Tips & Tricks Towards Healthier Self-Esteem

How can low self-esteem affect your life?

Many people feel bad about themselves from time to time. These feelings of low self-esteem are triggered by outside events or comments as well as by internal thoughts about oneself. Have you ever not done something for fear of being rejected or abandoned? Have you ever lost out on an experience or opportunity for fear of failure? Have you ever thought that you are not worthy of a promotion, relationship, friendship or even good health because you are not good enough? Have you ever sabotaged yourself when things seemed to be going well?

Feelings of low self-esteem are triggered by outside events or comments as well as by internal thoughts about oneself. Basic self-care is paramount to feeling better about yourself.

Low self-esteem is a constant companion for many people, and it interferes with the ability to achieve goals, move forward in life, enjoy relationships, make positive memories and do the things that you would like to do. Everyone deserves the right to feel good about themselves, but this can be difficult for those who struggle with depression, anxiety, stress, illness or disability. However, there are ways to improve your self-esteem and increase your personal feelings of value.

The Problem: The negative INNER CRITIC

Your inner critic is that voice that tells you negative things about yourself such as: You are not good enough, You are going to fail, Nobody really likes you, You are uglier or worse than someone else, You are the one to blame.

The Solution:

  • Talk back to this voice when negative thoughts come up. Say “No, I’m not going to think like that now,” or, “Stop!”
  • Replace the negative thought with a positive thought. Instead of “I totally messed that up,” tell yourself, “I tried my best, and it didn’t go the way I had planned. I can just try harder next time.” Instead of “I can’t believe I did that, I am so stupid,” change it to, “I made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes; I at least learned what not to do.”

The Problem: Not taking care of yourself

Basic self-care is paramount to feeling better about yourself. People at times neglect themselves in an effort to distract how they really feel. People also neglect to take care of themselves because they are so busy taking care of others. Recognize that you are worthy of feeling good and accomplish some self-care tasks.

The Solution:

  • Dress in clothes that make you feel good, tend to hygiene on a regular basis, eat more fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, get a little bit of exercise, follow up with doctor and dentist appointments, take a day off, get plenty of rest, engage in a hobby, spend time with people you care about, take the long way home through the park.
  • Accomplish some tasks that you have been putting off, such as balancing the checkbook, cleaning a closet, dropping a note in the mail to a friend, painting the living room, washing the car or donating old clothes. Having a feeling of accomplishment puts you in a better mood and allows you to see that you do have the ability to follow through. Additionally, this reduces your stress.

The Problem: Negativity in your life

Negativity has a profound way of making its way into our lives, and once it is there, it tends to feed off itself. Sources of negativity can be people, places, situations and, as stated earlier, our own thoughts. When we are able to start systematically placing distance between those negative sources and ourselves, feeling better about ourselves becomes easier.

The Solution:

  • Begin to identify those persons, places or things that start to put you in a negative mood and then remove them. Does the news always depress you? Tired of people airing their business on social media? Does that one co-worker always have something negative to say about others? Remove those things from your life.
  • Set boundaries with the negativity as well. Let people know that you are not interested in hearing all of the bad things, but you will be supportive in listening to the positive. Surround yourself with people and things that bring you happiness, light scented candles, keep your work space clean, keep your house tidy, pet your dog and remember to have fun!

 

 

 

 

Feel free to print of the quotes below for inspiration and encouragement!

 

 

8 Habits of Happy People

We are all looking for more, chasing something, wanting something—a promotion, a new car, a bigger house or relationship. This drive lends to the beliefs that “When I get a promotion, then my life will be better. When I get a significant other, then I will be happy.” It is true that these things will make us happy at first— but that happiness is fleeting.

Genuinely happy people have positive ways of navigating through life’s difficulties. Try some of the habits of happy people and see how they work for you.

There is a mistaken notion that major life events dictate your happiness or sadness. This is very common and referred to as impact bias. Impact bias is our tendency to overestimate our emotional response to future events. This is in essence the “whenthen” that people are stuck in that prevents them from being truly happy in the present.

