Beach Ball Metaphor for Coping with Emotional Dysregulation

I first heard of the beach ball metaphor while watching a video through PESI (one of my continuing education providers). Arielle Schwartz, PhD uses the beach ball metaphor to explain how we can manage our dysregulated emotions. Arielle Schwartz, PhD provides a mind-body healing exercise that can help trauma survivors process their negative emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them.

I hope that you find this metaphor helpful in understanding how we can better regulate our emotions and nourish our nervous systems.

Beach Ball

Imagining something that we don’t want to hold or feel. – This is the beach ball. We’re pushing it down and trying to hold it under water. It wants to come back up to the surface. Sometimes, we do this temporarily, called “containment,” as we run to the store or parent the kids, then return. If we’re constantly and chronically trying to hold the ball down, avoidance, at some point, it is exhausting and taxing. This can lead to causing other issues, the ball coming up and causing a splash. Then, we have to gather the ball back up and push it down.

We want to understand the dysregulated feeling or memory. We want to turn towards it. Understand the sensation and emotion in small parts, at a slower, appropriate pace, so that the ball comes to the surface without making a big splash. We have a little more control and can push it back down.

We do this therapeutically. “Pendulation” (meaning, turning towards the distress) in small, tolerable parts, taking off some pressure. Next, we pendulate from the distress and turn towards the resource. A resource can be the therapeutic relationship, or the breath, or a cue of safety (like a flower or plant in the room, or something out the window), so we oscillate between the stress and ease. We take a break, and then, check-in. The pattern is distress, then resource, distress, resource, distress, resource.

This combats the “negativity bias,” (meaning we are wired for survival and to scan our environment for threats). We need to consciously counteract this by looking for the good and nourishing our nervous system. Nourishing can look like a relationship with someone who feels safe, or our pet, who we feel connected to.  

Death Valley National Park, CA

Spinning Your Wheels: ask for help when you’re stuck

We don’t always like to ask for help, a lot of times we’ll wait until we’re feeling completely overwhelmed by emotions and stress. While there are multiple reasons that we might behave this way, such as fear of failure or rejection, for example… however, this article isn’t about that. Let’s get right to the point. Ask for help when you know you’re stuck vs spinning your wheels and wearing down. Find out why and how.

The video below has more details, I hope you like it, literally!

Who can help?

There are many support, helping, and healing professionals out there: medical professionals; birthing coaches; personal trainers; dietitians; chiropractors; physical therapists; occupational therapists; mental health professionals; running coaches; life coaches; business coaches; financial planners; attorneys…

Turn to your network, coworkers, family, and friends, and begin to just look and see who might be able to help or who knows someone who can help. When we need a helping hand with something, we’re in a vulnerable place and sometimes asking for a hand might involve sensitive information. As you look for someone to help, be aware of confidentiality, protect your privacy.

Possible signs of needing assistance

There is a wide range of signs and symptoms that point in the direction that you should ask for help. Depending on your situation, you may experience tension in your body, stress build up, upsetting emotions arise, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, distress tolerance lowers, self-defeating thoughts, mental breakdowns… this can quickly start sounding like a commercial reciting the side effects of a meditation.

Go with your gut instinct and ask for help when you realize that you need it. Avoid the side effects.

Why you should ask for a hand

Don’t put off seeking help because sometimes symptoms will worsen. In some cases, the longer we spin our wheels, the further we sink down in the mud, the harder it is to get back out. The mud flies everywhere and then, blankets things around you. The longer we are stuck and sinking down, the greater the risk of other areas of our lives have at becoming harmed.

Keep in mind, this is incredibly important with mental health, that it is easier to be treated the sooner you seek help from a mental health professional. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can feel relief.

Lower distress tolerance was mentioned above as a sign that you may need to reach out for help, but how do you know how to measure distress? How much distress is too much? Visit this little article and resource on distress tolerance and download the scale to increase awareness.

