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Category: Mindfulness

Have You Ever Felt Like Running Away From Home?

Have You Ever Felt Like Running Away From Home?

Have you ever felt like life is just too tough? You just want to run away…to anywhere just as long as you don’t stay where you are. But deep down you know that won’t help anything. Your problems will just pack themselves into whatever suitcase you pull off the shelf and jump out at you the first time you unlatch the lid and flip it open.

But that urge to flee remains. Your stomach is in knots. You’re tired. You don’t feel you have the strength to get through One. More. Crisis. You’re feel like you’re coming unglued.

Then, after awhile, after you’ve stomped around a bit, cried, complained, and threw yourself across the bed, you realize that running away would be fruitless (“Fruitless: failure to achieve the desired results; unproductive and useless.”)

So now what do you do?

The DBT skill of Radical Acceptance can really help here. Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do about this? If yes, problem-solving skills come into play. Figure it out. What would be a next “wise” step for you to take. If the answer is no, then you need to survive the crisis. Radically accepting that this thing has happened and that we can skillfully move through the crisis will insure we don’t turn our pain into long-term suffering. Reminding myself that I only have to get through this one day helps me tremendously. Staying present, living my life one day at a time, I find beauty and comfort in the life I have been given. I practice gratitude, and focus on the good, on the blessings I have received. And I have another trick…I call it Time Machine.

This trick is adapted from “My Anxious Mind,” A Teens Guide to Managing Panic and Anxiety,” by Tompkins and Martinez. In many ways, I’m still a teenager at heart so this one works for me:

Ask yourself, in the scheme of things, with 100 being intolerable, how will I feel about this thing that has happened by the end of the day. Write it down. It could be that you believe you will still feel like this is the worst thing that has ever happened. OK…so 100. Then ask yourself, how will I feel about this is one week. Write it down. It could be that you think you will still be at 100 or maybe 90 or 80. That’s ok. Then ask yourself, how will I feel about this in one month…then six months…then one year…then five years. Chances are you will gain perspective and realize that this crisis will not even be on your radar in the pretty near future. You may see numbers like 80…50…25…2…now not thinking about this at all. This can help you move through it, knowing your pain is temporary and your life will move on.

Right now I am staring down the barrel of brain surgery. I feel like I have a ticking time bomb in my head. I too have felt like running away. I picture myself in Maui at Christmas. Then I realize that I would be laying on the beach worrying about my brain. But I do have a lot of peace. I am taking it one day at a time, living my life and enjoying the things that are most important to me…practicing Time Machine. And writing. I will never stop writing. A Journal is a great place to gather your thoughts…like putting them in a basket and leaving them on the shelf.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what helps you through crises. Let’s have a conversation. And please share this post. It may help someone in a way you would not know. I read things every day that help me with whatever it is I am going through.


Hold That Thought!

Hold That Thought!

We all hate the thought of one human being bullying another. There are entire campaigns dedicated to eradicating bullying on campuses. We’ve read stories about young people actually ending their lives because they were bullied on a social networking site. There are also stories of teenagers who were so tortured by bullies that they snapped. They took guns to school and killed students and teachers. Unfortunately, these stories are beginning to lose their shock value. Would it shock you to discover that we can all be bullies? We literally bully one who is very near and dear to our hearts. We bully ourselves! Thoughts such as, “Nothing will ever work out for me,” or “I am so stupid,” or “I am ugly,” are common things we tell ourselves. This keeps us mired in the mud of negative emotions and increases our suffering. Sometimes the thoughts come fast and furious, and we feel as if we cannot shut them off. I’ve learned a new mindfulness exercise I want to teach you. You can print it out and add it to The Anywhere Any Time Mindfulness Toolbox: 10 Quick Ways to Reboot Your Brain on the Fly (pick up your free pdf copy of that by clicking here).

