What is a Trauma Trigger?

You have probably heard the term “trauma trigger” but you may not be comfortable saying what it is, or if you have them. In this video we discuss what we mean when we say “trigger”, some ways to identify if you have some and what they might be, and some coping skills to deal with them.

I hope this is helpful for you! If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

10 Things to Know About Therapy Before You Decide if it's for You

Let’s spend some time today unpacking the idea of therapy and what it is. I have noticed that for many people, there are too many unknowns for them to be fully comfortable seeking it out, and this is a shame, because therapy is an incredibly powerful tool that we can use to live our lives more fully.

I hear it all the time! “What do I need therapy for when I have friends and family who love me and want to hear what’s going on?” There’s a misconception that therapy is supposed to meet the same need that friends and family do. Having a strong social network is incredibly important, and frankly, even the most skillful therapy cannot replace these connections. But the opposite is also true. Regardless of how kind, and loving, and present your friends and family are, they aren’t a replacement for therapy.

But that doesn’t really answer our questions. What is therapy? What will it be like? And what is a reason to go to therapy? These and so many others are the ever present questions that prevent us from accessing all of the tools available to live the life that we want to have.

Think about the last time you were having a hard time. Maybe you were having issues in your relationship and you were trying to decide if you were going to try to make it work or move on. Sure, you talked to your friends and family about it! But your mom never liked him anyway. You’ve been together for 3 years and your mom still hasn’t moved past her first impression. You talk to your best friend about it, too. And it’s not that she isn’t helpful, she definitely lightens the mood. It’s just that drinking mimosas made the conversation veer off course. You felt a lot better after hanging out, you just didn’t have any answers. So you’re left to sort through all the fighting and the feelings by yourself, and you’re just as lost as you were a week ago.

The thing is that therapy isn’t just for people who have experienced trauma or have severe anxiety (although it helps for them, too). It’s also to help us learn more about ourselves so that we can make decisions that feel more authentic and move us closer to the life we want to have. Everyone, at some point or another, has a hard time sorting through confusing and often conflicting feelings. Even the best of relationships will have moments when you consider walking away, and every breakup, even those that are the healthiest comes with grief. Life is messy. And we don’t always take the time, or even know how, to sort through our feelings.

Therapy may feel like a big, scary thing, but it’s actually meant to help you feel more like yourself and make decisions that fit what you want out of life. Whether it is trauma, anxiety, life stress, or relationship challenges getting in your way, therapy can help you feel good about the direction you’re going. Here are ten things about therapy that can help you make a decision about whether or not it’s for you.

Keep reading for these ten things to know about therapy to help you decide if it’s time to try it.

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CAN’T MAKE A DECISION

Therapy certainly isn’t for everyone, or for every situation. But it helps a lot of people with a lot of different issues. If you don’t know what it is then how can you determine if it’s the right thing for you in that instance? I’m a big believer in having enough information to make the right decision for you.

CONFIDENCE TO KNOW WHAT YOU NEED

The idea is to give you enough information that you can confidently move forward with your decision about how you want to move forward. Let’s get you enough information to be able to make a decision that is right for you, either to engage with therapy or not, but also to find a therapist whose style will really meet your needs.

TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THERAPY

Therapy may seem a bit too mysterious for you to comfortably engage in it when you are struggling. The key to making solid decisions about when and how to engage in therapy is to know what you’re getting into and what you want to get out of it. So let’s take a look at ten things to know about therapy to help you make good decisions about if therapy is right for you right now, and if so, what you want it to do for you.

Check out these 10 things about therapy to help you make your decisions.

#10 You will build a relationship with your therapist

The thing is that therapy doesn’t work if you don’t feel safe with your therapist. They will be there while you are struggling. They will support you in learning about yourself and making sometimes uncomfortable perspective shifts, and we just aren’t open to this type of change if we don’t feel safe with the person in the room.

This may sound kind of strange, but often you will see your therapist for one focused hour a week. That’s more than you’ll see most anyone else in your life. Building a relationship will happen one way or another. If the therapy is going to be productive for you, it’s important that you basically like and trust the person guiding you through the process.

#9 Therapy should be uncomfortable, but not painful

This is so important. Therapy is not just idly chit chatting for an hour. There may be some chit chat in there, but it is punctuated with moments that are intense, or uncomfortable and challenging. There should be a good balance. This is part of what makes therapy different from just leaning on your friends and family. A therapist is going to find the spaces where you can grow, but not shove you into those spaces without your permission. Hence, therapy should not be painful. . .at least not for extended periods of time. If you trust your therapist, then you know that they are going to gently guide you through the hard stuff and get you back to a space where you feel back to yourself before you leave the session to do your life.

#8 Therapy should be focused

There might be some veering off in different directions, especially if you have a particularly difficult week that is unrelated to the issue that brought you in in the first place. But for the most part, there should always be a pull towards working on the issues that originally brought you in. Otherwise it’s hard to make any real, focused progress.

#7 Therapy is directed by you

Many people don’t realize that you are actually the boss in the therapy session. I am there to guide you and I will gently nudge you in a direction if I feel like it will be helpful, but you have veto power. We are there to talk about what is going to be the most helpful to you. Also, you know yourself and your family better than I do. You are the boss of your life. I’m just here to support you in uncovering what you already know about how to move forward.

#6 Therapy is best when you can be consistent

Typically your sessions will be scheduled for one hour a week. There are limited instances where you and your therapist may decide that sessions might be spread out a bit more or less than this depending on your specific goals. Your consistency in coming in to sessions will make a big impact on the speed of your progress. If there are sometimes multiple weeks in between sessions, there can be a lot of time spent just catching up about what has happened in the meantime, and that’s not a good use of your time.

If you are able to come consistently to your appointments, you will be more able to be consistently building on what you have been working on in previous sessions, and you’ll find that you are able to see more change more quickly.

#5 There are a lot of different types of therapy and therapists

You’ll hear this a lot. Therapy works the best when you find a therapist and a style of therapy that fits your personality and your needs. My personality and style works beautifully for a lot of people, but I am certainly not the best therapist for everyone. The way I think about mental health and relationship health heavily colors the way that I work, and this is true of all therapists.

For this reason, you may choose to try talking with a few therapists before you settle on the one that works for you. Most therapists will offer an opportunity to ask them questions and get to know them before you commit to sessions, and this is a great way for you to learn more about what does and doesn’t work for you.

#4 Some challenges take a long time to deal with, but others can be very short time

Every so often someone will ask how long they will need to be in therapy. And the answer to that is actually rather complicated. Honestly, it mostly depends on what you are trying to get out of the therapy. Do you have a stressful situation you need help navigating? That might take a few months. Are you trying to sort through a pattern you’ve noticed in your relationships that isn’t working for you? That might take a bit longer to sort through. This leads me into my next point.

#3 Therapy can help you make decisions, but your therapist isn’t going to tell you what to do

You are the boss. This is your life. You know more about your family, your life, and your feelings than I ever will. I will listen and be engaged. I might even have opinions (I’m pretty opinionated), but therapy isn’t about me telling you what to do. It’s about helping you get to a place where you can confidently make decisions that really serve your interest.

#2 Your therapist won’t judge you

Really though. If you feel judged by your therapist that is a problem. Everyone has weak moments. Everyone has aggressive impulses. Everyone has dark thoughts. Everyone thinks and does things they are not proud of sometimes. Therapy is about being really honest about what you are feeling and doing and identifying how to move forward in the way that is going to help you feel better. There’s no room for judging there.

#1 There is a therapist who will work with your schedule

I know you’re busy, and it can be hard to set aside the time for yourself. I get it. It can feel like the time might be better used doing something else. I would argue that if you took the time to take care of yourself you’d be able to make better use of the rest of your time.

But that aside, therapists work all kinds of weird hours. It is super likely that you will find someone who can work with your schedule. I mean, this is part of why I do online therapy. No one has to drive anywhere, and it allows for a ton more scheduling flexibility.

Making the decision to try therapy is a big one. It can take you some time to identify who would be a good fit, and get through the fear that might be stopping you from moving forward. Hopefully having some more information about what therapy is and what to look for might help you feel better about making a decision for yourself.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, let’s schedule a consult. I’d be happy to brainstorm with you about what you are looking for in a therapist, even if I’m not a good fit.

Email me today to get started.

How to Know When it’s Time to Talk About Your Feelings

I’m sure you expect that as a therapist, my advice is always going to be to talk about your feelings. But honestly, there are times when that just becomes exhausting and unhelpful. I’m a huge believer in talking about our feelings! When it’s going to be helpful. And a lot of the time it is. But how do you know if it isn’t?

Unfortunately, most of us don’t talk about our feelings enough.

