A poem on grief and loss

When your body can’t unknow a baby it carried.

When your mind can’t unknow a dream it held.

When your heart can’t unknow the voice of that sweet friend.

When you can’t unknow the person you used to be and you wonder if you’ll ever get her back.

When the news you just received makes the room spin around you and you think it might never stop. 

When you’ve been holding your breath for so long you’re not sure if you’ll ever breathe deeply again.

When the yearning for answers comes from a depth within you that you never knew existed. 

Lift your head my child. Lock eyes with mine as I tell you something, He speaks over me. This is hard. But you will be ok and you are not alone.

Do you know that when you hear the crickets it’s my heart beating for you?

Don’t you know that every tear you cry, I place in a bottle so you know how much your hurting heart matters?

Do you know that I have made the colors of the sunset so beautiful so that you would be reminded that I will never let the darkness close in on you?

Do you know I placed the soft grass under your feet so that you would feel held? 

Get up my child.  I’m in the business of restoring and redeeming.

The breeze you feel is my gentle kiss on your face. 

I have set the angels to gently sing over you to remind you that you are worthy, and lovable, and so capable of beauty. Let their wings nourish your flame within when it feels like it’s dim and slipping away. 

Because I know you. Even when you feel you can’t unknow the pain. 

I have new life, new dreams, and a refined you waiting around the corner. 

I will send you my love in ways and messages you least expect. Please don’t stop watching and waiting.

And lastly, know this my child. You will be held, until you feel whole again. 

-Sarah Fleming



Help is Closer Than You Might Think

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It can feel like there’s a great canyon between where we are and where help resides.  This is a truth I write about from both the perspective of being in need of help and being in a helper position.  I’ve received feedback from the clients I’ve seen and I’ve experienced my own barriers that kept me from help.  Help can come in many forms, and the one I’m choosing to write about today is the form of mental health therapy (surprise, surprise:) I’ve had a couple of therapists throughout my life who have been absolute lifesavers, and I really don’t know where I’d be without them. They supported me and helped me build a support system outside of them. 

So why is it so hard to ask for help?  Why do we continue to suffer rather than taking the steps to ask for help?  I’ve compiled a list of the top 4 reasons I believe it’s hard to ask for help, as well as the top 5 benefits that can be experienced on the other side of that canyon. 

So what are the top things that can keep people away?  

  1. We think things have to get “really bad.” We can form an idea that life has to be really bad before we can ask for help.   The problem with this mindset is that “really bad” is a moving target, and we don’t honor our current suffering or better yet the life we could be living. We stay in an “I’ll fix it myself loop.” This is the energy of inertia.  When we adapt (or maladapt) to a less than ideal situation for too long, it becomes our new normal.  We start believing, “I’ve felt this way for so long, so I guess this is just how life will always be.”

  2. We’ve had a previous negative experience with a therapist or we know someone who’s had a bad experience. Many of us have also seen TV and movie scenes of a therapy office and it feels impersonal and formal. Therapy is a relationship. A good therapist will hold space for you to explore your questions, your pain, and identify what you want to be different in your life.  A good therapist will also know that you hold the answers within, while also pointing out how you could be getting in your own way. 

  3. We lack understanding about the financial options available to us to cover therapy sessions.  This is where contacting your insurance company or asking a therapist (or his or her billing person) for some guidance.  Insurance often covers mental health sessions and oftentimes therapists will offer reduced rates for those in financial need. 

  4. We don’t believe we are worth it.  Maybe we grew up in a family where we kept secrets and pretended everything was ok.  Maybe no one around us is seeking therapy. Maybe we just don’t believe we can change.  Notice the resistance and excuses that come up for you when you think about contacting someone for help. But also notice the still, persistent voice inside you that knows there is a better, happier, and healthier way of living waiting to be experienced. Make the call.  You don’t have to commit right away. I often hear that just making the call brings a sense of relief. At least give yourself that gift until you’re ready to take the next step. 

So what are some possible benefits of therapy? 

  1. We have access to an objective person outside our friend, family, and work groups. Someone who is just our person that can offer clarity because they are outside of our situation.

  2. Perspective. We can get distance from the problem and see it for what it is. Distance empowers us to get unstuck and move forward. Clearing away the clutter helps us soften toward ourselves and others.  Perspective also comes when we let something painful take a smaller, integrated place in our life.  It isn’t this large, dark, abstract thing anymore. It actually becomes a concrete and defined part of our historical life. 

