2017 in Review: Looking back and looking forward

2017 in Review: Looking back and looking forward

As 2017 winds down and you are in the in between space of Christmas and New Year’s, this is a great time to reflect, plan, and dream.

Making time to do this end-of-the-year ritual is a worthy practice to work into this time of year. We updated our download Looking Forward:Looking Back  for you – which is a fun tool to help you reflect on what worked in 2017, what did not, and what you want to focus on in 2018. Click on the link, download and print. Pen to paper is its own special kind of therapy.

This ritual is a powerful way to see the fruits of your hard work and make time to celebrate victories. Sometimes this ritual can feel overwhelming, especially when you feel like the previous year holds disappointments or the overwhelm of all you want to change in the new year feels daunting and out of reach.

So:

  • for those who feel the pressure of the oh so seductive marketing promises of quick results that will give you the desired changes you seek – unplug and get extremely selective about which voices are speaking to your worth.
  • for those who want to do all the things now and are feeling impatient waiting for circumstances to change – keep showing up and moving towards your goals one step at a time.
  • for those who want to forget the past all together – look back and rumble with your story so it no longer owns you but instead informs you.
  • for those who are experiencing the waves of grief and loss that have led to seismic shifts in doing life – just keep breathing. That is your only job right now. You will know when it is time to do more.
  • for those who think everyone else has it all together and no one else struggles – everyone struggles. Some are just better at hiding it than others.
  • for those who are ashamed about about  anxiety, depression, trauma, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, loneliness, experienced betrayal – we stand with you and speak a different message than shame: you are seen, you are valued and you belong here.

Cheers to good health – mind, body, and soul in 2018 and beyond.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

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Mindful Self-Care Part 2: Checklist

Hello and happy fall!

Last week, we shared a document compiled by Potentia therapist Stephanie Godwin about some important mindful self care practices. This week, we share a companion handout – a mindful self-care check list. These are not revolutionary questions but years of working with clients has taught us that checking in on the simple questions can often be the hardest.

Make a practice of reviewing this checklist weekly for a month and notice which questions catch your attention – either positively or negatively. Share your experience with a friend or your therapist and find ways to make this experiment a deeper habit.

Key components of mindfulness are: noticing and presence – two things that are hard to do living in a noisy world.

Self-care is not a luxury or an indulgence. It is as crucial as your rest and eating enough vegetables. Slowing down, noticing and feeling can be dangerous to parts of your protective system. But by practicing, checking in and getting curious, you create new resources in your brain which fuel resilience, calm, and confidence.

This practice does not mean you will not struggle. That is not realistic at all.  Daring to love, to try something new, to change is part of the messy, beautiful adventure of being human. Where humans are present, so is struggle. Which is why self-care is so fundamental to your mental health.

What would you add to this checklist?

Cheers to a good weekend and a deeper practice of presence and self-care.

With gratitude – Rebecca

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What is perfectionism costing you?

What is perfectionism costing you?

“We have more access to information, more books, and more good science – why are we struggling like never before? Because we do not talk about the things that get in the way of doing what we know is best for us, our children, our families, our organizations, and our communities.”  

— Excerpt from “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW

Like many of you, when I read Brené’s The Gifts of Imperfection, I was captivated by her research and her languaging of what I have struggled with much of my life.

I remember reading through this book underlining paragraphs and writing personal thoughts in the margins all the while talking about with everyone I knew.

Parts of me led life through the lens of perfection believing this was the best way to live and do life. As destructive as all or nothing thinking is – it also provides a container of control and purpose to protect – giving the illusion this approach to life is sustainable. Until it isn’t.

I now know perfection is a fierce protector. Hustle. Numb out. Focus on the results. Or do not try at all. Perfection thinks it is the ultimate safety armor. And yet it also ends up wreaking havoc on faith, health, confidence, courage and creativity because the anxiety of perfection fuels both overfunctioning  and underfunctioning.

