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Self-Care Ideas

With international Self-Care Week and International Self-Care Day (July 24) just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about self-care ideas that will allow you to truly take care of yourself. And just for fun, let’s start from head to toe.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Brain

There’s one part of us that’s working around the clock: our brain. Even when we go to sleep, our brain is working on processing everything that happened during the day, and sometimes we’ll get a taste of that when we sleep. Have you ever had a dream you were in a house with no doors? Then when you woke up you realized it was a representation of you feeling stressed and feeling as if there was no way out? That’s your brain processing your stress.

Self-care ideas: So how do you take care of your brain? There are many self-care ideas around this topic, but one way is through neurofeedback, a type of therapy that trains your brainwaves to reach their optimal frequencies. Because when are brainwaves are too slow or too fast, it can lead us to feeling more anxious or more depressed and even affect our ability to sleep and focus. So make sure your self-care routine includes a little time for your brain.

And for self-care week, Aspen Valley Counseling is even offering a discount on neurofeedback! Call to schedule your appointment after July 20 and before July 28, and you’ll only pay $37.50 per session (compared to the regular $50 per session or $100 per session of competitors).

Self-Care Ideas for Your Neck and Shoulders

We hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders because we’re constantly looking down at our phones or a computer screen. Have you ever had someone rub your shoulders and say, “Wow, you seem stressed?” Well, that’s because they can feel the tension in your muscles near your neck. When we are stressed, we naturally tense up, and that shows in our muscles.

Self-care ideas: You might consider making an appointment to get a massage or make a deal with a friend to trade a massage for a massage.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Stomach

Research shows that your gut bacteria is extremely important to your overall health. And we all know that a tummy ache is never comfortable. So, taking some time for self-care for your stomach can work miracles. Nowadays, you’ll find all sorts of suggestions for how to care for your stomach and digestive system. You might try a juice cleanse or probiotics or cut down on processed foods. If you’re going to try something drastic, make sure you consult with a doctor before you do.

Self-care ideas: Try to care for your stomach by eating balanced meals and cutting down on foods that don’t make your body feel good. Practice mindful eating, and pay attention to how the food you eat makes your body feel.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Knees

In the past 20 years, there’s been an increase in reported knee pain, so perhaps our knees need a little loving. When your knees hurt, it can affect the amount of physical activity you can do, including just walking or standing. So, taking care of your knees could save you from a future of painful walking.

Self-care ideas: You might try to take up swimming or water aerobics. The great thing about water sports is that water makes your body light and takes the weight off your knees. While you’re strengthening your body and muscles, you are being kind to your knees. A little exercise can go a long way.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Feet

If you’ve ever worn stiletto heels, you have been extremely aware of foot discomfort. Or maybe you’ve had an ingrown toenail. Ouch. But either way, all day long we are on our feet in some way or another, so what do we do for self-care when it comes to our feet?

Self-care ideas: Self-Care Week is a great excuse for a foot massage, pedicure, or maybe even acupuncture for foot pain. And if you’re up for it, maybe you can wear flats instead of heels for a week.

Self-Care Ideas for Your Soul

Then of course, we all need self-care for the soul. While all the other previous suggestions will definitely take part in caring for the soul, there are other self-care ideas that will are for the soul specifically.

Self-care ideas: You might try a therapy session, yoga, meditation, or drinking a warm tea while reading an uplifting book.

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Signs of a Toxic Relationship

If you think you or someone you know might be in a toxic relationship, you need to know the signs of a toxic relationship. Of course, if your partner or someone you know shows one sign of toxicity, then it doesn’t automatically mean that person is toxic. But perhaps it’s a good thing to address before it negatively affects your relationship.

If you’re in a toxic relationship, it’s very possible that the other person isn’t aware that they are toxic. And they probably aren’t googling “signs of a toxic relationship.” People can develop these toxic behaviors from poor decisions and unhealthy learned behaviors. But even if they have developed these behaviors from unfortunate life circumstances, it doesn’t make their behavior excusable. They still don’t have the right to treat others poorly.

The Signs of a Toxic Relationship

Here are signs of a toxic relationship and what you can do if you’re in a toxic relationship:

Blaming Others

If your partner or friend or family member is constantly blaming others for things that go wrong and can’t take responsibility, that a sign of a toxic behavior. And if you find yourself making excuses for your partner/friend/family member’s bad behavior, then you are enabling their toxic behavior.

Refusing to Acknowledge a Problem

If someone is shutting you down when you bring up a problem you want to address, that’s a sign of a toxic relationship. It’s important to talk about problems and address them.  In a healthy relationship, both parties should be able to take feedback and adjust.

Draining

A toxic relationship will leave you feeling drained. If you start to notice you’re constantly stressed out by a relationship, it might be a toxic one. It can literally take a toll on your body, leaving you tired and drained.

Controlling

Another sign of a toxic relationship includes controlling behavior under the guise of trying to “help.” If someone is pushy with their opinions, especially when you haven’t asked for their opinions, you may be in a toxic relationship.

Taking Advantage

A toxic relationship will include someone who routinely takes advantage of you and your time, may constantly forget what you have to do, and ask for favors when you told them you’re swamped.

