baby steps

Making Changes: Quick Tips on Getting Started

I have worked with so many people that have an idea of a change they need to make, but they  can’t bring themselves to start. Often times, the change seems daunting and overwhelming and we end up in a repetitive pattern of avoiding the task we believe will be helpful. When we continue to avoid the task, we increase our anxiety and stress around the task, making it more difficult to reach our own goal. When we can’t reach our own goal, our negative self-talk spikes. When negative self-talk spikes, we feel even worse than we did to begin with. It’s a vicious cycle.

The bad news - in order to break the cycle, we must start facing our fears, doing what’s difficult, and experiencing the uncomfortable. The good news - it won’t feel this way forever.

As many of my clients have said (and I believe to be true) - nothing changes in your comfort zone.

So…. the question is, where do you begin?

1. Start small

If your goal was to hike Mount Everest, you wouldn’t set foot the day you decided to hike it. Or maybe you would. But, you would likely end up exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, and possibly in some serious trouble. You would likely need to turn back and end up beating yourself up for starting an “impossible task”. To start a big task or pursue a goal, make a list of steps and cross off the easiest ones first!  If you start with small steps building up to the final big task, you are more likely to learn what you need to know and build confidence accomplishing your goal.

2. Get support

Let’s go back to the Mount Everest example. If you were start this hike this without doing some google searches, asking others who have climbed it, or getting set up with a guide, it would likely be pretty tough and also lonely. Finding support can mean asking someone who’s been through something similar, reaching out to someone who cares about you or meeting with a professional. Support groups can also be helpful so that you can find others who are experiencing similar challenges. If you have never called 211, it’s a great resource to be aware of that can hook you up to many other resources in the community.

3. Acknowledge strides

Many of us have a strong negative mental filter (AKA - we only notice the negatives of a situation and filter out the positives). If this rings true for you, it will be extremely important to take time noticing how far you’ve come. We are all constantly changing and evolving. How have you evolved? What have you made it through? What are your accomplishments? This does not have to be nobel prize worthy. What can you do today that you couldn’t do yesterday, last week, or last year? Spend some time with this. Meditate on it. Journal about. Talk about it with someone.

4. Practice compassion

Change is REALLY hard. Ask people around you about changes they have overcome. We all have wanted to change things in our life and some things are harder or easier than others. If you are trying to make a change, remember how long you have lived the way that you are. If you have been living with anxiety for 1, 2, 5, 10, 25 years, then it probably won’t change over night. Be easy on yourself.

5. Begin again

I have found that it can be easy to give up on our goals when we do not see them “working” fast enough. For example, if you are trying to quit drinking and have a slip up, maybe you feel like it’s a waste of time. It can be helpful to remember that change is not a straight line. It is up and down and all around. Remember that every day, every hour, and every minute we have the option to begin again. If you slipped up today, start again tomorrow.

 

“Real change is difficult at the beginning. Without the familiar to rely upon, you may not be in as much command as you had once been. When things are not going your way, you will start doubting yourself. Stay positive, keep the faith, and keep moving forward – your breakthrough may be just around the corner.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

Summertime Blues in Maine: 10 ways to kick em

I woke up this morning and looked at the calendar - JULY 19TH?! How did that happen? A common discussion among Mainers in the summer is, “where has the summer gone” and “I feel like the summer is wasting away”. So many spend time reminiscing about “the times when summer felt like eternity”. As you age, it is normal for time to pass by quickly, for responsibilities to outweigh fun. Summer depression is a frustrating and confusing experience in Maine. We panic because we know the warm weather isn’t here for long. It is not uncommon to experience some form of summertime blues. Here are some strategies you may consider if you are in a funk.

1 - Consider your expectations

Time and time again, I come back to this same point. Often we bring ourselves pain from setting our summer expectations too high. (i.e. I will go to the beach every sunny day) It can be a helpful exercise to first look at what our expectations are. Awareness is always the first step towards change. Once you have done that, might it be possible to make any adjustments in your expectations? (i.e. I will visit the beach once every other week) If so, I would recommend giving that a try. Shifting our mindset can be a powerful tool if we are able to do it.

2 - Go berry picking

In your backyard if your lucky or at a friend’s house maybe. Go hunting for wild berries in the woods if you’re up for an adventure. If you are not feeling adventurous, but would like the satisfaction of berries at the end, find a local farm. Check out - https://maxwellsfarm.com/ in Cape Elizabeth.

3 - Plan one FULL day just for YOU

If you are someone who spends a lot of your time doing for others, than this one is meant for you.

4 - Identify an outdoor safe haven that’s close-ish to your house and spend time there.

It doesn’t have to be for long. Maybe it’s on the way home from the grocery store for five minutes. Maybe one day you have the luxury to spend an hour or FOUR! Just make it a point to get there when you can.

5 - Act opposite

Often, when we are feeling depressed, our mind is telling us to stay in bed, watch netflix, isolate, eat lots of high sugar food, drink lots of alcohol, etc. This ends up feeding our depression and we stay stuck in that cycle, yet clawing to get out. If this is your situation, I would urge you to consider acting opposite to the feeling or urge you have to any extent possible. By engaging in opposite behavior, you are more likely to move towards an opposite emotion and less likely to stay stuck. Start small - consider the movie, What About Bob, “baby steps”.

6 - Take a walk and smell all the flowers

If there’s a saying about it, there’s probably a reason...

7 - Spend time in or near water

We live in Maine and are blessed with so many water sources - find one! There is healing power in water. If you absolutely cannot do this at any point in the summer, take a bath! Set the mood first though and make it a whole thing -this is your time.

8 - Seek Inspiration

Do the things on this list seem challenging? Reach out to someone in your life who inspires you. It is totally normal to need support and good practice to find your voice and ask for what you need.

9 - Weed a garden

Your own if you have one. If you don’t, find someone who does and offer to help. They will be eternally grateful for the support. Weeding can be quite therapeutic and the finished product is pretty great to see as well.

10 - Try one new thing

It’s so easy to get stuck, bored, in a funk, and forget the wonder of the world around us. Find playfulness by trying something new - consider asking someone to join you in this adventure. What’s one thing you always wanted to try? Or maybe, what’s one thing you haven’t done since you were just a small kid? (Check out the forts at Fort Williams, stop by your local farmer’s market, try goat yoga at Sunflower Farm in Cumberland, or visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay).

 

Maybe this week you give just one of these a try. With all things, practice compassion with yourself. If these suggestions don’t kick your summer blues, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free phone consultation or to schedule an appointment for some additional support. We would love to hear from you - add your own ideas to this list by posting below!

    Sunflower Farms, Cumberland, ME           http://www.sunflowerfarm.info

    Sunflower Farms, Cumberland, ME

        http://www.sunflowerfarm.info