guess is I will keep this level of attention to the news going forward no matter what comes up.

Few News Diet Tips:

Don’t go all or nothing. A diet means you take in a bit less — how much less is up to you. it doesn’t feel realistic to go about life not knowing anything, but definitely take stock of how you are viewing the news and see what would make it less stressful for you to engage with the news.

Make sure when you do your review it isn’t just the news reading you are thinking about, but all of the other ways you are engaging the news — i.e. the comments section, following link after link, engaging in oral arguments with strangers, posting news on social media — as well as how much space the news of the day is taking up in your mind.

Once on your news diet, check in to see how you are feeling. Do you miss it? If so, which parts? If not, can this become a lifestyle — a way of being consistently with self? Are you feeling more at ease or more anxious not knowing everything. Keep a close tab on your news diet experience.

Now that you have more space for you, how are you choosing you? Are you relaxing, engaging a hobby, or something else? Where space has opened, what else is shifting in your life? Exciting!

I stand by my news diet and you won’t be surprised to know that I think it’s going to become my lifestyle — taking in a very limited amount of news.

That’s the news of the day!

Is It Selfish to Want a Baby?

Is it selfish to want a baby
Does wanting a baby make you selfish?

Is it selfish to want a baby? I was recently asked this question and it surprised the heck out of me. As a childless woman by choice, my decision always had people judging me as selfish. I never understood the connection between wanting a baby and selfishness. However, I think I am alone on this one as it feels like a common judgment related to becoming a parent.

Whether you want a child or do not want a child, the judgment seems to be the same these days – you are selfish!

In regard to being selfish when one wants a baby, I hear this more and more around the issues of climate change and all the other “news” of the day that makes anyone want to pull out their hair. How can someone actively decide to bring a baby into this world when it is what it is today?

Biology — first and foremost. Humans are wired to reproduce. Although we are thinking mammals, we are mammals and we are here to leave our actual DNA behind. Although there are all of the modern dating apps and anguish over meeting the right mate, the whole point of it is as old as the hills. We are meant to find a mate and reproduce. Nothing selfish about our biological desire to have a baby.

Hopefulness — to desire to have a baby automatically makes you an optimist in my book. To have a child is to invest in the future and to believe it will be and can be good. There is faith that mankind will continue and in our evolution good will come to bear. I don’t see anything selfish in optimism.

Personal fulfillment — now this is where the decision to have a baby or not may be judged as selfish. I am not exactly sure when the judgment came about to call someone selfish when they are fulfilling their heart’s desire. Is it from the “other” who is not leading a life of personal fulfillment? I often think that those who are negative in their judgments of people are unhappy.

Regarding personal fulfillment, desiring a baby can be about fulfilling a deep well inside that seeks to procreate in order to experience not only wanting a baby, but having one and raising a child. The relationship between parent and child is one of the most significant that humans can experience. It is not selfish to want to be a parent to a child.

What can be said for the era we are living in? My guess is through all of the ages the world was in a challenging space in one way or another. That’s why it is not only important to hold on to one’s optimism, but also to think through how you will raise your child — aware of the climate change issues, modeling sustainable living practices, and being curious about the issues we are facing and helping our children to think about creative solutions — this is the next generation after all.

Wanting a baby and thinking you are selfish? Nah. Don’t take on such a judgment. Be aware of your intention and desire for a baby and move forward without such negativity.

Whether you choose to have a baby or not, selfishness is not the core of the issue. Never has been — if you are wondering why someone may or may not want a child, ask and listen. Be open. Be curious. Drop the judgment.

Autumn Sets In

Autumn Sets In
Autumn Sets In

Happy Fall. Last week, the season arrived in all its beauty. And now, as Autumn sets in we are called to check in with ourselves and see how we feel about this change of seasons. Summer is over — and it always feels a bit bittersweet as the long, languid, hot days recede for another year. Summer always feels like the shortest of the seasons. Of course every season is actually equal in time and length, but how we feel it is often different.

