A Potential Flaw in Positive Thinking Psychology

Dare 2 Hope_thoughts

Photo Credit: ileanaandrei.ro

There’s a lot of talk these days about positive thinking and how important it is to change your thinking to improve your health and happiness. And while I won’t argue that our mindset affects our feelings and behavior (because I believe it absolutely does), I am concerned that we can put too much emphasis on thinking. That’s a big statement for a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) therapist to make! But here’s the balance that I would like to bring to the discussion: Though highly influential, thoughts are not an all-powerful force in our lives.

There are potential drawbacks to believing that everything we think affects our behavior. So even while we acknowledge the significance of our thoughts and strive to have healthier, more constructive thinking patterns, let’s also recognize some limitations of our thoughts. For example, thoughts…

  • do not always reflect what we really believe, feel or want.
  • do not always mean we will act on whatever that thought is.
  • do not always reflect reality.

Let’s take a closer look at why each of these points is relevant.

#1. Thoughts do not always reflect what we really believe, feel or want. We all have had bizarre, maybe even dark thoughts that pop into our heads at times—that is a normal part of being human. It does not mean you are “crazy” or a bad person. Some people struggle with these types of thoughts more than others, particularly people with issues like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or postpartum depression. On the extreme end, I’ve had clients who had intrusive thoughts about things like stabbing their spouses or molesting their child (even though they had no reason or desire to do such things), and they worried it meant there was something evil inside of them. Being bothered by your thoughts is a sign that they don’t reflect your wants or values. In cases like these that go beyond the “normal” occasional bizarre thoughts we all have, there are often biological causes for these thoughts. There is sometimes trauma in that person’s past that can be influencing these thoughts.

#2. Thoughts do not always mean we will act on whatever that thought is. Thoughts do not automatically manifest into behavior. None of my clients who had bizarre, or even violent, intrusive thoughts ever acted on them because that is not who they were.

Now, sometimes our thoughts do line up with our feelings and that makes it more likely we will act on them, but it doesn’t mean we have to. This is key for my clients in eating disorder recovery, who might have obsessive thoughts about not eating or about thinking they are fat (and also feeling fat). Though it can be incredibly difficult, they can choose not to act on those thoughts. In her book, Life without Ed, Jenni Shaefer describes it as “disobeying” the eating disorder. We can have thoughts and feelings about harming ourselves and decide to call a friend instead. A tape can play in our head about how that big presentation at work will be a flop, but then it turns out we nail it.

#3. Thoughts do not always reflect reality. Thoughts, like feelings, are not facts. Research confirms that much of what we worry about doesn’t even happen.¹ And just because we think something doesn’t make it true. We can think we’re ugly and actually be attractive. We can think we’re an idiot and be very intelligent. We can think we are boring and socially awkward while in reality, people find us engaging and pleasant to be around. The stories we tell ourselves are just that: stories. And sometimes stories are only partially true or sometimes they are completely false.

It is really, really good news that while we work on changing detrimental thoughts, we are not completely at their mercy until they change or go away. We can still choose to ignore or to act opposite of our thoughts when they aren’t healthy. Remember friends, we are not just thoughts… we also have a will and a conscience and many other elements that make up who we are and drive what we do.

Much love,
Cherie Signature

¹References: “85 Percent of What We Worry About Never Happens” By Don Joseph Goewey (www.huffingtonpost.com/don-joseph-goewey-/85-of-what-we-worry-about_b_8028368.html)

About Cherie Miller @ Dare 2 Hope
Cherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

I Want to Be Happier… Now What?

Dare2Hope_Work of Art

Image credit: Daniel Posthuma on unsplash.com.

Last post, I talked about how becoming happier starts with a decision to choose happiness. Maybe it sounds lame and you’re thinking, who wouldn’t choose to be happy? But there are a lot of reasons we choose to be miserable instead… denying responsibility, side-stepping the discomfort of change, avoiding the anxiety of the unknown, being unwilling to make the sacrifices that might be required, etc. etc. etc.

