Holistic Divorce Counseling

Holistic Divorce Counseling Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM. Free support, resources, and comfort for all life's issues and transitions.

The Most Important Relationship You’ll Ever Have May 31, 2009

 

The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with you.  Considering that you are with yourself every minute of every day, why not make this your most loving alliance?

 

While there are many reasons for not having developed a great bond with yourself, there’s no upside in cataloguing them.  In lieu of focusing on the past, here are some ways to cultivate an enjoyable, dependable, tender relationship with yourself.

 

As the Buddha said: There is no one more deserving of compassion than you.  By fostering a gentle, patient litany of self talk you will reap more benefits than you can imagine. Think of all the harshness you have heaped on yourself. Perhaps, it was setting perfectionistic, unattainable goals, or an incessant catalogue of self-criticism. Decide today that you will counter those old tendencies towards self-downing with tenderness.  If you hear yourself being judgmental of the way you are handling some aspect of your life, stop, take a breath, and talk to yourself kindly, the way you would calm a child.  Those same messages will soothe you and, more importably, build inner trust.  In time, you will be able to count on yourself for compassion and self-nurturing.  You will be that safe haven for you.

 

It may sound banal, but taking good care of yourself begins with eating well, including treats.  Unless you are someone who eats to live, and doesn’t really enjoy your food, eating something delicious every day is another way you show yourself that you matter.  Getting enough sleep is crucial, too.  Just like the people who think they can have one drink and drive, while every study shows they are impaired, many think they can do just fine with six hours a night.  Perhaps, you are one of the very few who can, but most need seven to eight hours to function well.  Last, but not least, is exercise.  Move your body.  It really doesn’t matter what you do, but do something on a regular basis and it will improve your outlook, as well as your physical health.

 

Meditation is a wonderful way to befriend and better understand your mind.  What are its tendencies?  Do you focus on all the tasks that still need doing?  Are you preoccupied with everyone else’s problems, worrying day and night?  Do you live in the future, waiting for your ship to come in, lose 10 pounds, or meet your ideal mate? Whatever your predilections, you can learn to re-focus on your breath and quiet some of the incessant noise.  Meditation is also a great way to notice any tendencies towards self-downing, or habits of assuming the worst.  Once you see a trend you can actively work towards substituting unhelpful thoughts for positive ones. (See Affirmations.)

 

Even your sex life can benefit from a better relationship with yourself.  By getting to know your body’s reactions you can please yourself, if going solo, or help your partner understand what you like, if coupled.

 

Socially, you can develop comfort within yourself, so going out alone is not a hardship; but, something you might choose on a regular basis. After all, you are always available without prior notice and you already know what you like to do.  For many people, this is a very difficult thing to imagine, let alone practice.  I encourage you to bravely go forth: see that movie or art show alone, go out for a meal by yourself (you may want to start with breakfast or lunch as they are often eaten without company), take a beautiful drive or walk (you will notice more when solo), do all those things you know you would enjoy and you’ll probably end up making new friends (all those other folks who like the same thing you do and who didn’t want to call their friends to see who wanted to share the experience).  I am sure that right after people’s fear of public speaking (the number one anxiety in this country), is venturing out by yourself.  Wouldn’t it feel like a great coup to tackle that old irrational belief?  You know, the one that says you’re a loser if you’re alone. You’re not. One third of all adults in the U.S. live by themselves. 

 

Attending to your spiritual side, developing a deep bond with the ineffable qualities of life, and finding peace within are all ways of enhancing your joy.  Trust that you will find your way to that still, small place inside where all goodness dwells.  By practicing being there for yourself, in all circumstances and on all levels, you will watch joy ripen in your heart.  You can choose to feel truly loved right this minute. Don’t take my word for it, just go for it.  It’s a radical step, but one you’ll never regret.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

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A Simple Prayer & Permission To Be Ungrateful Sometimes May 27, 2009

Filed under: SIMPLE PRAYER — chocophile @ 2:05 am
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When my children were in pre-school they said a little prayer before snack time:

Thank you for the food we eat,

Thank you for the world so sweet,

Thank you for the birds that sing,

Thank you God for everything.

