Inner Musings: Being Heard

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last padding=”9% 0 0 0″]This Taurus Season, the season of connecting to voice, mental health muse, Lauren Eimers-Wangrud, brings us some beautiful and wise tips on how to truly hear and be heard.
Artwork by Kaitlin Walsh

“Communication is not saying something; communication is being heard.”
– Frances Hesselbein, Former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America, writer, b.1915

Taurus season is a favorite for many reasons: the true arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, a slowing down to savor the good things in life, and the time to dig into conversations with others. Conversing can be one of life’s greatest pleasures, but it can also be one of its thorniest activities. If you are really wanting to be heard the next time you find yourself deep in conversation, there are a few tried and true ways of making sure you’re not just talking, but communicating.[/two_third_last]

[two_third padding=”0% 0 0 0″]If there is one thing you can remember from this little piece, it’s that listening, really hearing what the other party is saying, will make what you are saying listened to, as well. In our fast-paced culture, we often just wait for the other person to finish what they are saying to jump right in with what we have to say. In essence, we are just using the time we aren’t talking to prepare for when we will be talking again. It’s pretty difficult to hear what someone else is saying when you are mapping out a blueprint of your next phrase or sentence. It has become such a rarity to really be listened to that an entire profession, mental health therapy, has boomed in response. People and health insurance companies are willing to pay to have a person sit and listen to them in 50-minute increments. As a therapist, I can tell you some of the best medicine is just to be heard and acknowledged, since it’s lacking in everyday life.

Now, you’re going to remember to listen (or at least try to) in your next conversation, right? That last paragraph is a great example of how to get the essence of what you want to communicate, the “meat” of your argument, to be heard: by literally telling folks to listen to what you are about to say! Tell your audience or conversation partner you are going to say something important, say it, and then remind them about it once more before the conversation is over. However, don’t overuse this little tool, since it should be used just once or twice in a conversation or presentation.

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last padding=”3% 0 0 0″]Another way to truly communicate with others is what’s called “mirroring.” The great news is is that your brain handles this for you effortlessly. When you are giving full attention to what the other party is saying, you will subconsciously start to mirror that person in tone, body language, and inflections. Your brain has “mirror neurons” that are activated when mirroring and allows for a greater connection and understanding to be established with the other individual whose mirror neurons are kicking in, too. Your brain has this system in place to help create empathy, which we all know is what truly connecting can foster.

Knowing that tuning in and listening can help you make a deeper connection to others should give you the confidence to slow down and invest in the words you are exchanging. Take this Taurus season to communicate completely so that you can be heard. [/two_third_last]

Inner Musings: Fighting Fair

[one_half][/one_half][one_half_last]Let’s dive into this astrological new year by igniting our fires and facing our anger square on. CosmoMuse mental health expert, Lauren Eimers-Wangrud, shares some brilliant thoughts on how we can do this in a very constructive way.

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” – Maya Angelou, Poet, 1928 – 2014

It’s the beginning of the astrological new year, and with new beginnings comes refreshed energies to clean house–literally, emotionally, psychologically. One way to “clean house” emotionally is with anger. Many of us were taught that anger is a purely negative feeling, but anger can be a positive and curative force when uncoupled from violence and aggression. This Aries season, the season of fire, ignition, and clarity, we can address anger in our lives and learn how to convey our anger in constructive ways.[/one_half_last]

[full_width]Sitting on or stifling your anger isn’t the best idea for your emotional or physical health. Just as a wound can fester if not cleaned and properly cared for, so can anger that is left pent up. That anger can turn into a grudge or bitterness and creates an energy drain on your internal resources. Anger that is not expressed ultimately damages the person carrying it, not the source or cause of the anger. Understanding now that unreleased anger serves no one, let’s talk about how we can channel our anger and express it in a positive way.

“Fighting fair” isn’t about not letting your emotions be known or sugar-coating how you really feel. Bringing honesty, maturity, and empathy into an argument can make your expression of anger a starting point for better communication and even possibly a solution to the source of that anger. Much like a debate, there are ground rules that need to be followed for an argument to have a chance at a positive outcome.[/full_width]

[two_third]The first and most important rule is that aggression and violence have no place in “fighting fair.” That said, your next rules need to be agreed upon by both parties and are best discussed during a time where emotions aren’t running high, i.e. don’t try to discuss new mutual ground rules in the middle of a fight:

Try to remain calm and open to communication. When we are overwhelmed or “flooded” with emotion to the point where we aren’t hearing what the other person is saying, it is 100% okay to take a “time out” until you aren’t feeling flooded any longer.

Be specific about what it was that caused your anger. Using phrases like, “It makes me feel XYZ way when ABC happens,” helps the other party to understand what you are trying to convey while not getting defensive. Your feelings are valid and talking about them only helps in reaching a positive outcome, as opposed to accusations, which shuts down communication in no time.

Old issues aren’t allowed in the fight. Bringing up something that happened in the past isn’t going to help the situation at hand. If you are still carrying a wound from the past, pick another time to discuss that, so you can release that from yourself. Try not to let your anger build up over time, so the only arguments you have are of the “kitchen sink” variety.

[one_half][/one_half][one_half_last]Try not to use words like “always” or “never.” Generalizations not only are inaccurate, they can make an issue seem bigger and that there is less room for change.

Stonewalling is not an option. The silent treatment won’t help in two-way communication or the reaching of any sort of resolution. If you are feeling flooded, let the other person know you need a breather, but are committed to resuming your conversation when you are better able to talk constructively.

Remember this isn’t a “win or lose” situation. Many an argument have resolutions built on respect and compromise.

Your spring cleaning can take many forms this year. With a little planning, honesty, and empathy, you can let that anger burn brightly and emerge unburdened with new emotional clarity.[/one_half_last]

Inner Musings: 1/24th of your Day

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last]Lauren Eimers-Wangrud brings us some very caring mental health advice for this Pisces Season as we are urged to find a little extra personal space during this meditative and ethereal time.
Images via Pinterst

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
– Audre Lorde, poet, writer, activist, 1934 – 1992

1/24th of your Day

You’ve heard it a million times before: you have to put on your oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs. This Pisces season I challenge you to make self-care a new priority. It sounds self-indulgent, but as Audre Lorde so eloquently states, caring for oneself “is self-preservation.” In today’s climate, taking care of oneself is as important as ever. We will explore simple ways to reframe your days or weeks to allow for this important and sustaining practice.[/two_third_last]

[two_third]Self-care can nurture different aspects of your life. You can take time to care for your physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, personal, and professional self. Sometimes a self-care ritual will help just one portion of your self, but often something that is sustaining for one aspect can be buoying for another. For example, taking time to have lunch with a dear friend not only cares for your personal self, but can be supportive to your emotional self as well. A long walk is great for physical self-care, but it can also give you time to reflect and recharge psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

In our culture, self-care can be conceptualized as self-centered, greedy, or weak, so it may be difficult at first to attempt to carve out a bit of time each day or week for yourself. It may help to remember when you are stepping away from the computer, project, or your partner or family, that helping yourself will better enable you to conquer the tasks that may be wearing you down in everyday life. Recharging for an hour a day can give you the resolve and energy you need to conquer the other 23 hours you have ahead of you.

Conceptualizing your day as 24 hours for you to use can be helpful in finding that one hour for yourself. You’ll need 8 hours to work and another 8 to sleep, most days (this is an important part of self-care, as well!), so that leaves approximately 8 more hours for eating, commuting, chores, childcare, and living your life. If you can first commit to 15 minutes a day for a few weeks, you’ll find it less stressful to jump to a half-an-hour, and then an hour in the weeks following.[/two_third][one_third_last][/one_third_last]

[one_sixth][/one_sixth][two_third]What are things that only take 15 minutes that can be solely for you?

o Set down your phone and pick up a magazine, periodical, or book. Read.
o Lock the bathroom door. Parents know this is a gift to oneself.
o Breathe deeply. Meditate.
o Prepare yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or your favorite morning beverage and sit down to drink it while it’s still hot. No, you may not reheat it.
o Listen to a bit of music that you love.
o Cuddle with your person or pet.
o Paint your toenails.
o Write in a journal.
o Take a power nap.
o Call a friend or family member that lifts you up.[/two_third][one_sixth_last][/one_sixth_last]

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last]See? Self-care can be squeezed into a busy day, even if it’s only for a few moments. Once you are comfortable asking yourself for that time each day, gradually increase that amount of time. You may need to get creative with how you can fit an entire uninterrupted hour into your day. You may need to wake up before the rest of the house or physically remove yourself from your normal routine to get that time to yourself. You may have to get a babysitter or swap childcare days with another parent that is as in need of self-care time as you! Whatever you do, remember that this is an act of self-preservation, not self-indulgence.

