Holiday Triggers and Partnerships

Every major holiday like Thanksgiving and Christmas, my body’s impulse is to shut down, disconnect, and cut out all pressure. My Mom slaved to create picture-perfect holidays. Most of it was magical and I am very grateful for all she did. The conflicting part for me was witnessing her killing herself to make it perfect. Sure she tried to get her six kids to help but most of it came in the form of yelling and anger as she was at her wit’s end. I just wanted to avoid her at all costs which of course stressed her out even more. It just didn’t make sense to me why she was doing all this work and seemed miserable doing it. I know now, she was wanting to give what she never had and once she earned that role, she didn’t know how to let go and set boundaries to preserve her well-being. To me, the holidays became a stress trap and really ruined the value of the holiday.

All these conflicting feelings intensified when I was 10 years old and my family of eight gathered for Christmas morning for the what turned out to be the last time celebrating all together. I will never forget it… As usual, my Mom went overboard buying Christmas gifts – shopping was her main coping skill. My Dad slouched on our lazy-boy chair, his hands nervously covering his mouth as he watched the charades. You could feel him groan as my siblings feigned enjoyment opening the overwhelming amount of gifts they could have gone with out. My Mom was ecstatic and basking in what she had given. The conflicting emotions and tension in the room consumed me. My parents separated shortly after this Christmas and there are many deep layers wrapped in this memory.

My body remembers all these layers and so every major holiday, I freeze. No tradition or holiday demand is worth sacrificing my well-being. I happened to marry a man who loves to cook lavish meals and have big parties. He truly does enjoy the process of providing a good time. He has reasonable boundaries and doesn’t go overboard yet I still get triggered. My triggered reaction of shutting down, avoiding extravagance, wanting to do less and make things simpler ends up triggering his own negative reaction related to a whole other dynamic with regards to his upbringing.

Nobody is right or wrong here, it’s just is what it is. We have had to find ways to process our feelings and each other’s reactions as well as discover ways to honor each other’s experiences and needs. 2017 was our 21st holiday season together and it is definitely getting easier yet we are still learning and growing together.  And there were many seasons we just grinned and beared it. We have two kids who naturally love holidays so we have done our best to create a few simple rituals that represent the true essence of each holiday as well as keep coming up with new ones. This year, we cut down our first real Christmas tree.WP_20171222_21_37_12_Pro

Give of yourself that brings the best out of you and create a holiday that meets your family’s unique needs. Every moment is a gift and you have the power to choose to open each moment with grace, love, gratitude and curiosity. How we feel often matters more than how things look. Be (a) present ❤

Getting on the same page…

My partner and I recently celebrated 20 years of dating and as happily married we are now, I assure you it has taken great effort and positive intentions to heal past wounds, un-learn negative conditioning, rewrite narratives and resolve many, many conflicts. We have traversed serious medical issues, grieved babies, lost dreams, financial woes, and international moves.

I liken the development of our relationship to being from different sections in a library and we met in the music section. It felt exhilarating to meet someone who liked the same music as me along with some other interests. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone anymore, like someone got me. We connected, we danced, we found our groove, then life happened, reality set in, stressors, triggers, negative events, and new experiences. Gradually, I realized that my partner likes other music that I can’t stand, and actually enjoys more of my least favorite sections in the library, on a whole other level from me. We began to disagree more, coming from totally different perspectives, not understanding each other, we gradually wandered off more and more to our desired sections of the library. I began to wonder who this person was, how did we ever get along, and what the heck am I doing here in this section alone, resentful and confused? Did I even have the energy or the will to enter my partner’s section? And why can’t he come to my section more?…

You can read my blog How couples can thrive through parenting…to learn what motivated me to go to my partner’s section more and it wasn’t till about the 14th year of being together that I felt we got in the same book. Now into our 21st year, we actually get on the same page and even same line on a regular basis, on many subjects. We still need and enjoy our favorite sections yet we now value and visit each other’s sections often as well created new sections together. We sing and dance as a family.

