Awkward and Strong

At a yoga class recently, I was reminded in the midst of a holding a very difficult pose that what we need we carry with us. The instructor went on to discuss how we have the ability to cope with difficult situations. Deep stuff, right?

This doesn’t mean I held the pose. I certainly didn’t look the picture of the strength and grace I aspire to be. I was awkward, and shaky, and exited out of the pose before the teacher told me to do so. I may have even rolled my eyes a bit at the instructor’s words.

But it made me think. Not necessarily to agree with the instructor about what we carry internally, and whether it is enough. No, it made me think about how the things we need to grow come from within us, instead of from the material things around us.

I realized that my physical practice of yoga depended on me. Not the room I was in, not the clothes I was wearing, or even the yoga mat beneath my feet. My awkward, strong engagement in physical movement using my own body… that depended on me.

The instructor was right. I didn’t have the tools to bend and contort into a crazy pose, but I did have the ability to engage my body in the practice and own my movements. I didn’t need anything but myself to do yoga.

I often say in counseling sessions that you are the only one who is in your body and your mind 24/7. (It’s a great thing – and sometimes a very difficult thing!). That self is all you need to challenge yourself to grow.

And in my office, all we really need is you (the person who is in your body and your mind), and me (the person who will sit with you). Counseling depends on the relationship between myself and you, the client.

It is nice to have chairs to sit in, pictures to look at, and a window to let the light in; but the real work comes from the connection in the therapeutic relationship. That’s all we really need. It may be awkward at times, it may be shaky, and it will be strong. The real work comes from the changing perspective you develop for yourself and take out of the office with you.

What we need to grow we carry within us.

In yoga, the things we need come from physical movement. In counseling, it comes from the counseling relationship. In both cases it is the internal parts of self and relationship that lead to growth.

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Good-bye snow bank, Hello recycling bin

After over a month, my recycling bin has emerged from the midst of a snow bank. Sometime in February, I’d set the recycling bin by the curb and a snowstorm buried it overnight. Just this week, the snow melted enough for my blue bin to reappear, equally full of snow as recyclables. I left the bin out by the curb. It was finally ready to be emptied.

When it comes time for spring, I think we’re all a bit like that recycling bin. We may have things we’ve been holding onto that have no more use; we may have been buried (or been hiding!) in a snow bank; we may be emerging from a long winter, standing alone on the grass where there used to be snow.

A new season is heading towards us – spring. With change comes stress, and new growth, and opportunity.

What do you need to empty from your recycling bin? What are your hopes for spring? What might you still be holding onto? What do you need help sorting through?

As always, I’m a phone call away if you find you need another perspective as you dive into your own emotional spring cleaning – (585)406-3012.

December’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

December’s Mindfulness Exercise:

The holidays are here. This can mean more family gatherings, parties, and other get-togethers outside the norm of our usual day-to-day. It also can mean more stress.

With stress and social interactions in mind, this month’s mindfulness exercise is focused on interpersonal interactions.

Over the course of the next week, pick several different social situations (such as at a party, at home, or at work) to try the following exercise:

In conversation, notice how your emotions fluctuate. Throughout the course of a conversation, check in with yourself. Beginning with the very first “hello,” notice what you are feeling emotionally and your overall level of distress. Before you respond to the other person (or people) in the conversation, wait for one breath – or even a half a breath – to notice what you are experiencing emotionally. When the conversation is ending, take a few deep breaths to notice what you are feeling and your overall level of distress.

How do your emotions fluctuate in conversation? Does this change based on the context, the time of day, or the person with whom you are talking?

Notice what you experience and your overall observances. If you are an active client, please feel free to share your experience of this exercise in your next session.

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

November’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

November’s Mindfulness Exercise:

 

The holidays are coming and with them, many different stressors. Holiday stress can include worries about finances, so for this month’s mindfulness exercise we will be noticing financial stress.

Begin with your breathing, keeping in mind that as long as you are breathing, there is more that’s right with you than wrong with you. Check in with how you are feeling physically and emotionally, and what thoughts are on your mind.