The Space In Between

  1. First, identify a negative thought you use to bully yourself.
  2. Change that thought to a more positive, truthful thought (an affirmation). For instance, let’s use the thought “Nothing ever works out for me.” Let’s change that to, “Things work out for me much of the time.
  3. Close your eyes and picture the first word of that affirmation in front of your eyes. Think of the word “Things.”
  4. Next, imagine you have moved the word “Things” over to the left. Now imagine the word “work” right in front of your eyes.
  5. Now move the word “work” over to the right. You now have both words, “Things work” sitting on either side of your head. There is a blank space in between, right in front of your eyes.
  6. Be in the empty space that is in front of your eyes. Breathe.
  7. Bring the word “work,” which is to the right, over to the left with the words “Things.” You now have “Things work” to the left and an empty space in front of your eyes.
  8. Now bring the word “out” and imagine it is right in front of your eyes. When you have a strong image of it, move it over to the right. You now have an empty space in front of your eyes again. Be in the space. Breathe.
  9. Next move the word “out” to the left. You now have “Things work out” to the left. Imagine the word “for” hanging right in front of your eyes. Repeat the above until you have imagined and moved all the words of your affirmation to the left. Sit with the empty space left in front of your eyes.

This may seem a funny thing to do but according to my clients it is so helpful in two ways. First, it gives them something positive to say to themselves instead of the negative message their “bully” has taunted them with. Secondly, it slows down their thinking and calms and soothes their spirits.

If you try this mindfulness exercise for yourself, go over to the blog at and leave me a comment. I have a book giveaway for one lucky person (I will have my husband randomly pick a number). This is a book I just read and loved, loved loved! It’s called Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray. It is a memoir/guidebook. I’ll contact you for an address and send it right off! And remember, sharing is caring. Please share this post on the social media site of your choice. Who knows whose bullying you stopped dead in its tracks!

3 Ways to Using Imagery to Calm Your Emotions

3 Ways to Using Imagery to Calm Your Emotions

Have you ever felt like going to bed because your emotions were “off the charts?” I have, and I found myself lying there thinking about what I was so angry about. Turns out, that’s not very helpful. Then I learned a DBT Skill that helped me not only calm down but also helped to turn those negative emotions towards more positive ones as well.

I headed off to the beach.

Well…sort of. You see, I live in Montana. Not much in the way of ocean breezes around here. I grew up near the beaches of Southern California and to say I miss the beach is an understatement. But I can give myself a taste of that experience whenever I want. Here’s how.

1. Think of a place (either real or imaginary) that you would like to be right now.

For me, that’s always the ocean. I love everything about it; even the smell of rotting seaweed.

2. If you can, gather things that will help you experience it with your 5 senses.

When I was a teenager I went to the beach with my friends as often as we could afford the 33 cents for bus fare. We slathered on the suntan lotion and put lemon juice in our hair to lighten it. We listened to The Beach Boys on the radio and let the sound of the waves massage our souls. I have suntan lotion in my bathroom cabinet and lemon juice in the fridge. I also own a CD of ocean waves (you can also listen to waves on Youtube). And of course I own several Beach Boys CD’s. When California Girl comes through the speakers in my room, I am 14-years-old again! These smells and sounds help me remember what it was like to actually be at the beach. One time I even clicked on a small electric heater to simulate the heat of the sun!

3. Sit or lie down and allow yourself to be carried away to the place of your dreams.Your emotions will calm as you soothe yourself with a free, 10-minute vacation.

Try this exercise and let me know where you went in the comments below. I am giving away Christy Matta’s book, The Stress Response, to one lucky winner (randomly picked from the comments).


Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

The other day I pulled out of my driveway and onto the main thoroughfare leading downtown in Helena, Montana. It had lightly snowed a few days before and then warmed up considerably, so the streets were slushy and slippery. Luckily, I only have about a three minute commute to my office.

A half a block later, I glanced into my rear-view mirror and saw that there was someone right behind me. I mean right behind me. I couldn’t tell how close he actually was, but I felt my hackles go up. Hey! Get off my butt!

As he continued to tail me I felt that adrenaline that comes right before anger begins to flow through my veins. As I passed through the neighborhood, I felt my temper climb. I began to imagine myself doing all sorts of things…tapping my breaks…slowing down to 10 miles an hour to make him late…pulling over,  rolling down my window and giving him that old universal sign language for…well…you know.

I turned left at the street where my office is located and looked to see if he was still behind me. He wasn’t. A couple of expletives entered my mind.

I began to reflect on the thoughts that had gone through my mind while we were both tooling down the street. A main one was, I can’t get hurt again! I broke my neck by falling down the stairs at my house in the year 2000 and I have an issue with chronic pain. Early on in the process healing, I was in so much pain that I seriously did not want to live much longer. Thank God I found a wonderful chiropractor who put me back together enough that I now enjoy my life very much.

