how to build self-confidence in yourself

Self-confidence is something we all want to build and something many of us are lacking. It isn’t surprising that we lack confidence as adults. Many of us were told as children that our best was not enough. Others didn’t get any motivation or encouragement to step out of their comfort zone or try something that was challenging. What was once our parents’ voices soon turned into our inner voice/critic. As a result, the story we believe as adults is that we aren’t good enough. The good news is that there are strategies to build self-confidence in yourself and your children.

my struggles with self-confidence

I grew up with a mom that expected perfection. When I was 5 years old, I had a small writing assignment for school. I was extremely proud of what I wrote and showed it to my mother. Her response was to rip it into pieces and instruct me to write it again. That experience rattled me and will forever be imprinted in my mind. The lesson I learned was that I should feel intense shame if my best wasn’t perfection.

My struggle with perfection crept into every facet of my life. In first grade there was a competition that whoever read the most books by the end of the month would get a box of crayons. I was determined to be the winner. So was another girl in the class. Eventually other classmates stopped participating in this contest, but neither me nor this girl would relent. Finally, the teacher stopped the contest and declared that we both were the winners.

I defined myself and my value based on how well I did in school.

I would beat myself up over any mistake I made. In my mind, nothing other than an A was an option. Eventually my mother told me that I didn’t have to get top grades as long as I was trying. By this point her words rang on deaf ears; the bell could not be unrung. I was terrified of not getting the top grades in exams and I was ridden with anxiety every time I had to write a report or do a presentation. I always agonized that I wasn’t good enough despite the number of times that was proven to be untrue.

Shame, not self-confidence, became my constant companion. I feared everything because I didn’t believe that trying was what was most important. In my mind, if the result was unsuccessful, the effort was worthless.

the inner critic that creates guilt and shame

Regardless of our childhood circumstances, I know that many of you live with that same inner critic. If we try something and it isn’t a success, we beat ourselves up over it rather than feel proud of ourselves for trying. It only reinforces that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there or reaffirms our belief that we are failures.

It is often easier to look at the laundry list of mistakes or flops rather than focus on how hard we tried or the things we did well.

This way of thinking starts to take on a life of its own, and eventually we tell ourselves that we are failures instinctually.

When we speak and feel this way about ourselves, is it any wonder that our voice becomes the inner voice of our own children? It is an endless cycle of guilt, shame, and self-contempt. In order to teach our children to have self-confidence, flaws and all, we first have to believe that about ourselves.

What if we changed our inner voice? Told ourselves that we are enough just as we are? Applauded our efforts rather than our successes? What if we recognized that what matters most is putting ourselves out there? What if our determination and resiliency was how we judged ourselves rather than a tally of achievements?

ways to build self-confidence in ourselves

Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Stopping and changing the story we have told ourselves constantly isn’t going to magically vanish. Luckily, there are ways of building self-confidence in ourselves and our children:

(1) Change your inner dialogue

Our inner voice is determined to rear its ugly head any time we feel guilt or shame. We can counter those thoughts by putting new ones there. Each time that we try something, no matter what the outcome, we need to acknowledge that putting ourselves out there is an accomplishment in of itself. Showing up and trying is something to be proud of. Counter your thoughts of shame with thoughts of recognition for how hard you try.

This way of thinking applies to our children as well. Instead of commending our children for their grades on a test, applaud them when you see they are studying and taking it seriously. Acknowledge the effort, not the result. Success isn’t a guarantee, but it takes great courage to put oneself out there and try. Our children deserve recognition for the journey instead of the destination.

(2) Fake it until you make it

This new message that you are telling yourself doesn’t align with the inner critic you’ve lived with for years. It takes time to truly feel what you are now saying. Reaffirm this new way of thinking with mantras such as “I am enough,” “I can do hard things,” and “I am brave,” and say them to yourself and your child. Counter those shameful thoughts with confident ones.

Make a list of these affirmations with your child. Explain that this list is to be used daily and when we feel badly about ourselves or are afraid to try. Let your children see that you are using this list and encourage them to use it as well.

(3) Don’t give up

I remind myself and my daughter that no matter how many times we get knocked down, all we can do is keep picking ourselves up. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. What we do with those mistakes is what matters.

I wrote a children’s book, and the road to getting an agent is far harder than what I anticipated. My daughter has seen me send query letter after query letter. She has asked me why I don’t give up. I told her that some of my greatest accomplishments are the ones I had to work at the most to achieve. My hope is that my daughter sees that what truly matters is perseverance and believing in yourself.

(4) Instead of focusing on your failures, make a list of the things you accomplished despite feeling afraid or self-conscious.

Ask your child to make a list of things he/she worked hard to achieve. The next time you or your child feel badly about yourself, look at the list of reminders of how brave you are. Remind yourself and your children that it takes great courage to put yourself out there.

 

(5) We all have strengths and weaknesses

We are human, so we are flawed. It is inevitable that there will always be someone that is able to do something better than us. As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself and my daughter that all we can strive for is to be the best versions of ourselves. Perfection isn’t the goal, but courage and strength of conviction is everything.

(6) Self-care is necessary to incorporate into our life and our routine

Encourage your children to explore what they enjoy and to devote time to it. Our emotional well-being is the foundation for learning to love ourselves.

(7) Don’t rely on others to validate you and feel proud of you

Feel proud of yourself for trying regardless of what others say and do. Remind yourself and your children that there are people that will try to say and do things to make you feel badly about yourself. It is imperative to be your own supporter and cheerleader.

I remind my daughter often that she is not defined by any labels. She is defined by who she is as a person. That means that she should strive for inner beauty instead of focusing on her appearance. My hope is that she believes in herself as much as I believe in her.

(8) Be your own friend

When I feel shame or guilt, I often ask myself what I would say to my friend if the same thing was happening to her. I tend to give others far more support and understanding than I give to myself.

When I notice my daughter is being hard on herself, I ask her what she would say to her friend if that person was in the same situation. I then ask her to say those words to herself. That often helps her to put things into perspective.

Giving kindness and compassion to ourselves is crucial in building self-confidence. We need a gentle reminder that we deserve better than how we are treating ourselves.

 

 

The journey to building self-confidence is a long and difficult one. There will be easier days as well as days that are more challenging. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself and the example you are setting for your children. It is inevitable that we will fall down along the way, but like everything in life, we must pick ourselves up and try again. You are enough. We are enough just as we are.

types of self-care

Self-care is something that many of us take for granted. We are so busy taking care of others, that we often neglect our own well-being. The saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup is so true. Without self-care, we experience burnout, resentment, overwhelm, anxiety, and fatigue. There are 7 types of self-care, and it is important to incorporate them into our routine.

What are the 7 types of self-care?

(1) Emotional self-care

Processing our emotions in a healthy way is key. Having self-compassion and practicing healthy coping mechanisms allows us to feel whatever it is we are feeling without judgment. This is necessary to regulate our feelings.

Examples of emotional self-care
  • Setting boundaries with others– Communicating our emotional needs to others allows us to prioritize our emotions and have healthy relationships with others. (theblissfullmind.com, 2021)
  • Positive affirmations– Write down  or say aloud affirmations or mantras that help you to regulate your emotions.
  • Journaling about your feelings and experiences– Writing is an excellent outlet for our feelings, and it helps us to process them.
  • Challenging your inner critic– The stories and belief systems engrained in us from childhood are often false. Challenging that pesky voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough is necessary to be kinder to yourself.
  • Asking for help when you need it– Being attuned to when we need assistance prevents overwhelm and burnout
  • Talk to a therapist– Speak to a therapist about your feelings and triggers. Having better understanding of your emotions goes a long way towards self-compassion and learning ways to manage your feelings in a healthy way.
  • Breathing exercises– This practice can be incredibly helpful towards regulating emotions.
  • Speaking kindly to yourself– Learning how to be your own friend is necessary in order to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms and to react to your feelings in a constructive way.

(2) Physical Self-care

This type of self-care involves anything that helps with your physical well-being. This allows you to boost your energy and strengthen your immune system.

Examples of physical self-care
  • Getting enough sleep– Set a regular bedtime so that you can get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a day.
  • Be active– Taking care of your body is crucial for your physical well-being. This can be done through yoga, Pilates, walking, running, bike riding, dancing, etc.
  • Go to the doctor– Make sure you get regular doctor and dentist visits, as well as other medical checks (e.g., eye doctor). When there are health concerns, do not hesitate to make an appointment with a doctor.
  • Nourish your body– Eat healthy foods and take necessary vitamins.
  • Stay hydrated– We are so busy that we often forget the importance of drinking fluids.
  • Practice proper hygiene– Wash your hands regularly, including after using the bathroom, before meals, and after blowing your nose. Also, sneeze and cough into your elbow, change your toothbrush every 3 months (or after you are sick), and sanitize doorknobs, remote controls, and light switches.
  • Know your limits– If you are feeling sick, it’s important to stop working and/or exerting yourself as much as possible. Sometimes we have no choice but to keep going, but be mindful of how your body is feeling and set limits accordingly.
  • Take your medication– If your doctor prescribed you a medication, follow the directions on the label and take it as prescribed.

(3) Mental/Intellectual Self-Care

Challenging your mind and being open to learning new things is crucial for our well-being as well. This ensures that we keep growing, no matter our age.