Happiness that lasts is honed through habits. Genuinely happy people have positive ways of navigating through life’s difficulties. Try some of the habits of happy people and see how they work for you.

  1. Appreciate the small things.

Practicing gratitude for what we have is key to being happy. We get daily reminders of how wonderful life can be and paying attention to those can change how you view things dramatically. A good meal, the warm sunshine, a laughing baby, the smell of coffee in the morning and the love from a pet are all things that we can enjoy. Appreciating these little things can really help put into perspective what we really need to be happy.

  1. Surround yourself with happy people

Happiness is contagious. Being around happy people can stimulate your creativity, build confidence, and just put you in a better mood. Being around negative people has the opposite effect. Do you want to surround yourself with people that are having pity parties? Remember that misery loves company and negative people will only bring you down with them.

  1. Stay Positive

Bad things happen to everyone— including happy people. Happy people do not dwell on the negative; instead, they find a silver lining, create meaning, learn a lesson, grow from the experience and find some gratitude.
Examples:
You have to work the weekend. At least you will get overtime and can pay off some debt.
Your daughter totaled the car. Be grateful that she is safe and you have insurance.

  1. Practice kindness and help others

Taking time to help other people not only helps other, but also helps you too. In a Harvard study, employees who helped others were 10x more likely to be focused at work and 40% more likely to get a promotion. The same study showed that people who consistently provided social support were the most likely to be happy during times of high stress. Small random acts of kindness can make a big difference. Saying “thank you” to the cashier, opening the door, returning a grocery cart for someone, smiling, offering a compliment are all ways to practice kindness.

  1. Avoid gossip

Happy people know that happiness and substance go hand in hand. They have deep conversations and avoid gossip, small talk and judging others. They focus on meaningful interactions and engage people on a deeper level to build emotional connections.

  1. Make an effort to be happy

Not everyone wakes up feeling cheerful and blessed every day, and happy people are no different. They make a concerted effort to adjust their moods. They work at being happy despite some of the pitfalls in life that happen. Happy people are evaluating what they can do to make themselves feel better emotionally instead of getting in the “poor me” rut when things do not go as planned.

  1. Have growth in mind

People that have growth in mind believe that they can improve with effort, learn from past mistakes, embrace and make changes. People that do not have growth in mind feel that you are whom you are and cannot be changed— can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Happy people believe in learning new things about themselves and are able to utilize that to solve problems.

  1. Prioritizing

Happy people know how to prioritize what is important in life. People sometimes get so caught up in making a living that they forget to have a life. Happy people make time for what makes them happy such as family, friends, self-care, vacation, sleep, etc. In the quest for success, it is important to know and be aware of what can make us achieve true happiness.

Author Annie Dillard stated, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Happiness is not something that we stumble upon or find; it is something that we manifest. It is an internal reward and we can tap into it anytime that we want. It is not something external that we can pursue, not if we want it to last. Happiness can be achieved with the right habits and even investing in just a few of them can make a big difference in your mood and outlook.

What is mindfulness and how can it help me?

Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD., the founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health, Care, and Society, defined it as “paying attention to something, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” The Center believes that Mindfulness is “consciously and systematically working with your own pain, stress, illness, and the challenges of everyday life.”

So, what does all of that really mean? When you are being mindful, you are not letting your life pass you by, you are living in the present, allowing your thoughts and feelings to come to you, but not judging them as either good or bad.

How can Mindfulness help me?

Research on mindful meditation’s effect on the MIND:

  • Lower levels of psychological distress, including less anxiety, less depression, anger, and worry
  • Reduced ruminative thinking
  • Greater sense of well-being
  • Feeling less stressed, more joyful, inspired, grateful, hopeful, content, vital, and satisfied with life

Research on mindful meditation’s effect of the BRAIN:

  • Helps to influence areas of the brain involved in regulating attention, awareness, and emotion
  • Significantly improved the efficiency of executive attention during a computerized attention test (good news for ADHD)
  • Increased grey matter density in the hippocampus which is important for learning and memory
  • Decreased grey matter density in the amygdala which plays a role in anxiety and stress; activated regions of the brain that are associated with positive feelings towards others

Research on mindful meditation’s effect on the BODY:

  • There is scientific evidence to support the therapeutic effect off mindfulness meditation training on stress-related medical conditions including- psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, fibromyalgia, and chronic low back pain
  • Reduces symptoms of stress and negative mood states and increases emotional well-being and quality of life, among persons with chronic illness

Research on mindful meditation on BEHAVIOR:

  • Better ability to quit smoking, decrease in binge eating, improved sleeping quality, and reduced alcohol and illicit substance use.

