Friday, December 31, 2010

Breaking Down Resolutions

Happy New Year! Time to change everything about yourself you’re not completely happy with…. but what if it that wasn’t the goal this year. Not that the new year isn’t a good time for self improvement, but what if you were to just pick one area to focus on. I’m suggesting narrowing that list of resolutions down to just one, and then making a list of smaller goals that will lead you to obtaining this resolution. Real change, growth, or development, take time and dedication. Also remember to reward your progress, and not get caught up in challenges or setbacks. Change is not always a linear process but with dedication there will be forward progress. Narrowing the focus of your resolution and creating goals to gauge your progress can help you obtain this years resolution, and not just added it to the list to try again at next year. Whatever change you want to see within yourself this year, have faith in yourself. You can do it!


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 Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as well as a Women's Body Image group on Tuesday afternoons. If you would like to learn more about the groups or Art Therapy in general, please call her at (773) 929-6262 x13.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reframing the Holidays

As a child, I never understood why everyone felt that the holidays were a stressful season. At that age, the holidays meant winter break from school, presents, and more time with friends and family. Now, as an adult, I understand why so many people feel stressed during the“most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes.

An annual event, my clients and I often discuss the holidays, their plans and expectations, as well as past experiences and memories from holiday gatherings. When talking about particular situations, I listen to the words each individual uses to describe the experience or expectation. More often than not, these words carry negative connotations. As a therapist, I often try to work with my clients to reframe such situations by using different words to describe the same situation. Reframing aims to provide a more positive perspective on a situation. Take, for instance, the statement, “I endure the holidays.” The word endure implies hardship and putting up with unpleasantness. I am not saying that people don't encounter unpleasant people or situations during the holidays, but if you approach a situation using different, more positive language, it can help shift your thoughts to be more positive. For example, “I managed the holidays” has an entirely different meaning than “I endured the holidays.” While “endure” implies toleration of the holidays, the word “manage” means to succeed in accomplishing, often despite difficulty or hardship, and gives the speaker more of a sense of power over stressful holiday situations. These small shifts in language help alter people's perspectives.

An example of shifting perspectives can be found in the opening scenes of the movie Love Actually, where friends, family, and lovers are seen reuniting at the airport during the holiday season. Viewers are shown the scenes that make them feel warm and happy, however, we all know that there are probably just as many disgruntled travelers who are bedraggled from missed or delayed flights, and who appear less than thrilled to be arriving into an airport terminal. Yet those negative aspects of holiday travel aren't highlighted in this movie. We can do the same for ourselves by choosing to identify and highlight the enjoyable parts of the holidays, such as catching up with old friends, and reframing negative aspects that come hand in hand with the holiday season, such as crowds when shopping.

Working to reframe experiences and expectations is not easy, however, using more positive language and choosing to think about what we do like about the holidays will lead to more optimistic thoughts and enhanced experiences in general, especially around the holidays.

Katie Anson, MA, LPC
Katie is bilingual (Spanish/English) and sees clients for individual therapy at The Awakening Center. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x23.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Creating Your Holiday

The holidays are full of expectations for everyone. We are expected to have a wonderful holiday with all of our family and friends. Usually this includes participating in many extra social activities, giving gifts and intense family interactions. Our internal expectations might tell us that we should be happy and enjoy everyone's company, or something is wrong with me that I'm not enjoying this.

What we don't stop to think about is the holiday activities we have are in addition to all of our normal daily activities. Our life doesn't stop for the holidays. We still have to work, or go to school, pay our bills and feed the dog. Usually, people end up feeling stressed and overextended. They cope by going into overdrive to do everything. But what if you did it differently this year? Instead of feeling overwhelmed, if you took some time to stop and be quiet and listen. Why not ask yourself what is most important to you this holiday? What would you like to see happen this holiday?

Maybe one of your goals is to take care of yourself this holiday. Then build in time for yourself to rest and take care of yourself. This may mean making arrangements with a friend to call each other if family gatherings get to be too much. Let them know ahead of time what your concerns and needs are and how they can best support you. Or maybe there is someone who has been supportive of you this last year that you want to acknowledge? What are meaningful ways you could connect with the important people in your life? Could you write them a note? Make a phone call to let them know how important they are to you? Or just think about what you would like to say to them. Maybe doing acts of service is something you'd like to try this year. How about making a list of all of the things you have to be grateful for this year?

Whatever you choose to do, make it about you and what your vision is for the holidays and not what others tell you it “should” be like.

Maureen McNichols Ed. S, LCPC is an intern at the Awakening Center and a co facilitator of the Tuesday night Eating Disorder Support group. She can be reached at (773) 929-6262 x.12