When Life Becomes A Competition



Photo courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

“Playing House” – Photo courtesy Sofia Francesca Photography

One night I was out running and thinking about how my wedding engagement set off an intense ripple effect in our friend group. Girlfriends started pressuring their boyfriends about wedding rings and houses. All of a sudden we had four weddings to attend before our own! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to be proud of these things and to share it with people you love, but was it just me or did everything start to feel like a competition all of a sudden?

With this on my mind, I became aware of the neighborhood I was running through. It was a new development with expensive houses, white picket fences, two new cars in the driveways, kids toys on the lawns, swing sets in the backyards. They all looked the same and reinforced even more that sense of completion.

We start to feel pressured around our 20’s and 30’s to have that ticky-tacky lifestyle. Somehow we are made to feel as if there’s something wrong with us if we don’t get into the competition.

I’m not immune to the competition stress. Even though, I am married I still don’t have the house, two nice cars or kids. Should I feel bad about that? Was I doing something wrong? The pressure was getting to me.

Being sucked into this race didn’t feel like me, but there I was. I struggled to remind myself to stay present and focused on what I have instead of what I don’t have yet. As much as I might wish I had more control, few things in life can be forced; things, especially the important things, tend to unfold in its own time, when the conditions are right. My timeline doesn’t look like everyone else’s. Just like other people’s timeline doesn’t look like mine. That doesn’t make it wrong or make me or anyone else a failure at adulting. Learning to be comfortable, patient and confident while we find our own path is a process, like so much of life.

What helps me is to stay mindful, aware and present in the moment. I try to remind myself:

“I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”

I hope this helps you, too. If you can relate to any of this or have your own ways that help you deal with this “life competition”, please leave me a comment! I would love to hear your story.

Soothe Your Brain With A Mindful Walk



With the recent shootings in Florida, bombings in Turkey, the Brexit vote and the consistent daily stream of stressful news it is important to find ways to quiet the mind, handle the stress and find peacefulness. But how do you do this when there is so much negativity surrounding us?

Here’s an idea! It can be as simple as going for a walk in nature. Find a bit of greenery! Simply strolling through a quiet tree-lined path in a city park or heading out to a nearby hiking trail can help you let go of dwelling on the dark side of everyday life and find some inner light. In a world that needs each and everyone one of us to be more positive and compassionate, you can impact global change by starting with yourself!

Nicole Chumksy LMHC, CASAC is an associate at Explore What’s Next and is currently welcoming people to join her on a mindful walk in nature. Click here to find out more information!

You’re Invited to a Mindful Walk In The Woods



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Nature tells us, “It’s going to be OK.”

Do you feel you could use some unplugged time from your busy life? Would you like to enjoy the calming connection nature provides? I’ve got just the thing for you! You are invited to a mindfulness hike in the woods this summer!

“When we get closer to nature—be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree—we do our overstressed brains a favor.” –Florence Williams, This Is Your Brain On Nature

The idea for the Mindfulness Hike Retreat grew out of an experience I had a few years ago. At that time I was still suffering with the pain of being forced to change my job. In my first job after earning my degree, I loved going to work everyday. I finally felt like I had arrived. This was the job I worked so hard for the last few years. To top it off I was in a clinic where my colleagues felt like family. It lasted a year, a year that I am still grateful for.

Then one day my supervisor told me I was being transferred. The news came out of the blue. My heart sank and my eyes started to smart with tears. Immediately I felt a heavy sense of loss, betrayal and lack of control. I was devastated.

During the transition I struggled going to and being at work. I was so angry! My thoughts were constantly racing – “Should I look for a different job?” “This is not fair!” “This is going to be a disaster” “You are going to hate your new job.” Not very helpful, right?!

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Don’t *Should* On Yourself!



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A master at work. Courtesy Stephanie Sicore via Flickr

Yoga class. Downward dog. As my hands push into the floor and my legs quiver in response to a deep stretch, I begin to wonder… Am I doing this right? Are my legs and arms where they’re supposed to be? In an instant my attention is off my mat. My eyes and mind wander to the others around me in the room. I begin comparing their postures to mine and wiggle around my mat to make what I think are the adjustments I SHOULD make.

Before I know it I am no longer gently working on myself but rather beating myself up! Becoming aware of this, oddly enough, I start to judge my judging! “Wow what a cycle!” I thought as my confidence began to dwindle.

Then I remembered the intention I set for my practice that day: “Listen to your body.”

Gathering my thoughts, I gently escorted them back to my mat. Refocused, I coached myself through letting go of all of my high expectations, the things I thought I should be doing. The object of my attention became just sensing my body, awareness of my pose. My thoughts shifted to “I can do this. I will do my best.”

Soon my self-doubt and uncertainty faded. A sense of calm and stable confidence replaced it. As I leaned into the stretch of the pose with my breath and attention focused, my downward dog not only felt more comfortable but it was in a deeper position than before!

Only a few minutes worth of thoughts on my mat but, oh, how they represented my daily life struggle. Always striving to be better, to meet high expectations and to do what I “should” be doing, it took a long time to see how these thought patterns keep me anxious and feeling guilty. Now with the power of my “I can only do my best” mantra, I can feel confident and therefore more at ease.  Who would have thought!