Well, I knew that I always feel fear when I get into situations like this. I am worried I will get injured again somehow; get a whiplash if someone hits me from behind. But I also knew my anger level was over the top for the situation, so I kept thinking about it. Another block went by…and then it came to me.

I had been very worried about my dog. I have a golden doodle named Emma. She one of the great blessings of my life. She is smart and hilarious and affectionate…a mass of joyful auburn curls. A few years ago she was diagnosed with diabetes and we give her two shots of insulin a day to keep her pancreas working. The day before we had gotten a call from our vet and she was worried Emma now had Cushings disease. I had read about this early on in her treatment and although I couldn’t remember exactly what it was, I knew it wasn’t good.

The vet was still testing, so I purposefully didn’t go back online and look it up. I told myself not to feed my fears that way, and we didn’t know yet if she actually had it or not (she didn’t, thank God).

But in the middle of the night, and again that morning, I had been really worried about her. I hadn’t been in a great frame of mind when I said goodbye to her and got into my car.

I then I realized that my quick rocket flight into anger stemmed from my fear that I was going to lose Emma.

Just realizing that didn’t take my anger down to zero as fast as it had climbed to sixty, but by the time I got to my office, I had forgotten all about it. And all that in less than 3 minutes.

Mindfulness Skill ~ The Body Scan

Have you ever taken a moment to notice if your anger is actually stemming from something other than what is presented to you in that moment? A DBT Skill called Body Scan can help. The next time you feel your anger go up in a flash, stop and do the scan. Ask yourself, what is happening in my body? What is happening in my thoughts? What is happening in my environment? Am I feeling “over the top?” Does the situation really warrant it? Give yourself some moments to reflect on what is going on before you react. You will calm down much quicker and not do something that may ruin your own day.

Have you ever gotten really angry and then realized your emotions went way beyond what triggered them? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s talk about it! There’s a lot we can do about the problem of too much anger.

Changing Your Brain Using Compassion-Based Mindfulness

Changing Your Brain Using Compassion-Based Mindfulness

Hi everybody!  I just wanted to pass this link along so you can read my latest article on Psychology Today and learn more about the blog, “Stop Walking on Eggshells,” by author Randi Kreger.  This website has wonderful information for those who have family members or loved-ones who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder as well as forums to join and support.  Click below to check it out! If the link doesn’t work, please copy and paste in your browser address bar…and accept my apologies. Weirder things have happened on the information superhighway.

Out of Control ~ Part 3

Out of Control ~ Part 3

mindfulness, control emotionsIn Out of Control Part 1, we talked about the brain, and how that non-thinking, emotional part of our brain, right smack in the middle of our heads, can hijack us, and cause us to react in ways that tend to hurt others or ourselves.

In Out of Control Part 2, we discussed thinking errors, and how our feelings in childhood can affect the way we think.  We also learned that the way we think can affect our feelings, and that our feelings can affect our behavior, and on and on!

In Out of Control Part 3, I want to discuss how learning to be mindful can help us, not only control our emotions, but also, in some ways, reshape how our brain works. It’s almost like a reboot.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Here’s an example to show how this can happen in real life.

Don’t Be A Jerk About It

You are waiting in line at the theatre. You are with friends. You are feeling happy and excited to see the movie. Suddenly, a young twenty-something comes walking up and takes his place in line two people ahead of you. You have two choices as to how you will react.

Our first tendency is to immediately judge that this guy’s motive is to take “cuts” and get into the movie before he would have had he just gotten in line behind the last person in line.

The very next thing that usually happens is that we take a shortcut and judge the person or event. We may say to ourselves, “What a jerk!” That is quick and easy. We have just labeled a person we have never met a “jerk,” which insinuates that he is not a nice person in any area of his life. We don’t stop to think about how we would feel if he were our brother, or a close friend.

Immediately, our upbeat mood takes a nosedive. We become irritated if not downright angry. The young man? He’s happy as a lark! He has no idea that some stranger he has never met has judged him to be a “jerk.”

Is that fair? No…we should not have to suffer emotionally and lose our good feelings because of the action of someone else. So what could we do instead?

2 Steps to Being Mindful

Be mindful. Two DBT skills of Core Mindfulness are called Observing and Describing. Simply observe that the guy got in front and describe to yourself what happened. Say to yourself something like, a young man just got in line two people in front of me. Then, if you have to think about it further, you can offer yourself alternative, more positive viewpoints, such as, maybe his friend was saving a place for him, or, maybe he didn’t realize that wasn’t the end of the line. At the very least remind yourself that one person ahead of you is not going to make or break the good time you are having.