Examples of Mental/Intellectual Self-Care
  • Having a growth mindset– Seeing new challenges as an opportunity for growth rather than feeling badly about what we don’t know allows us to be lifelong learners.
  • Reading– We open our minds to a world of new things when we read.
  • Learn a new skill– Whether it’s playing a musical instrument or learning how to cook, acquiring new skills allows us to keep our mind sharp.
  • Writing – Writing allows us to tap into our creativity and stimulate our minds. (theblissfullmind.com, 2021)
  • Challenge your brain– Do a logic puzzle, a brain teaser, or anything that makes you challenge your cognition.

(4) Social Self-Care

Nurturing our relationships with others allows us to have support and companionship, which is necessary as human beings. Having healthy relationships with other people goes a long way towards our own well-being. Life is incredibly hectic and a constant juggling act, and there is no right or wrong amount of time to spend with others. It is up to each of us to figure out what our social needs are, and to create time for them in a way that enhances our life, as opposed to feeling like it is an extra obligation.

Examples of social self-care
  • Get rid of toxic relationships– Relationships that are harmful to your well-being should be ended. I’m not saying you should end relationships because of a disagreement, but if there is a pattern of behavior that is hurtful and continues despite discussing how you feel, it is better off to sever ties.
  • Schedule times to talk on the phone or meet in-person– Life can get overwhelming and plans to speak or meet up can get pushed off if there isn’t something set.
  • Have a date night– If you have kids, it is easy to neglect the relationship with your significant other. Even if you can’t find a sitter, have an indoor date night after the kids have gone to sleep. It will do wonders for your well-being, as well as your relationship. (healthcoachinstitute.com, 2021)
  • Choose quality over quantity– You may not have a ton of time, but even a few minutes of checking-in or sending a text are helpful to maintain relationships.
  • Setting boundaries with others– In order to have healthy relationships, it is important to be honest about our needs and limits. For example- telling your friends that you won’t answer the phone after 10pm, telling your mom that questions about when you are getting married are off-limits.
  • Get creative– You can invite friends along with you while you run, have a group zoom call, or chat on the phone while you are picking up your kids from school.

(5) Spiritual Self-Care

Despite what the name implies, this does not necessarily mean religion. This type of self-care means anything that enhances your soul and your purpose in life. The way that one connects with their inner spirit will differ from person to person.

Examples of spiritual self-care
  • Spending time in nature– Taking walks, sitting in your backyard, or going camping are all ways to connect with the outdoors. (healthcoachinstitute.com, 2021)
  • Get involved in a meaningful cause– Become a part of something that you believe in, whether it is volunteering at an animal shelter, doing fundraising, or giving to charity.
  • Connecting with a power greater than yourself– That can mean prayer, attending a religious service, discovering what inspires you, or meditation.
  • Identify your values– Figure out your beliefs, and be open to challenging beliefs that don’t serve you.

(6) Professional Self-care

Finding a healthy work-life balance is crucial for our self-care. Whether you work full-time, part-time, or are a Stay-at-Home-Mom (which is a job as well!), there still needs to be time set aside for you that is separate from your obligations throughout the day. (developgoodhabits.com, 2021)

types of self care

Examples of professional self-care
  • Take short breaks throughout the day– Even 5 minutes to yourself every few hours is important to decompress and reduce overwhelm.
  • Set a reminder to take a lunch break– Whether you are busy on a work project or chasing after kids, it is necessary to stay well-nourished.
  • Turn your phone off after a certain time– Not answering emails or scrolling through your phone after an allotted time allows you to relax and unwind.
  • Say no when needed– Do not bite off more than you can chew. Learning to say no to things allows you to say yes to the things that bring you joy.
  • Keep lists– Writing your obligations down and staying organized ensures that you remember what you need to do and that you won’t procrastinate.

(7) Environmental Self-Care

Taking care of the spaces around you helps you to be more efficient and to also reduce stress. It also creates a sense of belonging and comfort.

Examples of environmental self-care
  • Organizing your workspace– Whether it’s putting family pictures on the desk or organizing your drawers, make sure that your space promotes calmness.
  • Cleaning your house– Taking the time to tidy up creates a sense of control and belonging where you live.
  • Delete unnecessary emails– Reduce a cluttered inbox by deleting things that are simply taking up space.
  • Sooth your senses– Put on comfortable clothes, listen to relaxing music, dim the lights, and/or eat your favorite food.
  • Planning– This can mean meal-prep, setting out clothes in advance, or creating a budget.

 

 

There is more to self-care than bubble baths and messages. The truth is that your well-being needs to be prioritized in all aspects of your life. Use this list and the examples provided as a guide for what type of self-care you might be neglecting. Although all areas are important, take your time incorporating additional types of self-care into your routine. See which ones need your attention more and focus on those. Your needs may differ month by month, week by week, or even day by day. The goal is to find a self-care routine that enhances your quality of life and helps you to find balance. Remember that incorporating a new routine will not happen overnight, and an important component of self-care is to show yourself compassion and grace.

P.S. If you are looking for further support to implement self-care, don’t forget to print out my FREE self-care worksheets!

 

how do i stop being codependent

If you missed my story of how I learned to break codependency and stop being codependent, you can read about it here. I also suggest reading the book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.

Codependency is not your fault. The good news is that the things we learned as children do not have to be repeated in adulthood. We can break being codependent and practice a healthier way of having relationships.

The first step is to take a step back from anything that is out of your control. Whether it is your mom, your sibling, your friend, your spouse, or even your child, there are certain things that are simply not within our power (or are right) to fix. This is difficult, but crucial.

Stop codependency by creating healthy boundaries 

Establish clear boundaries so that you can be supportive, loving, and encouraging, but not at the expense of your well-being or happiness. Others are entitled to make their own choices, regardless of whether you agree with those choices are not. Likewise, you get to take control of your happiness and make your own choices. 

Getting your power back and claiming responsibility for your well-being is not an easy task. It is something that is very much ingrained in our way of thinking and acting. I have to remind myself often that my husband’s sobriety is his responsibility. I am grateful that he has been sober for the last four years, but his sobriety is a choice that he has to make each day.

Healthy relationships require boundaries, which is foreign to many of us. Boundaries are essential so that you can stay in your lane, while clearly expressing what you need for your relationship. You are the only one that can determine which boundaries are needed for your well-being.

Make a list of boundaries, and decide which ones are requests and which ones are non-negotiable. Have an open and honest conversation about your boundaries and allow others to do the same. After all, boundaries are a two-way street.

If a boundary is crossed, then it’s your decision whether to discuss and reinstate the boundary, or if you need to walk away. You cannot force others to respect and provide what you need in a relationship, but you can respect yourself. It is also crucial to understand that you cannot save others, but you can save yourself. This is how you break being codependent.

practice self-care and focus on your needs

 

Next, stop codependency by focusing on what you want and need to feel good about yourself, completely separate from anyone else. What brings YOU joy? What are YOUR hobbies? Who are YOU as a person? For me, starting this blog has been incredibly healing because it is something that I do that is separate from being a wife and a mom. It is something I am passionate about, and I feel good knowing that I am trying to help others and give support, without trying to change or fix anyone.

It’s a good idea to take time to write down your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal gives you an opportunity to focus on your feelings and brainstorm ideas. Speak to a therapist and read books about codependency to help you on your healing journey. Discover your own identity.

journal prompts

I cannot stress enough that Rome was not built in a day. It will take time to learn new patterns of behavior. It is important to show yourself love and compassion as you navigate the foreign territory of breaking codependent behavior.

Just as codependency is not healthy, the polar opposite isn’t either. Being completely independent doesn’t translate into having genuine relationships. If you aren’t allowing yourself to be vulnerable, then your relationships will lack true intimacy. It is important to have your own identity separate from the ones you love; however, putting up walls and not letting anyone in is the same wolf in sheep’s clothing. Love is about sharing the deepest parts of yourself with another, but not expecting someone to save you.

create interdependence and stop being codependent in your relationships

Interdependence is the goal of any healthy relationship. It allows us to love and support each other, while not expecting the other one to make us feel whole or to change who they are.

My husband and I are each whole on our own, and we have the choice to grow individually and as a couple. That means that if I am feeling sad and hurt, I first try to comfort myself and give myself what I need before I share my feelings with him. I give him the space to try to understand my perspective without forcing him to say or do anything.

Stop codependency by remembering that your happiness is up to you. Just as you can’t save or change anyone, it isn’t anyone’s responsibility to save or fix you. Work on yourself and allow others the opportunity to do the same. Remember to establish clear boundaries to break being codependent. This allows others to choose their own path and make their own choices, but you control what you do with that choice. You also get to choose your own path and healing journey.

Show love and kindness to yourself and your feelings. Your feelings, thoughts, hopes, and dreams are important and have value because they are yours. Respect and honor them even if others do not.

Interdependence is a foreign concept for many, but a way of living that is possible for all of us. Change can be scary, and there will be many hiccups along the way. The good news? You can learn to stop being codependent and get to be the hero of your own story.

how to overcome mom guilt

If you are a parent, it is very likely that you’ve experienced guilt. Once I became a mom, I experienced guilt that I never knew was possible. It is something that often goes hand-in-hand with parenting. Guilt is healthy when it motivates us to grow and learn, but it can become problematic when it takes on a life of its own. Luckily, we can learn how to overcome mom guilt and decrease those feelings.

What is Mom Guilt?

