What is EMDR and Can It Really Help?

To be fully transparent, I thought Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) was a load of crap for a really long time. I mean, just look at the name, Eye Movement Desensitization, what the heck does that even mean? How is moving my eye’s around going to heal my panic or trauma? Let’s get real here! Sounded like another fast fix promise meant to prey on people in pain.

BUT…One year, close to my birthday (that’s when all our yearly training requirements are due) I realized I still needed to take more training courses to meet my annual requirements. The only course that fit my schedule was an introduction to Mindfulness and EMDR. “Ugh,” I thought.

Turns out, everything is always as it should be. I got to experience first-hand the fast and immediate benefits of EMDR. We did a simple practice exercise in the training. Going through the protocol on an insignificant frustration allowed me to let go of a frustration and wound I didn’t even know existed, least of all how significantly it was impacting my daily life! Each day after that was brighter, easier, and more peaceful for me. I literally felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders (and for those of you who know me, know I not the rainbows and optimistic type). This was truly an amazing experience.

So, naturally I sought out my own EMDR therapist to see if it really worked or if it was a fluke. I needed to know I didn’t drink the EMDR Kool-Aid. “Had to be a fluke, right?” “Eyes moving, still sounded silly to me.” But low and behold, it was not. Next thing I did, was sign up to become an EMDR therapist. Extensive training later, I can officially say I drank the Kool-Aid and am honored to be part of the club.

So you are still probably wondering…

WHAT THE HECK IS EMDR?

EMDR is a form of therapy that allows you to deeply heal from symptoms of emotional distress. This type of deep healing is often believed to take years of processing and talk therapy. Repeated studies have shown that by using EMDR therapy you can have the same benefits as years of other forms of treatment.

EMDR was originally used to treat clients suffering from trauma and has proven to be the most effective method of treating PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It has since been proven to be an effective treatment for anyone with anxiety, eating disorders, phobias, relationship issues, depression, grief, addiction, and more.

During EMDR sessions, the therapist uses bilateral stimulation (right/left eye movement) to stimulate both sides of the brain. The theory is that this continual movement releases traumatic or emotional experiences that reside in the nervous system. This then taps into the mind/body connection, allowing you to heal both emotional and physical symptoms simultaneously.

Many people like EMDR because they can begin to process experiences or feelings they aren’t able to easily talk about.

WHAT ABOUT SKILLS? DON’T I STILL NEED THEM?

Absolutely! EMDR is a therapy that allows clients to heal from past negative experiences and core belief systems that are holding them back, similar to CBT. However, it often is combined with other forms of therapy to meet your individual needs as the client. For example, EMDR can be combined with CBT or DBT. Many times panic, depression, anxiety, or PTSD can prevent you from learning the day to day coping skills and interpersonal skills that are needed to be effective in your daily life.

If this sounds like something that would benefit you or you want to learn more contact us today to schedule your free consultation!

RAISING A CONFIDENT DAUGHTER IN TODAY’S WORLD

According to researchers this is the unhappiest, loneliest and most stressed out generation on record — and its girls who are struggling the most. By adolescence girls are twice as likely as boys to develop a mood disorder. Depressive symptoms in teen girls increased by 50% between 2012 and 2015, at more than twice the rate of boys. The results of one study in 2017 showed the number of girls who described themselves as “confident” declines more than 25% throughout middle school.

Despite girls excelling academically, they still don’t believe they are smart enough. 30% of girls with the highest grade point averages don’t believe they are intelligent enough to get into a good college.

WHY IS THERE SUCH A DISPARITY?

We know from looking at brain scans that there are differences in the way girls and boys process emotional stimuli. Girls mature, in terms of their emotional recognition, faster than boys—and that sensitivity could make them more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and social acceptance.

WE KNOW THAT THE WORLD IS COMPLICATED FOR GIRLS

Fitting in, body image, pressure, academics, friendships and relationships are all challenging to navigate. Add to this, the potential challenges of technology and social media, and it is not surprising that girls are reporting high levels of pressure alongside declining levels of self-confidence. Girls

For too many girls today, motivation to be successful is fueled by intense self-criticism and fear that they will fail. Our girls may look exceptional on paper but they are often anxious and overwhelmed in life. Many feel that no matter how hard they try, they will never be smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, thin enough, well liked enough, etc.  And it starts young.