Ok, but what if we do choose to be happy… what’s next?

Well, I wish I could give a formula, but it isn’t quite that simple. I know, I’d love a formula too! I like things very cut-and-dry. But living life isn’t like following a recipe. It’s more like creating a unique work of art, and that’s just what your life is: a work of art.

That being said, I do have some suggestions that might be helpful. Honestly, I could (and likely will at some point) do entire posts on each of these topics, but it would be overwhelming to try and cover it all here. So this 5-point list is a starting point and my best attempt at creating a “formula” for happiness.

#1. Practice Gratitude
It is easy to focus on the negative, on what is not going right and what we don’t have. It takes intentional effort to look for and focus on the positives. But doing so reminds us of all the good we take for granted and leads to more positive emotions. I agree with Melody Beattie: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”

#2. Create Soul Moments
Think about moments when you have felt peace or joy. Maybe it is being outside and soaking in nature, or reading a good book with a warm cup of coffee in hand. Perhaps it’s making connections with others through deep conversation, or cooking a delicious meal, or family game night and lots of laughter with your kids. Is it creating beauty through painting or planting beautiful flowers? Whether it’s playing tennis or playing Bunko (don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone), make a list of what makes you feel happy and do more of that.

#3. Release Expectations
Consider if your expectations of yourself, others, and perhaps even life, are realistic. Do you expect a toxic mother to treat you with respect and kindness? Do you expect your spouse to read your mind, or life to be fair, or you to be perfect all the time? Lowering your expectations is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s appropriate and incredibly freeing. Unrealistic expectations are a set-up for failure and hangover frustration, shame, or discontentment always follow.

#4. Live Your Values
What are your passions in life? For some, it’s family or friends. It might be spirituality. It could be humor, kindness, learning, service or wealth. Likely, you have a few top values and then secondary ones beneath those. But does your life reflect those values? If your highest value is family, but you’re working excessive hours, you’re not living within your values. Those long hours might be fine if your top value is wealth, but when our lives are incongruent with what is actually most important to us, we will usually feel frustrated and unhappy. Sometimes that’s unavoidable because there are bills to paid or other factors out of our control, but as much as you can take steps to bring your values and your life in parallel, the more fulfilled you will be.

#5. Take Care of Yourself
This is so common sense, but it’s completely not common. We are terrible at taking care of ourselves! Evaluate each of these areas in your own life and determine which ones need some improvement:

  • Are you getting enough rest and sleep? For most people that means at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night as well as time for relaxation.
  • Do you move your body? It doesn’t have to be 45 minutes at the gym; a 10-minute walk outside counts (and gives the extra benefit of a vitamin D boost from the sunshine!).
  • Are you eating a balanced diet and not over- or under-eating? It is impossible to feel good if we aren’t nourishing ourselves or if we are abusing our bodies with food.
  • Do you address any medical conditions with the proper care and medication? Do you even go to the doctor regularly to know if you have any medical conditions needing treatment? And yes, that includes treating mental health issues too!

Can you think of other ideas that cultivate happiness? Let me know what’s been helpful for you!

Much love,
Cherie Signature

About Cherie Miller @ Dare 2 Hope
Cherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

The First Step to Being Happy

Dare 2 Hope_chasing joy

Photo Credit: Psychology Today

Some of us just never really seem to find or hang on to happiness for long. And yet there are some people who are happy even when life is really hard. During our lifetime, we will, without question, experience heartbreak or undeserved tragedies. No one is immune; suffering is an unavoidable part of the human condition. So how do some some people manage to stay relatively happy or more quickly recapture their happiness after devestation?

Those types of people take responsibility for their own happiness, and that starts with choosing to be happy.  It is always a choice to be made—and not just once, but daily, maybe minute by minute—even as we are bombarded with reasons not to be happy.