All my research in relationships, neuroscience, trauma, and attachment gave me faith that it was worth the discomfort and seemingly endless, intense discourse. Seeing how our children relate and reflect on our relationship and family is music to my ears and daily living proof. One comment that sticks out that my son made was, “I use to think you and Dad argued a lot, then I started to notice other families and wow, do others not get along. You two really try to understand each other and work it out.” He was moved to share this with me as his dad and I were in the middle of one our discourses, each taking space to calm down and he wanted to provide encouragement. What he noticed is my legacy that I have worked passionately to give my children and everyone I work with: Anything is possible when we feel safe and understood. Let go, fear less, love more and trust the process. Deep breaths, baby steps ❤ Debra

Click here to discover Five Steps to a Positive Reframe

You can find more information about my experience here on my Vita.

I’ve added a video counseling service called Wecounsel. Now we can meet wherever it’s most convenient for you. All you need is a computer and broadband internet access. It’s secure and accepted by major health insurance companies.

Please visit Debra Wallace MS LMFT at Wecounsel to learn more. I can only see Illinois residents via Wecounsel.

International clients can find me at https://www.ring.md/doctor_profiles/debra-wallace

If you have any questions please contact me:

Debra@positivereframe.org

847.603.4677   USA

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Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

 

Promoting Well-being, Resiliency, and Connection Tips

Human bodies are amazing and self-regulating. We each have unique homeostasis that our bodies need to feel balanced and function optimally.  We each need a variety of nutrients, needs, and level of stimulation/arousal to function optimally which is dependent on our upbringing, environment, interpersonal neurobiology, genetics, temperament as well as exposure to toxins or trauma.  When we are pushed out of our unique window of tolerance or are deficient in anything, we will automatically react with symptoms and signals to get what we are needing. In a state of overwhelming distress, we can’t connect our wise mind or truly move on.

We can promote well-being, resiliency, and connection by ‘tuning in’ to our stress signals, our needs, senses, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Negativity, symptoms, and conflict often come from a state of stress and/or unmet needs. Below are the key ingredients to empowering oneself and others to make conscious choices to get vital needs met. Understanding and following these will harmonize your connection to your mind, body, and heart as well as your relationships.

The crucial first step is becoming aware of stress signals and stressors. Inconsistent or inadequate amounts/quality of the following vital needs often trigger dysregulation (dependent on context and individual temperament or special needs) and are common stressors:

  1. Nutritients/Hydration (food, water, oxygen, sunlight)
  2. Sleep
  3. Level of stimulation (from all senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, & smell)
  4. Connection and Emotional needs of feeling Safe, Respected, Important, Secure, Accepted, Included, Soothed, Understood, and Seen
  5. Unprocessed stress/trauma (emotional, social and physical toxins such as negative events, thoughts, emotions, chemicals)

“…kids don’t get dysregulated because we allow their emotions. They get dysregulated when they need to express an emotion but can’t. So, instead, they act (it) out.” ~Dr Laura Markham

stress-model

Be detectives as a family… spy around for what might be triggering you and your family to act out? 

When tension or negative behaviors are escalating, everyone HALT(S) and reflects: 

Are we Hungry?

Angry/Anxious?

Lonely? Is it too Loud? Are we running Late?

Are we Tired or too hot or cold (Temperature)? 

Sick (coming down with a health expression)? Stressed out?

Get regulated together by getting vital needs met daily:

  1. Take deep breaths, Eat nutritious food & Drink water
  2.  Prioritize downtime, Rest & Sleep; Meditate, Slow down
  3. Reduce or change stimulation (i.e. adjust temperature, turn off electronics, lower lighting or noise level, go outside)
  4. Increase production of happy, calming hormones by getting social-emotional needs met by doing rewarding, interactive activities such as smiling, silly faces, singing, listening to or playing music, respectful touch, hugging, playing games, dancing, exercising, attending social events, spending special one-on-one
  5. Process stress & release negative energy through sensorial activities like playing with play-dough or sand, drawing/coloring, exercising, writing, tapping (Emotion Freedom Technique), role-playing, visualizing safe/happy place, assertive & non-violent communication, reflective active listening, asking open-ended questions, identifying/labeling possible feelings, empathizing and collaboratively problem solve…the list is endless and unique to each individual and family

Now be solution detectives and find ways that make you and your loved ones feel safe, loved and calm…

When applying these new skills for understanding and processing negative reactions, please be compassionate with yourself and family. Change can be really hard, especially when our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy habits because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect resistance and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure connection in your mind, body, heart, and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Deep breaths, baby steps, and trust the process. You can do it.

