A Few Thoughts on Royal Wedding Day

Let me just say that the bride was lovely, but the horses! The horses were magnificent!

It takes guts for any couple to embark on a life together. All marriages come down to two consenting adults agreeing that life lived shared is better than one apart. The reason the royal wedding resonates may be because we remember the thrill of hope and terror of our own wedding days. That’s a lot of drama packed into just a few hours. If we survive it with any degree of grace, whether we are in front of a justice of the peace in Vegas or the Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey, we count ourselves blessed.

It really is very nice of Kate and William to put on this nostalgic yet somehow contemporary pageant for us. We wish them, and all who embrace the grand adventure of marriage, the very best!

5 Ways to Deal With Vacation Weight Gain

Courtesy of brunobucci via Flickr

My weight loss journey took a wonderful turn ten months ago. That’s when I decided I was going to lose weight just one more time, permanently, once and for all. Slowly, very slowly, I have gone from the 160′s to the 150′s and now the 140′s. Being 5′ 2″ my goal is to be comfortably in the 130′s for the rest of my life.

I used to dread going to parties. Parties were outside my comfort zone. My comfort zone was the realm of my home and kitchen that I could control. Now after attending a few parties and discovering that I could handle being social while respecting myself food-wise, they are not the danger zone they used to be.

But vacations still are.

I’ve lost weight using the tried and true formula of counting calories, keeping a food journal and exercise. That is actually the easy part. As Biggest Loser winner, Ali Vincenti says, “So many people out there want to know what’s the secret so I’m here to tell them, there is no secret. Counting your calories, exercising most days and surrounding yourself with positive energy will get the job done. Not secrets!”

The hardest thing for me is the work of keeping the extra weight off. That is trickier because it has meant delving deeply into my attitudes about my self, what keeps me from truly embracing who I am and not what others want me to be.

You’d think at 57 I would have that figured out by now. Nope. I have discovered dark corners of my mind that have weighed me down as surely as any Boston Creme Pie.

How many times have I decided that when on vacation my discipline was on vacation too? The diet cop has left the building! If your method for trying to lose weight has to do with restriction as punishment (which mine was for most of my life) then yes, that makes sense. Even dogs must be taken off leash once in a while.

But going with the dog analogy, if he is trained with love and consistency, even off leash, he is happy to stay close and not get into too much trouble.

So in the spirit of loving self-kindness, I am endorsing the following attitude toward my vacation weight gain:

1. Do not get mad at your self! It amazes me how easily we get all up in our own faces and say abusive things like, “OMG! You gained three pounds in just eight days! What is wrong with you! Did you have to have the chocolate milk shake AND french fries at that diner? Ugh!” Being mean to ourselves when we are already feeling low is just cruel. Stop it!

2. Admit that there were some indulgences that were wholesome, healthy and enjoyable. Own it without guilt or remorse! Yup, I haven’t had a milk shake in that particular diner since my graduate school days. It was as good as I remembered. Heaven!

3. Be proud that you managed to eat some vegetables and fruit while on vacay. It wasn’t ALL carbs!

4. You walked your ass off to the point of blisters! It could be we actually move more during vacation than we do at home. Swimming, skiing, hiking, zip lining, bungee jumping, you name it. Exercise alone may not help us lose weight, but it does help us regulate weight gain.

5. Think of those pounds gained during vacation as unwelcome house guests. Real enough but, (thank God!) not permanent. After a few days it is time to shoo those interlopers away and  reclaim your space!

As Ali said, there is no big secret to weight loss: just calories in, calories out and a great, big smile!

This is My Brain Still on Vacation

Courtesy of Chris Devers via Flickr

Taking a week or two off from work is a lovely and healthy thing. The trouble is transitioning from vacation mode to back to work status.

Six hours is probably long enough to stare at a blank screen in hopes that the blog fairy will come along and bitch slap me into productive writing mode. This is me giving up and just writing from the heart.

I wish that every time I wrote I could come up with something that I know will speak to you, will help you, inspire you, make you laugh or go “Ah” in recognition. I know that many times I miss the mark. Writing a blog is kind of like throwing spaghetti on the wall in the nutty notion that if it sticks it’s good to go.

All day long nothing wanted to stick. By now my brain resembles nothing more than a big pot of overcooked macaroni. Why? There could be several reasons. Here are a few:

1. No exercise today. Even on vacation I managed to move a lot. Since coming home I feel like a slug.

2. The weather bites. Hard. I have not seen the sun in, I don’t know, five days? The forecast is still more clouds and rain until Saturday. Bummer.

3. The ideas that are floating around in my brain are good; the energy to research and write a coherent sentence just isn’t there.

4. Facebook.

5. Going back to work tomorrow required distracting preparation.

As I wrote those reasons above, I realized, once again, I am letting my thinking dictate how I feel. It wasn’t what I was saying but how I was saying it. Time for a reframe!

1. No exercise today? So what? I must have walked a million miles this week. It’s OK to take a day off, especially on a cold, rainy day like today. “You’ll get back on the treadmill tomorrow,” my Authentic Voice assures me. “And if not tomorrow, the next day. You know you will.”

2. The nice thing about living in a temperate climate is that if you don’t like the weather, all you have to do is wait and it will change. Besides, my home and office purposefully have a lot of light and bright color in them to make up for the monochromatic sky.

3. Look who’s writing now! It may not be genius but it’s something. Not nothing!

4. To blame Facebook for one’s procrastination is a cheap shot. It was actually a Facebook friend who helped me get over myself and just write. As another friend said, it’s not the Internet that kills productivity, it’s people who kill productivity.

