My 6 Favorite Podcasts Right Now

Looking for some new podcasts to listen to?

I'm on a bit of a holiday hiatus from new episodes of Therapy Chat podcast. In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about some other podcasts I love. Here are 6 podcasts I'm listening to and recommending frequently! I hope you will check them out and please comment with your favorite podcast!

[Click here to listen to this post in podcast episode format]

Click here for all episodes of Women In Depth!

Click here for all episodes of Women In Depth!

1. Women In-Depth with Dr. Lourdes Viado, MFT - I love this podcast because my friend and colleague Lourdes Viado conducts interesting and (as the name implies) in-depth interviews on topics that people don't usually talk about. Lourdes is a depth psychologist who was mentored by Jungian analyst and author Dr. James Hollis. She is so knowledgeable about her work and I love listening to her soothing voice. The podcast is fantastic and I recommend it without reservation! Some of the episodes I frequently recommend to my clients include:

Episode 10: Spiritual Abuse: What It Is & Why It Matters with Tamara Powell, LMHC

Episode 23: Understanding Spiritual Abuse (Part 2) with Tamara Powell, LMHC

Episode 14: Women and the Midlife Crisis with Diann Wingert, LCSW

Episode 21: Healing the Mother Wound with Bethany Webster

Women In-Depth covers subjects that people may consider off-limits or taboo, such as infidelity, sexual abuse, staying in an unhappy marriage, and much more. I hope you'll check it out! Let me know what you think! 

I must add, Lourdes has been a guest on Therapy Chat too. I frequently tell people about her episode, which was about "The Shadow." To listen to that episode click here! I've also been a guest on her podcast.

Click on the image to listen to Mom and Mind!

Click on the image to listen to Mom and Mind!

2. Mom & Mind with Dr. Kat Kaeni - Dr. Kat is a clinical psychologist who specializes in maternal mental health. She is knowledgeable, skilled and experienced at helping people who are struggling with infertility, emotional health related to pregnancy - including pregnancy loss, and post-partum stress like depression, anxiety, OCD and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Her podcast is a fabulous resource offering information to pregnant and parenting moms, fathers and people who are trying to conceive as well as healthcare providers and psychotherapists. I have learned so much from Dr. Kat and her podcast and I recommend it frequently! Start out with these episodes:

Episode 1: My Postpartum Story: Anxiety and Depression

Episode 3: Resources for PPD Healing and Learning

Episode 7: The Good Mother

Mom and Mind is a great resource. Stay tuned to my podcast to hear an upcoming interview with Dr. Kat. I can't wait to share her with my audience! 

Click on the image to listen to all the episodes of Galactic Vibrations!

Click on the image to listen to all the episodes of Galactic Vibrations!

3. Galactic Vibrations with Keri Nola and Lloyd Burnett - if you've listened to my podcast you've heard Keri Nola there. She's been on twice, talking about intuition and the Shadow. I am a huge fan of both Keri and Lloyd, who are amazing energy healers and coaches. Their podcast is brand new (it came out less than a month ago) and it is a huge hit already. If you are into the "woo woo" stuff like I am, you'll enjoy hearing their energetic forecasts, oracle card readings, and so much more.  Get started by listening to these three episodes:

Episode 1: Understanding & Healing the Energy of Denial

Episode 2: Using the Energy of Fear to Unlock the Mystery of Ascension

Episode 3: The Shadow of Force, the Truth of New Years Resolutions, and People Pleasing

I've done coaching for business and personal growth with both Keri and Lloyd. They're great at what they do! And as I mentioned, Keri has been on my podcast. She talked about using intuition in therapy in Episode 11, back when my podcast was called The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. And she contributed to my series of episodes on the Shadow (after Lourdes's episode, mentioned above) in Episode 42.

Click on the image to listen to Launching Your Daughter!

Click on the image to listen to Launching Your Daughter!

4. Launching Your Daughter with Nicole Burgess, LMFT - My friend and colleague Nicole Burgess, LMFT, practices in Indianapolis, Indiana with a focus on teen girls and women. Nicole is super passionate about her work and it comes through when you listen to her podcast.

She has been kind enough to have me on her podcast twice!  Once I talked about The Daring Way™ and the second time was about helping your daughter (or son) if they experience sexual violence. Nicole's podcast covers a wide variety of topics related to the issues of parenting girls.

