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What to Read for Self-Healing

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” -Anne Lamott

I often get asked about powerful books for self-healing. Here are some of my favorites (some are a bit woo-woo and cliche but they are all rooted in scientific merit and spiritual wisdom.)

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

Intuitive Self-Healing: Achieving Balance and Center through the Body’s Energy Centers by Marie Manuchehri

Internal Family Systems Therapy by Richard C. Schwartz

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Sue Johnson

Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson

Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self by Anodea Judith

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

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How to Ride the Waves of Grief after a Break-Up

“You can love someone so much… But you can never love people as much as you can miss them.” –John Green

Of course, John Green (author of my bible throughout the teen years, Looking for Alaska) would come out swinging with a quote like the one above. Still sifting through how I feel about it- part of me agrees missing someone is so profound and another part of me says “love conquers all.”

Loss, longing, and grief are powerful experiences and emotions. In the mental health field, the “Stages of Grief” are often referenced to describe what people go through following a loss. What is important to note about these stages, is they are not necessarily linear- you don’t graduate from one stage, never to encounter it again. You might cycle back and forth through all of these stages, at various points of time, and there is nothing pathological about it. You are experiencing normal human emotions and turmoil to a gut-wrenching reality.


This pain is inevitable, but letting that pain impact your functioning is what we are trying to avoid. Cry, smile, sleep, go to a therapist (we really aren’t that bad), spend time with family and friends, learn something new, go on a weekend adventure, share a meal with someone, join a support group, paint, pursue a hobby, attend a yoga class, go to a museum, journal- take care of yourself and do what you need to validate (not ignore, push down, avoid) your pain (it deserves to be seen and validated too) and do something each day that sparks joy in you, something that feels good.

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“Get up, dress up, show up, and never give up.” Time does heal the pain and longing as you focus on doing you. And, in unexpected moments, a wave of grief might come pouring over you. Like, walking past a restaurant, putting on a pair of socks, a social media post, a song, a birthday. Anything, can remind you of a beautiful or painful moment that you once shared with someone you loved and who loved you. And with that memory, comes the reminder that you will likely not form new beautiful memories together, that they probably don’t think about you anymore, that they might not even like you anymore. You miss them, a lot.

‘I was sentimental about many things: a woman’s shoes under the bed; one hairpin left behind on the dresser; the way they said, “I’m going to pee..”; hair ribbons; walking down the boulevard with them at 1:30 in the afternoon, just two people walking together; the long nights of drinking and smoking; talking; the arguments; thinking of suicide; eating together and feeling good; the jokes; the laughter out of nowhere; feeling miracles in the air; being in a parked car together; comparing past loves at 3am; being told you snore; hearing her snore; mothers, daughters, sons, cats, dogs; sometimes death and sometimes divorce; but always carrying on, always seeing it through; reading a newspaper alone in a sandwich joint and feeling nausea because she’s now married to a dentist with an I.Q. of 95; racetracks, parks, park picnics; even jails; her dull friends; your dull friends; your drinking, her dancing; your flirting, her flirting; her pills, your fucking on the side and her doing the same; sleeping together.’ -Charles Bukowski.

You might start questioning your own judgment, what you could have done differently, what they could have done differently, you start questioning everything about your life- your job, where you live, your friend group, your new significant other. Evaluating your life to determine if you are on the path you want to be on might be disorienting but it is also fruitful. Continue doing things that move you towards the person you want to be, towards the life you want, towards what your gut is telling you is the right thing to do, for you. And for some hope throughout the process, remember things start, continue, and end- this is the natural cycle of life and when something ends, remember something new is about to begin, that’s just how the universe works. “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” -Lao Tzu

Some people become jaded by a broken-heart. If there is a part of you that is feeling this way, it’s trying to protect you, it’s trying to help you from being hurt again. And you can gently ask it to step aside, so you can open up again to one of the most beautiful feelings and experiences of being a human. To be seen, valued, cared for, accepted, and genuinely loved. “You don’t need another human being to make your life complete, but let’s be honest. Having your wounds kissed by someone who doesn’t see them as disasters of your soul but cracks to put their love into is the most calming thing in the world.” –Emery Allen.