  3. Healing. We get relief from problematic (and destructive) behaviors and thinking patterns. We can create space and look at the symptoms we’ve developed and the roots that set them in motion.  Seventy-five to ninety percent of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related symptoms and complaints . Learning to deal with emotions and stress can actually lead to the benefit of physical healing and move us away from the formation of chronic diseases. 

  4. We develop a lifetime of tools. Therapy actually changes the way our brain works. Due to our brain’s plasticity, we can rewire the way our brain receives, processes, and formulates information. The tools we put in motion allow us to start to feel better, behave differently, and think with more clarity. 

  5. Normalization.  As shame breeds in the dark, it can feel 100 lbs lighter to hear “that’s normal” after we’ve shared previously hidden secretes.  Feeling lighter gives us traction to the next step, and the next, and the next, until we feel we are well on our way to creating and sustaining a different life for ourselves. 

Anxiety Antidote

In honor of Mental Health Awareness month, I'd like to share some practices and principles to help with anxiety. In general or situational ways, it is plaguing people in our society at an all-time high. The good news is that even though we can’t change our circumstances, we can change ourselves. AND anxiety can be highly treatable and manageable. We can do this once we understand how we are wired, what our triggers are, and the tools in our tool chest that work specifically for us. 

  1. Write first thing in the morning. Julia Cameron calls this practice Morning Pages and she suggests writing 3 pages, in a stream-of-conscious manner. Just write, without editing or thinking too much about what you’re putting on the paper. Let the cobwebs clear, especially if there are worries you want to start to detach from. Clearing your mind will help you orient your day to the fresh slate ahead. 

  2. Consider diet in treating anxiety and mental health in general. Take lavender oil in a roller with you throughout the day. Add turmeric to your dishes. Add fresh lemon balm to your teas. Add adaptogens like  powdered reishi or ashwagandha to your tonics or hot cocoa. Adaptogens are a group of intelligent herbs that give our body more of what it needs; relaxation, healing, and energy. 

  3. Check to be sure you’re breathing from your belly. Imagine your abdomen and lungs moving out together as you inhale, and slowly falling together as your exhale. Breathing from our belly signifies to our body that we are safe. Breathing from our chest (which we do under stress) reinforces to our body that it can’t relax. Breath work can be a regulating force for the central nervous system, bringing calmness in just a few moments.

  4. Memorize a couple of relaxation techniques to use any time.

  5. Move. Get your endorphins going.  Exercise can work just as effectively as antidepressants as they both alter brain chemicals. Stress and anxiety become negative energy our body carries if we don’t release it.

  6. Perspective. Pay attention to how you are seeing the story or what your narrative has become about a situation. We don’t see life as it is, we see it as we are.  Step up (bird’s eye view) and step back to help gain perceive.

  7. Reduce unnecessary stressful input.  When we are already feeling high anxiety or stress, the last thing we need is more of the world’s stress piled on.  Put boundaries around what you are allowing yourself to see, hear, and internalize.

  8. Challenge yourself to see how often you can push the “easy button” in your day. How and where can you simplify? Choose a dinner with just a few ingredients, say no to something, have your groceries delivered by a delivery service, and delegate tasks. Sometimes our choices to take on too much and to ask too much of ourselves are at the root of our anxiety.

 

Four Relaxation Techniques to Keep in Your Back Pocket

Here are a few techniques to remember and use whenever you’re feeling your stress levels rise. Implementing these can help bring you a sense of control when you’re feeling otherwise out-of-control.

  1. Play some baroque music. Baroque pulses between 50-80 beats per minute, which is close to the rate our heart beats. This rhythmic state helps us to shift to a more relaxed and focused state of being. Try some Haydn, Bach, or early Beethoven.

  2. Intentional aromas. Sara Rose of the book Stress Relief says, “Smell molecules travel along the olfactory pathways and directly into the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls memories, instincts, and vital functions.” Use a smell that helps remind you of a fun memory or someone you love, or use smells to initiate relaxation. Try essential oils, soy candles, or incense.