Here's a sampling of some of her episodes that I've enjoyed:

Episode 34: How Art Therapy Can Be Effective With Teens

Episode 33: How to Create Healthy Boundaries In Your Family

Episode 31: Ways Parents & Teens Can Receive Support Around Suicide Prevention

I hope you'll enjoy listening to Launching Your Daughter as much as I do.

These last two podcasts are super amazing ones for therapists who are building private practices. Both of the podcasters are my buddies - they've both helped me in tons of different ways and if you're a therapist you probably already know of them. If not - prepare to have your mind blown!

Click on the image to listen to Selling the Couch!

Click on the image to listen to Selling the Couch!

5. Selling The Couch with Dr. Melvin Varghese - Melvin is an awesome psychologist in Philadelphia who wanted to start his own private practice so like any good student, he set out to learn from people who have already done it. Melvin has interviewed dozens upon dozens of therapists and other experts in practice-building to learn how they have managed to build successful private practices and other types of businesses. Melvin has interviewed experts on marketing, multiple income streams, running groups, building websites, creating Psychology Today profiles, writing books, mindset shifts, and so much more. He's had over 100 episodes so far and his podcast is listed in the top 100 business podcasts on iTunes, which is a pretty significant accomplishment! I'm super excited for Melvin as he's now building his private practice, following all that great advice he's received, and I know he will help many people! Here are a few of his most recent episodes. There are so many - if you're a therapist trying to build your private practice I recommend you listen to every episode - but here are a few to get you started:

Episode 93: How Comparison Can Steal Your Joy

Episode 92: My Morning Routine & Productivity

Episode 85: Saying No As a Private Practice Owner

Melvin was on my podcast talking about how therapists can use podcasting to grow their practices. He knows his stuff. He taught me pretty much everything I know about podcasting. Podcasting has enriched my life in so many ways and it's mainly Melvin who I have to thank for it. Here's Episode 49 of Therapy Chat with Melvin Varghese.

Click on the image to listen to the Blissful Practice Podcast!

Click on the image to listen to the Blissful Practice Podcast!

6. Blissful Practice Podcast with Dr. Agnes Wainman - this is another brand new podcast. Disclaimer - I was the first guest on this podcast. But I don't love it only because I've been on it. Agnes is a psychologist in Ontario, Canada who has learned the hard way how to create a private practice that feels blissful. She spent time at the other end of that spectrum, feeling burned out, and she wants to help therapists who are building private practices find their own bliss.  On her podcast, Agnes talks to therapists about their journeys to private practice. I love her perspective and I think you'll love her podcast. Check it out here:

Episode 3: Why I Became A Therapist

Episode 2: Networking Guru Allison Salmon Puryear

Episode 1: Therapists Can Change the World: A Discussion with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Agnes was one of my early guests on Therapy Chat (back when it wasn't called that). Check out our interview here!

Click here to listen to Therapy Chat!

Click here to listen to Therapy Chat!

So now you have my list of 6 podcasts I'm loving right now. When you have downtime this holiday season, check them out! I am sure you'll find at least one that you really love. 

Of course, you're always welcome to listen to Therapy Chat, there are 64 episodes counting the podcast version of this blog post, and I would love for you to listen, subscribe and leave a rating and review! 

If you want to read more of what I write, follow me on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest. You can also visit iTunes to subscribe to Therapy Chat. There you'll hear me talking about what I talk about and interviewing other people about what I'm interested to discuss. Or you can listen to Therapy Chat on my website, or on iHeartRadioStitcher or Google Play.

If you're in Maryland, and you want therapy to explore the vulnerable parts of yourself that are in need of healing, check out my website. Therapists can learn about my Trauma Therapist Community by clicking here.

You can also call me at 443-510-1048 or e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. I look forward to connecting! In the meantime, take care and I hope you enjoy the holidays!

 Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

5 Podcasts To Listen To Now

It's International Podcast Day! Find out why you should be listening to podcasts, how to do it, and get started today with these 5 recommendations!

International Podcast Day image Canva

It's International Podcast Day! To celebrate, I created this list of 5 podcasts I recommend to clients and other people in my life on a daily basis. If you are interested in emotional health, wellness, family, parenting, relationships, trauma and improving your most important relationship - with yourself - you will find at least one on this list that you will enjoy. I think you'll love all of them! I do.

First Things First.