“Happiness is what happens when you go to bed on the hottest night of the summer, a night so hot you can’t even wear a tee-shirt and you sleep on top of the sheets instead of under them, although trying to sleep is probably more accurate. And then at some point late, late, late, at night, say just a bit before dawn, the heat finally breaks and the night turns cool and when you briefly wake up, you notice that you’re almost chilly, and in your groggy, half-consciousness, you reach over and pull the sheet around you and just that flimsy sheet makes it warm enough and you drift back into a deep sleep. And it’s that reaching, that gesture, that reflex we have to pull what’s warm- whether it’s something or someone- toward us, that feeling we get when we do that, that feeling of being safe in the world and ready for sleep, that’s happiness.” -Paul Schmidtberger.

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Gentle Tips for the Cold/Flu

It’s that time of the year again when everyone is sniffling, coughing, and aching. Cold/Flu Season: the only thing we can do is ride those viruses out (obviously check with your doctor to make sure antibiotics won’t cure your woes).

1st tip for relief: TEA. My favorite requires the following ingredients: a cozy mug, ginger root, fresh lemon, local honey (Bay Area Peeps), and your favorite caffeine-free (if you can help it) tea. I usually opt for Traditional Medicinal Wellness Teas because they are organic, NON-GMO, sustainable. They really are but I love the inspirational quotes connected to the tea bags! Now, get to drinking. Side note: add cloves/cinnamon and some whiskey/rum/brandy to the mix because as my mom says “WHY NOT?”

2nd tip for relief: YOUR FAVORITE BLANKET. To cozy up with and comfort yourself. My personal favorites: Pendleton and Coyuchi. Less pricier option and so soft: Amped Fleece Throw Blanket

3rd tip for relief: BINGE WATCH TV SHOWS. Seriously, you need rest and deserve to have a good time doing it too. Current recommendations: Netflix goodies (Stranger Things, Narcos, Master of None, Chef’s Table, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards) and HBO goodies (The Night Of, True Detective, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley). Happy watching!

4th tip for relief: EAT/DRINK RAMEN or PHO. You need liquids so drink and eat all the liquids. Bay Area folks, my recommendations: The Ramen Shop (Oakland), Ramen Hiroshi (Walnut Creek), Pho Lee Hoa Phat 1 (Pleasant Hill), Coco’s Ramen (San Francisco), Ramen Dojo (San Mateo), Yummy Yummy, Pho (San Francisco)

5th tip for relief: SLEEP. NAP. REPEAT. You need rest so take it.

Here’s to feeling better ASAP and remember, to take care of yourself.

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Finding Beauty in the Breakdown

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The language we use profoundly shapes how we view the world around us. Each language has it’s own unique set of words describing experiences, emotions, and objects. If something was given a word, that highlights a certain level of importance and value to a region, culture, and group of people. I am fascinated by words that exist in other languages that are not a part of the English language. There are a couple Japanese words and concepts I lean on in tough times which provide a more empowering and uplifting point of view.

wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept and worldview centered on finding beauty in the imperfect, incomplete, and impermanent. It symbolizes accepting the natural cycle of creation, growth, maintenance, loss, and decay. Where can you find beauty and acceptance in the parts of you, your life, and the world currently characterized by disorder, chaos, struggle, and loss? When we find beauty and acceptance in anything, it makes it easier to see beauty in and accept ourselves.

kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold and understanding the piece is more beautiful for having been broken and repaired. What hardships and struggles have you experienced that have made you a better person?

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The Value of Self-Awareness

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The quality of self-awareness helps us understand our default reactions, our values, what motivates us, and what guides our decision-making. When the light of self-awareness shines on doubt, judgment, fear, guilt, and shame these states begin to melt away. The quality of self-awareness allows us to take the position of an observer and notice the thoughts and feelings swirling around our minds and bodies. It grants us opportunities to connect with the stillness, patience, and curiousity of the observer, with self-awareness.