Bright side..Resilience

Key Terms:

Resilience: the ability to cope effectively in the face of stress, adversity, and potentially traumatic experiences

Regulation: Emotional, physical, psychological state of being calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected even in times of stress; the ability to experience a feeling, know that the feeling signals a need and then know how to get that need met

Stress: any emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming

Trauma: personal experience of an event that involves actual or perceived death or serious injury and/or any stressor that continues to go on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood

Dysregulation: being in a state of STRESS beyond one’s threshold of tolerance which alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections; Creates unconscious emotions of fear; Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions; and Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem solving, planning, language). The longer one stays in a state of dysregulation, we increase the likelihood of causing harm, impairment, escalation of negative behaviors and the production of dysfunctional survival behaviors.

View these links for more info on children’s resilience and stress:

http://www.beststart.org/resources/hlthy_chld_dev/pdf/BSRC_Resilience_English_fnl.pdf

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/resilience/

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/toxic-stress/

https://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/

http://lindagraham-mft.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Neuroscience-of-Resiliency-Interview.pdf

http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/resilience/according-experts/resilience-development-importance-early-childhood

http://brainwave.org.nz/wp-content/uploads//Stress-Article-2010.pdf

https://postinstitute.com/?s=stress+model

https://www.heartmath.org/

This is also a synopsis of some highlights I have learned from these amazing people:

Barbara Wetzel http://www.theergonomiccouple.com/

Juli Alvarado http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/

Bruce Perry http://childtrauma.org/

Dan Siegel http://www.drdansiegel.com/

Heather Forbes http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

Bryan Post https://postinstitute.com/

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

New filters to live by…

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be.

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy and curiosity.

 

As human beings, we are constantly absorbing stimulation from all our senses (i.e. sight, touch, smell, taste, sounds, and intuition). In order to function efficiently, our brains filter the stimuli to prioritize and respond. Our initial filter is to determine if the stimulus is a threat. If we perceive a threat, then our stress response system kicks in and we react to protect ourselves. There are more steps that occur instantaneously in this complex process. Yet ultimately, the presence of a calm, nurturing, and safe person and/or connection to secure, positive beliefs and memories can stop the stress response from taking over. Thus promoting resiliency and more positive, secure connections within our mind, body, soul, and relationships.

After receiving counseling and training in trauma and brain development, I discovered I was a highly sensitive person who experienced complex trauma. My central nervous system was also often in a hyper-aroused state. So along with having enhanced sensory sensitivity, I was hypervigilant and intensely surveying every environment I was in. I had a tendency to perceive stimuli as threats and had exaggerated reactions. I was able to pinpoint specific traumatic events that occurred during sensitive stages of my development and in my parents’ lives that I accepted that I was essentially born, wired in fear.

When I was a stay-at-home mom with two young children, overtired and not prioritizing my needs, I was constantly feeling triggered.  I was having strong negative reactions during my own children’s sensitive stages of development. Fortunately, I was aware of what was going on in me so I reflected further on what my biggest fears were. Then I came up with specific statements that targeted those fears and provided compassionate and trusting beliefs to filter the stimuli and my negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through. My son had drawn a rainbow that I had hanging on our refrigerator. I followed my impulse to take it down and scribbled down the following statements on it:

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be (and not always in my control).

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy, and curiosity.

I put it back on my fridge and read it every time I got triggered which I knew was happening when my children were upset or acting out and I connected to my “felt sense”. I would notice my chest tighten, heart racing, my body trembling and overheating, my voice tone shifting up, and negative thoughts flooding my brain. I would also take deep breaths and step outside for fresh air.

I refuse to pass on any more trauma onto my children. There is enough suffering in the world to endure. I made a conscious choice to give them a safe space to process all their negative thoughts and feelings so that they could securely connect to their innate intelligence and shine through any negative stimuli. I loved the visual of the rainbow my son drew and reminded me how the sun shines through and creates a rainbow after a storm. Here is what this creation looks like… 

 

Over time, I periodically added new messages that my body, mind, and soul needed to believe when I got triggered. We all can get triggered and easily fall back to negative habits and reactions. The goal is to take responsibility for your triggers: Notice when you are getting triggered, what are you thinking, feeling, and doing; and what will you choose to do to get through it faster. 