Have you wanted to start listening to podcasts but you're not really sure how it works? I felt that way too - and look at me now, I'm a podcaster myself! Listening to podcasts is easy! There are so many ways you can do it. Here's a mini tutorial and then we'll get to the list of recommended podcasts.

How Do I Find Podcasts?

Podcasts can be found in many different places - I'll use my own podcast as an example to show you. Each podcast is posted in various places, depending on the preference of the host. They are usually available on the host's website - see example of my podcast here. You can find almost every podcast on iTunes (mine is here); they are also found on Stitcher; iHeartRadio; Google Play Music; and even YouTube! There are many other places to listen to podcasts. Once you find one you like, see which places it's hosted to find your favorite.

What Can I Use to Listen to Podcasts?

Your Smartphone - You can listen to podcasts using a smartphone with a podcast app. There is a podcast app built into iPhones which connects directly to iTunes. There are other apps you can download to your iPhone or Android phone which have various features making it easy to subscribe to your favorites and make playlists. The great thing about listening to podcasts on your phone is that you can take it with you to the gym, on a walk, or while you are making dinner. 

Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay

Your Computer - If you're not a smartphone user or you spend more time at a desk than out and about, your computer is another great option for listening to podcasts. iTunes is available on both Mac and PC, but if you don't like iTunes you can also open up YouTube and listen that way. You can learn more about topics you choose while performing other tasks on the computer.

In Your Car - Here in the DC area, where I live, most people have long commutes from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Podcasts are perfect for listening in the car. You can bring up the podcast on your phone and plug it into your car's Aux port, connect it with Bluetooth, or just listen through the phone's speaker. Many newer cars have built in music players where you can access podcasts now, and more will be coming in the future. If you have a long commute but don't drive, that's fine too! That's an excellent time to listen on your phone. 

Why Should I Listen To Podcasts?

Variety - You can hear anything on podcasts: how to cope with anxiety; listen to comedy performances or the news; learn a new language; hear TED Talks; get help falling asleep (not while driving); start building a business; find out what your favorite sports team is doing; and many, many more subjects. There is most likely a podcast for any subject you are interested in. If not, why don't you start one? Nothing's stopping you! Anyone can podcast! 

Control - If you don't like a certain episode you can skip it. Unlike radio, if you miss the newest episode you can listen to it later. Many podcasts have ads, but far less than radio, and you can skip them if you choose. You can listen over and over to your favorite episodes and share them with your friends by sending them a link in an e-mail or text message. You also have privacy. If you want to think about how to cope with erectile dysfunction but you're uncomfortable talking about it with anyone, even your physician, you can bet there is a podcast out there on that subject. You can listen without anyone else even knowing. By the way, if there isn't a podcast on ED yet, somebody should get on that because I'm sure it would be a huge hit! 

Free Content - Most podcasts are free to listen to, and you can listen as many times as you want. Some podcasts have membership sites where you can make a donation or pay a minimal subscription fee to support production costs, and if you love a podcast and want it to keep going you can feel good knowing you're helping out. 

Okay, so now you know how to listen and why you should start listening to podcasts - so let's get to the nitty gritty! Here are 5 podcasts I frequently recommend to my therapy clients as well as my friends and family members. Full disclosure - I've been a guest on every one of these (and one is my own). Read on to find out what you can expect on each of these podcasts and why I love each one. Then add your favorite in the comments!  

My 5 Most Frequently Recommended Podcasts:

1. Women In-Depth with Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD 

I love this podcast. Lourdes Viado, MFT, PhD is a Jungian psychologist in Las Vegas. Her podcast, Women In-Depth, is focused on discussing some of the subjects that women talk about amongst themselves, as well as many topics that are off limits in polite company. I talked with Lourdes about how to respond when your child discloses having been sexually abused. Some other recent episodes have covered the issues of spiritual abuse, infertility and midlife crisis. I recommend this podcast to someone almost every day - and here's a secret: it's not just for women! Many of the topics are applicable to everyone! Check it out on iTunes here.

Click on the image to listen to my interview on Women In-Depth on how parents can support their children who disclose sexual abuse.  These are the kinds of uncomfortable, but super important, discussions that happen on Women In-Depth.