It can be tempting to abdicate our happiness responsibility by blaming our circumstances or others, and sometimes, it would even be perfectly understandable given what’s going on in our lives. But that leaves us helpless. Helplessness is scary because it means we will be stuck and miserable until something or someone else changes. When we realize we can take control of our happiness and are brave enough to own that process, joy becomes possible again, whether or not other things change. Taking responsibility means we are powerful instead of powerless. It’s not easy at all, but it is life-changing.

Ask yourself what keeps you from choosing to be happy. Does taking personal responsiblity for your feelings seem too hard? Does it feel like letting people who have hurt you off the hook? Make a list of all the ways that believing you have no control over your happiness prevents you from having the life you want. Now, make a list of the ways your life would be different if you could cultivate more happiness for yourself instead of waiting for it to happen to you.

After creating each list, consider making a commitment to start choosing happiness and learning how to live that out. Go ahead, it’s okay to chase joy! If you’re a reader like me, a fun book on the topic is The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee.

P.S. Depression can be a biological condition, not just an emotional one, needing medical treatment such as medication so please don’t think I’m saying depression can be cured by thinking happy thoughts! Sadness and depression are not only unavoidable at times, I don’t even think we should try to always avoid them. Though painful (I know from personal experience), they can serve a purpose by adding meaning and depth to our lives. They can grow us and teach us important lessons, like how to reach out for connection or to slow down and take care of ourselves. The point is just DON’T STAY STUCK there longer than you need to!

Be well,
Cherie Signature

DPP_0015bCherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

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Try This Technique to Avoid Body Comparing

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It is so hard to look at people in the media and not compare ourselves. Sometimes without even noticing it, we start taking note of how “perfect” someone else looks as well as of all the ways we don’t measure up to that. “I’m so out of shape…I wish my stomach was that flat…I want her hair!” Even if we felt pretty good right before that, we end up feeling terrible. And if we did already feel bad about ourselves, now we have an extra helping of shame and self-loathing.

Maybe you’ve realized it’s pointless to compare yourself to the Photoshopped images at the check-out stand and the perfectly polished people on TV who have a team of hair, clothes, and makeup artists. Hopefully you’ve realized it’s unrealistic and therefore not a fair comparison. But even if you’ve managed to get to that place, have you also stopped comparing yourself to real-world people? This can be so much harder. Whether it’s related to our careers, finances, relationships, abilities, and of course, our appearances, we tend to measure ourselves by how we compare to others around us. It could be your best friend coworker or the lady jogging down the street in her spandex and sports bra. Maybe you walk into rooms and immediately start sizing everyone up to see if you’re prettier, thinner, or more fit than the other people there.

Comparisons are a pretty unreliable system for defining self-image. I mean, there are always going to be people who you are “better” than. And there are also always going to be people who are “better” than you. You will always encounter people who are prettier, thinner, smarter, whatever-er than you. And so the feelings of superiority and inferiority teeter-totter back and forth as you compare yourself to various people, and any sense of security will be temporary and totally dependent on others.

Next time you’re tempted to pore over someone else and notice how “perfect” they are and all the ways you think your body is inferior, simply look away as quickly as you can to prevent your brain (or your eating disorder) from ramping up with its criticisms. I call it bouncing your eyes because you bounce your eyes off that other person before you can really zero in on them enough to fully play the comparison game. Instead of spending those next few minutes comparing yourself to them, distract yourself by focusing on something else entirely. You might still feel some shame, but it will be much less intense than the usual torrent that comes with the comparison checklist. I’m sure you can find something better to do with your time and energy; I know I can!

Be well,

Cherie_signature

DPP_0015bCherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

9 Questions to See if Your Perfectionism is Hurting You

Dare 2 Hope - Perfectionism

For most of us who have it, perfectionism is probably both a blessing and a curse. The obvious upside is that perfectionism is associated with exceptional performance and achievement. Perfectionists tend to be driven to do whatever it takes to meet the high standards they set. But there are drawbacks to perfectionism too. In a recent article, psychologist David Burns says we are especially given to troubled relationships and mood disorders. It can also be detrimental to our physical health. Consider these ways it may be taking a toll on your life and well-being.

