It’s Okay to Cry: How to Handle Big Emotions

It’s Okay to Cry: How to Handle Big Emotions

It’s Okay to Cry: How to Handle Big Emotions

Emotional Health

IT’S OKAY TO CRY | It’s ok to feel exhausted, or angry, or discouraged. It’s ok to find rage building in your chest, or to feel fear and worry buzzing like bees in your gut. It’s ok—really, it is—to have big, powerful emotions, and it’s also ok if you don’t know what to do about them.

This may not feel like a shocking statement, coming from a therapist, but it’s worth saying even so.

 It’s worth saying because I’m pretty sure you’ve heard differently.

You may have heard that being angry is unattractive. You might have been told (or you might tell yourself) that your sadness makes you weak, or that fear is unacceptable. You may have learned overtly, or through experience, that the things you feel are inappropriate for someone of your gender, your race, your age, or your position. You may have discovered that sharing your emotions with others can make them uncomfortable, and can have painful or embarrassing consequences.

I suspect you’ve heard and felt these things because I’ve heard and felt them too, and so have my therapy and coaching clients who come to see me, seeking a place where—finally—their emotions are welcome.

Validate Feelings

I imagine that you, like me, like each of us, have adapted to these expectations. You might use humor as your shield, or you might intellectualize, straining the vulnerable bits out of the experience in favor of a punchline or a cognitive conclusion. 

Another popular choice is distraction (hi, smartphones and those earbuds you never take out anymore); or—another crowd-pleaser here—you might use your work as a hideout, allowing busy-ness (and often, positive feedback) to drown out any emotions that might come knocking. One that I use all the time? Taking care of someone else: I let whatever the other person is feeling fill all the space in the room.

You might identify with some (or even all) of the defense mechanisms I’ve listed here, or you might not. Your way of coping might be food, or substances, or exercise, or sex, or sleep, or even—brace yourself—something you learned in therapy. Yes, strange though it might sound, most strategies related to “emotion regulation” (think: breathing exercises, grounding practices, and many forms of mindfulness) function primarily to protect us from emotions, buffers between ourselves and the emotions that plague us.  

You might be thinking, “hey, isn’t a lot of that stuff good?” If so, you’re right!

Wheel of Emotions

Sometimes—often, even—our emotions can feel messy, draining, unprofessional, and in the way. They can make it hard for us to, say, focus at work, or to be kind in conversations, or to fall asleep at night. They can also push us outside our personal windows of tolerance (the degree to which you can endure a particular emotion before you stop acting like your best self).

When that happens, things can get ugly, or even dangerous, and it is very important for each of us to have ways of helping ourselves stay within that safe, manageable emotional range. Some ways are healthier and more effective than others; the key is to find something that works for you in the moment without making your situation worse long term (addiction is one way certain defenses can backfire, for instance). 

But let’s say you’ve got a defense that’s working for you, consistently creating distance from your emotions, and not creating any kind of perceptible danger. Is this enough?

I would argue no. It isn’t enough, either for me, or for my clients.  Here’s why:

The emotions are still there, unresolved. In your less-guarded moments, you feel them.  And if you’ve been fending them off for a long time, you might notice that they start to change over time—and that these changes can be deeply unpleasant. We tell ourselves that emotions go away with time, but often the reality is much less rosy.

Feelings, like fruits and veggies, are meant to be digested while they’re fresh, and an emotion left unattended can rot: frustration can build into rage; hurt can fester and become resentment or even contempt; and sadness can, when left to itself, become a full-blown depression

We know, deep down, that we can’t go on avoiding our emotions forever, but it can be hard to stop—especially if the only alternative seems to be allowing the emotions to overwhelm you.

Emotional Goals

So let’s say you wanted to approach your emotions differently (Maybe you’re ready to agree that It’s Okay to Cry).  What would that look like?

This is a question I hear a LOT (especially lately from my online therapy clients), and it’s a good one. In fact, it still gets clinicians and researchers across the disciplines of psychology, counseling, and human development into spirited and complex debate. 