AVOID FAT TALK

Between 40% and 60% of elementary school girls monitor their weight. This is partially responsible for the gender disparity of depression.

Many parents believe that their girls in elementary school are too young to have body image issues. Nope. Body acceptance starts early. Kids are sponges and absorb everything around them. Your daughters are influenced by media and by family socialization, this can begin as early as preschool.

Monitor your “Fat Talk” at home. negative comments about your body, how much you’ve eaten or exercised, or comments about others’ bodies. This is body bashing, a kind of ritual self-hatred girls begin practicing early, and many of them learn it from adult women.

Focus your body comments on the ways her body serves her, not others. When your daughter achieves a physical goal, point out how her strong or agile body helped her do it. Talk about eating to be healthy so we can do the things we love with our bodies.

PRAISE THE PROCESS NOT THE RESULT

Well intended efforts to praise your daughter can often backfire. As a parent when you focus on the result this can be heard by your daughter as pressure or an expectation. For example, one study showed that praising intelligence could undermine a child’s confidence.  Two groups of fifth graders received two different kinds of praise after taking an IQ test. Kids in one group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must be really smart at this.” Kids in the other group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must have worked really hard.”

Kids in both groups then had the opportunity to try a challenging task, with the promise they could learn from it. The kids in the “smart” group weren’t interested. The kids praised for their effort took it on. Not only that, the kids in the second group performed better over time, outpacing their “smart” peers on follow-up IQ tests. It appears that seeing intelligence as a fixed trait instills fear of failure that makes kids less able to handle setbacks.

DON’T BE A PERFECT PARENT

Role model messing up and making mistakes! Girls learn from media, adults, and peers to please others in order to remain likeable. The desire to please has a large impact on the loss of confidence for girls in the first place. Not surprisingly, many girls grow to fear failure. They think the more they succeed, the more liked they will be.

Whenever you can, show her that you can fail, mess up, make mistakes and still be okay; The world doesn’t end. Your worth didn’t change; your relationships didn’t change. The ability to handle disappointment and failure is the cornerstone for building confidence. She will learn from watching you.

USE SELF-COMPASSION NOT SELF-CRITISCM

This means that when you do make a mistake, feel bad, or embarrassed you role model saying “I feel really bad about this. It is okay to feel this way.” Rather than “I can’t believe this happened. I really messed up.”

Self-compassion is about being kinder to yourself when you are stressed or upset. Research shows that people who practice self-compassion have lower rates of depression and anxiety.

Next time you are running late and your daughter is with you rather than beating yourself up for being late try verbalizing kindness to yourself. Say out loud “I feel nervous because I am running late. It makes sense that I am late because I am busy and get behind. Lots of people run late. It won’t be the end of the world.”

Just remember to be in it for the long haul. Raising confident daughter’s is a process. Some days will seem easier than others. If your daughter needs help learning to fully accept herself, I am now enrolling for my fall Teen Girls Confidence Group. Contact Me  to apply.

SHIFT OUT OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS (GOAL IS NOT TO CHANGE THEM)

If your teen struggles with negative self-talk the DBT mindfulness skill “Fact or Judgement” may be the solution. They can enjoy the moment without negative thinking.

Thoughts and Feelings aren’t Facts

Anybody who has worked with teens or has teens know that negative self-talk teens are very hard on themselves and this impacts their behavior. Using “Fact or Judgement” can help teens notice what’s happening in their mind and have more control over their emotions and reactions.

For example, if a teen fails a test in school they may think “I’m not good enough. I’m a failure. I’m never going to succeed in school.” Thoughts like this just keeps going and going in their head and by the time they get home they may not be willing to talk or have an angry outburst and as the parent you have no idea why. They may even not want to do their homework, or not want to go to school anymore.