And that’s definitely not good either. If you are upset about something or your feelings are hurt, it is 100% going to affect the way you interact with that person if you don’t hash it out. And I know, I know, saying 100% is quite the claim, but I feel confident in that assessment. Feel free to let me know if you’ve seen otherwise. . .maybe I’ll say 98% to be safe ;-).

So it makes sense that the majority of the time therapists are screaming from the rooftops to talk about your feelings with your loved ones.

Most of the time that is probably the right answer. It’s just that sometimes it isn’t.

Take this story as an example. Imagine that you had a really long day. Work was so busy that you barely had time to pee, so naturally, eating was out of the question. You drive home through traffic and you can almost feel your blood pressure rising. You breathe through your frustration, but despite your best efforts, you can tell that your nerves are fried.

By the time you get home you just want to shovel food into your face and sit down. But when you walk in, your husband doesn’t move from the computer. What you really want is for him to acknowledge your presence, and make some pretense of giving a shit that you may have had a hard day. But he doesn’t. He grunts from in front of the computer. Doesn’t even really turn his head. You feel a burning pit of resentment get stoked deep in your chest. Silently, you stomp your way into the kitchen without so much as grunting back, and find snacks. Halfway through the bag of pretzels, you realize that actually your husband is kind of cute. And now he is talking to you and asking about your day. Suddenly you realize that you may have been more hungry than genuinely resentful. Would it have been nice for him to be a bit more responsive when you walked in? Probably, but it certainly isn’t something that you feel you need to gripe about. Your day was already long enough, and he’s being pretty solicitous right now.

This is a prime example of a time that it would not have been helpful to talk about your feelings (especially not in the moment). You were able to move through the feelings quickly and easily, and while it might be helpful to say a quick sentence about greeting you when you come home, before you’ve eaten and after a long day probably isn’t the ideal time to do it.

And honestly, this is just one of many examples of times that talking about your feelings isn’t really going to make anything better.

So yes, most of the time talking about your feelings is the right thing to do. But if you’ve ever opened a can of worms that made things worse than when you started by trying to do the “right thing” and talk about your feelings, then you know this isn’t always the best thing to do. If you follow these steps, you will have an ironclad grasp of when it makes sense to say something, and when it might make more sense to just hold your tongue. When we figure this out, you will notice that when you do choose to talk things out, it makes much more of an impact, and then the rest of the time you can enjoy way more of the time with your people.

TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS FEELS LIKE A CHORE

The thing is, if you keep talking about every little emotion that flits across your consciousness, you are eventually going to burn out. For a while you might be able to keep it up, but it won’t be long before you decide that it’s too much work, and although it may be the “right thing to do”, you just don’t have the energy. The upside of this is that things that genuinely need to be talked about end up getting ignored because you used all your energy talking about how the dishes need to be placed in the dishwasher in a more organized fashion. This gives the real issues more time to fester, and no one wants that.

COMMUNICATING WHAT MATTERS

If you can talk about the stuff that really impacts your quality of life and relationship, you get to expend your energy on conversations that really matter. This means that you get to enjoy more of the time with the people in your life, and don’t develop festering resentments. You can feel closer to the people in your life, and feel good about the way you are standing up for yourself, too.

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LEARN HOW TO TELL WHEN TO TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS, AND WHEN TO LET IT GO

You may be feeling bogged down by the pressure of always talking things through. . .always trying to be open and vulnerable, and frustrated that you aren’t getting the results you want in your relationships. The key is to use your energy purposefully. That means learning when it makes sense to talk about your feelings, but also when it might make more sense to work through your issue on your own. Read on to learn easy to follow steps to determine when to talk it out, and when to wait it out.

ASK YOURSELF THESE FOUR QUESTIONS

The main issue here is that we are telling people to talk it out, regardless of the circumstances. Even good advice is bad advice if we aren’t talking about when and how to use it. It makes sense that you’re feeling exhausted by emotional discourse if you have no qualifiers to indicate that it’s the tool you want to use. So let’s talk about how to make sure that the energy you expend on being emotionally communicative actually increases your quality of life and relationships.

Question #1: How upset am I right now? Am I capable of having this conversation productively?

Here’s the thing, when we are the most upset is when we feel the most urge to talk things out. But there’s a problem. Maybe you can spot it. When you are the most upset is the exact time that you are the least capable of having a productive conversation. If you ask yourself how upset you are, and the answer is very, please, postpone this conversation for a time that you are going to be more emotionally available.

With my clients, we spend time identifying the signs and signals that we are beyond being able to productively communicate, and then we identify skills to initiate these conversations later on.

When you learn to discuss important issues only when you are emotionally available you will notice that your discussions (notice I didn’t say arguments) are shorter, less frequent, and more productive. Seriously. Do this.

Question #2: Who is this person that I’m upset with? Who are they to me and what is the nature of our relationship?

This one is a bit more complex to discuss. But the major point stands; if this person is very important to you and you have a close and important relationship, then they are worth more of your energy investment to keep the relationship healthy. If the person is not as close or important to you, it might be more of an energy drain to try and discuss the your issue. You may choose instead to either cut off the relationship, set boundaries that protect you without discussing the emotional information behind your decisions, or to change the nature of your interactions moving forward. As you can see, there are many different ways to handle a situation where you are upset by the actions of someone else. But here is the most important thing I’m going to say about it: not everyone is worth your openness, and not every relationship is owed your emotional vulnerability. I can’t tell you how often people try to have healthy, purposeful communication with people who just aren’t an important part of their lives. And usually it is not particularly cathartic or productive.

Together with my clients we identify what we want out of the relationship, and we do thought exercises about how useful we feel different types of communicating would be. This often helps my clients to hone their communication to be most appropriate to the circumstances. This helps my clients to feel confident and empowered when they are entering challenging conversations or handling uncomfortable situations.

Question #3: How long am I actually going to be upset about this?

One of my personal rules is to wait a good 24-48 hours before I talk about things I’m upset about so that I can determine if the thing still matters to me or not. If you are going to be upset about something for only a couple days, having a conversation that lasts hours might not be a good use of your time.

On the flip side of this, if you don’t talk through something but you still notice a shitty feeling every time you think about it, this is definitely not helping you or preserving your relationships.

Getting to know your unique “tells” for when something is going to bother you for a while versus when something is really just a minor inconvenience is something we can make some real progress with in therapy.

Question #4: How are you going to feel if the conversation doesn’t go well? What are the consequences?

Guys. . .this is so important. This isn’t even really talking about when it would or would not be advantageous to the relationship for you to discuss an issue or not. It’s more about taking care of yourself and making sure that you are going to be okay no matter what happens.

This is what I tell my clients. Consider your emotional state. Now walk yourself mentally through the experience of having an unsuccessful encounter. How are you? Are you angry and disappointed but you’ll take a bath and drink a glass of wine and get over it? Or are you devastated? Is this the kind of feeling that you will be able to process through in a matter of hours? Or is it going to take you days or even weeks to bounce back?

The thing is that even if it is the right thing to have the conversation, it doesn’t make sense to talk about it unless you know that even if it goes to hell you are going to be okay on the other side. That doesn’t mean that the outcome doesn’t matter to you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to feel good if it goes to shit, it just means that you’re going to be okay even if the conversation doesn’t. You can’t control the other person. That means you can’t control the outcome of the conversation. Having these talks is only the best option if you are in a place of strength inside yourself and you will be able to get through the hard stuff.

Learning when and how to talk about your feelings is honestly quite the task. Talking about things too much can be exhausting and unnecessary, while keeping your feelings inside can be really destructive both to your sense of self and also to your relationships. Learning how to differentiate is as easy as asking yourself four simple questions. Therapy can help you explore your feelings and relationships so that you can feel good about your choices to engage or not.

If you feel lost in how much to share in your relationships, I can help you sort through it. Email me today to schedule your free consultation.

Top 10 Things About Being a First Time Mom You Might Not Have Expected

Being a first time mom is completely life altering. It’s not like you didn’t know that, it’s just hard to know exactly what is going to hit you hard until the moment comes. If you’re like me, you did all the reading you could and still felt blind-sided when the baby came.

Unfortunately, even when we try to prepare ourselves, having a child (especially a first child) is not something we can be really ready for. In the best case scenario we are on an emotional roller coaster and have to completely reconfigure our relationships and habits. But if anything doesn’t go as expected (and let’s be honest, when does anything go completely as expected?) a time that is challenging in the best of times can feel really untenable. Not only do you have the life changes to contend with, but there are so many messages swirling around us about what motherhood is supposed to be like that we start to beat ourselves up for not meeting societal expectations.



This can sometimes lead to postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and feeling like a failure as a mother.