For starters, it’s important to recognize that we have emotions for a reason. Just like hunger lets you know that you need to eat, or pain tells you that you’ve been injured, emotions give us important information about ourselves and our needs

Emotions happen faster than conscious thought, which means that they give us the ability to notice and respond to our environment quickly. They are also fundamental to human bonding: without emotions we cannot experience connection, empathy, love, or loyalty. We can’t create partnerships, families or communities, and we can’t even communicate coherently with ourselves. 

In other words, our emotions are an asset. They’re not a necessary evil, an inconvenience, or a character flaw: they are essential feedback, allowing us to keep ourselves safe, whole, and connected to those we love.

In order to tap into this strength, I walk my clients (and myself) through five simple steps, counting them off on my fingers.

5 Simple Steps to Emotional Health

#1 The first thing to do is learn to notice our emotions as they happen. (Hint: the easiest way to do this, especially if it’s unfamiliar, is to start with your body. Is your forehead creasing? Is your heart beating fast, or slow? Are your hands or feet fidgeting? Might you be tensing your shoulders, biting your lip, clenching your fists, holding your breath?) This may involve learning to pause some of the strategies mentioned earlier, allowing yourself to direct your attention toward the emotion rather than away.

#2 The second step is simply to name the emotion. You may be feeling more than one at a time, but you can avoid confusion and overwhelm by just focusing on one at a time.  So now perhaps you’ve paused, noticed a lump in your throat, and thought to yourself, “I’m feeling sad right now.”

#3 Now for the third step: ask yourself where the emotion is coming from.  (This is a meditation technique called “reflecting:” you ask yourself a question, allowing your mind to answer without conscious effort, without pushing. You may surprise yourself with how you answer!)

#4 The fourth step is crucial: validate what you’re feeling. Emotions don’t get resolved until they’re taken seriously, so this is your chance to tell yourself things like: “It makes sense that I feel this way;” “My feelings are legitimate;” “It’s ok that I’m feeling this right now;” “I can feel this and still be ok,” “It’s okay to cry.” 

In this step, self-compassion starts to peel back the layers of resistance we have toward a certain feeling, giving ourselves permission to own our experiences rather than smothering them or shaming ourselves. And here’s the twist: even as we make room for the emotion, we start to feel calmer. 

Finally, we turn our attention to the need indicated by the emotion, and try to find a way of meeting it.  So if you’re feeling guilty, you might need to make an apology.  If you’re feeling angry or hurt, you might need to protect yourself.  If you’re feeling lonely, you might need to try connecting with someone.  And if you’re feeling sad, you might just need to cry. 

This step can be tricky, because sometimes the thing we feel we need is impossible (for instance, if you’re grieving the passing of a loved one, you might truly feel that you need them back; or if you’re deeply ashamed of something you said to your partner, you might feel you need a time machine to go back and change your behavior). 

It can also be hard because sometimes emotions urge us to try unhelpful things to make ourselves feel better, like punching someone who’s made us angry. It can be tempting to think that resolving the external event is the same thing as resolving the emotion, but that’s problematic too: it’s often beyond our capacity to “fix” whatever has happened to make us feel this way, and in any case, emotional needs often transcend their impetus (they’re often bigger or deeper than a single event). 

#5 The key to the fifth and final step of this process is to choose kindness toward yourself and the emotion at hand, demonstrating that you’re taking your feelings seriously, and that you’re going to act accordingly.

Walking yourself through these steps isn’t easy, especially the first time.  If you’re new to this sort of thing, be sure to cut yourself some slack: it takes practice. You might feel silly reassuring yourself, or you might get lost in your own thoughts as you try to figure out where a particular feeling is coming from. It’s normal to struggle.

As I write this, the world is struggling, and each of us are working as hard as we can to hold ourselves together, weathering circumstances we could not predict and cannot resolve. Our shared predicament makes it more important now than ever to know what to do with our feelings. In crisis time, we need something better than defenses and avoidance—we need to bring curiosity and compassion to our own emotions, and to the emotions of others.

And remember…it’s okay to cry. 

Wishing you the best, 
Amanda Schaeffer, M.S., MFTC 

denver therapist online therapist denver marriage counselor online marriage counseling

Amanda Schaeffer, M.S., MFTC is a marriage counselor, family therapist, life coach and individual therapist who creates a warm, safe environment, bringing out the best in you and your relationships. She empowers couples and individuals to heal and grow using evidence-based approaches that create real results and lasting change.