Putting Others Down

In a healthy relationship, both parties feel safe and loved. In a toxic relationship, one or both parties will try to make the other feel bad about themselves. This is a toxic behavior.

Manipulating

In a toxic relationship, you’ll notice your partner/friend/family member tries to manipulate you or try to make you believe something that may not be true. Make sure you have other people in your life who can keep you grounded and help you avoid believing the manipulation.

Threatening

If someone is threatening to leave the relationship as a means to get their way, this is a sure sign of a toxic relationship.

Signs of a Toxic Relationship: What Do I Do?

Now that you know the signs of a toxic relationship, what can you do? You might be thinking that it’s time to break it off with the toxic relationship, but you might also be wondering how you can make things work. If your plan is to break it off with the toxic relationship, then break it off and don’t do the on-again-off-again thing, because that can be toxic too. Instead, do what you can to remove yourself from the toxic relationship and remind yourself of the reasons why it’s unhealthy for you.

If you need, find a friend or a family member who can support you in your decision and help remind you why you broke off the relationship. If after reading the signs of a toxic relationship, you think you might be the toxic one in the relationship, don’t think there’s no chance for you! A therapist can help you work through your unhealthy behaviors so you can have happy, healthy relationships.

If you feel like you need to maintain the relationship, first start by finding a good therapist to help you through the process. Chances are your toxic relationship isn’t going to like that you’re going to be making some changes to the relationship, and a therapist can help you through the transition. Remember that a healthy relationship is about both parties doing their part to make the relationship work. You might want to try bringing your significant other to meet with the therapist as well.

Here are some things your therapist will help you learn and practice:

Making Decisions

Take control of your life and try making your own decisions. Don’t let the toxic relationship dictate your every choice. Start by making small decisions. When you do this, you start to feel like you’re gaining control over your life again.

Establishing Boundaries

It’s important to create healthy boundaries with your toxic relationships. Be clear about what you are willing to do and what you aren’t willing to take. There will be push-back against the boundaries you try to create because your toxic partner/friend/family member isn’t used to you sticking up for yourself. Be firm and repeat your boundaries as necessary.

Learning to Communicate

Learn healthy communication skills. If you need to, take a course or meet with a therapist who will help guide you and your partner through positive communication skills.

Separating

If you find that there’s no way the two of you can cooperate to create a healthy, non-toxic relationship, sometimes the best choice is to separate.

For a more comprehensive list of signs of a toxic relationship, read this article on Psychology Today.

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Discounted Neurofeedback: Mother’s Day Special!

Do you love a good deal? Then you’re going to love a free gift and a discount on neurofeedback!

Aspen Valley Counseling is having a Mother’s Day (May 13) and National Women’s Mental Health Week (May 13–19) special! All women who sign up for neurofeedback before May 19 will receive a discounted price of 20 session for only $37.50 each. You’ll be saving 25 percent per appointment! And the first 10 moms who sign up receive a free gift at the end of their first appointment.

Call us at 801-224-1103 or email us at aspenvalleycounseling.com to schedule your first appointment!

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3 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, first know you are not alone. Anxiety can make you feel like you can’t get anything done, make your heart rate go up, and lead you to feel as if your mind is racing. But it’s possible to get through your anxiety in the moment. Here are some tips to help you manage your anxiety.

Managing anxiety

Breathe

Research shows that taking deep breaths can actually calm your anxiety. When you’re anxious, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes shallow; so when you take deep breaths, you are physically changing your anxiety. Take a deep breath in for six seconds and exhale for six seconds. Do this repeatedly and start to notice your heart rate slow and your mind calm.

Distract yourself

When you take a moment to move your mind away from the anxiety, it can help you get to work on what you need to do. Try something as simple as counting to 10. Focus on thinking about each number. When you move your focus elsewhere, you push your anxiety to the side. If you have a little more time, do something like yoga, dancing to your favorite song, or watching a funny video on YouTube.

Talk to someone

One of your best resources is your understanding friends and family. If you’re feeling anxious, call a friend or a family member and tell them how you’re feeling. Those who are understanding will listen and help you work through the anxiety. Sometimes they might say something you need to hear, or maybe by talking with them you’ll be able to talk through the anxiety. Or perhaps the call will be just enough to distract you from the anxiety.

Dealing with anxiety

The tips above aren’t a catch-all, and they certainly won’t make your anxiety go away forever. They’re little things that you can do to manage your anxiety in the moment.

Dealing with anxiety can be an ongoing issue for you, but long-term there are some things you can do to improve your anxiety. First, you have to take care of your body. When you are healthy and well rested, it’s much easier to deal with your anxiety. Make sure you’re eating healthy and getting enough sleep; when you don’t, it’s much easier to slip into worry because your body isn’t being taken care of. Also try to exercise regularly. You can find some fitness tips on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.

Try figuring out what triggers your anxiety. When you can find out what’s stressing you out, you can start to deal with it better. Find a therapist that can help you work through your stressors and give you tools to help you get your anxiety under control.

For more tips on managing your anxiety, (such as creating a mantra, journaling, and more), check out Psych Central.