Perhaps you always looked forward to being a mom. You knew there would be challenges; your body would need recovery time, your schedule would need to be restructured, and your relationships would feel different. But when you thought about that moment holding your baby for the first time and feeling that incredible rush of love it felt like it was all worth it. You always knew that you wanted to breast feed and when you had morning sickness or your feet were swollen, you just thought about holding your tiny baby and what an amazing bonding experience it would be to be able to feed your child and it got you through.

But when they put your child on your chest that rush of love wasn’t there. In fact, you mostly just felt tired.

And when breast feeding you didn’t feel content and connected to your baby, you felt stuck and suffocated. Instead of bonding time, you started feeling resentful and frustrated that you had to have another person attached to your body again after you just got your body back in the first place.

Unfortunately we don’t really create situations where we can talk about things like this. Even if you have people you really love and trust in your life, it’s just that the idea you had in your head of the kind of mother you were going to be wouldn’t be having these types of issues. You start emotionally isolating yourself and just telling yourself to get over it. You decided to be a mom, so you have to deal with this on your own.

Eventually you wind up feeling hopeless, completely overwhelmed, and like an utter failure.

But the truth is that motherhood is an incredibly challenging transition for most women, and it’s completely normal to struggle with things that might not have seemed like that big of a deal before you had your baby. It’s okay to ask for help, to talk about things that may feel taboo, and to want to have some independence back.

It’s true that new motherhood is a really difficult transition. However there are several things that can help us really enjoy this time with our little ones, and be kinder to ourselves as well. When we keep these 10 things in mind, it is completely possible to have a smoother transition into motherhood.

Keep reading for the top ten things to keep in mind to ease your transition into motherhood.

FEELING NOT GOOD ENOUGH POSTPARTUM

The biggest downside of not getting support through the partpartum period is that this time with your little one is precious. This is when you get to know each other and set the tone for the rest of your relationship. Even if you are able to go through the motions and do everything your baby needs from you, if you continue to be that hard on yourself you’re not going to be as emotionally present and available for the bonding time. Living this way is exhausting and isn’t what you want for you and your little one.

BONDING WITH BABY AND PREPARING FOR ADVENTURE

Although you struggle with insecurity and hopelessness, you have the potential to feel present and connected in this time with your baby so you can set the tone for a close and loving relationship for years to come. When we keep these 10 things in mind, there is a possibility to feel more hopeful about the future, and more connected with your little one. You have the ability to enjoy this time while your mind, body, and life acclimate to your new family member.

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TEN THINGS THEY DON’T TELL YOU ABOUT NEW MOTHERHOOD

Yes, it’s true you may be feeling hopeless and like you have disappointed yourself, but if you learn to give yourself more space to be human instead of living up to some impossible society standard you can enjoy this time so much more. The key to feeling more present and connected with your little one is giving yourself permission to be imperfect and reaching out for help. Although new motherhood is never going to be easy, it can be magical if we give ourselves permission to give in to the changes and ask for help when necessary. You can absolutely ease your way into your new family and identity. Take a look at these 10 things to keep in mind during your transition into the postpartum period to see how you can feel supported and calm in the beginning of your journey as a mother.

Check out these 10 things that you might not already know about the postpartum period to feel supported and calm as a mother

10) The birth experience might be traumatic

Everyone knows that delivering a baby is going to hurt. No one goes into childbirth thinking it’s going to be all sunshine and roses, but what they don’t necessarily prepare you for, is if something goes wrong. While ideally the time after birth is about getting to know your little one and doing early bonding, if there were medical complications, especially serious ones, you may have some trauma to contend with. If you are having flashbacks, feeling scared and anxious a lot, or having a hard time moving past the delivery emotionally, it may be best for you to seek outside help. It is all too easy to pretend it isn’t happening and try to be the mother you expected yourself to be, but it isn’t fair to you or your family to not get the help and support you deserve so you can feel safe in your own body before expecting yourself to be wholly available to someone else.

9) Having a baby might bring up existential angst.

Bringing a life into the world is a beautiful and wonderful thing. It’s incredible that where there was nothing, now there is this small, precious being. But there may be family that didn’t make it to meet your little one. Having your baby may have been later in your life than you intended, which may bring up concerns about aging with your little one, and being able to keep up with a growing child through the years.

Although bringing a baby into the family is a cause for celebration, the grief and anxiety that may come up around the absence of important others or fear of our own mortality can definitely change the way we think about our lives and cause us to re-think our priorities and the way we have our lives set up. It may make sense for you to get some outside support to help you sort through your values and priorities, so that you can feel comfortable in your decisions moving forward.

8) You may not be able to breastfeed, and if you can, you may not like it.

It seems our society has realized something pretty extraordinary, our bodies are made and intended to be an ideal food source for our infants. It’s incredible, and the support for breastfeeding should definitely continue to increase. The problem is that some of our number, doctors and other mothers alike, may have taken this information a bit too far. For mothers who cannot breastfeed, there may be significant disappointment and even guilt. And women who maybe can breastfeed but really dislike it may feel pressured to continue despite the stress and discomfort it may cause.

Although breastfeeding is a great option for many families, it may not be the best option for you. If you have taken the time to sit down and consider your priorities and values, you may recognize that the peace in your family, or your bodily autonomy, may trump breastfeeding. There may be times this requires some uncomfortable conversations setting boundaries with well-meaning family or health professionals. Exploring where you stand on this and even practicing some of these conversations can be done in a therapy session to help prepare you.

7) Your body isn’t immediately back to normal after the baby is out, and in fact, recovery can take a long time depending on the extent and type of challenges you experienced during the pregnancy and birth process.

Again, we are all prepared for the idea that pregnancy and birth are difficult, it’s just that the social discourse around our bodies tends to stop there. It doesn’t seem to be as much common knowledge that recovery from pregnancy and childbirth is not only not instantaneous, but may take a year or more for your body to fully recover functionally,

This means you may have a grieving period for the functionality that your body used to have. It may mean you need to cut yourself some slack in the childcare and household responsibilities. None of this is easy, and just like you aren’t going to go right back to life as you knew it before baby, you also aren’t going to go right back to life in your body as you knew it before baby. The process is slow and requires a whole lot of self compassion.

6) You might not immediately bond with your baby.

I have said this before and I will most definitely say it again. The expectation seems to be that the second our baby is placed in our arms we are supposed to be overcome with joy and love and connection to this little person. The truth is that many people do not have this experience, and some of the complicating factors we have discussed above, as well as many others, may make this even less likely.

What this means is that we get to give ourselves the time and opportunity to bond with baby over time. We get to know her different cries, and we spend the time cuddling and interacting, and as baby grows, most of the time our connection to baby will too. If you do not immediately have an ironclad bond with your infant, rest assured, this doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good mother or that your relationship is doomed. If you are still feeling guilt about this, or if it has been some time and you are having a hard time developing that connection, therapy can be a useful tool to help ease that process.

5) Postpartum depression and anxiety are more common than you think

We are told that the transition into motherhood can be a bit challenging, and that some women may even develop postpartum mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, or OCD. But when these mental health concerns are discussed, many women still get the impression that they are super rare, dangerous, or a cause of shame. The truth is that postpartum mental health is nothing to be ashamed of, and many things that new mothers will just write off as something they need to “just get over” can be assuaged with a combination of therapy and (in some cases) medication.

Getting treatment for postpartum mental health conditions is incredibly important for many reasons, not least of which to give you an opportunity to be mentally and emotionally present for your family

4) If you had a challenging childhood, some of that trauma might be activated by you having your own baby.

This is a really interesting one. Although I’m sure there are many reasons that this happens, one that sticks out to me is how hard we work to create a different and better experience for our own children than what we had. When we look at our own child we think of the experience we want to create for them of being loved and wanted and feeling safe. If that wasn’t your experience you may notice that some old anger, grief, or resentment may crop up and you may not feel like you have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it right now. Don’t be surprised if you have a hard time interacting with loved ones whom you thought you had long past forgiven. This is very normal, although not really talked about, and with support this can be another healing opportunity.

3) The weight of responsibility you feel might surprise you.

Although you went into the pregnancy knowing that your life was going to change and that you were going to be responsible for feeding, clothing, and otherwise just keeping alive a little person, it may surprise you to feel the depth of that responsibility when you look at your baby’s tiny face. Somehow the recognition that this person is going to be learning who they are, how to have relationships, and if the world is safe or not doesn’t really seem to settle in until the baby is here. For many women, this is scary and overwhelming, and they have moments of feeling humbled by the weight of it.

This is a great opportunity to remember that this is normal, and you are not the first person to question whether or not you are up to scratch. While it is a huge responsibility, you will definitely make mistakes and there is no one better equipped to love and care for your baby than you.

