Enough is Enough: Start Practicing Self-Care as Prevention

Practice What I Preach: Self-Care & Mindfulness

If you know me either in a personal or professional way, you know that I am a big advocate of practicing self-care and mindfulness. But, like so many others, I often fail at practicing what I preach. I struggle sometimes to stop, take a moment to reflect, and make time for my own needs. I want to share with you how so many of us can get caught up in the cycle of every daily routine and how to move on from that so we can make time for self-care.

My goal is to help you remember and evaluate the times you’ve had to say “enough is enough,” and be forced into taking some time for self-care to fix a problem, rather than using it as an everyday, preventative tool. I’ll empower you realize that you don’t have to wait until you have no other choice but to take care of yourself, but should view self-care as preventative, as opposed to only a solution to your problems. I want you, right now, to say that you deserve to take care of yourself and commit to it. (See my other blog post on the relationship between self-esteem and self-care). You can do it, and I am here to help.

 

Putting Off Your Own Emotional Needs

So let me tell you a little story (maybe you can relate). Everyone in your family gets sick at the same time – your kids and spouse. You were the last one to be attacked by these common viruses, which are more common when you have little kids. You knew that eventually you would get sick too, so you take extra vitamins, supplements, water, etc. As everyone starts to feel better and finishes their doses of antibiotics or other meds, you are getting worse and it seems to last forever. But regardless of how you physically feel, you mentally and emotionally feel fine, so you keep doing your thing: going to work out, working, spending time with your kids (who by the way are feeling better and have so much energy, so you try and try to keep up), taking care of household chores, etc. At this point you’re probably doing more than you should be doing, but you think that you don’t have time for self-care right now and don’t make it a priority. But, as you get physically worse and worse, your emotional and mental health starts to take a toll. You start feeling sad and sorry for yourself. Everything seems out of control and catastrophic. (Does any of this sound familiar?) As you are caught in that cycle of negative thinking, you make yourself both emotionally and physically sicker to the point that you can’t sleep. Finally, you concede and go to the doctor because you just have no other option. You have a serious throat infection, but just to be sure you are treated for the flu too, because apparently the test is not accurate and it’s better to be safe than sorry… but then you have to deal with the side effects of the treatment. If only you had taken better care of yourself on day one of your illness.

We’ve all been in this situation. Waiting until the last minute to take care of our own needs, only making things worse and drawn out. Sacrificing your happiness and well-being is NEVER the correct choice. When we don’t make our own needs a priority, we aren’t able to effectively care for others. Whether it’s a physical or mental ailment, it’s a sign we not STOP, EVALUATE, and CHANGE what’s not working. Only after you’ve listened to your body, trusted your instincts, asked for and accepted help, and taken the time you need to heal, can you keep going. Self-care is most effective when practiced all the time, not just when you need it most. Don’t wait until things are at their worst. Avoid catastrophe and burnout. If you need to nap, watch tv, relax, or read, do it. Don’t feel bad like you’re being lazy. It’s your self-care and preventing things from getting worse. It’s more respectful to yourself and others to take it easy when you start to feel sick, rather than ignore the symptoms and push, push, push to the last minute and then collapse. When you allow yourself to slow down and heal, you’ll notice that catastrophic mindset melting away and making room for peace and happiness.

 

Healthy Bodies, Minds, & Hearts

Our bodies are intertwined with our minds and hearts, so when one of those weakens, it takes the others down with it. As you read this, I want you to ask yourself how many times you’ve probably felt that stopping and making time for self-care wasn’t an option, only to find out it created more problems? This happens not only when we get physically sick, but also when we engage in patterns of behavior that make us stressed and unhappy. We do a lot of things based on instinct and habit, rather than analyzing, being mindful, and listening to our inner wisdom and bodies. Notice how much you use your body everyday – treasure it and be mindful of the cues your body gives you. Does something hurt? Feel sore? Feel a little off? Listen to what it’s saying and treat it before it gets worse. When we lose our physical functioning, we end up feeling sad, depressed, and realize that we’ve been taking our bodies and good health for granted.

If you are still struggling with finding happiness, or can’t seem to prioritize your needs and emotional well-being, know that you are not alone and I am here for you. Through mental health counseling, I will empower you so you can get back on track to being the best version of yourself. If you live in or near Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, contact me today to schedule a therapy appointment. I also offer HIPAA compliant remote therapy.