Perfectionism is often behind:

  • Missed social events + work
  • Loss of sleep
  • Physical symptoms (GI distress, panic attacks, appetite confusion)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Exhaustion
  • People pleasing and worries of letting people down
  • Dread of being misunderstood
  • Procrastination and missed deadlines
  • Constant feelings of failure and unworthiness
  • Panic and perseveration
  • Overwhelm + Obsession
  • Competition and comparison
  • Fears of being found out as a fraud

There is great cost to living a life led by perfectionism.

It is related to loss of revenue and professional opportunities scarcity mindset, relationship difficulties, physical and emotional health problems all the while crushing confidence, faith, calm, and clarity.

A life led by perfectionism costs us our sense of what it truly means to feel worthy – regardless of what we do or what others think. And it sure fights to keep status quo as it fears moving away from this lens will cause more pain and struggle. 

Reading Gifts of Imperfection shifted so much for so many. And years later, we are having brave and honest conversations about perfectionism. It has been powerful for me and many I know to have “Me, too.” conversations around this topic.

At the same time, all of the insight and awareness around perfectionism has created perfectionism around not being a perfectionist.

In essence, perfectionism can hijack the process of trying to move away from the perfectionism. It is an interesting beast, for sure.

Behind perfection is shame, anxiety and fear. There is nothing pretty about these emotions and the impact they have on our lives and the world around us. But the pain needs to be unburdened – not stuffed, minimized or camouflaged or they will keep hijacked what you desire most: connection, confidence and safe community. Which is why I am offering a workshop focused on the fierce protector so we can get curious about its intent and discover ways to shift away from a perfectionistic mindset without triggering feelings of overwhelm. 

If you say to yourself one or more of the following:

  • Why am I still struggling with____? You should have had things figured out by now…
  • No one can ever see me struggle.
  • Why try? It will not be good enough no matter what.
  • Everyone else has it all together but me…
  • I am obsessed with eating healthy – food is good or bad and my body is the enemy.
  • I can’t stop counting calories. If I do, I will lose control and not be desired.
  • You are the one who has to keep it all together. You can’t struggle.

…. then perfectionism is still trying to protect you the best way it knows how. 

And at the heart of these emotions lies trauma, betrayal, attachment injuries, rejection, loneliness, confusion.

If you try and fix perfectionism without digging deeper and doing the work to heal the root of the pain, you will only get temporary relief. And this work is not easy. But it can be so fruitful. It never ceases to amaze me what we learn about ourselves because we have the help of trusted support.

We can’t think ourselves through the pain – we have to feel our way through it. Perfection says fix it now and be done. Wisdom says this is a lifelong process.

My excitement about doing the work to (re) define perfection is in part selfish as I am doing this work continually myself. Safe community is a powerful space to continue to rumble with perfection and (re) define its role in your life.

If the pain of perfectionism resonates with you, I encourage you to consider joining us in San Diego on May 18-20 for (re) Define Perfection: Choosing Flexibility Over Rigidity – which is part of our summer mental health series for adults.  You’ll learn how to implement daily life practices to help build the resilience and courage needed to show up in life with both boundaries and an open heart. Learn More.

What do you rumble with this most? How is perfection costing you? I want to hear about your experiences with perfection and rigidity and how you are tackling this common issue.

With gratitude – Rebecca

What is perfectionism costing you?

A Manifesto on Struggle and Respect + One Week Until Our Open House

A Manifesto on Struggle and Respect + One Week Until Our Open House

 

At Potentia, we are dedicated to decreasing the stigma around mental health issues and those who ask for help when struggles arise. There are many mixed messages about daring to ask for help, especially from a therapist. We get it. Therapy has its own baggage as our field is often not portrayed in the best light in pop culture.

The therapists I work with – along with colleagues I know around the city and the globe – are doing their best to change the reputation of our field. By holding high professional standards and always learning, refining our professional skills and practicing personally what we encourage our clients – we strive to offer those we serve with the best clinical care.