Practice consciously taking a pause for self-reflection- self-reflection characterized by non judgment, humility, and courage. Courage because it’s hard to notice and admit our flaws- the egoic mind is desperately trying to protect and preserve itself. It will persuade us to maintain the current status quo even if that status quo is preventing us from being the people we want to be. Developing and cultivating self-awareness is a slow process that requires daily, moment to moment practice- you are strengthening the role of the curious observer, tapping into the profound wisdom and stillness we all have inside us which has been clouded by the egoic mind.

Tip: practice curiously asking yourself, “What is going on right now?””Where is this reaction coming from?” “What is doubt telling me right now? What is guilt persuading me to believe about myself? What is shame whispering into my ear? What is judgment convincing me to believe about myself? What will happen if I cave to the fear of failure?”  

Let these questions loosen the power and influence of the egoic mind while you tap into the lightness and wisdom of self-awareness. Gently smile when you notice the incessant voices of negativity in your head, we all have them. Notice these voices and then shift your focus to the compassionate and wise questions self-awareness is asking.

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How to Talk to Your Teen about S-E-X

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Teens want to know more about sex and want a safe place to learn more- what they learn in school is limited and what they hear from friends and internalize from the media are often inaccurate. It is very unlikely that a teen will approach their parents with any questions related to sex.

Parents, they do not know how to bring up the subject with you! Also, they are often very worried about their parents’ reaction- they are worried that you will think they have had sex or are going to have sex… when in reality, they are just curious and uninformed. Therefore, you need to let your teen know that you are always open and willing to talk about any questions or concerns they may have about sex.

Sex is more than anatomy and reproductive systems- it’s about dating, relationships, communication, consent, safety, physical and emotional health, vulnerability, intimacy, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual identity and orientation, abstinence, postponing sex, birth control, and drugs & alcohol. There is no way anyone could cover all these topics in one conversation. Therefore, multiple conversations are warranted.

Some parents believe that talking about sex will lead to teens having sex. In fact, research shows that teens who have talked with their parents about sex are more likely to postpone sex, communicate with their sexual partners, and use birth control when they do begin. Studies have found that children who are comfortable talking about sex are actually more likely to delay sexual activity and be older when they first have intercourse.

Well, how do I broach the topic of sex with my teen? First, do not conceptualize talking about sex as a formal, one-time event. The days of “the talk” are over- talking about sex with your teen is an ongoing series of conversations and dialogues. “Oh no! But, it’s going to be so awkward and uncomfortable!” Yep, it probably will be- so expect that and have a sense of humor about it.

The most natural way to bring up the topic is to integrate conversations about sex and relationships just like you would other topics. Think teachable moments- if you are watching a movie or television show together, if you are listening to music in the car and there is a scene or reference to kissing, dating, relationships, or sex, ask your teen about it. “What did you think about that scene where those two characters start kissing at the party?” “What do you think about those lyrics?” “What did you think about that scene where __________?” “What are your thoughts about __________?” When you are watching a TV show that features a young person going through puberty or going out on a date, if you run into a pregnant neighbor, if you pass by Planned Parenthood, use those moments to initiate conversations.

Teens love their phones and the internet so use that to your advantage. Use media to engage your teen- request they watch an educational video (you can watch it together or separately) and both of you come up with questions to ask the other about the video or have them write a 1 page response to the video.

Here are a couple of my favorite videos:

Sex Needs a New Metaphor by Al Vernacchio 

Why I Stopped Watching Porn by Ran Gavrieli

Be an “askable” parent: Ask your teen what they want to know about sex. If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Find the answers together. To feel comfortable talking openly with you, your teen needs to know that you will not punish him or her for being honest and genuine.

Ask open ended questions to learn more and LISTEN, do not interject or interrupt, just LISTEN and incorporate skill-building and problem-solving situations- “What can you do to avoid unwanted sexual contact when you are drunk/using drugs?” “How can you avoid becoming pregnant?” “How can you avoid contracting an STI?” Ask questions like… “I would like to hear what you think about that?” “What else do you know about the topic?” “I’m curious what your thoughts are about that?” “What questions do you have related to sex?” “What do you already know about that?” “Did that answer your question?” “What else would you like to know?” “Is there anything else you would like to know?”