Even if you haven’t felt stuck for long, still consider reaching out. It’s better to ask a question, to have a second opinion or additional set of eyes on something than going alone.

Possible benefits of a helping hand, a second opinion, and another set of eyes

By taking action, we create the opportunity to grow personally and develop professionally. There is much to learn from other people. They have different opinions, experiences, and expertise.

Overcome the risks you feel that are keeping you down by taking a chance [By the way, sometimes the risks aren’t actually there, but our minds tell us they are. For example, making a mountain out of a mole hill. Our thoughts are catastrophizing. This is a part of cognitive distortions.] The benefits of getting help typically greatly outweigh the potential risks.

Some potential benefits are accelerating towards achieving goals, learning something new, becoming more flexible seeing from another person’s perspective, lessening the chance of getting stuck again with that same thing, and making a connection with someone you might not have otherwise.

You’ll feel relieved after reaching out. Opportunity awaits! Achieving goals are on the other side seeking help. You deserve help, you deserve to reach your goals! You’ve worked hard to get to where you are now, everyone gets stuck at some point, acknowledge your hard work and achievements. Asking for help isn’t admitting defeat, asking for help is a strength.

Thanks for watching this video, I hope that it provided valuable insight and a nudge in the direction towards asking for help if you need it.

Please, help others find this video by “liking” it and “subscribing” to my YouTube channel. Your support is so appreciated!

1% Better Habits and Goals

1%, think about it

If we made a small change in our lives every single day, just 1% better, what would our lives look like? How much improvement would we see? How much closer would we be to our goals?

We often don’t notice tiny changes or progress until they build up over time. We can also be quick to dismiss them, ah, it’s nothing, it’s not a big deal. Later, down the road, we look back and notice that our decisions (thoughts) and habits (behaviors) mattered all along. Depending on whether you made good decisions and led healthy habits, you might find yourself in a fantastic situation or a terrible situation.

Example

If we make wise financial decisions over the years, invest properly for retirement, and maybe even follow a financial adviser’s advice, then we should be set up to have a lovely retirement.

If we make poor financial decisions over the years, we spend money excessively, living beyond our means, and we don’t even consider speaking with a financial adviser, then we probably won’t be able to retire the way that we wish to or even at all.

Tiny details matter! Don’t automatically count something out just because it is minor.

A little more on small changes

The change can be anything small. Think to yourself, what makes you happy? What would make you happy? Increase the value of your day by making a 1% change.

Creating changes involves good habits. Do your habits reflect your goals? This also has to do with identity. Who are you? Who do you wish to become? We behave in a way that reflects who we wish to become. Every time we repeat a behavior that reflects that envisioned person or goal, we’re creating a habit. The more we do that behavior, the more the habit is reinforced. Reinforcing the behavior is an important step, it must be repeated over and over. The more you act towards your goals, the more you identify with that.

Watch this video as I share about a current long-term goal and the tiny details that all add up, making my dream a reality.

I hope that you find this eight minute video informative and inspiring.

Please, “like” and “subscribe” to my YouTube channel while you’re there. I appreciate your support.

Want more on this sort of topic? Read my article, “Being Fearless, Accomplishing a Dream.”

It is about fear and anxiety holding us back.

As always, be well.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

How to set goals

Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Time-based

This is important framework for creating any goal, short-term or long-term. I keep this structure in mind when helping people set goals and intentions.

We work smart

▪︎ We are specific

▪︎ We look at the details of the desired outcome

▪︎ We talk about what already works for the person and if we can use it to reach the current goal

▪︎ We discuss how to go about the smaller steps towards completing the bigger picture

▪︎ We figure out a time frame and consider how much time a person has to devote towards the goal

▪︎ We explore appropriate alternative strategies and methods to reach the goal. There’s probably more than one way to go about it

▪︎ I teach people new strategies and we determine how they can be applied to reflect what we’re aiming for

Reach out to me if you think I can help with a goal.