Let’s  Talk

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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Burnout Prevention + Recovery

Burnout Prevention + Recovery

Burnout Prevention + Recovery

Burnout Prevention + Burnout Recovery

Burnout Prevention and Burnout Recovery: If you’ve been feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, and that the daily grind is relentless… you are not alone. The realities of “corona-life” are wearing down even the sturdiest and most productive among us.

On the bright side, things that feel unsustainable usually are, and if you’re coming to the conclusion that you cannot actually go on living this way you’re in the perfect position to make full use of today’s podcast episode — because help is here!

Today is all about helping you recover from burnout, reclaim control, cultivate resilience, reprioritize time and energy, and craft a sustainable “burnout prevention” plan for yourself, your career and your family.

Signs of Burnout

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been living in a burnout culture. As a Denver therapist and online life coach, I’ve worked for years with clients who struggle with work fatigue, mom burnout (or dad burnout) and show up for therapy or life coaching feeling mentally exhausted or experiencing emotional exhaustion. The struggle is real!

Symptoms of burnout can mimic those of depression, often leading to exhaustion, apathy, irritability, and like you just don’t care any more. You might feel sad or angry, or you might just feel numb.

Feeling burned out and like you had nothing left to give was true long before the “coronavirus life” experience cranked it up 10x. Now busy professionals are attempting to do it all… quite literally.

  • Balancing a full-time work-from-home job with
  • Full-time stay-at-home parenting
  • Without even a smidge of respite from the community that once sustained you
  • Homeschooling
  • Increased stress in your relationship
  • Managing the chaos of always-home family in need of regular feelings, entertainment and some semblance of order
  • No boundaries between work and life, with the result being that there are no natural breaks or stopping points in the day which leads to working from home from the crack of dawn until late at night.
  • Not having access to the simple pleasures or self-care activities that once allowed you to bounce back from burnout, like getting a  massage, having an evening with friends, or even going to a movie is fraught with danger. 

The daily grind is endless, stressful, with no end in sight, and opportunities to replenish your energy and recover from burnout are few and far between. It’s a lot. It’s non-stop. If you’re feeling burned out from trying to do it all… of course you are!

Burnout Prevention

To help you start to restore your energy, cultivate resilience, and boost your mental and emotional reserves, today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast is all about helping you not just recover from burnout… but prevent burnout in the first place.

I’ve enlisted the support of an expert on this topic: Eileen McDargh. Eileen has spent over thirty years researching the subject of work fatigue, burnout prevention, and burnout recovery. Her new book is Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters.

Eileen is with me today to share her insight, tips and strategies to help you prevent burnout in the first place, or — if it’s already taking hold — regain your resilience and restore your sanity.

We’re discussing:

  • The first and most important mental shift you can make to reclaim control
  • How to identify energy takers and energy makers
  • Why questioning everything can cultivate your resilience
  • Daily practices that restore you (when you have zero time for anything) 
  • How to craft a lifestyle focused on sustainable productivity and burnout prevention
  • And more!

I hope this episode offers you guidance for how to rebuild your energy, restore your resilience, and start feeling like yourself again.

xoxo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Burnout Prevention + Burnout Recovery

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

Music Credits: Wimps, “Monday” 

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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.

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The Importance of Healthy Friendships

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The Importance of Healthy Friendships

Invest in Healthy Friendships

The FRIENDSHIP CONNECTION: It’s more apparent than ever how fundamentally important our healthy friendships are to our wellbeing. As a Denver therapist and online life coach, I often speak with my online therapy clients about how empty and meaningless life can feel when they don’t have supportive friends and family with whom to share their journey, celebrate their success, and turn to for comfort and guidance in difficult times. 

Is this true for you, too? If so, developing friendships and creating a supportive, solid friendship network may be an important goal on your overall journey of creating the life you want. But even if the desire for stronger friendships exists, it can be hard to build genuinely healthy friendships — especially as an adult. Why is it so much harder to develop close friendships as an adult? The obvious answer is “because, time.” But here’s a new idea: Most 30+ adults simply don’t prioritize their friendships the same way they did during simpler times of life.

