Paris



 

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As our hearts break, we find hope in the good that is called up from the ashes. People who did not run away but stopped to hold the hand of the injured so in shock they couldn’t move, the cabbies who shut off their meters and transformed into ambulance drivers, the soccer fans singing Le Marseilles as they evacuated the stadium, people who opened up their homes to help the stranded.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers: You will always find people who are helping.”

~Mr. Rogers

 

What Is Your Creative Process?



14590299218_85315ca008_zA while ago I was having a wee meltdown, a “what the hell was I thinking?!” moment. This was at the tail end of working my butt off getting my new office location ready for operation, bringing in two new associates to the practice, playing Whack A Mole with all the little headaches that are part of any expansion.

Reaching out to my daughter, I told her I was freaking out. In response she said sweetly, “That’s OK, Mom. That’s your process.”

“I have a process?”

“Sure you do. You work, nose to the grindstone, doing what has to be done to fulfill your dream. Your dream comes true and you get overwhelmed. Then you sleep on it, give it time, let it sink in, and you’re good.”

“I have a process!”

Yesterday I was at the Albright Knox Art Gallery at a presentation with artists and curators of the current exhibition, Screen Play. One of the curators asked a young artist what his process was for conceiving and implementing a huge animation installation the AK just acquired. He smiled and said, “I sit with my thoughts. My mind is pretty fascinating if I just take the time to observe it. An idea comes into view but it needs time to develop. Then I play video games. I love video games.” The audience, sophisticated people, most of whom grew up in a pre-digital world, appeared a bit perplexed by this. Video games as part of an artistic creative process?

But I was thinking, “He has a process! Just like me! Ha!” Which led me to think that doing anything creative has a process and that is so cool. We are all creators, not just artists. In big ways and small, the entrepreneur, teacher, medical professional, attorney, student, mother, father, we all evolve, develop and grow. It’s when our process stops that we stagnate and risk burn out.

We may not call it A Process. We may call it our weird obsessive compulsive need to light a candle and pray to the muse every time we sit down to write. Whatever our process is, it’s our unique way of loosening up the pathways that allow us to be creative, to grow. That wondrous thing within us wants to come out to meet the world. To do that we need a way to get around anxiety, doubt, comparing ourselves to others, those huge boulders in the path of creativity. Our process is what we do to get out of Creativity’s way.

Ever since my daughter, (let’s call her Sofia, since that’s, you know, her name) ever since Sofia pointed out my process I’ve caught myself getting anxious in other new situations. Before the nasty feeling over-takes me I remember this is a stage of my creative process.

Then I can let myself observe the overwhelmed feeling instead of being completely carried away by it. I can ride it like a surfer over a mighty wave until I get to the solid ground of the beach. That gives me space to be patient, breathe, to get to the realization that it’s all OK. It’s all good.

What is your process? Are you aware of what it is? Is it simple? Complicated? Do you use little rituals? Talk with a particular person who gets it? Play video games? Play with your dog? Please share your thoughts. Click the button under and to the right of the title to leave a comment!

More Winter Blues Busters



You would never know that the days are getting longer and my mare, Annie, is actually shedding. Anyone living in the deep North of the US is acutely aware of our sub-zero days, endless snow with drifts as high as an elephants eye! In other parts of the world it might be hard to imagine what we are dealing with. Over the weekend my sister who lives in Southern California sent me this picture of the view outside a beach house.

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My reaction surprised me. Instead of being filled with envy and bitterness, I was relieved! Thank God! Somewhere in this world there is color and palm trees! It made me smile and shed a tear of gratitude.

Then I sent her this video of the view outside my window on the same day:

So the envy and bitterness wasn’t that far off after all. There it was lurking in the cold corners of my house, my neighborhood, my town, waiting to suffocate me any minute now.

These are tough times for the snow and cold bound. In my practice, just about everyone I see has something anxious, angry or depressing to say about the weather. No matter what the real theme they want to work on is, the coda plays: “…and then there’s the weather.”

Like labor pains, I don’t remember how bad past winters were. We tend to think that whatever we are experiencing now is the worst ever! But in this case, I really think this winter is the worse winter ever! A few years back I shared eight things that helped keep me warm, happy and sane despite the freezing temps after the holidays and without football to distract us. They still apply:

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1) Alpaca fiber socks. These socks are the best socks in the world! They are called Survival Socks for a reason! Warm, soft and amazing at keeping dry. If you wear boots for any reason, for sport, for work, to dig out of the snow or walk your dog through the snowdrifts, these socks will not let you down. Even after coming in, I keep my alpaca socks on to pad around the house. A favorite sweater, wrap (#4), velvet-y soft pants and top, on some days can feel like a warm hug from Mom when we really need it.

 

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2) Bonjour Primo Latte battery operated whisk. I am not big on kitchen gadgets but this is one I love! For under twenty bucks you can make your own skinny vanilla latte at home any time you want! Try this recipe: 3/4 cup 1% milk + 1/4 cup water heated in the microwave for 30 seconds, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp instant Espresso, a drop or two of real vanilla extract. Whisk with your new toy and Voila! A steamy, frothy, low cal treat!