Mom guilt is a feeling that moms experience regarding their role as a mother. Although guilt can be experienced by dad as well (aka dad guilt), it tends to affect women more.  It can be feelings of worry or regret that you’ve done something wrong, didn’t do it well enough, or did something that will affect your kids. Mom guilt can be fleeting and/or pervasive and can be based on both short-term and long-term decisions.

Guilt is often due to a behavior, which in turn, causes feelings of shame about oneself. This shame causes self-judgment and negative thoughts and beliefs. The guilt and resulting shame cause other feelings and behaviors. In other words, mom guilt can be a perpetuating cycle of guilt, shame, and self-criticism (mindfulreturn.com, 2017).

What causes it?

There are several possible causes of mom guilt:

(1) Postpartum depression

Guilt can be a major symptom of postpartum depression. A staggering 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression or anxiety (mindfulreturn.com, 2017). Moms who are experiencing postpartum depression may feel numb and disconnected from their child, which can cause feelings of inadequacy as a parent. It can also make simple tasks incredibly difficult to accomplish due to a lack of energy. This all results in tremendous amounts of guilt.

(2) Working moms

Working mom guilt is a specific type of mom guilt due to working. They either are unable to stay at home or choose to go to work, causing them to feel guilt about being away from their kids. They feel guilty about putting effort into something besides being a mother. There can also be feelings of guilt if they miss their kids and/or feelings of guilt if they enjoy being away from their kids (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021).

causes of mom guilt

(3) Anxiety disorders

Those with anxiety disorders experience anxiety excessively, which can cause them to experience intense and frequent feelings of mom guilt (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)

(4) Perfectionism

Mom guilt can occur even if nothing was done to warrant it. Moms often have a notion that we are supposed to be perfect in our parenting roles. As a result, we set impossible standards for ourselves that make us feel guilty and like failures when they aren’t achieved.

(5) Comparing ourselves to others

Comparisons to other moms, either ones we know or through social media, can cause us to feel guilt and inferiority.

(6) Actual mistakes

If we do something wrong, we feel guilty. We want our kids to be happy, and anything we do that negatively affects them can make us feel guilty.

(7) Our identity is tied to motherhood

We invest so much of who we are into our role as a mom, that we often don’t separate the two. Therefore, our success (or failures) as a mom is associated with our own sense of self-worth and value as a person.

(8) External pressures

Family member, friends, neighbors, and other moms can insert themselves into our decision making. Recommendations from doctors and parenting specialists can cause us to feel mom guilt with tips such as “breast is best” and “screen time is harmful.” They can put pressure on us, which makes us feel inadequate and believe that we aren’t making the right choices for our children.

(9) Personal insecurities

If you already had issues with not feeling like you were good enough before kids, this will only amplify when you are a mom. The faulty belief systems we had prior to becoming parents will rear their ugly heads tenfold when becoming a parent. Parenting will test our insecurities and bring everything to the surface.

(10) Internal pressure

We love our children so much and feel responsible for their success and failures. As a result, we feel guilt and fear that we will cause damage to them due to our mistakes.

What are the symptoms?

Mom guilt can manifest itself in many forms:

  • Depression and/or anxiety– feelings of sadness, intensive worry, anger, and
  • Reduction in dopamine (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)
  • Perfectionism– this can be exhibited by overcompensating by appearing as if you are perfect, or it can be perpetual feelings that you need to be a perfect mom
  • Negative thoughts– thoughts that you aren’t good enough, aren’t doing enough, or are a failure as a mom.
  • Doing too much– moms often feel that they need to do more to be better moms. Unfortunately, this way of thinking and behaving usually leads to burnout.
  • Addictive behaviors– in order to avoid the feelings of guilt, a mom may turn to drinking, drugs, gambling, overspending, or other addictive tendencies (mindfulreturn.com, 2020).
  • Exhaustion– constant feelings of guilt can take a toll physically and cause extreme fatigue
  • Physically sick– chronic mom guilt can cause your immune system to become compromised (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)

How can I overcome mom guilt?

Here are strategies on how to overcome mom guilt:

(1) Determine its origin

The first step to overcome mom guilt is to understand where it stems from. Is it a particular topic that causes mom guilt or does it stem from your own childhood experiences with your parents? Did you experience trauma that is impacting your feelings?

Use a journal and keep track of when you feel mom guilt. You can determine if there are any patterns that emerge. Once you’ve established the cause of mom guilt, you can be mindful of your triggers (healthline.com, 2020).

(2) Challenge your inner critic

Gain awareness into why you feel that way. Did you actually do something wrong or is it an irrational thought or belief that is causing your mom guilt? If you did something, can you work on it and improve and/or apologize?

Jot down the statements that pop into your head when you are feeling mom guilt, and then read them aloud. Talk to yourself as you would a friend and challenge those statements if they are stemming from your inner critic. Next, combat your negative statements by writing down more reasonable ones. You can also write down positive affirmations to challenge your inner critic.

Example of inner critic statement- I am a terrible mom because I wasn’t available to play with Johnny when he asked me to play with him.

More reasonable statement- I know I can’t always be available to play with Johnny, but I can set aside quality time to play with him every day.

Guilt often makes us feel paralyzed and helpless. Sometimes there is an underlying solution if we look passed our feelings and see the situation in its actuality.

(3) Name your mom guilt 

It can often be difficult to overcome the faulty beliefs and stories we tell ourselves. A way to put our inner critic in its proper place is to name it. Although it might seem silly, it makes it easier to combat that voice that tells you that you are failing as a mom and recognize its foolishness. (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)

For example: “Samantha, stop telling me that I’m not good enough. You’re bothering me.”

(4) Forgive yourself

It is important to recognize that perfection is impossible and torturing yourself with guilt will not change anything. You will inevitably make mistakes, and by setting impossible standards, you will negatively affect your mental health and your relationship with your kids.

Forgive yourself for your mistakes and strive for a growth mentality. Remind yourself and your kids that being a human being means having flaws. None of us are perfect, but we can own up to our mistakes and do our best. This sets a good example for your kids to give themselves compassion and to not seek perfection.

(5) Stop the comparison game

We all have our own set our unique experiences and challenges. We never know what others are facing. Focus on being the best mom you can be instead of comparing yourself to others.

Take a break from social media if you feel that there is too much pressure. Also, do your own part in stopping comparison by supporting other moms, regardless of whether their parenting beliefs are different than yours.

(6) Avoid judgmental people

Surround yourself by those that will support you, regardless of their own personal choices. Additionally, distance yourself from those that criticize and judge you. Stand up for your choices and walk away from anyone that continues to insert their beliefs onto you.

(7) Trust your own instincts and do what is best for your own child

Despite the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, you are still the mom. You know what is in the best interest of your child. Don’t let other people influence your choices and trust your own instincts. There is not a one-size-fits-all way to parent, and every child is unique. What may work well for one child doesn’t have to be best for another. Do what is in the best interest of your child and recognize what areas can be improved based on each of your child’s needs.

(8) Practice self-care

A crucial part of overcoming mom guilt is to prioritize your mental wellness. Being the best version of yourself allows you to be the best mom (and person) you can be. Neglecting your self-care affects you emotionally and physically, which will impact your relationships with others. Taking care of yourself improves your relationships with your kids, and it also teaches them the importance of prioritizing their own well-being.

(9) Celebrate your triumphs

We are often so focused on the “should haves” “did nots” and “supposed tos” that we don’t take the time to applaud our achievements. It is crucial to recognize the positive things we do each day instead of harping on the negative ones. Mom guilt can be counterproductive because it sends a message to our children that our efforts are never enough. Practice being your own cheerleader in front of your kids and encourage them to do the same for themselves. It is important to work on ourselves and grow; however, recognizing things we can improve upon is not the same thing as being consumed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

(10) Seek professional help

If you find that your guilt is overwhelming despite your best efforts, please do not hesitate to contact a professional.

Takeaway: Managing Mom Guilt 

Humans feel a range of emotions. Guilt is something that in small doses can motivate us and indicate areas that we can work upon. However, extreme amounts of mom guilt are not beneficial to us or our children. In times of stress and uncertainty, it is easy to look at ourselves and the list of things that we want to do better. However, life is filled with difficulties, and therefore our expectations must shift accordingly.

We love and want what is best for our children. Ironically, allowing ourselves to be consumed with guilt often interferes with our intentions to do right by our children. It also prevents us from savoring motherhood. Showing ourselves kindness, compassion, empathy, and grace is not only in our own best-interest, but it models for our kids how they should treat themselves. It is a win-win.

I hope this article helps you to overcome some of your mom guilt. You are capable, and you are doing the best you can. Trust yourself and know that motherhood is hard for all of us. Your unconditional love is what matters most to your kids. Enjoy motherhood instead of trying to perfect it.

I have wanted to discuss the connection between perfectionism and procrastination for some time. However, I find research-based topics to be quite daunting. It is an arduous task to gather numerous sources, compile the information, write an outline, draft, edit, etc. As a recovering perfectionist, I want the content I put out to be comprehensive, detailed, and accurate. I push myself to be the very best in everything that I do, often going past the point of exhaustion. As a result, I find myself now writing about this topic months after I initially planned to do so. I am an example of how perfectionism and procrastination go hand-in-hand. This article will explain perfectionism and procrastination, as well as how to overcome the perfectionism and procrastination connection.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionists set extremely high standards. Self-worth is contingent on those unrealistic achievements. Perfectionism stems from a fear of failure and judgement. False belief systems make us feel that we aren’t good enough. We also often feel that others will judge us as not good enough.