I know for many summer is the golden season. Light and heat and vacation time. What could be better? The weekends click on by and here we are at the beginning of Autumn. My Grandmother always used to say, “Once it’s 4th of July, summer is over!” Wait, what? Is it that fast? I always think on the actual 4th of July that there is no way that is the case, but here we are and I remember the 4th of July like it was a moment ago.

Autumn. It is a beautiful time of year as the trees shed their leaves, the holidays are ushered in, the cold nights and smokey air descends, and, of course, the Canadian Geese are making their way south for the winter. I think many of us would like to catch their flight south and keep the summer sunshine and warmth going. Many are noticing that they are slowing down, not having as much energy, and, as the dark descends, there is less light to be productive.

People are beginning to pull out their “happy lamps” to sit in front of during these dark mornings to give them their extra energy and are trying to figure out other strategies to stave off SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a type of depression that correlates to the Autumn and Winter seasons when a lack of light can move someone to a depressed state.

What are some strategies to help alleviate SAD symptoms? Here are a few:

Use a Happy Lamp – buy a light that you can bathe in throughout the day that emits a certain type of light to help give one energy.

Think about your natural energy rhythms and go with the flow of your own body. If you have more energy in the morning or the middle of the day or night, use it to its max. It may not be the normal way you organize your day, but changing it up to alleviate seasonal depression feels important.

What are your hobbies? Make sure to make time for them – reading, making stuff, cooking, baking, writing, and more. Give yourself even more of the things that make your life meaningful.

Head to bed early. If it is dark and you are tired, give in and enjoy your rest. This feels important although many of us feel pressure to stay up until our regular bedtime.

Enjoy this season. Autumn is a time pumpkin patches, jumping in leaves, pumpkin spice drinks, hikes, apple picking and more. Celebrate the season by noticing the high end of the time and enjoying it – fully.

Each year Autumn comes around – perhaps sooner than you would like – but here we are so be in it as Autumn settles in. Be present and attune not only to yourself, but to where Mother Nature takes us this time of year.

Peekaboo Moments

Peekaboo Moments
Peekaboo – Are You Still There?

Do you remember peekaboo moments with your parents? It’s probably one of the earliest games parents play with children. First, it is super easy. Second, it’s a game that can be played anywhere. Third, it delights both parent and child. Mother and/or father cover their eyes and baby doesn’t know where her caretaker went. Although the person is right there, without eye contact, baby feels lost. That’s why the peek lasts just a second or two and then Mom or Dad says “Boo” and they are back with their child and the child knows their beloved parent has returned.

We think of this as a baby’s game. Simple to play and understand — except it is actually anything but simple. Peekaboo gets played again and again throughout our lives. Depending on how mother and father played the game with us – the literal and metaphorical game – tells us much about how we will handle our own peekaboo moments in our adult lives.

If we have a secure connection to our parents we learn that when mom and dad go away not only will they be back, but they will also meet our needs. From there, we have the opportunity to develop security within self to meet others and explore our world. If we are not secure that mom and dad will still be there when they go into the peek it can be scary to see the parent return with the “boo.” Further, it can be difficult as we grow up to keep this connection to our primary caretakers and have trust that our needs will be met by them. Often we have not had time or space to figure out ourselves and our own worlds when we don’t have this secure foundation of connection.

Fast forward to being an adult and peekaboo moments unfold left and right — we just don’t see them from this frame. Often this most often can be seen with our love interests. First, when we meet someone whom we are romantically interested in, some part of ourselves is on the line in ways that may not be when we are forming friendships, although these moments can play out in friendships too or any relationship in fact.

What happens? We meet and then the person disappears. You may have exchanged phone numbers, you may already be communicating, you may have even had coffee or another date or two. However, when the connection time is over, the peek comes in, i.e. the person takes their leave. Now, how we handle this moment says much about our connection to ourselves and how we experienced those original peekaboo moments with our first caretakers.