When using “Fact or Judgment” helps teens observe their negative self-talk and ask themselves is this a fact, or is this a judgment? This will help to give emotional distance from the thought.

Teens can say: “I’m having the that I am stupid because I failed this test and this is a judgement. The fact is that I didn’t study. I am passing the class.”

This will in turn impact their behavior: If your teen is no longer feeling like a failure or stupid and has stopped the negative-self talk wheel, they may be more open to studying, going to school, talking to you, etc.

Don’t Let Your Thoughts Drive You

Remember don’t let your thoughts take control. Thoughts are not facts. Practice noticing your thoughts and letting them go. Remind yourself of what the facts of the situation are. Ask yourself what is true here? What amI reacting to?

Some teens have even mentioned that it is helpful gain distance from their thoughts by saying them out loud or talking to them in third person (ex. Lianna this negative thought is just a thought, your facts are…).

This doesn’t mean to invalidate our feelings, just to acknowledge that the thought is just a thought and a fact is fact.

Need more support or tricks for your teen? Book your free parent consultation here.

FIND YOUR TRUE SELF

If your teen struggles with not knowing who they are or feeling lost negative core beliefs may be part of the problem.

Many teens are filled with these negative core belief systems. Core beliefs are belief systems that impact how we see ourselves, others, our future, and the world. They develop over time, usually from childhood and from significant life events and circumstances. They are strongly-held and ridged belief systems that are reinforced by the tendency to focus on facts that support the belief and ignore evidence that contradicts the belief system.

Many of the teenagers I work with at Mindful Healing believe that “They will never get better,” “They aren’t worth helping,” “They are hurting the people around them,” or “They don’t deserve to be loved.”

These beliefs are distress intolerant and can be activated by certain circumstances. When they are triggered they create such a pain response and such large emotional reactions teens cannot tolerate distress.

Core-Beliefs Are Attached to Values

One of the skills I teach at Mindful Healing is the DBT skill: Finding Meaning

This skill helps teens take a look at their distress intolerant beliefs and identify the value and meaning that it is triggering. If they say “I hurt the people around me,” they may value relationships. If they say “I will never get better,” they may value hope.

When teens are able to identify their values and begin to stripe away their self-doubt they are better able to tolerate distress. Adding meaning to life can help create a sense of purpose, life, and hope for the future.

It can help them begin to change their distress intolerant beliefs and find their authentic self!

6 UNHELPFUL THINGS WELL-INTENDED PARENTS SAY

You see your teen feeling overwhelmed with school work, struggling with peer relationships, or constantly judging themselves and all you want to do is help them feel better. You do your best to say the right thing, but some words that may sound positive can actually hurt.

Teens don’t come with a “how-to” manual and despite being attentive loving parents we can say pretty unhelpful things sometimes. These aren’t always things said in the middle of an argument, but things we say to comfort or encourage our teens with the best of intentions.

Next time you find yourself ready to say one of these things pause and take a different approach.

1. Practice Makes perfect

It is true that the more you practice a skill the better you can get at it. However, “perfect” doesn’t exist. This not only sends the message that it isn’t okay to make mistakes, but that perfection is expected and to keep trying until they achieve it. Many teens hear that they are not good enough or worthy until they have achieved this perfection.

2. Don’t Worry or Don’t Cry

We say this often to try to comfort our teens, but instead it sends them the message that their feelings don’t count or are wrong. Instead try saying, “I can see why that be worrisome, what are some things you can do to feel less worried?” This shows your teen not only do understand their feelings but believe they are strong enough to address them.

3. How Was School Today?

This question is asked to show interest on your teens life, but is often met with one word answers – Typically, “good,” or “fine.” Instead try asking questions that require more than one word to answer, such as “what did you do for your science project?” or “who did you sit with at lunch?

4. I’m On a Diet

This is something to keep to yourself. If your children or teens hear you discussing watching your weight, being on a diet, or feeling fat they may develop their own body image issues. Instead try saying that you are eating healthy because you like the way it makes you feel.