Perfectionists are often sensitive to any forms of criticism, seeing any type of negative feedback as an indication of a lack of ability. There is often a black and white way of thinking, meaning that we believe that if we do not achieve perfection, we are failures. The inability to achieve these lofty standards causes stress and overwhelm. There is often performance anxiety and anticipatory anxiety. We feel incredible anxiety about not achieving the standards we set for ourselves, and this anxiety causes fear starting and completing tasks. The consequence of not achieving perfection is also seen in the mind of a perfectionist as catastrophic.

Even when perfectionists meet their goals, the feelings of success and accomplishment are temporary. In the mind of a perfectionist, there is always more that needs to be accomplished. The self-worth of a perfectionist is unstable, as it is contingent on results. Ultimately, perfectionists are setting themselves up to fail, as perfection is unattainable. 

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is an example of the Flight response, as it is done to avoid a threat (i.e., a task seen as challenging or unattainable). Procrastinators will put off making decisions, will give up prematurely, or will delay beginning a task (The Skill Collective, 2021). Due to discomfort about the task, procrastinators choose to put things off.

Procrastination stems from a variety of factors, including indecisiveness, lack of focus, lack of self-confidence, and task anxiety (webstandardssharpa.com, 2014). Procrastinators often feel shame about their behavior, which only perpetuates the procrastination. They don’t want to face their discomfort, so they continue to procrastinate, only furthering their shame and their discomfort.   

overcoming perfectionism and procrastination

What is the perfectionism-procrastination connection?

Perfectionists feel great anxiety about not achieving their goals. Procrastination allows perfectionists to not have to face their own anxiety regarding failure. As a result, something less threatening is done instead. However, procrastination causes its own feelings of shame, only perpetuating the perfectionistic way of thinking.  We avoid because we are not perfect, and avoiding only reflects our imperfections. Anxiety and shame are the constant companions of perfectionists and procrastinators.

Procrastination is often a symptom of perfection. That said, not all perfectionists are procrastinators, and not all procrastinators are perfectionists. However, for many people, perfectionism and procrastination are connected, known as the perfectionism-procrastination infinite loop (The Skill Collective, 2021).

The perfectionism-procrastination loop is:

  • you have perfectionistic standards
  • there is a fear of failure
  • there is great discomfort regarding an unsuccessful outcome
  • this discomfort causes fear
  • imperfection and discomfort are avoided by procrastinating

WE FEEL STUCK.

Ultimately, we stay in this loop because we never have to test our faulty belief system of not being good enough. If we procrastinate and perform well, it reinforces our procrastination because we can imagine that our potential wasn’t fully reached. If we perform badly, we can attribute it to time constraints and not our actual potential (which protects our fear of failure). This will also result in a continuance of this loop.

How do we overcome the perfectionism and procrastination connection?

 

Ultimately, the only way to end this loop is by changing our way of thinking regarding perfection and procrastination. Whether you consider yourself a perfectionist, a procrastinator, or both, these strategies are helpful:

(1) Lower expectations

It is necessary to re-examine the standards that we set for ourselves. This starts by understanding that there is a difference between excellence and perfection. Excellence is attainable through practice and experience, as well as developing confidence over time. Perfection is unattainable and fosters negative feelings from mistakes, regardless of excellence.

Remind your inner critic that some things are more difficult and harder to achieve than others, and THAT IS OKAY. Having a growth mindset instead of a fixed one allows us to see flaws as opportunities to learn and grow, as opposed to catastrophic thinking. It is great to have an end-goal in mind, but make sure that it is healthy (a realistic outcome) and remember that it will take time to get there.  

(2) Challenge your black-and-white way of thinking

The next time you feel anxious about a task, make a list of the best-case scenario, worst-case scenario, and a realistic-scenario. By breaking it down, it helps us to realize unrealistic expectations and visualize a more attainable outcome.

(3) Schedule your goals

Certain tasks and goals can feel quite overwhelming. Break them into smaller, more attainable goals. Instead of doing everything at once, break the task into realistic steps and schedule time in advance to do so. This will allow you to accomplish things in a more manageable way, and it gives you the opportunity to applaud your accomplishments along the way. This will help you to feel more motivated while also combatting procrastination. There are various ways to assigning time to complete a task (www.webstandardssherpa.com, 2014):

  • Set aside 5-10 minutes – set an alarm for 5-10 minutes and tell yourself that you will stop when the alarm goes off. This small amount of time is non-threatening and will help you to face your fears about starting something.
  • The Pomodoro Technique or Merlin Mann’s productivity technique– Both techniques involve setting an amount of time to focus your attention on a task and then taking a break. The Pomodoro Technique is setting a timer for 25 minutes, working until the timer goes off, taking a five- minute break, and then repeating the whole process another four times. After the 4th cycle, you take a 15-30-minute break. Merlin Mann’s technique is working for 10 minutes with a two-minute break for five cycles (altogether an hour).   
  • Choose your own amount of time– determine in advance how much time you will devote to a task, as well as the amount of time for breaks. Whatever you choose, make sure to follow through.
  • Schedule a task for a specific day– Put it on your calendar, and you can incorporate one of the set times above. pomodoro technique

(4) Set boundaries

We often feel the need to please everyone. When we say “yes” to too much, this only increases our feelings of overwhelm. This will fuel the self-destructive cycle of perfectionism and procrastination. When we start to say no to things that we don’t have time for, we can make time for the things we want to do. Adding activities that bring us joy is important for our well-being and for having a healthy balance of demands and enjoyment.

(5) Reward yourself

Make a daily list of the tasks you want to accomplish, no matter how small. Make sure to take the time to applaud your achievements when you are done. Whether it is taking out the trash or finishing a household project, treat yourself afterwards. That can mean reading a book, listening to music for a few minutes, or sitting down on the couch and relaxing.  It also breaks up the day and reminds you that you deserve positive reinforcement for your effort (www.healthline.com, 2019).

(6) Practice mindfulness

Recognize how your body is feeling as you are taking on tasks. Remind yourself that you are safe and that it is okay to not be perfect. Check-in with yourself throughout and take time to do breathing exercises or other grounding activities to manage your anxiety (www.healthline.com, 2019).

(7) Eliminate distractions

Put away anything that can interfere with your focus. That includes your phone, iPad, etc. Gather the necessary materials to complete your task and go somewhere free of interruptions.

(8) Mind tricks

Prepare to do something instead of actually doing it. That can mean jotting down ideas for a research project or doing an online search for topics. Once you start on the task, it is usually easier to continue it. By combatting your anticipatory anxiety, you are already on your way to accomplishing your task. You can also make a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish, in order of importance. Even if you don’t pick the most important one, you are still being proactive and not procrastinating (www.webstandardssherpa.com, 2014) .

Mindset shift

(9) Start a task without having everything

If you wait for everything to be in order to begin a task, you can always come up with reasons to procrastinate. Instead, begin something knowing that there are missing pieces. You will gather the necessary information along the way, but starting on it helps reinforce the belief that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

(10) Give yourself compassion

The standards we set for ourselves make us our own worst enemies. The next time you finish a project, look it over as if someone else had done it. Tell yourself the same words of support as you would another. Compassion also means that we should focus on our own achievements and not compare ourselves to others.  We should applaud our efforts instead of focusing on the results. Remember that mistakes do not make us failures, they make us human.

 

 

Perfectionism and procrastination are a way of thinking and behaving that stems from our belief system. It is not something that happened overnight, and it is not something that will go away overnight. Understanding why we do things the way we do goes a long way towards change. Remember that there will often be two steps back for every one-step forward along this journey. Like everything else in life, setbacks are inevitable. Be proud of yourself for your self-awareness and commitment to overcome perfectionism and procrastination.

what is a highly sensitive person

If I had a dime for every time I labeled myself or was described as “incredibly sensitive,” I’d be rich. In fact, I spent my entire life feeling like I was viewing the world through a very different lens than others. Now I know that there is a term to describe my sensitivity, known as a highly sensitive person (HSP). Unsure of what that means? Look no further. This post delves into the characteristics of the highly sensitive person and specific forms of self-care for HSPs.

What is a highly sensitive person?

Highly sensitive person was first researched in 1991 by psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron. HSP describes a personality trait that affects 15-20% of the population. Also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), this term describes those with increased central nervous system sensitivity.  This sensitivity can be physical, emotional, and social.  As a result, people with this type of personality process information very deeply and have an increased awareness to stimuli in their environment (highlysensitiverefuge.com, 2019) .

It is important to note that HSP is NOT considered a disorder or diagnosis. Sensitivity is a personality trait, and HSPs experience sensitivity more than the average person. Although Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may have overlapping symptoms with HSP, they are not interchangeable (verywellmind.com, 2020).

How do I know if I’m an HSP?

Dr. Aron came up with a self-test, “Are you highly sensitive?”  There are 27 statements, and if more than 14 of them are true, then you are likely a highly sensitive person. There is a separate test for children. This includes 23 statements, and if 13 or more of those statements are true (mostly true or was once true for a long period of time), then it is likely your child is highly sensitive. You can access both tests here.

It should be noted that with all personality tests, there is nothing that can definitively determine HSP. As with all personality tests, these are meant to give you a deeper understanding of yourself and/or your child (hsperson.com, 1996).