The Importance of Believing in Yourself to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions

Well, the holidays are over and many of us are getting organized for this new year… hopefully after taking some days off to rest. Many of us get very excited for the new year, ready to shed off anything that was disappointing from 2018 and find our best selves in 2019. We boldly exclaim that this new year will be better, create goals and resolutions, and face January bright-eyed and optimistic. I do the same thing and think that this is a great idea because it creates motivation for us to accomplish things that are important to us and make positive change. Some people decide to lose weight, travel, change jobs, avoid difficult people, or practice self-care. But as the days pass into the second or third week of the year, I notice that many of those resolutions stay as ideas with no actions to back them up. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to change, to be perfect, and to accomplish all of our life’s dreams in a single year. Or we have this idea that we can change overnight, but it takes commitment, work, time, and self-love.

BE REALISTIC AND SPECIFIC

When setting your new year’s resolutions, remember to be specific and realistic. Rather than say, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds!” say “I am going to go to the gym at least twice a week and eat a salad three times a week.” If you want to change jobs, don’t just dream of having a new job. Commit to applying to one new job per week or attending a training to add to your skillset. These are specific, realistic actions you are committing to, as opposed just focusing on the end goal. When you only dream about the end result and don’t map out a plan, you are sabotaging yourself. We often just look at the end line, rather than looking at what we’re doing to get there. How you reach your goal is more important than achieving the goal in terms of making lasting, positive changes to your lifestyle.

JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD

When creating resolutions for the new year, you don’t have to accomplish every goal you’ve set out for yourself. One of the best things we can do to make sure we keep moving in the right direction is to be able to forgive ourselves. Remember, you will definitely hit bumps in the road. Don’t view those bumps or challenges as failures. It’s during those challenging times that we learn the most about ourselves and become smarter and stronger.

If you didn’t achieve all of your goals, don’t be so hard on yourself and acknowledge your feelings. Are you feeling disappointed? Sad? Frustrated? Transfer those strong emotions into strong positive change. Let those feelings motivate you to keep moving forward and reflect back on what you were able to accomplish. Celebrate any positive change, no matter how small. Did you want to lose 10 pounds but only lost 5? That’s a big accomplishment! Did you not lose any weight or even gain weight? Reflect back on the last few weeks and use that as a learning opportunity. Are there external factors that prevent you from reaching your goal? Have you had the time to focus on self-care? Anything you learn about yourself and how that factors into you achieving your goals is still a positive change. If you take the time to reflect, you’ll gain insight and be able to turn that into something valuable. There’s no way to fail a task as long as you put some work into it. Maybe you haven’t made any effort to accomplish your goals. That could be an indication that the goal isn’t meaningful to you, so that’s why you didn’t put the time into it. That information is important to know about yourself. Reevaluate if that resolution actually matters to you, or if you set it because of external pressures, such as family members, social media, etc. Knowing this about yourself is gaining insight and still a step in the right direction. Don’t be discouraged. We all move forward at our own pace and might take a couple steps back, and then forward again. That’s how we learn. Just keep believing in yourself and you’ll get there.

Did you accomplish a goal much faster than you expected? What’s your plan to keep moving forward for the rest of the year? You lost those 20 pounds? Great! Now what? You don’t want to gain the 20 pounds back, so what goals are you going to set to stay at your current weight or lose more? Did you land your dream job? What skills can you learn to be even better at it? We constantly have to reevaluate our goals and make new ones. Becoming better versions of ourselves is a continuous process that’s not defined by a calendar.

THE CYCLE OF ATTAINING YOUR GOALS

Making new year’s resolutions and then not accomplishing them is unfortunately a cycle that all of us face. It’s important to learn and understand that cycle in order to break it and  make a new cycle where we accomplish our goals and resolutions. Keep in mind that each of us is unique and our process is too. This is a general idea of how the cycle of goal-setting may look like when we stick to a plan and achieve our resolutions:

  1. We want something to change
  2. We think about how the change would look like and focus on how nice it would be.
  3. We get excited about it.
  4. We come with some concrete ideas/steps on how to make change possible.
  5. We follow our steps and make adjustments as necessary.
  6. We find ourselves accountable for taking the steps.
  7. We take credit for our work and enjoy the process.
  8. We evaluate where we are in the process and how it relates to our goal or resolution. This will help us make changes to our goal and enjoy our accomplishment.
  9. We think about what else we want to change and create new goals.