 

 

Hotcocoa_landing 3) Hot chocolate. Not just any hot chocolate. Ghirardelli Chocolate Mocha! I take my chocolate very, very seriously. This stuff is the Rolls Royce of hot chocolate. All other hot chocolate will turn to chalk in your mouth after you taste this rich goodness. That’s all I have to say.

 

Unnamed4) A ruana, shawl, cosy blanket, throw or snuggie. OK, maybe not a snuggie but I love my favorite ruana, a soft wrap that traps my body heat just where I want it and it looks good, too! Which, let’s be honest, a snuggie can never do, even a leopard print one. Just thinking about my ruana makes me feel warm. I think I’ll go get it right now. (see #1)

 

 

PFTL79510_xl45) Treadmill. If it weren’t for my treadmill I would be a squirrelly mess. Activity is a depression buster, and not being a skier, walking on my treadmill gives my cooped-up energy a place to go. Otherwise I’d be hurling large objects at my husband for no good reason. You don’t need a treadmill to move. Put on your favorite jam and dance wildly! Go through some yoga poses throughout the day. Stand and walk around while you’re on the phone calling the furnace guy.

 

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6) Oil popped popcorn. Microwave popcorn is good but real oil popped popcorn has that special almost like movie popcorn taste. Some people say popping your own is healthier than microwave. I don’t know but I do know it’s cheaper! Popcorn is not that hard to make once you have the knack. Try this recipe.

 

 

100_00767) A dog or a cat or any cuddly pet. Their furry goodness warms the heart and makes the frozen days feel less isolating. If they let you get close, their body heat is a good as any heating pad. They are great entertainment value as well! My dog happily hopping in the deep snow makes me laugh every time. Winter depression busted!

 

8) Binge Watching.  All the Mindy Project and The Good Wife episodes you can stand passes the time during a blizzard.

Try this.  Work out first (#5), break a sweat doing any kind of movement, then settle down with #1-#7. Give yourself permission, to not be as productive as usual, to sleep a little more and eat carbs. You’ll be purring with contentment in no time.

What helps you survive the winter? Please share! I’ve added a few more ideas in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you, especially if your situation if different. Do you have kids? Are you an older person or have a disability? What do you do to cope with our crazy environment?

5 Ways To Avoid Procrastination – Get Started!



My friend, Carolyn Thomas, of Heart Sisters, posted a comment on my recent article 3 Ways To Avoid Procrastination. She wrote:

Hello again Dr. A!

Sisyphus and his rock had nothing on me. This week is my daughter’s second wedding anniversary. I’m embarrassed to admit that for two years, I’ve had two (empty) photo albums I’d offered to complete for her (plus 600+ wedding photos) sitting in a big basket full of (expensive!) wedding-themed scrapbooking embellishments in the corner of the living room, all of it reminding me every time I pass that corner of the room that this task is HOW long overdue?!?!

I know, I know, I know – if I would only pull it all out onto the dining room table and just get started (as you point out in #2), I could polish off this creative project in due course – and probably actually have fun creating it.

I do have a beaut of a procrastination excuse, however. On her wedding day, her Dad became very ill. He managed to walk his only daughter down the aisle before one of our guests (a physician) insisted that he needed to go straight to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery and stayed in Intensive Care for over two weeks, seriously ill. So instead of leaving on her honeymoon, our daughter sat vigil with her new hubby at her Dad’s bedside for those two weeks.

As you can imagine, when we look at those wedding photos now, it brings back a nightmarish memory of a day that started off so beautifully but ended with such high drama. Hundreds of photos of her smiling a frozen little pasted-on smile, trying bravely to get through the reception, the dinner, the endless speeches, the party afterwards – when really all she could think of was her Dad who wasn’t there. I dread looking at those photos of her – and let’s face it, she’s in almost every one!

The timing of your post is near-perfect – just the boot in the bum I need. Thank you for this!
regards,

Dear Carolyn,

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I sincerely hope your daughter’s father is well and able to enjoy her second wedding anniversary with the family.

What a doozy of a procrastination excuse! That’s how sneaky and devious that Anxious Avoidance Voice can be. It can hit us where we live so that we’re convinced that avoidance is the right thing to do. Reading your story, anyone with a heart would say, well, of course you don’t want to look at those photos! Put them away! Don’t suffer looking at them. A lot of us can identify with your situation. I spent well over a year avoiding cleaning out my father’s clothes closet after he passed away and felt terrible about it every time I walked by.

I am so happy that the Avoid Procrastination article inspired you! It sounds like you’re determined to get your project done now! I came up with a few more suggestions (see below) that I hope will make your Sisyphean task a bit easier, not just for you but for any of us who are faced with a similarly painful, long avoided project.