Healing our triggers often takes time so be compassionate with yourself as you go through this process. The ability to even notice your triggers and negative reactions is progress even if you cannot stop them yet. Awareness is first to step so when you catch your stress signals or negative reactions, do something nurturing, breathe, and love yourself through. I like to remind myself how it takes an average of 21 times to repeat a new behavior before you make a positive, secure connection in your mind, body, soul and in the relationship itself. The deeper the issue, the more times it takes. Do your best to celebrate each step and choose love over fear. Today is a present, open it with grace, joy, and curiosity.

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you ❤   

Debra Wallace MS LMFT Wecounsel Online Profile

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision-making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed marriage and Family Therapist in the state Illinois, USA

 

Children are sages…

After observing and working with hundreds of children as well as having my own, I have discovered:
1) Children are sages. They are naturally present and connected to their innate intelligence as well as have less negativity and filters that block their senses or distort their perceptions. They are also operating at different brain frequencies due to their developmental stage.
 
2) Due to their heightened sensitivities and lack of filters, any negative energy directed at them is often perceived as threatening and often unconsciously labeled as “YELLING at them” because that is how it feels to their being. This will naturally trigger the fight, flight or freeze stress responses (fight doesn’t kick in until about age 2).
 
3) “I’m bored” typically means that they are experiencing negative or uncomfortable feelings that they are unaware of and cannot identify.
 
4) “It’s weird” usually means that are aware of some negative or uncomfortable feelings but don’t know what they are or how to describe them.
 
5) All negative behavior comes from a state of stress and/or unmet need. Most often they are physiologically or emotionally uncomfortable and unable to identify or communicate their feelings/needs, as well as lack the skillset to get their needs met effectively. Even if they should know what to do because you’ve said it 100 times, when triggered into a state of stress, they are unable to access that part of the brain till they feel calm and safe.
 

meditation

Please treat children how you wish you were treated when you were young. It really makes a difference as you are programming their brains for love or fear and what is done to them, they will do to society.
 
Check out my post summarizes common stressors and Enriching Resiliency & Connections as a family.
 
Take Wonderful Care,
Debra
 
Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA and provide online counseling at WeCounsel.com
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How couples can thrive through parenting…

I actually feel grief when I hear a couple who have young children say they are divorcing. I have to process the loss of the transformative and healing potential that too many know nothing about. I honestly wish no one would get divorced when they have kids under the age of seven. From conception to age seven is most intense and sensitive period of development. The first three years of life sets the blueprint for all future relationships. The loss of a parent through a divorce along with the intensity and frequency of potential conflict can significantly affect development and life-long well-being this, of course being more negative if there are no healthy ways to process and cope with the stress, grief, and conflict.

Now before I go further, I can imagine that those read this who have divorced with young children may likely feel some defensiveness and want to explain all the valid reasons you had to divorce.  Your reasons are completely valid, and you did the best you can with the resources you have.  You need to make decisions that are best for everyone involved based on your unique situation. I also know the reality of high-conflict marriages and domestic violence, and how even more devastating this is, especially for children. In fact, it is common for men to start to become physically abusive when their partner first becomes pregnant, so of course, divorce is sometimes the safest and healthiest option. Yet this does not excuse the reality that far too many of us have not had enough positive role models nor been taught the skills needed to process negative feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and events as well as promote emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and non-violent communication. So my intent here is to give a personal example of how these skills helped me in hopes of helping others…

Having a baby is a huge shock to any relationship. Even the healthiest of relationships will have issues. It is emotionally and physically taxing and stressful on levels no one could ever fathom. Not to mention that relationships within themselves have their own stages of development as well, so after the honeymoon stage it is like you enter an infancy stage within a committed partnership.

All negativity comes from a state of stress and unmet needs. When we feel fear (like afraid we will never get a good night of sleep), our stress response gets triggered causing us to unconsciously react with either fight/flight/freeze or with behaviors we learned in past within similar situations like with our own parents. Thus our worst thoughts, behaviors, and feelings will likely be triggered during this intensely critical stage of development and naturally wreak havoc on any relationship. A recent study found that having a baby caused significantly more dissatisfaction than divorce, unemployment, or even death of a partner.