#1. You’re stressed out. A lot.
We perfectionists are usually black-and-white thinkers, placing situations at the extreme end of the continuum. Anything less than an A+ is equivalent to an F. Overcooking the chicken ruins the whole dinner. This all-or-nothing mentality produces intense pressure and anxiety to perform flawlessly at everything all the time. Of course, that is unattainable and we will make mistakes at times. But whereas this knowledge leads to self-compassion in others, it acts like a ticking tomb bomb for us…we’re just waiting for that inevitable (and in our minds, horrible) moment we finally fall short.

#2. Things are personal.
Perfectionists don’t separate themselves from things they do, so we view those things as a reflection of who we are. Take the above scenarios. Anything less than an A+ is the same as an F…and that means I’m stupid and I’ll never get a good job. Dry chicken ruins dinner…and that means I’m a terrible cook and mother because I can’t properly feed my family.

#3. You avoid challenges.
Because perfectionists usually have a fear of failure, we often procrastinate on things we don’t feel confident we’ll succeed at…if we even try them at all. This certainly means missed opportunities of all kinds—even valuable opportunities to learn and grow from failure (did just thinking about that make you break a tiny sweat like it did me?). Or maybe we avoid challenges because we’re afraid we will succeed…and then we’ll have to keep it up, and that can feel like too much pressure.

“Perfection is an illusion and those who chase it will find themselves unfulfilled their whole lives.”

#4. You’re emotionally fragile.
Whether it’s a getting second place or missing a typo in the office memo, every mistake is such a catastrophic event that we can obsess over it for days. Because perfectionists blow minor things into ginormous proportions, we don’t have the same level of resiliency that others have. If we’re honest, we’d probably have to admit that even small setbacks can produce emotional meltdowns, existential crises, and even temper tantrums.

#5. You have a hard time taking criticism.
No one likes to hear about their mistakes or flaws, but constructive criticism is essential for personal growth and healthy relationships. How can a marriage (or any relationship for that matter) be the best it can be if one or both people won’t hear anything from the other about a needed change? Winston Churchill said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” We don’t want to look at the “unhealthiness” within us, but just like a disease, it’s there whether we acknowledge it or not.

#6. You’re a people-pleaser.
We find people not liking or approving of us borderline unbearable, so we have trouble setting appropriate boundaries. We end up saying yes to requests and accepting treatment that we secretly resent. We might make decisions based on what others think instead of being true to ourselves.

#7. You avoid opening up to people.
Being vulnerable means being okay with others seeing your messiness. If we equate having flaws with being unlovable, we will always be in hiding. The problem is that no matter how much we put our flawless front, people will see through the cracks at times. Our lack of authenticity just ends up getting added the shortcomings list. These kinds of walls lead to isolation and loneliness, which is a steep price to pay for a strategy that doesn’t even work.

#8. You’re always struggling to feel good enough.
Perfectionists have a long list of ways we don’t measure up to what we “should” be and all the ways we want to be better. Growth is not a bad thing, but constant, self-defeating striving driven by shame robs us of so much joy. Controlled by perfectionism, we never feel at peace being who we are right where we’re at. It’s like running on a treadmill and seeing that for every mile run, another one is added to the odometer. Talk about exhausting!

#9. You’re highly critical of others.
Yes, we perfectionists are certainly hard on ourselves. But it’s important to realize that we’re probably hard on others too, and that can deeply hurt people we love and our relationships with them. Are you hard to please? Overly demanding? Do you expect flawlessness from people all the time and react negatively when they fall short? We might be intentionally inflicting stress and feelings of inadequacy on our family, friends, and colleagues. If you’re not sure whether you are…ask them. If they seem hesitant to tell you, you should probably assume the answer is yes.

#10. ________
You tell me…What are some other costs of perfectionism you’ve experienced? How do you take advantage of the positive while minimizing the negative aspects of being a perfectionist?

