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‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

Maggie is a career coach and life coach who specializes in helping people get clarity about their life’s purpose, and teach them the skills and strategies to overcome obstacles and create a life they love. She leads our Design Your Life online career and life coaching group.

How To Get a Grip On Your Phone Use.

Reading digital detox advice on your phone is a little bit like getting weight loss tips while eating ice cream.

It’s a clear case of hilarious irony colliding with cringe-worthy guilt.

But hey, we’re only human, and all of us – every single one of us (yes, even the people you think have an iron will and appear to have everything put together on the outside) succumbs to temptation and easily slides into habits that don’t serve us.

Cue Christina Perri singing Human.

This time of year, with so many actual things going on in our lives during this busy holiday season, digital over-use can become even more apparent. This is a time to connect with others and enjoy the sights, smells, activities and rituals of the holidays.

But for many of us in this modern age, things like cookie-making with the kids or tree-decorating with the family quickly devolve into hours of Pinterest scrolling on the couch, while your kids or partner drift off into their own personal digital universe. All of you together in your aloneness.

And who among us hasn’t cursed after we picked up the phone to find a cookie recipe online and then two hours later — having missed the actual window of cookie-making opportunity — looked up and thought, “What have I been doing?! That’s two hours of my life that I can’t get back.”

Then we swear we’ll cut down. And we try. And it works. For a while. Until it doesn’t.

Whatever your flavor of choice:

  • Scrolling through Facebook (I know, I know – no one’s on FB anymore, but some people sincerely still show up there – raising my hand, tentatively)
  • Video games
  • Phone games (but they’re brain teasers so I won’t get dementia later in life, right?)
  • Porn
  • Blogs (one of my friends has a handful of sites she visits regularly that she calls “interior design porn”)
  • Those silly quizzes (yes, I really did need to know that if I were a live-action princess, I’d obviously be Cinderella)
  • News sites that feed our political divisiveness
  • Insta (okay, I know it’s called The Gram now)
  • Tumblr
  • That new favorite app (one of my clients told me about Marco Polo, and I’m restraining myself. Do. Not. Need. Another. E-toy.)

I could go on and on. The fun clearly never ends. In fact, if we consciously taper of our phone use, there’s almost a stalkerish quality to how we get reeled back in. Facebook emailed me to tell me that I had 97 notifications after I went on a hiatus for a few days. When I deleted that message, I got an email that one of my good friends had posted an update – my good friend was named and there was a teaser and link. Finally, in disgust, I logged on the FB and spent far more time than was necessary changing my email settings. Stop chasing me, FB!

And the Screen Time feature on the latest iOS. Yeah, I didn’t need that, Apple. Thanks very much anyway.

Look, here’s the thing: over-the-top phone use is like any other compulsion. What starts out seemingly innocently – in fact, often with a real purpose in mind – gradually erodes into something that becomes destructive and unhealthy.

The problem is, by the time we recognize it (or someone calls us on it), we’re in deep, and we tend to react badly:

  • We might become defensive and angry and spew rationales about why it’s important and justified
  • Maybe we berate ourselves for our weaknesses, mentally lashing ourselves for our bad habits
  • Perhaps we withdraw from others because we don’t want to be witnessed doing something that isn’t in our best interest.

Or we turn to a combination of all of these possibilities.

How to Reduce Your Phone Use

The good news is, there are several mechanisms that bring us back to strong mental health and habits that serve us. Instead of white-knuckling it and making what’s been fun all of sudden forbidden or massively restricted, it’s really helpful to look at the root of our phone use.

The first step of changing any habit is to create self-awareness around what’s really going on. When you know what is motivating you to zone out, plus get clarity around how it’s actually impacting your life, then you are empowered and motivated to change. [More on this subject: “How to Stay Motivated”]

Here’s are some examples of the types of questions I ask my life coaching clients to help them crack into what’s really going on with their phone use:

  • What is enticing you to disappear into your phone, to go unconscious, to numb out?
  • What do you want your life to look like? How much phone use feels healthy to you?
  • What needs do you have that you’re attempting to fill through your phone? Connection? Stimulation? Meaning? What would your life be like if you got those met more directly?
  • What does support and useful infrastructure look like for you as you shift your habits and create ones that you want?
  • How is your phone use affecting your relationships with your partner or children?
  • What would your life be like if you felt more connected to the here and now?
  • What would you do with all the time you’d have on your hands, if you released the grip on your phone?

Those are just a few of the questions you might ask yourself to begin making changes in this area of your life. If you’d like many of our counseling and coaching clients here at Growing Self, you might find that when you scratch the surface and turn your awareness to yourself, your feelings, your needs and your desires…. You begin to expand and grow.

