Over the last few months, I have encouraged myself to adapt, grow, and be flexible. One of my core copings skills has always been humor. So many people in my life have made an impact on what makes me laugh - though I would have to point to my father as the biggest influence. I never thought of humor as a way to cope as I was growing up; I just enjoyed that it was fun. Now I see how it brought me closer to my dad and helped me feel loved by him. The more I can laugh with someone, the more connected I tend to feel. I see this in myself and my relationship with my fiancé. He makes me laugh and I absolutely love it! I enjoy the funny in others and always hope they enjoy the funny in me. I think it is one of the most amazing compliments to give and receive.
Though the content of my counseling sessions with clients is serious, I find humor is helpful to many. Sometimes humor can be a way to deflect. However, beneath the sarcasm, passive aggressiveness, or self-deprecation is at least an expression of something worth discussing. I suppose I would rather have a client share with an edge of humor than not share at all. In the dreary, dark, and monotonous experience of many mental health issues, humor can create a bit of lightness and space. Very often clients will use humor to mock their illness as a way to more concretely divide themselves from that illness. Moving from using self-deprecation as an expression of negative thoughts of self to negative thoughts about their symptoms allows people to create more separation between who they are and what illness they have.
Our feelings provide guiding information about our experience, helping us navigate through life. Feeling annoyed, angry, or hurt is often an indication we need to set different boundaries. Laughing at “dark” themes is a way to cope with difficult subjects. I challenge the notion that someone is “too emotional”. While there can be inappropriate BEHAVIOR associated with feelings, the feelings themselves are valid and important. I welcome all the emotions into the therapeutic process.
Given this, I love the relatability of therapy memes. Do you have any favorites?
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
Consider your immediate reaction to change. So often, we identify that we “don’t like” or “do well with” change. Upon reflection, probably not all change (graduations, marriage, promotions), but rather to unexpected changes. Digging a bit further, we might identify our dislike really comes from our fear of the unknown, that our experiences could become more difficult than we currently find them. Of course, change IS inevitable and the only way we grow.
In the past, I thought the ideas of “seeing challenges as opportunities” and adopting a “growth mindset” were for other people, but not for me. Those type of people were excited and/or comfortable about change. I certainly didn’t feel so comfortable to seek out new challenges. My challenges at the time seemed more than enough already. I had no drive for “growth” when I felt I was struggling.
Eventually, I have seen that I was limiting my creativity and experiences to what I saw others doing. My “growth mindset” doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Where I am and where I’m going are unique to me as they are to you. Sometimes, growing means doing less, slowing down, learning to move outside of the current perspective into something different. We can grow just as much when we observe, listen, and think as we can when we do, perform, or provide. We can grow inside our comfort zones, not only out of them.
Balance is achievable in a variety of ways. Yes, decreasing the “negative” will work, but so will increasing the “positive”. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, consider applying yourself toward your strengths getting stronger not just to eliminate your “weaknesses”. My own journey continues down the path of validating, accepting, and exploring what is already there rather than reaching for what’s not. If I’m being honest, I AM one of those “other people” now.
I hope this might serve as inspiration for you to find YOUR way.
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
In choosing to theme my blogs based on the words atop the doors of each space in Sandhill, I anticipated some would be more challenging than others. The truth is, each topic comes differently than I expect. I often start on one when inspiration strikes from somewhere else. “Flexible” was one I thought would elude my notice until the end of the series; however, recent events pushed me headlong into examining my own flexibility.
Throughout my own life and into my career, I’ve created work for myself in the area of learning to “improvise, adapt, and overcome” the challenges of change. However, like most people, finding peace within it can be a challenge. While I am able to self-reflect and dissect the “reasons” behind my uneasiness, the bigger challenge is to know what, if anything, to do about it. When I find myself in such a place, I often reflect on my work with clients.
I try to help clients move away from black and white concepts like “right” and “wrong” to be replaced with “helpful” or “unhelpful”. If we believe something is “right” we may continue using/doing it even when it doesn’t serve us well. On the other hand, if we believe something is “wrong” we may never try it, and miss out on something helpful. Thus, I encourage the use of asking, “is it working?” instead.
It isn’t always easy to move away from our ideal scenarios, comfortable behaviors, automatic thoughts, and familiar feelings; however, flexibility can lead to creative and positive results. After all, therapy is a process of listening, examining, processing and reflecting, creating room for positive adjustments. Perhaps your situation IS working for you and the fear is that change will make things WORSE. Challenge that fear with the fact your odds are equal in the chance of getting something BETTER! Reflect on the times where things didn’t work out just the way you hoped/anticipated. Was it the end of one thing, yet the beginning of another? Certain types of change can be difficult, but remember you have survived change every time you’ve faced it—a 100% success rate!
Is it scary? Yes. Difficult, yes. Do-able? YES! Therefore, I’m striving forward with a flexible mindset to embrace, rather than fear, the upcoming changes in my life. I hope you will consider joining me on this journey in whatever way makes the most sense to you.
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
At the end of my first session with clients, I typically recommend an increase in self-care. I emphasize the importance of demonstrating love to one’s brain. This is often difficult when one’s brain is attacked by negativity. Individuals struggle, sometimes, to know how to show care when feeling so bad. I suggest doing more of the things you like, even if those things don’t seem “productive”. While meditation, hot bubble baths, manicures, and fitness are great ways to meet this self-care, sometimes such activities are too far out of our reach. So, binge-watch television without guilt, eat your favorite meal, and yes, sleep, if you want. Though it can be scary, or seem like “giving in”, doing so can often help us begin to heal.
When we are so used to giving to others, the transition toward giving to oneself can be difficult. All too often, I hear “It’s selfish” when I recommend increased self-care. Yes, giving more to yourself may take away from what you typically devote to others. However, when we run ourselves on empty, we aren’t providing quality effort. If we push ourselves into burn out, always helping others who want us, then we won’t be available to anyone who might need us (especially ourselves). This call to self-care, first, is often exemplified using the airplane oxygen mask model: put your own on, then help others.
I think it’s so important to challenge the thought that we are being “selfish”. When we give to ourselves what we need, we are not taking from others. Consider a scale with giving on one end and taking on the other. Self-care lies just in the middle, not with taking or “selfish”. When we provide for our own needs, we are giving to ourselves what is ours, not taking from others what is theirs. The give and take of relationships inevitably lead to an ebb and flow of mutual benefits. Those who care for us, respect us, and want good for us, do not wish for us to give beyond our means.
If you find it too hard to do this for yourself, then do it for those who care about you, watch you, and emulate you. Be the example of health and appropriate self-care and of balanced relationships. How will you demonstrate self-care to your brain? Personally, I love a good nap!
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
Most, if not all of my clients, have heard me discuss the difference between “being” and “doing”. We are human beings, not human doings, after all. In conversation, the question usually comes in “What do you do?” more often than “Who are you?”. This doing is often what we use to define and present ourselves to the world: writer, singer, lawyer, counselor, mother, employee, etc. While nothing is wrong with these labels, using them as our only way to define ourselves can be. For example, what happens when your primary function of doing is no longer needed? Or if you become unable to do because of mental or physical health issues? Or perhaps what you do stops feeding your spirit?
Without a definition to tell ourselves and others what we do, we may lose our sense of value and self-esteem in who we are. Without identity we often feel lost, searching for our place in the world. While the labels for our actions can shift and change with time, our sense of self and value stay with us. The question becomes how can we be who we are outside of what we do?
I often see how living outside of one’s authenticity can create negative experiences and unwanted emotional states. Perhaps when a job or relationship is no longer a good fit, we try to mold ourselves into someone else but only find we are more and more miserable. To spend some time working to listen to our needs, boundaries, and values can help us live more authentically. It isn’t always easy to just be but we owe it to ourselves to know who we are in order to live our best lives.
So, take a few minutes to get to know yourself a bit more deeply. Think on what makes you, you. What is important to you? Are you living according to those priorities? Are your actions in line with your authentic self? How will you introduce yourself or ask about others differently with this in mind? Please share in the comments section. I would love to know more about you as you are.
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
Sandhill offices are named with words above each door. Some included are laugh, play, be, courage, believe, and gratitude. I feel inspired by these words, taking moments here and there to contemplate how they each fit into my life.
When I first began my journey as an Independent Contractor with Sandhill, the main office I used was “Gratitude”. It was a perfect match for what I felt in joining the practice and starting a new life in the St. Louis area. Gratitude is something I practice for my own health and well-being and encourage its use to friends, family, and clients. I believe it is an honor to be a safe and comfortable place for people to share their intimate thoughts and feelings. I am grateful to those who have placed such trust in me. I treasure the opportunity to be a part of their journey.
Gratitude is a powerful tool; however, it is sometimes used in unhealthy ways. Does this sound familiar? “You should be grateful!” or “I have it better than most people, I need to be grateful and get over this.” These statements may be intended in a helpful way but the benefit isn’t there.
When we experience difficulties, our brain is processing and thinking about those struggles. Sometimes these thoughts are toward problem solving, sometimes they are related to disbelief, confusion, frustration and many others. We can often start to think hurtful things about ourselves. Those hurtful thoughts don’t usually lead to problem solving but just more hurtful thoughts.
Instead of an OR approach, I recommend an AND approach. For example, rather than saying to yourself, “I can feel upset OR I can feel grateful,” try saying, “I can feel upset AND grateful.” Feeling pain and struggling doesn’t mean you lack gratitude, it just means you are feeling pain and struggling too. Sometimes our brains get stuck in our struggle, our dislike of ourselves, and a belief that the world is out to get us. When we hurt, it is so difficult to turn things around. Perhaps adopting the “AND” approach can be a small step toward your healing.
I saw an article recently that talked about how important it is to go to kids' events (sports games, concerts, recitals, etc). It pointed out how much this means to kids and how the child looks for the parents to be there. I agree it is important to go to your children's events but we don't need to go to all of their events. For one thing, if you have more than one child, eventually things will overlap. For another, many parents work hours that make attending events regularly impossible.
Growing up, my stepdad always worked second or third shift. He usually had Saturday and Sunday off. This meant that any event on a weeknight, he had to miss. I would, of course, know that he was not going to attend because I knew he had to work. I was never disappointed by this as I knew he was doing what needed to be done. My mom attended events but for things like sports, she was clueless. I looked forward to the weekend and talking to my dad and filling him in on how the game went. He showed interest in what I had done and that is what mattered to me.
I also know families where both parents work shifts that make them miss events. But again, asking about the event later and showing interest shows that the parents care.
I write this blog because I want parents to know that it is okay to not attend all events. Life is hectic! You can connect with your kids in other ways.
Beep, beep, beep (imagine your alarm clock).
I don't like even thinking about it. I am not a morning person (and I'm not a night owl-I really like to sleep). Recently I had to wake up extra early to take my oldest to school. She was very much awake and very chatty. I wanted to ask her to be quiet since I wasn't in the mood to talk. I didn't though. I took this rare opportunity to chat with her.
Usually, when she comes home from school I'm lucky to have a one minute conversation with her (I mostly receive grunts). In car rides, she often puts in ear buds. I miss the chatter from when she was little. So, I ignored my impulse to tell her it was too early for so much talking.
And you know what, I enjoyed it. We laughed and connected. It was a short ride but enjoyable. I made sure to tell her that.
I hope we have more opportunities.
As 2018 came to an end, I reflected on a tradition that we started last January. We made Sunday nights a Family Movie night. Almost every Sunday, we sat down as a family and watched a movie. If there was an event on Sunday we had to attend (such as an orchestra concert), we would watch one on Friday or Saturday night. If everyone was really tired, it was only half a movie one week and then finish it the next. A few times, we only watched a short cartoon (such as Garfield's Halloween). For the most part we watched Disney animated movies. We did throw in all three Back to the Future movies, though, for good measure. This year we think we are going to focus on more live action Disney movies (we love Disney). It has now become a weekly ritual we all value.
It is really great to all hang out together. I look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.
Vacation Destinations: Disney World, Branson, the Grand Canyon, Europe, the Bahamas, the Lake of the Ozarks, St. Louis
These are a small sample of places people go on vacations. My family has been to some of them and hope to go to more some day. Vacation is a priority for us. My husband and I value it and include saving for it in our monthly budget. To us, vacation offers us a chance to have quality family time and experience new things. On trips, we try to do activities that hit everyone's interests. We also split up at times and offer some one-on-one time with each kid. Of course, that is not always possible but for the most part we can accomplish it.
I imagine, at times, our travelling may seem excessive but I haven't regretted a trip yet. (Although catch me in a moment of meltdown by someone during the trip and I may answer differently, it's not roses and sunshine the whole trip;). The months leading up to vacations typically involve lots of planning. This is fun for me and another way to connect. I like to discuss with my family the different plans and options available.
I understand that I am lucky to be able to regularly vacation. I know many who are not able to do so. I also know many don't value vacations. I encourage everyone to try though. Even if it is just a long weekend together, the family time is invaluable. There are lots of ways to make it affordable (Groupon and Orbitz time websites) and making some small changes to spending can make a big difference. My kids do extra chores for us, other family members, and neighbors we know in order to have spending money for trips (even my six year old). We also ask for gift cards for the holidays to use on trips.
Some of my best memories of childhood are the trips I took with my family. We didn't usually have a ton of money but my family made it work. It was worth it!
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!