Again, this looks very nice on paper but sometimes you may struggle with all those steps. I see most people lose their motivation and focus on step 3 or 4. When this happens, you may find yourself feeling lost, overwhelmed, or distracted. The cycle shifts into feelings disappointment or depression and giving up on our goals. During these times it’s important to remember to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes and we just have to keep believing in our ability to achieve what we set our minds to.

TIPS TO HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS

Here is a list of tangible ideas that can help you accomplish your goals and resolutions:

  • Take the time to notice your feelings on a daily basis when you take steps towards achieving your goal and when you face challenges.
  • Value taking a step forward, even if it’s a small step. The goal is for you to feel proud, strong, worthy, and happy in the process.
  • Don’t commit to a financial investment that creates stress and doesn’t help you achieve your goal. For instance, many of us purchase a gym membership or plan a beach vacation as motivation to lose weight faster, but it often has a negative effect of creating stress. Many people pay for a gym membership they never use, and it makes us feel worse. Before you spending all that money, start with cheaper alternatives and see if you can stick to that. For example, try adding a daily walk to your schedule. Once you get into the routine of exercising regularly you can consider spending money on a membership.
  • Keep it easy! Because of excitement, you are likely to go above and beyond, and then you burn out. It’s like running up a hill without breathing consistently or taking breaks – you’ll likely want to give up before you reach the top. Keeping a consistent pace, rather than exhausting yourself early, will allow you to enjoy your accomplishments.
  • Ask for help. Get a friend, family, or coworker to support and remind you why you are doing this.
  • Use a visual for your goals. For instance you can mark goals on a calendar and keep track when you get it done.
  • Revaluate, modify, and keep following your steps – that shows you are present. This will help you adjust to what works and what doesn’t.
  • Remember that making changes or creating resolutions need to honor you in every aspect of your life: personally and professionally. Self-care is super important, so whatever goals you set for yourself, make sure you are happy during the process of achieving your goals.

If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious from trying to accomplish your goals, or depressed because you’ve stopped trying, know that you are not alone and I am here for you. I offer solution-focused therapy so you can get back on track to being the best version of yourself. If you live in or near Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, contact me today to schedule a counseling appointment.

How to Deal with Difficult People During the Holidays

I wanted to write a blog about dealing with difficult people, especially during the holidays, because I noticed it’s a common reason for people to go therapy. The definition of “difficult” can greatly vary between each person. For the purpose of this blog, we will define a “difficult” person as someone we love very much, but don’t necessarily like them or want to spend a great deal of time with them. They might love or like you, but if you find yourself feeling hurt, nervous, guilty, or uncomfortable around them, or are constantly walking on eggshells when you’re with them, this is a good indication they can be classified as a difficult person.

The holidays can be a very exciting and joyful time for many people, but for others it represents a challenge because we are forced to interact with friends or family that we don’t have a close relationship with or even worse, don’t like at all. It puts pressure on use that we have to or should be together, regardless of how it makes us feel.

In my private practice I find that many of my clients struggle to cope with feelings of guilt, shame, anger and more during the holiday season. It is especially tough for those who grew up in a family system where feelings were not validated or respected, where there was alcohol or substance abuse, or where secrecy was the main form of communication. As adults, we have it ingrained in our beliefs that our feelings aren’t valid, and therefore continue to carry around shame and guilt, and force ourselves to do things we don’t like, such as spending time with “difficult” people. We are taught that the holidays are a time when people who are difficult to deal with have someone magically changed and become better versions of themselves. Unfortunately, the holidays are when all of the family challenges become more noticeable, hurtful, and stressful.

CHANGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

One way to cope with difficult people during the holidays is to shift your expectations. Don’t go into it with the goal of making them understand how you feel or hoping they’ve become a better person. The goal is to effectively and respectfully stand up for ourselves and set clear boundaries. Here are a few suggestions to stay focused on your needs and feelings, so you can enjoy your time with the people who are respectful, loving, and caring of who you are and what is important to you:

  • Visualize going into the party and leaving it with a good feeling. Stay focused on the goal of spending time with the people you do like and the people you do want to see.
  • Use humor as a response.
  • Have an escape plan. Set a time limit for yourself or have an excuse to leave early.
  • Get help from a trusted friend or partner. If you go to an event with somebody, signal to each other when you need help ending a conversation with someone you don’t like or help changing the topic.
  • Don’t acknowledge rude or intrusive questions. Change the topic and refuse to participate in discussing negative things or topics that only make us feel angry or sad. Some “difficult” people only like to talk about negative things and judge others.
  • Take a chance at being assertive and politely say you don’t want to talk about a particular topic at that moment. If someone makes a comment on how you should be doing things or living your life, remind yourself and them that you are there to enjoy everyone’s company and have a good time – not to feel bad about yourself.
  • If you like kids, go play with them  and create good memories. Limit your time with adults if they’re the ones that give you stress!
  • You don’t have to be involved with other people’s conflicts, even if that person is your partner/spouse. Let them deal with their own issues, and tell your significant other that you’ll support them in a different way that’s not getting involved with their disputes at the party.
  • Keep busy by helping out at the party – do dishes, support a new mom, set the table, etc. If you keep busy, that will limit how much you can be dragged into discussions.

IT’S OK TO NOT VISIT FAMILY

So many of us believe it’s mandatory to spend your holidays with family, regardless of your relationship with them or how it makes you feel. The good news is, it’s OK to not see your family during the holidays. I have often suggested to clients that they don’t see their family if it causes too much stress or anxiety. If you live far away from your family, that’s a great excuse to skip a visit this holiday season. Use traveling expenses or scheduling conflicts as an excuse.

You also have the option to spend holidays with close friends rather than family. Our friends are the family we choose. Create other healthy relationships where you don’t feel obligated to spend time with them, but actually want to. Develop those relationships with people who respect and care for you. It’s very healthy to spend time with those people instead of family. There’s a lot of cultural pressure that it’s wrong to not be with family during this time, but the truth is your emotional health comes first and you can choose who you spend your holidays with.

These tips and coping tools also apply to other family events, such as weddings, birthday or anniversary parties, or other holidays. There are all of these expectations for people to get along and be happy, and when you show up with those expectations, you’ll leave feeling bad because that’s not reality. Put yourself and your emotional wellness first. You aren’t responsible for other people’s behaviors and thoughts, but there are things you can do to minimize your involvement. If you are having a tough holiday season, I’m here for you. Contact me to learn how therapy can help you get through this time of year so you can be the best version of yourself in the new year.

5 Courageous Facts about Asking for Help

Did you ever think that asking for help and working with a therapist is courageous? Do you think you can feel loved, cared for, strong, happy, and safe without judging yourself or worrying what others will think of you? Many people are afraid to take the first step of asking for help, but know that taking that first step of reaching out to a therapist takes a lot of courage.

As I shared on my previous blog post, “When is it the Right Time to Start Therapy?, I mentioned that there is no wrong time to start therapy. Here are 5 facts about why you are courageous in taking that first step of asking for help:

  1. You give yourself the option to take credit for your strengths rather than consistently asking “what is wrong with me?” Instead you will be working towards “I am ok as I am.”
  2. You acknowledge that is not ok to be treated poorly in any way, verbally, physically, or emotionally. “I deserve to be loved.”
  3. You stop feeling bad or guilty for being treated poorly. This is common particularly when we are involved in a challenging marriage, difficult work environment, or when you have to make difficult decisions. You acknowledge that  it is time to stop sweeping things under the rug.

  4. You acknowledge that experiencing and witnessing difficulties now or in the past makes you stronger, not worthless. You will begin to say, “I am worthy of being happy.”

  5. You take the opportunity to express yourself without feeling like you did something wrong. This develops trust in yourself. “I can trust myself.”

I look forward to joining you on this new journey. Going to therapy is not about being told what you should do to “fix” the problem, it is about taking control of what you are experiencing and I am here to help.

Contact me today and together we will make the change happen.

When is it the Right Time to Start Therapy?

There is no wrong time to start therapy. In my last blog post, “4 Common Excuses for Not Going to Therapy“, I discussed why some people might be hesitant to go see a therapist. Unfortunately most people wait to call a therapist until they are in crisis, and at that point it’s crisis management and it’s more difficult to get to the root of the matter and begin genuine healing. It’s fixing a problem, not preventing one. When people are in denial for so long – denial about their relationships or need for therapy – the problems build up and eventually lead to crisis. But that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out to a therapist during a crisis. Seeking help – at any point – is courageous.