Be well,

Cherie_signature

 

 

DPP_0015bCherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

5 Steps to Help You Let Go

Dare 2 Hope - How to Let Go

In my last post, we talked about why letting go is a better alternative to holding onto things, even when some things “should” be different. As I’m sure we’re all now thoroughly convinced about the benefits of letting go, I’ll move on to talking about the process.

1.) Decide to make a new habit of letting things go. Don’t be fooled by how obvious or simple this step sounds. It’s the most important step because if you don’t truly decide you want to change, you won’t. Really stop to think about what kind of person you want to be. Do you want to be someone who is easily upset about all the day-to-day life stuff that is annoying but unavoidable? There are endless opportunities to get upset (e.g. rude people, the overbearing boss, waiting in lines, kids making messes… just to name a few!) and learning to let go requires more than just wanting it. Would anyone really say they want to be irritable all the time? Unfortunately, wanting to be different is not enough because it goes deeper—we have to give up our “right” to be offended by slights and inconveniences. Maybe it makes us feel more powerful to be angry. If we’re honest, sometimes we just don’t want to give that up and we’d rather hang on to our hot coal for a bit.

2.) Take some deep breaths and remind  yourself being angry will not change things and can actually hurt you. Does being angry about the traffic jam on your way home change how long the commute will be? No. And yet many of us will stew the whole drive anyway. The physical toll of being angry too often is undeniable, and includes serious issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, migraines, skin disorders, digestive problems, chronic pain, fatigue, and more¹. It also makes you more vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression and problems with food, alcohol, and drugs. And if all that isn’t enough, it also can be damaging to important relationships at home and work. So take several deep slow breaths while thinking about why it is better to let go of the frustration and how good you will feel when you do.

3.) Try to reframe the situation and find the positive. Sometimes finding the potential good in a situation is hard, but usually, it can be done and it does get easier with practice. Take our previous traffic jam example. You would probably be in hurry to get home so you can relax or see your family, and therefore, the delay is understandably frustrating. But since it can’t be changed, instead of being miserable and flooding your body with unnecessary chemicals (and then eventually getting home in a bad mood!), what about making the best of a longer drive? Put on some of your favorite songs that you haven’t listened to in a while, or keep a book on tape especially for those times, or call a friend you need to catch up with, or use the time to pray and meditate on the day. We have the choice to turn something that could have been waste of time into time well-used.

4.) Do some visualization. Okay, so you’ve tried talking yourself down and are still struggling to let something go. Forgive me for a moment while I go all therapist-y on you and recommend trying a visualization technique called thought diffusion. While doing this, take long deep breaths in your nose and out your mouth. Picture an autumn tree by a stream. Hear the sound of trickling water in your mind. Imagine that the red and gold leaves on the tree hold your anger. Now picture a soft wind coming through and rustling the tree just enough to shake off a bunch of the leaves, which float down to the water in the stream. Watch the moving water take the leaves (and your anger) downstream, out of sight. Exhale one last long breath, feeling the anger draining out of your body.

Dare 2 Hope - Thought Diffusion

5.) If all else fails, remind yourself it’s temporary. The vast majority of the daily hiccups and hair-pullings don’t actually last that long. If nothing else has worked, just focus on getting through it and moving on. Remind yourself you won’t probably care about or even remember whatever it is in a year (or even a week).

Learning to let go of things is not easy, but it can make a huge difference in your life and in your relationships if you’re willing to put in the effort of changing. Happiness and anger cannot live in the same heart, one will eventually overtake the other—that is, whichever one you nurture.

Be well,

Cherie_signature

 

 

References
¹Bundrant, M. (2013). Shocking: The Damage Chronic Anger Does to your Body. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/nlp/2013/01/chronic-anger-damage/

DPP_0015bCherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

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Letting Go Is So Cliché

Dare 2 Hope - Letting Go

We’ve all heard the phrase “let it go’ so often, it’s easy to gloss over. I almost yawned typing it.