Let’s be real: Many busy, successful professionals to put their cultivation of healthy friendships on the back burner and prioritize everything else instead. When you are juggling kids, a job, a spouse, and a house, it can feel like an indulgence to just “hang out” with friends (either virtually, or in-person). However, what emerging research into evolutionary biology, neuroscience and mental health is uncovering is that prioritizing your healthy friendships, even if it just feels like hanging out, is actually one of the single most important, impactful things you can do with your time and energy.

Fun fact: The non-productive, non-goal oriented time we spend messing around, doing nothing in particular, and simply being together with friends has — wait for it — about the same impact on your health as does quitting smoking cigarettes. But that’s just the start of the avalanche of positive consequences of cultivating healthy friendships. Having friends and being a friend is actually one of the most important things you can do, if your goal is to be a happy, healthy human.

So if you, too, have bought into the idea that “it’s harder to make close friends as an adult” consider this new idea: The biggest obstacle to adult friendships is lack of conscious understanding of the importance of friends. Once you get that, then it gets easier to become committed to putting the time and energy into building positive relationships. (And friendships will follow). 

Why is Healthy Friendship Important? 

Step one is building the understanding of why healthy friendships are so vital. Consider the opposite of friendship: Disconnection. When we’re disconnected from our friends and loved ones it takes a toll, mentally, emotionally, and even physically. We know from research into biology and neuro-science that healthy friendships are a core component of not just enjoying life and feeling subjectively happier, but even having a biological impact on the way our bodies function. 

Scientific facts about friendship indicate that, across the board, people who invest in their friendships experience benefits in many parts of their lives that seem unrelated. There is a measurable connection between friendship and health. For example, people who report having stronger, healthier friendships live longer, have increased immunity to disease, and are often buffered from the chronic stressors that are known to impair your health and wellness.

When we invest in healthy relationships and strong friendships, we are doing just as much to improve our health as we are by exercising, eating well, and yes, even quitting smoking. When you build relationships, you’re preventing health problems — even if it just feels like you’re hanging out and enjoying yourself. (Bonus points for exercising with your friends!)

The Role of Friends in Our Life

We often think of friends as a source of enjoyment, but the truth is that the role of healthy friendships goes much deeper. For example, in supportive, intimate friendships we find a sense of belonging. We also have people we can turn to in moments of hardship and personal stress, or when you’re grieving a loss. While your friends may not be able to do anything to “fix” the situation, the experience of sharing your story with someone who cares may in itself be healing.

Having emotionally supportive people to turn to (whether or not you’re actually talking about “it”) has a measurable impact on our stress levels, both physiological stress and the stress we’re aware of. There is a very well established connection between chronic stress and chronic health issues. If you want to improve your health, it may be more impactful for you to spend an hour a day strengthening your positive friendships than hitting the gym by yourself. Consider it!

Friends and Mental Health

Having healthy friendships is also strongly associated with mental health, as well as physical health. People who feel isolated or lonely are more vulnerable to feelings of depression and anxiety. But even more importantly, having relationships with people who are invested in their own personal growth and mental health can be enormously inspiring for you to take steps to cultivate your own. 

Aside from the chance to talk to friends, which is an emotional buffer in itself, getting out of your comfort zone and opening up to friends increases the chance that you’ll wind up working on yourself. For example, having a good friend tell you that they, personally have found a good therapist and are enjoying therapy makes it much more likely that you will feel comfortable in seeking out your own life coach or therapist online or in person. Being connected to other people who are on a journey of personal growth and self-development lifts you up, too. 

In contrast, if you are close friends with someone who is NOT investing in their own wellness, and who is in the grips of depression or anxiety, it will bemore likely that you yourself will feel worse instead of better. 

So in addition to seeking out healthy friendships with people who are actively on a quest of self-improvement, by taking an active role in your own personal growth and self-development it will also lift your friends up too. You will become a source of inspiration and a role model for people in your friend group who may be struggling. Investing in yourself lifts everyone around you! 

How to Cultivate Relationships & Be a Good Friend

It can be difficult for busy adults to find the time and energy to create new friendships or invest in your existing friendships in order to make them stronger. A fundamental piece of healthy friendships is a cooperative, reciprocal generosity of mutual caring and support. Making new friends and investing in your old friends is definitely a commitment of time and energy. However, it’s a worthy investment that has the power to build and strengthen many aspects of your life as well as theirs. 