2) Your relationship with your spouse will never be the same.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. The two of you are tied together differently. Now it is not just two people who really like each other, but two people who are connected by an intense love for this other person. But it can be stressful and challenging to manage at times. There will be child rearing ideas that the two of you disagree about, and, at least while the baby is very young, you will not be able to be each other’s first priority anymore. This can take some getting used to, and may mean that some habits and relational patterns need to adjust.

1) No matter if you choose to stay home with baby or go back to work, you will be giving something up.

I wish I didn’t have to write this one. In a world that celebrates a woman’s right to be a working mother or a stay at home mother, it is hard to own up the idea that either choice means that we are giving something up. We talked earlier about sitting down and really considering your values and priorities and how they have shifted now that the baby is here. This is where we have to identify what you want your life to look like, and what you want to build for your family. There is no wrong answer, but I’ve noticed that the drawbacks tend to be left out of the discourse, and I think it’s important to be able to process the decision from a place of having as much information as possible. This means knowing what you want for your family and your relationships, knowing your own limits and temperament, and knowing what you will be giving up so that you can mitigate the damage. You can be a wonderful, present, involved mother both staying at home and going to work, the idea is to choose what is right for you and your family.

Smoothing the transition into motherhood can be an immense relief, and a lot of the time what that means is recognizing things that will be challenging, and giving space and permission to yourself to sort through it. You absolutely can be the mom you want to be and feel confident in your ability to connect and support your child. Therapy can help you identify areas that are particularly challenging for you and work through them taking into consideration your strengths, your values, and your priorities. Every family looks different. Your family needs to reflect you.

Email me today at rebeccanewkirklcsw@itherapymail.com to schedule your free consultation.

The Top 10 Skills for People with Social Anxiety to Feel More Comfortable in Social Settings

Having social anxiety can keep us feeling isolated and left out. Although you may feel lonely, sometimes it is easier to just stay at home than push through the crushing social anxiety that makes the whole endeavor feel draining and uncomfortable anyway.

Unfortunately, when we allow ourselves to turn down social opportunities for the comforts of our own company, eventually the invitations become fewer and further between.

This can make you feel inadequate, or unwanted.

Now you’re not only spending most of your time alone, but feeling like you have no other choice.

You may have people that you used to enjoy spending time with, or people you used to feel comfortable with. But with every day that you spend away from them it starts feeling more and more uncomfortable to try and be around them. You have memories of really enjoying laughing and talking, but when they text you now, you feel paralyzed. It’s not that you feel that you wouldn’t like them, it’s just that you feel somehow like you couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations that they have of you being funny and entertaining. The pressure you feel to say or do the right thing and respond in just the right way makes your heart race and your palms sweat just thinking about answering them. Not to mention that you feel so rude for having not talked to them sooner that contacting them or responding to them now feels completely out of the question.

So you don’t. You think about them but you don’t call or text. They contact you and it’s so uncomfortable for you that you avoid the whole situation for days and then feel like an asshole and beat yourself up instead of sleeping.

Unfortunately all this does is reinforce your experience of yourself as unlikable, and when your friends inevitably stop reaching out as often, you see this as validation of what you always knew would eventually happen; they realized they didn’t really like you anyway.

Eventually you wind up in a place where you’ve decided you’re better off just spending your time alone. It’s easier, and there’s much less of a chance of getting rejected and ultimately disappointed. But the truth is that social interaction is really difficult for a lot of people. Many people struggle with wondering if they are good enough or likable enough. It’s okay to not always feel social or up for being around a lot of people. But it’s important to feel like you can spend time with people you like and care about if and when you want to.

It’s true that social anxiety can be debilitating, and it can impact every aspect of our lives. However, there are several things that can help us to feel more comfortable and confident in our interactions with other people, and our ability to maintain relationships with people we care about. When we use these top ten skills it is entirely possible to build up to the level and amount of social interaction that feels good to y

Keep reading for the top ten skills to overcome your social anxiety today.

social anxiety, natural ways to reduce social anxiety,

SOCIAL ANXIETY IS MAKING YOUR LIFE HARDER

The biggest downside of not dealing with your social anxiety is that it affects every single aspect of your life. While having friendships and relationships that matter to you is incredibly important, you may feel more impacted by how your social anxiety keeps you from reaching your professional goals. At the very least you will find yourself agonizing over things that you feel should really not be that big of a deal. Living this way is exhausting, with every minor interaction feeling draining and overwhelmi

FEEL CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS

Although you struggle with social anxiety, it is possible for you to feel comfortable and confident in social situations of all kinds. When we use these top 10 skills to deal with your social anxiety you can learn to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes along with going to the grocery store, asking for a raise, and going out with friends. You have an opportunity to start making changes that will make it possible for you to have a completely different experience in all social settings.

TOP TEN SKILLS TO ACHIEVE FREEDOM FROM SOCIAL ANXIETY

You may be feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of social interactions in your day to day life. The key to feeling more comfortable and confident in social interactions is to give yourself small, manageable steps to take towards the changes you want to make and learn to give yourself permission for things to not go perfectly (because if we’re going to be honest, when do things ever go perfectly?). Take a look at these 10 skills to see how you can feel more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.

Check out these 10 skills to see how you can start feeling more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.

#10 Break it Down into Small, Manageable Steps

A lot of the time when we are saying that we want to be more comfortable in social settings, what we mean is that we want to be able to call up a friend and go to lunch without a twinge of discomfort. The thing is, that for a lot of people this might as well be asking yourself to run a marathon. It’s not that it isn’t possible for you in the future, but it isn’t super realistic for right now. Right now a good goal might be to text someone you haven’t spoken to in a while but think about regularly. There doesn’t even have to be a goal in the interaction beyond reaching out, so just sending a text saying something like, “Hey, hope you’re doing okay!” is good enough.

When we hold ourselves to standards that are unrealistic and expect that we are going to be able to do more than is reasonable when we aren’t ready, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We always want to be working just barely outside of our comfort zones, and this is how we expand what is possible for us.

#9 Give Yourself Permission to Bail

This is exactly what it sounds like. Maybe you promised yourself that you were going to send that text but when push came to shove it just didn’t feel possible. Give yourself permission to make the decision to not send the text. If you don’t give yourself permission not to do it, one of two things is going to happen. Either 1, you’re going to spend the next week and a half beating yourself up for being a failure and feeling like there’s no hope for you (which is patently false and unhelpful) or 2, you’re going to send the text, but the experience is going to be so uncomfortable and unpleasant for you that you immediately think something like, “I am never going to put myself through something this horrible ever again.” I think you can see why that doesn’t progress our goals.

It’s important to make the experience as positive as possible so that you can continue to push your boundaries.

#8 Redefine Success

So maybe you decided that you were going to send that text. You sit down, stare at the name of the person you want to talk to in your phone, start typing out the message. . .and then put your phone down and walk away. Many people might determine that this was a failure because the text wasn’t sent, but I don’t agree. Today, you came much closer to reaching out to someone than you have in the recent past. You actually made action steps towards making social contact. This is something to celebrate! Eventually, we want you to be able to send that text and even to do more, but right now, you did something that was uncomfortable for you.

It’s really easy to decide that since the outcome of the effort wasn’t what you had envisioned it would be the effort was wasted. But since for the most part you have no control over outcomes, only what you do (and don’t do), we need to celebrate your actions instead of outcomes.

#7 Ask for Support From Safe People

This requires that you identify who safe people are to you and what makes them safe. Sometimes just identifying a safe person is the difficult part. But if you do have one person who makes you feel comfortable or at ease, and you know that they support you and understand your social anxiety, that’s a great person to ask for help.

Help can be defined differently for each person, and this is something that can be explored more in therapy. But maybe for you help might look like them sitting with you while you type up the text. Maybe they can be someone you are accountable to when you tell yourself you are going to go through with something. Maybe you just need someone to talk to about how and why these things are so difficult for you. Regardless, having some emotional support can go a long way.

#6 Breathing Exercises

I know it sounds trite, but if you give yourself permission to do some deep breathing before (or during or after) you do something that is difficult for you, you may be surprised how much of a difference it makes. This is especially true if you are prone to panicking (or even panic attacks). Part of what is happening when you are panicking is your breathing becomes fast and shallow and it kicks in the part of your brain that makes you feel incredibly unsafe. As we said above, it is very important that every time you decide to push your boundaries you feel as safe as possible. It will also make you more successful more often, and it will help you think clearly so that if you decide that you want to bail, it can feel like a grounded decision instead of giving up.