And yet, living it out is so much more than a feel-good catchphrase. It’s profound and painful… and utterly life-changing.

There are two parts to this Letting Go Lesson, and today I’ll focus on the first. It’s about how so much of our unhappiness is because we are entirely mixed up about what we can and can’t control. We are desperate to control things (and people) that we can’t, and often don’t want to take control of what we should.

I want to control everything. Everything. From the other drivers on the road, to how fast the line at Walmart moves, to how my husband behaves. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? I cling to the idea that all these things and people should be a certain way. And perhaps sometimes I’m right. I mean, yeah, I think we can all agree that many people should be more considerate.

Reality check: They aren’t.

I always kept coming back to the fact that I don’t want to accept reality because it should be different, and it feels like accepting = okaying it. It doesn’t. It means that I finally realize keeping a death grip on my shoulds comes at a cost. Wanting to control things we can’t will inevitably lead to feeling angry, depressed, indignant, impatient, helpless.

Being mad doesn’t actually change any of the things we’re mad about, it just spoils our happy.

This pattern is not just pointless, it’s harmful. An old saying compares holding onto anger like holding a hot coal and expecting the other person to get burned. Can you see that whether our anger at that person (or situation) is justified is irrelevant? Because everything will go on as normal while you stand there getting burned. Now, I’m not advocating against anger in general, because sometimes, that’s an appropriate response, such as when our boundaries are crossed. What I am saying is that when anger takes up too much space in our hearts, it will inevitably crowd out the happiness.

While we can’t control everything and everyone else, we can control ourselves. It’s just that’s the very thing we often don’t want to control. We’d rather say we’re the victim of crappy events and can’t help being unhappy about it. But even when we have no say in someone else’s behavior or how something turns out, we do have a say in a how we react.  We can choose to be perpetually angry or we can choose to let go and respond in a way that adds to our wellbeing.  We can decide to drop the coal…not because we’re necessarily wrong in thinking that things should be a certain way, but simply because we don’t want any more third-degree burns. In the psychology profession, we call this practice Radical Acceptance (a term from dialectical behavior therapy [DBT]).

So let’s learn to let go. I know, easier said than done, right? Stay tuned…next post I’ll talk about how we can do actually do it.

Be well,

Cherie_signature

 

DPP_0015bCherie Miller, MS, LPC opened Dare 2 Hope Counseling to help clients all over the country get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Her specialty is eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, orthorexia and other unhealthy eating patterns. Contact her here.

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How to Successfully Navigate a Career Setback

Dare 2 Hope - Sucessful Career Setbacks

We all know that life doesn’t always go the way we want, and sometimes we have to change courses unexpectedly. Maybe the career change didn’t work out so well or the new boss is horrible or the higher-ups are moving your department to Alaska. Whatever it is, change is hard. But how hard depends a whole lot more on the way we handle it than the situation itself. Here are some tips to help make the best out of difficult change.

#1. Throw a pity party.
That’s right…feel sorry for yourself. Pretending you don’t feel sad or bitter won’t make those feelings go away. They’ll just stay unresolved and will weigh you down like soggy clothes. The key is that you can’t give yourself permission to hang on to those feelings either. So set a time limit. “I will feel sorry for myself for _____ days and then I will move on.” Acknowledge those feelings as acceptable given what you experienced, process them properly, and then put them away because those feelings don’t ultimately serve you—they are not stepping stones to success.

#2. Gather some cheerleaders.
Big change—especially change involving risk—demands a good support system. We all need people who will encourage us when things get tough, who will believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves, and will tell us not to quit. People who will say things like what a dear friend texted me when I had some setbacks in the middle of a significant life change:

Now is the time to set a vision for yourself and do everything in your power to get there. You’re already well on your way, which means the hardest parts are behind you, but don’t give up because you’re gonna land on your feet.

Don’t kid yourself…you can’t do it alone.

