Sunday, October 31, 2010

Taking an Extra Minute

Recently I have dealt with situations that have instantly triggered the defensive part of me. While working on a project for school I faced less than glowing critiques of my work which engaged the part of me that wanted to bite back at this person's negative viewpoint. Instead of simply reacting though, I took a minute, cleared my head and thought about the situation objectively.

I have always been the type of person who just reacts, as many people do. I would get defensive and react without thinking about the actions I was taking. Seeing how this has affected my relationships and the particular situations where this has occurred, I realized how important it was to take that minute before reacting to the situation. While at points easier said than done, in a time when much communication is done electronically, I believe that many times it can be easier today to take a minute and think through what you are going to say. If that text or e-mail is not responded to within a minute, the world will not implode and chances are you may be able to respond in a much more level-headed way.

For me personally, taking this extra minute or so before reacting has been crucial. In the one event that I mentioned earlier, by taking time with my response I was able to draft a response in which I could articulate my opinions without attacking his. Also, I was able to feel confident about my response instead of worrying about damage control that would need to be done by responding in a defensive manner. At first the situation was something anger inducing and overall negative, but I was able to turn it around into a positive dialogue where all respectful opinions were allowed to be voiced.

Taking an extra minute can be applied to many situations, not just arguments. By taking an extra minute in the morning to gather your thoughts, you may leave the house with everything rather than rushing out and forgetting the one thing you needed for the day. At the end of the day, you can take a minute to reflect upon the day and how you are feeling. By giving yourself a moment to just calmly think and reflect, you can clear your mind and make better choices than by instantly reacting. Although time is a precious thing, slowing down and taking control of time can in the long run save the time that rushing into something erratically may waste.

I encourage you to take the extra minute. For me it has allowed me to avoid placing my foot in my mouth in many occasions and be more mindful of my words and actions.

Katie Infusino

Katie is a Bachelors level intern from DePaul at The Awakening Center. She co-leads the Tuesday night ANAD Support Group.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meeting Your Needs

Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to have needs, and what we do or don’t do to try and get our needs met. Beyond the basic requirements for survival, such as food and shelter, we have an inborn need for satisfying relationships and connection with others. What strikes me, however, is that we are often afraid to let these needs be known – as if we must be utterly self-sufficient or risk exposing some deficiency.

Women in particular tend to act as caretakers, but we often don’t know how to reach out when we feel alone or depleted. Perhaps we struggle with perfectionism – perhaps our families depended on us to “keep it together” – and asking for help now feels like weakness. Perhaps we have partners with whom we are locked in rigid communication patterns, where we desperately want to understand but somehow keep missing one another. Perhaps we’d like to tell someone that we really care about him/her but can’t for fear of rejection. The longing for authentic communication – to receive and be received as we are – is so strong that we hurt terribly when it somehow fails. So the needs are swallowed up, suppressed, tamed – at least momentarily.

It’s important to “check in” with ourselves from time to time. To get in touch with what we are feeling, to honor the truthfulness of what we’d like to say, rather than holding back or running away in fear. It seems to me that the disavowal of needs is at the heart of many an eating disorder. We’re hungry for something, though we may not be able to always identify it, or to even feel we deserve satisfaction and contentment.

As we transition from fall to winter – and to another holiday season with its joys and challenges – I hope that we can continue to be mindful of these needs and experiment with new ways of expressing them. Is the solution to simply ignore our desires and painful feelings and grimly “plow through”? Might it be worth the risk to approach an argument differently, to tell a loved one that we’ve been hurt, or to simply say “no” and create some quiet time for ourselves? Even subtle changes may affect our relationships and self-concepts in positive and surprising ways.

Luna Sung

Luna leads the GO! Generating Opportunities for Successful Employment group on Tuesday afternoons at The Awakening Center. This group is for those who are job hunting and who want a supportive group setting to stay motivated. Call Luna at (773) 929-6262 x12 for more info.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Taking Time To Enjoy Being Happy

I find there are times that I am so busy or stressed that when I look back on my week I can barely remember what had happened. If I can remember anything it is often the most negative events of my week. However, it's not that I had an absolutely horrible week, instead I just don’t take the time to focus on the positive moments. Thinking about this I realized this behavior is completely backwards. The good, enjoyable moments are the ones that lower the stress and give the body a much-needed chance to relax. They also help make the more difficult moments more manageable. Taking the time to pause and enjoy the good moments seems just as essential as resolving the negative. While it is something I still have to put effort into remembering to do, I can feel the positive effects this practice is having in my life. I encourage everyone to take some time each week to slow down during the good times, and to take the time to reflect and just enjoy. After all, what’s wrong with being happy?