How do I do Mindfulness?

Here are some examples to get you started:

Mindfulness Meditation

Find a place where you can sit quietly and undisturbed for a few moments. To begin, you might want to set a timer for about 10 minutes, but after some experience you should not be too concerned about the length of time you spend meditating.

Begin by bringing your attention to the present moment by noticing your breathing. Pay attention to your breath as it enters and then leaves your body. Notice the cool air that enters, and the hot air that exits. Before long, your mind will begin to wander, pulling you out of the present moment. That’s ok. Notice your thoughts and feelings as

if you are an outside observer watching what’s happening in your brain. Take note, and allow yourself to return to your breathing. Sometimes you might feel frustrated or bored. That’s fine–these are just a few more feelings to notice. Your mind might start to plan an upcoming weekend, or worry about a responsibility. Notice where your thoughts are going, and accept what’s happening. When you realize your mind wandering, return your concentration to your breathing. Continue this process until your timer rings.

Five Senses

The goal is to notice something that you are currently experiencing through each of your senses.

What are 5 things you can see? Look around you and notice 5 things you hadn’t noticed before. Maybe a pattern on a wall, light reflecting from a surface, or a knick-knack in the corner of a room.

What are 4 things you can feel? Maybe you can feel the pressure of your feet on the floor, your shirt resting on your shoulders, or the temperature on your skin. Pick up an object and notice its texture.

What are 3 things you can hear? Notice all the background sounds you had been filtering out, such as an air-conditioning, birds chirping, or cars on a distant street.

What are 2 things you can smell? Maybe you can smell flowers, coffee, or freshly cut grass. It doesn’t have to be a nice smell either: maybe there’s an overflowing trashcan or sewer.

What is 1 thing you can taste? Pop a piece of gum in your mouth, sip a drink, eat a snack if you have one, or simply notice how your mouth tastes. “Taste” the air to see how it feels on your tongue.

The numbers for each sense are only a guideline. Feel free to do more or less of each. Also, try this exercise while doing an activity like washing dishes, listening to music, or going for a walk.

 

Enjoy a Happy New Year!

New Year’s is a time where many people make resolutions.  “I’m going to lose weight,” or “I’m going to quit smoking” are two of the popular resolutions, but what about mental health?  Less commonly do people make resolutions for their mental health beyond a simple phrase such as “be happier.”  But, if you are one of the 43.8 million adults in the United States who experiences mental illness (NAMI, 1999), you might benefit from some resolutions toward improving your mental health. 

Mental illness is a difficult challenge for many people, but the New Year is a great time to make positive changes.

Here are some possible changes to pursue:

  1. Make sleep, diet, and exercise a priority.  Snickers has a popular series of commercials where a celebrity is acting in an angry, irritated, or frustrated manner until they are given a Snickers because they become emotional when they are hungry.  After taking a bite of the Snicker bar, the person returns to his or her typical self.  While I (and I’m sure our dietitians) would agree that sugar isn’t the answer, these commercials do have a point: our physical health impacts our mental health.  When we are tired, hungry, fatigued, or inactive, our mental health suffers.  Resolve to make simple changes to your habits this year: get more sleep, eat more fruits and vegetables, go on more walks.  Try to build on choices you make that are already healthy.
  2. Think positive.  This sounds cliché, but there is evidence to suggest that optimism improves our life.  The Mayo Clinic reports on their website that optimism has been connected to longer life span, decreased depression, decreased distress, reduced cardiovascular disease, and improved coping skills.  Unsure of how to start thinking in a positive manner?  Begin with creating a daily affirmation for yourself.  Waking up and saying “Today is going to be a good day,” can lead you to viewing the day in a more positive light.  If you have a specific stressor you are worried about, trying envisioning how that problem will go well instead of how it can go wrong.
  3. Seek help.  In 2012, ABC News reported that only about 60% of people with mental illness received professional help.  Professional help is available in a variety of ways, from counseling to medication to support groups.  If you are unsure where to go or what method is best for you, start with speaking with your doctor about the issue.      