 

Over the past couple of years I have incorporated that poignant set of reminders into my closing yoga meditation.  You might think it would have been jarring during a nasty divorce to contemplate those sentiments, but they were very comforting; especially, the last line.  It served as a reminder that everything was truly happening for my highest good, even though, some days, it was mighty hard to wrap my mind around that concept.

 

Actually, each line is an exercise in remembering what’s really important:

Thank you for sustenance, of all kinds: a friend’s hug as well as the food we literally eat.

Thank you for the sweetness inherent in most things and the ability to actively seek it.

Thank you for nature, bird song, music, the sound of a comforting voice.

Thank you for whole wide world and everything in it.  The good, bad, beautiful, and ugly, just as it should be, even if it’s incomprehensible.

 

Of course, there are days when merely thinking of this prayer will annoy you to distraction, and I am not suggesting you use it then. Sometimes, you have to be ungrateful.  I know that’s not a mind-set you’re encouraged to adopt, but there really are days when thinking you have to be grateful is enough to send you ’round the bend.  Just let yourself feel ungrateful at those moments. Trust me, they will pass. When they do, say this little prayer and see if it doesn’t re-center your priorities and help your perspective.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Procrastination May 26, 2009

Filed under: procrastination — chocophile @ 1:03 am
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Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday.  Author Unknown

 

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.  Robert Benchley

 

Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.  M. Scott Peck

 

Procrastination…we all do it, some more than others.  Perhaps, you wait until the laundry basket is overflowing, the pantry is bare, or the electric company threatens to turn off your lights. It doesn’t matter, putting things off is human.  The only time to be concerned is if it’s preventing you from having what you want: a clean house, a balanced check book, food in the fridge, etc.

 

People procrastinate for a wide variety of reasons, including: anger, depression, anxiety, grief, and feelings of worthlessness, just to name a few.  The good news is that whatever its etiology, procrastination can be tackled with some simple techniques.  By doing things in a more timely manner, and actually accomplishing them, you may find some of your emotional issues improving.  For example, if you have the habit of self-downing, tackling a task and following it through to completion will help your self-confidence and actually boost your mood. (See post on Self-Confidence.)

 

This may be hard to believe, but much procrastination comes from perfectionism.  If you think only perfection will do you may delay tasks for fear of not reaching your lofty, unrealistic goals.  Practice compassion for yourself as you acknowledge your fallibility.  Try welcoming mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow.  Then, having adopted a new attitude, watch yourself delve into previously daunting projects.

 

The problem with procrastination, aside from the fact that it delays doing things you might actually want accomplished, is how it often results in self-criticism and /or guilt. If this is your pattern, it is crucial to stop the self-downing and shower yourself with some kindness.  Recognize how challenging it is to make good habits and forgive yourself for any lapses.  Paradoxically, the sooner you treat yourself more gently, the sooner you will clean out that garage.

 

Here are a few of my favorite methods for overcoming procrastination:

 

The Five Minute Rule.  Set a timer for five minutes and do whatever task you have been avoiding.  When the timer goes off, if you are so inclined, set it for another five minutes. You’ll find this technique helps you over the hardest part of procrastination: getting started.

 

Break up your task into small, manageable parts. This is especially good for those times when you have procrastinated so long that the thought of tackling your project is overwhelming and has stopped you in your tracks numerous times already.  It’s an easy tactic.  Just divide your task into smaller parts and do only one.  You may choose to do one a day, or one a week.  Either way, you’ll be achieving your goal in a fairly painless way.

 

Rewards and punishments. This is the most creative technique because you get to decide what the reward or punishment might be.  Albert Ellis used to suggest that people burn a twenty dollar bill if they failed to follow through on something they professed to want. Personally, I think you catch more flies with honey.  Fugure out some treat you can give yourself, and indulge in it once you have completed your task.

 

The most crucial aspect of overcoming procrastination is to be patient with yourself. Cracking the whip and criticizing yourself for not doing something just insures you’ll keep putting it off.

 

Acknowledge that change comes slowly.  Be happy with any little achievements you make. Repeat the mantra: “Progress not perfection” until it becomes your creed.