Browse my blog (and subscribe) to see what kind of work that I do and for free, downloadable mental health resources!

It’s a “Positive Affirmation” Kinda Day

Today, I’m diving into my positive affirmations, as negative and distorted thoughts have crept in. This is completely normal and something everyone goes through. I like to write my positive affirmations, which include quotes and Bible verses, on index cards. Today, I wrote one about being a business owner. The affirmations are kept on a shelf next to my work desk. As I read through my cards, I reflected on them, noticing that I’m feeling pretty good about them and have not needed to use certain affirmations for a few months! I take them to heart, I know that they are true.

When I’m going through my day and notice physical symptoms of worry and anxiety, I know that a helpful strategy is to visit my cards. Having three to four mental coping strategies on hand, that aren’t going on a run, is key. Addressing anxiety by going on a run is my top way to manage symptoms, but I can’t always go out when I want, so I take deep breaths and incorporate mindfulness to create a different reaction. I read my affirmations as many times as I feel appropriate. There are tougher days where I keep them on my desk and will intentionally be more aware of my breathing throughout the day, as I know that an unhelpful habit is to hold my breath.

When was the last time that you read or recited positive affirmations to yourself? If it has been a while, don’t forget that this is a simple way to redirect your thoughts. Know your distorted thoughts and unhelpful habits. Know when you need to use your positive affirmations and other coping strategies, and pay attention to the benefits.

Find more on affirmations below:

Positive affirmations to get through a crisis or difficult time.

WAYS TO STRENGTHEN RUNNER’S BODY IMAGE AND POSITIVITY

As runners, we need to make sure that we’re protecting our body image and promoting body positivity. Acknowledge that all of our bodies are different, setting aside judgments, opinions, and expectations of what our body should look like as runners. Know that all of our bodies are incredible and capable of so much. They can go ultra distances, but on a cellular functional level they are more impressive. Appreciate, love, and respect that.

Self-care is obviously very important. Appropriate recovery and nutrition, among all of the other ways that we support our bodies.

We have to check our negative and distorted thoughts about our bodies. What kind of thoughts are you having about your body? What are you doing with those thoughts? Are you taking care of yourself? Positive affirmations, caring thoughts, embracing ourselves how we are in the moment, and focusing on the resiliency of our bodies are a few ways to go about promoting healthier and more realistic thoughts. Remember, thoughts are just thoughts, what you choose to do with them is what matters! We all experience negative thoughts.

It’s okay to want to improve our bodies and become sharper athletes. Make sure you’re going about it in the right way and not causing harm or injury.

Be present and content with how you are because our bodies do so much for us, they change day-to-day, anyway. Give thanks to your body, even the challenging parts. Forgive yourself for things that you have said or done to your body that you shouldn’t have. A good way to do this is to look at yourself in the mirror and repeat these things, allowing them to settle into your heart. Let yourself heal.

When hurtful words and actions come from other people, we don’t have control over that. We choose to control how we react. Have some sort of comeback or body positive affirmation in your back pocket for when this occurs. Protect yourself, stand up for yourself. A ton of people out there will have something negative to say about your body. It sucks, it shouldn’t happen, but try to not allow it to take a hold of you. You’re better than that and you’re worth it. Plain ignoring the person is fine, but it feels better saying something positive about your body. Better yet, if you say something amazing about the part of your body that they are judging or criticizing. Use your strength and take a stand.

You know what’s best for your body, but if you’re honestly struggling with body image and eating, reach out for support. Strengthen yourself through people who are there to help you. It’s alright to need any level of help with something. You could contact a professional mental health counselor, someone who specializes in body image and eating. Dietitians and nutritionists. A running coach, maybe even one who is certified in nutrition. For a good shot at getting the best support for you, make sure that they are a good fit to work with.

As a running community, let’s continue the conversation, sticking together on issues like this, and lifting each other up. Thank you for reading.