According to Dr. Aron, there are 4 aspects of high sensitivity, which almost every HSP will have, known as D.O.E.S. (sharonselby.com, 2020):

(1) Depth of processing

HSPs often take time to think things over. They are conscientious and thorough, reflecting on their experiences and giving detailed answers. I overanalyze situations and encounters with others. I do this when trying to figure out solutions to problems, and also when reflecting on what was said to me and what I said to others.

(2) Overstimulation

HSPs experience over arousal/ overstimulation due to some or all of their five senses. Examples of this can be feeling overwhelmed due to noises, large crowds, and/or new places. I can trace this back to when I was a child, complaining to my mother that the kids on the bus were too noisy. I would feel overwhelmed by loud noises and sounds. As an adult, I still get overwhelmed due to sensory overload, and large crowds and changes are very stressful.

(3) Emotional reactivity and empathy

HSPs are emotionally reactive to both positive and negative situations and experiences. They feel more and are deeply moved by the world around them. This can mean avoiding violence on TV, crying at commercials, and empathizing with other people’s feelings.

This aspect of HSP resonated with me the most. I feel EVERYTHING, good and bad. I appreciate every kind gesture and word, and am often moved to tears. The beauty of the world touches my heart. That sensitivity applies to negatives as well. I literally run from the room when I hear the music for ASPCA. I have cried hysterically at images of suffering. I cry at every single movie I have ever watched (this can be happy tears and/or sad tears), and I cry at too many commercials and songs to count. Although not all HSPs are empaths (which is different than having empathy, which HSPs possess greatly), I am both an HSP and an empath. This means that I can sense what others are feeling, and I feel their feelings too.

(4) Sensing the subtle

This can be subtle changes in a room such as lighting, or it can mean picking up on a person’s intricacies. HSPs are perceptive, and children like this are often considered wise beyond their years. I have an incredibly strong sense of smell and hearing, and often pick up on smells and sounds that others don’t notice. Additionally, I’ve always noticed subtleties with people, which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the situation.

If you’d like to read more about Dr. Aron’s work on HSP, there are several books she has written (click the links below):

 

 

3- The Highly Sensitive Parent

self-care tips and strategies for the Highly Sensitive Person

Being a highly sensitive person means that you are compassionate, thoughtful, and empathetic. You feel and care deeply. Those are all wonderful things. However, it is easy for an HSP to get overwhelmed and stressed.  As a result, practicing self-care for HSPs is non-negotiable. Here are specific forms of self-care for HSPs. (willfrolicforfood, 2017):

(1) Sleep

Everyone needs sleep, but HSPs are more sensitive to the negative effects of lack of sleep. Therefore, making sure to get enough sleep is helpful for HSPs in navigating an already overstimulating world (psychologytoday.com, 2011).

(2) Setting boundaries

Again, boundaries are necessary for everyone. However, HSPs must be extra careful to set boundaries with others, as well as ourselves. We must say no to pressures that make us feel overwhelmed and understand that it is necessary to set those limits.

(3) Avoid stressors

Situations will cause us to feel overwhelmed and/or overstimulated. Therefore, we must be aware of our stressors (such as large crowds, scary movies, certain people), and do our best to avoid them. This can also mean lowering lights in the room or wearing noise canceling headphones.

self-care tips for HSPs

(4) Incorporate calmness into your routine

Set up small chunks of time during your day where you can recharge and soothe your senses. Whether that means taking a ten-minute break in your office or going into a room and locking the door, try to find a place where you feel safe. Use that time to decompress. That can mean reading a book, dimming the lights (if possible), meditating, doing breathing exercises, or laying your head on a pillow. Additionally, make sure you have a space in your home where you can go to that feel comforting. Have an area (or several, if possible) designated for you to relax.

(5) Prepare in advance

Although not all HSPs are introverts, it is very emotionally and physically draining to feel so deeply. Therefore, if you know that you are going to have a stressful or hectic day, incorporate time around those encounters for you to decompress.

(6) Open communication

We cannot expect people to be mind readers. Therefore, we must be honest with others about our sensitivities. If someone says something that hurts your feelings, be honest about it. HSPs take things to heart, so clearing the air is necessary to our emotional well-being. It’s also important to be honest with those around us about our needs, such as requiring alone time each day and staying away from loud areas.

(7) Eat small meals throughout the day

HSPs are often more prone to feeling hangry (angry plus hungry). Therefore, make sure to have well-balanced meals and snacks every few hours to maintain blood sugar levels. I am hypoglycemic, so it is crucial for me to eat small meals every few hours so that my blood sugar levels don’t drop. When I’m busy and I skip a meal, my body and mind pay the price for it.

(8) Keep a journal

I’ve spoken about my love of journaling for both kids and adults. Writing down feelings is especially helpful for HSPs. It is a great outlet for our emotions, and it provides us with a safe space to put our feelings into words and explore our thoughts. Awareness of our sensitivities is crucial, and journaling helps us to be more self-aware.

(9) Be your biggest cheerleader

HSPs are often perfectionists, and we try our best at everything we do. Failure can be extra difficult for HSPs. Therefore, we must be intentional with our thoughts and make sure to celebrate and take pride in our efforts and accomplishments, big or small.

(10) Limit phone usage

The stimulation from phone calls and screen time can be very overwhelming and draining for HSPs. Therefore, put your phone on “do not disturb” when you are doing other activities or need to decompress. Take time away from social media as needed and screen your phone calls to avoid unsolicited callers.

(11) Embrace your feelings

Yes, the world is a more intense place for HSPs. However, we see and feel beauty more deeply too. Rather than fighting our sensitivity, embrace the benefits it has to offer. Respect and validate your own feelings. Remind yourself that although others may not feel the same way, that does not make our perceptions any less valid. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling. I often feel better after a good cry (or two, or even three), so let your feelings out!

(12) Make your home a source of comfort

Whether it’s limiting background noises such as the TV in your house, playing soft music, or reducing clutter, make sure that your house is a place that promotes calm rather than another stimulant. I know that a clean house is a must-have for me, as walking around and seeing a mess makes me very flustered. I also found cleaning products that have scents that are soothing rather than over-stimulating.

(13) Be one with nature

HSPs appreciate the beauty of even the smallest things, and nature is no exception. Make sure to take time to go outside. Whether it is taking a walk or finding a spot among trees, find an outdoor area that calms your mind.

(14) Move your body

Yoga, Pilates, or any form of exercise is important to decompress and elevate your mood. Stretching is another great form of relaxation and will boost your spirits.

(15) Embrace your senses

Find out what smells bring comfort to you and incorporate them into your life. That can mean essential oils, scented candles, playing instrumental music, wearing soft fabrics, self-message, or taking baths.

(16) Be creative

HSPs are often creative, so take the time to explore your creative side. Whether it is drawing, painting, writing, etc.,  it’s important to express yourself. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself “good” at it, as long as it brings you contentment.

 

 

Being a highly sensitive person can be challenging. However, I have learned that my sensitivity is a strength. Caring and feeling deeply isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it is wonderful. However, HSPs need to be aware of how we are affected by our surroundings and make necessary accommodations to prioritize our mental health and self-care. Above all, we must be kind to ourselves and know how to comfort ourselves when we feel stressed. To all of the HSPs out there, I celebrate each and every one of you. The world is a kinder, more compassionate place because you are in it. 

the 4 fs of fear and stress

Fear and stress are emotions that shape our perception of the world. Whether we grew up often feeling afraid or felt only the occasional nervousness, we can all vividly recount a time in our childhood where we were truly frightened. Throughout our childhood, the circumstances that caused us to feel fear or stress resulted in responses to that exposure. Even if you didn’t grow up abused, each of us encountered situations that impacted our way of reacting. We learned to protect ourselves through our responses to those traumas (big or small). There are 4 fear and stress-based responses, known as the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress. These responses shape your reactions in adulthood.

What are the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress?

These responses are evolutionary and primitive, allowing both animals and humans to survive danger and keep us safe. Any of the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress can be used depending on the situation/threat. A person may also use more than one in a given situation:

Fight

This type of response can be physical fighting as well as using your voice to protect yourself. Examples include attacking, yelling, or attempting to frighten the source of danger. This response can also be seen when trying to control another person or arguing and/or defending yourself.

Flight

This can mean physically leaving a situation that causes fear, or it can be done by mentally checking out. Tuning out stressful situations, changing the subject, or avoiding things that cause fear or stress are other examples. It may also be shown by not getting emotionally close to others or constantly move from place to place. Any attempt to run away in an attempt to protect oneself is an example of flight. (pete-walker.com, 2018)

the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress

Freeze

Freezing may be literal in that we physically stop moving when we feel threatened. It can also be shown by an inability to speak or continue doing an activity. This can include disconnecting from your pain, prolonged sleep or daydreaming, and/or zoning out in front of the TV. This response can also cause isolation from others.

Fawn

This type of response is seeking safety from the person who is making them feel threatened. This can be seen by someone who has little or no boundaries, goes out of their way to please others, and is overly accommodating. Attempts are made to avoid conflict with the perceived threat. This type of response is often a learned response due to a caregiver who is toxic or abusive. The child learns that some form of safety is achieved by accommodating and pleasing that person (betterhelp.com, 2021).

what happens to your body during an involuntary stress response?