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem, & Self-Acceptance May 3, 2009

 

Despite what you may have been lead to believe, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-acceptance are all different and produce different states of mind.  Self-confidence is born of repeated experiences at which you eventually excel.  Self-esteem is based on thinking you are accomplished at something and that makes you better than someone else (essentially, you hold yourself in high esteem), while self-acceptance is unconditionally accepting yourself, right this minute, regardless of your talents and flaws.  

 

Self-esteem is the only one that can really wreak havoc on your sense of self, as it creates an emotional roller coaster. Let’s say you are rating yourself very well because you aced an exam.  Your spirits and ego are soaring; there’s no problem. But, now, it’s the next day and you find out you failed a test. The dark side of self-esteem rears its ugly head and triggers a barrage of self-abnegating thoughts.  Unfortunately, self-downing trumps self praise every time.  

 

Albert Ellis, the eminent psychologist and prolific author, said that the one thing you can do to enhance your life is to practice USA: unconditional self-acceptance.  This doesn’t mean that you love everything about yourself, but you accept everything.  Paradoxically, by accepting those traits you may not find especially endearing, you are more likely to change them.  You accept yourself unconditionally, but not all your behaviors, those, you can still rate.  (As someone recently suggested, rate but don’t berate.) If you find ones you like, great.  If you find ones that impede your relationships, vocation, or health, you can work to change them.  Because you have not reviled yourself for being fallible and engaging in some less-than helpful actions, you are more likely to change. Your ego is less involved in the result. You want to do something differently, but you know it’s not a prerequisite to liking and loving yourself, because you already separated your value as a human being from your behaviors.

 

Here’s a pop quiz to see if that made sense: pretend I give you a beautiful wicker basket. You may  not even like wicker baskets, but the craftsmanship is exquisite and you appreciate it. I start giving you fruit to put in your basket.  A cluster of dewy grapes, a brown, soft banana, a luscious looking pear, and a past-its-prime moldy cantaloupe.  What kind of a basket do you have?  If you answered, “A beautiful wicker basket,” you were right.  If you said anything about the fruit you were off track. Why?  Because I asked you about the basket, not what it contained. Practice thinking of yourself as the basket and all your traits, habits, talents etc. as the fruit. Just like with the fruit, you can ditch those pieces that aren’t useful, cook with those that still have some life in them, and add some fresh ones when the mood strikes.

 

Unconditional self-acceptance is a philosophical stance you choose simply because it will make you happier.  It’s no different from Louise Hay deciding that everything was happening for her highest good.  There may be no evidence to support it, but we get to pick what we want to think. It’s our choice to frame something as “good” or “bad.”   Why not choose those thoughts that make us feel joyful and optimistic?

 

One way to actively work to restructure one’s thoughts is to pay attention to all the times you think something disturbing.  When you notice those negative tapes playing, say “STOP!” to yourself.  Picture a huge, red, neon stop sign for extra emphasis. Then, consciously choose a happier thought. It may relate to something you were thinking, or it may be completely different.  If you were ruminating on a possible negative scenario in the future, imagine it working out just the way you wish it would.  There is absolutely no harm in this, despite all the superstitious junk with which we have all been indoctrinated. 

 

For most of my professional career, when people were worried about something bad occurring in the future, I have asked, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” The idea was, if they could parse through the worst thing and figure out how they would handle it, they’d be prepared and more relaxed.  It’s not a bad strategy, but it focuses on the negative.  Now, I like to ask people to imagine what’s the best possible outcome.  I assume that if they have lived through everything that has happened so far, they can handle anything else that comes down the pike. In the meantime, they can dwell on wonderful images of things working out well.  This does not meant they don’t make an effort to improve their lot, it simply makes it more likely that their lot will improve. Generally speaking, people who assume the best usually attract it.

 

This brings me to an observation I have made regarding the whole Law of Attraction school of thought.  It’s not New Agey, at all.  It’s ancient.  It’s all about changing your thoughts, i.e.: cognitive therapy, and watching what happens.  Not only will you feel better,  but you will be more open to new experiences and to changing out-dated, unhelpful behaviors.  Give it a try and let me know what happens.

 

 

Copyright Nicole S. Urdang

 

 
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