Breakneck Falls, McConnell Mills State Park

EXTRA SELF-CARE AND HEALTHY HABITS, SOMETHING WE ALL NEED.

Short talk about self-care, something that seems easy, but it’s actually kind of difficult to do. I feel this topic is covered so much, but yet, we all still struggle with it. I can’t think of a single person, myself included, who could be practicing self-care more frequently or in a way that’s more beneficial.

May is Mental Health Awareness month. What are you doing this month (and everyday because we have mental health everyday) to make sure that we are growing our knowledge and awareness of mental health? How are you supporting yourself? How are you supporting others? Please, share with me down in the comments what you’re doing for mental wellness. [I could use some fresh ideas.]

Mental health professionals cannot end the stigma alone and get everyone the help that they need, we need you to be a part of this mission.

Why You Should Elevate Your Mental Health and How

Do you prioritize your mental health? If your mental health isn’t one of the areas that comes to mind, consider moving it to one of your top priorities, elevate it. Here’s the short answer of why it’s important. When we work on our mental health, we improve all of the other areas of our lives. When we emotionally and mentally operate effectively and efficiently, other well-being pieces fall into place. Some pieces that are positively impacted are, sleep, problem solving capability, relationships, and productivity increases. All a ripple-effect benefit of elevating mental wellness. The benefits are truly endless.

Here are a few ideas of how you can focus on your mental health

What to intentionally focus on

Spend a few minutes a day addressing your mind. What areas need the most attention? Is it sleep? Anxiety? When was the last time that you did self-care? Focus on the area that needs it the most, not to feel overwhelmed, because there could be several areas that you feel could use love. Once there’s a rythm or a habit created for that particular area, move onto another area. Be gracious to yourself through the process of addressing the area, it might take some time and it’s hard work.

How to make it happen

Here are two ways to help you with planning that focus time

Way one

The first, is scheduling half an hour to an hour per day. The second, is sprinkling in the work throughout the day. The option of scheduling it in works well for people who like having structure or who are likely to procrastinate. Write it in your planner, including the time you will work on it and set an intention of what you’re going to specifically work on. – An attainable short-term goal. When the time comes, aim to do it for half an hour to an hour. Afterwards, notice or be mindful of the benefits of your achievement. Do what is helpful to you. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, reflect back to your past to see if maybe you did something helpful then, that you can apply to now.

What it could look like

This could look like journaling about your day or a problem that you have. Taking a long bath, free of distractions, and reflecting on the highlights of your day. When you wake up in the morning, thinking about something that you’re looking forward to in the near future. Participating in relaxing yoga before bed. Having a mindful meal.

Way two

The second way, sprinkling it in throughout the day, looks a little different and is go-with-the-flow. This strategy might work for someone who has a busy schedule or would like to see it organically integrated throughout their day.

What it could look like

This could look like doing a three minute breathing or mindfulness exercise while doing a simple tasks, such as household cleaning. Working on a gratitude list, jotting down what you’re grateful for as they come to you throughout the day. Stretch and do mindful movement when you’ve been sitting for too long. – When at a desk-job, get up from your chair once every 45-90 minutes for 5-10 minutes.

Doing mental wellness activities will be wonderful. Try both planning strategies, or other ways that you can think of, to see what fits best.

Elevate your mental health to reap all the great benefits. Start by identifying what needs the most attention and then figure out how to make it happen. Is it better for you if you schedule it or if you sprinkle it in throughout the day? Once you have a basic plan, just do it. There are multiple strategies and ways to improve your mental wellness. Do the ones that work for you consistently. Lastly, fully enjoy the benefits and continue the good work.

Being Fearless, Accomplishing a Dream

Think of something that you’ve always dreamed of doing. Travel? Opening a business? Contacting someone you haven’t talked to in a long time or ever? Dumping an unhealthy habit that you have been clinging to? It can be anything. It is probably overwhelming to think about and you might be afraid of the process. I’m talking about really stepping outside of your comfort zone and tearing down the protective barriers. Think about how freeing accomplishing that dream could feel… YOU DID IT! Think about all of the possible benefits of that accomplishment, like further opportunities, boost in self-esteem, feelings of gratitude and happiness, and reconnection.