There are so many ways to heal. EMDR Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Shame Resilience Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Bowen and Structural Systems Therapy are many of the approaches we view how people change and heal.

Those seeking relief from trauma, loss, life transitions, eating disorders, addictions+compulsions, relationship tensions, depression, anxiety and more are some of the bravest people we know. The courage it takes to ask for help and commit to healing, improving, and growing never ceases to be inspiring and humbling to witness.

As we prepare for our 4th annual I Choose Respect effort to be showcased on our Facebook and Instagram feeds during the month of February, here are some thoughts on how we view struggle in the first I Choose Respect Manifesto.

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How are you going to take action?

No Body Story Shame

Hello and happy first Friday in June!

The Potentia team has transitioned into our summer schedule which is full of vacations, sun, and fun while continuing to serve our community by treating the whole person and the whole spectrum of mental health and wellness issues.

As many of our long-time friends know, one of the areas we offer specialized support is in the treatment of the eating disorder spectrum.

Today I am adding to the voices talking about World Eating Disorder Action Day – which was yesterday but better late than never!

I know when I write or talk about eating disorders, many say this issue is not important to them because it does not impact their life.

I ever so gently want nudge that sentiment to say that this issue – the most deadly of all mental health struggles – is an issue for us all.

In fact, this is a leadership issue and your voice and action is needed.

It is time to take action and create space to have a different conversation about food, health, bodies, worthiness, strength and success.

Many are secretly struggling with self-loathing, anxiety, fear and shame around how you feed, move, dress, rest and talk to your body. This may not present as a clinical eating disorder though the distress is still significant.

We live in a culture where it is acceptable – and often encouraged – to critique how people look, eat, dress, and live. Our bodies, which are both personal and private, are often not respected in search of  control, status, belonging and relief.

Shaming self and others destroys souls and never leads to sustained change or healing.

And this is where you come in on this call to action.

Even if eating disorders do seem like they not impact you, taking some subtle yet powerful actions to help create more safe spaces to talk about what it means to be well, what it is like to struggle with depression, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, recovering from trauma, neglect, loneliness and hopelessness can make a profound difference.

Genetics, family of origin and difficult like experiences play a role in how we all navigate what it means to be well. The media we consume, our social, professional and faith communities all have a powerful influence on our lives, too.

Would you consider taking action on any of the following areas? These may seem like small gestures or actions. Do not underestimate the power of making a small change.

  • Discourage negative body talk or shaming at your home, school, place of worship and.or work.
  • Affirm people based on their character not their looks or physical accomplishments.
  • Edit your consumption of media (tv, social media, magazines, etc) or even consider taking a media fast for a week.
  • Learn about orthorexia and how the obsession to eat healthy is really masking serious disordered eating, anxiety and other serious struggles.
  • Read this series I wrote for Darling Magazine on the myths and meanings of eating disorders.
  • Make a commitment to learn more about what it means to feed well, move well, rest well and talk with your body well. Dr. Megan Holt is an excellence resource for in-person or online health + wellness consultations.
  • Stop dieting and extreme ways of feeding and pursue a practice of intuitive and mindful eating.
  • If there is someone in your circle of influence you think may be struggling on the disordered eating spectrum, dare to have a courageous conversation with him/her – stating your love, your concern and your suggested resources. 
  • Commit to making the dinner table and home a place where food is discussed neutrally and is a means for fuel and medicine and enjoyment – not to be a source of obsession or fear.

 

What would you add to this list? 

How do you plan to take action in your circle of influence? 

 

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching

PS – Make sure to check out our Summer Mental Health Camp offerings throughout the summer!

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The Loneliness of Suffering in Silence

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suf·fer·ing noun the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.

Too many people are suffering in silence. Our neighbors, classmates, colleagues, members at our church and our social media friends may not look like they are struggling because most people do not wear their loneliness and shame on their sleeve.