  3. Remind yourself what is in your locus of control, you. This is all we can control. Fighting to control anything else is exhausting and creates more anxiety. You can remind yourself of this through the use of a visual. Draw one circle inside another. In the inner circle, draw everything you are in control of. In the outer circle, draw everything you can’t control. Focus your energy and thoughts on what is in the inner circle.

  4. Square breathing. Draw a square in your mind’s eye or on paper. On the first line of the square, breath in for 4 counts. On the second line, hold your breath for 4 counts. On the third line, release your breath for 4 seconds. On the last line, breath neither in our out, just rest. Repeat until you feel more relaxed.

Enneagram FAQ's

At age 16, I had a youth paster tell me he had a test he wanted me and the other kids in our youth group to take.  He told us it was called the Enneagram and it would provide insight to our behaviors and motivations.  I took the test, and found out I was a number 4, or The Individualist. I read about the type Four and -experienced a variation of feelings in response.  I remember feeling both humbled and embarrassed but also relieved after taking the test.  Humbled at the raw vulnerability of seeing my behavior and motivations on paper, and relieved because there was a reason for the behaviors and angsty feelings I’d previously felt shame about. It gave me a perspective and narrative that I could begin operating out of, with a goal for transformation and growth. I remember thinking “Ok here it all is. I can’t go back on knowing these things now.” It gave me a bit more perspective on how I was wired, challenged me to protect and honor my gifts and talents, and gave me insight to negative patterns that I turned too when I felt shame or fear. 

I am ecstatic that the Enneagram is gaining more attention today. I love to talk about it and think it is a wonderful tool for personal, professional, relational. and spiritual growth.  I thought I would share some FAQ’s about the Enneagram along with a link so that you can take the test yourself if you are interested.

What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram is a personality typology tool.  It is part of a model that describes human development and motivation. Suzanne Stabile describes it as “Nine ways of seeing, nine ways of being,  nine ways of responding to what we see." Ennea means “nine” in Greek and gramma means “sign or figure.” 

The Enneagram is a tool intended to be used for transformative work. It teaches that we are so much more than our personality, as our personality has actually been formed out of protection and conditioning.  Knowing our Enneagram type raises self-awareness and answers the whys of our behavior. Our personality has caused us to go to sleep to our True Self, or our most pure way of being. When we act out of our personalities, we have fallen asleep to our true nature. Richard Rohr describes this journey as returning to “the face we had before we were born.” 

As we bring awareness to the patterns of our personality, we become more in touch with the God that created us and experience our True Self more directly.  No matter how painful or traumatic our early experiences were, our True Self cannot be taken or harmed. It’s actually to say, you are NOT your personality.   Rohr says we are able to ask “how can we set all our energies free so that they serve life and truth.” 

Where did it come from?

 The roots are not clear, however, there is evidence of the Enneagram rooted in the desert fathers and mothers in the 13th century. Suzanne Stabile says “The roots of the ideas that eventually led to the development of the psychology of the nine types go back at least as far east he fourth century AD and perhaps further.” There are traces of it in Greek culture and it has been highly influenced by modern psychology. 

How does it help in personal growth and relationships?

The Enneagram brings self- compassion when we can see ourselves in a more honest and organic way, with a reason behind our behavior along with a way forward. It brings others-compassion when we see how the other types are seeing and experiencing the world around them.  It's almost as if we've picked up a pair of glasses to see the world through their eyes. It creates understanding, curiosity, and care. 

What are the passion/sins?

For each type, one passion or sin (taken from Seven Deadly Sins) tends to crop up over and over again. Riso and Hudson state “[The sin] is the root of our imbalance and the way we become trapped in ego.”  Having awareness of this helps us to see where we tend to get entangled.  

How do I figure out my type?

Take a test.  The one I recommend comes from the Enneagram Institute and can be found here.   Be sure to click on RHETI test option. The cost s $12 and it takes around 40 minutes to complete. 

Another great way to figure out your type is to listen to others describes themselves in their type. This can give you a feel for the way they see their world and if this resonates with you. 

What are the nine types?

1) The Reformer or Perfectionist. At their best, they see where change is needed in the world and how to implement that change. They desire to be full of integrity, principled and purposeful.  In self-defense, they can have a tendency toward perfectionism and rigid thinking. 

Basic Desire:   To have integrity.   

Basic Fear:  Being bad or defective.

Passion:  Anger      

Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not ok to make mistakes. 

Lost Childhood Message: You are good. 