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

     Image credit: Lourdes Viado, LMFT, PhD

2. Mindful Recovery with Robert Cox, MA, PLPC

Robert Cox, MA, PLPC is a counselor in Missouri who is in recovery himself. He is super down to earth yet passionate about mindfulness, substance abuse recovery and trauma. He also has a specialization in working with individuals who are on the Autism spectrum. On Mindful Recovery Robert moves between offering mindfulness tips, psycho-education about substance abuse, trauma and other important subjects, and interviews with fellow professionals and experts. One episode I frequently recommend is on the subject of process addictions. Robert and I share a passion for advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, and you can hear us talking about it soon on Mindful Recovery. I recommend you check out Mindful Recovery Find it on iTunes here. 

3. Launching Your Daughter with Nicole Burgess, LMFT

Launching Your Daughter podcast with Nicole Burgess, LMFT is a podcast about parenting, with a unique twist. Nicole focuses her podcast on the issues specific to parents raising daughters into adulthood. Nicole and her guests talk about topics related to improving parents' relationships with their daughters. Nicole and I recently talked about sexual violence, an issue that can affect women at any age (as well as men and people of any gender identity), and I'm looking forward to that episode being released. Nicole interviewed Sharon Martin, LCSW about embracing imperfection in episode 15, which is here.  Find Launching Your Daughter on iTunes here.

4. Parenting In The Rain with Jackie Flynn, LMHC, RPT

Play Therapist Jackie Flynn, LMHC, RPT hosts Parenting In the Rain, another parenting podcast I frequently recommend. Jackie covers subjects that are relevant to the parents' emotional experience - when a parent struggles with depression, for example, as well as that of the child, like helping a child with back to school anxiety. Jackie interviewed me about emotional abuse not too long ago. You can listen to Parenting In The Rain on iTunes by clicking here.

5. Therapy Chat with Laura Reagan, LCSW-C (that's me)

I'm obviously biased, but I frequently recommend my own podcast, Therapy Chat. I talk about the subject of psychotherapy, often interviewing fellow therapists who are practicing in ways that are outside of what people usually think of when they consider going to counseling. I've interviewed therapists and other experts on the subjects of mindfulness, trauma, self compassion (with Tim Ambrose Desmond), attachment (with Dr. Jonice Webb) parenting, perfectionism (with Sharon Martin and Dr. Agnes Wainman), self care and worthiness. Dr. Dan Siegel talked to me about his upcoming book The Mind. In the next six months I'll post a series on trauma treatment and a series on attachment, and I published a practice building series for therapists this past summer. You can find Therapy Chat on iTunes here.

So what's your favorite podcast? Let me know in the comments! 

Wholeheartedly, 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

The Secret To Raising Well-Adjusted Children

Three simple rules for raising well-adjusted children

I think we can all agree that a central goal of parenthood is to raise children who are well-adjusted - meaning they can handle the ups and downs of life, function well in relationships as well as at school and work, and have satisfying inner lives. So how do we accomplish this? There are so many different ideas out there about how to be a "good" parent. So I'll add my voice to the discussion. Click here or on the image below to listen to podcast episode 21. 

I believe there are three simple rules which will help your children grow up to be well adjusted, generally happy adults. Read below to learn what they are! 

1. Learn about child brain development. 

Click here to listen to podcast episode 21 ! 

Click here to listen to podcast episode 21

Much of the frustration of parenting comes from our failure to understand the child's behavior. For example, many of us find it extremely upsetting when a two year old says "No!" over and over. They call those years the Terrible Twos. I know when I was a parent of a young toddler I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get my child to listen to me once he turned two. I had no idea how to handle toddlerhood. 

However, there was one thing I did right. Knowing that I was clueless about babies and being a parent before I had my first child, I bought books and subscribed to magazines that taught me what I needed to know. This was before the internet was really a thing. I mean, it existed, but nobody I knew used it then. I really wanted to be a good parent and I had absolutely no idea how. So I called in the experts, and it made a difference!

Learning about child brain development is useful for several reasons. First, it helps you know what to expect and how you can adapt as your child grows and changes. If you haven't noticed, children are constantly doing that. The more flexible we can be, the better we can work together with our children.

There are tons of great resources for learning about child brain development. Now that we have the internet at our fingertips, literally (you're probably reading this on your phone), we can use websites like www.healthychildren.org, operated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, for trusted advice on everything from physical to emotional to social development into young adulthood. You may have heard that we now know the human brain continues developing throughout childhood, reaching full maturity somewhere between the age of 21 to 25. So when we expect seventeen year olds to exercise impulse control, plan ahead, consider consequences of their behavior and think logically about their decisions, we're asking them to use parts of their brains which aren't fully developed yet. 