Moving on… what about the topic of pornography? “Oh no way, my teen has never looked at porn, there is no way they watch porn!” WRONG- research suggests kids as young as 8 years old stumble upon hard-core pornography. Not intentionally, but on accident (e.g., they google a bad word they heard at school, on TV, in the movies or they google something like black tights but spell it black tits). Important questions to explore: “What are your thoughts about pornography?” “What is the purpose of pornography?” “What are the risks of pornography?” “How are women portrayed in pornography?” “How are men portrayed in pornography?”

I explain pornography to teens as an action movie- it’s about performance and fantasy, it’s not real. What porn actors do is scripted and it is not what that actor might like in their own personal sex life and it is definitely not what everyone likes. Each person has their own uniques desires and preferences- there is no one size fits or appeals to all when it comes to sex. The truth is that people need to talk about what they like and don’t like, ask questions about what their partner likes and doesn’t like, ask for permission and receive that permission, at the beginning, middle, and end of sex.

“When do I know I am ready to have sex?” “How old do you have to be to have sex?” These are a couple of the most common questions I get asked by teens. My response is always  “When you are able to honestly, comfortably, and respectfully have a conversation with your partner about the consequences of having sex.” These conversations should include the following: “What kind of protection will we use? What will happen if someone gets an STI? What will happen if someone gets pregnant? What happens if the condom breaks? What are your reasons for wanting to have sex? What are your thoughts about sex? What are you worried about when it comes to sex? What if we start having sex and the other person does not want to do it anymore (e.g., in that moment and in the future)?”

TIP: Leave age-appropriate articles or books about teenage sexuality around your home and send videos or articles to your teen via text or e-mail. Teens will take a look at them.

NOW GET OUT THERE AND EDUCATE YOUR TEENS! YOU WILL DO GREAT! Here are some additional resources to help you along the way…

Recommended Books

Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex by Deborah Roffman

How to Talk with Teens About Love, Relationship, and S-E-X Guide for Parents by Amy G. Miron and Charles D. Miron

Beyond the Big Talk: Every Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Teens from Middle School to High School and Beyond by Debra Haffner

All About Sex: A Family Resource on Sex and Sexuality by Ronald Moglia and Jon Knowles

Ten Talks Parents Must Have With Their Children about Sex and Character by Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., and Dominic Cappello

Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities by Karin Melberg Schwier and Dave Hingsburger

Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies by Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman

Recommended Resources
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Preventing Suicide

The most telling assessment question involves simply asking someone directly and specifically if they have ever thought about killing themselves. Obviously, this topic is difficult to talk about- it’s heavy, dark, and uncomfortable but asking these types of questions is the first step in effective suicide prevention and intervention. “Have you ever thought about killing yourself? Have you ever thought about committing suicide? Have you ever thought about hurting yourself? Do you ever wish you were dead? Do you ever have thoughts about ending your life? How do you feel about living? How do you feel about dying? If you think about suicide, do you have a particular mental picture of what suicide might look like?”

Assess suicidal ideation: frequency and content of thoughts- “When did you begin having suicidal thoughts? Did any event (stressor) precipitate the suicidal thoughts? What are those thoughts like? If someone were listening to your suicidal thoughts, what might they hear? How often do you have thoughts of suicide? How long do they last? How strong or intense are these thoughts? Did you feel suicidal this morning? Yesterday? Last week? Last month? When were these thoughts the worst? What do you do when you have suicidal thoughts? What did you do when they were the strongest ever? Have you told anyone about your thoughts of suicide? How did they respond? Have you created a suicide note or letter in writing or online? If yes, who saw it? How did they respond? What would it accomplish if you were to end your life?”

Ask about any history of previous attempts by the person, any family members, or their peers “Have you ever tried to kill yourself before? Have you rehearsed how you might do it? What happened? How did other people respond? Has anyone in your family committed suicide? Has anyone in your family attempted to commit suicide? Have any of your friends tried to kill themselves? Have any of your friends died due to suicide? How did other people respond? How did it make you feel after hearing about it? How do you feel about it now?”