When a client comes to my office for the first time, my main goal is to assess what brings you here. I will ask some questions and listen. I will listen to you with care, professionalism, and respect. Then, I will ask more questions and will listen again. 

You will be asked questions like:

  • How long have been feeling this way?
  • When did you start feeling like this?
  • Do you think this is a pattern?
  • Do you feel like this all the time or just in certain places and/or around certain people?
  • How would you like to see yourself instead?

You will be invited to assess your problem from a physical and emotional point of view. For some people anger feels like something is boiling inside them, sadness is like a “dark day,” and worry feels like a sharp stomachache. The goal by listening and asking all of these questions is not to “solve” the problem. It is for you to recognize that just by making the decision to ask for help is a giant step towards changing what is not working for you and so you can begin to heal.

You will leave my office with a more clear idea on how you want to feel. You will begin to feel ok, happy, satisfied, secure, and lovable and know that you deserve it.

It’s a lot of hard work to engage in this journey. Please know how courageous it is to ask for help. In my next blog post I will outline 5 Courageous Facts about Asking for Help. In the mean time, I encourage you to “contact me” for additional support.

4 Common Excuses for Not Going to Therapy

Many people are afraid of going to therapy because they don’t understand what it is, the stigma, or they think it’s a sign of weakness. Making excuses for not going to therapy is part of a cycle of thinking you can do everything yourself – “I can do this on my own,” “I’m taking my medication,” “everything is going to be ok if I do this or that,” or “I exercise and meditate,” are common things people say to themselves when they avoid going to therapy. That reasoning is an indication that you are trying to avoid therapy or just struggling to take care of yourself. I understand.

Check out this list and maybe you identify yourself with one or more of these common  excuses for not seeking help from a mental health therapist:

1. GOING TO THERAPY ADMITS MY RELATIONSHIP HAS PROBLEMS

Do any of these sound familiar? “We barely see each other but we are ok,” “We argue sometimes but we talk about our problems,” “We are growing apart.”

Couples have a hard time going to therapy even if they need it because they are afraid it acknowledges that things aren’t right. If they don’t go to therapy, it gives into the fantasy that everything is fine, even when it isn’t. Most couples start therapy because someone brought up the idea of divorce. All that pain and suffering could have been avoided if intervention was earlier. Many people don’t realize that if your partner won’t go to therapy, you can go by yourself.

2. I DON’T NEED TO GO TO THERAPY BECAUSE I’M ALREADY ON MEDICATION

Have you ever had thoughts like these? “Not sure my meds are working,” “maybe my dose needs to increase,” “I wish I didn’t have to take medication.”

Were you ever diagnosed with a (chronic) mental illness? Many people think that if they are on medication for treating mental illness, such as depression, ADHD, or any others, they don’t have to see a therapist. If you are doing what you were told to do 5 or 10 years ago, you might think you’re fine. But we all change all the time and can always use support. Even if you are on medication, it’s important to treat mental illness with a holistic approach and go to therapy to strengthen your treatment.

3. MY PARENTS WILL THINK I DON’T LOVE THEM IF I GO TO THERAPY

If you’re a teen, are you worried what your parents will think if you want to see a therapist? “My mom will get mad at me,” “I want her to be proud of me,” “I can’t tell my mom/dad this.”

Many teens worry that if they bring up the topic of therapy with their parents it will cause more tension or arguments in the family. They think their parents will feel bad because they can’t confide in them and want to talk to someone else. Or teens might worry that their parents will think the child doesn’t love them. I have worked with both sides – teens and parents – to improve communication and help them understand that therapy is beneficial for the whole family and improves relationships. It is not a betrayal to go to therapy, just additional support.

4. THERAPY IS SO EXPENSIVE

Have you ever said this to yourself? “I don’t think I can afford it,” “I wish I could go to therapy.”

I know finances can be a barrier to going to therapy. If there’s a therapist you have a good rapport with, talk to them about your financial situation. If you haven’t gone to therapy before, know that it is an invaluable investment in yourself. You deserve happiness, fulfillment, and love. Believing in yourself is the first step to realizing that you are worth it, and if you commit to therapy, you will get better faster.

Part of going to therapy is taking care of yourself so you can engage in different patterns of thought and action that honor your real value. I am here to help. Contact me today and together we will make the change happen.

The Loving Relationship Between Self-Esteem and Self-Care

What is Self-Care?

