SECRETS OF A SOCIAL WORKER

Find peace.Find happiness.Find yourself

Category: Self Development (page 1 of 11)

Running on Empty

Have you ever been afraid of stopping because you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to get back up?
Yeah, me too. It’s called distraction, anxiety, fear, avoidance, whatever it is that you are scared to face if you just stop…To stop means to rest, and when we rest we are flooded with the thoughts and responsibilities that we put on the back burner. And once we recognize the thoughts and responsibilities we avoid, we then know we have to either do something about them or let it eat up space in our brains. The busyness allows us to excuse the need to make changes. And conversely, because we are constantly on the go, there is a fear that we may enjoy the stopping and are unsure how to pick back up again once we allow ourselves to come down from all the chaos. We fear enjoying the breather, because what happens when we have to pick back up again and be who everyone expects us to? It can feel terrifying to allow ourselves to be relaxed and happy when we think it is temporary.
COVID has exacerbated this process as it has forced us to stop, which I think is part of the reason we are seeing an increase in people’s deterioration of mental health, and/or breakthroughs and realizations.  COVID has forced us to pause parts of our lives and face the reality of why we kept running on empty for so long…

We have to start seeing our reality for what it is. There is no magic wand that will make what is not working start miraculously working. When we constantly run, we think we are outrunning our reality when we are really just avoiding and prolonging the inevitable. The inevitable may be coming to terms with fears of being alone, or starting over, not yet finding our purpose, knowing we need to stand up for ourselves, or not being happy with our current situation. The inevitable may also be needing to leave a job or a relationship, telling someone no, hurting someone’s feelings, making a decision that impacts others…The list goes on and on.

Recognize and appreciate hopelessness. I know this sounds silly, but once we are honest with ourselves and realize something is hopeless, we start to make changes because we know we have to. We can start becoming the person we know we are and strive to be…Once we release what is hopeless, we can put our focus on what is important now. Do not miss out on current potential because you’re avoiding change and holding onto what is hopeless.

Find balance. This is hard to do. People like to talk about self care as some fluffy term for drinking wine and taking baths. In reality, self care is discipline and coming to terms with your own sh*t. It is creating a work/life balance, and putting your needs first sometimes. It is having honest conversations with yourself, spending time alone with your thoughts, and then dealing with whatever it is you find.
You have to enjoy your life and the fluffy things, but you also need to hold yourself accountable, set boundaries, and take care of your body. Do not underestimate the power of proper exercise, diet, water intake, and sleep.
One exercise I recommend is “what is on your plate”. Draw a big circle and inside of it write down everything that is currently on your plate. On the outside of the plate, write down all of the things you want on your plate that you do not make time for. Then try to figure out how to rearrange it all…What are things you can take off your plate whether letting them go or delegating to someone else? What can you replace those things with that you want on your plate, such as more alone time, going to the gym, picking up a hobby, or focusing on an important relationship you’ve neglected? Just see what little things you can start to incorporate while simultaneously removing some of those hopeless responsibilities or random tasks that someone else can take on.

There are a lot of answers held within our bodies. Aches and pains and constant problem areas are usually telling us to pay attention to our somatic symptoms, as our emotional state directly correlates with our bodies. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, and body aches/pains and sensations are all connected; they all have influence over each other. The self care piece of this is to take time to do a body scan, discover and pay attention to problem areas, and then work through them. For example, lately I have had several headaches and stomach cramps. I know this is directly related to feeling frustrated and stressed, as I have come to realize that I clench my jaw when I am overwhelmed with things that frustrate me and cause me to feel stuck. Clenching my jaw gives me a headache which is my indicator that I am overwhelmed and distracted with intrusive thoughts. These thoughts give me stomach cramps because they make me anxious.
Moral of the story; do not ignore your body and simply accept the aches/pains, because it is truly trying to tell you something. Also, pay attention to when your body feels relieved and relaxed, and incorporate more of what causes those positive sensations into your life.

Communication with someone you trust is key. There is nothing more revitalizing than staying connected to others. Tell people how you feel, and use your support system when you need it. When we run on empty, typically the relationships we want the most suffer because we prioritize work and life stressors over them, thus becoming additionally stressed because we know we are neglecting those people. Do not let yourself lose those that mean the most to you because you prioritize the things that overwhelm you. Even if all you have time for that day is a phone call while driving to/from the gym or for five minutes before bed, find time for the people who make you feel good.
Also be sure you are choosing positive connections for communication. If we reach out to someone who is typically negative or toxic, this will not help uplift us when we are overwhelmed. Find people who are a positive impact on you, hold you accountable, are trustworthy, and support your life.