What do I mean? Well, check in with yourself. Does it make you nervous to be in their absence? Do you find yourself calling them in an anxious state to see (for yourself) if they are still there and still interested in you — if they pick up the phone and you hear their voice — is there an immediate end to your anxious state? Of course that is the “boo” moment – that special moment when the person reappears. What happens? If anxiety is not alleviated, do you find yourself angry or agitated. My guess is by tuning into how you deal with the peekaboo game with your adult relationships will reveal insight into how you experienced this with your earliest connections.

This is a place to drop defenses and become curious.

Ideally, when we meet someone it is completely exciting. We often fall down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole into something amazing. However, part of the amazement is being able to tolerate the peekaboo moments – when the person is there and then is not. After all, we are getting to know someone and they are getting to know us. It takes time — and more than a few seconds like we experienced in that early game in our lives.

Framing this type of anxiety into a game of peekaboo where we have a chance to not only experience how we feel when the peek and the boo take place, but also observe what this may say about our earliest time in our lives and how we were received by our primary caretakers.

Peekaboo! I’ll be right back!

Pop Up Mental Health Clinics

Pop Up Mental Health Clinic
Pop Up Mental Health Care Clinics

A pop up mental health clinic? Never heard of it? Nor had I until recently when I read an article on how pharmacies are getting into the game of mental health care. Soon, it seems, we will all be able to roll up to our local pharmacy and not only pick up our prescriptions, but see a therapist on site as well.

As a therapist myself I wondered what does this mean for not only me as a provider, but also for the patient. Certainly the pandemic over this past year has taught all of us that access to mental health care is not only necessary for everyone, but also needs to be accessible with few barriers to receiving treatment. In terms of access, rolling up to your pharmacy and having access to a therapist on the spot feels like this need is being met.

However, I have my questions. Therapy is broad with many therapists offering a range of different types of care for many different types of symptoms and upset. From anxiety to depression to severe illness such as schizophrenia, therapists treat people suffering from all of these and much much more. Given this broad range of mental health ailments, most therapists specialize in an area. The specialization comes from study, their experiences, and their interests. When someone is looking for a therapist, they are often trying to find someone who matches what their needs are.

Walking into a pharmacy, I wonder how people will be matched up. Will it run like a crisis line where whomever walks in gets the next available therapist and the meeting is for the therapy hour (45 to 50 minutes) and then the person gets up and walks away and hopefully feels better with no charge or is it going to operate like a low fee clinic, charging a low fee, and patients have a choice of whom they see and have the option of returning and seeing the therapist on a regular basis?

I also wonder will pharmacies tie people to a therapist based on their prescriptions. Let’s say someone is picking up an anti-anxiety medication and the pharmacy staff not only gives the patients their script, but also the names of therapists in their clinic that they encourage you to see alongside taking your medication. The flip side of this is a therapist who sees someone for anxiety and then sends them to an in-house medical doctor who then prescribes anti-anxiety meds that get filled right at the counter. Convenient one-stop mental health help.

Those two points, i.e. that therapists seeing patients in such pop up mental health clinics, actually have the experience to support whom they are seeing in the pharmacy and that this is not just a grab to prescribe more meds to the public, are the places where I feel concern. This article does not disclose the details of these plans, just to say this fad is coming our way.

The article lists out questions that patients should hold in mind when they meet a therapist, but, truth be told, when people want to talk to somebody such questions often go out the window as their distress is so keen, it is difficult to hold in mind who is this therapist and do I feel comfortable with her? It is then on the therapist to hold on to their minds to decide if they can serve a potential patient or not. If a therapist does not think she can, does she have the ability to not take someone on? In community mental health, that choice is often not there for the clinicians, but will it be in corporate America?

Mental health is serious and corporate America is seeing it as its own power play and grab. Ethically one needs to safe guard themselves from a fast food approach to mental health care. Yes, something is better than nothing, but sometimes fast therapy does little to change anything.