We all have become pretty darn good at hiding our suffering.

In vulnerable and authentic conversations, I hear people say:

Well…everyone seems to have it all together.
Why am I still struggling? Others seems to get over challenges quicker than I do.
I am the exception to grace, forgiveness and peace.
I can’t talk about my loneliness. No one will understand because I have so many blessings in my life, I will just seem selfish. 
I am tired of trying again and again and nothing seems to work to help me feel better. 
It only makes me feel worse worrying the people around me – it is better to just keep my pain to myself. 
If I really told people about why I am hurting, I would lose my job, my family, my friends. No one at church would talk with me anymore. 
I do not have the resources to get help. I need to just figure this out on my own. 
I do not think people want to hear the pain. It seems everyone wants to fix me instead of understand me. 
Too many people think mental health struggles are my fault. If I could do something to stop feeling this way, I would! I have tried!

Story shame disconnects, blames and fuels fear beyond its protective origins.

Shame wins when you stay silent about your pain. And shame also wins when you shrink from the messiness of entering into another’s story of struggle because of judgement, blame and fear.

I made a vow to myself when I was in high school to do everything I could to make sure people did not suffer in silence like I did during my teen years and beyond.

The mentors, friends and professional in my life were anchors as I navigated figuring out how to adult in a way that made sense to me and was sustainable.

Eventually studying why people struggle helped me develop a deeper understanding of my own story, my brain and the spiritual aspect of suffering which eventually led me to my current professional passion as a therapist.

Mental illness is real and the statistics around those wrestling mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders are way too high.

But even greater is the epidemic of loneliness.  This is the kind of loneliness that is not based on whether you have people around you but more about whether you feel seen, heard and understood.

The kind of loneliness I am talking about is a deficit of social connection – which may seem ridiculous to those who say we are more connected then ever in this era of social media. But what is presented on social media is often not a holistic picture of people’s lives.

This video address the connection of loneliness and social media brilliantly:

Loneliness impacts our physical body and our souls. It is a biological warning sign there is a threat to our social connection. It activates the pain triggers in our brain to inform us we are in danger.

Loneliness is different than depression but is a bedfellow with it, for sure. And shame, oh the narrative of shame, gets fueled when we are in connection deficit.

Experiencing positive connection often does not eradicate the loneliness immediately. But if steadfast in the practice of reaching out and showing up with the right support, you can begin to get your mind, body and soul to recalibrate. Genetics, temperament, history and life experiences all play a role in the impact of loneliness and suffering along with how we heal from these difficult states.

It is also risky business to be steadfast with someone struggling. Rarely are there quick fixes and it can be intense navigating how to help, when to help and when to step back.

It is scary to reach out for help. It is also scary to help someone.

Committing to help someone struggling involves uncertainty, messiness and stress.

Committing to keep trying to heal involves energy, motivation and commitment.

When judgement spikes when confronted with stories of struggle, be clear it is armor to your vulnerabilities which have been triggered by giving witness and feeling painful emotions.

“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: “Who can take away suffering without entering it?” – Henri J.M. Nouwen The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society

We desire so deeply to be seen and when we are  – it can also be one of the most terrifying experiences, too.

I think there is more we can do in our communities to decrease the numbers of those suffering in silence.

We are not the ‘other’. Either we are struggling or we have come out of our time of suffering so we can support those who are in the pit of pain.

We need to cultivate in our communities permission to share struggles, regularly communicate the message to never stop trying and that showing up for help is deeply important, if not necessary.

This UCLA Loneliness Inventory is a useful tool in assessing you loneliness scale and the need for additional support. 

For those feeling suicidal or who know some struggling with suicide and need support, connect with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To text for help, contact Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., click here international support. Grief and loss resources are available here. (link http://www.griefshare.org/.)

My challenge to you is to dare to reach out this week to one person – whether to share you care about someone or to reach out for your own help.

Never underestimate a courageous act.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT