counseling

When You’re Just Not Feeling the Joy

This morning I woke up with a pit in my stomach. It’s one of those mornings when things just feel off, and my heart is unsettled. Often I can pinpoint the cause, but sometimes it eludes me. I will try to distract myself or medicate it away with sleep, sugar, caffeine, mindless tv, or more sleep. I think this feeling is not uncommon, particularly as we get close to the holidays.

It’s supposed to be a joyous time of year, but sometimes we just don’t feel like rejoicing. Is there something wrong with us?

Let’s look at the messages we are taking in. We are bombarded with commercials that tell us that we are unhappy and that our lives are less than perfect unless we buy a certain product. On social media, people are posting holiday pictures and discussing family, but for many, it is not a happy time of year, and it can be magnified when we feel like everyone else around us is happy and festive. And to be honest, the state of the world and the amount of social and political unrest is unsettling, particularly as things become more and more divisive.

We can feel uneasy or unsettled at any time, not just during the holiday season. So this morning I am going through my mental checklist, because if there is something significant and I don’t deal with it, it will show its ugly head later, so it’s best to just deal with things now, if I can. Perhaps this checklist will be helpful for you as well. Here are some things to think about when you’re feeling unsettled and you don’t know why:

  1. Do I have unrealistic expectations for the holidays? Am I looking for THIS holiday season to make up for any unpleasant or unsatisfactory experiences I had growing up or in the past? Or is it something more basic, not necessarily connected to the holidays?
  2. Is it a gnawing conscience? Sometimes when there is this uneasiness in my heart, it’s because I’ve said or done something hurtful or insensitive, and I need to make amends. Have I been hurtful, unkind, or insensitive? Do I have unfinished business with someone, and my heart isn’t letting me ignore it?
  3. Is it shame? Did I say something out of turn, or behave in a way that I wish I hadn’t? Is it legitimate shame (where I have truly done something that I shouldn’t have) or is it misplaced shame, put on by myself or others, to make me feel ‘less than’? Is this a sign that I am looking for significance in the wrong place, or letting outside forces determine my worth?
  4. Is it undiscipline? Am I putting off a duty or responsibility that I need to be working on? Am I distracting myself from some things that must be done with things that are unnecessary? Am I spending time on things that I call ‘time sucks’ – like social media, Pinterest, mindless tv, binge-watching Netflix, etc – rather than prioritizing the important things that I should be doing?
  5. Am I not setting good boundaries? Have I said  “yes” to something because I felt obligated rather than called to do something? Have I said “No” to something or made excuses when my heart knows I really should have said yes? Have I let someone have more power in my life than they should? Am I allowing another’s actions or words to affect my sense of self?
  6. Am I placing my sense of personal significance in the wrong place? Am I basing how I feel about my own worth on the opinions of others? On whether or not I have convinced them how awesome I am? On how many likes or comments or views I get? On whether or not someone agrees and supports my opinion? Am I comparing myself or my experience with others online (whose real lives are likely completely different from what they portray online)?
  7. Am I connected and in community? Do I have people with whom I can share my heart? Am I lonely and missing loved ones? Is there unresolved grief? Is there loss that might feel particularly strong at this time of year?
  8. Am I living my purpose? Am I just going through the motions, or am I living a meaningful purpose, fulfilling what only I can do in this life? Do I know what makes my life meaningful? (okay, getting a little too deep, time to move on to the basics)
  9. If you still cannot pinpoint what’s causing you to feel unsettled, look at the basics: Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating healthy foods? Are you eating too much sugar (studies show sugar withdrawal mimics depression)? Are you getting outside and getting some exercise? Are you spending time in the sun? (or if it’s dark where you live, are you getting enough vitamin D?) Are you drinking enough water? Are you spending time with those you love? Are you working too much? Are you practicing good self-care? Are you spending time each day having fun? When was the last time you laughed? If you’re a spiritual person, are you staying connected spiritually by praying, reading, meditating?

Often just thinking about and labeling the cause will help to put things in perspective. It also helps me to talk to a friend – sometimes just processing things out loud helps you see things in a different light. I’ve found that sometimes the answer is as simple as taking a break from social media. I don’t think people realize the amount of angst it can create until you step away for a time.