When you perceive a situation as stressful or fearful, the physiological stress response begins in the part of the brain that is responsible for perceiving fear, known as the amygdala. The amygdala interprets images and sounds around you, and when it gets triggered, it sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which then stimulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The ANS is comprised of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls the fight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the freeze and fawn response. The parasympathetic nervous system also triggers the response that enables your body to go back to its normal state after the danger has passed ( health.harvard.edu, 2019).

When your ANS is stimulated, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. These two hormones are immediately released, and they may affect your heart rate, breathing, vision, hearing, blood thickening, skin temperature, and/or lowering your feeling of pain. This is done to protect you from the oncoming threat. The specific physiological reaction depends on how you respond to stress, which varies. It is also possible to shift between F responses during the same situation. These reactions are something that happen instantaneously and often without our awareness.

These physiological reactions are triggered by a psychological fear.

These psychological fears or stresses are conditioned from your childhood, and they were triggered when you were first exposed to something that you perceived as stressful and/or fearful. These triggers will vary from person to person.  Your response may be due to a similar situation or something that is associated with a negative experience from your past. When faced with these perceived threats, your brain thinks you are danger (health.harvard.edu, 2019).

The 4 Fs of Fear and Stress are responses meant to protect you. Many people will use each of them at some point based on which is most appropriate to the situation. However, some depend on only one or two of the 4 Fs of fear due to chronic anxiety and/or repeated trauma (pete-walker.com, 2018).  As a result, the autonomic nervous system gets dysregulated. Even when the danger is gone, the person often gets stuck in survival mode and is quick to use their go-to fear and stress response(s). These responses become overused, and the brain gets conditioned to respond to situations that are not threatening.

Are The 4 Fs of Fear and Stress Something We Can Control and Get Rid Of?

The 4 Fs of Fear and Stress happen faster than our conscious thoughts. It is an automatic and physiological reaction. However, it is a learned reaction, meaning that we can gain insight into the types of responses we have, how they affect our body, and whether or not those reactions are truly needed depending on the circumstances.

We can recognize that although these responses helped us in our past, they are not serving us now. We can learn ways to cope with an overactive fear and stress response. As a result, the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress can be used when they are necessary, as opposed to constantly.

How can we overcome the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress Response if it is being overused?

(1) Seek professional help

A mental health professional can help you to deal with your past trauma(s) and anxiety. They can work with you to manage your overuse of the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress.

(2) Breathing exercises

Learning how to regulate your breathing can be helpful because your breathing gets altered when you are experiencing the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress. Some breathing exercises to regulate your breathing are:

  • Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly.
  • Belly breathing- instead of breathing from your chest, let your belly rise when you inhale and lower when you exhale
  • progressive relaxation exercises- this is one of my favorites and I’ve discussed it in several of my posts. Working your way from one end of your body to the to the other, inhale while contracting/tensing the body part, hold the contraction and your breath, then exhale and let the body part relax.

(3) Exercise

This is a simple and effective way to calm the nervous system. It lowers the energy created in the body and it is a simple and quick thing to do when your heart rate goes up. Even a few minutes of jumping or running in place will get your heart rate up and help you! It also releases endorphins, which make you feel happier. An added bonus is that incorporating exercise into your routine is good for your physical well-being.

(4) Get curious about what you are experiencing

Once you have learned to calm your body down using the skills above, you can start practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a technique where we observe (as opposed to judging) how we feel and where we feel it in our body. It allows us to focus on the present. Mindfulness is helpful because you learn how your body experiences the 4Fs of Fear and Stress, as well as the accompanying emotions and thoughts. Your body automatically reacts, but when you recognize the physiological reactions that take place, it is easier to take a step back. With practice, you can notice the thoughts and emotions that occur with it and decide what to do (such as recognizing how you are feeling, but letting it go), as opposed to acting on auto-pilot.

We do not have to believe and act on every thought we have.

Learning to notice your automatic physiological response and not act on it is not an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of practice as well as understanding that change will not happen overnight (drsoph.com, 2020).

A great mindfulness exercise is known as RAIN. It comes from Judson Brewer, a psychologist who specializes in anxiety (westmichiganwoman.com, 2020):

  • Recognize/Relax- recognize what you are experiencing in your body and any thoughts or feelings
  • Accept/Allow- Hold space for what you are experiencing instead of running away from it or judging yourself for it
  • Investigate: Go deeper and explore those experiences- where am I feeling this in my body, what other thoughts am I having
  • Note/Not Attach- Understand that you are having these feelings and experiences, but they do not define you. Thoughts and feelings will come and go.

(5) Remind yourself that you are safe

When you are better equipped at recognizing how your body feels in response to the 4Fs of Fear and Stress, you can remind yourself that even though you don’t feel safe, you actually are not in any real danger.

(6) Practice these techniques when you are not feeling triggered

Incorporate these strategies into your daily routine so that you are comfortable with them. This, in turn, will allow you to better recognize your physiological reactions when you feel triggered.

(7) Grounding techniques

There are many that I discussed here, but a common one is the 5,4,3,2,1, which uses all of your senses to help you focus on the present moment. For example, you can notice 5 things you see, then 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your surroundings intensely so you can pick up on sensations you may not normally realize.

(8) Social Support

It is important to have healthy social relationships. This will help you to feel more supported and secure, which makes you feel less triggered.

(9) Strategies for the overuse of each specific F of Fear Response (pete-walker.com, 2018)

Note– For any of the F responses, the above strategies, therapy, and a growth mindset are integral in managing their overuse. Below is what you can do additionally based on the overuse of one of the F responses: 

Fight– educate yourself on how this type of F response can be harmful rather than helpful (through self-help and/or professional help). If your body is constantly in fight mode, it can result in controlling behavior and frequently being defensive and angry. Try finding a healthier outlet for those tendencies such as supporting causes and defending people who you care about. Pay attention to your physiological responses and start working on taking a break when you feel the fight response.

Flight– if this is your specific F response, you are often a workaholic and/or always on the go. Perfectionism is common, as well as anxiety and over-planning. Meditation is helpful to learn how to stay in the moment.  Working on how to gradually shorten the amount of time you flee is also helpful. 

Freeze– this is the most difficult F response to treat because this type is typically reluctant to seek professional help. Additionally, they are often in denial about their tendency to disassociate. It may be helpful to use timers and calendars as reminders to get things done (oomm.live, 2019).  

Fawnboundaries are especially helpful for this type of response. It’s also necessary to start recognizing and prioritizing your own emotions and thoughts (mindbodygreen.com, 2020). Therapy is also beneficial in helping such an individual develop a sense of self and practice assertiveness.

Takeaway about the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress

These responses are our brain’s way of protecting us from fear, danger, and stress, which are controlled by our autonomic nervous system. They are automatic, often appearing before any conscious choice becomes involved. They are meant to keep us safe, and each one has its place and purpose. Even if you are stuck in a dominant or hybrid type, the most important thing is to give yourself compassion and love as you gain a deeper awareness of the 4 Fs of Fear and Stress.

 

cycle of codependency

Codependency is a huge buzzword nowadays. Everywhere you turn there are people preaching about how to break the cycle of codependency.

I agree that codependency isn’t healthy. That said, it is so easy to fall into that cycle, and it is difficult to overcome.

For many, codependency was normal for us growing up. If you had a parent that you took care of (as opposed to the other way around), you learned that your happiness and safety were dependent on the other person’s happiness. There were no boundaries, and your feelings were ignored or minimized. You were made to feel guilty for trying to prioritize your well-being. Furthermore, you learned that your well-being and sense of self were completely contingent on the well-being of someone else. When that person was happy, you felt loved and needed. By default, if the adult was upset or unavailable (emotionally or physically) to you, you felt worthless and unloved.

caught in a cycle of codependency

cycle of codependency

I grew up having the belief system that it was my job to make my mother happy. I listened to her marital and life problems, tried to cheer her up, and felt good about myself when I felt she needed me. When she had nothing to do with me, I felt like a complete failure as a daughter and as a person. I tried to do everything possible to get her love and approval. As a result, I made myself completely available to her. I was so available that I spent two hours of my honeymoon trying to calm her down due to her recent breakup. Her feelings were always prioritized over mine, and I felt it was my job to make sure she was okay.

She relied on me to comfort her and be there for her, and I relied on her positive opinion of me to feel valued and loved. We were the definition of codependency.

Based on a belief system that was engrained into many of us, we believe as adults that our partner’s well-being and happiness is our responsibility. After all, that is all we know and were taught from a young age. As a result, it was only natural that my cycle of codependency with my mother translated into a codependent relationship with my spouse.

MY SPOUSE AND I WERE MUTUALLY DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER

 

When my husband started heavily drinking and then taking pills, I felt like it was my job to make him sober. I believed that it was up to me to figure out how to make him stop. When my efforts failed, I felt like a complete failure. Taking care of my husband and making him get clean was my responsibility. I believed I was a terrible wife unless he stopped using.

My value as a person was completely defined by the well-being of those I loved. I thought it was my role as a wife and mother to completely devote myself and my happiness to them. This way of thinking made it so that other people were responsible for my own feelings of security and safety. This helped to perpetuate my cycle of codependency in my relationships. When the roller coaster of my husband’s addiction took me for a ride, my feelings of self-worth plummeted or soared with it. It became my obsession to save my husband.