When you release your grip on your phone you have time and space to begin cultivating self-awareness. You may find that phone over-use has actually been a place-holder for what you really want and need out of your life. Only then will your real journey begin: Figuring out how to design the life you want.

All to the best to you and yours this holiday season. 

Maggie Graham, M.Ed., LPC, CPC

Healthy Boundaries: The Holiday Edition

Healthy Boundaries: The Holiday Edition

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Healthy Boundaries = Happy Holidays

So many wonderful things are possible during the holidays: Quiet time to expand our souls, the chance to embrace generosity and good will, opportunities to enjoy the warmth of our families and friends, and be grateful for the wonderful relationships in our lives.

But many people suffer through this season, becoming increasingly frazzled, resentful, and hurt with every new disappointing interaction, extra commitment, and unrealistic expectation put on them. (And often, feeling most hurt and put-upon by the people who should love them the best). I’ve been a marriage and family therapist for a loooong time now, and there is one thing I consistently see in people who do NOT have a good time over the holidays: Bad boundaries.

When Boundaries Are a Problem Over The Holidays

  • When Boundaries Are Too Soft: When people are too passive and don’t speak up about their needs and feelings, they often wind up feeling put-upon, mistreated or disrespected by family members, children, friends or partners, and resentments brew. 
  • When Boundaries Are Too Hard: When people are too rigid and inflexible with their boundaries, they often feel tense, stressed out, and irritable by all the assaults to their preferences that this season can fling. Furthermore, friends and family members may feel put-upon, mistreated or disrespected by them — and it creates unnecessary conflict.
  • When Boundaries Are Not Considered: When people aren’t self-aware and clear about their own limits and struggle to hold healthy boundaries with themselves, they overcommit time and energy, have unrealistic expectations of themselves, over-indulge in unhealthy ways, and are prone to overspending. This leaving them feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotionally and financially depleted by the time New Year’s rolls around. Not fun at all.

Because these kinds of boundary problems are so common (and so darn avoidable, with advance planning) I thought I’d put together some holiday-specific boundary advice for you.

Listen, and learn specific, actionable tips and tools that you can use to set healthy limits with your self and others, and also be selectively flexible.

I sincerely hope that it helps you stay in a good place over the next month, and enhance all the wonderful moments that this season has to offer.

All the best to YOU this holiday season…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Healthy Boundaries: The Holiday Edition

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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How to Become Empowered

How to Become Empowered

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Living Like You Are Important, Too.

In our hectic, demanding lives, it’s easy to lose sight of ourselves: Who we are, how we feel and what we need. Even more challenging can be figuring out how to assert all-of-the-above in our relationships with others. This is particularly true if you’ve been existing in a toxic relationship or codependent relationship, or navigating the aftermath of a bad breakup. In the midst of stressful circumstances, attaining empowerment can seem out of reach — especially when you’ve been focused outwards rather than within.

What is Empowerment?

Empowerment can be thought of as one of the goals of self-actualization and personal growth. To be “empowered” is to feel confident, to trust yourself, to believe that your feelings are important, to consider yourself worthy of love and respect, and able to assert yourself appropriately in relationships. However it’s difficult to be truly empowered when you are out of touch with yourself, and feel disconnected from the type of life and relationships that feel energizing and nourishing to you.

Finding Balance Between Me and You

Self empowerment can feel challenging for people who care about other’s feelings, and who prioritize their connections with others. Why? Because for sensitive, caring people it can be easy to disown yourself and your feelings — making the way others feel, and what they need more of a priority than your own needs and feelings. Many people, especially women, can feel guilty when they ask for what they want. Furthermore, if you are in a relationship that does not support your empowerment, you may also feel like you’re risking having other people judge you or be angry with you if you start asking for what you need for a change. [Read: How to Stand Up For Yourself and Still Have Friends.]

However, at the same time, being dependent on other people to meet your needs or for the way you feel about yourself is inherently disempowering. If you wait for other people to take care of you instead of caring for yourself, you risk becoming resentful. And when you allow they way other people feel about you to define the way you feel about yourself, you become disconnected from yourself; transformed into a people pleaser, chasing the dragon of approval. [Listen: Stop Comparing Yourself To Others]

The last thing you want is to feel hollow, helpless, or increasingly bitter. While attaining empowerment can feel bold, or even scary, it’s really the only choice for a happy, healthy life and relationships. Believing that you are worthy of love and respect — and then behaving accordingly — helps you take care of yourself and teaches others how to treat you.

Empowerment Always Evolving

Empowerment is not something that you achieve and then have forever. For most people, living in a position of empowerment requires balance and constant realignment. To stay empowered means staying connected to your feelings, and the evolving landscape of your life. In this way, we can say that authentic, healthy “empowerment” is more of a life-skill than a destination.