So what exactly is self-care? The term self-care gets thrown around a lot, and is often misused. We all talk about the importance of taking care of ourselves, and the media does a great job trying to sell us things and new concepts about the “best way” to take of ourselves, such as new diets, exercise equipment, or beauty products. As a therapist, I sometimes I hear clients say, “I don’t have enough money to get a massage, go to the salon, or get coffee with a friend.” Your self-care regiment doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. It could be going for a walk by yourself, meditating, taking up a new hobby, or positive self-talk. To sum it up, self-care is the practice of being kind and compassionate to yourself, with the goal of improving your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. I find that even though there is lot of information about self-care, many people struggle to engage in it. Moreover, I find that one of the biggest barriers to value, appreciate, and engage in self-care is the lack of self-esteem.

Barriers to Self-Care

When I ask my clients how they are taking care of themselves, I hear things like “I try to, but…”, “I can’t because…” or “it’s tough with the kids.” I get it. I know how hard it can be to prioritize self-care when we have such busy schedules and are care givers. I play many roles in my life, too, and know how hectic and difficult it can be to take some “me time” when we have so many responsibilities in our lives. I know the whole idea of self-care can trigger thoughts and feelings that make us feel uncomfortable. You may be thinking, “I shouldn’t be doing this now, I can do it later when I finish this or that.” Or you might think that when you set time aside for self-care that we are being lazy, weak, or. ungrateful. Or maybe that we are not doing what we are supposed to be doing because we don’t want to come across as a bad mom, daughter, husband, wife, coworker, etc.

All of those thoughts and feelings are valid but do not honor who you are and how much you are worth. You see, self-worth and self-esteem plays a big role in everything we do – who we date, how we manage conflict, how we express affection, how we express our needs and wants, and how we take care of ourselves and prioritize our own emotional well-being.

You Can’t Practice Self-Care Without Self-Esteem

When we give ourselves the opportunity to engage in self-care, we learn how much we are worth, how much we do, and how much we grow from both difficult and joyful moments in our life. However, it is not an easy or fast process because it demands lots of compassion for ourselves. This process begins with developing a healthy self-esteem and learning to love yourself. I am here to help you break the cycle of feeling guilty, overwhelmed, stuck, or lost and always doing things for others, but never doing things for yourself.

As we grow up we develop self-esteem, but sometimes if we grow up without unconditional love, with parents who aren’t affectionate, around domestic violence, or not being praised, we don’t develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. Some people develop self-esteem based on what they see their parents doing, so they mimic those attitudes and feelings of self-worth like a cookie cutter, especially when it comes to couples and parents. You may be thinking, “My mother told me that the wife has to make the relationship work,” “It’s my job to fix things and be the caregiver,” or that you have to manage the household and everyone’s schedules. That’s a lot of pressure for one person to bear, but very common beliefs among wives and mothers. If you are the primary caregiver for your relationship and family, it doesn’t leave much time for you to appreciate yourself. When you put everyone and everything else before your own needs, your emotional health deteriorates, and your ability to care for other diminishes. If you put yourself first and tend to your emotional and physical well-being, you’ll be able to care for others better.

I’ve been doing self-care work myself, and there are definitely positive changes, but it can also cause a lot of stress. With your daily routine, your role as a caregiver, job loss, or other life changes, it’s easy to lose track of our self-care and self-worth. It’s during these challenging times that we need to increase self-care, but if we don’t have self-esteem, we don’t think we deserve the validation or self-love. We don’t say no to people who ask too much of us, we act as a care giver rather than an equal (particularly in marriage), and don’t give enough to ourselves. If you don’t think you are worthy and have low self-esteem, why would you be worthy of self-love and self-care? We only take care of things that have value to us. We nurture things we love, but unfortunately so many of us don’t love ourselves fully and deeply, so we don’t spend the time or effort to nurture ourselves. It doesn’t matter how much you meditate, change your diet, go to yoga, or get massages. If you don’t believe in yourself, it doesn’t work. First fix your self-esteem, then you’ll make time for and benefit from self-care.

How to Develop Self-Esteem

If we don’t take time to think about what we do on a day-to-day basis, then there’s no time to appreciate our hard work, and love ourselves for it. Unfortunately, there’s no magic or overnight cure for low-self esteem, but there are ways we can improve it and begin to value and love ourselves for who we are.