Kira Redig
Kira is a master’s level practicum intern from The Adler School of Professional Psychology. She currently leads an Art Therapy group on Thursday evenings. If you would like to learn more about the group or Art Therapy in general, please call her at (773) 929-6262 x13.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Life's Career Decisions

I was at a college campus last week for a wellness fair with Erin Diedling, MEd, another therapist from the Awakening Center. We were talking to the students about all the different groups, workshops and counseling options that are available at the Awakening Center for students. While we were talking to the students we would ask them what they were studying. Many students talked about how they had changed their major several times and still weren't sure what they wanted to study. Some said they liked one course and then decided to major in it. You could see the uncertainty and anxiety in their faces.
Only one student talked about how she had decided on her unique career choice after a lot of time and hard work deciding on it. I started to think about how so many young people end up making career choices that aren't right for them. They end up 5, 10 or 20 years down the road finally “waking” up and realizing how unhappy they are in their careers.

How so little time is spent on one of life's major decisions that would have such an impact on the quality of their lives. They end up making choices based on one part of themselves. I want to live in a great house so I'll be a doctor. Or I have to get my parent's approval because they are paying for college. Or this major is easy and I'll get good grades. Or I'll do this because there are always jobs in this.

One of the most important decisions of their lives could be based on just one belief. Kind of like throwing a dart at a dartboard and hoping you'll get a bullseye. How many wrong paths and how much unhappiness could be avoided if they were given the opportunity (and took it) to make the decision from a place of self-understanding. If they spent time with someone who could listen to them with no agenda and help them sort through what their true passions and natural abilities are. Help them find out who they really are hidden underneath the expectations and beliefs of others. Someone who could help support them as they started to move forward towards their passion. What a difference that could make in their lives early on. How much frustration and unhappiness would be avoided from wrong career choices by taking the time early on to get to know yourself and make your career choices from a place of self understanding?

Maureen McNichols, LCPC is a therapist in training at the Awakening Center who is one of those who “woke up” and is now pursuing a career she loves! She co-leads the Tuesday evening ANAD Eating Disorder Support Group at 7-8:30pm. Contact her at (773) 929-6262 x12.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Developing a Stronger Sense of Self

Where is your favorite place in your home? What is your favorite restaurant? What is your favorite activity to do outside? What about inside? Where is your preferred vacation destination? What is one of your favorite meals? What is your favorite movie? What about your least favorites of all of the aforementioned?
In order to answer these and other similar questions, you need to know yourself and be able to identify what you like and what you don’t like. How do you figure these things out? Many people, myself included, are experiential learners. You learn by doing and experiencing things first hand – visit the place, watch the show, taste the food, participate in the activity. Learning by doing can be unnerving. It’s scary to try something new. The lack of familiarity and the uncertainty of the outcome can be a strong deterrent.
When I first started stepping out of my comfort zone, I felt uneasy and extremely nervous. I over-thought these novel situations and wondered what other people thought of me when they saw me. I felt incredibly self-conscious. However, during each of these experiences I learned something about myself. Despite my discomfort, I knew I was benefiting because I was developing a stronger sense of self, and although I sometimes didn’t feel up for it, I continued to push myself beyond my comfort zone, which was slowly expanding.
Change often occurs when trying something new, and as a result, experiential learning often generates change in some way. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone brings the challenge of adjusting to change, which can seem daunting. Nevertheless, with repetitive practice, your comfort zone gradually expands, bolstering self-awareness, as well as a concrete sense of self.
It’s completely normal to feel uncertain and to lack self-confidence. I encourage you to build a stronger sense of self by stepping outside of your comfort zone to try new things. Luckily, the word try doesn’t mean permanent, but is defined as more of a test, to examine something such as a situation or yourself. Although I still sometimes feel nervous when trying new things, I’m not nearly as timid as before. Consequently, I’m able to confidently convey my likes and dislikes, and if I am unsure of my response, I realize that I just have some more self-exploration to do.
Katie Anson, MA, LPC
Katie is Spanish-English bilinqual and sees clients for individual therapy at The Awakening Center. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x 23.