Because developing empowerment is such a complex, yet vitally important part of the growth process for many people, I’m devoting an entire episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to the topic. I’m also enlisting the support of a real-life “Empowerment Expert” to share her wisdom with you: my colleague Teena Evert, a fellow therapist and life coach on the Growing Self team. Teena specializes in helping people create empowered lives and authentic relationships, starting by focusing on how to build a strong foundation within themselves.

Attaining Empowerment

Teena and I are talking about many of the “pieces” involved with cultivating personal empowerment, including:

  • Mindful self-awareness
  • Building self-love and self-compassion
  • Why building a sustainable self-care routine is key to maintaining your solid foundation
  • How stress can impact your empowerment
  • The need to create balance by staying aware of your feelings
  • How to be assertive and set boundaries in relationships… while also being flexible
  • Trusting yourself
  • How to ask for what you need… while also having compassion and empathy for people you love
  • Developing a sense of self worth that is independent of external validation
  • How to not give your power away, blame others, or lose yourself in relationships
  • How to not fear your own power

 

How to Cultivate Empowerment in Your Life

Becoming a fully empowered person is a process, not an event. For most people, achieving this type of confidence and growth is acquired over months, even years of dedicated personal growth work. However, Teena shares many different strategies you can start using right now, to build your self awareness mindfully, treat yourself with compassion and respect, trust yourself, and start strengthening your feelings of empowerment. I hope her wisdom gives you insight into how to begin cultivating empowerment in your life.

Additionally, we discussed a number of resources on today’s show. Here are links to learn more:

Enneagrams – The self awareness / personality quiz we often use with our individual and couples here at Growing Self.

Cultivating Mindfulness Skills – Check out the “Happy Mind” unit of The Happiness Class.

With love and respect,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Attaining Empowerment

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Sinead OÇonnor, “Just Like You Said It Would Be”

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How to Release Control and Let Things Go

How to Release Control and Let Things Go

Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFTC is a therapist, life coach and couples counselor who helps you find passion and joy in yourself and your relationships. She supports you in creating meaning and happiness, and not only facing your challenges — but triumphantly overcoming them.

The Control Crisis

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of the advice “Just let it go!” or “There’s nothing you can do about it, so why worry?” How difficult is that to hear!? This is especially true if you’re a proactive person who is good at thinking through different scenarios. Shouldn’t you do everything you can to avoid possible problems, or have things go the way you want them to?

So when people tell you to back off, you might start to wonder; “Don’t they understand what I’m going through?” Maybe you even start to think, “There must be something more I can do.” You probably notice worry, anxiety, and stress start to build, as you rattle over your different options, accounting for all the unknown variables.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Control

I commonly hear folks discuss intense worry and distress because of circumstances we can’t control ranging from that friend who just won’t take your helpful advice to family members who don’t respect your boundaries. We are constantly being confronted with unpleasant situations that we often have little to no control over. This is especially true in relationships. What do we do with the anxiety this produces?

First, you might start to notice the paradox that takes place: we attempt to control circumstances to alleviate anxiety or stress, but in holding onto control (especially when we try to control what we have no power over) it only serves to increase anxiety and stress.THEN to compound the situation, the circumstances we most deeply desire to control are usually the ones we can’t! What a mess! [More on this: Are You Stuck in a Codependent Relationship?]

Well, here’s the good news: First, you’re not alone and secondly, there are some things you can do about it! I want to share with you three quick tips to let go of control (and in letting go of control, you may actually start to feel more in control… I know it sounds crazy).

How to Let Go Of Things You Can’t Control

Tip 1: Identify Situations Where You Have Control… and Where You Don’t

The What: An easy rule of thumb is: you are in control of yourself. It may also be helpful to create the distinction between what you can control and what you may be able to impact.

For example, you can’t control if your coworker is willing to be a team player, but you may be able to impact this behavior by voicing your needs (i.e. you are in control of how you want to respond and how you want to manage the stress your coworker’s behavior causes you). [More about Emotional Intelligence in the workplace].

The How: You might try doing a check-in with yourself when you notice stress is on the rise. Ask yourself what am I in control of right now? I sometimes encourage folks to actually write out an exhaustive list of their concerns and go through each item and identify what they can control. Once you identify the “uncontrollables,” you can start to practice the next tip!

Tip 2: Give Yourself Permission to Let Go

The What: Sometimes we feel worrying is one way we can control for the uncontrollable. (As in, “If I worry about it enough, I’ll be prepared,” or “Worrying is better than doing nothing.”) Instead of churning in worry, try giving yourself permission to let go. Let go of the need to hold on to the unknown. Remind yourself that you will know what to do if a crisis arises. Trust yourself. You’ve got this! Even in moments where that feels impossible.