Fear and Anxiety Holds Us Back

Being honest with yourself, what has kept you from doing that? If it is anxiety, you’re not alone. The feelings of fear and anxiety are there to protect us on a primitive level. These emotions help us to survive and make better choices. If we didn’t have these feelings, what would be stopping us from doing something dangerous? These are normal, healthy emotions and we can’t make them go away. We don’t want them to go away.

Our thoughts that hold us back can seem to come out of nowhere at times. Thoughts are naturally occurring and will come and go. Know that thoughts are thoughts and not reality. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Identify the thoughts that hold you back, reframe them to better use, and learn how to better manage your anxiety. Even though we can manage anxiety, we can’t get rid of it, but we can keep it at bay.

What was that dream accomplishment that you thought of earlier? How can you make it work? What small steps can you take to get the ball rolling?

My Real-Life Example

Here is a simple example of a long-term goal of mine and thoughts that I struggle with. This is in regards to participating in the BADWATER 135 ultramarathon (I am a seasoned ultrarunner). This is a goal that has been several years in the making and there are a few more years to come in this journey before I stand at the start line. Many doubts have popped up in my mind over the years. Doubts that I’m not good enough, and doubts that details would never come together to make this dream a reality. Anxiety comes and goes. I experience anxiety over what people might say or think if I ever bring up wanting to run The World’s Toughest Footrace, so I rarely talk about it. Anxiety over becoming injured and never being able to run ever again. These thoughts have been bothersome, coming and going, since I got started. I want this goal bad enough, and I’m going to give my best effort, so the thoughts aren’t going to keep me from doing what I am passionate about.

Reframe Fearful and Anxious Thoughts

The unhelpful thoughts are identified, now let me show you how to reframe this fearful way of thinking. The doubt that “I’m not good enough” can be reframed to, “I am hardworking and have been thoughtfully and skillfully working towards this goal for years. I have grown so much, not just as an athlete, but as a person. I’ve come so far, I’m not going to give up now.” And “things won’t ever come together for me,” to “continue to be patient, every year you are steps closer to this goal, and you are diligent in catching all of the preparation details.” As for the anxiety, “I can’t ever tell anyone without being judged,” to “who cares what people have to say about it, this is something that I love.” For anxiety over injury, “I’m worried that I’m going to get injured in a freak accident on the trail while training,” to “I’m a careful and skilled runner. I rest my body and care for it enough, so that I can do what I do. My running coach is also mindful when it comes to injury prevention.” That is how to reframe, think realistically.

More Anxiety Management

There are multiple ways to manage anxiety. Self-care should be the top priority because it is the base from which we build upon. This includes proper diet, exercise, and sleep. Use the reframing skill from above. Learn Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy coping strategies. Talk with a licensed professional counselor to have support in sorting out the details and find what works for you. Practice yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Practice these things consistently overtime to create helpful habits. The process isn’t always easy, there are challenging times, stick with it, and give yourself grace. It is a true learning process. I have been using these strategies consistently for years and they work. As you do the strategies, you will find favorites and learn when to use which strategy, as one will be more helpful than another in any given scenario.

When Your Dream Becomes a Reality

When the time comes to tackle that dream, reflect on your journey. How does it feel to be where you are, today? What is the biggest thing that you learned in those smaller steps? How can you apply what you have learned in the future? Continue the helpful habits that you have established or are continuing to work on. Honestly, the work never ends, and having a healthy mind is a ton of work, but we absolutely need to nourish it.

When that dream becomes reality, be connected and in the moment with it. Take it in. What does it feel like physically, emotionally, and spiritually? What is the greatest part of the experience? How proud do you feel? What have you learned? When it’s all over, would you do it again? It is important that we acknowledge the benefits of the hard work and perseverance. There is a mountain of experience to take away from accomplishing a dream.

