Feeling Stuck? Why We Can Feel Stuck and What Can Be Done About It

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

It’s my belief that we all feel some feeling of being stuck at some point in our lives.

In my experience, feeling stuck is a concern that brings many people to seek out therapy or coaching, or looking for some other resource to help to move forward and feel unstuck.

With that said, however, even if it is something that we might all experience in one way or another, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to work through.

We can feel stuck about a lot of things:

  • Relationships
  • Work / career
  • Health-related habits
  • Everyday routines
  • Generalized feeling that “life feels stuck”, feeling as though life Is on a hamster wheel or Groundhog Day

The feeling of feeling stuck can be quite persistent.

And for some people, if the feeling goes on long enough, they end up resigning themselves to feeling that way.

Or it’s only when the feelings of being stuck becomes too much is when people are motivated to take action.

Some Ways We Can Feel Stuck

Feeling stuck can happen when you’re struggling with a situation that doesn’t feel quite right or not really aligned with your values.

It can also happen when significant life decisions may have previously been made based on the influence of others (parents, family or cultural pressures).

It might also be that unhelpful habits have been developed over time and it can feel as though it’s too late to change.

What Can Keep Us Feeling Stuck

It can be a very powerful feeling to believe that it’s too late or too hard or too ingrained.

We can feel that “things are good enough” or “the fear of failure” because of uncertainty can keep us from achieving our highest potential.

However, here’s a thought that might help:
The top regret discussed in the book, The 5 Top Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware is: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

What Can be Done About Feeling Stuck

You’ll notice that when people talk about being stuck, it’s usually phrased as “being stuck” or also, “feeling stuck”. 

So, the first thing to recognize is that these are feelings, and while it might feel like it, it’s highly unlikely that you’re completely stuck and without choices or options. 

And one way to think about feelings is that they are signals to let you know that something’s up.

Here’s a quick tip: What is one thing that you can do just 1% differently right now? Now go and do it. The small “win” can help motivate you to keep going and to potentially make other changes.

Ways to Work Through Feeling Stuck:

  • Examine your cognitive biases (aka “don’t believe everything you think.”) – We all have automatic thoughts, but many of us are unaware of our own biases shaped by our non-objective values and beliefs. For instance: commitment bias is sticking with a past decision to try and avoid feeling like we may have made a previous mistake or to be a “quitter” which can definitely impact the feelings of being stuck.
  • Develop More Effective Habits – It’s possible for things to change, but it usually doesn’t happen overnight.  As we discussed, the book Atomic Habits is a good place to start. Read more about it in one of my previous posts here.
  • Try Therapy, Counselling or Coaching – These processes can help to identify and to work through why you’re feeling stuck, what might be preventing you from moving toward change and figure out how it can be different.

Happy Pride! June is Pride Month.

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Pride Month is set in June in recognition of those who stood up to demonstrate against the police raid which took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, 1969. 

The Stonewall Uprising that followed have been considered to be the watershed moment in LGBTQ+ rights history.

(As an aside, while discussing the Stonewall Uprising on the Spin, I had mentioned that it’s the 30th anniversary… clearly, math is not my strong suit: This year 2019 is the 50th anniversary.)

The Necessity of Pride Month to be Acknowledged and Celebrated By Pro Sports

Because of my weekly participation on The Spin’s Wellness Wednesday and The Spin’s focus on sports discussions, I often try to think about sports and the larger impact it has in society.

And in my case, because personal overall wellness is a passion of mine, I think about ways to connect larger wellness discussions in relation to sports.

Pride Month is celebrated in many ways during the month of June… even at MLB games!

It’s no secret that I am a BIG baseball fan and I am glad that in recent years, the MAJORITY of the major league baseball teams have organized Pride Nights as part of the regular schedule.

(It appears the New York Yankees (there will be a pregame commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising on June 25th at Yankee Stadium, but it is not named or officially considered to be Pride Night), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros are not scheduled to hold a Pride Night in 2019….)

In the words of one of my favourite baseball players, Sean Doolittle of the Washington Nationals:

“To my LGBTQ friends and family – we love you, support you, and we’re grateful for you. I’m proud to celebrate and stand with you because everyone deserves to feel safe and free to be who they are and to love who they love. Love is love.”