The How: Try reciting mantras such as:

“It’s okay for me to let this go.”

“I don’t need to hold onto this.”

“I have done everything I can do.”

You can also ask a loved one for support with this. Sometimes we might need reassurance, that we have indeed, done everything we can do, until we’re able to provide this reassurance to ourselves.

Tip 3: Radical Acceptance

The What: When we are unable to reframe or change the experience, we may need to rely on radical acceptance. This concept tells us there may be times we need to accept circumstances that we don’t like. (I know, yuck!).

The key with this is knowing that acceptance does not mean approval or giving up. Simply put, it means we can see the circumstances for what they are. In doing this; we reduce the suffering we experience. (I get that this sounds counterintuitive).

The How: Try slowing down (for example: deep breathing) and creating room for the reality of the situation to exist as well as the idea that accepting that situation is uncomfortable (there’s room for both of these things to exist).

Think of it this way: If you’re stuck in traffic maybe you start to feel angry, and you notice yourself questioning “Why isn’t that car moving!?” Or perhaps you try switching lanes or honking. You might notice your pulse is quickening and the frustration is surging through you.

OR if you embrace Radical Acceptance you could try saying to yourself, “I’m doing everything I can do, I can’t control the car in front of me, and I’m stuck in traffic right now and that stinks.”

Which experience results in less emotional stress? (Pssst…it’s the one where we accept what is, while simultaneously acknowledging it’s not enjoyable).

Managing Anxiety + Releasing Control = Inner Peace

The key with all of these tips is to practice, practice, practice and go slow. It can be incredibly challenging to let go, especially in situations that aren’t comfortable. Take your time, and give yourself credit for what you’re already doing. I hope through using these strategies you may find yourself regaining control by relinquishing it.

Remember- everyone is doing the best they can in the moment (this includes you!).

All the best,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFT-C

Mindful Self Compassion

Mindful Self Compassion

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Mindful Self Compassion

MINDFUL SELF COMPASSION: As you may know, in addition to my work here as a therapist, couples counselor and life coach, I love addressing listener questions on the Love Happiness and Success Podcast (not to mention the wonderful questions that you guys leave for me on our blog).

A while ago, one brave listener reached out with a heartfelt email, sharing a bit about her life, and asking how to handle some really difficult things, like:

“How do I forgive myself when I’ve hurt someone?”

“How do I break my old patterns so that I don’t do harmful things again?”

“How do I stay emotionally available when I fear being hurt?”

These are important questions that many people wrestle with, and I decided to tackle them on the show. We’ll be discussing:

How to Forgive Yourself When You’ve Hurt Someone

While so many resources are there to help you if you’ve been hurt by someone else, or need to forgive someone who has betrayed you, or how to rebuild trust in a relationship, few resources exist to help those suffering with feelings of guilt, regret and remorse. This is unfortunate, because who among us hasn’t done something they regret? The worst is when you’ve hurt someone you’ve loved, and maybe lost a relationship as a result of it.

We’ll discuss how to apply self-awareness and mindful self-compassion to this situation in order to find forgiveness for yourself, by putting your actions in context of both your life experience and your inner experience. We’ll talk about how to practice self-compassion, and also some self-compassion exercises to help you develop this skill.

Resources: Here’s the link to the attachment styles article I mentoned. One of the other resources I discuss here is our “What’s Holding You Back” quiz to help you gain self-awareness (here’s the link if you want to check it out).

How Do I Break My Old Patterns?

The crux of any personal growth process is using your self-awareness and your feelings to get clearer about your values, help you guide your future behavior and future choices. But all we have is the present moment. We’ll talk about how to combine compassion for yourself, empathy for others, and mindfulness skills to manage yourself in the moment so that you create better outcomes in the future.

Resource: Mindfulness, For People Who Hate to Meditate

How Do I Stay Emotionally Available in Relationships?

When you’re feeling fragile and emotionally reactive, it’s hard to have healthy relationships. Instead, we usually fall into either losing ourselves and being dependent on another for our feelings of self-worth. (Which too often leads to emotional enmeshment and codependency). Or, we swing into self-protection, lashing out, shutting down, or breaking off relationships. The key to finding a middle path — connection, and confidence — is through loving yourself and strengthening yourself.

Resource: Here’s the link to the Self-Love article I mentioned. Also, an article about cultivating healthy vulnerability in relationships.

At the heart of all the ideas, skills and strategies here for forgiving yourself, and using your mistakes as a launch pad for growth is the concept of mindful self-compassion. I hope you keep that idea with you, on your journey of growth and healing.

Your fellow traveler,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Mindful Self Compassion: How to Forgive Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Growing Self Counseling & Coaching