2)  The Helper-A their best, they are organic lovers and generous. When they are operating out of their ego/defenses, they can become people-pleasing and lack boundaries.

Basic Desire: To be loved      

Basic Fear: Being unworthy or unloved.  

Passion: Pride  

Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not ok to have your own needs.

Lost Childhood Message: You are wanted.

3) The Achiever- When operating from a healthy state, they are excelling and adaptable. They want to leave a legacy behind. When operating out of their wounds, they are overly image-conscious and arrogant.

Basic Desire: To be valuable      

Basic Fear:  Being worthless

Passion:  Deceit  

Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to have your own feelings and identity.

Lost Childhood Message: You are loved for yourself. 

4) The Individualist or Romantic- Operating from their true selves, they are creative and intuitive. They strive to be different from others and fear being ordinary. In unhealthy states, they are prone to melancholy and being self-absorbed. 

Basic Desire: To be oneself.   

Basic Fear:  Being without identity.

Passion:  Envy 

Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to be to functional or too happy. 

Lost Childhood Message:  You are seen for who you are. 

5) The Investigator- Fives are curious people and love research.  They are confident, independent, and clear-minded. Operating out of their ego, they can isolate and cut themselves off from their emotions and needs.

Basic Desire: To be competent    

Basic Fear: Of being useless or incompetent .  

Passion:  Avarice  

Unconscious Childhood Message:  It’s not okay to be comfortable in the world.

Lost Childhood Message: Your needs are not a problem. 

6) The Loyalist- They main motivator for a six is security, support, and stability. They are very hard working people and dependable.  At unhealthy levels, they can remain frozen and indecisive in fear.

Basic Desire:  To be secure.

Basic Fear: Being without support  or guidance.  

Passion:  Fear

 Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to trust yourself.

  Lost Childhood Message:  You are safe

7) Enthusiast- Enthusiasts are often full of energy, spontaneous, and fun-loving.  Sevens see the world as full of possibility and they can share this excitement with others.  When they are operating at unhealthy levels, they can get scattered, avoid connecting with their true feelings, and can seek instant gratification. 

Basic Desire:  To be happy     

Basic Fear:  Being deprived or trapped in pain. 

Passion:  Gluttony

 Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to depend on anyone for anything. 

Lost Childhood Message: You will be taken care of. 

8)  Challenger. At their best, they want to protect and lead. They are confident and decisive. Operating out of their ego and wounds, they can bulldoze others and be guarded with their feelings.

Basic Desire:  To protect oneself.

Basic Fear: Someone else controlling their life.  

Passion: Lust

Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to be too vulnerable or to trust anyone. 

Lost Childhood Message: You will not be betrayed.

 9)  The Peacemaker. Operating out of their True Self, they are optimistic, comforting, and natural healers. They are often friendly and can synthesize different schools of thought. At unhealthy levels,  they can be complacent, indecisive, and without opinion. 

 Basic Desire:    To be at peace.   

Basic Fear: Loss and separation.

Passion:  Sloth

Unconscious Childhood Message: It’s not okay to assert yourself

Lost Childhood Message: Your presence matters.

References and recommended material:

The Wisdom of the Enneagram.  Don Riso and Russ Hudson

The Path Between Us. Suzanne Stabile.

The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.  Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

The Enneagram in Love and Work. Helen Palmer

The Enneagram Institute (website)

Springtime, Seasons, and Kindness

6 more days until Spring!  I love the change of seasons because it reminds me of the steadfastness of the earth and the grandness of our globe.  With winter fading, there is the process of the earth coming out of hibernation and our call and ability to move forward in growth and change, trusting we are held and supported.  Seasons are an important, transitional time to take good care of ourselves. Here are a few tips to help bring in Springtime with some kindness and lightness.

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1) Breathe in for you, breathe out for others.  Breathe in for you, breathe out for others. Create balance through breath to regulate your body and to create equality in your thoughts.  Thinking about ourselves too much and being in our head can lead to depression and anxiety. If we can move outside ourselves to think about where we can be of service, who needs some kindness from us, and where our gifts, talents, and curiosities might bless others, we are moved beyond our own experience to belonging and being a part of something bigger. 