#5 Find a Coping Strategy

This is similar to doing breathing exercises. If you are able to find something that you can do that you can get lost in that helps you feel calm and safe, see if you can incorporate it into the task you decided you are trying to do. For instance, if we are staying with texting someone you haven’t seen in a while, you may want to make yourself a mug of tea to smell and sip while you are typing it out. Maybe there is a specific song that usually makes you feel calmer and more like yourself. Maybe you feel better after exercise, so doing push-ups every so often through the endeavor would help you stay calm.

Whatever it is that you decide to do, the idea is that it is something you can do when your anxiety or stress is just BARELY starting to increase. You want to catch it before it gets out of hand if at all possible.

#4 Exit Planning

I’ve noticed a theme in the work I have done with clients who have social anxiety. Oftentimes the client will indicate that they feel like once they’ve made the decision to call someone, or go somewhere, or interact somehow they feel completely trapped and like they have to participate fully and can’t change their minds. In my opinion, this is a really big problem. It makes the stakes too high and makes it so that making the decision to try is tantamount to trapping yourself in a bad situation.

So if you decide you are going to participate, maybe it’s best to take your own car. It’s probably best to set expectations that you may have to leave early. It might be helpful to make sure that you give yourself explicit permission to step outside, even if it is the middle of a movie, or a dinner. It is better to leave at an inconvenient time (and know ahead of time that you get to and you know exactly how you are going to do it) than to not try to go at all because you don’t want to feel trapped.

#3 Bring a Comfort Person

. . .or pet. . .or object. This would obviously depend on where you are going and for what purpose, but if you get really stressed at the grocery store, see if there is someone who can come with you to help keep you grounded. If you get nervous about going to the park or a local restaurant, see if you can find one that is pet friendly. If you are going to a social gathering or a work get together, maybe there is an object that helps you feel grounded. Some people get a lot of use out of worry stones, other people find that bringing something that smells like home (like lotion) might be more helpful. Whatever it is for you, the idea is to prime yourself to feel safe and calm by bringing someone or something that helps you feel safe and calm into the space where you are uncomfortable.

#2 Take Time to Re-Charge

As you start to develop more comfort with social interactions, you may find that you enjoy challenging yourself. I have seen SO MANY PEOPLE burn themselves out because they were starting to feel more comfortable and didn’t allow themselves time to rest and recuperate. Although pushing ourselves is necessary if we are ever going to create real change, it is just as important to give yourself time to rest and re-build your strength so to speak.

#1 Celebrate Small Victories

This is the most important skill in your arsenal. You are going to have lots of small victories and plenty of disappointments on your road to feeling more comfortable in social interactions. It has been in your life for a long time and it is going to take some time for you to be able to work through it. No matter what it is that you have decided you are going to try to do, if you take any steps towards that goal it is closer than you were before. Furthermore, just considering making the changes is literally changing your brain to make these experiences more and more possible for you. Celebrate every victory, because every tiny step you take brings you closer to your goal.

Learning to feel safe and comfortable in social settings can feel freeing and exhilarating. You absolutely can learn what it feels like to accept an invitation without thinking, or to meet new people without second guessing every single thing that comes out of your mouth. I can help you to determine what your goals are, and what a small step towards your ideal outcome might be. Together we can help you get free of your social anxiety.

Click “Get Started” to schedule your free consultation today.

Dealing with Family After Coming Out

Coming out to your family is incredibly scary, and it can be devastating when they don’t handle it well. You always knew that your relationships were going to have to change, but nothing could have prepared you for the onslaught you have been wading through.

Things with your family have been so painful that there’s a part of you that doesn’t know if it’s worth it to even keep trying, and that part of you feels like it is growing every day. But then there are moments when you feel profoundly lonely without the support system you knew when you were younger, flawed as it was. As liberating as it is to not hide your true self anymore, it’s still a huge life change to be embracing this part of your identity, and not having your family to turn to is really taking its toll.

Perhaps you came from a very conservative household. Your parents were always very vocal about how disgusted they were by homosexuality. So when you started developing an interest in sex and dating, it didn’t even immediately occur to you that you might be gay.  Now looking back you feel like it was obvious at a very young age, but you can only assume that you were in denial. You dated some girls in high school, but when you met your first crush it was painfully obvious that you had not felt this before. Suddenly being at home with your family felt like a lie without saying anything, and your family’s offhand statements about how immoral homosexuality is made you burn with shame. But when you were with him you came alive in a way that you had never known existed.

Exploring your sexuality felt exciting and invigorating.

There was no way you could go back now that you knew this was possible. This is who you are. But everything was tainted by hiding from your family. How could you feel close to them when they don’t even know this huge part of who you are?

You have always known how strongly your family felt about LGBTQ people, but there was a small part of you that hoped, and maybe even expected, that they would be able to love you no matter what.

The realization that their ideals would keep them from loving and supporting you was an incredibly painful one.

You have done everything that you know how to do to smooth things over. You have tried to spend time with your family and just not talk about  your romantic exploits; but that felt dishonest and uncomfortable. You have tried telling your family that they could see you only if they went around your romantic partners and their families; but that ended up just alienating you further from your family.

When it comes down to it what you want is to know that they love and support you no matter what. Although you’d prefer that they support your relationships, more than that you just want to know that this new revelation hasn’t changed the way they feel about you. You have tried to engage them in conversations explaining as much, but it always seems to end in them questioning you and making you feel like you have to defend yourself. You’re tired of being on the defensive.

You’re tired of hiding your true self.

Living your life as openly gay has been an amazing, invigorating, and freeing experience. You are so much more of yourself now than you were when you were in denial. You like what you are learning about yourself, and you want nothing more than to share these new revelations about yourself with your family. There’s a part of you that continues to believe that when your family sees how happy you are and how comfortable you seem, they will learn to be happy for you. It’s just that this hasn’t proven to be the case so far. Sometimes you will say that it doesn’t really matter to you what your family says or how they feel, but there are still moments when you miss them and the relationships you had.

Eventually you are going to have to give up on trying to make them change their minds, because you can’t control them. You either end up with little to no relationship with your family, and a whole lot of resentment, or you avoid talking about anything that really matters to you in an effort to keep the peace. Navigating relationships with our families as we grow into adulthood is difficult in the best of times. Adding the complications inherent to coming out makes the whole ordeal a minefield. It’s OK to not be sure what you want or how you want to deal with it.

Coming out can be a harrowing experience. However, if we can learn ways to protect ourselves and engage with our families in ways that respect us and our choices it is possible to feel more in control of the whole experience, and less like you are denying your own existence. You can engage with your family in a way that feels honest, without having to choose between your family and who you are.

Keep reading 3 rules of thumb so that you can start accepting yourself and feel confident about how you are interacting with your family today.

DISOWNED BY YOUR FAMILY OR LIVING A LIE

When coming out takes a turn for the worse you can find yourself feeling like you don’t have a family. Even if you are invited to family functions the conversations are superficial and stilted. This can reinforce your feelings of shame and inadequacy.

ACCEPTING ALL OF YOURSELF

Although your coming out story didn’t go the way you wanted, you still have the potential to feel more empowered in your choices with your family. When you choose to engage with your family in a way that feels honest and respectful to yourself, it’s possible to feel more in control of your story. You have the opportunity to engage in a way that makes you proud of yourself so that you are more confident and empowered in your family interactions.

LGBT COMING OUT LGBTQ acceptance

3 WAYS TO HANDLE DIFFICULT FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS TO FEEL MORE EMPOWERED

You may be feeling isolated and rejected by your family, but it doesn’t always have to feel like this. The key to feeling more empowered and confident in your family relationships is to engage in an honest way. It’s a lot easier to make these changes once you get clear about what you do and do not have control over. Take a look at these 3 tips for how to feel more empowered and confident while dealing with your family.

1) You don’t even spend time with your family anymore

You miss them in a way, but you decided a while back that it wasn’t worth it to you to feel like shit about yourself every time you left. They make it clear you aren’t welcome as you are or with your partner, so you took the hint and stayed away.  It makes sense that you are feeling rejected and alienated.

DON’T HIDE FROM YOUR FAMILY

If you make it clear how you wish to be treated, and what is and is not acceptable in the way they interact with you, it becomes more of an option to spend time with your family, because you can leave when your boundaries have been crossed.

Part of what my clients and I do is explore what those boundaries need to be, and how they will be enforced if necessary. This way my clients have a clear plan of how to keep themselves physically and emotionally safe while engaging with their family.

2) When you are with your family you have to hide everything that matters to you

It doesn’t feel any better to be able to spend time with your family if the whole time you are pretending to be something you are not. It makes sense that you would still feel sad and resentful after spending time if you are effectively hiding in plain sight to make everyone else comfortable.