Having a good relationship with a friend requires mutual generosity, but cultivating a genuinely supportive social network may also involve recognizing that some of your friendships are not positive and need to be released. There are such things as unhealthy friendships, and if you’ve been in a relationship with a selfish person or someone who’s mental health issues are preventing them from being a good friend to you, it may be time to set some healthy boundaries for yourself. Your focusing on building positive relationships and your own mental and emotional wellness may, longer-term, inspire them to do the same.

Understanding Healthy Friendships, With Lydia Denworth

To support YOU in your understanding of the importance of healthy friendships, and to deepen you understanding of what it really takes to build supportive relationships in your life, I’ve invited science journalist and author Lydia Denworth to speak with me about her new book, “Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond.”  (Learn more about Lyda and her work at LydaDenworth.com

She shares what her painstaking research has uncovered about why friendships are so important to us, the risks of neglecting your friendships, the impact of friendships on children and adolescents, and — perhaps most importantly — concrete strategies for how to build and nurture your friendships during social distancing.

Specifically, we’re discussing:

  • The impact of friendship on your brain and your body
  • How friendships develop
  • The importance of showing up
  • Why we need our friends in good times and in bad
  • How to help your kids develop healthy friendships
  • How to develop healthy friendships as an adult

Listen to our conversation, to learn about the importance of healthy friendship and how to build strong friendship connections.

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

The Importance of Healthy Friendships

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

Spread the Love Happiness & Success

Please Rate, Review & Share the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast!

iTunes

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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.

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Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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How Difficult Emotions Lead to Growth

How Difficult Emotions Lead to Growth

How Difficult Emotions Lead to Growth

Feeling “Triggered?” Lean In…

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS OPEN THE DOOR TO GROWTH: 2020 has really given us a run for our money, and if nothing else, has led many of us to take a good hard look at our lifestyles, relationships, and our country as a whole. 

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the focus on socio-political issues such as systemic racism and police brutality, we are all confronted daily with images and content that may make uncomfortable feelings arise. Many of us are feeling upset, and feeling emotionally triggered. You are then presented with a choice: to sit with and examine those feelings, or to avoid them and turn away. 

I’d like to challenge you not to turn away. Embrace feeling triggered. Use it, to facilitate your personal growth.

Emotions Reveal Your Beliefs and Values

Why is it important to understand and sit with our feelings? Because feelings are the top layer of our belief system. When we have big feelings about something, it provides a clue as to the underlying values and core beliefs that just got challenged. By understanding where this emotional response is coming from, you get clarity about the values, belief systems, and attitudes you hold. 

This can happen in many aspects of life, often in your relationships or interactions with others. But lately, you may also have been confronted with new ideas or information (or even more conversations) related to equality, systemic racism, and social justice. As you think critically about socio-political issues, you may notice anger, pain, or even defensiveness arising within you or others around you — especially if you are feeling personally attacked, or that your core beliefs about the world are being attacked. 

All of these feelings can be hard to sit with, but it is extremely important to be able to explore and entertain a wide range of ideas. If you’re feeling attacked, offended, or triggered, it’s an opportunity to ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way?” It also gives you an opportunity to try to understand the perspective of the person or situation that feels triggering to you. This doesn’t mean you agree with them but is a valuable skill to master if you want your thoughts, values, and behaviors to align. 

The Road to Alignment of Beliefs, Values, and Feelings

The first step in using your emotional triggers as a growth opportunity is figuring out what you are reluctant to consider or even entertain as an idea in your mind, and why it feels so painful for you. Taking a moment to examine our emotions around specific issues doesn’t mean you have to or should change them, it is about getting to the root of what you believe and what is important to you. 

You may find that you have deeply held beliefs about why things are the way they are and that those may not be compatible with the new information you’re being confronted with. For example, if you believe that the arc of people’s lives are determined exclusively by “how hard they work,” or whether they “make good choices” it may feel very threatening to be confronted with the realities of systemic racism, implicit racial bias, and white privilege. Any information about how difficult it can be for people of color to get ahead — regardless of their work ethic or lifestyle choices — can elicit feelings of anger and defensiveness, and voila, you’re feeling triggered.