I experienced this first hand in my marriage and we even made a conscious choice to be married for five years before having our first child. I was a child of divorce and wanted to ensure my marriage was secure and healthy before having a child. Even with a Master’s in Human Development and Family Studies, the birth of my first child triggered intense insecurity and turbulence. I suffered post-postpartum depression, and my partner and I had many ugly, combative, disconnected, stressful times that lasted months and even years on some issues. I would wonder how we ever got along and can we do this… forever!?

Fortunately, we have made it through the trenches and, we not only survived, we thrived. When I reflect on what motivated me to work through the hardships, four reasons come to mind: For one, I have a core belief that committed partnerships are good for us and more love and support children are raised in, the better for all humanity. We are biologically wired to be in relationships and committed partnerships provide consistent opportunities to meet vital needs for our wellbeing.

This second reason is, unfortunately, fear-based and not what I would hope to be a motivating force but I’m honest so here goes: Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, I would have felt absolutely ashamed to even utter the word “divorce.” If I can’t make it work, then who can. If I divorced, it would even shatter my core belief in the former. So back to my first reason, I was determined to make it work because I knew it would be worth it and everyone’s well-being will be better off in the long run.

Number three, I cannot stand hypocrisy so I practice what I preach thus upon great reflection and introspection, I used all the skills I tell my clients: I remembered what attracted me to my partner, all his amazing traits, his dreams, and the core beliefs we shared. These things were still present, they just got lost in the 24/7 demands of parenting, dirty dishes, diapers, bills, the battle for sleep, and work.  When I focused on the good and where we agreed, conflicts would end sooner with more understanding, and life just seemed to flow and become more joyful.

The final motivating force came when I was reading the book Living, Loving, Learning by Leo Buscaglia who specializes in Love. He shared this quote:

“Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” ~Erica Jong

I realized that I needed to take responsibility for getting my own needs met and it wasn’t fair to put so much on my partner. I really put myself in his shoes and I could see he was suffering too. I realized we both had many negative feelings and unmet needs but that we had very different ways of processing and getting our needs met. I was taking a lot of frustrations out on him and there was so much that I wasn’t doing that he’d like more of yet he would rarely complain about. I could see he was working just as hard as I was although it appeared through my stressed-out-resenting lenses that he had it easier and was doing much less.

I have been counseling couples since 2001 and I hear countless stories of how the demands of parenting trigger parents into adversaries instead of partners. The good news, parenting does not have to be so destructive and dissatisfying. It actually can be a great opportunity to connect, grow and be a source of nurturance, support, and joy. Acknowledging and validating each other’s efforts, feelings, and needs seem to soften us. When you feel supported, secure, and understood it became easier to give each other the benefit of the doubt, love and trust each other through the hardships instead of blaming, criticizing and fearing the worst.  When tension arises now, we have a new set connecting rituals, positive core beliefs, a well full vital needs being met, and resources to tap into. The sleepless nights, the tantrums, the seeming endless cleaning up of bodily fluids and messes, the absolutely no privacy, it really does get better and you start to see the brilliance in your children, your partner and even yourself.

I often wonder what if my parents took responsibility for their own behaviors and found non-violent ways to resolve their issues. What would I have gained instead of needing to clean up from the destruction and healing the deep wounds that still disturb me from their high-conflict marriage and divorce? Now, the plus side was I gained intense marriage and family therapist training in real life well before my time thus have a ton or personal insight and empathy. Yet, I have also found that if relationship pain is not healed, then similar negative patterns of interaction will likely reappear in many aspects of your life and in your next relationship, after the honeymoon stage of course. And you still have to co-parent for the rest of your children’s lives no matter what. Then you’ll likely have to deal with the unprocessed pains of potential new partners on top of the added stress of being a single parent. I know the lure of having freedom and space from conflict and the negativity of your partner feels utterly dreamy, yet there truly are positive ways to get both needs met and create freedom and peace within your relationship. A 75-year long study on what men need to be happy confirmed that memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength and that marriages bring much more contentment after age 70.  A study regarding women’s wellbeing and increased marital satisfaction was highly linked to her partner’s level of caregiving during the transition of parenting. I believe your wellbeing and family are worth it.

