When we get closer to nature—be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree—we do our overstressed brains a favor…
What’s your story line? What do you tell yourself about yourself? That’s the story I’m talking about. It’s our narrative.
It’s our Self Talk, the ongoing commentary we’ve grown to believe, and automatically trip into when we get triggered.
CBT = Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The track runs in both directions.
This diagram shows how our thought patterns (actual neuropathways in our brains) cause a chain (train) reaction. We think, for example, “I look Stupid.” We feel judged, anxious, even angry. The thought and the resulting feeling then cause us to behave in a certain way. Or rather, REACT in an automatic chain reaction Some of us react by self mediating with food, alcohol, pot, porn, gambling, or excessive exercise. You name your drug of choice. Others just pretend it ain’t happening, and go into an automatic avoidance pattern. These thought patterns are embedded in our neural circuitry.
Thus, automatic REACTions.
Many of us have been telling ourselves these stories since we were little kids. As we develop our sense of selves, we internalize messages. Our parents, teachers, coaches, and other significant people in our lives ( the Family in the Head) model behaviors, or say things we, as young children and teens, take to heart. This is not a BLAME GAME. It’s just reality. Our past informs our present. And, the stories about ourselves become who we are. Some are good and some are not so healthy.
Take for example the young boy who’s constantly told, ” you are a bad boy. Go to the office. Go to your room. You are too slow, too fast, too this, too that…..” Over time, that boy decides he’s a bad boy. If he hasn’t figured out, or been validated to be a good boy and get attention and love that way, he might decide, “well, I guess I am a bad boy. I might as well go for it.” Any attention is better than no attention, right? A simplified example, but I hope it’s useful for you to contemplate your story lines.
Many of us developed what’s called a FALSE SELF. We think we aren’t OK the way we are, so we start acting and making chooses based on what we think our most important caregivers want. We seek after approval, love and attention, and create a self that will ensure a steady diet of love and affection. Make sense? Dr. Riggio coins it in his Psychology Today blog, being like a Chameleon. We change based on who we are with and what they think and feel.
These patterns often work well for us as children. We have a family of origin dance we’re familiar with. The tough part is the same dance (patterns of relating to others based on what we believe about ourselves, our stories) often doesn’t serve us well when we move into adulthood, and start dancing the same relational dance with others who didn’t learn the same dance as us!! Yikes!
This is so depressing! I am going to just tell myself the same familiar stories and move on with my day. Well, if we are happy, functional, and your relationships are working, keep on keeping on.
If, on the other hand, you are not content with your life and your relationships, and you’re not functioning as your best and TRUE self, it’s time to change-up your Self Talk. You can learn how to respond instead of react. Albert Einstein said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” And, once you start choosing what you think about, you will feel differently, and respond rather than react in an automatic pattern.
Today’s TIPS FROM THE TRAIL:
- First, we have to become aware of those automatic thoughts. Listen to your SELF Talk. What are you telling yourself? How do you speak to yourself?
- Once you recognize the less than honorable thought patterns, notice how you feel inside. Where in your body do you feel the anxiety, fear, anger? See if you can differentiate your thoughts from your feelings.
- The hard part for many of us is doing it in a kind way! Our self talk is often self-deprecating. ” You idiot. You did it again!” See if you can just notice, “there I go again. Wow, I didn’t know I told myself how stupid I was so often.”
- Challenge your Self Talk – use the tool STOPP you learned in a previous post.
- Stop and Slow it done.
- Take a deep breath – in for 4 and out for 4.
- Observe what you are thinking about and what it feels like. Where are you feeling it in your body. Connect with your body. Many of us never do this. It’s how we are going to learn to UN- couple thoughts from feelings.
- Pull Back. Get a panoramic view of what you’re thinking about. Can you see it from another perspective? Do you have all the facts? Is what you are thinking even true? Challenge any errors in your thought process
- Practice. Practice and practice. We have to derail those negative thought tracks and replace them with more functional tracks.
Let me know if this makes sense to you. Thanks in advance for your feedback.
Until next time, happy trails to you and yours, Allison
OMG! “What did he mean by that? What do you think he’s saying?” “Why did he wait a day and a half to say this?”
Here are a few ideas about that unsatisfying text message you just read:
- He can’t spell.
- He doesn’t edit predictive texting.
- He’s watching football.
- He can’t, or doesn’t want to wax on eloquently like in romance novels.
- He missed the memo on how to send pithy, loving and validating text statements.
- He’s not a mind-reader, and wrote the text before pondering the meaning of life.
- The text came in at the same time he walked into a meeting, or was posting the best photo ever on Instagram!
Here are a few ideas about what she thinks he meant:
- She feels loved and validated by words of affirmation. Many of us feel loved when we are told nice things about ourselves. See Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages.
- Her emotions guide her decision making, and she fills in the blanks when she doesn’t have all the facts.
- She lives in her head (those are the intellectual types) and she is way over thinking the meaning of the text. Many of us look for reasons to not trust because we fear being hurt. Before we open up our heart to the chance of being hurt, we nip it in the bud.
- She’s triggered by messages suggesting she, not good enough, smart enough, or lovable. Texting is like being fed crumbs of food. Like the plant named Aubrey 2 in Little Shop of Horrors, many of us need more and more and more, and it’s often exhausting for our partners when we want daily feedings of affirmation via text messaging all through the day.