Sometimes the feeling of being unsettled can signal anxiety or depression. This can be temporary, but if the feeling doesn’t dissipate, you may need to look at outside help and get some counseling and see a medical doctor. If you need to seek help, do it. You’re worth it.

Wishing you a holiday filled with love. And joy.

 

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Simply Love, and Love Well

A couple of years ago, my life was in chaos. I felt broken. I felt wounded by the church. I couldn’t enter a church without wanting to run screaming, so I stopped going. I could barely stand it when someone spoke “Christianese” at me.

My relationships were broken. I had hurt one of my best friends, and she refused to forgive me after multiple attempts to reconcile. A family member had deeply wounded me. To create safe boundaries, I had cut off communication for a time in order to build healthy boundaries and not be revictimized.

But God had a plan for this chaos. Broken, my heart was humbled as I saw the devastating consequences of my actions as well as others. I started counseling again for the first time in many years, and started healing anew. As this emotional healing progressed, my spirit was also beginning the healing process. I determined that the story I was living could not continue. I wanted to live a better story.

Eventually, relationships were restored, although the wounds remain. Not as an open source of pain, but a scar that serves as a reminder to love gently and purposefully. While I had turned my back on the “church”, I never felt far from God. Slowly, the contempt I had for organized religion was replaced by a longing for community, to once again find my place in the body of Christ. That is an ongoing process, but I don’t want to run screaming any more (at least, most of the time I don’t).

This week I had the luxury of solitude. I decided not to travel with my husband on business, so I had a blissful week alone. This became a mini-retreat that allowed me hours upon hours to process what I learned at the Storyline conference, and to spend time reading, praying, and journaling. I was able to organize all of the things that had been weighing heavy on my heart. I developed goals for the coming year – specific and purposeful goals. I created a theme for the year that will help guide me and help me focus on those important things that will help me lead a better story.

Simply love, and love well.

Love God. Love others. Love yourself.

Love God –

I will spend more time learning, reading, studying, praying, and journaling. And yes, I am going on a silent retreat next month so that I can learn to be still and listen. And I think I have found a church here in Louisville that doesn’t make me want to run screaming.

I considered the five major roles in my life (wife, family, friend, neighbor, writer) from Storyline’s Creating Your Life Plan, and set goals for each one. I also took into account the concept of the relational atom

Love others:

  • as a wife, be a partner in creating memories and building a home of restorative community

  • as a family member (daughter, sister), love purposefully and practically

  • as a friend (this includes just my inner circle of friends), also love purposefully and practically, and work to maintain relationships though we are at a distance; be ‘present’ even though I am not present

  • as a neighbor (this includes the people in my neighborhood, extended family, my outer circle of friends, co-workers, and church friends) , show God’s love with purpose and presence

Love yourself:

as a writer and creative soul; care for myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually

In light of this new focus, there will be some changes for my blog. I will just be posting a couple of times each week about this journey. In setting some boundaries so that I can be more purposeful in my relationships, I want to spend less time on social media and more time being actually present. My ‘new year’ will start at the beginning of the church calendar, on the first Sunday of Advent  (November 30 this year). I hope you will continue with me as I learn to Simply Love

What have you done to live a better story this past year? Share your answer on my Facebook page.

Comments can be emailed to me by using the form below

Palms Up

One of my favorite humans on this planet is a lawyer, speaker, author, and humanitarian named Bob Goff. To me, he is Jesus with skin on, a guy who really lives the philosophy of loving others, and doesn’t just talk about it. He wrote a book that has greatly influenced my life, Love Does. In this book he describes a practice he does with his clients. When they are meeting, he asks them to sit with their hands on their knees, their palms open and facing up. His theory is that it’s impossible to be defensive with your palms up. You have nothing to hide with palms up. You are strong enough to be vulnerable. A similar principle is present in the theory behind lamaze classes. The theory is if your hands are clenched, you’re not relaxed. If you are truly relaxed and better able to deal with the pain, your hands will also be relaxed and not clenched. Along that line, symbolically, if our palms are open, we are better able to release anger and stress.

