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Tell Me-How to Take the Stress Out of Resolutions
By Debbie Tudor, LPC-Supervisor
Rockwall Counseling, PA/Remote Counseling for YOU!
We now enter the coldest, darkest time of year.
When we have just finished overspending, overeating, and generally over-exhausting ourselves.
The time when we have just sent the family on their way and may still be reeling from the tart comments or out-and- out family feuds.
And what do we do? Do we rest? Relax? Clean up the mess? Congratulate ourselves on surviving?
Let’s explore some questions asked by my clients about this topic.
Can I Wait to Do This?
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, you may be wise to do so, particularly if you struggle with winter’s short days and lack of sunshine. A mental health condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder causes some people to notice an increased tendency during the winter months to oversleep and overeat, as well as feel lethargic and depressed. S.A.D. generally requires treatment by a professional. If you suffer from these symptoms, postpone the pressure of resolution setting until spring, when the days lengthen and you feel more energy. This may not be the time to attempt new endeavors!
I Set Resolutions Anyway, But I Keep Failing…
As a counselor, if I see a client repeatedly fail to reach their goals, I know that those goals are too high. This is confirmed by Pauline Gidney, a personal trainer who tells me that people tend to set weight loss goals that are unrealistic in scope and attainability and then wonder why they fail. The idea here is to make your goals SMALL (“journal 1 more time than I did last week”), CONTROLLABLE (I CAN control whether I work out; I CAN’T control whether I lose weight this week), and POSITIVE.
The Mind Ignores the Negative…
Many people understand that it is useful to write a goal down and reread it on a regular basis, called Affirmation Writing. Fewer are aware of the importance of wording that goal in a positive framework, as the subconscious does not process negatives. Therefore, the resolution worded “I will be less shy” becomes “I will be-shy.” Try framing your resolution in the positive, such as “I will smile at one new person today.” My favorite one to give clients who are trying to become healthier by weight management is “I love and accept my body.”
“Love (your neighbor as) YOURSELF…”
Finally, the attitude you take toward yourself as far as patience and forgiveness in the area of change helps determine whether you will succeed or not. A negative, punishing, severe resolution (“I will never eat carbs again”) is destined for failure, because ultimately the body will not thrive on self-hatred. If you wouldn’t call your friend “stupid” or “lazy” for not working out, why is it somehow OK to say that to the mirror? Negativity breeds giving up, and giving up is the only true “failure” in life. If this seems foreign to you, get counseling for low self esteem, depression or anxiety.
So as you set small, positive, and affirming resolutions, remember the PURPOSE of a resolution-to make your life better. Not to punish yourself. Not to focus on your perceived flaws. But to gently, patiently love yourself into a better life.
Focusing on our ACCOMPLISHMENTS instead of our failings will get us further in life!
Gaslighting refers to a person’s attempt to deny reality long enough to wear you down until you believe them.
Debbie Tudor, WIEBGE Certified Therapist
How to Test Your Anxious Thoughts
“How we see it is how it will be.” (Anonymous)
We most often suffer more from what we FEAR than what actually HAPPENS, so it’s important for you to learn how to evaluate what you are thinking. Things always look less fearful when we face them head on vs. running or distracting ourselves into TV, alcohol, food, or work.
Spend some time in your journal with your anxious thoughts, asking yourself these questions:*
What is the situation that I’m anxious, stressed or worried about?
- What am I THINKING or IMAGINING?
- How much do I believe that thought? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage
- How does that thought MAKE ME FEEL? (assign a feeling)
- How STRONG is that feeling? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage
- What makes me think the thought is true?
- What makes me think the thought is NOT true or not COMPLETELY true?
- What’s another way to look at this situation?
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- Could I still live through that?
- What’s the BEST that could happen?
- What will PROBABLY happen?
- What WILL happen if I keep telling myself the same thought?
- What COULD happen if I changed or challenged my thinking?
- What would I tell my friend _________________ if this happened to him/her?
- What should I do now?
- How much do I believe that negative thought now? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage
- How strong is my negative FEELING now? A little? A lot? Or give a percentage.
Remember: you are not alone! I am here for you to evaluate and explore these fears and help you learn new ways of thinking and seeing your life.
*from the work of J.S. Beck
What Therapy Stage Are You In?
THERAPY STAGE – SURVIVAL:
Virtually all counseling clients start at this level. You are in crisis, at a low point, depressed or anxious. My focus here is an immediate and practical prescription for helping you regain hope and basic functioning. This most often includes health issues such as exercise and rest, as well as releasing pain out of the body by relaxation and journaling.
THERAPY STAGE – RECOVERY:
At this stage you move on to the relationships around you as a focus for change. You are ready to see how you help create the painful patterns in your own life, and you go out into the world as a scientist, observing your patterns with others. You begin to see how you contribute to your own problems by the thinking habits you’ve formed.
THERAPY STAGE – PROGRESS:
Too many clients leave therapy at this stage. The pain is eased—why go deeper? The problem with stopping here is that the fundamental issues and reactions have not been changed yet. It’s like stopping an antibiotic on the second day because you feel better—the basic “infection” has not been eradicated, and will resurface in time.
THERAPY STAGE – PLEASURE:
A client who “stays the course” to this stage begins to reap the deeply satisfying rewards of enjoyment and contentment in life. Persistent body aches, migraines, rashes and recurring illnesses often ease or disappear entirely as the client ceases to be at war within and therefore has the energy to heal.
THERAPY STAGE – AWARENESS:
Once the bothersome thinking patterns are uncovered and corrected, the client has found peace in their personal boundaries and dealings with others. The “coaching” side of my work now begins. I help the client explore what they want their legacy to be in life, how to live with integrity regardless of circumstance, and dream for the future by exploring goals.