Here’s the deal – Emotional texting is a bad idea.
I’m not saying anything about good or bad ways of loving and living. I’m not judging anyone who needs words of affirmation. It happens to be one of my primary love languages.
What I am suggesting is emotional texting is akin to being fed crumbs when we’re starving. Like in the movie Little Shop of Horrors, Aubrey 2 is insatiable!
“Feed me Seymore, feed me all night long!
It’s hard to consistently affirm someone via text. Words alone just don’t work for those of us who read between the lines. For some of us, words need to be accompanied by inflections and tones in our voices, and facial expressions. It’s about how we turn toward our partners and physically connect with them. Those crucial body cues, combined with words, is what feeds many of our souls.
So, what do we do about it? Here’s a Tip from the Trail encouraging us to open up a dialogue about how, and when we text each other.
When you first start a relationship, discuss your texting habits, and develop mutually agreed upon texting ground rules.
- Come to an understanding about compartmentalizing your love life and work life. When you are at work, you are working and do not emotionally engage. Discuss respecting each others boundaries. It’s not about not loving each other, it’s about moving through our busy days, and not always having to work out emotional content at inappropriate times.
- Consider not texting during work hours except for an agreed upon, midday text of an emoji, or an “I love you” statement. Talk about what those little emojis mean to each of you. Some guys hate them. Some women hate the emoji with the tongue hanging out. Sounds stupid, but these things matter to many of us. Discuss what works for you and what doesn’t, connect, and get back to work.
I hope this helps save a few relationships, and/or start a new relationship with a clearer understanding of how texting can create unnecessary drama between two, well meaning people.
Happy trails to you today,
It does seem overrated during some periods of our lives. Can you recall periods in your life when you got so much done when you only slept 4 to 5 hours? Most of us can’t go without sleep for more than a few days without it catching up to us. If we don’t sleep we eventually loose it in some way or another. We lose our sense of judgment. We lose our tempers more easily. And, we end up wasting more time than if we had slept!!
Sleep is one of the structural beams (or functional boundaries) supporting our TRUE YOU Homes. My next blog will explain more about what that means.
As you know, our sleep habits change throughout the life cycle. Developing sound sleep habits at a young age helps. Creating bedtime routines for our children is the starting point. During our teen and college years our sleep cycles shift and often wreck havoc on our physical and mental health. Stress and traumatic life events will impact our sleep. And then the dreaded perimenopause, menopause, and male-o pause can negatively impact our sleep.
So, how do we remedy a poor sleep problem?
HERE ARE SOME IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF REGARDING YOUR SLEEP HABITS.
- Do you feel well rested during the day?
- How many hours are you sleeping each night?
- Does this vary from weekday to weekend day?
- Do you have any trouble getting to sleep?
- Does your mind start to race upon lying down?
- Do aches or pains prevent you from sleeping?
- Do you feel an urge to move around at night?
- Do you have any trouble staying asleep?
- If you awaken, how long does it take to return to sleep?
- Do you wake up gasping?
- What does your bed partner say about your sleep?
- Does he/she say you snore loudly or kick?
- How long have you had this problem?
- Do you feel like you’ve had a good night’s sleep when you wake up and throughout the day?
- Do you find yourself feeling drowsy and needing naps?
- Do you doze off at inappropriate times/places?
- Do naps help?
- Do you often miss the ending to movies because you cannot stay awake?
- Do you have a headache upon arising?
- In the evening, do you have an urge to move your legs, along with uncomfortable sensations in your legs, when at rest?
- Are you having difficulty with concentration or memory?
- Are you experiencing problems with mood (eg, irritability, depression)?
TALK TO YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER IF YOU ANSWERED YES TO ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS.
It’s important to rule out underlying medical problems, many of which cause fatigue, depression and anxiety. Get your Vit D level, Vitamin B12, Thyroid, and Lipid Panel checked. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (read more here) applies to your personal health as much as it does your bank account. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t enjoy the life you’ve created.
Also, our drugs and alcohol use can impact our sleep quality as well. Is WINE a Food Groupfor you? See an earlier blog post about this issue. Wine, for instance helps us chill out at night and fall to sleep. Unfortunately, it can be the culprit for our early morning awakening.
TIPS FROM THE TRAIL: SLEEP HYGIENE HABITS
- Sleep only as long as needed to feel refreshed. Usually 7 to 9 hours/night for adults.
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule, do not vary on weekends.
- Do not drink caffeine from at least 6 hours before bedtime and minimize daytime use.
- Do not smoke, especially close to bedtime or if you awaken during the night.
- Avoid alcohol and heavy meals in the late evening before sleep.
- Exercise regularly, but avoid vigorous exercise within 3 to 4 hours of bedtime.
- Minimize noise, light, and excessively hot and cold temperatures where you sleep.
- Avoid television and computer use in the bedroom, especially if you awaken in the middle of the night.
- Take a hot bath before retiring. Add in Epsom salt. It’s Magnesium and absorbed through the skin.
- Magnesium helps decrease anxiety. Look for magnesium products at your grocery store. CALM is one product you can drink at night. Be careful with the amount you ingest because magnesium can cause diarrhea. Ughh!!
Sleep tight so you can enjoy your days, and not miss the moments called LIFE.
Happy trails, Allison