At a certain point I reached my own rock bottom. I saw how vicious the emotional cycle was of trying to make him better/save him. I realized that focusing all my efforts on him was a distraction so that I didn’t have to heal my own wounds and trauma. If I was focusing on someone/something that was out of my control, I didn’t have to fix what I had control over- myself.

how to break the cycle of codependency

I finally realized that my happiness was my responsibility, and I learned a lot about the codependency cycle. It was both terrifying and empowering to know that my happiness was my job, just as others are responsible for their own well-being and happiness. The book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie was extremely helpful and enlightening. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it on your path to ending codependency.

It was up to my husband to get clean, and I couldn’t make him do that. I could support him and love him, but I could not fix him. Accepting that and focusing on myself was how I would break the cycle of codependency.  

I also established clear boundaries with my daughter. I’ve instilled in her that her job is to learn from her mistakes and take responsibility for her actions. I do not want her to feel responsible for others. My daughter knows that the decisions my husband and I make are our responsibility. It is our job to take care of our child, not the other way around.

Another thing I reinforced is that it is imperative and healthy to feel and share your feelings with those you love and trust.

I remind her that I can offer support or advice, but I cannot make her feel better. I don’t discuss my adult problems with her, but I am open about my feelings and model tools that I use to feel better. 

When my daughter tries to get involved and tell me and my husband what to do, I remind her that she has control over her actions and not others. I explain that she should focus on being the best version of herself, as it is also each of our individual responsibility to do so.

being interdependent instead of codependent

interdependent instead of codependent What I now strive for is interdependency. It is empowering to not allow others to make me feel whole and valued. I can be vulnerable and supportive with my husband, but ultimately, I control and am responsible for how I feel. My relationships are still valued, but I also value myself separately from my role as a wife and a mother.

The biggest hurdle for me was giving myself the space I needed to feel whatever I was feeling. I felt that I had to justify my feelings to my husband in order for my feelings to be valid. It is a work-in-progress to accept that my feelings are valid regardless of what he or anyone else thinks.

It took a lot of trial and error for me to apply my interdependence into all aspects of my marriage. Breaking the codependency cycle means reminding myself everyday to focus on myself and to give myself the love and care that I craved so desperately from others.

self-growth and mutual support is the key to happiness

I learned the importance of each of us being responsible for our own growth, while supporting and encouraging each other. Sure, there are things that I wish my husband would do differently. It is not my job to change him or to fix him. He is not a project or a little boy. He deserves to be treated as a man who can make his own choices. I have set clear boundaries of what I cannot except. My husband is aware of my boundaries. My choices are to accept and love him as he is or walk away if any issue is a deal breaker.

I am the happiest I have been in a long time because I am now the source of my well-being. I am not a princess waiting to be rescued, nor am I a martyr trying to save everyone to the detriment of myself. Instead, I am focused on working on myself, and looking inward for love and compassion. That, in turn, allows me to be the best wife, mother, and person I can be.

how to love yourself

You can learn to love yourself. However, learning to love yourself is like learning to walk; it takes time, patience, and a lot of falling down and getting back up. The tips below are helpful in your pursuit of self-love. Give yourself a mental high five with each step, and remember that when we practice self-love, we are teaching our kids to love themselves too. 

10 Tips on how can learn to love and respect yourself 

 

(1) establish and set boundaries

I don’t know about you, but everywhere I look someone is talking about the “b” word.

I used to find the concept of boundaries very overwhelming.  In reality, boundaries aren’t as intimidating as they seem. What I now realize is that it is important to love yourself enough to set boundaries. The beauty is that there’s no one-size-fits-all boundary. They will vary from person to person because needs differ from person to person. 

Boundaries are a good thing; actually, they are a great thing.  Why? Boundaries mean determining what you need so you can feel secure in your relationships. Boundaries are necessary in all types of relationships, not just romantic ones. Whether it means letting your friend know that you won’t answer the phone after 11pm or telling your parents that certain topics are off-limits, they are meant to set clear expectations so that you can have healthy relationships with others. It is crucial to love yourself enough to set boundaries.

how to set boundaries

Making a list is often a great place to start. Write down some things that you would like to establish with the people in your life. Start with something small, and then you can work your way up towards bigger boundaries.

Share your boundaries is a loving, clear way. Remember that change takes time, and that you may have to restate your boundaries. Also understand that relationships are a two-way street, so healthy relationships mean giving boundaries as well as respecting the boundaries set by others.

At first it might feel awkward to set boundaries with others. You may not be used to expressing your feelings and needs to others. The important thing is to try to stand by the boundaries you set. Remember the importance of respecting and loving yourself enough to set boundaries. If you falter, that’s okay. You’re a work in progress, remember? The more you practice giving and sticking to your boundaries, the more comfortable you’ll feel. With time and consistency, you can learn to love yourself enough to set boundaries.

“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” (Anna Taylor, Goodreads).

(2) sleep

A cranky, sleep-deprived person is not going to feel great about anything, let alone themselves. If your kids are keeping you up or you’re a troubled sleeper, try some of my sleep strategies.

(3) Accept your weaknesses along with your strengths 

This one is a biggie for me. I tend to focus on my weaknesses and minimize my strengths.

At some point you realize that you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by repeatedly hitting your head against a brick wall (metaphorically speaking). No matter what, I am going to make mistakes. There will be times where I am going to do things wrong. I am going to be emotional and anxious and sometimes needy.

I am flawed. Deeply. Wishing it away and hating myself for it isn’t going to make it go away. So how do you learn to love yourself? You can learn to love yourself by accepting those flaws and reminding yourself that you are doing the best you can. The key to happiness is acceptance.

It might be that I may never love those parts of myself,  but I can love myself for WHO I am. I am not defined by my anxiety and my fears. I am defined by who I am as a person. My name is Randi and I feel anxious. That’s very different than thinking, “My name is Randi and I AM anxious.”

Try to show yourself compassion. When you feel badly or angry about something, argue with those negative thoughts. Remember you are trying and give yourself space to grow without forcing it.  You can learn to love yourself and accept yourself. It simply takes time.

As strange as it might seem, try embracing your imperfections. We are the sum of all of our parts, but our parts guide us rather than define us. Imperfections are what make us unique.

“Loving yourself doesn’t mean you think you’re the smartest, most talented, and most beautiful person in the world. Instead, when you love yourself you accept your so-called weaknesses, appreciate those shortcomings as something that makes you who you are.” (Andrea Brandt)

(4) Self-care 

Part of prioritizing your feelings is taking time to invest in your emotional well-being.

Read that book that got buried in your closet. Go for a run. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Listen to music. You can’t like or love yourself if you aren’t willing to invest time to care for yourself.

(5) daily affirmations

I’m a big believer in faking it until you make it. If you play a role long enough, you’ll can actually learn to love yourself.

Make a list of positive affirmations such as, “I am enough.” “I deserve love.” “I am worthy of happiness.” “I am proud of how hard I try.” You can make these lists with your children as well.

Write them on a piece of paper and read them aloud. Write them on a post-it and stick it on your mirror so you see it everyday. Whenever you are judging yourself or feel badly about yourself, grab that list.

(6) be your own friend

Would you speak to your friends the way you speak to yourself? I’m going to guess not. Why is it easier to be kind to others than it is to be kind to ourselves?

This is something that comes up often with my daughter, especially around bedtime. I have to remind her that she should be kind to herself about her sleep issues and comfort herself as she would a friend.

When I am harsh with myself, I try to think about how I’d feel if the circumstances belonged to someone else. Most of the time, I would be far more compassionate and supportive than what I’m telling myself.

“When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that they only approval and validation you need is your own.” (Mandy Hale).

(7) Rediscover your hobbies

We get so enmeshed with our children and our loved-ones that we often forget what brings us joy. Not your kids, not your spouse, you. What are things that you like to do? What can you do for yourself to learn to love yourself?

Commit to spending even 5 minutes a day doing something just for you. Sometimes our hobbies are a form of self-care (such as journaling, listening to music). Sometimes hobbies are different than our self-care. Hobbies are meant for fun, whereas self-care is about focusing on your emotional well-being.

(8) Prioritize your feelings and look out for yourself.

That is a frightening notion for some of us. If you’re like me, you’ve spent most of your life focused on the well-being of others. My feelings fell by the wayside because I felt responsible for taking care of everyone else’s feelings.

It was a hard pill to swallow that I had to focus on myself first and foremost. That sounded incredibly selfish to me. People depended on me. I would be okay as long as I was taking care of my responsibilities, which meant making sure others were okay.

I didn’t realize how codependent that way of thinking was, and that I could never be the kind of mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person I wanted to be unless I took care of myself. The truth is that all my best efforts can never fix/save others, and others aren’t responsible for my happiness either.

prioritize your feelings

I want my daughter to stand up for herself, and that means I have to set the right example and do that for myself. I need to be my biggest supporter and cheerleader because if I don’t look out for myself, how can I expect others to respect my feelings?

You can’t be the best version of yourself if you are pouring from an empty cup. If you treat yourself as insignificant, it is not shocking if others treat you that way too.

Prioritizing your feelings may also mean taking time to calm down when you feel angry, stressed, or overwhelmed. Whether it’s telling your spouse, your child, or you friend that you need a moment, sometimes you need to simply walk away. If you can get outside and take a walk, great. Give yourself space to take some deep breaths and practice some relaxation exercises , even if it means putting your kids somewhere safe and locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes.

(9) ask for help

Learn to love yourself by reaching out to others if you feel overwhelmed and need to recharge. We put so much pressure on ourselves, and society puts so much pressure on us, that we feel like we are failures if we are struggling. Part of loving ourselves is accepting we cannot do it all, and there are times when we need the support of others.