Well adjusted children

How can we learn about child brain development? Visit the website I mentioned above from the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Read a book about it. Dr. Dan Siegel, a brilliant child psychiatrist who has studied this for years, has written a number of books. A list of his books can be found by visiting his website here. The Whole Brain Child, Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, No Drama Discipline and Parenting From the Inside Out are all highly recommended reading for parents. 

2. Be attuned to your own emotional experience.

What does this mean? It means knowing how you feel inside. Understanding your emotions as they are occurring. Maybe not understanding exactly why you're feeling what you're feeling, but at least being able to know something is going on. Throughout a given day you'll have emotions coming up. Contentment, happiness, longing, sadness, grief, fear, anxiety, irritation, impatience, excitement, frustration, worry, foreboding, anticipation and so many other emotions course through us all day and all night long. 

Being attuned to your own emotional experience means you feel these feelings as they're occurring. You notice them. With mindfulness, you may observe them without getting caught up in them. With a lack of present moment awareness (the opposite of mindfulness) you may not notice them until they bubble up and out, catching you by surprise. If you have a habit of shutting off your awareness of your emotions (something I learned to do when I was about 7 years old), you may feel a very limited range of emotions, such as only worry or sadness. Those were my go-to emotions for a long time. But that habit, which can be very helpful when you have overwhelming emotions you don't know how to deal with in childhood, can lead to a lot of numbing and avoiding when you reach adulthood. 

Be attuned to your emotional experience

Examples of numbing and avoiding behaviors include getting sucked into the internet, gambling, compulsive shopping, comfort eating or depriving yourself of food, overworking, focusing on everyone else instead of yourself...you get the picture. 

How can you get more attuned to your own emotional experience? Try this simple technique which is free and can be done any time, any place. Pause and ask yourself, what am I feeling right now? What do I notice in my body? How do I feel? See what happens. The key is to slow down and tune in to your body. It will tell you what you need to know. If you're really good at blocking out emotions, it might take some practice before you really hear what it has to say. Another way to become attuned to your emotional experience is through mindfulness meditation. Try downloading my free Mindfulness Body Scan guided meditation from my website. Click here to download for free.   If a lack of understanding of your own emotional experience is getting in your way, find a therapist who can help you work on this. If you're in Maryland, I'd love to help! Information on how to contact me is at the end of this article. 

3. Be attuned to your child's emotional experience.

As you might guess, this is like being attuned to your own experience, but it's noticing what your child is feeling instead of yourself. Using your awareness of developmental explanations for your child's behavior (see #1, above), you can understand what the behavior is telling you about your child's emotional experience. For example, a 10 month old baby who cries when you put him or her down is not "spoiled," but rather seeking the comfort and safety of connection with you. It's developmentally normal for children to have separation anxiety at this age (but not only at this age! See this article for more). Becoming angry or impatient with your child for fussing and crying when you leave ignores the child's emotional experience and doesn't help the situation. And, if you're not attuned to your own emotional experience you may become flooded with emotions when your child becomes fussy. Instead of reacting in a way which is congruent with your values related to parenting, you may lash out in some way, leaving you feeling ashamed and helpless. Your child may also feel ashamed and helpless.

Mother and Baby

Attending to your child's emotional experience appropriately helps your child feel safe and secure in the world. That sense of safety and security - known as secure attachment - is important to growing up to be a well-adjusted adult. You can get more information on attachment by reading this article. It's also covered in the book Parenting from the Inside Out by Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell which I mentioned above.  Sometimes your own attachment or childhood experience of trauma gets in the way of developing a close connection with your child. 

If you're in Maryland and you'd like some support in healing trauma and attachment click here to see if working together would be a good fit. You can also e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com or call me at (443) 510-1048. If you're outside of Maryland, find a therapist who can help you work on trauma and attachment. It is never too late. 