As a practicing therapist in Capitol Hill, Seattle, I believe mental health care should be available to all, but in a responsible way. There are low-cost clinics and websites where Clinicians offer their services at a deep sliding scale. Finding this type of therapist for a long-term relationship feels important as the therapist can then track alongside you your progress, setbacks, and provide a containing space that is ongoing and built on trust. I believe in this type of approach for the work we do together.

Yet! I won’t be surprised to walk into a pharmacy next time and see a line of therapists waiting to see you and me.

A Time to Languish

A Time To Languish
Languishing

Is this a time to languish?

According to the New York Times, it is! Last week, I was perusing the paper and there it was — an article on languishing. First off, this is a very old fashioned word. I had originally thought it meant to take one’s time, but the more I read the article, I knew I was wrong. When I looked the word up in the dictionary, it means “To grow weak or feeble and (2) to suffer from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation.”

Aha! Now I had something to think about. Given we all seem to be stuck in the pandemic that just won’t take her leave, we are stuck in a situation that is joyless and aimless. The article points out we still have energy, but it’s just being used in mindless, unenergetic, stuck, and listless ways.

The article calls languishing the “middle child” of mental health — you aren’t thriving and you aren’t depressed. You are languishing on the vine of life going along at best. Is this you? Is this me? You may not even realize you are suffering from languishing as when you are in this state your mind is in a fog and cannot discern what you are feeling or not feeling. The article goes on to point out naming it may be a way to start normalizing this feeling. It even encourages people to answer the question, “How are you?” with the word — “I’m languishing.”

How would you respond?

Of course, the article goes on to giving some good tips — try to get into one’s flow, focus on small goals, and give yourself some uninterrupted time — all ideas that can help any number of mental health conditions that cause us to not be at our peak on any given day. So, the article is sound, but it is also general.

To languish now calls to mind rotten fruit withering on the vine of one’s life. That’s harsh, but it feels like the truth. One needs water and nourishment for growth — how can we gain this for ourselves when we are forced to continue in the pandemic. I know so many people who have booked travel for later this year to favorite destinations. Will they get to have the experience they desire or to return to those days do we have to wait longer?

Some of my own tips for dealing with the state of languishing includes:

Cultivating the long breath — the pandemic is not over yet. Being present to life and making it good in the here and now in the circumstances we are in is what we are each called to do. Figuring that out seems critical to growth at this time.

Pick up something new to do — that you can do without the pandemic constraints. Some people are tired of masks and social distancing. Give yourself activities that are safe to do without these constraints on you — i.e. a new exercise at home, a new hobby at home. I know you may be tired of home, but it is a place where freedom from these constraints can live.

Fully vaccinated? Get out and do old new things with the safety measures in place. Go out to eat, head to the local museum, take a weekend away — refresh yourself in ways that you haven’t touched since the pandemic began. Even little things can become big helping you to thrive.

Be in touch with your family and friends in new ways — perhaps that is once again being together as everyone is vaccinated or just remembering people through kind words and gestures. Holding others in mind can often get ourselves out of our own minds and languishing there.

It seems to me that straddling the middle to the end of the pandemic is about naming our mental state — are you thriving, languishing, anxious or depressed? Once one can name her feelings and actually feel them, one can act to lift the fog and take steps toward thriving.

May you not languish a moment longer than you need to!

A Pandemic Ending

Pandemic Ending

A pandemic ending. Can it even be possible?

Only a year ago, the entire world was going into lockdown. True lockdown days where the government actually counted cars on the road to see if we were doing a good job in WA State of staying home. Except for a trip to the grocery store every now and again, you were meant to stay inside.

Although life became strange, the lockdown provided many with a reprieve from having to be social. Many who feel pressure to live up to others’ expectations no longer need worry about it. Family occasions came and went and there was no need to make uneasy excuses as to why you didn’t want to attend.