This schedule-bending is worth it as you’ll begin to see the benefits of self-care spilling over into the other hours of your day. This could manifest itself as more energy to take on the challenges a day can bring. You could notice you’re calmer in situations that previously made you upset. You could find your creativity sparked or a readiness to connect more with others. Hopefully this Pisces season will help you in putting on your daily “oxygen mask” and realizing that in caring for ourselves first, we are better prepared to care for others and give improved attention to our families, careers, and responsibilities.

Inner Musings: Discovering Your True Self

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last padding=”1% 0 0 0″]Resident mental health counselor, Lauren Eimers-Wangrud, is back with us today—this time sharing exercises and musings on how to get in touch with your unique self—a very Aquarius Season topic. Images via Dreaming Soul.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
– Mary Oliver, b.1935

How much of yourself have you become? – Aquarius Season Insight

The past few years have seen a cultural phenomenon of scaling back and paring down one’s material possessions in search of true happiness. Call it minimalism or the Konmari method, this winnowing of possessions has struck a chord with many disillusioned and unhappy individuals. This Aquarius season I challenge you to do the same in the uncovering and discovering of your true self in shedding layers that do not serve your life and fail to reflect who you really are.

Aquarius season is a time for experimentation, progression, and open-mindedness – the perfect time to get better acquainted with your true self. This can be a scary journey to embark on, but in recognizing who we want to be and then pouring our energies wholeheartedly into fulfilling our unique destiny, we begin to get closer to our personal truth.[/two_third_last]

[full_width]To start this journey, you’ll want to give yourself at least an hour of solid “you time,” free of your mobile device, computer, television, or distractions. You want to create a space where you can focus solely on yourself. If that means you need a hot cup of tea and your favorite music playing or heading out on a long walk with a small notebook and pen to jot down your thoughts, great! Just find the space and time to allow yourself to let your mind wander.

Next, you’ll want to tell yourself that you can worry about all of your stresses and pressing matters in your life in an hour. You’ll also want to let your inner critic know they can pipe down, at least for a bit, while you work out some important things. It sounds silly, but giving yourself the mental space and direction to process some thoughts is imperative in this exercise. If you find your inner critic or everyday stresses needling into this you-time, calmly tell them to take a seat and you’ll get to them in a few.

Now, time for the digging to begin. You’ll want to imagine a scene where you are completely at ease. It could be a place from your past, a place you’ve visited, or even a place that only exists in your imagination. What does it look like there? Are there buildings? Are you indoors or outside? Is it present day? Who is there with you, if anyone? What feelings or emotions are brought to the surface while you’re in this serene place? Continue looking for details about this place and write down things that resonate with you. Be sure to try and keep that inner critic out of the observation, since this is a judgement-free zone.[/full_width]

[one_half padding=”8% 0 0 0″]After you’ve really mined this scene for details, sit back and look at what observations really stuck with you. These elements that have boiled to the surface is your true self giving you clues as to how to make your way to self-actualization. They could be the emotions elicited from your scene, to people you met there, to the surroundings.

Everyone will have vastly different scenes and details. You could have found yourself in a lecture hall learning something new or in a kitchen whipping up a recipe with a dear family member or friend – the possibilities are truly endless. The key here is to look for themes and elements that really resonate with you.

Once you’ve teased out the themes of your exploration, think of how your life now is mirroring that. Is it on a similar or on a divergent path from your exploration? If you’ve envisioned yourself very differently from your present state, what small changes can you make to start to align with that vision of yourself?[/one_half][one_half_last][/one_half_last]

[one_third][/one_third][two_third_last]For example, if you imagined yourself in a lecture hall, but aren’t a student, maybe you just need to feed your thirst for knowledge with more books and time to read them. If your life as a chef is restricted to watching cooking shows on Netflix, maybe buying a new cookbook and preparing a meal each week is a way to get closer to what makes you really tick. You may not need to enroll in classes or run a restaurant to find your true self, but these clues are imperative in helping you get there.

Shedding layers of yourself from your past can also help in getting closer to the true you. Don’t let yourself be tied down by perceptions of yourself that are outdated. Clinging to old definitions of yourself is a disservice to you and your growth. Make a promise to yourself to let your present self, and the self you want to become, dictate how you spend your precious time.

Just as Marie Kondo states objects in our life should “spark joy,” so should our pastimes, hobbies, friends, and work. While we may not be able to overhaul our jobs or friends in a weekend of self-exploration, I guarantee you’ll be able to change the way you spend your free time or try a new hobby that excites you in the matter of a few weeks. Starting with small changes is what leads to bigger and more impactful shifts. Use this Aquarius season to dive in and rediscover yourself. [/two_third_last]