Assess their intent, means, and plan- Their intent is the extent to which the person expects to carry out the plan and believes the plan or act to be lethal.“Do you have any thoughts about how you would kill yourself? What are the ways you would end your life? If you were to kill yourself, how would you do it? Where would you do it? When would you do it? Do you have a day in mind of when you would do it? Do you have a timeline in mind for ending your life? Is there something (an event) that would trigger the plan? Do you have the (gun, drugs, rope, etc.) you would you use? Where is it? What have you done to begin to carry out the plan? How likely do you think you are to carry out your plan? How close do you feel like you are to killing yourself?  What would happen that would get you closer to ending your life? How confident are you that this plan would actually end your life? Have you made any other preparations or arrangements?

Explore precipitants and triggers– “What makes you feel more suicidal? What people, experiences, or feelings make you feel suicidal? What might happen that would bring you closer to killing yourself? What makes you feel worse?”

Review the person’s mental health history– Assess for current and past history of mood disorders, psychotic disorders, alcohol/substance abuse, ADHD, TBI, PTSD (any history of trauma or abuse), personality disorders, conduct disorders (antisocial behavior, aggression, impulsivity)- co-morbidity and recent onset of illness increase risk. Explore any symptoms of anhedonia, impulsivity, hopelessness, anxiety/panic, global insomnia, or command hallucinations. Ask about any changes in treatment- discharge from psychiatric hospital, provider or treatment change.

Assess for indirect words or behaviors– Ask the teen and their family members about any of the following words or behaviors. Giving away any prized possessions, withdrawing and isolating from others (e.g., desire to be left alone),  acquiring lethal instruments (e.g., razors, scissors, firearms, knives, pills, etc.), talking about “leaving” or “going away”, phrases like “I’d be better off dead” “If I see you again…” “I wish I hadn’t been born…” “Everyone would be better off without me”, writing poems, songs, or stories about death, making out a will, making arrangements for family members, exploring and talking about what death would be like, social media posts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) about the above. A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

Safety proofing– Remove any firearms, weapons, knives, blades, razors, scissors, ropes, pills, etc. from your home. Ask the person if they are willing to discard any lethal instruments or means- if not, explore their reasons for keeping the items and the advantages and disadvantages of keeping and discarding the items with the person.

Problem-solve other ways to stop pain– Often people who are thinking about suicide, just want the pain to end. They view the one option of escaping this pain as suicide. Helping someone problem solve other ways to reduce pain and strong negative emotions is an important part of the assessment and intervention process.“What makes you feel better? What might make you feel better?”

Create a safety and self-care plan– Use the MY3 app, the client will fill out their warning signs, coping strategies, distractions, support network, strategies to stay safe, and reasons to live. Have the person e-mail their MY3 safety plan to their parents, caregivers, and providers (e.g., therapists, psychiatrists, teachers, pediatricians, etc.). Also, create a client self-care plan- a list of things they can do to take care of themselves (e.g., coping strategies, religious/spiritual practices & beliefs, etc.). Include phone numbers and websites for local and national crisis lines, chat lines, hospitals, and emergency rooms in safety and self-care plans. Here are some chat lines- http://us.reachout.comhttps://www.imalive.org Here are some phone lines- Youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000, run by Boys Town National Hotline (for everyone); National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Explore their desire to live and reasons for living– “What stops you from killing yourself? What do you care about? What are your reasons for living? What or who do you care for/are responsible for? What makes you feel better? What makes you smile? What makes you laugh?”

Help the person build a life worth living– This might look like seeing a psychiatrist, joining a support group, volunteering, switching schools, changing jobs… “Imagine there was a miracle and you woke up tomorrow and your life was exactly how you wanted it. What would that look like?”  Explore small actions the person can do to make steps in that direction.

Trust your gut and intuition– If a person cannot promise they will stay safe (i.e., not hurt themselves) between a current moment time and a future moment in time (e.g., between that day and the next scheduled session), try to move the appointment date to an earlier time. If the person still cannot promise they will stay safe or if you feel any hesitation about a person’s safety, call a mobile crisis team to conduct an additional suicide assessment (there is usually one in every county), take the person to the nearest emergency room,  call 911, or move forward with a 5150. YOU ARE NOT OVER-REACTING.

