Category: Self Help

Dealing With Mother Guilt

mother-guiltGuilt.  It seems to follow every mother from the moment her child is born.  It’s as if having a child means changing your middle name to “Guilt.”  It’s hard to shake and if you’re not careful it can lurk around and follow your every decision.  “Did they get enough fruits and veggies today?” “Maybe they had trouble sleeping because I didn’t let them have enough outside play time.”  “Should I work or stay home – either way I’ll feel guilty.”  “I could really use some time to myself, but I feel guilty spending the money and taking time away from being with my child.”  “Am I making the right decision about what school they should go to?”  “I need to check these emails, but that means not spending time with her.” “Am I really present enough?”  Any of these resonate with you?
Societal expectations for women largely contribute to the almost universal feeling of mother guilt.  It’s as though somewhere along the way we were presented with a mental image of the ideal mother, but somehow we’re never quite able to measure up to her.  While a little guilt can be good (because it shows that we love and care and want to grow and be good in our role), too much can weigh us down.  At some point, we have to come to the realization that we’re not perfect.  Cut ourselves a little slack and take comfort in the fact that we’re doing the best we can.  Hard as it is we have to stop comparing ourselves to other mothers (real and fictional) because the reality is we don’t fully understand their circumstances and it’s just not fair to do it to ourselves.
Often times the underlying fear is that some decision we make will have critical lasting impact on our child.  Sometimes it feels as though there’s one “right” choice and if we choose the wrong one our child will forever be negatively affected by it and will never be as well adjusted.  We have to give ourselves a break!  Try to remember a happy mother makes a better mother.  So releasing some of that guilt and pressure will not only benefit you – it will benefit your kids!  Develop a mantra if you need to such as, “I love my kids. I’m doing all that I can.”  When the guilt starts to set in remind yourself of that.  At the end of the day give yourself credit for working hard to provide a safe and loving home for your child.  And then remind yourself that sometimes that’s good enough!
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The Therapeutic Power of Journaling

What comes to mind when you hear the word “therapy”? Perhaps you visualize a person lying on a couch or sitting behind a desk talking to a therapist.  This is often the case.  However, therapy comes in many different forms.  Art, music, and play can all be powerful therapeutic tools that help individuals reach their goals.  Writing can also be very therapeutic.  By using a journal many people feel they can open up about their most challenging inward material.  Its reflective nature allows us to begin to see ourselves more clearly and come to a better understanding of who we are and what we’ve been through. Studies even suggest there are physical, in addition to emotional, benefits to writing in a journal.  Therapists often incorporate journal exercises as starting points for sessions or as “homework” throughout the week.  Perhaps you’ll make a list of specific goals.  Or maybe you’ll write a very honest letter with no intention of ever sending it.  Maybe you’ll be asked to do a reflective retelling of a specific memory.  Whatever the case journals can help bring to light the words that are most difficult to say.  This can be true for a variety of circumstances.  Whether you’re coping with illness, loss, addiction, trauma, or are trying to improve relationships or self-esteem using a journal can be a powerful tool.
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How to Choose a Therapist

So you’ve made the decision to seek therapy – that’s great!  It’s a courageous, soul-searching decision that often times isn’t easy to make.  Kudos to you for taking that first big step.  But now what? How do you go about choosing a therapist?  Especially when there are so many to choose from and all with different titles.  The tips below are merely suggestions to keep in mind while considering what therapist is best for you.  Take a little time to mull it over and decide what else is important to you and then add it to the list!
Comfort – Because a therapist is someone you will eventually end up sharing very intimate details with it’s important you feel comfortable with him or her.  It needs to be someone you feel you can trust 100% and be open and honest with.  You want someone who feels like a “good fit.”  It’s important that you feel respected and can sit and talk comfortably with the person.  Consider whether you would feel more comfortable with a male or female therapist.  Would you prefer a therapist who speaks your native language?  Would it bother you if the therapist was considerably older or younger than you?  Don’t be afraid to sit down for a few sessions with a therapist to see if it’s a right fit for you.
Location – Sounds obvious, right?  Counseling is hard work.  There may come a point in time when you are tempted to skip a session.  Choosing a therapist who is close to your home or work can help eliminate using travel time as a convenient excuse to skip a session.  Choosing someone close to home may make it easier to follow through.
Experience – You may want to ask any potential therapist how long they have been providing counseling services.  Also, you’ll want to find out if they have experience working with clients who dealt with your specific issues.  Find out if they are licensed.  Try to keep in mind you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.
Insurance – It’s important to dialogue with your insurance provider and any potential therapists up front about the financial details.  Is there a sliding fee?  How many sessions will your insurance cover?  Is it a copay or a percentage towards service?  Do you need a referral?  Are there in-network and out of network providers?  Choosing a therapist you can afford may help ensure attendance in sessions.
Ultimately, you’ll want to go with who feels right.  Only you can decide that!

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Self Care

self-careFinding the time and energy to take care of yourself can be challenging in today’s busy world.  Sometimes juggling work, family, and other commitments leaves very little room for you to do something just for yourself.  However, it’s very important that you do.  Self-care reduces stress which in turn helps you to cope with day to day responsibilities.  Proper self-care goes beyond an occasional indulgent trip to the spa.  It’s about creating a lifestyle with healthy habits.  This includes exercise, getting enough sleep, healthy eating, proper hygiene, practicing relaxation techniques, etc.  It’s about being healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Perhaps by now you’re thinking, “Sounds nice, but I don’t have the time or money.”  The good news is there are plenty of ways to practice self-care without spending a dime.  For example, exercise doesn’t require a gym membership.  Simply taking a walk or riding a bike through the neighborhood or a local park can help reduce stress.  Maybe there’s a book you’ve been wanting to read for quite some time.  Make a trip to the library and commit a few minutes each night to reading it.  Journaling, listening to music, or soaking in a hot bath can also be effective self-care techniques.  Maintaining social support and taking up hobbies can also help.  Finding the time may be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort.

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Overcoming Stigma and Accepting Help

Suffering from a mental health condition is hard.  Unfortunately, the stigma that is often associated with it can make it even harder.  Individuals with mental illnesses are often portrayed in movies and television as extremely dangerous, violent, or unstable which can result in misinformation to those around us.  Words like “crazy” and “psycho” are painful and perpetuate the unnecessary stigma.  Far too often this type of stigma serves as a barrier to reaching out for necessary support.
First, recognize that seeking help is not a sign of personal weakness.  Professional counseling provides support so that you don’t have to do it all alone.  Second, try to release the fear of being “labeled.”  Sometimes people are afraid to acknowledge having a condition that needs treatment.  However, identifying what’s wrong can provide relief and result in a specific treatment plan to reduce troubling symptoms.  If it’s determined that you are suffering from a mental health condition you may be hesitant to share this information with others.  Remember, judgment from others may be based on misinformation.  Sharing your diagnosis with those you trust may help educate those around you and help to reduce the overall stigma.
Some recent studies suggest the stigma associated with mental illness may be decreasing as evidenced by an increase in the public acceptance of antidepressants.  However, it’s important to remember that study after study shows that drug treatment is most effective when combined with talk therapy.  Medication can be helpful in treating the chemicals in our brains, but humans are made up of more than just chemicals.  We are emotional beings and often times our feelings and emotions demand our attention.
Overcoming stigma and accepting professional help can be challenging, but it may be just the thing to empower you to take back control of your life.

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Learning to Let Go of the Past

Learning-to-Let-Go-of-the-Past“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”  – Will Rogers
We all experience pain in life.  Suffering may come through losing a loved one, going through a divorce, losing a job, or enduring physical, mental, or emotional abuse.  We’ve all been hurt before one way or another.  Letting go of that pain can be incredibly difficult, but is key to ensuring it doesn’t continue to rob you of the joy you could be experiencing today.
Allowing the pain of the past to continue residing within only leads to destruction.  It can ruin relationships and cause physical ailments.  Living with significant anger can even result in self-destructive behaviors like addiction, eating disorders, and self mutilation.  Holding on to the past distracts from the current moment and the opportunity for present and future happiness.  Moving forward begins with letting go of the past and forgiving.  You can’t change the past or forget it, but you can choose to let go of the pain and anger and move forward.  Forgiveness puts you back in control.
This kind of forgiveness probably won’t happen overnight.  It will take effort.  As negative thoughts of the past bubble up you will have to consciously redirect your thoughts to the present.  Remind yourself of who you are today.  Recognize how far you’ve come.  Know that you are the only person with the power to take control of your life.  Be empowered – let go of your past and look ahead to the future.  You are now in charge!

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Developing A Mentality For Motivation

motivationStaying motivated through the completion of a task can be incredibly challenging.  That’s true whether you’re trying to lose ten pounds, complete a project at work, finish your spring cleaning at home, or are trying to increase your overall positivity.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take towards creating a mindset that will help you maintain your motivation.
First, it’s important to remember why you’re doing whatever you’re doing.  What’s the reward?  Perhaps it’s an external motivator such as a paycheck.  Or, maybe it’s the internal reward that comes with a sense of accomplishment.  Your confidence and self-esteem can receive a boost when you learn a new skill or complete a task.  Knowing that you are one step closer to your big picture goal can be a motivator in itself.  Whatever the reward is – try to keep it in mind (especially in those moments when your motivation seems to dwindle).
Once you have a clear picture of your overall goal and the motivating factors, you can begin to break the goal down into smaller goals with specific objectives.  One of the easiest traps for losing motivation is setting goals that are too lofty.  If you continually fail to complete your goals it’s probably a good time to look at them again and make some adjustments.  Create realistic goals that will set you up for success.  Again, the sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving even a small goal can help boost your confidence and motivation.
Also, try to keep things interesting or fun as much as you can.  If you are able to find some enjoyment, even if small, it will help you to maintain your motivation.  Think about ways you can make the task enjoyable.  If things are becoming dull and mundane try to switch them up. Recruit others if you need to.
Finally, remember to take a step back every once in a while to see how far you’ve come.  Recognizing your progress is critical to staying motivated.  It diminishes the often daunting mountains we envision ahead of us making them manageable hills.  Remind yourself you’ve made significant strides and can be successful!