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Why Aren’t Things Going How I Want Them To? Hint: It’s Your Cognitive Distortions.

Do you hate failing? Are you overwhelmed with life? Do things just never work out for you?

Sometimes life is hard, but sometimes we make our lives harder than they have to be. We do this by holding onto our cognitive distortions.

What are cognitive distortions?

The term “cognitive distortion” is a fancy term for messages we tell ourselves that aren’t true. Maybe you mess up and tell yourself you’re worthless. Or maybe you have three awful things happen in one week and you tell yourself that you’re doomed to a life of misery.

But once you figure out what cognitive distortions you have, you can start to see these harmful messages as inaccurate. And it’s absolutely liberating when you discover what your cognitive distortions are because you find out that you’re the one in control of your happiness, and you can start fighting your inner critic.

What are my cognitive distortions?

Here’s a list of some cognitive distortions. Once you go through them, you can figure out which ones your want to work on. After you’ve identified your cognitive distortions, scroll down to the next section to see how you can overcome your distortions.

  • “Should” statements: If you think the words “should, “must,” or “ought,” you’re probably about to stumble upon the “should” statement cognitive distortion. When you use these words, you’re using guilt and shame to get yourself to do something. And applying the words to others will just make them feel inadequate. Using these three words, you sometimes set impossible standards for yourself and others. This is a cognitive distortion because there is no one perfect way to do something, and when you put expectations on yourself and others, you’re going to be disappointed when things don’t turn out how they’re supposed to.
  • Polarized thinking: This means there you accept only two extreme options. You’re either perfect or you’re a failure. You’re good or you’re bad. Life is only black and white, and you ignore the gray. But what’s wrong with polarized thinking is that life is a lot of the gray, and you will see the gray as being bad as well, when the gray is actually just the neutral. A lot of the time you’re not going to be perfect or be a failure; you’re going to be in the middle.
  • Heaven’s reward fallacy: When you think that you deserve for things to go right just because you’re doing your best, you are giving into the heaven’s reward fallacy cognitive distortion.  When you start thinking that life isn’t fair, you decide that somehow it’s God’s fault. This is a cognitive distortion because God never promised life would be easy, even for those who were obedient. Just look at Job’s life.
  • Catastrophizing: You’re catastrophizing when you take a bad situation and exaggerate to make it seem worse. You go into a downward spiral where everything seems like it will fall apart. This is a cognitive distortion because often the disaster you imagine will happen probably won’t happen. Instead of picking yourself up by the bootstraps, you’ll end up wallowing in despair.
  • Overgeneralization: When one bad thing happens, you start thinking it will happen again and be just as bad. You may see one unpleasant event as an unending stream of negative events. But this thought pattern will keep you upset and unmotivated.
  • Fallacy of change: If you think that people will change to meet your needs, you’re putting your happiness in their hands. If you’re only happy when people do as you please, you will often find yourself unhappy.
  • Jumping to conclusions: Assuming what people mean without asking them means you’ll end up making incorrect assumptions about their words and behavior. You’ll often assume something that’s incorrect, which will eventually cause problems in the relationship and lead to unhappiness.
  • Blaming: When you blame others for things that happen, you’re holding them responsible for what you go through rather than accepting responsibility for things that happen. And sometimes, things just happen that don’t have to do with choices you or others intentionally make. But it’s also possible for you to blame yourself for everything, and that’s not healthy either. It’s not possible for something to always be your fault, and it’s not possible that everything is always the fault of others.
  • Negative filter: You’re using a negative filter when you focus on the negatives and ignore the positive. But life has both positive and negative things that happen, so you’re robbing yourself of happiness when you ignore the positive.

How can I overcome my cognitive distortions?

If you’ve identified your own cognitive distortions, you’ve completed the first step! Great work! Now, you just have to start recognizing when you’re believing your distortions. Try to catch yourself in the act. When you notice yourself believing your cognitive distortions, tell yourself why it’s a cognitive distortion and try to move away from believing it.

For example, if you have a bad date and you start thinking that all of your dates are horrible, and you’re never going to have a good date, so you probably won’t ever find the love of your life, and you’ll probably die alone, then you are catastrophizing. Stop yourself once you notice what you’re doing and walk yourself through the thoughts. Just because you had a bad date does not automatically mean you will die alone.

By interrupting your negative thoughts, you can start to overcome your cognitive distortions. Be patient with yourself, and remember that noticing your cognitive distortions will take time, but any small progress is progress.

Try sharing your goals to overcome your cognitive distortions with those you spend time with. If you feel comfortable with it, ask your friends and family to mention when they notice you’re going down the cognitive distortion road.

It will take persistent work, but as you overcome your cognitive distortions, you’ll find life is much more fulfilling and enjoyable.

 

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Self-improvement: An ongoing process

Self-improvement is an ongoing process, we are never finished. Today practice having acceptance with where you are on your journey. As negative thoughts creep into your awareness, just notice them and say to yourself, “it is what it is” or “this is where I am today, and that’s OK.” When we practice acceptance of where we are at this moment in our journey we stop being negative toward ourselves. Removing the negative energy through acceptance allows us to free up our energy to begin moving forward.