Get your own supervision, consultation, and supportpractice self-care, talk to family members and friends, speak with your supervisor, check out online forums, or join a parent support group.

Check out the resources out thereTo Write Love On Her Arms, The Trevor Project, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Yellow Ribbon, The Jason Foundation, The Jed Foundation

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What’s your Story?

Our lives are composed of stories, habits, and rituals from our sense of style to how we get to work, from what we choose to eat to who we choose as friends, from how we define ourselves to how we view others. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and the world around us have profound implications on our daily choices, current health, and our future well-being.

These stories shape how we go about our days- for example, if your dominant story line is one of low self-worth, it will be hard to wake up in the morning, complete your responsibilities and tasks, be around other people, and make healthy decisions. You might try to escape feelings of shame, inadequacy, depression, and anxiety. However, if your dominant story line is one of high self-worth (not arrogance or egotism)- you will wake up with vitality and purpose, surround yourself with positive influences, triumph over struggles, and choose what nurtures and nourishes your health and well-being.

How do these story lines develop? 

Past events and experiences in utero, early childhood, adolescence, and adulthood significantly influence our physical health, mental health, and well-being. Close relationships also play an influential role in shaping how we view ourselves and others. These past events, experiences, and relationships create our identity narratives- the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.

We do not always have influence or control over the events, experiences, and relationships that happen to us. For example, it is not your fault if your mother experienced trauma while pregnant, if you were bullied by your peers, or if you were sexually assaulted. You did not deserve that. Even though we do not have much choice over what happens to us, we do have the power to learn and choose how we respond to adversity. Our identity narratives play a key role in how we choose to respond in the face of hardship. Our identity narratives should work for us, not against us. Our identity narratives should foster resilience and self-efficacy to help us prepare for the inevitable so we bend, but do not break.

How do we prepare for the challenges that lie ahead?

 Daily habits are a great place to start. Our daily habits shape and are shaped by our identity narratives. For example, if you have an identity narrative characterized by low self-worth, it’s likely you will not care very much about your health, and might end up engaging in unhealthy behaviors (e.g., binge drinking, using drugs, and disordered eating). However, if you make a commitment with support from others (both personal and professional) to stop engaging in these unhealthy habits-  your daily habits around health will change. This habit change will re-author your identity narrative from “I don’t deserve to be healthy” to “I am worthy of good health.”

Another example- if you have an identity narrative characterized by low self-worth, it’s likely you will avoid any experiences that challenge you, and will isolate yourself from opportunities due to fear of failure. However, if you make a commitment to do something out of your comfort zone every week (e.g., eat lunch with a co-worker, go to the gym, strike up a conversation with a stranger, give someone my phone number, ask or answer a question during lecture, contribute during a staff meeting), you will gain mastery, confidence, and resilience as you accumulate little wins, victories, and “failures.”

An important element needed to change behavior is an identity narrative which includes the following: “I can change. I am capable of change. I believe in myself.”  Without belief in yourself, it will be impossible to create lasting change- high self-worth, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and confidence all boil down to genuinely believing in yourself.

If you ask the people around you what you are good at, what they like about you, what your strengths are, you will end up with a long list of characteristics, traits, attributes, and examples. Other people see the good in you, other people see your worth, and it’s time you do too (if there is a voice telling you, that’s not true- that is the exact identity narrative you need to reclaim and re-author). The only thing getting in your way, is the problem-saturated, self-deprecating story you continue to believe- it’s a fictional story and you have the power to re-write it.


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How is your Emotional Hygiene?

We engage in multiple daily rituals to maintain our personal hygiene. We shower, brush our teeth, and wipe our asses to keep bacteria, viruses, and illnesses at bay. Good personal hygiene is necessary for our social lives as well. If you haven’t showered, brushed your hair, or cleaned your mouth in a week, people are going to turn the other way when they see you coming. We try our best to eat right, exercise regularly, and check in with our doctors. All these habits play a key role in keeping us clean and healthy.

Psychologist, Guy Winch suggests we should treat our emotional hygiene and psychological health the same way we do our personal hygiene and physical health. Good emotional hygiene and psychological health involve taking care of our minds, the same way we take care of our bodies.