It is exactly this uncomfortable feeling that we all need to pay attention to. 

How to Use Your Feelings to Clarify Your Values

If you notice yourself feeling triggered, here are some skills that can help you begin to better understand your values and beliefs that are triggering your big emotions. 

  • Allow yourself to momentarily suspend judgment, and be curious about where this feeling is coming from. Is it tied to a value? Or a core belief? 
  • Curiosity is key here, as this will diffuse defensiveness and create a safe emotional space to explore why you hold certain beliefs and judgments. 
  • If you uncover a core belief, it’s worth thinking about where it came from. Who’s belief is this? Yours? Your families? Who taught you to believe this?
  • You might think about other aspects of this belief: Is it always true? Sometimes true? Do other people believe something different? If so, why? What changes if you look at the same situation through this different perspective? Stay curious, and open.
  • Remember that defensiveness is a response to a perceived threat, either physical or emotional. If you feel yourself starting to get defensive, it simply means that you’re feeling attacked, or persecuted, or threatened. We can use this as an invitation to explore ideas further and deepen your understanding of your emotional response to it.

These skills are also useful when having conversations with other people, as well as ourselves. 

Identifying Uncomfortable Feelings: Now What?

Explicitly identifying your values and what you hold as important to you will be critical in knowing what to do with those thoughts and emotions. There are multiple ways to do this, you can make a list and rank values based on how important they are to you or you can use a more structured activity using value sort cards. I like to use a value card sorting activity in my work with clients, and when you do this think about what each value means to you, and if it is important, not important, or very important to you. 

From there, do your values and your thoughts/beliefs/attitudes match up? For example, if you believe kindness is important when you engage with someone who holds different beliefs than you, do you treat them with kindness? To take it a step further, if you believe in helping others – are there times you turn a blind eye to injustice? This is where alignment in your values, thoughts, and actions is important.

You first need to be able to recognize where you have gaps in self-knowledge, and this is a clue of where personal growth is needed. If you don’t know where to start, implicit biases tests can help identify where your biases lie (and I say where on purpose, as all humans have biases). You can also purposefully and intentionally engage with various media sources or invite loved ones to share their views with you. This is also a great way to strengthen and deepen your interpersonal relationships!

This kind of inner exploration and challenge isn’t easy work, but it is worthwhile to tolerate the discomfort as it allows you to feel more confident in your values and sense of self. If your values, thoughts, and actions do not align you may begin to feel the effects of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is when someone has inconsistent or contradictory beliefs, attitudes, or thoughts, especially as it relates to behavior. Cognitive dissonance may present as feeling uncomfortable, avoiding conflict, a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude, feeling irritable, or experiencing guilt or shame but not knowing why. 

One thing I really want to emphasize is that examining our emotions and beliefs is something everyone does or needs to do. This is just part of being human and living in an ever-changing world. Please be kind, patient, and compassionate with yourself as you do this work. It is not helpful to beat yourself up if there is some dissonance present, and the good news is these things are within your control and have the potential to change. It is okay to grow and change, even if that means changing your opinion or standpoint. It is okay to make changes and begin to cut out people, ideologies, and activities that do not support your new growth. 

If your thoughts, values, and actions do align, that doesn’t mean you’re done! Everyone is continually growing, changing, and learning. We are all lifelong students, and personal growth is not linear. It is not a destination we arrive at, but rather a journey where we challenge ourselves with love, kindness, and respect.

Wishing you the best, 
Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC

Josephine Marin, M.S. MFTC

Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

Let’s  Talk

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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How to Stay Motivated

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The Battle Within Us All…

Here’s the thing about motivation: It’s not just something that “is” or “isn’t.” Motivation is a force that you cultivate a relationship with. You have to nurture it in specific ways in order to keep it with you.

And also, interestingly, when motivation seems to be absent it’s not necessarily. It’s just that an opposing force has taken its place and is currently in control. 

It’s weird to think about, but it’s true. We have competing goals, all the time. When we’re motivated and taking action towards our conscious goals, we feel good. But we have other goals that are not conscious. And we have other forces in ourselves that often overpower motivation. 