Want to hear more of what I have to say? You can sign up for my newsletter. I'm not one to bombard you with newsletters and clog up your inbox. I send them every so often when I have something to say that I think you might find useful. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest Instagram & Google+

And to listen to The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast you can click here!  Please consider leaving a review on iTunes if you like it!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Sources:

Arain, M., Haque, M., Johal, L., Mathur, P., Nel, W., Rais, A., Sandhu, R. & Sharma, S. (April, 2013). Maturation of the adolescent brain. Neuropsychiatric Disease Treatment. Retrieved on February 29, 2016 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621648/

Laslockey, M. (2014, February 13). How to stop attachment insecurity from ruining your love life. Retrieved on February 29, 2016 from: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_stop_attachment_insecurity_from_ruining_your_love_life

Schlossberg, S. (n.d.). Separation Anxiety Age by Age. Retrieved on February 29, 2016 from: http://www.parenting.com/article/separation-anxiety-age-by-age

 

 

 

The Parent Coach Who Doesn't Have It All Figured Out

My Podcast Interview with Washington Post Parenting Expert Meghan Leahy

Meghan Leahy is a parenting expert who writes a weekly column for the Washington Post. She's a parent coach helping parents who are overwhelmed with their children's behavior. Yet she is the first to admit that she gets overwhelmed with her children's behavior too. Does this seem counterintuitive? Not if you talk to Meghan. 

Meghan states that her job is not to tell parents what to do. Her job is to teach parents what their children need She teaches that the problematic behavior is the child's developmentally appropriate way of telling the parent what he or she needs.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 20 OF THE BALTIMORE ANNAPOLIS PSYCHOTHERAPY PODCAST!

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 20 OF THE BALTIMORE ANNAPOLIS PSYCHOTHERAPY PODCAST!

Listen in to this fascinating interview in which Meghan shares why she doesn't tell parents what to do, why self care is important - hint: it's NOT so we can take better care of our kids! - and tells us about the theory informing her work. 

Find out more about working with Meghan by visiting her website

And if you like the podcast, please visit iTunes and download episodes, subscribe and leave a rating and review.

You can also find the podcast on Stitcher, Google Play and on my website at www.laurareaganlcswc.com/podcast.

I'd love to hear your comments on this episode! Comment below!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 


Letting Go Part 1

Letting Go (Part 1)

This week is an exciting one for our family, as our oldest child graduates from high school in a few days. It's a joyful and exciting time - but there are some underlying feelings of sadness and loss which have caught me by surprise.  I know that many of you are experiencing a similar transition in the life of your family, as graduation and wedding season begin. I thought I'd share my thoughts and feelings, and how I'm coping with the changes, in hopes that it will be helpful to you, too. 

Update: Click here to listen to my podcast episode on this subject! 

My thoughts

As I've been eagerly anticipating his graduation I've been very proud and excited for my child. My thoughts are that this is a wonderful milestone in his life.  I'm so happy that he has successfully completed his high school career and that he plans to go to college in the Fall. I have high hopes for what this young man will accomplish as he matures. I am looking forward to seeing what he decides to do for his career after college. I know that this is a normal developmental process, in which my child will leave the nest to become  a fully realized adult. Although it does not happen overnight with this event, this milestone is an extremely important rite of passage in our culture. I want him to move through this process, because it's what is right for him developmentally. But...he's my baby!

Then...there are the feelings. Feelings? What feelings?

I knew something was wrong when I noticed that I didn't seem to have any feelings about the graduation. I actually felt kind of numb. I knew intellectually that I felt happy and excited and maybe a little sad because he won't be living at home with us for most of the next four years. But I didn't feel it. In fact I was telling myself that it is not time to feel sad yet, because graduation is a happy time, and going away to college is something that will happen later this summer, so I can feel it then. Ha ha! Joke's on me!  

I noticed that I was feeling a little detached, as if I've been going through each day - being in the moment, yes - but just crossing each passing day off the list like a countdown to the Big Day. Meanwhile, I had agreed to do something important for a friend and when the day came I completely forgot to do it, which is very much out of character for me. I know myself well enough to recognize this as a clue that something else was occupying my mind.

What's really going on here?

As a therapist I teach my clients to notice how they feel and connect the feelings to their present and past experiences. To be able to teach this, I have to know how to do it myself. It takes work! Therapists, just like everyone else, have difficult times in our lives that we have to work through.  

Our defense mechanisms, the strategies we employ to help us avoid feeling uncomfortable or painful emotions, spring into action when feelings arise that we don't like. The defense which I was unconsciously using to deal with my feelings about this transition is called intellectualizing. Intellectualizing is when you try to understand something cognitively (using your thoughts and the logical part of your brain) as a way to avoid feeling it. Defenses are, by nature, mostly outside of our conscious awareness. It's helpful to know your go-to defenses, which makes it easier to notice when they kick in, and ask yourself what you need help with.