5. Getting ready to go back to the office tomorrow is a legitimate reason to not be writing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. In my work, my clients come first. My schedule is reviewed, calls and emails are responded to, I communicated with my associate, caught up with my assistant and read progress notes – all of which contributes to a relaxed, ready to focus attitude for my clients.

So who was that who was complaining about a brain still on vacation? Vacation is good. Coming home is good, too.

And I’m back, baby! I’m back!

10 Ways Our Thinking Can Fuel Depression and Anxiety


Photo courtesy of jeremy screen name

Once upon a time, long ago but not too far away, I was in the first month of a new executive director job. When I checked the voice mail there was a message from the president of the board of directors. In a solemn voice he asked me to call him as soon as I could. I thought, “He sounds so serious. He must hate my work!” My heart sank, my palms got sweaty, my mouth went dry. It took every ounce of resolve to face my anxiety and call him back. As soon as he picked up he said, “I want you to know how happy we are that you joined us.”

We feel what we think.

Accept this simple premise and you will be on your way to recognizing the thoughts that provoke self-esteem-consuming anxiety and depression. This is the first step to change those destructive thoughts and as a result change your mood from anxious and depressed to empowered and liberated. Here’s how to start…

We feel what we think.

Just from the sound of his voice I jumped to the conclusion the board president was going to reprimand me and my anxiety shot up. In the same vein, if I think “My friend is mad at me for not calling her on her birthday. I must be an awful person,” I feel miserable. If I think, “I just barely had enough in the bank this month to cover my bills. I’ll end up bankrupt and homeless!” I will feel really scared. These thoughts are examples of cognitive distortions.

Right now, you and I can see clearly how those thoughts are exaggerated, over-the-top, unreasonable. It’s not so easy to see when we are caught up in the moment.

Luckily, to make this task easier for us, Dr David Burns did a lot of work categorizing ten basic ways we distort our thinking. Study these categories. Highlight the ones you tend to use. Think of your own real life examples.

All-or-nothing thinking. You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.

Over-generalization. You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

Mental filter. You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.

Disqualifying the positive. You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.

Jumping to conclusions. You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.

Mind reading. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out.

Fortune Telling. You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.

Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization. Also called the “binocular trick.” You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections).

Emotional reasoning. You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”

‘Should’ statements. You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

Labeling and mislabeling. This is an extreme form of over-generalization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and
emotionally loaded.

Personalization. You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.

Myself, I’ve used all of these cognitive distortions at some time or other, but I think I’ve leaned towards the ‘Should’ statements more than anything. It’s taken some work to shake the guilt if I don’t do what I think I ‘should’ be doing. And if I don’t watch it, I should be doing whatever it is I’m not doing at the moment! Can you see how this way of thinking is totally nuts?

Which of these distortions are on your personal top hits list? Let me know in the comments!

At the Edge of Our Comfort Zone. Anxious? Just breathe…

This is a big first for me. There’s the excitement of publishing the first vlog for the explorewhatsnext YouTube channel AND there’s the stomach churning anxiety of feeling totally exposed.

This is a familiar feeling. When I created this blog and posted my first post, I felt sick with nerves for a week. What was I thinking! I will look like an idiot! Now writing and posting on the Internet is easier, usually without any anxiety (until I get a negative comment but that’s another story). Eventually I got over looking like an idiot, even enjoying it, in a way.

Whenever we do something new for the first time there is usually the tingle of anxiety humming just beneath the surface or flat out in our face panic. A client, who has struggled with severe anxiety, said recently that she saw a magnet at the mall that said something like, ‘Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.’ That made us both smile. Pushing the envelope, or even nudging it just a little, for the sake of personal growth, is what Eleanor Roosevelt was getting at when she said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Well, this is my one thing today, making this video public. With hope that it is received as it is given…


Families Learn Tips to Cope With Autism

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On Accepting Criticism

Courtesy Tim Button via Flickr


We tend to think of criticism as negative but I’ll bet there are just as many people out there who get nervous when someone compliments them, too. Hearing any form of feedback is often perceived as a kind of threat. For those of us with thin skins I advise seeing feedback as balls being tossed to us. We can catch them but that doesn’t mean we have to keep them. If we can suspend our anxiety long enough to take the time to study the feedback, we might learn something worthwhile. Or we may decide the giver was wrong and toss it back.

By the way, if being on the receiving end of the criticism feels more like dodgeball, you may be dealing with abuse, not just feedback.

Social Media, the Web and Relationships

Here is the webinar that I participated in last week. It is an hour long so you may want to make a nice cup of tea or coffee before starting the show. We had fun making it, I hope you enjoy listening!

Questions About Depression or Anxiety? Ask Us!

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Rather than guess about what you would like to hear about or what you would find useful, we would love to know what you are thinking, possibly struggling with, for yourself or someone you love, for real!

You could ask your question anonymously or leave a first name or somthing made up. It doesn’t matter.

There are many ways to reach us at Explore What’s Next:

Remember, there are no dumb questions! And we’ll do our best to keep the answers useful for you.

If you have a really complicated situation we invite you to consider setting up a free 30 minute consultation with one of our EWN therapists.

Sometimes A Little Nostalgia is a Good Thing

When I heard that PBS was broadcasting a sequel to Upstairs, Downstairs I got all excited. Long, long ago it was sort of a ritual at my house to watch the latest installment of the British television series every Sunday. Upstairs, Downstairs was a guilty pleasure, an upscale soap opera about an Edwardian aristocratic family (upstairs) and the people who served them, (downstairs) . It lasted so long, five seasons, I lost track of the story line because I went off to college. But the earlier episodes I watched after dinner with my mother and sisters. The sequel looks promising. It covers the same eventful period of time as The King’s Speech. I’ve already put my family on notice that the television will be tuned to PBS this Sunday evening. Here’s a peak….

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

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