Gaining self awareness about those competing forces inside of you (inside us all) can help you understand what’s happening when you’re getting off track and feeling completely unmotivated, so that you reconnect with your motivation when you want to or need to.

First, let’s talk about what this power struggle looks like in action. Here’s what those opposing forces show up like within me. Can you relate? Or are yours different?

The Power-Struggle Between Motivation and Instant Gratification

Immediate Gratification sees an opening. It elbows its way past Motivation, to grab the wheel at the helm of my mind.

Sometimes, when Immediate Gratification is in charge, it steers me towards a lagoon of lounging around, and making ambitious lists of things I never do (which is a very satisfying substitute for actual activity). Sometimes we careen back and forth between small, time-frittering tasks. Sometimes we drift along, scrolling… scrolling… scrolling. Sometimes it has me impulsively make cookies, which is kind of fun. But we usually just scroll.

Sometimes we sail madly for The Emergency of the Day, firing off emails and phone calls in every direction, and that’s very exciting — but never actually connected to anything truly meaningful or important. Sometimes I am marooned on a sandbar of stalled time where fifteen, thirty minutes slide by when I could be something productive but instead am sipping tea and “researching” something that seems inexplicably important at the time but never really is. (How, exactly, are star sapphires formed? I can tell you…)

I am relieved when Motivation finally frees itself from whatever dark corner of the bilge it’s been temporarily trapped in, and strides back in to re-assert it’s authority. I’m saved.

Immediate Gratification chews it’s nails and watches Motivation spread the chart out on the table, plot points with sliding rulers, take notes, perform elaborate calculations with sextants and compasses, and then competently steer me towards an attractive destination.

When Motivation is in charge it prods me to get up at uncivilized hours and do important things I’d not otherwise have time to. It compels me to exert myself, tolerate discomfort, set boundaries around distractions and move forward every day. Immediate Gratification pretends to stand respectfully in the distance, but has a long fishing pole with shiny lures on the end that occasionally dangle in front of my face: Online shopping, trip-planning, the (never true) idea that Something Really Important is happening in the world so I should check my phone right now. Motivation swats them away, keeping the other hand steady on the wheel and eyes on the horizon.

Does this sound familiar? I bet — This struggle lives inside us all. Your counter-point to Motivation might be different. For me it’s definitely Immediate Gratification. For you it might be The Sloth, or Miss Comfy-Pants, or Mr. FOMO. Does not actually matter how this shows up, just that you know how it shows up inside of you so that you’re prepared to deal with it when you need to.

3 Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about how to keep Motivation in charge most of the time. (And also how to have it be okay to intentionally be unmotivated for a little while if I need to be).

1) Make Friends With Anxiety

Tony Robbins (love you Tony) astutely pointed out that we’re motivated not just by anticipation of positive reward, but by clear understanding of the negative consequences of our actions. This is supported by research in the study of motivation and persuasion. Fear is a powerful motivator.

We (and by “we” I do mean “I”) can lull ourselves into believing that when Immediate Gratification or The Sloth is in charge, it’s really okay. It’s fine. You can spend an afternoon watching the entire series of some dumb show or adding and removing random things from an Amazon cart because it’s just fine.

But what’s actually true is that what we put effort and energy into every day creates our future reality. So indulging Immediate Gratification really equals Future Failure to meet our goals. I’ve found it helpful to also attach a mental image / persona to “Future Failure.”

My own personal vision of Future Failure is a version of me who is basically an exhausted, anxious mess who is always late and who can never find her keys. (I’ll let you have fun imagining your own Future Failure persona — enjoy.)

It also helps to have a self concept that is absolutely not Future Failure. Knowing that the real you is competent, effective, and generally has your crap together is a useful point of contrast.

But the power lies in this part: Envisioning Future Failure and then linking that negative vision to something pleasurable (like watching TV). Doing so “reframes” the activity in not just an intellectual way… but an emotional one.

Reminding yourself that: “Future Failure would totally sit here for five more hours and watch this entire season. But I’m not Future Failure. I’m generally competent and effective. I know that I’m not just watching TV, I’m loosing the opportunity to [insert important goal here], or feel competent and effective. Choosing to watch TV instead of doing what I know I actually need to do means that I’m choosing to not feel good about myself or my outcomes.