5. If you don’t start doing better, you will never get a job/get into college

Often parents say this with the intention of getting teens to think about how their current behavior is impacting their future. If you don’t do your homework now or go to school, your hope of going to college won’t happen. However, if your teen is struggling with going to school adding pressure isn’t going to help. This sends them the message that you don’t believe in them. Focus on supporting the current behavior rather than a negative future. Instead try saying “What are some small steps you can take to get to school?

6. You Can’t Imagine the Day I’ve Had

As parents when you get home after a long day at work and the first thing your teen does is ask you for something or start an argument, this one can be easy to say. Often you are trying to get them to be compassionate and empathetic. What your teens hears is “My problems are more important than yours.” Your teen needs you to be fully present even when you don’t want to be. If you need a few minutes to relax, try pulling over listening to relaxing music or meditating in the car for a minutes down the road before walking in the door.

While these are often said with the best intentions, when we know more about how our teens interpret what we are saying we can truly be as helpful as we intended.

For more parenting support contact me here. 

FEEL DISTRESS? NO THANKS!! BUT CAN IT REALLY DECREASE MY SUFFERING?

Before leaving for vacation I had everything planned out and organized. I wanted to go on my trip and have nothing to worry about, to be able to be in relaxation mode from the second I left work. I wrote my next three weeks blogs, I did all my notes (a rarity for me), I did the laundry, cleaned the house, I was ready to go.

This worked wonderfully. I had an amazing vacation. Everything went as planned. Not a care in the world. I was ready to come home, relaxed and stress free. I had planned a Sunday to recover and re-adjust before returning to work.

When I landed I was waiting as the plane was taxiing to its gate and, just like everyone else, I turned on my cell phone. Then BAM reality hit. All my planning was gone. I was overwhelmed with stressors and to dos. I had expected to have emails to respond to, but not like this:

  • I was being audited by 2 insurance companies (every therapists worse nightmare)
  • A clerical error had accidently ended my relationship with an insurance company and they needed me to “request” reinstatement
  • And worst of all, my cat of 14 years, was dying and may not make it until I got home

I was flooded with emotion; my thoughts were racing. “How am going to handle all of this?” “What if he doesn’t make it until I get home?”  “Was my relaxing vacation a waste because I am so stressed now?” It didn’t feel like I even went away. The list went on and on.

Then I had to pause. What was really in my control? What could I address in this moment? Nothing. This was a moment of suffering for me. All I could really do was be in the moment, and feel the grief. Allow myself to feel the loss. I needed to practice mindfulness and self-compassion. The skills I preach every day and in the moment, I had lost. I was consumed with anxiety and frustration about work and grief about my cat.

As I began to slow down and allow myself to just be, the feeling of the loss of my cat got more intense. Ironic I know, but this was better. I was able to feel it, to know that this was the moment I was in and it wouldn’t last forever. My vacation was relaxing and nothing can take those moments away, they came and they went. This moment was a moment of pain and I needed to feel it. Trying to avoid my feelings had left me feeling overwhelmed and confused.

It is easy to get caught up in our thoughts and emotions. They sometimes have a repetitive quality. Trying not to think about our thoughts or feel our feelings only amplifies them (aka avoidance). This is why practicing mindfulness is so important. Learning to be aware and accept distressing thoughts and feelings helps us allow them to and go without battling with them.

Mindfulness reduces suffering.
And suffering is the result of resisting reality. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional-Buddha

We resist reality by constantly thinking about the past or the future.

Focusing on the past leads to depression, hopelessness, and isolation. Focusing on the future leads to  anxiety, fear and worry.

Focusing on the past or the future leads to being overwhelmed. Now we are dealing with whatever emotions thinking about the past and future brought up, but also whatever emotions we are currently experiencing. It’s too much!

This is what happened to me when my plane landed. My thoughts and feelings began to be overloaded with the memories of the past and plans/fears of the future. I was unable to handle the immense sorrow of my loss. It wasn’t until I began to experience the moment that I was able to begin to grieve and process my feelings.

To learn more about how mindfulness can help change your life click here!