Warmest wishes, Elvira

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1. Know that getting started is the hardest part. There’s this thing called entropy. It’s a physics thing but I believe it applies to emotional energy as well. When NASA needs to blast a satellite into space, it takes massive amounts of rocket fuel to push out of the pull of Earth’s gravity. That huge effort then dissipates once the satellite is in orbit. Procrastinating anxiety wants us to think that the same huge effort it takes to get started will be needed throughout the execution of the task. That is just too much for anyone to bear! The truth is that once you are out of the sticky pull of doing nothing, the energy needed to keep your momentum, to keep on course, is nothing compared to the initial, getting-started effort.

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3 Ways to Avoid Procrastination



What if Sisyphus wasn’t being punished by the gods? What if he was an avoider? A chronic self-saboteur? What if Sisyphus rolled that huge boulder almost to the top of the hill and thought, “Screw it, this is just too hard!” and he steps back and lets it go?

Unhappy Sisyphus

He’d feel instant relief. “Oh, man, that feels so much better!” He’d stretch his back, roll his neck, maybe sits down to enjoy the view from the top of the hill, watch the glorious Greek sunset.

Then, when he walks down the hill, all la-dee-da, whistling, he sees the dreaded boulder, waiting for him at the bottom of the hill, mocking him.

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When something makes us anxious, avoidance works to lower anxiety. All procrastination is avoidance. And it’s a damn hard habit to break because avoidance works to lower anxiety. So is thinking everything else is more important than the thing that makes us anxious. We’ll do anything but not the thing that makes us anxious.

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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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What Can I Do To Stop Cutting?



4469573193_b4b4d04691Editor’s Note: The self-injurious nature of cutting is so alarming that people, even professionals, shy away from it. And yet there is a real need to address the reality of cutting head on, illuminate the whys of cutting and get everyone involved expert help. Explore What’s Next has tried to do just that in this series of articles about cutting. In this article, Kate Maleski, LCSW, Explore What’s Next therapist, offers eight helpful ideas if you are cutting and want to stop.

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Why do I feel so much pain? Why am I like this? Why can’t I be more like them?

These are some of the questions that have lead people to think: I deserve pain and I want to physically feel pain. You may find yourself hurting yourself because you feel like nothing else works. Cutting doesn’t heal your pain…

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5 Ways To Deal With Anxiety Over The Heartbleed Bug



3bO_Hxp4_400x400By now you have probably heard about the Heartbleed Bug that has the Internet community shorting out its circuits. With headlines, tweets and posts with titles like “Why Heartbleed Is the Ultimate Web Nightmare” its a wonder any of us got any sleep last night. That Heartbleed logo alone is enough to kick up my flight/fight response!

So what can we do to get a grip, calm our bodies down and take action to do what we can to address the problem?

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What To Do If Your Teen Is Cutting – Revisited



Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dylan Broggio, LCSW, EWN psychotherapist, quite a few years ago. “What To Do If Your Teen Is Cutting” is one of the most viewed articles on the Explore What’s Next blog. We knew this topic was important; what surprised us were the comments by readers who found recognition, validation and hope in Dylan’s article.

In the next week EWN will revisit the subject of cutting, first by presenting the original article once again. Then, in the next few days, EWN will post a new article by Dylan where she addresses the most pertinent comments to the first post. A few days after that you will see another new article by Kate Maleski, LCSW, Group Leader of the “Girls Take Charge” group, this time directed to teens.

If you find this series helpful in any way please leave a comment (the comment button to the right, just below  the title line) and share it with anyone you know who may be struggling with this issue.

~***~

6a00d83527e90e69e20134854de051970c-320piFinding out that someone you love is cutting themselves is very painful, shocking, information to hear. Being armed with information and a game plan can make all the difference in getting your loved one help. What is cutting? Cutting is when someone purposefully injures themselves, but is not trying to committing suicide. Essentially, cutting is a way to deal with pain. Teens and young adults report they cut in order to cope with or relieve emotional pain, or to “feel something” when all they feel is numb. Marks or cuts are typically kept well hidden so that they can continue this way of coping with their emotions.

14% of teens report engaging in self injurious behavior

64% of those teens are girls. (Ross and Heath, 2002)

If you suspect your teen is cutting here are some warning signs:

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The Shooting at Fort Hood & Mental Illness: “Please God, Not Again!”



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Photo courtesy of Steven V

As soon as I saw the “Breaking News” my heart sank. Another shooting. Another gunman. More dead, injured, traumatized.

Then I brace myself for those two little words that always accompany these disastrous gun-related events: “mental illness.”

In a story on NPR, reporter Melissa Block spoke with Counselor Annie Powers, a military veteran herself,  who specializes in treating PTSD. Ms. Powers sees military patients at the Adult, Child and Family Counseling Center in Killeen, Texas, the town where Fort Hood is located.

Ms. Block reports, “All the patients [Annie Powers] talked to since the shooting have been talking about it.”

Ms. Powers states, “I can see where they might be concerned about, oh great, everybody thinks that if you have PTSD, anger, anxiety and depression issues that you’re crazy! There’s a lot of people who are afraid to come get the help. They don’t want it on their military record. They don’t want to go on medication because somebody might know, ‘I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t strong enough.’ I have to explain to them that PTSD is not about strength.”

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