Watching TV is not a benign activity when it’s a conscious decision to fail or embrace something you don’t want. When it becomes associated with unpleasantness and failure instead of pleasure, you’ll feel less comfortable with it. Miss Comfy-Pants doesn’t seem quite as comfy anymore. Then it’s easier to reconnect with Motivation. (Motivation doesn’t watch a lot of Netflix, in case you’ve guessed).

Anxiety gets a bad rap. To be a little anxious is a good thing. Go ahead and worry about what will happen if you DON’T follow through. Immediate Gratification will seem less like a laid-back friendly buddy, and more like a flaky, chain-smoking neer-do-well with trembling hands. You’ll run right into the arms of clean-cut, trustworthy Motivation. And bask in his/her/it’s approval as you competently and effectively do the darn dishes already.

2) Don’t Get Exhausted or Confused

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that when Immediate Gratification takes over it’s because I’m either tired, or because I don’t know what to do next.

That awareness helps me 1) Not beat myself up for getting off track once in awhile and 2) Regroup. Because in the ebb and flow of motivation, sometimes you really do need to rest and re-group before moving forward again.

Motivation will flag if you get burnt-out. It is not a reasonable expectation to stay motivated all the time. And if you do get a surge of motivation, don’t go crazy and try to achieve big huge goals quickly.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Build time for rest and renewal into your day, every day. Just stay the course and keep working towards your goal a little bit every day too.

But you’re not going to be perfect all the time. You can be laser-focused and achieve an important goal and then…. Drift for a little while. And then sooner or later you’ll look around and say “Hey. What am I doing?” and then you’ll have to reconnect with Motivation.

This requires looking at your map again, to see where you are in the arc of progress. This is why it’s so important to have written goals, and a clear plan of action to refer back to. This is especially true when you have a big goal with lots of twists and turns.

You can make a lot of progress, but you will periodically falter. At those moments you need to pause and re-orient yourself as to where you are now and what needs to happen next. Without that clarity Immediate Gratification will jump right in, swing the wheel around and head for Vegas.

3) Do a Little Bit Every Day

In order to keep Motivation in charge long-term, you must intentionally check in with it every day. You need to have conversations with it. You need to have a relationship with it, and take influence and guidance from it. This helps you stay committed to Motivation and less inclined to get jumped by The Sloth or Instant Gratification.

They’ll still whisper at you like the conduct-disordered teenage friends you had in junior high who were always trying to get you to do morally questionable things with them, but you will be able to say, “Nah guys, I’m busy” when you had a huddle with Motivation first.

The way I maintain my relationship with Motivation is by journaling. I just check in with myself: “What’s the most important thing for me to be doing today?” And then write about it for a few minutes. I often re-write my goals in order to keep track of what I’m doing and why. When there’s an ebb in motivation, or when I loose track of The Most Important Next Step, this moment of touching base re-orients me and helps me prioritize my time.

But the single most important thing I’ve found is to create a routine where time for me to work on my goal is blocked out every single day. It is much more important for you (us) to work consistently than it is to do huge amazing things once in awhile. Twenty minutes of jumping around in front of a work-out video every morning is much more effective than a big heroic three-hour work out once a week.

When you work a little bit every day, you know what to do, and you have the time to do it. You don’t have to start over every time you re-engage with a project. You don’t have to re-motivate yourself. You just stay the course.

Bottom Line

So: Go forth and cultivate a little anxiety, don’t over do it on any given day, check in with Motivation and “The Plan” frequently, and create routines that support progress. Also, be kind to yourself. It is 100% okay to indulge a little instant gratification, or sloth-ness, or comfy-pants wearing sometimes. It could be that those parts of you are also healthy and good, and helping you get other important needs met like the need to relax, rest, and unwind. Those are not bad things. 

There’s light and dark in all things, and the key to long-term happiness and success is finding balance through it all. 

I hope these ideas, mental strategies, and Jedi mind-tricks help you cultivate a healthy balance between the competing forces inside of you.

Let me know how it goes!

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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.

Let’s  Talk

 

 

Real Help, To Move You Forward

 

Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

Start your journey of growth today by scheduling a free consultation.

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