What are some examples of practicing emotional hygiene and taking care of our psychological health? Positive self-talk, self-compassion, using healthy and effective coping strategies, honest and impartial self reflection, boosting self-esteem, self-affirmations, personal empowerment, letting go, practicing gratitude, spending time with people who love and support us, effectively managing our time and energy, meeting with a psychiatrist, and talking with a therapist.

“You put a bandage on a cut or take antibiotics to treat an infection, right? No questions asked. In fact, questions would be asked if you didn’t apply first aid when necessary. So why isn’t the same true of our mental health? We are expected to just “get over” psychological wounds — when as anyone who’s ever ruminated over rejection or agonized over a failure knows only too well, emotional injuries can be just as crippling as physical ones. We need to learn how to practice emotional first aid.” -Guy Winch. 

What’s in your Emotional First Aid Box?

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Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.

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Struggling with Body Dissatisfaction? Tips on how to celebrate your body.

Evernote Camera Roll 20151109 113304You will never look like someone in a magazine. That person in the magazine doesn’t even look like that person in the magazine.

It’s likely that the ideal you are striving for is a fabricated image, photo-shopped and edited 100+ times, and therefore, totally unrealistic and unattainable. The expectation to look like the models in the magazines, the celebrities in movies, or that girl from high school with the most beautiful selfies is unachievable because they don’t even look that way naturally. In movies they often use body doubles for scenes and images are always retouched and filtered to make people look skinnier, stronger, bustier, etc.

So what ideal should you strive for? The answer is not the thin one, not the handsome one, not the muscular one, not the curvy one, not the beautiful one… It’s the healthy one. The healthy ideal is about striving for a healthy body and mind. It is healthy to eat all foods in moderation, it is healthy to exercise, it is healthy to have muscles, it is healthy to have fat, it is healthy to have alone time, it is healthy to spend time with your family and friends, it is healthy to feel grateful for your body, and it is healthy to compliment, accept, and celebrate yourself.

When you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? If it’s, “Oh my god, my thighs are so big. My stomach is so fat. I wish I were taller. I wish I had bigger muscles. I wish I were a lot skinner. I am so ugly.”  I challenge you to look at yourself, and comment on at least one (but I promise you there are many, many more) of your positive physical, emotional, intellectual, and social qualities. For example, “I love my freckles. I have a cute belly button. My legs are strong. I am a good friend. I can run fast. I like the sound of my laugh. I study hard.”  Seriously, do this every time you look in the mirror (this includes your phone too when you are trying to master that selfie). I also use the 5 Year Old Trick to assess whether or not I am engaging in positive or negative self-talk- “The next time you’re about to say/think something negative about yourself, ask if you would say that to a 5 year-old.”

 When you comment on your body, switch the focus from appearance to functioning. Instead of saying to yourself, “Am I pretty? How many calories did I eat? I wish I were skinnier. I can’t eat breakfast tomorrow because I had dessert tonight. I am too fat to wear that.” say to yourself, “Did I eat some protein with breakfast? Am I drinking enough water? Did I take my medication? Did I get in some movement, fitness, physical activity today? Did I get my heart rate up today? Do I have enough energy? Am I sleeping well? What am I doing to take care of myself?”  Shifting the focus from how our bodies look to how our bodies feel and are functioning helps keep us on the healthy ideal track.

Increasing awareness of our bodies is another powerful tool in learning to accept and celebrate our bodies. How to do this? Take a yoga class, learn to belly dance, practice belly breathing, go to a hip-hop dance class, give meditation a try, scan your body for areas of tension. Also, increasing awareness of our emotions is another important component of self-acceptance. Note: Fat, Ugly, and Skinny ARE NOT feelings. There are other emotions at play when you say to yourself, “I feel fat. I feel ugly, I feel skinny.” Are you feeling sad? Lonely? Anxious? Ashamed? Worthless? Afraid? Worried? Inadequate? Learn to observe, identify, and accept the emotions underlying any body dissatisfaction.

And always remember: you are more beautiful, intelligent, strong, and capable than you think.

Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.

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