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of ways to practice mindfulness.  Stay tuned for more ideas in how to stay present and lower those out of control emotions.

Have you ever had to fight judgmental thoughts? Has the action of a stranger ever ruined your good mood? Leave a comment below and be part of the conversation.

The Anytime Anywhere Mindfulness Tool Kit

10 Quick Ways to Reboot Your Brain on the Fly

Oh, and get a free copy of my latest eBook, The Mindfulness Tool Kit: 10 Quick Ways to Reboot Your Brain on the Fly. Just head back over to the home page, opt in with your email address, and it’s yours!


Out of Control ~ Part 2

Out of Control ~ Part 2

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It’s All In My Head?

Ever hear that one? It’s all in your head? Wow. If I had a dollar for every…well, never mind. Anyway, truth be told, I wish someone HAD told me that! I had my first full on panic attack when I was twenty-three years old. It was such a horrible feeling. I thought I was having a heart attack. I thought I would never be able to breathe again. I thought I was dying. In fact, it was so terrible, that I wanted to die, just to put an end to my suffering.

I went to several different therapists. In the early 1970’s, most therapists were using “talk” therapies to treat their clients. This can be very helpful to some, but not for me. In fact, as I talked about painful experiences over and over again, my anxiety and depressive symptoms skyrocketed. For a while there, I could not leave my own home. At that time, I thought a therapist was a therapist was a therapist. I didn’t know there were experts out there who knew how to help me.

Not one of the counselors I met with ever suggested that my feelings were partly the result of the ways that I thought about and experienced the world. I thought that this horror had descended from somewhere outside of myself. It literally entered my mind that maybe I was being inhabited by some dark force…something trying to destroy me. I thought, I’d rather have a terminal illness than live my life as a crazy person. And still I got worse and worse.

Librarian Rescues Woman From the Dark Force

One day I was perusing the self-help section of my local library when my eyes fell upon a book that I thought had one of the silliest titles I had ever seen. Author Dr. Claire Weekes called the book Hope And Help For Your Nerves. I picked it up anyway. I figured the book would be about as helpful as trying to put out a forest fire with a glass of water, but what the hey?  I was desperate.

I turned the book over and began to read the back cover. The author seemed to be talking to me personally! How could this Dr. Weekes person know so much about every symptom I had been experiencing when not one, not two, not even three of my therapists seemed to know a thing about it? For the first time I read the words “panic” and “anxiety” in relation to my symptoms. I read about the causes, and the cure. I wasn’t suffering from something that came down from outer space to inhabit my mind after all. I immediately got to work…on myself.

It Was All In My Head…Well, Kinda, Sorta

To me, it was like a miracle had taken place. Someone had finally turned on the light for me. How could it be that this was so simple? Well, it wasn’t that simple. Honestly, identifying my own erroneous way of thinking and changing it took a lot of work. But all that work? Well, long story short, it was priceless. That work and many skills I learned in the next few years made my life worth living again. I found peace in my mind and in my relationships. I began to experience joy.

Would you like to discover how your own way of thinking might be working against you? Just type “thinking errors” into a Google search box and you will get a list of the most well-known causes of distorted thinking out there. You’ll read about things like “filtering,” and “overgeneralizing,” a “belief in the ‘shoulds,’” and “catastrophizing.” Oh, and don’t beat yourself up to much when you recognize them in yourself. Most of us can identify three, or five, or ten of them. But telling yourself the truth is the first step to emotional freedom. Learning about my thinking errors and beginning to tell myself the truth was part of the answer for me.

And I also learned a lot of other skills over the years that, with time and practice completely changed my life. To find out what they were, come back soon for Part 3 of this series, “Out of Control: A 4 Part Series on Feelings.”

To receive the rest of the series automatically in your inbox, just add your name to the box on the right and receive automatic updates. Otherwise, just check back. In the meantime, let’s start a conversation. Do you suffer from emotions that seem out of control to you? Which ones are cause you the most suffering? How has this affected your life…your relationships? Please feel free to comment in the area below. I’ll be jumping back in to answer as many as I can. Or meet me over at my Facebook page, “Change Your Emotions.” I would very much appreciate a “Like.”