#3. Find a mentor.
I repeat…you can’t do it alone. Not only is it important to have people in your corner cheering you on, it’s also important to have someone coaching you. Even professional athletes still have coaches, so don’t think you’re above it. Learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of making your own. Duplicate their successes. Find someone who is (1) knowledgeable about your new endeavors and (2) knowledgeable about you. Because you need practical advice, but you also need personal insight. But don’t waste your time—and certainly don’t waste theirs—if you are not going to listen to them. Of course, you don’t have to accept or follow everything they say, but you do need to be willing to discern it all with humility and openness.

#4. Be optimistic, but set realistic expectations.
On some level, you have to believe that you can succeed or you won’t. Yes, most of us will have some doubt (which is why a good support system is important), but we don’t commit whole-heartedly—if we even make an attempt all!—to endeavors we believe are doomed to fail. Now, I’ve worn my “Proud Pessimist” badge most of life, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that it’s never exactly been a springboard to happiness or healing. Whether it comes naturally or not, work on fostering some optimism to help buoy you when things get tough.

And expect that things will get tough. Don’t be the other extreme either—a Positive Polly who’s unprepared for the setbacks and challenges sure to come. We set ourselves up for unnecessary frustration and disappointment if we think that things should always go smoothly.

#5. Develop a plan.
You need to map out where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. A word of caution, though—you may feel overwhelmed as you start unfolding things. There’s no doubt a lot to do and success feels a long way off. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you don’t have to do it all at once. Prioritize things based on what really has to happen first and then start with small steps. This will keep things manageable and build confidence as you gather momentum.

“Sweet  are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a  precious jewel in his head.” ~ William Shakespeare

#6. Get tough.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, there will be more challenges ahead, so decide now that the inner critic is to be ignored when he or she starts up. Commit that you won’t give up easily and that you are stronger than that—maybe even make a contract with yourself. Post a no-whining policy on your computer. Do whatever you have to, but start building resiliency in yourself now.

Be well,
Cherie_signature

Cherie Miller, MS is owner of Dare 2 Hope Coaching and a virtual Health and Wellness Life Coach who helps clients all over the country improve their lives. Her specialty is helping people get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Contact her here.

4 Tips for Dealing with Overwhelming Anxiety

Dealing with Anxiety

If you struggle with anxiety, you’re certainly not alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in our country, affecting an estimated 40 million adults in the U.S. (source: National Institute of Mental Health). Given that the NIMH also says that average onset is age 11, you might have struggled with anxiety for a long time. Maybe you have even started to believe that being a “worry wart” is just the way you are. While there’s some truth to that, there are lots of strategies for managing anxiety so that it doesn’t take a toll on your emotional and physical well-being (because yes, anxiety has a significant impact on your body!). Whether it’s generalized anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, or some other form of anxiety, here are 4 tips to help manage those emotions.

#1. Do some breathing exercises. Our bodies and minds (i.e., emotions) are highly interrelated and we can use that to our advantage. I’m not getting all new-agey on you; there is real science behind why deep breathing works. A quick explanation is that anxiety puts your body in fight-or-flight mode (remember that fun little phrase from high school biology?), and flooding your brain with oxygen basically tells it that everything is fine so that your sympathetic nervous system can calm back down.

#2. Stop the stinkin’ thinkin’. Though not always, our emotions are often triggered by our thoughts. Do you convince yourself that something is a catastrophe when it really isn’t? Do you worry about all the possible outcomes of a situation—usually all the negative ways something could turn out? Do you assume people are judging you unfavorably? Do you tell yourself you just won’t be able to handle if ____ (fill in the blank)? All of these are examples of what we call cognitive distortions because they are irrational thoughts that inevitably lead to anxiety and depression. Practicing more positive, realistic thinking can lead to healthier, more positive emotions.

#3. Get distracted. Ruminating—thinking obsessively about something—is rarely productive. It’s not the same as problem-solving and just ends up wasting a lot of time and energy. One of the best ways to break out of that circling-the-drain trap is to simply do something else, preferably something you enjoy! Get outside to soak up nature for a bit or call a friend. Do something kind for someone else. Engage in your favorite hobby. Wrap up in a soft blanket and sip your favorite drink. Whatever is going to soothe your spirit and refocus your mind in that moment, try that.