MAKE IT A POINT TO BE TRUE TO YOURSELF NO MATTER WHO YOU’RE WITH

Shame breeds in secrecy, and pretending you are something you are not, even if it’s only some of the time can make you feel like you have a shameful secret to hide. Your sexual identity is nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t act like it. Instead, you can speak about things that matter to you and allow your family to be uncomfortable, because their comfort is not worth more than yours.

Together with my clients I help them identify ways that they can respond authentically in conversations with their family. If my clients have reservations or fears we explore where these are coming from, and how to interact in such a way that feels authentic and honest, while keeping themselves emotionally safe. This way you can walk into the family gatherings feeling confident about which topics you want to broach, and which still feel too raw to bring up around family.

3)  You don’t know what to say when your family is hurtful, so you stay silent.

In order for you to feel safe and comfortable spending time with your family, they are going to have to know that they can’t be insulting or offensive when it comes to your sexual identity (or anything else for that matter). This is going to require you doing gentle confrontations with your family most (if not every) time they say something hurtful or offensive. Yes, I realize this is exhausting, but the result can be so worth it.

When you schedule a session with me we can explore what scares you about confronting your family about their offensive statements. Together, we can experiment with new ways to engage with your family and how to cope when things are hard. If you are able to confront the hurtful things your family says, you are affirming your belief in your value over and over again, and you will likely notice that you feel less shame.

Even if you try all of these skills it is possible that your relationship with your family will never heal completely.

I feel it is powerful to know that you handled the situation in a way that you feel proud of, so that you can let your family take full responsibility for the rest. It is not necessary to lose access to your family just because you don’t see eye to eye, but it is important for you to feel loved and respected when you are with them. No one but you can decide what you can and cannot put up with with respect to your family. You get to define your limits and boundaries, and you get to decide how hard you want to work to make the relationships work.

Too often I talk to clients who feel that they have to make a choice between a relationship that feels like a denial of who they are, and no relationship at all.

I think that most of the time this is a false dilemma. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some people and some families where no contact is the best option, but from what I have seen, making that decision can feel more empowering and authentic once we have exhausted all other options and can say with confidence that we have done everything we can.

Feeling confident and empowered in your interactions with your family after coming out can be life changing. You absolutely can feel proud of your interactions with your family and have a relationship with them that respects your autonomy and identity. I can help you sort through the mess of words said that cannot be taken back, and unstated resentments so you can have the relationships that are important to you, and still respect who you are.

Schedule your free consultation today to learn more.

2 Things you never knew about Being a Teenager (Even if you are one)

The teen years are a time of huge transitions. Not quite adults yet, but definitely not kids anymore, teens are tasked with getting to know themselves and also learning how to have a new kind of relationship with the people they love.

Being a teenager is an exciting time of growth, but it’s also excruciating.

Suddenly your parents feel like an aggravation rather than a safe haven, friendships and romantic relationships start feeling more complicated, and the pressure from school starts to mount.

Trying to figure this out by yourself can leave you feeling stressed, and scared to make any decisions lest you make a mistake. With so much riding on you, something has got to give, and so far it’s been your sanity.

Whereas you used to be able to go to your parents for help and support, some things are just too weird to talk to them about. Other times you may come to them wanting support and end up getting irritated or worse yet, starting an argument. So you keep your stress to yourself or talk to your friends about it. It’s nice to have someone to to commiserate with, but since they’re going through the same thing you are, it doesn’t always help.

Maybe it looks something like this: you’ve always been really conscientious about making the “right” decisions. You want to make yourself proud, and that means not getting into drugs or alcohol, and certainly not being stupid about sex and dating. But lately you’ve been feeling so overwrought with school stuff and trying to make everyone around you happy, that you feel like you want to let loose.

And not only that, you don’t want to waste these teen years being too responsible, because goodness knows once you have a job and a family you’ll get enough of that.

So when you got invited to that party and you know there’s going to be alcohol there, for the first time you feel tempted to throw caution to the wind and show up. You’re the only one in your friend group who is as responsible as you are anyway, so surely having one or two drinks wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Normally you would talk to your parents about pros and cons but you know that they wouldn’t approve and you don’t want them making your decisions for you forever. The issue is that then the only voices you’re listening to are your friends, and they are hardly reliable for sound advice. You want to be able to be a teenager and experience being reckless and irresponsible, but you also want to stay safe, and protect your future.

Eventually you end up either feeling resentful that you’ve wasted your teen years being responsible and adult (everyone always said you were really mature for your age) or you end up making more and more reckless decisions that feel like they’re spiraling out of your control.

The truth is that experimentation is a normal part of being a teenager.

That means starting to make more of your own decisions and having a broader range of experiences so that you can practice boundary setting and self advocacy. When you go away to college, you aren’t going to have your parents as a buffer anymore, so it’s going to be important that you have a better understanding of your limits.

It’s okay to not know exactly who you are and exactly what your limits are. That’s what this time is for. It’s just important to make sure that while you experiment, you can do it safely.

Being a teenager is a stressful experience of growth and change. It can be helpful to know a little more about what is going on in your brain and the developmental tasks of this age so that you can feel free to grow and change, but still keep yourself safe and protect your future. When we keep in mind the purpose of these years, it can be easier to make decisions that satisfy our need for adventure while not losing sight of the things that are going to matter moving forward.

Keep reading to learn 2 things about the teen years that can help you live these years to the fullest.

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TOO MUCH STRESS AND RESPONSIBILITY

Left to navigate the teens years on your own, it’s hard to drown out the noise of everyone else’s opinions so that you can figure out what matters to you. Even if you are somehow able to identify what matters to you and what doesn’t, then you have the problem of balancing it all and learning how to communicate with people without everything becoming an argument or a power struggle. Living like this is unnecessarily stressful and turbulent.

SAFE EXPERIMENTATION AND LEARNING TO BE YOURSELF

Although there is nothing that is going to make the teen years feel easy, if you learn more about what is supposed to be happening during these years, you will be better able to get to know yourself and feel comfortable with the decisions you’re making. When we choose to engage in the teen years in a full way and immerse ourselves in the developmental purpose of this time, we can get through it with more confidence and excitement about the future. You can learn about what is making the teen years so hard so that you can safely explore who you are and who you want to be moving forward.

2 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE TEEN YEARS SO YOU CAN EXPERIMENT AND GROW, AND STILL BE SAFE

The teen years may have you feeling stressed, lost and frustrated. The key to making the most of this time and getting everything you want out of it, is learning more about what’s happening in your brain, and what the point of these years is in the first place. It may surprise you how much more clear things become with just a bit more information about why things feel the way they do. Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.

Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.

1) Suddenly you feel an itch to be reckless

One of the hardest things about being a teenager is suddenly feeling like everything is boring and all you want to do is everything you know you shouldn’t do. It’s the weirdest thing the way it comes on. One day you feel content to focus on getting good grades and doing the responsible thing, and the next day it just doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. You just want to stretch your limits, experience more of life, and learn more about who you are and how you respond in different situations. Suddenly the fact that your parents would hate it, makes it seem like a much better idea.

It makes complete sense that you’re feeling this way when you know more about what is happening in your brain and why.

Teens are naturally reckless and adventure seeking

This serves a purpose that makes a lot of sense when you think about it for a moment. When kids are really little, they want to live with their parents forever. The idea of ever moving out and starting on their own feels terrifying, and well it should! Small children are dependent on their parents for everything, but as we get older, we become more and more capable of taking care of ourselves. Teens are on the precipice of moving out, finishing school, developing intimate relationships, and all in all making a life for themselves independently. As you can imagine, this takes quite a bit of courage and daring. How can you get to a place of independence, if you stay risk averse? Becoming an adult is full of risks and challenges, and it means your whole life is going to change.

You feel adventurous now because you need to embark on the huge adventure of creating a life for yourself.

Now that you know that this is a natural part of the teen experience (and why) it can be used to your advantage. If you try to quash this instinct it will end up spilling out of you later or actually stunting your growth and development.

When I work with teens I make sure to respect this instinct and urge that teens have, while engaging with the teen to ensure that they explore their limits and identify safe ways to experiment and adventure.

This instinct is a wonderful part of being a teen, and when we work with it as opposed to against it, it can help us create wonderful memories that we can look back on as adults (because we made it to adulthood safely).

2) Why are your parents suddenly so annoying?!

One of the first things I think of when I consider the difficulties of being a teenager is the way your relationship with your parents is changing. This is hard for so many reasons. Your parents used to be the best place to go when you needed to sooth disappointment or heartache. One day going to your parents for support or just hanging out with them the way you used to doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. In fact, most interactions you have with your parents lately have been ending in arguments and frustration. You at once lose access to the calm and safety they used to afford you, and gain these irritating overlords who seem hellbent on making things more frustrating than they need to be.