  • Write it down: Every day write down one thing you like about yourself. In my practice I have seen a lot of clients struggle with this. They think about what needs to be done, what they need to do for others, their routine, what could be better, etc. But after some time of practicing this – writing down things you like about yourself – I notice they start to appreciate themselves more. All it takes is one sentence once a day to begin to improve your self-esteem. As a therapist, it is important to believe in what I tell my clients, so I also practice journaling and writing down things I like and appreciate about myself. Over time I noticed my own self-esteem improving, and it became easier and easier to like and appreciate myself and all that I do.
  • Keep your feelings in mind: Eventually I started writing two or three things a day I like about myself, and began to include writing about feelings that go with it. It’s very powerful, and helped me realize that I deserve love and time for self-care.

It’s not easy to develop self-esteem, even if you work on it every day. If you are struggling with low-self esteem, depression, or relationship issues, I am here to help. I offer counseling in Palm Beach Gardens, FL for individuals and couples who are looking to heal and move forward with their lives. Contact me today for a free 30 minute consultation and begin your journey of change and positivity.

5 Reasons Men Work with a Therapist and How to Honor Them

In my work as a counselor specializing in male and trauma counseling, I have noticed the decision making process men follow to engage in therapy tend to be affected by many social, cultural, and religious beliefs. This has led many to think that the reason men engage in therapy and the reason women engage in therapy are very different.

Many of my male clients note that when they were growing up they were taught that men are not supposed to be “emotional.” Many deny ever seeing dad crying or making verbal statements about their feelings; what they remember is being told that a good man is a good provider for their family and a very strong individual.

As a consequence when you experience feeling overwhelmed, sad, stressed, stuck, excessively worried, or grieving the loss of a loved one, you may think that asking for help to address these situations doesn’t honor what you were taught. Even more so, you may feel you may be viewed as weak, or that by addressing your feelings you may come across as being a bad father, son, spouse, etc.

My job as your counselor is to validate where you come from. I honor your decision to address your feelings and the challenging situations your may be experiencing. Therapy makes you a better version of yourself and therefore an amazing role model as a parent, son, spouse, or brother.

Men and woman may experience the same emotional needs that bring them to therapy, but in my professional experience it seems that the difference depends on how that need presents itself and how it is affecting your life. Engaging in counseling requires commitment, courage, and self-care.

Many men engage in therapy for the following reasons:

  • To improve anger management skills with daily matters. The symptoms may be that you are very irritable around your kids or spouse, or to raise your voice without apparent reason. You may say or think, “My blood boils.”
  • To communicate better with others (spouse, children, bosses, parents). The symptom could be that you find it difficult to understand another’s point of view without taking it personally. This may lead to feeling disconnected from others.
  • To cope with excessive feelings of worry. For some men, this translates to thinking about work at all times and feeling unsuccessful. As a consequence, you are likely to disconnect from family and friends.
  • To manage family relationships. You may be thinking, “I am mentally exhausted,” and your commitment to and engagement with those relationships decreases.
  • To resolve feelings of guilt. The symptoms that lead to this feeling is commonly seen in men who identified themselves as the head of the family at an early age and took care of  their parents and younger siblings.

If men are more likely to see a therapist due to feelings of anger, it doesn’t mean that women don’t. In my opinion, it means that the symptoms of irritability and limited skills to cope with frustrations stem back to a fear that by engaging in therapy they won’t honor some social, cultural, or religious beliefs.

I am honored to help you to improve how you manage feelings of anger, communicate better with your spouses and family, improve your parenting skills, and take better care of yourself. I believe the best way to honor the reasons you seek help is to empower you to take pride in asking for help. That is not easy and I am here to help.

What does it mean to be raised by a parent with mental illness?

What comes to mind when you think about what makes you feel happy, safe, or fulfilled? Maybe you are not sure or perhaps never thought about it until you faced a challenging situation. Believe it or not, many people are not sure how to answer that question or it makes them feel lost, guilty, confused, or scared.

Adult children raised by parents with mental illness grow up experiencing several negative beliefs and uncomfortable feelings about themselves. As a consequence, when they are adults they are more likely to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, social anxiety, and lack of confidence among others.