Draw your thoughts to the topic of finances. Without diving into any specific thoughts, notice your responses. What thoughts come to mind? What is your level of distress, 1 through 10 (if 10 is panic)? What emotions come up for you? How do you feel physically at this moment?

Without judging your responses or trying to change them, continue to observe the various aspects of your conscious awareness. If you notice your stress level rise, return to your breathing.

Continue to engage in this exercise for a few minutes, and then take a moment to write down the responses you noticed mentally, physically, and emotionally. Reflect on these responses. Is there a way you would like to respond differently, or a strategy you’d like to employ to better manage stress?

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

Q&A with Johanna

You’ve been in private practice for a few years now. What’s changed? What hasn’t?

Well, first off there are now two locations, one in Brighton and one in Webster. Something else that has changed is my own growth as a therapist and deepening interest in areas of specialty, including medical trauma, gender identity exploration, social anxiety, and grief. I also work with more adolescents in my practice than when I first opened.

I’m continuing to also see clients with general anxiety, grief, trauma, and depression, as well as areas of specialty. What has stayed the same is my interest in hearing people’s stories and witnessing positive change in their lives.

What helps to keep your practice sustainable?

Community! While I practice individually and the business itself is just me, I could not do this without community. In my physical office locations, I share community with the other professionals in the space. In the therapist community, I collaborate and learn from other local therapists (and with such varied strengths here in Rochester, there is always something to learn!). And more broadly, collaborating with other disciplines such as spiritual leaders and medical providers is hugely important both for the health of my practice and for the health of my clients.

I would also say continued learning is important. The more I am engaged in learning, the more I can share with my clients the most relevant and recent research on why we do what we do in therapy. There’s always something new to learn.

And finally, focusing on the most important part – the growth and the healing that happens in the office with a client. That’s the best part of the practice, without a doubt.

October’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

October’s Mindfulness Exercise:

This month we are going to continue to explore the basics of mindfulness, with a focus on emotions. To begin, take a nice even breath in and out. Notice the feeling of expansion as you inhale, and release as you exhale. Pay attention to how your physical body is feeling today, as well as the pace of your thoughts as you begin this exercise.

Try to notice sensations, thoughts, and feelings without judgment and without attempting to change them.

As you breathe, pay attention to what emotions draw your attention. Do you feel joy, fear, sadness, contentment, anger, guilt? Are you irritable or stressed out? Notice what emotions bubble to the surface, and notice what your response is. Do you try to push the emotion away, or do you engage in it? Notice if there is a physical space in the body where the emotion resides. What emotions are more comfortable for you to experience?

Continue to breathe and notice what you experience. After engaging in this active accepting awareness for a few more minutes, gently wiggle your fingers and toes, bringing movement back into the body.

We develop patterns in how we respond to various things, including our own emotions. It can be helpful to increase our awareness of our emotional responses and what we do with those responses.

 

NOTE: This is not intended to replace therapy.  Please contact Johanna at (585)406-3012 if you are interested in engaging in counseling for optimal wellness.

September’s Mindfulness Exercise

Mindfulness involves observing and accepting the things around and within us in the present moment, without judgment.  In therapy, Johanna may involve mindfulness skills to build awareness of various issues and to develop coping strategies to reach optimal wellness.   The exercise below is not individualized to your needs as it may be in therapy, but is rather intended as a general exercise that you may find useful.

September’s Mindfulness Exercise:

Let’s go back to the basics this month and focus on mindful awareness of our thoughts. Take a couple nice even breaths in and out. Engage in a gentle rolling of your shoulders, stretching of your fingers or gentle twist in the spine to bring awareness to your physical self. Check in with what level of stress you are holding today.

Without judging or trying to change them, begin to notice your thoughts as they pop into your head. You can think of them as clouds up in the sky, hanging out or drifting past. If you begin to drift with them, return to your breathing.

To distance yourself from your thoughts (in order to better observe them), visualize that you are standing on a grassy hill, looking up at the sky. Picture that the clouds you see above are your thoughts. Notice them as they swirl, drift past, or even develop into storm clouds.

Return to your breathing and write down anything you noticed or would like to process further regarding your thoughts. If you are an active client, feel free to bring your observances to your next counseling session.