I hope that you found this article insightful and are perhaps examining anxious thoughts that are keeping you from achieving your dreams. Incorporate the strategies that I have discussed into your day-to-day life and notice the benefits. Keep striving towards accomplishing your dreams, soaking in that journey.

Badwater Basin, CA

How to Stay Afloat Financially While Searching for a Job

Guest article provided by Lisa Walker of neighborhoodsprout.org

No one denies that looking for work can be a difficult and stress-inducing time. There are many challenges you will have to face, and finding a way to support yourself financially is one of them. The good news is that there are many viable options, whether that means pet sitting, crafting and selling your goods, or teaching a musical instrument.

Get Crafting

If you enjoy working with your hands, consider starting a crafting or artistic venture to support yourself. There are many options to explore, so even if you don’t enjoy one form of crafting, you can try another. A craft needs to solve a problem or provide something that people want. What do people enjoy? What do they need that they don’t have? How can you bridge those two and create something desirable? What makes your version the one that people want? A good tip is to not overproduce right away, as it’s wise to experiment to see what adjustments might need to be made. You also don’t need to start out big, either. It could be as easy as a bracelet, a necklace, or even a treat for puppies. The fact is there are many, many avenues for you to try.

Find That Side Gig

If you are not the crafting type, there are plenty of alternatives. The benefit of a side gig is that it allows the flexibility to find a more permanent solution. If you’re good with words, you could try writing or editing as a freelancer. If you are looking for a way to get out of the house and get a little exercise to stay busy, pet sitting or even dog walking can be a lucrative solution. There are different websites you can use as a platform to find clients, or you can advertise yourself independently. However, if you do go independent, know that you will want to get insurance. When you work in other people’s homes or with another person’s pets, you want to have some financial security should something awful happen. However, this is a great side gig that can turn into a full-time position, especially if you love animals. What’s more, a side gig can allow you to set aside time to self-care, which is crucial for maintaining your physical and mental health.

Teach or Tutor

If you have previous experience, especially in fields where there is a lot of growth, you might want to market your skills as a teacher or a tutor. There are websites that allow you to find students, or, like pet-sitting, you can go it solo and advertise on your own. You just need a niche, and then you can go from there, even producing instructional videos or little teasers to get new clients. It could be business related, educational, or even something like music. If you play a musical instrument, you can make money teaching it to others. Even if you only did well in English in school, you can teach it. Also, tutoring in a subject like English to non-native speakers can be very beneficial and rewarding. It really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you have the experience to advertise yourself as an authority.

Go Online

If you need some time to yourself, but you also need to earn an income, all you need is a computer and the internet to get started. A popular choice is being a virtual assistant. You don’t need experience, just the capacity to focus on multiple things at once. You could transcribe videos, take surveys, test websites, or even start a blog. If you know your way around a computer, you could try web development. Do you speak another language? If so, try your hand at becoming an online translator. Some things may require skills or experience, but many don’t. You could even try your hand at data entry.

Get the Right Help

Starting a new business is challenging, but there are services like ZenBusiness that can support you every step of the way. You might be wondering,  “What is ZenBusiness?” It’s a business support platform with tools and services for entrepreneurs just like you! They offer everything from business registration assistance to tax and banking information. With an all-inclusive go-to, you can focus on choosing the right money-earning role, rather than getting bogged down in the details of getting off the ground.

You can find a fulfilling way to support yourself during a stressful job search. You may need to experiment a bit before you find the right fit, but it is out there. Take care of yourself and work toward doing something you both enjoy and can use to achieve financial stability.

Does the stress of looking for work have you dealing with anxiety? Professional mental health services from Shannon Mick can help you reduce stress and achieve your goals. (724) 841-1963 shannon.mick@finishstrongercounseling.com  

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com