Mental illness is a difficult challenge for many people, but the New Year is a great time to make positive changes.  Even if you aren’t dealing with mental illness, perhaps pursuing one of the above resolutions can make your 2017 a more positive and enjoyable year.

 

Dealing with Holiday Grief

For many people, the holidays are a season of happiness, celebration, and family gatherings.  For those who have experienced loss, the glimmer of holiday lights and decorations can evoke feelings of loneliness and sadness, reflecting on memories of past times. How can we celebrate a holiday while also mourning the loss of someone close to us?  Here are some tips for getting through the season for facing grief during the holiday season.

For those who have experienced loss, the glimmer of holiday lights and decorations can evoke feelings of loneliness and sadness, reflecting on memories of past times.

 

Plan ahead:

Typically during the holidays, we can predict the days that will be most difficult for us.  Do your best to plan ahead; set aside some time alone if necessary or schedule your trip to the cemetery.  If you know certain parts of the holiday won’t be the same, create new traditions or incorporate times of remembrance.

Externalize your grief:

Grief.com has some positive ideas about how to mark the loss of a loved one.  Some of these ideas include lighting a candle or saying a prayer for the loved one before the holiday meal.  You may also choose to include others by having everyone share a positive memory or funny story about the person.

Take a break: 

Grief.com also suggests cancelling the holiday.  The beauty of holidays is that they come back every year, so if you decide you need a year off from hosting Thanksgiving dinner or you are just not up for traveling this December, take some time off.  It is important to remember that any feeling shouldn’t remain stored up inside.  Choosing to cancel or postpone a holiday celebration is not selfish but rather a positive form of self-care.

It is important to remember that the holidays are a time of celebration but can also be a time of difficulty.  Be aware of your own feelings and also the feelings of others.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to a loved one who may be struggling this holiday season and be sure to take care of yourself.

Happy Holidays!

Brian Gazdziak, LCSW

Resource http://grief.com/grief-the-holidays

 

 

Laughter is Still the Best Medicine

Have you ever noticed how getting an unexpected laugh in the middle of a stressful workday can help relax you and lift your mood? I’ve heard it said that humor is often created by a combination of tragedy and surprise.

Have you ever noticed how getting an unexpected laugh in the middle of a stressful workday can help relax you and lift your mood?

This makes sense when I remember an incident during a very stressful day at a previous job. After seeing several clients and trying to catch up on a ridiculous amount of paperwork, I was feeling stressed and worried about all that still needed accomplished for the day. I rushed to the front desk to pick up some papers off the printer when I saw the director of the company lean over to the speaker of our fax machine, and yell, “I’m trying to fax something to you!”. I had just witnessed his first fax attempt and it was hilarious.  

Stress? Gone! Worries? Gone! Nothing seemed to matter as it had five minutes earlier.

Finding a balanced amount of humor in the workplace and in our lives in general is beneficial to our health, productivity and work relationships.  On the job, humor can strengthen relationships, enhance teamwork, and when used appropriately, it can diffuse conflict.

The benefits of laughter to our physical health include a boost to immunity, decrease in pain, lower stress and relax muscles. Laughter benefits our mental health by decreasing anxiety, fear and stress, increases energy and helps you to stay focused. Humor helps you to put things into perspective and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Some ways to find humor when you are overwhelmed by problems and stress:

  • When you hear laughter and when time allows, move toward it.
  • Laugh at yourself and share embarrassing moments
  • Surround yourself with pictures, posters or other reminders to lighten up.
  • Ask yourself if the situation is really worth being upset or upsetting others about.
  • Spend time with children.                

Jeanne Armour, LCSW