2) Treat yourself like the precious soul you are.  Be kind. Stay connected to what you are feeling and create space rather than compounding your feelings with questions and analyzing.  When we notice a feeling inside of us, we often meet it with a critical voice inside saying, “Why am I feeling this?”, “How long will it be there?”, “I bet no else feels this way.”  Feelings come and go and just want to move through us.   It makes it harder to let them move through us when we try and analyze them every time we feel them.  There’s something inside of us that wants to stay awake and conscious to what we feel, without numbing and without judgment. One of my favorite poems, Guesthouse, speaks to this idea.

3) Eat real, whole foods and drink lots of water.  Make it about the nutritionally dense foods that are best for you and fill your meals as much as you can with these.  Stay away from words like “cheat, good/bad, and allow.”  These words in connection with food can be self-shaming and actually make us feel powerless over something (food) that was never intended to have that much power. 

4) Know what grounds you.  Create a grounding stone or crystal to keep in your pocket.  Buy yourself a bracelet to wear that reminds you of the work you’ve done to become who you are.  

5) Buy yourself some flowers or plants. I like to have fresh flowers in the house regularly.  Right now with spring unfolding it’s the perfect time to bring in some yellow, pink, or white flowers to remind you of the warmth and color that is to come. 

6) What gear are you in? Often when we are going through growing pains or change, we shift into high gear.  We do this without even thinking.  Take some time to check in and regulate your breathing, visualize stress leaving your body, and allow your shoulders to drop lower than they have all day. 

7) Play to learn a new skill, or just play for playing sake. ”Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain - unless it is done with play, in which case it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions!” (Dr. Karyn Purvis).  Changing the way we do things is good for the brain, and bringing play into the picture makes it that much more fun. Practice learning a new language while you ride you bike or kick a soccer ball while you memorize a poem or verse.

8) Move your body to shift an emotion. Dance, run your hands under water, twist at your waist, stand on your head. Physically changing what our body is doing and drawing it to experiencing something new can move an emotion out of our body. 

9) Continue to befriend yourself in your goals.  Our desire for growth (change) and our desire for stability are always at work within us. These operate simultaneously which explains why change is so hard.  Recognizing these forces at work within us can help us to understand our nature and to be mindful of having kindness and patience in the change process. 

Widening our View

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Depression and anxiety increase when we operate out of a narrative that we are alone. When we widen our vision to notice those around us, to the galaxies, to the animals, to life ever-expanding, it can help. It can help to move us away from the narrow, rigid tunnel of fear and hopelessness back to a place of belonging, connection, curiosity, and dreaming again.

The Guest House

One of my favorite poems by Rumi on practicing mindfulness as feelings come and go. Due to old patterns of coping, we can often be in a constant state of analyzing feelings rather than creating space, curiosity, wisdom, and kindness for them as they move through us.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Superfood Tonics

I love sitting as close as possible to a fireplace. In the comfiest clothes, with the warmest drinks. I run cold naturally so this is my stay-warm plan for the winter. Throw a knitting or macrame project in there, and I’ll be set for the day.

One of my favorite drinks to have as part of this stay-warm (and stay healthy!) plan is a superfood tonic. This is a warm drink filled to the brim with nutritional foods. Think super nutrient dense hot chocolate or healing green tea matcha latte. The ingredients can include a mix of superfoods, adaptogens, and supplements. They can be mixed on the stove, with a frother, or in the blender. The possibilities for flavors are endless. You can add caffeine or leave it out, you can adjust the flavors to your liking, and you can drink them all day long.

What is a superfood? There is really no criteria for determining what is and what isn’t a superfood. A superfood is good for your health because it is nutritionally dense. Superfoods are also rich in phytochemicals, which are known to have disease-fighting properties.

What is an adaptogen? An adaptogen is a natural substance found in foods. It helps the body “adapt” to stressors and helps to normalize body systems and functions.

What are supplements? According to dietary-supplements.org, “Supplements …describe a broad and diverse category of products that you eat or drink to support good health and supplement the diet.”

What are some ingredient ideas to include in my tonic?

Cacao powder (for chocolaty taste)

Dandy Blend (tastes like coffee). This is a great ingredient for people who like the taste of coffee but who don’t like the effects of the caffeine.

Spices: cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, ginger. There are endless benefits in spices for mental and physical health and in boosting health and beating disease.

Maca (a little goes a long way): hormone and mood balance, blood circulation, decrease stress, and improve memory.