Examples of intellectualizing include thoughts like "I shouldn't feel upset about this, it happened a long time ago." Or in my case, "I shouldn't feel sad about my son's graduation, it is a happy occasion and he's not going away to school until August." As if I can't start feeling sad about something happening in August two months earlier! And anyway, my emotions are not following the rules that the logical part of my brain is trying to set about how I am supposed to feel and when. How I feel is how I feel, and it is real and valid, no matter whether I like it or not. 

But I don't want to feel this way.

Since I don't like the feelings, because they're painful, maybe I can just "skip" feeling them and keep going through the motions. After all, this isn't about me. It's my son's big day, and I don't want to take away from his enjoyment of the celebration. That sounds very selfless, doesn't it? Those of us who are super great at taking care of others and lousy at taking care of ourselves feel most comfortable stuffing away our feelings and focusing on everyone else.  You know who you are!

But that doesn't work for me, and it's not going to work for you, long term.  In the moment it might seem like the best way to handle overwhelming feelings. But when you do this, the feelings are still there. You can't feel them, so you aren't aware of them - like me when I felt numb - but since you can't control them, they're controlling you. For example, me forgetting to do that important thing I promised my friend. And there are some other ways they were running the show that I wouldn't like to admit to myself - eating less healthfully, exercising less frequently, having trouble sleeping. I've told myself I'm just really busy. Insidious, isn't it? 

So what do you do with these feelings you can't feel?

So if our defenses are blocking us from feeling our feelings, what can we do? The only way out is through, as they say. We have to break through the defenses and let the feelings out. How to do that? I will tell you what helped me. I've often recommended these strategies to clients, and they can be very powerful. Read more after the image below.

Image credit: Pixabay

Image credit: Pixabay

Journaling

Knowing that I needed to get down to what was really going on, I started by taking the time to write in a journal. When you do this, one way to begin is to start writing whatever comes to mind. You can also use prompts such as "How am I feeling right now?" or "What is blocking me from feeling my emotions?" I asked myself how I felt about the graduation. As you write, pay attention to your body. Are you noticing any sensations? Write down what you notice and continue to examine the process while you write. Doing this regularly can help you understand emotionally, as well as intellectually, what is happening in your mind and body.  

Art journaling is another option. If you feel inclined to create art in a journal, rather than writing narrative-style, you can try collaging or drawing your responses to the prompts. Or pick up your favorite medium - pencil, chalk, paint, marker, or something else - and see what happens when you try to connect with the feeling.

Meditation

Meditation, whether self-directed or guided, can be helpful in getting you grounded. Being grounded means that you are fully in your body with awareness of your thoughts and feelings. You are not blocking out body sensations or emotions. There are three guided meditations I find very helpful and frequently recommend to clients who are attempting to process difficult emotions. All of them are available for free on the website of the wonderful Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher who focuses on Self Compassion. 

The first one is called "Soften, Soothe, Allow"  and it is great for helping you connect with the feeling in your body, allow  yourself to feel it, and comfort yourself. The other two are a Loving Kindness meditation, and a Self Compassion/Loving Kindness meditation.  She also offers exercises for Self Compassion on the site.

Practicing Gratitude

When you are mindfully present in the moment and aware of how you feel, you can lean into joy by practicing gratitude. This is a simple practice that anyone can do at any time. You can repeat the things you're grateful for in your head when feeling vulnerable.  I keep in mind that no matter what is going on, I woke up today and I'm still here. That's a starting point and something I can always be grateful for - until I can't - which is exactly the point! You can also keep a gratitude journal. I have a wonderful daily planner I use to keep track of my schedule and it has a little box at the bottom of each page where I can write down what I am grateful for every day. During times like these, when my coping resources are stretched, it is more important than ever to be mindful of the many reasons I am grateful. Have you tried incorporating a daily gratitude practice into your meditation time? Some people enjoy using a  special journal solely for practicing gratitude.   Do whatever works best for you.