11 PIECES OF OUTDATED DATING ADVICE TO IGNORE, ACCORDING TO THE EXPERTS

Sometimes, waiting between calls or texts can really test your patience. Luckily, according to dating experts, it’s a piece of advice you shouldn’t consider anymore. “Send a text or PM the next day if you want,” Lianna Tsangarides, a licensed clinical social worker, says in an e-mail to Romper. “Let someone know if you are interested or if you aren’t.” No need to hold off until you’ve hit an arbitrary milestone.

Read full article here

IMPROVE YOUR MOOD IN FIVE MINUTES

Lianna Tsangarides, social worker and therapist at Mindful Healing swears by it. “They say messy bed, messy head. I find that having a clean space can really turn my day around. I feel more productive and organized having taken the time to start my day off right. It’s a small ritual that helps to create a soothing environment for the rest of the day.”

Read full article here

WHY RESOLUTIONS FAIL AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

As the year has come to an end many of us take stock of the last year and make new goals and “resolutions” for the year to come. By now, most of you have decided on this year’s resolutions, purchased gym memberships, decided to eat healthier, or reduce your debt. However, as many of us are all too familiar, by 30-60 days into the new year we have already broken our resolutions and sometimes are in a worse position than we started.

Researchers have looked at success rates of peoples’ resolutions. As you might expect, in the first two weeks’ things are going along swimmingly, people are going to the gym regularly, eating well, not smoking, and spending within budget. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50% of Americans sets New Year’s Resolutions and according to Forbes on 8% achieve success.

I, myself, have fallen into this trap year after year. So, why do our resolutions fail? One reason is that in essence a resolution is a form of culturally co-signed procrastination. This year, I’m getting married and like most people keep telling myself I’m going to start working out, but rather than just starting in small steps, I procrastinate for the new year with a grandiose plan to change.

This grandiose plan is another reason resolutions don’t work. We often pick goals that are unrealistic and set ourselves up for failure. This can create a “false hope syndrome,” where our goals are unrealistic or not aligned with our value system. It’s not realistic to think that just because it’s a new year I will suddenly enjoy working out or eating differently. We are really bad at setting achievable goals. Part of the problem is setting goals in absolutes.

Another aspect may reside in our motivation for setting the resolution in the first place. Many of believe that if I just lose the weight, or manage my budget I’ll be happy. When starting to meet our goals doesn’t create the result we were looking for we can get discouraged and revert back to old behaviors.

So, what to do if you want to make a New Year’s Resolution and stick to it? Here are some tips that can help:

  1. Pick one resolution rather than several.
  2. Set realistic goals that don’t expect perfection. Try to avoid absolute language in your goal such as, I’ll go the gym 3x/week. Then if you only go 2x/week you are still meeting your goal. Instead try I’ll work out 1-3x/week.
  3. Don’t give up if you miss something or revert back to old behavior. It’s about progress not perfection.
  4. Prepare for your change in behavior. You don’t have to start just because it’s January 1, 2017.
  5. Reward yourself. Celebrate your small successes before meeting your final goal.
  6. Have someone to hold you accountable to your goal. Maybe find someone with the same goal.
  7. Focus on the present. Be mindful. Be aware of your physical, emotional, and mental state in this moment rather than focusing on the past or future.

Many of us have experienced failure in the past with our New Year’s goals. Past failure can impact our motivation and performance. Failure impacts our perceptions, often causing us to over-estimate how difficult our goals are to achieve. Remember that there is a difference between not being perfect and failure. We all will have off weeks. Our new year’s resolutions are about lifestyle change and not perfect goals. Practice patience for long term success.

Article originally written for The Lady Project in December 2016.

EASY MEDITATION FOR YOUR DAILY LIFE

It’s no secret that meditation has positive impacts on our thinking, health, stress levels and mood when practised regularly. In fact, research shows that when meditation is practised even for only 20 minutes a day it can have significant positive impacts on physical and mental health. Better yet, these 20 minutes don’t have to be practised consecutively. Learning to meditate can be challenging. It is hard to stay focused, know what to meditate on, etc. With so many options of imagery, meditations, and mindfulness out there it can be hard to find a simple starting point when things feel overwhelming.

Read full article on Psychreg