(10) Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling

It is okay to be sad, anxious, or angry. You are not a robot, so you will experience a whole spectrum of emotions. It is part of life, and burying those feelings or judging yourself for them is only going to make you feel worse.  It is okay to not be okay .

Self-love isn’t linear. You will likely take several steps forward and then several steps back. Some days you’ll feel on top of the world, and others you’ll feel like something that is getting scraped off the bottom of your shoe. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and new ways of thinking take time. You are going to make mistakes, but what matters is that you are trying.

“I gave myself permission to feel and experience all of my emotions. In order to do that, I had to stop being afraid to feel. In order to do that, I taught myself to believe that no matter what I felt or what happened when I felt it, I would be ok.” (Iyanla Vanzant).

 

 

The hard truth is that learning to love yourself is no easy achievement. However, the greatest achievements in life are meaningful because of the journey required to achieve it. The journey of self-love is filled with road blocks and hurdles, but it is a journey that is worth traveling.

*To help support your self-love journey, I’ve created a self-love workbook.  To print, click here: Self-Love Workbook Printables: Support and Maintain Your Self-Love Journey

living a sober life

My husband, Matt, is an addict. His addiction and his recovery are both an important part of his journey, and they are a part of our journey as a couple. Matt has been sober for five years. I am grateful that he is clean and has stayed clean, but there is so much more to sobriety than not using. I assumed that once he was sober it would be smooth sailing.

THAT IS SIMPLY  NOT THE TRUTH.

I asked my husband to share his struggle and perspective on living a sober life to provide insight for loved ones of addicts and to support others on their own sober journey.

Read his story below:

Recovering from an addiction is anything but easy. You feel alone, lost, afraid, and have no identity other than what you used to be in active addiction. A lot of your feelings are negative, and your coping strategy of using is gone. As a result, your normal way of dealing with negative emotions is no longer available. Every 24-hour period an addict is drug and/or alcohol-free is a gift. No matter what else happened that day, you can be proud of yourself that you didn’t use. It is a beginning of a long road, but it is a road worth traveling. Being in recovery and living a sober life will help reshape your life into one of confidence, health, and healing. However, staying sober is only half the battle.

LIVING A SOBER LIFE IS NOT JUST ABOUT ABSTAINING FROM SUBSTANCES

It is a misnomer that recovery is just about abstaining from the substances you used in active addiction. That is just not true. It is also recovering from behaviors and facing feeling that you used addiction to mask. In addition, there are new and emerging feelings of shame, regret, sadness, and anger that will surface, all of which were previously dealt with by burying them under the cover of drugs, pills, alcohol, etc.  You need to evaluate which people will help you to live a sober life and which will not. You also need to learn how to communicate to others that you are in recovery to avoid uncomfortable situations that might put you in a position to relapse.

The first part of living a sober life in recovery is to find a 12-step program and meetings that you enjoy. There are so many different types of meetings out there that it can be extremely overwhelming. In the beginning you need to attend as many meetings as you can. Therefore, it is a good idea to bounce around until you find one that helps you gain insight into yourself through what others share. When I was first starting out, I was told to just listen to different people share at meetings and see what resonated with me.

When you find a meeting you like, the next thing you must do is find a sponsor. At the beginning, finding a sponsor is the most important tool in living a sober life. It is impossible to stay sober on your own during the first few years of recovery. You need that guidance and support during those tough times.  A sponsor will help you work the program in a meaningful and insightful way. They have been through the 12 steps before and are a tool in helping you stay sober.

With that said, recovery is an introspective exercise.

You must be able to work on yourself and work on behaviors and habits that drove you to use in the first place. It is something that you have to do for yourself each and every day. There is no one-size-fits-all method that will work for everybody. Each person needs to do what is right for them. You can have different people give suggestions and guide you, but the end result is in the work that you put into it and what you are able to change within yourself. If you put the work in every day to work on yourself and stay sober, you will be able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and say, “I stayed sober today; I am proud of myself.”

for the 12 steps to work you must leave your ego at the door

To be honest, I had tried 12-step programs several times prior to becoming sober. Each time I would attend several meetings and then stop going. It was primarily my self-centeredness, my ego. By that, I mean selfishness, resentments, fear, the things that engulf people with drinking and addiction problems. The steps are designed to look at the world from a different point of view. There has got to be that internal surrender for sobriety to happen. That scared me, and I wanted no part of it. I didn’t have any intention of looking internally to see the root of where my addiction came from, which are my insecurities and faults.

The shame I felt was more powerful than my will to stay sober, so each time I would leave the meetings and continue my destructive behavior.

As you might have read in my initial post about how I became sober, I finally hit rock bottom and knew I had to change or else I would lose what was most important to me. I want to an outpatient rehab center 3 evenings a week for 4 months. It was a solid foundation for me to begin my journey in sobriety, and I learned a lot about myself during this program. I found a meeting that I enjoyed attending, and found a sponsor that I was able to connect with. I started working through the twelve steps with him.

The twelve steps are about spirituality. They’re not about sobriety. They’re about growing along spiritual lines, and sobriety is a by-product of that. Living by spiritual principles does not mean you have to be religious or have any religious affiliation. It means that you believe in something greater than yourself. The steps will help you look inside at yourself and the things you have done wrong that led you on that dark path of addiction. It helps flesh those things out so you can see what needs to change to be able to live a sober life.

THE PROGRAM WILL GIVE YOU TOOLS TO HELP LIVE A SOBER LIFE

After a while, I learned some helpful tools. For example, I learned how to breathe. I also learned how to check in with my body to see how I was reacting to different situations: Is my heart racing? Are my palms sweaty? I learned that I could remove myself from any situation that could affect my sobriety. My wife has been my rock throughout my sobriety journey. I know that it would have been an incredibly difficult journey for me to stay sober without her in my corner.

As time wore on, my frequency at meetings as well as my meetings with my sponsor became less and less frequent. My sponsor enabled me to blame others for my actions rather than help me hold myself accountable. I had to sever ties with him, and over the next several years I tried working with two other sponsors that I did not have success with. My meeting frequency also went from 3 times a week to once a week, then to once every two weeks. Now, I’m lucky if I go to a meeting once every 2-3 months. I stay sober by doing the inner work. I try to understand my habits and behaviors in different situations that cause me to react inappropriately. 

What I have today is a better awareness of the things I’m thinking and feeling. I’m aware of when my mind sends me a signal like, “The situation I’m in is not good for me, and it would be much easier to check out by having a quick drink or taking something I shouldn’t. Or even better ten drinks in a row.” I have a better sense of how unbearable I found most situations. Any time I was going through something that would make me the slightest bit uncomfortable, I wanted to use. These behaviors were well worn grooves in my psyche, developed over years of repetition.

What I know today is I don’t have to act on any of these self-destructive impulses.

I don’t have to drink or take drugs. In making the choice to live a sober lifestyle, I have choices. One important choice I always have in my pocket is to do absolutely nothing. If I must decide between going somewhere that might make me uncomfortable or stay home, I can decide to stay home and keep myself safe.

Breathing and meditation taught me how to sit with a feeling for a period of time, dipping my toe into uncomfortable emotional territory. I know that if a feeling becomes unbearable, it won’t stay that way. No matter how angry or sad, anxious, or happy I become, time will pass. Either I won’t feel that way or the feeling will become different, something more thoughtful and less desperate. Being open to the fact that things change helps me make it through those tough moments. Then, before I know it, it’s nighttime and I can get into bed knowing I’ve made it through another day sober. For me, that is the best part. In the morning I will wake up to possibility instead of a massive hangover.

you will need to work on yourself every day

Here’s the thing though; I make mistakes all the time. Tons of them. Sometimes tons in the same day. I will react to different situations poorly. There are days where I react out of spite and anger, doing things I will regret over time. Other days I will become distant and not want to talk to anyone. I will take things and people that I have in my life for granted, and not act in a way that I should in a given situation. There are many days where I still lie about things because I am afraid of sitting with those negative feelings and emotions. I am afraid to have conversations that deal with feelings because I still have the want and need to bury them so that it will not affect me.

These are all things that I struggle with and continue to work on to this day.

The one thing that has never wavered is that I am determined to remain sober. When I wake up every day, I make that choice. I take life in 24 hour periods. I never try to look too far ahead because that can be very scary. 

During my years of living a sober life, I have been able to live life in a healthy and more manageable way. I have found a career that I love and am proud of the accomplishments I have made every day. I have been able to have a closer relationship with my wife, which helps me to stay balanced and even keel in this topsy turvy world that we live in. 

It is very rare when I feel the need to use. There are times when I get that itch in the back of my brain.  I now have the tools to handle those temptations in a healthier way. Life is never easy, and there are times when it is a struggle to get through some days. During those times, I dive deep into doing what I love: spending time with my family, watching sports, listening to music, running, and working out.  I have learned how to cope with my disease rather than succumbing to it. I was not able to do so during those dark periods in my life.

Long-term sobriety means working on yourself every day.

A lot can and will happen to you that has the potential to derail you. Addiction is a chronic disease, not a personal failure. There is a human face behind every example, and there is real hope that addiction recovery can change your life.  No matter how many times you need to try, please know there is always someone out there that will listen. There is someone out there that can help you get through those difficult times and help you get on the path to living a sober life.