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Life After Divorce

Going through a divorce can be incredibly painful.  It may be the toughest storm you’ve ever had to weather.  The financial and emotional stress can be hard to bear and the transition from “we” to “me” may feel like going through an identity crisis.  If you’re accustomed to thinking of yourself as one half of a larger whole this is the time to remind yourself that you are a unique and complete individual all of your own.  It’s a major life alteration and, although it may not feel like it at the moment, there can indeed be a truly full and happy life after divorce.  While on the road of transition here are a few things to keep in mind:
1.  Give yourself the freedom to mourn.  Going through a divorce may feel like you’ve experienced a death.  That’s because, in a sense, you have.  Divorce is the death of a marriage and perhaps the lifestyle you envisioned. The feelings you experience may be similar to those in the stages of grief and loss.  Recognize that this is normal and may take some time.
2.  Lean heavily into your support system.  That means allowing friends and family to be there for you when you’re ready.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to take advantage of their offers.  Spending time with others during this painful time can help decrease feelings of loneliness.  Also, many people find divorce support groups to be helpful.  Seek one out in your local community if you feel it would be beneficial to spend time with others who have experienced similar pain.
3. Monitor your thoughts.  Though you are experiencing pain, it’s important to take note of the messages you are sending yourself.  Positivity is a powerful tool.  Recognize that thoughts like “my life is over” aren’t factually true – your life is not over.  Acknowledge that it may feel that way and then try to reframe it in a positive way such as “this is an opportunity for a new beginning for me.”  Perhaps take some time to reflect on goals you had before you were married or personal passions that have been left behind.  Then, take advantage of the opportunity to put them back into practice.
4.  Know when to seek professional help.  If you feel like you are unable to move beyond your grief it may be time to reach out.  If you or loved ones begin to notice symptoms of depression in you or your children or if you simply feel it would be beneficial to talk to an objective third party to help guide you on your new path in life don’t hesitate.
There is life after divorce.  How will you choose to spend it?
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New Year = New You!

New Year's ResolutionWith New Year’s just a little more than two weeks away our minds are already beginning to turn towards resolutions.  New Year’s is a great time to reflect on the year behind you, but also a chance to look ahead to what’s to come.  It is an opportunity to reinvent yourself with a new outlook on life.  We’re all familiar with the ever popular “lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, and get out of debt” resolutions.  Unfortunately, they are also some of the most frequently broken resolutions.  Perhaps it’s time to try something different.  Instead of trying to break bad habits why not try to create a whole new way of thinking.
American author William Vaughn once said “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.  A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”  Take a moment to reflect.  Be honest.  Which category do you fall into?  Are you happy with that category?  If you are – that’s great!  If not, take hope and know that this could be the year to change.  Viewing life with positivity may take practice, but it is indeed possible.  As an added bonus studies show optimism can have a positive impact on your physical and mental health.  So consider ringing in the New Year with a brand new, positive you!

Holiday Harmony

Holiday Harmony, Holiday Family Dinner December is in full swing which means the holidays are just around the corner.   For some they symbolize a season of hope, joy, and cheer.  For many, however, the holidays produce tremendous stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression.  Perhaps they are a painful reminder of a loved one lost.  Maybe this is the first Christmas following a painful divorce.  Maybe you’re having difficulty accepting that certain holiday traditions and rituals may not survive in your new blended family.  Or maybe you lay awake at night wondering how you will provide a happy holiday for your children following a recent layoff in the family.  Whatever the reason, know that you are not alone in your feelings.  You should also know there are steps you can take toward creating a harmonious holiday for the entire family in spite of circumstances.
1.  Acknowledge your feelings.  Recognize it is ok to feel sad or lonely.  It may even be a necessary part of the grieving process if you recently lost someone you love.
2.  Set realistic expectations.  The holidays won’t necessarily turn out as rosy as they do in our favorite holiday classic movies.  Remind yourself you cannot do everything (and neither can your spouse).  Set small goals and keep an open mind about compromising some traditions if it means keeping the peace for everyone.
3.  Be good to yourself!  That may mean going to bed early to fight off fatigue or monitoring your eating and drinking consumption so you don’t overindulge all season long (which only adds to feelings of guilt and depression).  Being good to yourself also means taking a few moments each day to just breathe and remember you can do this!  You deserve the break.
4.  Reach out for professional help.  There’s no shame in needing a helping hand through the holidays.  It may be just what your family needs to navigate its way through the season.

hope & restorationWhen the dark clouds of life roll in and settle over you, it’s important to have someone who can help you tap into your inner strength so that you can survive the storm.  At The Empowerment Group, that’s exactly what we do. We welcome you to explore the possibilities that are available to you. Restore a sense of balance and direction to your life. Whether through therapy, through Family Mediation, or through relationship counseling, we can help you find a path toward resolution and relief. Empowering your life! The Empowerment Group wants to help you bring balance, peace and happiness to your life even when the storms roll in and you feel all hope is gone. We can help:
  • Mediation
  • Therapy
  • Relationships
  • Pre-Marital Counseling



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