#4. If all else fails, try just accepting it. Accepting the anxiety sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? But in certain circumstances, accepting rather than fighting something is a better route because the process of fighting can sometimes give that thing more power and control over you. It’s like being in quicksand… the more you struggle against it, the faster and deeper you sink. Anxiety is usually about self-protection, so acknowledge that and thank your anxiety for what it’s trying to do to help. Try saying something like this to yourself: “I actually have the skills I need to handle whatever might happen so I don’t need to focus on the anxiety so much anymore. It’s still there and that’s fine, but I’m moving on to thinking about and doing other things.” And then do!

There are other tips I can give about dealing with anxiety and I could even expand on some of these, but this is probably enough for today. If you have questions, though, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Be well,
Cherie_signature

Cherie Miller, MS is owner of Dare 2 Hope Coaching and a virtual Health and Wellness Life Coach who helps clients all over the country improve their lives. Her specialty is helping people get free from their food, weight, and self-confidence struggles. Contact her here.

Maybe It’s Time to Break Up

Mirror Fasting - Dare 2 Hope Blog

Last week we talked about the importance of paying attention to and guarding against things that work against eating disorder recovery (or recovery from anything for that matter!). Today I want to talk specifically about our time in front of the mirror.

Ah, the mirror. So many have a love-hate relationship with it. We often dislike what we see, but we can’t seem to go without it either. Many people with eating disorders and body image issues spend a lot of time body checking in the mirror. There is nothing about standing in front of a mirror for long periods of time or multiple times a day and inspecting your appearance that is helpful. If you spend a significant amount of energy focusing on the things about your body that you wish you could change, you will inevitably feel bad about yourself.

One of the sad things about that is that no one is perfect, and each one of us could find flaws to obsess over. I read an article a while back in which Jillian  Michaels admitted that she has cellulite on her rear, and there’s nothing she can do to change that. Considering that 100% of the human population is physically imperfect, how sad is it that we can become convinced that our individual flaws mean we’re not beautiful? And even worse… our self-perception is often spoiled by flaws that aren’t even there.

See, that’s the problem with mirrors. They are not accurate reflections because it’s all about how our eye, and ultimately our brain, perceive an image. And that is highly subjective. Ever met someone that you thought was plain looking but after you got to like them, found them attractive? Or on the flip side, met someone attractive and then after discovering an atrocious personality, didn’t find them so physically appealing anymore? Our perceptions—even the ones that seem trustworthy, like our eyesight—can be very skewed based on our emotions and attitudes.

Body checking in the mirror is about more than just seeing if you look okay. You’re wondering on a deeper level if you’re okay. But a mirror can’t tell you that. If it can’t give you an accurate reflection of your physical self, it certainly can’t give you a reflection of your inner self worth.

So I’m throwing out a challenge to stop believing what the mirror tells you. Commit to reducing the time you spend body checking, and no matter how strong the urge to, definitely don’t stand there and pick apart your appearance. Decide there are more important things that you’d rather spend your time and energy on. How about doing something fun instead? What about doing something kind for someone else who needs it?

And here’s an even bigger challenge…consider getting rid of your body checking mirror altogether. You don’t necessarily need to fast from all mirrors, but I’m guessing you might have a full-length one that you use for body checking and not just doing your makeup and hair. It sounds impossible, I know. I did it when I was in recovery, and I thought I wouldn’t make it. My anxiety was sky-high at first because I’d become addicted to the mirror. But after a week or two, I adjusted…and actually felt freer than I’d felt in a long time. I also realized how much more time I had because I wasn’t wasting it searching for answers that a piece of glass could never really give me anyway.

Go for it! Break up with your body checking mirror, even for just a month, and see what a difference it makes in how you feel! I know you can do it.

much love,

Cherie_signature