After following my own advice, I'm more aware of how I really feel about this transition in my family's life. It's possible to feel happy and sad at the same time, and knowing I feel this way I can be more compassionate toward myself - which allows me to be more mindfully present at home and at work. Consequently I'm more available to offer the support my son will need as he weathers this huge life transition.  If I stayed checked out and numb, I wouldn't be as aware of his needs. So while my first instinct as a helper might be to try to ignore my own feelings and take care of his, it is the very act of taking care of how I feel that allows me to be there for him when he needs me. This is true all the time, not only when a family is experiencing a transition. We parents and caregivers must take care of ourselves in order to offer support to others. Remember that life transitions, even positive ones, include the loss of how things were before. Sometimes we have to take the time to grieve so we can move forward.

Stay tuned for Part 2! 

In Part 2 I will talk about why it's so important for us as parents to let go and allow our children to  grow up, even when we want to hold on to them and keep them safely in the nest. If you're finding it difficult to let go, or to take care of your own needs, get in touch with me. You can call me at (443) 510-1048, send me an e-mail at laurareaganlcswc@gmail.com, or visit my website for more information and to schedule an appointmentWe can talk about working together to help you find strategies to improve your self compassion skills. You can also read more by following me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and by subscribing to my e-mail newsletter.

Source:

Neff, K. (n.d.). Self compassion guided meditations and exercises. Retrieved on May 22, 2015 from: http://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#guided-meditations 

The only way out is through

Rethinking Self Care

As a therapist, I talk about, think about and promote self care with all of my clients. It's on my mind much of the time as I know its importance. However, it wasn't always this way for me. That's why I am beginning this blog series on self care

I first learned about the concept of self care when I worked in a Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Norfolk, Virginia. My wonderful supervisor, Kristen, taught me that self care would help survivors soothe themselves when trauma symptoms were triggered. I would ask callers to the hotline and clients in the office who were working to address the crisis after a traumatic experience, "What helps you when you are feeling upset? When you have been through tough times before this, what did you do to feel better?" Depending on which techniques had been effective for them in the past, they could use the same ones to soothe themselves or learn new ways to cope

I was learning about self care for the first time.  You just do what you do to cope, without really thinking about it, most of the time. We all do this and I was no different. I was taught some of the common self care strategies, and I had a list to use to help me make suggestions if clients were unable to think of any on their own. However, I didn't think much about my own self care strategies - in fact, for a while I didn't have any, at least none that I was really aware of. I had to learn that in the work of helping people I, too, was vulnerable to feeling the effects of secondary traumatic stress through hearing traumatic stories on a daily basis.  

Kristen, the supervisor I mentioned, had to tell me once to take a few days off when I began to exhibit the signs of secondary traumatic stress. It was difficult for me to agree to take a few days off - I think I was afraid the world would end if I wasn't there to save it. I can laugh about that now, but it didn't feel nice at the time. I was very idealistic then, and the time off gave me a chance to take care of myself so I could come back refreshed and ready to help again.  If I had kept going the way I was, I would have begun to feel like a robot, just going through the motions without emotional connection. Not only is that an unethical way to practice, it is in total contrast to the values which guide my work with clients as well as the way I want to live my life. 

Self Care Strategies

Helping professionals may experience this at one time or another. I chose to become a helping professional (first as an advocate and crisis counselor and later as a therapist) because I care about people, and over the past 13 years I have heard many stories. I have heard and witnessed many amazing examples of strength, resiliency and transformation as well as pain and struggle, and I am honored and grateful to bear witness with my clients!  Each person has touched my heart and changed me in some way. Therapy with survivors of trauma is my passion and I want to remain healthy and well for many years to continue doing this work, which is so important to me.  Self care is also crucial if you are parenting, caregiving, or if you're someone who thinks about what makes others happy more than you think about what makes you happy. 

This post is the first in a series about self care. I'm going to go in depth to share my journey from thinking self care means getting a massage or a pedicure a couple of times per year to understanding that self care is a daily practice which is essential for health and well-being. The series will include quotes from other therapists and resources you can use to develop your own self care practice. I will try new things and share with you what I've learned. I'll also share what works for me now.

I invite you to join me in cultivating self care. Let's start by sharing self care strategies you have found helpful. I would love to hear about them in the comments below. 

If you don't even know where to begin - believe me, I've been there - contact me to talk about how therapy can help you believe that you deserve to put yourself first. You can reach me at (443) 510-1048 for a phone consult. 

To read more of what I share you can follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter or sign up for my newsletter

Self Care Dry Well