Silence is eye opening. I have said it before and I will say it again, add more silence to your life! We use noise as a filler to further distract ourselves when running on empty. Drive to/from work in silence, turn off the tv when you aren’t watching it, don’t listen to music when you shower…add in small bits of silence every day. This is when we can start to come to terms with what is draining us, what we are avoiding, what we are missing out on, and what it is we want for our lives. This is also where we get to know ourselves, and ensure we are checking in to put our happiness and goals at the forefront of our decisions. And doesn’t that sound nice?

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom…The power to chose, to respond, to change.” 

-keep shining

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Shame.

One of the worst moments of my life was winning the grand and oh-so-important title of Homecoming Queen. I know this sounds ridiculous, however there are two main reasons why this day sucked so royally…For starters, I had no idea until that moment how truly mean people could be. Even friends that I was used to having in my corner were not, and I was blindsided by this. It was a time in my life of being very hurt, confused, and emotionally drained. I knew back then that homecoming was not something people remembered or that even mattered after high school. And frankly, I did not care whether or not I ‘won’ anything like that. But winning was the best thing that could have happened to me, because experiencing this kind of hate made me realize how important friendship is. I recall telling myself that I would never make anyone feel the way I felt. I decided in that moment if I am anything in this life, it’s that I will be remembered as a damn good friend.
The second reason this day sucked was because people I was not close with at all or spoke to much were the ones that were there for me. I was so grateful for them, but immediately felt an intense amount of guilt for not noticing or spending more time with these people throughout high school. That guilt has carried into adulthood, and I sometimes find that the guilt starts trickling into the most damaging feeling of all; Shame.

One thing we know about guilt is that it co-exists with shame. I still have small, random moments of feeling shame over that experience in my life. My thoughts go something like this, “what kind of person was I that I did not thank them more for being so nice, or that I didn’t spend time with them? I wonder what type of person they think I am. Did I hurt their feelings? Did they regret being so nice to me?” …Isn’t this absolutely ridiculous? The shame I still hold onto for something so small and irrelevant upsets me.

We all do this. We feel badly for so many things we did or did not do, or messed up, or regret (guilt), and then start to allow that guilt to define the type of person that we are (shame). Guilt is the feelings associated with I did something bad (the behavior), whereas shame is the thought that I am bad (self worth). Often times our guilt turns into shame…But it is so important to separate our behavior from who we are as a person.

It’s also important to understand that guilt is how we feel we have affected others, whereas shame relates directly with our feelings/beliefs about ourselves. Guilt is where we feel responsible for something we did, and shame is the painful awareness we are flooded with when we feel we are ‘improper’ or are now damaged in some way. The feelings we get from chalking ourselves up to being ‘damaged’ can be so overpowering and painful that it fogs our ability to further develop our sense of purpose, confidence, and worthiness. Once we move past the healthy feelings of guilt (empathy and recognizing that we feel badly for hurting someone) and into this feeling of being less-than (shame) is when we stunt our ability to grow. It’s when we listen to the internal beliefs we have about ourselves…The little voice that says, “I knew you couldn’t do it”, “I knew you’d fail”, or, “no one will ever love you”.

I am surrounded by shame, not only because as a female it’s unfortunately such a societal norm to feel shame, but also working with victims who are often blamed for the abuse they have experienced…Being told countless times by society that they had a choice or ‘asked’ for it, or are questioned for their decisions. Through these victims, I continually see how much shame interferes with personal growth. It is devastating to watch shame take over someone’s whole being and sense of self, and cause them to continually face the downward spiral of self hate. This is where people feel unworthy, self-loathing, and a sense of not belonging. There is nothing productive about shame because it’s where we become self destructive, careless, and defeated.

Take-Aways:

  • It is so important to separate person from behavior. Labels lead to developing a sense of shame.
  • Surround yourself with people who do not judge, blame, or label.
  • Tell yourself you love yourself, daily, and why. If this is hard or awkward for you, I would challenge you to have an honest conversation with yourself and unpack that. Find where the why is and start to explore reasons to love who you are and what you bring to the table.
  • Be more aware of positive/negative self talk. When you mess up, do you say, “I should not have done that”(guilt), or, “I am not a good person” (shame)? Focus on your behavior and how to change/learn from that, but you do not need to correlate that with the kind of person you are.
  • Think about all of your positive qualities, and then think of your flaws. If it’s uncomfortable or difficult to think of your positive traits, and/or your flaws list is larger and easier to talk about, work on changing that. Life is too short not to love who you are and celebrate that each and every day.
  • Talk about it. We cheer on people around us when they are vulnerable, yet we don’t want to do it ourselves. It feels scary, foreign, or like people will judge us. But talking about it helps us recognize and work through it, gives the shame less power in our brains, and provides some relief. We continue to go down the rabbit hole in our heads when we stay silent.
  • Accept that you are going to mess up, hurt people, embarrass yourself…These are normal experiences and we will never outrun them.
  • Learn what your triggers are…What are some environments where that little voice likes to chime in? Prepare yourself for this and be vigilant about identifying the feeling before it expands.
  • Quit apologizing for everything. We say sorry for being who we are, or for things we have no control over. Focus on and work towards letting go of this habit.
  • Do not give shame space in your head. You are lovely, just the way you are, but the key is that you believe it too.

Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change~

-keep shining

Blogs about guilt:
Guilty Conscious
Free Yourself From Guilt
Color Outside The Lines

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When you love yourself…

  • You smile more often
  • Your taste in people will change
  • You say no
  • You do not listen to outside opinions
  • Your confidence is your best friend
  • Your success matters more than how much you weigh
  • You are less stressed
  • You focus on your purpose
  • You understand your passions
  • You see the world through a positive lens
  • You are less judgmental
  • You gain self awareness
  • You leave toxic relationships behind
  • You are grateful for the little things
  • You trust the process
  • You do not let the expectations of others define you
  • You put yourself first
  • Your mindset evolves
  • Your values and goals begin to change
  • You are able to be vulnerable
  • You set boundaries
  • Your self care becomes a priority
  • You see yourself for you who are
  • You seek more opportunities
  • You learn to accept helpful criticism and apply it
  • You prioritize the health of your body and soul
  • You love unconditionally
  • You are living

-keep shining
(Click here to learn how to celebrate yourself)

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Treat Yo’ Self

When is the last time you celebrated yourself?
Told yourself that you’re proud?
Gave yourself a compliment?
Told someone about a recent success of yours?

We are pretty incredible, yet we always find ways to downplay our accomplishments, or find our flaws rather than focus on all we bring to this world.
Why are we embarrassed to celebrate ourselves? We practically despise recognizing our successes, or God forbid, talk about any of our skills or positive attributes. It makes us uncomfortable to put ourselves first when we should be recognizing how bad*ss we are.
You are unique. Your contributions, in whatever form they are, matter. You are worth celebrating. Therefore, treat yo’ self! Do not let yourself fall into the trap of believing that it’s not okay to talk about, celebrate, or recognize yourself. I think one of the biggest mistakes we make and one of the deepest pains we feel is when we deny our own positive attributes and accomplishments because we believe it is for the benefit of everyone else’s comfort. And that is simply not true. We are worth celebrating, and we must take some time to treat ourselves for all that we are.

Here are some ways I try to celebrate myself…

Affirmations
I know, this first one is super ‘social workey’, but it is true and is a hugely underutilized self care technique.
What do you want in your life, what do you desire, how do you want to feel, what do you want to believe to be true, and what do you want to remind yourself of every day? The answers to these questions can be found through daily affirmations. Write down a few goals you have for your life, what you want to see happen, and be specific. Or tell yourself a few things each day that make you feel good, proud, happy, sexy, successful…whatever it is you want to believe and remind yourself. Affirmations can simply be an acknowledgement of all the good that you are, and visualizations for what you’d like to see happen.
If this is challenging for you, just Google ‘affirmations’. There are many websites to help you understand and incorporate this into your every day life.

Give Yourself Permission
To do whatever it is you want. Take a break, say no, put yourself first, skip the gym, change plans…It’s going to be OKAY. Can’t we all just make it socially acceptable to give ourselves permission, and everyone else be understanding of that?! Cut yourself some slack, take a breather, and give yourself permission to look after you. This can also be giving yourself permission to love your body, forgive your mistakes, trust yourself, and let go of anything that no longer serves you.
Recite this sentence right now and see what comes to mind; I give myself permission to _________.
Doesn’t that feel GOOD?!