Here’s your gentle challenge: Turn a curious eye to how often you put a “should” or “must” on yourself today. Instead, be kind. Remember that who you are and what you’re doing is your best in this moment. And that is good-enough!

Nicole Newcomb-Chumsky practices mindfullness and cognitive behavioral therapy at Explore What’s Next. Contact her today to learn more.

8 Ways to Ask: To Selfie Or Not To Selfie?



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Editor’s Note: Here’s Nicole with some ideas about how to selfie in a way that grows your self-esteem!

~***~

Selfie: Noun: an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks (Merriam-Webster)

Imagine that you just spent an hour trying to take a selfie in your awesome new outfit. You did your make up just right, your hair fell just like you wanted and after 30 different poses you got the perfect selfie for your new online profile pic. Trying different poses, lighting and facial expressions to make everything look just right took time and energy. You are so excited to post it and see what compliments you get. After posting and waiting a while the comments start to flood in. There are some compliments about how great you look but in the mix of comments a friend posts that you don’t look as good as you used to. Instantly, your flame of excitement burns out and turns into a self-critical mind warp. You are left being self-conscious all day.

It seems most profile pictures these days are selfies and the word has even made it to the dictionary. For a while I was nervous about this new trend where the intent was to portray yourself (seemingly in promiscuous ways) to appeal to others. As the trend caught on and selfies became more about making memories, I began to be more open-minded. I even started taking a few of my own! However, I could not stop my brain from analyzing the pros and cons. I began wondering if this trend was something that would benefit or hurt me.

Like anything you do too much of, or do irresponsibly, selfies can have negative consequences. They can open the door to:

  • Attract attention. Not all attention you get on social media is positive. It is important to be prepared to handle criticism or unwanted attention. Knowing how to handle these situations before hand can help create a more positive online experience.
  • New preoccupation with looks. If you were not already concerned about the way you look, you might all of a sudden find yourself worrying about it. Don’t forget, life is not about your looks but rather the way you interact with the world!
  • Worry more about what others think. If you are posting a picture of yourself and choosing how others see you, it is normal to think, “What will my friends think about my new tattoo.” However, it is more important what you think. Be proud of what you are promoting in your selfie!
  • Over sharing. As stated earlier, it is important to be responsible with what you decide to share on social media. Letting people know where you are and who you are with at every second leaves you vulnerable. Not every one needs to know you are “out with your whole family and the poor dog is home alone.”

Making a presence on social media has many risks. It has a very well know link to cyberbullying. But what about the positives? Let’s face it, social media is not going anywhere. Used responsibly, I can see where it can have benefits such as:

  • Build your own identity. You get the chance to decide how you want people to see you. We are not talking photo shop here! You can portray your artistic, fun loving or adventurous side. Your selfie has the capacity to communicate a lot more than your looks.
  • Gain confidence. It’s ok to show off your strengths! Let people see that you can do a headstand or that you won an excellence award. Why strive for growth if we cannot share it?
  • Spend more time with yourself. I cannot sit here and say that you won’t think about how your physical appearance looks in your selfie. So, turn it into time for self-care: primp, wear outfits that make you feel good or practice your smile! These self-care tips promote higher self-esteem and make for a good selfie!
  • Make more memories. By taking selfies, you are not always the one behind the camera.

So how do I choose whether or not to selfie? Ask yourself, “Does posting these pictures making me feel better or worse about myself? Is it safe?” If it makes you feel truly better and you do it responsibly, selfie it up! If you feel worse or are being risky with your behavior then it might be beneficial to hold off and talk to a therapist about your experiences.

Give Nicole a call at 585.737.4564,  find her on Facebook, or email her at nicole@explorewhatsnext.com to schedule your fee-free initial consultation!

To Recover From Eating Disorder You Need To Break Some Rules!



422076194_0296347561_zEditor’s Note: Explore What’s Next therapist, Nicole Newcomb, LMHC, runs a great group for people who are recovering from an eating disorder. In today’s thin-obsessed society getting back to healthy self-care is no easy task! In this article Nicole describes why she created this program and how it works. ~Dr. Aletta, Director

Sometimes it feels like it is impossible to be happy with your body! Health magazines tell you “Lose 10 lbs in 5 Days!,” media broadcasts of unnatural photo-shopped models and even health insurance billboards show unrealistic expectations.

Every time we turn around someone or something is telling us that we do not look fit enough, thin enough, beautiful enough and therefore we are not good enough. Sadly, when told this repeatedly, we start to believe it! Internalizing all of the messages and expectations from our culture can be very detrimental to our self-esteem and drive us to “improve” ourselves.

However, with unattainable goals to increase our self-worth, we fall into the trap of unhealthy behaviors. It doesn’t take long for calorie counting, excessive exercising and food rules to take over our lives. Quickly, we realize our efforts are still not improving our self-esteem and we push ourselves harder, sometimes to the point of doing things we never thought we would!

Have you become rigid or anxious about your food, work- outs and weight? If you feel like you struggle with chronic body dissatisfaction, skipping meals, over-eating and have intense guilt… then it is time to Break the Rules! Explore how to get out of your head by learning how to break the eating disorder rules!