So I’ve tried this a few times. I’ve tried this at work during difficult conversations. I’ve tried this on the phone with an aggravating sales person. And I’ve tried it during my journaling, when I’m getting worked up about something that I’m writing. There really is a release in the simple act of opening your palms, and physically releasing whatever it is you may be holding in a tight grasp.

Try it yourself. You can even try it right now, while you’re reading this. Sit quietly and place your hands on top of your legs, palms up. Be still for a bit. Do you notice anything? 

Learning to live with palms up, to relax instead of being stressed, and to breathe and get centered rather than living in internal chaos does not come easy for me. Like any new skill, it takes education or knowledge, practice, and repetition. I’m often surprised at couples or parents who have decided “I’m not going to make the same mistakes in my next marriage” or say “I’m not going to do things the same way my parents did” but fail to take the necessary steps to actively learn a new way of doing things. Just because we know what we don’t want to do, does not mean that we magically acquire the skills to do things differently. Unless we’ve had a role model to show you a different way of doing things, we only have what we know. We only have the pictures and taped messages of our past, and it takes effort to replace these with new, healthy behaviors.

For me, as of today, these steps include:
•counseling – to have someone guide me as I look at why I do the things I do, and to also help me make the healthy transition from survivor to WARRIOR
•learning relaxation techniques like breathing and ‘palms up’ to help quell the inner noise so I am better able to be still before God
•learning to be healthy physically as well as spiritually, which for today means cutting out sugar, caffeine, and beer (but that’s a story for another day).

There are many other steps I need to take in my search for balance, and we’ll look at those in future posts. That’s enough vulnerability for today.

But for now – one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time, with palms up.

Me and Bob Goff at the Storyline Conference 2/14

Kristin and Bob Goff at the Storyline Conference 2/14

 

Balance: What’s “IN YOUR FACE” the Most?

by Kristin Meador

I wish I could start out with a lovely list of “Ten Steps To Finding Balance in Your Life”. The all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking part of me would love this. But I know it’s going to be more messy than ten simple steps. So I’m going to write about my journey. You can follow along if you want, but I’m writing this for me, and my two or three friends that follow along. Anyone else is gravy.

Step 1. What is “in your face” the most?  Years ago, during my first round of personal counseling, I was dealing with a dysfunctional family, a past eating disorder, a history of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, multiple miscarriages, having three babies in four years, my chaotic ADD life, and a broken marriage that we were struggling to repair. I told my counselor “I don’t even know where to begin!” So she asked me, “What’s ‘in your face’ the most? What seems to be a common theme? Which issue is causing you the most distress? Let’s deal with that one first.” As any honest, broken person knows, our lives are messy. Rarely is there just one issue that we are dealing with. Often the issues are interrelated and overlap, but if you think about it, there may be something that stands out. Let’s deal with that one first.

photo credit: Creative Commons by John Veldboom

photo credit: Creative Commons by John Veldboom

So that is where I will begin – What’s in my face the most? Having said all that, I honestly can’t say.

My thoughts are racing, my brain is overwhelmed.

There are not enough hours in a day. I feel like I’m always busy, but I never seem to accomplish anything substantial.

I am not eating healthy, I have gained back every pound I had lost and then some, and I am tired and sore and overweight and unhealthy. I’m restless in my life, and I know that I need a change, but I’m not sure what. I have unfinished projects and goals at work, but I am overwhelmed by every day tasks. I have so many things I want to do – remodel my house, travel, and write, to name just a few – but I can’t seem to start a project, let alone finish one.

I have broken relationships that are calling out to be healed and reconciled. I long to find a church family, or a spiritual community, in which I can grow and serve.

More than anything, I long for a peaceful, quiet place in my soul and spirit so I can sort all of this out. Hey guys – THAT IS WHAT IS IN MY FACE THE MOST. Those things in my life that are distracting me from the most important work I should be doing – finding balance. So there we have it – step one is complete.

Next post –

2. Squirrel! How to Stop Chasing Distractions