For this month’s blog post I wanted to share a list of some of these feelings and beliefs. Maybe reading this list creates an opportunity for you to experience kindness and understating for the way you feel and to define what happiness, fulfillment, and safety mean for you:

  • A sense of emptiness about the role of your parent or main caregiver. This thought could be present now and when thinking about your childhood.
  • Feeling like the adult in the relationship with your parent or caregiver. Maybe because during childhood you had to ensure your safety and/or the safety of other members in your family. Maybe your parent or caregiver behavior doesn’t match their age and you have to be sure they are safe or alive. This is very common for adult children who grew up in a family with an alcoholic parent or they experienced and/or witnessed emotional, verbal, or physical abuse.
  • Feeling not loved, unlovable, or not good enough during childhood and now.
  • You find yourself feeling angry with them without being able to figure out the reason and as you recognize being angry, you feel guilty for having those feelings towards your parents even though you know they treated you poorly. Conflictive thought process, right? Working with a trauma-trained clinician will help. 
  • Wondering what is going on in the mind of your parent and/or caregiver as they make decisions that affect them or everyone around them financially, emotionally, legally, socially, etc.
  • And finally, you could find yourself having the following thoughts:
    • “How could she/he do that to me?”
    • “Why doesn’t he/she care?”
    • “Why do I keep doing this to myself?”
    • “I feel guilty.”, “I am stuck.”
    • “I wish she/he will love me.”
    • “I don’t want to come across as a bad son/daughter.”
    • “I wish she/he will listen to me.” “She/he never listened.”
    • “I don’t think they cared about me at all.”
    • “It is my fault she did not do something that was important.”
    • “ I should have helped more.”

If you find yourself identifying with one or more of these feelings and thoughts, working with a clinician that specializes in trauma will help.

As we work together, I will help you to outline specific goals to cope with your feelings and thoughts so you can move on with your life and have a better relationship with your parent/caregiver without feelings of guilt. As the healing process starts, adult children of parents with mental illness are able to understand, physically and emotionally, that there is no reason to feel guilty, that saying NO doesn’t mean you don’t love your mom or dad, or that you are a bad son or daughter.

Obviously the understanding of how valuable you are doesn’t happen overnight. It requires commitment and the understanding and I am here to help.

I Am Happy As I Am

How many times, when you look back at the things you have done, do you wonder what would have happened if you would have done something different?

How many times when you think about your future, do you wonder if your priorities or concerns about work, relationships, health, time for leisure, traffic, among others will matter to you in the same way?

I can’t tell you how many times I ask myself those questions on a regular basis, especially when things don’t go as I expect. But I know it’s part of who I am and, thanks to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), I know those questions come from a part of me who finds its meaning or purpose by worrying a lot.

As a therapist I have the honor to witness and support many of my clients who come to see me because they found themselves asking those questions on a regular basis and it was affecting many aspects of their life. These questions are common when symptoms of depression or anxiety are present. It also happens when a client is questioning the relationship with his/her parents now and when they were children.

In this process your become aware of the role of many individuals (relatives and/or friends) and the effect of their actions in your life. You become mentally aware that the effect or outcome of these relationships may have not been the most loving, kind, and respectful as you imagined or expected. I like to refer to this as a healing process. During this process, I also assist and support my clients to cope with many conflicting emotions. I implement EMDR to help them.

Through the process my clients are able to feel loved by themselves because they realize the challenging situations or traumatic events in some cases are over. Now they have the tools to recognize what makes a situation difficult and know how to deal with it. Thanks to EMDR, I know the part of me who likes to worry. It’s the part who wants to be a good individual in all aspects of my life without taking credit for my good work.

“I am happy as I am ” is one of the positive cognitions used in EMDR to help clients within this process. EMDR considers 8 phases; phase 5 is the Installation phase in which the positive cognition is processed using sensory stimulation. This process is unique for everyone and I am honored to be part of this healing journey with my clients.

I know EMDR can be so helpful because it gives us the opportunity to choose to be safe, loved, cared, or happy with you. This doesn’t mean that life is “perfect”, but we are able to expand mental awareness about who we are and the reason we feel the way we do.

There are more benefits of EMDR and I will love for you to benefit from it if needed and it’s appropriate. You can also learn more at https://counselorcarmen.com/emdr-therapy/ and http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/to learn more about it.

If you have any questions about this amazing intervention and how it is so powerful to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder, grief, PTSD, trauma caused by sexual, emotional, verbal abuse, work relate distress, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, or personality disturbances due to trauma, among others let me know. I am a certified EMDR clinician and have been using this intervention and others for years and will be happy to help.