It makes sense that your relationship with your parents is becoming more challenging when you consider the challenge of developing an identity that feels one hundred percent your own.

Your developmental task is to figure out who you are.

In broad terms, the task of the teenager is to learn who they are separate from their parents. Whereas a small child might ask their parents what is best and follow that lead, an adult may ask the opinion of others, but ultimately makes his own decision. In order to create this boundary, a teen needs to take on the task of mentally separating himself from his parents so that he can gain a clearer understanding of who he is as an individual.

Cue arguments about how your parents need to stop telling you what to do. This explains a bit of why you have a strong inclination to do the exact opposite of what your parents might want you to do.

Therapy is a great place to spend some time really exploring your own mind and your own beliefs, apart from the influence of your parents.

The more exploration you do in therapy, the less impulsive you will be, and the more able you will be to interact civilly with your parents.

The idea is to give you opportunities to learn more about who you are without having to act it out as much, and giving you skills to develop this new relationship with your parents.

Learning more about the tasks of being a teenager can help you to have a full and exciting teenage experience. You can absolutely get to know yourself as an individual through experimentation, and maintain the progress you’ve made towards the goals you’ve set out for yourself.

Therapy can give you a safe space to explore your values, your limits, and ways to re-create relationships as an adult.

Schedule a free consultation by emailing me today at rebeccanewkirklcsw@itherapymail.com

How to Cope with Grief Through the Holidays

The holidays are supposed to be a time for togetherness and making family memories.

But what happens when your family isn’t complete?

While everyone around you seems to be celebrating, here you are getting hit with yet another wave of grief that just makes you want to hide until it’s over.

No matter when the loss was, there’s something about the holidays that makes it feel like it just happened. The whole first year, if your loss was recent, is a litany of “firsts” without your loved one, and the holidays are just never going to be the same because not all of the important people are there.

It is easy to let the grief completely consume us and take over the experience.

It would be easy to just hide until it’s over.

Not decorate and pretend the holidays aren’t happening. But what about the rest of your family? All this does is makes you feel more isolated and like there’s nothing left to look forward to.

You might notice that it’s easy to get stuck in some pretty unhealthy patterns when it comes to stuff like this. Although you tell yourself that you’re only going to hide from the holiday season this one year, it quickly becomes a painful habit of not being able to face this time of year, not celebrating with family and friends, and dreading the weather change.

Perhaps it was your father who died. It was unexpected and fast. You didn’t know you needed to be preparing yourself and now that it’s happened you have no idea how to pick up the pieces of your shattered heart so that you can move on. There are questions you didn’t expect. Who are you without your father? Who are you going to call when you feel frustrated and alone? Who is going to play with your kids the way he did? Your chest feels like it’s collapsing every time you think about it, so the idea of sitting through a holiday dinner pretending that everything is fine just makes you want to throw up.

At the time it might have felt like celebrating holidays had to be either the way it always used to be or not happen at all.

You might have felt as though celebrating would be disrespectful to his memory.

How can you sit here sipping eggnog and smiling blandly while someone else sits in his place at the table?

The problem is that by avoiding the holidays altogether all you are doing is keeping yourself from the only people in the whole world who understand some of what you’ve lost; the other people who also lost him.

Eventually you get to a place where the mere idea of holidays makes your chest tighten and has you running in the other direction. If this were just one year, maybe it would make more sense to shelter yourself in this way, but the unfortunate truth is that when we avoid events like these because we don’t want to feel everything that comes up, it only gets harder to face it the next time. By not giving yourself the opportunity to process your feelings and move through the experience, painful as it is, you are teaching yourself that you are not capable of getting through this, and it will cause more avoidance later.

The holidays are hard for a lot of people, and grief is one of the major reasons this time of year is so fraught.

It’s okay to need to go slowly, to need to take breaks, and to not push yourself too hard.

Facing the holidays after losing a loved one is an incredibly painful experience; there’s no denying that. However, if we can learn how to move through the holiday season in a thoughtful and careful way, we can allow ourselves to experience some of the holiday spirit. When we learn how to incorporate our lost loved ones into our holiday rituals it is entirely possible to feel like we are honoring their memory and still loving and appreciating the people who are left behind.

Keep reading to learn how to get through the holiday season with a bit of holiday spirit.

grief holidays celebrate guilt loss

Lost in grief

Grief is debilitating. You have already lost so much, and now grief has taken the brightness out of the holiday season and left you feeling decidedly un-celebratory.

You find yourself staring at the lights you usually love and feeling empty and hollow instead.

Living this way is empty and depressing, and you can’t imagine having to continue on like this.

Find small joys and honor your loved one’s memory

Although the grief threatens, at times, to overwhelm you, you can re-define what the holidays mean to you, so that you can celebrate with the people you love and still remember the people you’ve lost.

When we choose to create new rituals to honor the loved ones we have lost, there is the possibility of getting to have the holidays with the rest of your family and stay connected with less guilt and without the gaping hole of the missing person.

You can create new rituals to incorporate into your holiday so that you can grief together with the people who love you and understand what you’ve lost, so you can continue to make new memories, without just forgetting the person who died.

How to create new rituals to build into your holidays

You might be being crushed by the weight of having to celebrate the holidays without your loved one. One way to honor your loved one’s memory and allow yourself an opportunity to experience the holidays with the people who love you is to create new rituals to honor your loved one. Making these new rituals may seem difficult at the outset, but all you are really doing is creating an outlet so that you can be honest about what’s going on inside your heart. When you follow these steps, you will be able to find ways to honor the person who died and still feel connected to your family this holiday season.

Take a look at these steps to see how you can celebrate the holidays in a way that feels authentic and respectful of the person who isn’t there this year.

Create new rituals to honor the person you lost

One of the main reasons the holiday season feels so overwhelming right now is that you don’t know how to do the same rituals you’ve been doing year after year without a cherished family member. It makes complete sense that you are feeling guilty for even thinking about celebrating when they can’t be here. Creating new rituals that incorporate your memories of the person who died can help you feel less like you are just moving on as though they never mattered.

1) Consider the Importance of the Person You Lost

When you think about the holidays, what role does this person play in the festivities? Were they the cook? Did they make jokes that lightened everyone’s mood? Maybe they were a pain in everyone’s butt and made everyone decorate the tree or put up lights ‘just so’. Whatever it is that this person would contribute to the experience of the holiday, consider what this meant to you and the rest of your family.

Spend some time thinking about what might be different without them there.

This is very painful, but a necessary part of the process.

In session we can explore this in a contained, safe way. If I notice that you are becoming lost in your pain or having a hard time staying on task, I can very gently guide and support you so that you can come back to yourself. This exploration is harrowing but there are light moments in remembering as well. You might find yourself smiling when you remember how difficult or quirky your loved one was. I can help you notice and spend a bit more time on those memories.

When you explore what your loved one used to bring to the table, you will be protecting yourself from nasty surprises, and also starting the process of identifying where the holes in your holiday experience might be.

2) Consider What Was Important to Your Loved One About the Holidays

When we are working through grief, it is not about distancing ourselves from the person we lost, it is really about internalizing parts of who they were so we can take the best parts of them with us into the rest of our lives. Thinking back on the many holidays you got to spend with your loved one, you will likely be able to identify what the holiday meant to them. They might have said it openly at one point (or many times) or they might have just acted in a way that made it clear what they valued. Maybe the best part of Christmas to your father was sitting in front of the tree with only a fire for light sipping on good whiskey. Maybe the most special part of the holiday for your mom was watching the young children rip into their presents early in the morning.

With my clients, I help them sort through the jumble of memories they have been bombarded with lately so that we can pull out the parts of the holiday that really reflect the values and preferences of the person who died. We do this slowly and gently, so that my clients get to reminisce about their loved one and feel the multitude of confusing emotions that come with the memories.

After you do this you can start to identify what your loved one would have wanted you to do this holiday season.

When you ask yourself the question of what they would have wanted you to do, this process will help you develop an answer to that question.

3) Identify New Rituals You Can Use to Incorporate Your Loved One’s Memory

Now that you know what you would miss the most about not having your loved one with you this holiday season, and you have done some considering about what was really important to them about the holidays and how they would have wanted you to carry on, you have a really good basis to start building new rituals into your holiday. Maybe it is waking everyone up super early instead of your mom. Maybe instead of sitting quietly and looking at the newly decorated tree with your dad, everyone could share a memory they have of your him.

When you schedule with me, I will help you to process the mess of grief and guilt and emptiness you feel.

We will find the small moments of joy.