Here are some links easing the transition to parenthood:

Click link Steps to healing conversations to the handout I developed to transform your conversations from hurting to healing.

https://www.gottman.com/about-the-bringing-baby-home-program/

https://ellytaylor.com/about-the-book/

http://www.mindful.org/save-marriage-parenthood/

You can learn more about me and my online therapy services at WeCounsel

Please take wonderful care of yourselves and each other,

Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA.

Anxiety, Sleep, and Trying Again and Again…

I have had a unique relationship with Anxiety my whole life. Anxiety had affected just about every facet of life, especially sleep. For as long as I could remember, I had trouble falling asleep. I would lie awake for hours worrying, and replays of my past experiences and decisions haunted me. In 2005, it got even worse; I would wake up in the middle of night and could not fall back to sleep no matter what I tried. I complained that it was my stressful job and my partner watching TV at bedtime. I desperately needed to sleep and wanted my job and my partner to change.  Anxiety continued to sabotage me. In order to get a peaceful night of sleep, I had to do the following:

Step 1: I had to accept that my job is stressful and that I cannot control other people’s reactions/behaviors.

Step 2: I had to take responsibility for getting my own needs met.

I finally dragged myself back into therapy and my therapist recommended listening to an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing click here to learn more) CD which plays soothing sounds that alternate playing in each ear to mimic REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Guess what I told her? … “I tried that, it didn’t work.” I did try it two times about a year before. I had put my boom box on my bed (very uncomfortable) and then the CD started skipping at song 4. She said she’d make me a new copy of the CD and I could go buy a portable CD player.

Easy solution right?

Step 3: TRUST

Well, I am a frugal person so I mulled over buying a portable CD player for weeks. My husband didn’t think it was a necessary purchase. I thought of all the things he buys that seem frivolous to me and decided to trust my therapist’s suggestion to buy one. Suffering from the anxiety, of course, I stood in front of the CD players for 20 minutes and still couldn’t decide. I even had to call my sister for advice on which player to get (I am a 30-year woman at this point).

Step 4: Put my words into action and implement plans.

I finally bought one for $30, which of course I felt guilty about. I put in the batteries and new EMDR CD to go to bed only to find out that the CD is not working properly; the music was not alternating between ears. I complained to my husband and he suggested maybe the headphones are not in stereo. So he finds me another pair from around the house. It worked!!! I had to listen to the CD twice but I did fall asleep peacefully. When I woke up in the middle of the night and listened to it, and it soothed me again but then I ran into another hurdle…because I was using batteries, the player ran out of power right as I was falling asleep. A few days later, I had no more batteries to replace with. I kept buying more and more batteries but they ran out so quickly. I was so irritated and ready to give up…

Step 5: Love myself through trial and error!!! Give me permission to feel exasperated and any other negative feelings. Believe in success.

So I told myself: That I can work through this. I know this will work. I have to keep trying.

For a couple weeks I kept trying different power adaptors around the house. On my 4th attempt about 2 weeks later, I found a working adaptor. Eureka!!! I was able to fall asleep …except the bulkiness of the headphones limited my sleeping positions. I complained again. My husband found me a pair earbuds.

Finally, after 20 years I was able to fall asleep with no problems and sleep through the night. The progress was gradual and rocky. I needed to listen to the entire CD a couple times to fall asleep and would still awake in the middle of the night. Then I got to fall asleep after one time through the CD and didn’t wake up in the middle of the night. Eventually, it got to where I’d fall asleep during the first song. After about 3 weeks* of listening to the CD every night, I could fall asleep without it. I changed a problematic behavior and situation in two months with no drugs. Now, I only use it once in a while. It took a heavy dose of: acceptance, taking responsibility, trust; commitment to act with perseverance, unconditional love, and support from people who genuinely care about my needs.

*It takes on average, 21 times to repeat a specific behavior to make a secure connection in your brain and within your relationships.

So, when it comes to making positive, healthy, and proactive changes, please try again and again. Genuine and sustainable healing takes time. Trust the process.  ~Debra

Here is a link to an EMDR CD target for Anxiety: anxietyreleaseapp

The CD in above link is not the one I originally used though I have successfully used the CD included in Mark Grant’s book: Change Your Brain, Change Your Pain success and progress

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

You can learn more about me and my online services at Wecounsel

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers and seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA