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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: self-care

30 Jul

In defense of stillness

Ideas to Consider 5 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{image credit :: thebookofsecrets.tumblr.com}

The term addicted gets thrown around a lot, probably far more often than it should. I am a big advocate for carefully selecting words, because they are the building blocks for our realities, and so when people say they are addicted to Giuliana and Bill or strawberry milkshakes, I get annoyed.

But when it comes to the idea of distraction, I think many of us are truly addicted. In fact, I would suggest that we have a cultural addiction going on. Hear me out.

First of all, I can write this post honestly because I am a total player in the game.

Hello. My name is Ashley. I’m addicted to activity.

I’m not talking about ADHD or just how busy we all are in our world, though I’m certain that those issues contribute to our problem. No, I’m talking about the fact that I look around the train on any given morning and every single pair of eyes is glued to an iPad or Blackberry. Crossing a busy street, people are texting. We watch movies with our laptops on our bellies, totally unaware of the plot. We eat at the refrigerator as we plan our Monday. We chat on the phone at the spa. We can’t even use the bathroom without a form of distraction!

It’s enough to make you want to scream, “Enough already. Turn it off!”

It makes me wonder, what’s so threatening about quiet? What’s wrong with stillness?

My guess is that it frightens us. To turn off the distraction means we actually have to sit with ourselves – our true selves. Stillness gives us the space to be with our own thoughts, to connect with our own emotions. And for some of us, that’s scary stuff.

For some, it’s the fear of being disconnected from others. The thought that things could be going on, that someone could be reaching out, and that I might not be available? Well, that’s terrifying for individuals who use that connection as a means of feeling whole. Without it, they suddenly feel incredibly isolated. It’s the irony of our generation – all of this incredible technology, built for us to connect, has left us often feeling even more alone.

For others, it’s the fear of feeling unaccomplished. If I’m not engaged in a task, how can I be productive? And, by extension, if I’m not productive, who am I? Do I matter? Granted, we aren’t asking ourselves these questions directly. But I believe that they are lingering beneath the surface.

And for still others, their own thoughts and feelings prove too distressing to bear. If they’re not enveloped in the hustle and bustle, then perhaps they would be able to experience the loneliness that they’ve been trying so hard to keep at bay. Or perhaps the frustration with a job that’s going nowhere. Or the fear that their partner is going to pack it in. Whatever the emotion, as a culture we are not particularly adept at feeling it. And so we busy ourselves with everything we can imagine to forestall it.

But stillness, on the other hand, it allows for the sense of deep and true connection. It allows us to listen. It allows for the full expression of our own experience. And it allows for us to feel whole, without the focus on the external.

Stillness is heavily underrated, and it’s time that we changed that. To be still doesn’t mean that one is unproductive or a hippie. It means that we are allowing ourselves the opportunity to be, the fundamental function of human beings.

Let’s hear you’re favorite ways to cultivate stillness in your life. I’ll start –

Coloring mandalas helps me to refocus my intention and energy and to just be present.

Your turn!

19 Jul

Start Write Now :: An Introduction & Why You Should Participate

Start Write Now 8 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Start Write Now is new Nourishing the Soul series that invites you to step into the practice of using the written word as a form of self-expression. Maybe you already journal regularly, or maybe Mrs. Brown’s third grade poetry assignment scarred you and you haven’t picked up a pen since except to write a check. If it’s the former, great! Hopefully this series will offer you some interesting directions for your writing, and help you to reflect in new ways. If it’s the latter, great! Hopefully this series will heal your broken writing spirit and help you see just how powerful this medium can be.

As I delve into writing a book, I’ve been doing even more thinking on the practice of writing. My own early years were spent with pen in hand, dreaming up stories, writing articles for my made-up newspaper, and waxing poetic about all my pre-adolescent woes. I even loved writing essays for school and was the girl that everyone stared down when I smiled smugly that our page requirement was changed from ten to fifteen.

I recently started participating in an online writing course, and have been trying to keep up with the various exercises assigned. The other day I was required to write a villanelle (a nineteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter with two repeating lines and two refrains, in case you’re interested) , and I struggled through the entire thing. When I finished, my husband asked me to read what I had written and I got self-conscious. I couldn’t bring myself to read it out loud! When did I go from Ms. Bloggy to shy?

Well, let me tell you something about this series. There will be no structural requirements. There will be no grades assigned. And you get to decide if it’s something you want to share or not. The point is not to judge your writing, or even to be a “good” writer. It’s simply to help you develop another way to express what you’re feeling.

If you’re not convinced, I’ve created this top ten list of reasons to start write now:

1. It promotes self-reflection and can help you identify your values.

2. It’s cheap as far as therapeutic tools go.

3. It can help you build self-confidence.

4. It’s a chance to practice sitting with yourself.

5. It can help you develop a coherent narrative of your life.

6. It shifts your perspective on events, others, and yourself.

7. It helps you identify patterns in your life.

8. It helps you clarify what you want and need.

9. It can disentangle thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

10. It can help you let go of what’s keeping you stuck.

If you’re ready to take part, here’s what you do. Use the journaling prompt however you wish. If you want to type a response on your blog, that’s great. If you’d rather keep it to your leather-bound journal, write away. If you want to take the concept and build or create something totally different (like making a vision board or writing a song), go for it. Think about what works for you and where your soul is telling you to go. Feel free to adapt the prompt itself as well until it’s something that resonates with you.

Once you’re done, feel free to share what you’ve come up with on the post. If you write a post based on the prompt, leave the link in the comment section below. If you wrote it elsewhere, you can leave an excerpt in the comments as well. Or, if you prefer to keep it on the down low, that’s cool too.

So, here’s the first prompt:

SWN 1

Start Write Now!

16 Jul

Surrounding Yourself With Positive People {Guest Post}

Guest Post 4 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

Today’s post comes to us from Arianna, who shares her musings at Arianna’s Random Thoughts. I’m excited to share her perspective on the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people. Read on…

Throughout my life, I have struggled: comparing myself to images of women in the media and letting this comparison influence my behaviour, treatment of my body, and my attitude. I was in a constant battle to not let these unrealistic images influence my view of myself. I felt like I should change myself and my imperfections to some “ideal” image in order to be happy and accepted by others. I am overcoming this battle every day. Now, my aim for my life is to keep my mask off and let people see the “real” me.

In our society, it can seem like an individual’s image is the most important, and their personal success is what matters. When people asked me, “How are you?” I figured they didn’t want to hear about all the things that are going on in my life.So I usually responded with, “Good.” I guess I believed that appearing as if I had it all together showed a sign of strength. However, truth is, everyone has struggles as no one’s life is perfect.

In some social circles, if someone talks about their personal issues and is vulnerable, that person has a high likelihood of getting judged negatively. Therefore, to avoid being judged, many of us stay in the “safe” zone in conversations. Rather than open up when others need help, we turn to things we can easily consume (i.e., alcohol, drugs, food, products, etc.) or go to other drastic measures to cope and make us feel better. However, to recover from these addictions, we will have to talk about our issues with trained professionals.

I believe that talking to others and sharing our story is an important aspect in the healing process. But, it doesn’t always require going to a professional to deal with personal issues. We can prevent this step by peeling off your mask, reaching out, sharing our struggles, and connecting to others in the community early on. Surrounding ourselves with positive people can be a safety net.

I got the strength to take off my own mask permanently after an interesting conversation with a friend. We had known each other for a number of years, yet we only talked about “safe” topics. However, I had been craving the need for a deeper friendship. I just wasn’t sure how to get there. During the conversation, my friend brought up how I was a “frustrating friend,” as I only talked about superficial topics; so, the friend had lost interest in our friendship.

Throughout our friendship, we had both gone through hardships, yet we didn’t share with each other. While I had thought I was being authentic, I had a hard time being vulnerable and letting others (even in this case, one of my closest friends) know what was going on in my heart. To become a better friend, I learned to open up and to be vulnerable to others.  I think it’s important to get people talking about what is going on in their lives. Life is not meant to go through alone. Odds are, others are undergoing similar things.

Life is short, so put your time and effort into deeper relationships. They are so important. Next time someone you interact with tells you they are “fine” even though they look sad, take time out of your life and show them you care. Just remember that these relationships take time; some connections don’t happen immediately or when you want them to. But, don’t give up when things go slower than you had hoped. Be patient with the person; people have their reasons why they may not open up right away. Also, remember that relationships are two ways: you have to be vulnerable, and you have to express your feelings to the other person as well. Say THANK YOU friend for the reminder to be more vulnerable in my relationships and to open up more. I’ve learned my lesson, and now my mask is off.

Arianna is an educator, a consultant, the Founder of Arianna’s Random Thoughts, and an athlete. She has a rich background in education with a Master’s of Education Degree in Human Development and Applied Psychology from The University of Toronto (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree in Psychology from Carleton University. The focus of her work has been to understand the strategies individuals use to solve problems and applying that knowledge to society. Her motto is: “You cannot control what will happen to you or how you will be treated by others. You CAN control, however, how you react to the situation. Learning how to do that in a positive manner is key!”

 

10 Jul

Knowing When It’s Time To Give Up: Five Signs

Ideas to Consider 7 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned

so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” 

― Joseph Campbell

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein (who, for all of his smarts, wasn’t exactly a psychologist, but that’s beside the point), is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I’ll begrudgingly acknowledge that it took me a bit of time to take this little piece of wisdom to heart. I have always considered myself a hard-worker. But more than that, I considered myself tenacious. If there was something that I wanted, then I’ll be damned if I didn’t work my butt off to achieve it. This meant lots of long nights spent pouring over test notes, years spent cultivating friendships that I wanted sincerely to work out, and months (okay years) of extra time to make my graduate research just how I wanted it.

In behavioral terms, this kind of behavior was generally reinforced by my eventual success. I’d get the good grade or the accolades, and I’d pat myself on the back, noting how all of my tenacity had paid its dues. But what I failed to acknowledge in those moments of relief and pride was the personal cost that my ambition took.

It’s not all my fault, you see. We live in a culture that encourages success at all costs. Our world, the one that extends the length of our view at least, appears to be built upon our collective hard work, our struggle.

But what we lose in this relentless pursuit of self is often just that, our selves. All of that struggle leaves little space for rest or pleasure. So how do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel on something we’ve to which we’ve dedicated ourselves wholeheartedly?

When Your Heart Is Telling You To. It may sound obvious, but one major sign that it’s time to move on is when your heart – or gut, or mind, or intuition (however you want to think about it) – is sending you subtle or overt signals to that end. For most of us, our intuition usually starts as a whisper and builds to a roar. Suddenly, you find yourself less excited about the pursuit you’ve been working toward. Perhaps you even dread thinking about it. You start thinking about new ideas to cultivate and feel bitter that your current objective is preventing you from getting to explore these. These are all tell-tale signs that a change may be in order.

When Your Friends Are Telling You To. Sometimes our hearts aren’t really telling us anything, and that could be because we’ve been so single-minded about our goal that we can’t see beyond it. That’s the time that it’s important to start listening to the people who know and care about us. Whether a friend is telling you to give up on trying to master yesterday’s CrossFit workout, to ditch the relationship that’s just not working, or to stop buying lottery tickets, they usually are seeing something you don’t and have your best interest at heart. Listen well.

When You’re Always Struggling. As we’ve been ever trained to do, you have probably told yourself that all good things in life take hard work. Well, I call bluff. I think that often the things that are right for us are the ones that we approach with a sense of ease, the ones that bring us peace. I can honestly say that while my career is fast-paced and demanding, I often find myself forgetting that I’m “working.” When that happens, I know I’m in the right place. On the other hand, there are times that I start a blog post and I spend hours typing and deleting in between googling the topic, facebooking, and wondering what I’ll have for dinner. At some point, I usually realize that is just not the right time for this post. If it’s not flowing, it’s time to move on, at least for the time being.

When Your Physically, Emotionally, and/or Financially Depleted. When people do finally move on, whether from a job, a relationship, or a new year’s resolution, it’s often after something has granted them the clarity to see just how tired they are. A friend of mine stayed working in a job that she hated for far too long. She knew that the position and company were not right for her, but she’d learned in her family that loyalty to an employer is a high priority and that giving up was a sign of weakness. She was also scared as heck that she wouldn’t find something else. What finally made her make a move was when she realized that her hair was starting to fall out from all the stress. It took her level of anxiety getting to a point of her body malfunctioning to realize she needed a change. Don’t let it get to that point.

When Your Ambition is Negatively Influencing Other Objectives. Making commitments is great; it keep us grounded, focused, and, hopefully, energized in positive pursuits. However, when that focus becomes too constricted, suddenly our lives are narrowed into slender lines. Another friend of mine had decided to compete in a triathlon, and began putting her energy into training. She lived and breathed biking, running, and swimming, and she was getting stronger and faster by the day. She loved the physical activity and the excitement of working towards this achievement. But she also realized that she hadn’t seen her friends in months. Sore muscles and early morning trainings prevented her from socializing in the ways she wanted to. Her desire to start dating was put on the back burner and she found herself too tired to cook, read, or knit, other things that she liked to do. She did  complete the race, and while she was quite proud of her accomplishment, she doubted whether it was worth how small her life had become.

Giving up on dream (the dream of a perfect relationship, a perfect job, or a perfect family), is one of the most painful things that we can do. But it’s often also one of the most important. If you’re still not sure, try visualizing what it would be like to give up. If in imagining this, you find yourself feeling calmer, lighter, or more peaceful, there’s your answer.

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