Allow Yourself To Give AND Receive
Yes, I know, how dare the thought come into my mind to tell you it’s okay to receive. How dare I suggest that we deserve to be complimented, to be given gifts, to be offered help. *GASPS*
Reread this sentence a few times…You are not taking away from anyone else by receiving. We can give and receive equally, and you accepting the giving side of others does not mean you’re selfish. In fact, by being open to receiving you are bettering yourself and those around you because you are more balanced. You must have both in your life to be the best you that you can be. Life will eat you alive if all you do is give to others.
We have all experienced relationships where someone would just take from us. We also have all experienced relationships where someone would refuse to ask for or receive help. These relationships are draining, and frankly annoying. Do not be this person (yes, I am talking to you, KAREN!), and also do not accept relationships that simply take from you. This is an area where you can give yourself permission to remove toxic relationships from your life.
Accept compliments, accept gifts, accept help, accept love. And also give because you enjoy it and it makes you feel good.

Take Opportunities
Guess what? You are worthy of all the opportunities that come your way; take them. You deserve it. Opportunities fall in your lap because they are absolutely meant to. And if you missed one, do not fret, there will always be more if you believe that you deserve them and open yourself up to experiences. By utilizing affirmations and finding balance, I can assure you opportunities will seem to start falling out of the sky. You are worthy of all the good that comes your way.

Celebrate Yourself
Yes, it’s okay to celebrate YOU. Sometimes it can be as little as buying your favorite coffee after you kicked a** at work, or simply because you feel you deserve a little self love and enjoyment of the little things in life…What are things you can do to remind yourself of how awesome you are? How can you celebrate yourself and make it a part of your routine?
This is different for everyone. It can be that coffee treat now and again, it can be to share your awesomeness with someone close to you, it can be to write it down, or it can be to share it widely on social media. The sky is the limit to how you celebrate your life, but always, ALWAYS, make time for this. If you do not acknowledge why you are here, then what is the point of living? You are here for a reason, celebrate that! Shout it from the rooftops if ya want, hunny!

Be Thankful
I know, this sounds obvious, but we overlook it often. If you find all the things going right each day, it brings about more abundance in your life. If you notice all the positivity that surrounds you, you’ll continually start to focus on all the good. Don’t you want to wake up and enjoy each day?
It is easy for us to point out and focus on the few setbacks we experience each day, and we always find something to complain about. If we focused half of that energy on seeing how 99% of our day is actually going well, we would be happier, plain and simple. It can be as little as finding a convenient parking spot, and taking a second to acknowledge how grateful we are. It can be to think about or write down 10 things we are thankful for today, and do this every morning or evening. It can be to smile at the thought of having your health, your family, a stable job, a lake home, an easy day at work, hitting all the green lights on your drive, receiving a compliment, eating a good meal, getting a good grade, receiving a gift…These are things that happen to us every day that we lose an opportunity to celebrate because we overlook. Amidst the chaos and tough times, there is so much to be thankful for!
(If you need some motivation and reminders, check out my Happy Things Thursday posts!)

Find Balance
Work is great because it provides us a sense of purpose and direction, but it is not the most important thing in our lives. If we have tunnel vision only looking towards the value of the dollar and our work ethic, we are missing out on what life is truly about. Our successes should just be a portion of life, as we are not here to work hard and die. It is upsetting to me to watch so many people going through life this way; wanting to work too hard now to play later in life. But what about the fact that we can have both, now and later on? We cannot give work all of our best effort if we do not stop to have fun and take a break once in a while. It is not good for our mental health as this is where we get bitter towards work. Do not let this happen…Not only do you start to burn out from your career, which you worked so hard to achieve, but you start losing interest in everything outside of work too. We start to hoard guilt over not working and being productive 24/7, and then feel anxious anytime we try to relax.
Repeat after me, it’s okay to waste time.
Say whaaa?! Yes, we can do nothing AND benefit from it. It restores us and gives us a brain break. We benefit from checking out from life, because it’s all about balance. Just like we need to give AND receive, we need to work AND play because this is when we can truly be our best selves. We cannot inhale without exhale; we need both to breathe. We cannot get to our destination if we don’t stop AND go; we need both to drive safely.

Life is incredible when we ease up, celebrate who we are, find purpose through our work, be grateful, accept kindness from others, and jump at new opportunities. Oh ya, and watch some Netflix and eat the damn donut…You know, treat yo’self.

When you celebrate yourself, you celebrate life~
-keep shining

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You might assume…

That you don’t matter much to this world. But someone wears that favorite sweater you gave to them.
Someone hears a song that reminds them of you, or quotes something you said. Someone watched the Netflix documentary you recommended.
Someone laughs when they remember the joke you told them.
Someone feels loved because of your encouraging words.
Someone gained a new hobby you taught them.
Someone came to you for advice.
Someone tried the recipe you recommended.
Even in the seemingly smallest moments, you have an impact that cannot be removed or forgotten. Within each moment of positivity you share, remember that you make a difference in this world.

-keep shining

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