The pandemic of course. It allowed for many to have breathing room to slow down, not care so much, and be true to themselves.

A pandemic ending? Now what?

All of a sudden, with everyone soon vaccinated, people are going to be out and about wanting to gather socially. All of a sudden the pressure to keep up, discuss post-pandemic plans, and be with others is on. Even before it actually is over, everyone is chomping at the bit to make plans. It’s no longer a long breath moment of silence and hunkering down. Now it is all about the other and getting out into life.

But what if you aren’t ready? What if you want to stay in lock down a little bit longer or even a lot longer. What to do? Perhaps all of us found a space that felt new and different that we don’t quite want to give up as the pandemic ends. Perhaps you love cooking more or family game nights have become a tradition or working on your creative projects deserve your time. These all feel like easier things to keep as a part of your life even as life resumes to normalcy.

How about drawing boundaries with friends and family? Now that everyone is going to be able to actually see their dear ones without a pandemic looming over us, what if you don’t feel like rushing out to be with everyone? How to handle? Being honest with one’s self seems to be the start. On your own, what did you learn about yourself as far as the others you share time with? Perhaps this is the time to put in motion how to be with others and be true to yourself. Perhaps that is not seeing people, perhaps it is not spending as much time, perhaps it is saying no, perhaps it is saying yes. Having courage to interact with others out of new knowledge garnered while in lockdown feels important as the pandemic ending is about to unfold.

If you are grieving the end of the pandemic, it is perfectly normal. For over a year, we have found a new way to live life that was quite different than life before. Taking some time to think about the losses that you will endure as life resumes also feels important at this time. As we went into lockdown, I don’t think anyone saw that this was going to go on for over a year. We lived into it as it unfolded.

As we have more notice of the pandemic ending, grieving what is over and lost, preparing how you want to engage with the other, and determining what parts of your lockdown life you want to keep are all ways to prepare for coming out of lockdown and engaging in normal life over the next few months.

Bravery

Bravery

Bravery.

I don’t often think about this characteristic in myself or in others and yet it is one of those that seems to either drive one’s entire life or is left out altogether. What does it even mean to be brave? I am sure the dictionary has a clever definition of this substantive word, but I often like to ask myself what does the word mean to me — or to turn and ask what it means to you?

For me, bravery means you are “out on the edge of the branch” with yourself. You recognize what is safe and what is risky and, if it really means a lot to yourself, you take the chance and risk into something that is out of one’s comfort zone — that takes bravery. That takes leading life “out there” not know what will happen, but also knowing you have your own back to catch yourself if you fall rather than fly.

Is that how you would define bravery? I would be curious to hear your definition.

How do you know when you are being brave? Well, when you are scared to speak a truth or have a conversation at all — that is brave. If you are doing something for the first time that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar — that is brave. If you are risking a part of yourself to love, to create, to enjoy, and to do just about anything else — that is brave. Breaking a pattern or a way of being — that is brave.

Sometimes it is important to remind one’s self all the ways you’ve been brave in your life to date. My guess is you are already braver than you think. Make sure to take the long inventory of your life to think through how bravery has played into your life in so many of the decisions you have made. For me, I have a laundry list — heading to India on an intuitive notion and giving up my whole world to reconcile my bi-racial identity, meeting a man and moving countries to find out what we may be to one another and ending up marrying him 18 years ago, creating a start-up business out of pure passion and riding her to the end and letting go when it was long past time, facing myself both the good and bad parts and extending compassion to both.

I am thinking you have your own unique bravery list, but I also want to shine the spotlight on people who don’t care to be brave. For some, this is not how they want to lead life. Instead they value safety, familiarity, patterns and rhythms that are abiding through the ages personally and across time. This may take the shape of someone who accepts things at status quo, lives the life that was laid before them as a child and walked on through, and does not break out or away from the known throughout life. I don’t necessarily think these people are not brave, I just don’t think they prize this as a desirable characteristic.

