The power of presence

Recently I have been reading a lot about the Western States 100 race that took place two weeks ago. Western States is a 100 mile trail race through some of the hottest and most rugged areas of California. Of course, as a trail runner, this race and the incredible athletes it draws always fascinates me. I was reading an interview with Kaci Lickteig who was the female winner (Article Here) talking about her training and race strategy.

What stood out to me was that in her description of her training and race day there is such a large emphasis on attitude. And I think what goes with intentional attitude is presence. Kaci set out on race day to “smile, smile, smile” and in a hot 100 mile trail race I would think that would take a lot conscious effort to keep doing. On top of that, she was maintaining focus on staying fueled and hydrated.

To me, this describes the power of being present. Kaci’s strategy wasn’t to fantasize about the finish line or dwell on past race outcomes. She kept smiling and staying focused on the incredible task of keeping her body running like a machine and a smile on her face. With that present awareness she was able to be pleasantly surprised the more she gained a lead on the other competitors. Even then, it wasn’t until mile 98 that she shares she started to think, “maybe I could win this.”

On the contrary, one of the male competitors who had set out to set a course record lead the race until a fateful wrong turn! I don’t know his full story, but I do know that speaks to being distracted in some capacity. Whether it was wondering thoughts or not staying properly fueled to keep focused, it is evidence of not being in the present moment.

The present moment is the only place that we are offered both good and bad opportunities and can enjoy respite from the anxiety or worry of being trapped in the future or the depression and regret of being trapped in the past. The present moment allows us flexibility to continually create our lives with what we are being handed at any moment.

Central Oregon Pride

Our booth at Pride was a huge success!!! Thank you to everyone who came by and contributed to our art project and podcast. Here on some pictures of the art project:

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As for the podcast… stay tuned! We have been going through the responses to our question, “what does pride mean to you?” and have been blown away by the beautiful heartfelt responses. We cannot wait to share them!

Central Oregon Pride

We are so excited to have a booth at Central Oregon Pride on Saturday June 25th in Drake Park from noon to 6pm! We will have activities as well as literature about self-care and our services. For more information about Pride check out the website.

Come out and meet the two therapists that make up Cascadia Family Therapy!

Therapy and Athletic Performance

Here is a wonderful and well written example of how therapy can improve athletic performance. https://www.ultrarunning.com/featured/a-way-cool-race/

Self talk and mental health play a large role in athletic performance. Most athletes have a natural ability to push themselves but not all athletes know how to encourage themselves. In my experience as an athlete and a therapist, I have seen how the mind can work to make or break a race. So what is the answer?

The first step is to acknowledge that the mind and body are not two separate areas. They are deeply connected parts of you and they both inform your experience.

The second is to look at your self talk. It is one thing to improve your self talk and begin to be more kind to yourself. It is a whole other undertaking to reorient yourself around this new self perspective enough that in the most exhausting, hungry, and depleted state you can maintain this positive perspective. The article shared above, while it’s a great outline of her success, glosses over the hard work to get to that point. It isn’t just about replacing negative thoughts it is resetting your default. If your default setting sounds like “I really messed that up” or “I am so slow” it takes some insight and self understanding to change to a new default that sounds more like “that isn’t like me, I know I can do better,” or “not as fast as I want to be but getting there.”

I often describe it to clients in terms of fuel. Negative self talk can be like gasoline on a fire. It will explode at first but it will also burn out quickly. Positive self talk and high regard for oneself is a much longer lasting fuel. It spreads to all areas of life and increases performance for the long haul.

Don’t burn out, find a new fuel.

 

 

 

Gorillas and the Unknown

By now we have all heard a little too much about the recent issue of a Gorilla being killed after a four year old child fell into his enclosure. Certainly it was frightening for everyone involved. But, here are my two cents…

Too often in my work as a therapist I am confronted by working with adults who put their children in harms way especially in my past role working with families in the juvenile justice system. This story does not strike me as one of those moments. Nor am I attempting to criticize anyone for their actions. Instead, what stands out to me is that our society has become so harsh and critical that seemingly overnight, a story about an accident, can have thousands of people placing blame in so many different directions. How about a moment of compassion? A moment to pause and think about how quickly life can change?

It is clear to me that as a society we have reached a critical point. A point at which the unknown is absolutely intolerable. We have become so accustom to a false sense control in our everyday lives that we not only need a saying like “you only live once (yolo)” to try to shake us awake but in the split second of a accident it easier to kill first and ask questions later. This gorilla incident is not the first we have heard of something like this and unfortunately, it may not be the last.

As with many of my blogs, I will end with a suggestion for change. Perhaps if we all took a moment to be present in our lives, slow down, and maybe cut back on the caffeine a bit, we could see all of the beauty that can happen in the unknown. For me, I see it often; the client that commits to change, the parent that finds support in the community, the teen who begins to hear their own inner voice instead of the pressure of their peers, and many other ways that I see people over come adversity everyday. These moments of unknown can be scary and sometimes they don’t go our way, but sometimes if we stop to listen they can produce beautiful moments.

New Service Offered at CFT

Cascadia Family Therapy is now offering consultation for newly graduated therapists and counselors near or far. It has taken some work to build a frame work but it is now ready to launch!