Joy in reminiscing, joy in sharing these new experiences with the rest of your family, and joy in making new memories.

Developing new ways to honor your loved one through the holidays can help you feel connected to the person you lost, the memories that matter, and the people who are still here. You can celebrate the holidays again, and I can help you get there in a way that feels respectful of your grief.

Schedule a free consultation now.

How to Set a Boundary with Someone You Care About

Setting boundaries can be really scary. For one thing, you may not be able to trust yourself to set the boundary in a way that feels good to you. Even more than that just the idea of hurting their feelings is enough to make you cringe away from the very idea.

It’s just that when we don’t set boundaries regularly, things build up.

You may think you are preserving the relationship by not saying anything (you’re strong enough to deal with it, right?), but what actually ends up happening is that when you finally get fed up and set the boundary it comes out of you in. . .let’s just say not the most ideal way.

I see this cycle play itself out for so many clients. The client wants to be kind and forgiving not make waves. So they don’t set any boundaries. At first it feels fine. Little by little things start to feel more aggravating. Eventually a small thing feels like a big problem and the client gets snappy, or loud, or mean when they set the boundary. The person the client set the boundary with feels like the client lost their shit for no reason.

Nothing the client said was heard.

They end up feeling not only like boundary setting doesn’t work because no one listens, but they also end up feeling ashamed of the way they handled the situation. Unfortunately, this causes the client to swing all the way back to being passive and not setting any boundaries out of guilt. And the cycle continues; no boundaries with building aggravation swings to aggressive boundary setting, which leads to shame and guilt about boundaries.

Here’s one way it can play out. Imagine for a moment having a mom that you love very much but she drives you up the wall regularly (far fetched, I know). You appreciate her and like to talk to her regularly, but it seems every time you talk with her she seems to feel like she needs to tell you something else that she thinks you need to take care of or do differently. It makes you feel like you can’t relax around her, and often you end up cutting your time with her short.

Honestly there’s a part of you that feels really good about the fact that you don’t lose your temper with her, but you are starting to realize that the time you spend together doesn’t feel good and your relationship has been feeling more superficial and forced. One day when she makes another one of her comments you just can’t stand it anymore, and you end up snapping at her and telling her to get off your ass! But now her feelings are hurt, and you feel like a jerk.

So you feel like an asshole, your mom’s feelings are hurt, and you certainly don’t feel closer to her or like you protected the relationship.

All you ended up doing by not setting the boundary in the first place is ensured that the way you set the boundary was not the way you would have wanted to communicate with your mom.

If you can’t set boundaries and feel like things go to hell when you try, you end up avoiding the people you care about.

Look, boundaries are hard.

Finding the balance of making sure you communicate what you need in a way that is kind and neutral is hard. It’s really normal to feel overwhelmed by boundary setting. A lot of people end up just trying to suck it up (until they blow up) or avoiding the whole deal in the first place.

Difficulty with boundary setting can make you feel touchy and maybe even make you feel crazy sometimes for blowing up. If you can learn, step by step, how to set a boundary that is not dependent on how the other person responds, you can start to trust yourself to handle these situations more smoothly. When we follow these simple steps for how to effectively set a boundary, we can start to feel more in control of our communication, and we can feel heard in our relationships.

Keep reading to learn how to feel comfortable and more confident setting boundaries today.

Why bother? No one listens anyway.

The worst thing about not setting any boundaries is that your only options are to avoid people you care about or lose your temper when you can’t stand it anymore. This means you either lose intimacy in important relationships or end up feeling like a lose cannon.

At the very least you end up feeling like what you need doesn’t matter and you have to “suck it up”.

Living like this is not fulfilling at best and frustrating at worst.

Be in control of the way you communicate in relationships.

Although you struggle with the guilt that comes with knowing that you are going to hurt the feelings of someone you care about if you set a boundary, you have the potential to feel calm and in control of the way that you are communicating.

You can communicate your boundaries in a way that enhances and protects your relationships.

When we choose to set boundaries in a way that empowers us to communicate what we need with no strings attached, with recognition that we don’t get to affect the way that what you say is received or responded to, you can finally feel ready to take on your relationships in a more honest and authentic way.

This is an opportunity for you to communicate kindly and effectively so that you can feel empowered and authentic in your relationships, regardless of how capable the people in your life are at respecting your boundaries.

How to Set Boundaries Kindly and Effectively

boundaries relationships communicating no one listens authentic communication

Yes, you might be feeling frustrated with setting boundaries and communicating your needs in relationships, but the key to feeling empowered and authentic in your relationships is to set kind and consistent boundaries. It is scary to think about communicating things that are possibly upsetting to people you care about, but it feels a lot better when you can trust yourself to communicate in a way that you can feel good about. When you follow this simple, step by step path, you will start to notice that you can be more authentic and kind in your relationships.

Take a look at these steps to see how you can feel more authentic and comfortable communicating in your relationships.

Authentic, Consistent Communication

One of the main reasons you struggle to communicate your needs to the people who are important to you is fear of hurting their feelings or upsetting them. It makes complete sense that you feel guilty for making things worse or hurting the relationship when every time you try to set a boundary it ends up in flames. But it doesn’t have to stay this way when you start implementing authentic, consistent communication.

1) Identify the common thread

When you are regularly getting upset in one of your relationships, the first step is to try to understand what it is that is happening, or what you feel is getting communicated. It’s really easy to just act as though these are stand alone experiences that you can get over. When you start to pay attention, though, you’re probably going to notice that there is a theme. Maybe you get upset when you are given unsolicited advice. Maybe what really gets to you is when people flake out on plans. Maybe the really hard thing is when you feel like your feelings are dismissed.

Whatever it is, it is very likely that it happens often in the same relationship.

In sessions we will examine the instances when you feel that your boundaries were crossed or your needs weren’t met by the people in your life. We will explore other times when you have felt similarly and then find the common thread together. What we are looking for is what actually upset you and why you don’t like what happened. It’s not usually enough to just know that you didn’t like that the person was late to meet for coffee, but it is more helpful to be able to say, “I don’t feel like you respect my time.”

When you are able to identify the common thread in the instances of being angry or upset with a specific person, it will enable you to communicate more fully and precisely what it is that isn’t working and what you need next time.

2) Communicate honestly, and kindly

The two issues that I see most often that are impeding communication are either not communicating honestly or fully (“Of course I don’t mind!”) or communicating aggressively because we have waited until we are full on pissed before we said anything. Ideally we want to communicate what we don’t like and why, what we need to be different next time, and how we will react if this trespass happens again. We want to do that as neutrally and kindly as humanly possible, so that regardless of how the other person reacts, you can feel good about what you said and how you said it.

I recognize that this is very difficult. This is why in session I support my clients not only in identifying what they want to say, but also practicing how to phrase it.

We identify potential ways to respond if the communication isn’t received well, and we walk through step by step identifying how to respond in different scenarios.

This is a really important part of the process. If you can identify and feel good about how you are going to respond if your boundary is received really poorly, you are empowered to engage in the relationship only in a way that feels good to you. This is a big deal! You get to feel good about your boundary, what you said, and how you said it, regardless of the way that the other person responds to you.

3) Be consistent

This is where things fall apart for most of us. We wait until we feel like it’s a big deal before we say anything. We let it slide. We say we’re not going to put up with it anymore but then we do. In a lot of ways it is easier to just not deal with it until it feels like a big deal. The issue with this is that you will notice yourself either avoiding your relationships, or blowing up every so often when you want to set a boundary. This is why you end up feeling like no one respects your boundaries. Because you aren’t enforcing your boundaries, and that is the bulk of the work.

When you schedule a session with me I will talk with you about what boundaries you might be overlooking and how that might be impacting your relationships. We will explore what happens when you decide to let things slide, and together we will determine which boundaries you feel you need to start enforcing, and which you feel can be put on the back burner for a while.

You don’t have to take on every issue in every relationship, but when you make the decision to take it on, it’s good to stay consistent.

Make sure that you know exactly how you will respond when your boundary isn’t respected and then you and I will hold you accountable (gently and kindly of course) for staying consistent in the way you handle it.

Adding this boundary setting technique to your life will help you feel more in control in your relationships. You will notice that you don’t feel as though you have to censor yourself quite so much because you trust what comes out of your mouth. You will start to notice that you get to be more authentic in your relationships because you are comfortable with what will happen if someone doesn’t like what you have to say.

Being able to set boundaries in a kind and consistent way can be invigorating.

You absolutely can feel authentic in your relationships and still take care of yourself.

Therapy can help you to sort through what is and isn’t working in your relationships, and identify exactly how you would like to handle it from now on so that you can feel empowered and confident moving forward.

Schedule a free consultation now.