Yet, even then, to live is brave. Even if we are to go forward with no abrupt changes or departures, we will grow up, grow old, lose loved ones, make decisions related to our careers, perhaps meet and marry and maybe raise a family. Even in the mundane, bravery is brimming over the cup. To be human, to live is to be brave. It does not have to be any extraordinary journey that we need embrace to claim it for ourselves.

To live is to be brave.If you were to define bravery, how would you frame it for yourself? From there, what has been your bravest moment in this life?

Cheers to you and your bravery.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! How did it feel for you to turn the calendar from 2020 to 2021?

Most people I know felt a whole lot of relief and happiness as they saw the end of 2020 – a year that was full if unexpected challenged from public health to job insecurity to financial hardship to isolation and more. Even worse? It was all unexpected — a complete shock to ourselves as things unfolded and then dragged on and on — still actually dragging.

However, there was hope in turning the calendar a few days ago. We did end 2020 with seeing our healthcare workers getting vaccinated. Wow! Our US healthcare system may soon be completely secured from the pandemic. That is definitely hopeful — and we all know that we will have out turn sometime in the New Year.

With the vaccine there is also the hope that our lives will resume to normality — but I am left to wonder will it be a new normal? The pandemic has gone on long enough that people are making new habits, living their lives along different rhythms, and orientating meaning in a different way. Dare I say it almost feels like a return to olden day ways. We are at home most of the time, cooking our own food, spending time with our family constantly – not just quality time – discerning who we really want to share time with via Zoom, engaging with our children on a deeper level, and more. Life has shifted and it’s not all been bad — the break from our break-neck, fast-paced lives has provided us with a different way to live our lives.

How often do we get such a reset in our modern day?

Having had the reset, what will you keep and what will you discard when we are all vaccinated and life is ready to return to “normal?”

As we enter 2021, I am hoping a new normal takes hold that honors the best of who we found ourselves to be in 2020 under extraordinary circumstances and also allows us to bring these parts of ourselves to our lives as we resume normality.

Here’s to it!

A Writing Break

A Writing Break
I Took A Writing Break

I am a therapist. And I am also a writer. Are there two different professional paths that you embody? For me, my work is about seeing my patients as well as writing on a fairly continual basis. It may be a screenplay, a non-fiction book, or this blog — but I write and always have. Somebody once said to me, “If you write, you’re a writer. Own it.”

Why is it so different to own something like writing?

In any case, this Autumn I found myself without the impetus to write. My motivation sort of up and left in what seemed like a mere instant. Perhaps it was my own election stress, perhaps being caught up in home projects, or perhaps even the change of seasons. Not sure what happened, but I did not want to write — not even this blog.

I don’t know about you, but when I have something like a blog to write that I have committed to write on a daily basis, I tend to “feel bad” if I don’t meet my own expectations. However, when my motivation to write vanished, I let go. I decided that it was “OK” to not write and to be curious when my desire to write would alight upon me.

How refreshing to not put myself through the ringer for not doing something that I felt I should be doing. I allowed for there to be a pause in my writing on this blog and other projects as well. I just let it be. The longer I let it be, the happier I became with my decision to not write, to not do, and to simply be with this.

And then my writing impetus began to return. Not sure if it is a daily thing, a weekly thing or a monthly thing or if I will switch it up between all three. I am not sure at all. What I am sure of is how awesome it feels to let go of an item on the old “to do” list when it is really not something you want to do. Freedom!

Are you feeling this way as the holiday season kicks in? Is there something you think you should be doing — professionally or personally — that you have no interest in doing? Perhaps the greatest gift you could give to yourself this season is the gift of not doing without guilt or care. Trusting it will return — or not. But whatever the outcome, there is something to become curious about yourself and learn from.

For now, I hope to be back to at least semi-regular posting. After all, I am a writer, even if one who takes breaks.