I have eight years of experience in the private sector on top of my four years of private practice experience to share! For years I learned the ins and outs of small business first as an administrative assistant and later a marketing director for two different entrepreneurs. I have been involved with privately owned companies from start up to take off and even in retirement planning. I have done this consultation work for colleagues that I graduated with as many of them over time made the shift from agency settings to private practice. Many were shocked at the complexity of mixing legal and ethical standards of care with administrative tasks and graduate education. Private practice is it’s own world and many believe the myth that agency experience will leave them licensed and prepared.

When I opened my first private practice in Washington State I had a mentor who had over 15 years of private practice experience to guide me through the process. It had a major impact on getting my business up and running with little overhead cost. It gave me confidence to step into the role of private practice therapist right after graduate school.

Now I have created a framework that will help guide new counselors and therapists into an ethically sound and successful practice of their own. Don’t reinvent the wheel, schedule your consultation today and feel the confidence of starting out on the right foot!

Humanity

I recently listened to an episode of This American Life in which they were exploring the old adage, “you will understand when you are older.” In the final act, they are talking to a man in the early stages of dementia. He describes what it is like to go to his doctor and be asked questions like “Who is the president?” and “What day is it?” and worst of all, they ask him to draw a analog clock depicting a particular time.

The man, a former engineer professor, is bothered that he struggles so much with this task. His life before was centered around numbers. He sits down one day and deconstructs the issue. He figures out and later articulates to his wife, the difficulty is that they are three layers. The hours, 1-12 (even though there are 24 hours in a day), the minutes (which correlate with the numbers 1-12 but represent 5’s) and on top of that, the larger hand tells the minutes while the smaller hand tells the hour. No wonder I am 30 and still have trouble reading an analog clock!

Anyway, this was an amazing story but that was not what fascinated me the most. What caught my attention was that his wife of decades kept feeding him words and prodding him along. It reminded me of many therapy sessions with parents and children. This constant need for your loved one to achieve in a way that society can recognize. It broke my heart. Here are people, young or old, trying to find their way in their own words, as fragile and disjointed as it may be, and we as a society have lost our ability to simply wait.

The evidence of this impatience and obsession with boiling every part of a human into a number is all around us. The survey of your doctor, what stories post in your Facebook feed, or what makes me most sad, the number of smiley or sad faces an elementary child comes home from school with.

I wish I could remember who said this, but I heard someone say that the true tragedy of our society isn’t what law has been or will be passed or the absolute joke of candidates in this presidential election, but instead the loss of humanity. The loss and oversimplification of the infinitely complex experience of being a human being. Our children are not numbers and our loved ones are not defined by the words they struggle to find. And each one of us deserves patience and quiet loving support to find who we are today even if it appears to be drastically different from yesterday.

So next time you feel like filling in a word or take a test score to mean something about you or a loved one’s intelligence, ask yourself, “does this really mean something or do I just feel a general pressure from society?” Or if you are really up for a challenge, “what is it about this score, lack of ability, or mistake that makes me feel uncomfortable enough to correct this person?”

Voting is important and so are relationships

Scrolling through the news I am reminded of the date. The Presidential election season is upon us. And already, I have reached the point of avoiding Facebook 🙂

As a therapist, I am reminded of the stress that this season often adds to lives. While being reminded of the values we hold dear is nice, we are simultaneously reminded of all we disagree with. I see it’s effects in family relationships. We all have a few outspoken individuals somewhere between family of origin and in-laws. It can make already tense relationships seemingly unbearable!

In graduate school I watched a documentary entitled “Luna.” It was the story of an orca whale off the coast of Vancouver Island who had separate from his pod when he was young. In the story, several researches discuss and speculate the effects of this separation given that orcas travel with the pod they are born into for life. One scientist concluded, “it is one of the ways we know that orcas are intelligent. It takes a lot of work to continue to get along with the same pod for a lifespan.”

It is my hope for America that we can remember it is our ability to work through differences, have compassion for people we disagree with, and to regulate our anger that makes us an intelligent species.

Try four square breathing for example. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4, pause for 4, and repeat. Tricks like this help to keep you from blowing a gasket and saying or doing something that may hurt important relationships.

The Missed Point About Teens and Social Media

It is always encouraging to me when articles like this one hit the web. It is a sign that the the effects of social media are a continued discourse in our society. But these articles frequently miss one important point. The point is that more and more children and teens are spending time alone on social media with no parental involvement. It is not just what social media is displaying, it is that our children are receiving these messages alone and internalizing them. Children are no longer confronted by images on the TV that then can be discussed as a family or even a group of peers. Instead, the information they are digesting is frequently experienced alone.

If your teenage daughter is appearing to lack confidence or becoming more anxious or nervous, try to open up a conversation about the fact that social media is still media. Everyone is projecting what they want you to believe, not how things actually are. There are also a number of great videos on YouTube showing how much models are airbrushed. And keep in mind, problems can seem so much bigger when we are experiencing them alone. By opening up a conversation, you are not only bringing your teen back in touch with reality, but reminding them that they can talk about these experiences, that everyone is impacted by social media.