Any powdered mushroom (chaga, reishi, ashwagandha, lions mane). These mushrooms help fight inflammation, lower cholesterol, and support the immune system.

Tea. The benefits of green tea are a long list, including the amino acid L-theanine which can help you relax while giving you energy. Other teas are yerbe mate or matcha. These have health benefits as well as add a little lift.

Milk. My favorites are coconut, oat, and flax milk.

Sweeter as needed (agave, honey, stevia)

Coconut oil. This can make the drink more creamy.

Add your choice of ingredients into a pot over the stove and warm. Play around with taste testing-check for salty, sweet, and spicy balance. Once this is incorporated over the stove, drink as it is or put it in a blender and enjoy!

Where do I buy the ingredients? Most ingredients can be found at you local grocery store. Other specialty items can be found on Amazon, your local co-op, or Mountain Rose Herbs.

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FAQ's

When people hear I’m a mental health therapist, I get mixed responses.  Some people ask if I’m analyzing them right then and there (which always makes me giggle) and others give a positive or negative story about a therapist they once saw.  I often get some questions too, so I thought I’d compile a list of these questions so you can get to know me better, as well as learn what I do.  

How did you decide to name your business Sarah Fleming Creativity and Healing?

I believe we are all wired differently. Therefore, the way we heal from our past, respond to our present, and relate to our future looks different for everyone.  For some people, talk therapy suffices as a way to make shifts in these views and create emotional regulation.   For others, I like to offer more creative approaches, such as art or music therapy.  I also like to help people establish hobbies that allow them to use their hands, get into a mindful zone, and end with a finished product.  Engaging in writing, cooking, volunteering at a local pet shelter, or anything that causes them to slow down, get outside their head, and notice the world around then, can aide in the healing process as well. I like to provide space to discuss these options, especially as they lead to a sense of well-being and fulfillment. 

Do you interpret dreams?

I don’t interpret dreams but I do help clients explore the feelings they experienced during the dream.  The feelings can often point to something in their subconscious that they might not be allowing themselves to feel during the waking hours. 

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What do people come in to see you for? 

I treat people mainly for anxiety, depression, transitions (new student, new mom, divorce, etc), grief, relationship issues, disordered eating, and wholistic health. I also offer EFT Tapping for those who are interested, which can help with phobias/anxieties, trauma, pain relief, and weight loss.  More on that here. I also provide life coaching which involves establishing a vision for the future, looking at self-defeating patterns that get in the way of that vision, and setting self up for success on a daily basis. 

Do you like working for yourself? 

Big Yes! I had early signs of entrepreneurship including starting a baby-sitters club at the age of 11 (I made myself president of course:) and always going door-to-door selling something I believed in. I’ve also had a photography business and sold macrame plant-hangers. I’ve always been self-motivated when it came to learning new things, reading, and research. It was not until working for a number of agencies that I felt powerless and frustrated when change wasn’t happening around me that it finally occurred that I could be my own boss and create an environment that aligned with my values. After that moment, there was not much deliberation. I put in my two weeks at my current job, found an office, hung my shingle, and decided I was never looking back!

Do you use personality tests? 

There are some good and helpful ones out there, but the only personality test I’ve used consistently is called the Enneagram. I’ve been studying it for over 20 years and I find it’s really helpful in pointing to what motivates us and clarifying what is ego-driven versus what is authentically heart-driven. 

How long have you had your own practice?

I’ve been in private practice for over 6 years and I’ve been working in the social work field for 15 years in different capacities. I’ve worked in group private practices, schools, jails, homes, medical clinics, shelters, and an addiction rehab facility. 

What happens in a therapy session?

I do my best to hold space for people and meet them where they are in that particular day and moment.  I offer feedback, gentle challenges, and do a lot of educating, and I always let my clients be in the driver’s seat.  

What’s one thing you want all your clients to know?

They have all the answers inside and within reach.  They truly do.  I want to act as a space-holder, question-prompter, and educator who encourages them to come to those answers from the inside out. 

What are your favorite resources and/or books?

I’m always a fan of anything by Cloud and Townsend, in particular Boundaries, Necessary Endings, and How to Have That Difficult Conversation.  I'm also a fan of Waking the Tiger (Levine) and The Emotional Eater's Repair Manual (Simon). Right now I’m reading Anatomy of the Soul (Thompson) which was recommended to me by a psychiatrist friend. It’s about the connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices, rooted in a lot of Daniel Siegel’s work in the field of interpersonal neurobiology.