In this group you will gain an understanding of what it means to have an ED,  support from peers who understand your struggle, education about symptoms from a qualified therapist and recovery skills for breaking bad habits and learning how to cope! You can be happy with your body AND be healthy!

Call, text (585.737.4564) or email me (nicole@explorewhatsnext.com) anytime. I’d love to hear from you! ~Nicole Newcomb, LMHC, Group Leader.

Photo courtesy of Malingering via Flickr

Get Up Off Offa That Thing!



Reap the Benefits of Physical Exercise!

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What? Go for a run when I have a million other things to do? Who has the time for that!

This is a typical thought that passes through my mind more frequently than I would like to admit. However, I am aware of it and I refute it with a positive statement to motivate myself to go such as “I will feel better after, I always do, so just do it.”

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“He ignored me. He must think I’m fat!”: Eating Disorders & Cognitive Distortions



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Editor’s Note: This post was contributed by EWN psychotherapist Nicole Newcomb.

Eating disorders are plagued by twisted thinking. In my business we call this twisted thinking cognitive distortions. You know, those thoughts that all sound right in your head but you would never say them to someone else. These distortions can tear down self-esteem, chip away at our identities and lead us to believe we are failures.

How many times have you told yourself you “should not” eat anything above 100 calories or you “should be” exercising multiple hours daily? How many times has someone given you a compliment and you say something to deny it like “Oh thanks but I’m really not skinny, I’m fat.” Thinking errors like these can lead down a dangerous road to anxiety, depression and possibly an eating disorder.

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You’re Not Going to Die, It’s Just the 2nd Semester! 5 Tips on How to Conquer College.



SofiasdeskEditor’s Note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, Explore What’s Next psychotherapist.

Getting back to college after a nice long break should be easy! But the anticipation of  juggling class work, exercise, family and a social life has the opposite effect and can be so overwhelming! If you are anything like me, when the start of the spring semester began approaching, I tried to prepare myself for the stress ahead.  Here are a few tips and tricks to get off on the right foot for your upcoming mayhem.

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7 Ways To Enjoy Your New Years Weight Loss Resolution Rather Than Resent It



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Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Nicole Newcomb, MHC-P, Explore What’s Next psychotherapist.

Did you give up your favorite food for the New Year?

Weight loss experts say, “Don’t throw out that chocolate!” Eat in slow motion instead!

Slowing down our pace of eating, increasing the number of chews and noticing everything we can about our food is called eating mindfully. Believe it or not, it can help you with weight loss.

Studies have shown that the slower you eat, the less you eat and the more mindfully you eat the more satisfied you are. So you don’t give up your favorite food totally! Eat it mindfully and satisfy your sweet tooth with just a few bites! Imagine this….

You open the candy so slowly and notice the blue, shiny wrapper and the ridges of each wrinkle between your fingers. You notice the crinkling sound it makes as you start to peel back the corners. The aroma of sweet chocolate begins to fill your nostrils and your mouth starts to water ever so slightly. You begin thinking that tomorrow you start your crazy New Years Resolution diet so you better make this count! Refocusing you thoughts to the chocolate, you notice each corner of the creamy, smooth chocolate in your hand as it starts to melt. You become excited! As you bring it to your mouth, the aroma grows stronger and you begin anticipating its sweet taste. You put the chocolate in your mouth and smile as you begin to chew ever so slowly, noticing how your teeth sink into the smooth chunks of chocolate. You never want this sensation to leave your mouth so you sit with it until every last morsel has vanished. The reward is phenomenal and you think to yourself “this is the best piece of chocolate I have ever had.” At this point you do not want another because you are more than satisfied. And it’s a good thing because it was the last one!

So the next time you sit down to eat anything, especially something you think is sinful, like the fine chocolate your well-meaning boyfriend gave you for Christmas, try out these tips below and notice the difference it makes in your appetite and satisfaction.The slower you make this process and the more detailed in your awareness, the better the exercise!

How to Eat Mindfully:

1) Do not touch whatever it is you are about to eat! Just notice what it looks like and what it smells like from a far.

2) Pick up the item without bringing it to your mouth. Notice what it feels like in your hands or looks like on your fork. Describe it to yourself in great detail. All the way down to the sponginess of the bread and the sesame seeds on top. Notice the different shades of red on the tomato.

3) Now bring the item closer to your mouth and notice the smells. It may have more than one aroma so find every smell!

4) Now take a bite and begin chewing as slowly as you can. Pretend it is a contest of who can chew the longest! Now taste each flavor from the acidity in the tomato to the grease in the burger.

5) In the same bite, (yes I am asking you to still be chewing the same bite!) notice how it feels against your tongue and teeth.

6) Ask yourself what do you hear? You may hear the crunching of the lettuce. Don’t let this bite go until you know everything about it!

7) Repeat with every bite and every sip of your drink until you notice your stomach is full.

It is not always easy to find the time to sit down and eat mindfully. I know I find it hard sometimes. But when I do take the time, it is always worth it!

Photo courtesy of cupprof

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