How do you not take work home with you/sustain yourself as a therapist?

Self-care and a great support system. I have people in my life who are able to speak truth and call me to set my own boundaries between personal and professional realms.  I've also had some great therapists, spiritual directors, and coaches who have helped me establish that balance. 

What's your favorite thing about being a therapist?

Maya Angelou said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” I get to help people tell their story and connect to a new narrative about themselves and how they relate to the world.   I get the opportunity to never be bored or unfulfilled at the end of my day, and I continue to bear witness to the power held within the human spirit to be transformed and restored.

10 Self-Care Practices

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Self-care involves taking intentional steps in our lives to create balance and harmony. It means being aware of what we need and seeking it out. It's taking radical responsibility and saying yes to self-nurturing and kindness. Self-care is not only for personal transformation and restoration. It also fills our love and energy tanks so we have more to give in our relationships.

1) Schedule resets.

Resets are times we take throughout our life to check in with our needs and then meet them. They keep us connected with what our body is telling us and our mind from reaching burnout. It’s important to have small resets during the day (5-15 minutes long), medium resets during the weekends or days off (lasting 2-4 hours), and large resets (lasting a day or more). Some examples:

Small resets: sip some tea, go for a quick walk, do some.                                                       Medium resets: Hike, nap, read, unplug from technology, get a massage, engage in your hobby            Large resets: Road trip, day at the spa, vacation.

2) Bookend your days with consistency.  Routines help us feel grounded and create a sense of safety and predictably at home.

3) Gratitude is the highest energy state. We are the most inspired, motivated, and happy in this mode.  It keeps us operating out of an abundance mentality (I have all that I need to move forward and be satisfied) versus a scarcity mentality (there’s not enough success/love/opportunity/money/creativity/etc for me).  Keep a gratitude journal or wall somewhere in your home.  Add to and look at it daily.

4) Get up earlier.  Give yourself the gift of waking up slowly and filling up mentally and physically before the rest of the house is awake.  Use this time to plan, meditate, write, do yoga, or go for a walk.

5)  Move away from a dieting mindset and shift to a gentler mindset that might work better when it comes to the way you relate to food. Try out some new mantras including,“I fill my body with nutrient-dense foods,” “I eat slowly and mindfully,” and “I can depend on myself to eat when I’m truly hungry and stop when I’m satiated.”  Speak these over yourself until they become true.

6)  Protect your time for sleeping. Create a consistent bedtime routine for yourself each night and put yourself “to bed” as you would do for a small child.  Lower the lights, drink something warm, turn off electronics, and do some stretching. Read something that doesn’t take much thinking.  These are all queues that your mind and body are looking for in order to settle in and rest.

7)  Be intentional about creating a social support network that nurtures true relational connection. Surround yourself with people you can ask for help from at any time and who you can be your most authentic, vulnerable self.

8) Be aware of how food and drinks affect you, in particular alcohol, coffee, and sugar.  Sugar can spike moods due to the rise in blood sugar levels and it’s often followed by a crash that can mimic depressive symptoms. Sugar also interacts with the neurotransmitter serotonin which controls and stabilizes our mood.  Be vigilant of caffeine if you have a propensity toward anxiety or if you have trouble sleeping, as it can stay in our system for 12-24 hours.  Caffeine overuse can also lead to adrenal fatigue, which creates a cycle of dependence on caffeine.

9)  Explore faith and spirituality. Be open to exploring and asking questions about the great mysteries of life.  Many people have suffered hurt by being a part of a church in their past. Explore the idea of what forgiveness of these wounds could mean for your life.   Church communities can be an impactful part of our support system and prayer can lead to answers and connection we might not otherwise have. 

10) Move your body. Research shows exercise can be just as effective as antidepressants. Exercise  releases stress our body wasn't designed to carry and facilitates deep breathing that calms our brain and vagus nerve.  Exercise also gives us energy, with the paradox of expending energy to create energy. 

 

Happy Spaces

The great people at @circacville keep my office and home well-furnished🙏New drink cart and coffee table (and flowers from my sweet husband) in my waiting room. ☺️ Love spaces that make me happy.🌺

 

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