Sean Doolittle, Washing Nationals

When it comes to the bigger pro sports leagues in North America, there are still unfortunately very few openly queer athletes.

MLB specifically has had former player, Billy Bean (not the A’s GM) Ambassador for Inclusion since 2004, and the league has been embracing Pride Nights for the past few years.

As the Ambassador for Inclusion, Bean’s role has been to provide training and leadership to the LGBT community, specifically in relation to baseball.

Pro sports have a very far reach with many populations, communities and individuals.

The more there is acceptance and inclusiveness in areas especially like pro sports, the hope is that there will be a larger and wider acceptance and inclusiveness on a bigger scale.

The Wider Scope Importance of Pride for LGTBQ+ Individuals in Relation to Personal Wellness

Pride Month is a time where LGBTQ+ folks can be recognized and celebrated for the diverse individuals and communities they are. 

But also as Sean Doolittle mentioned, recognition also provides more safe opportunities for expression and to have open discussions around how each one of us, queer identified or otherwise, understands difference, diversity and also inherent and ongoing challenges.

“Homophobia as a form of oppression is traumatizing and Pride is an essential way of counteracting the negative effects of hatred and oppression that have historically been present.”

Jason Winkler, Registered Psychotherapist in Toronto

From a mental health perspective, as a relational psychotherapist and as someone fortunate to have grown up with many queer identified people in my life, I have a relative understanding from my place of allied privilege how crucial it is to know that LGBTQ+ individuals have specific and diverse experiences and challenges, and that who they are can be greatly influenced by their families, the culture and the society in which they grew up. 

And to also acknowledge the greater importance for those in the community to have safe, inclusive and meaningful connections and spaces to be able to explore similarities and differences in order to have a good sense of self.

“None of those things can happen when one has to hide, to compartmentalize, to walk around feeling hated, rejected, shamed.”

Jason Winkler

Speaking of which…

Difficulties as a Result of Those Not Understanding the Importance of Pride (Or What is it with People Who Try to Equate It with ‘Straight Pride’?)

I’ll refer to author James Fell here who posted this on Facebook and Twitter, and a response from Twitter user, Alison Brandon:

Things to Keep in Mind as Queer Allies

Lastly, for those of us who identify as queer allies, it would be valuable for us all to keep in mind:

  • First and foremost, “Believe that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect.” – GLAAD
  • Don’t automatically assume that all friends, co-workers and family members are straight.
  • Challenge personal biases and lack of understanding, even though it can be extremely uncomfortable to do.  Resist the assumptions that being an ally means that there is a full understanding of another individual’s experiences.

For more on understanding how to be a better queer ally, check out this article from the Washing Post: Call yourself an LGBT ally? Here’s how to actually be one.

How will you be celebrating Pride?

What are the Mental Health Benefits of Being a Sports Fan?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

It’s May 2019 and a remarkable thing has happened in our fair city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and our great country of Canada in general:

The Toronto Raptors are going to the NBA championships!!

Full disclosure: I’m fully a “band-wagoner” fan when it comes to basketball and the Raptors. Sure, I was around and excited when Toronto got our very own basketball team 24 years ago. Even went to some games back then, but my sports beating heart undoubtedly belongs to baseball and our embattled Toronto Blue Jays.

That said though, I am fortunate to live downtown and experienced the pure joy and excitement of the Raptors winning over the Milwaukee Bucks to advance to the championships.

It reminded me of the time that the Toronto Blue Jays won back to back championships in the 90’s and my parents and I made our way downtown at the time to walk down Yonge Street. We cheered and gave everyone we passed by high fives along the way. It was an incredible feeling to be a part of this city- and nation-wide celebration.

I was in my teens then and I was a baseball fan before the Jays won the championships. But that experience of belonging and happiness of celebrating along with everyone cemented my commitment to being a Jays fan, it seems, for life!

Being a fan Jays fan has helped me feel like a part of a community of baseball lovers and also, specifically those who love the Toronto Blue Jays.

It’s allowed me to have the ability to make instant connections with others, gives me a break from working when I might take a few minutes to see what’s going on in the baseball world and also the ‘inside baseball’ stuff that’s helped me conceptualize what it takes to being not only a professional athlete, but how the business of baseball appears to be run.

So with the Raptors stirring up the pride and loyalties of many of us here in Toronto, I thought it would be fun to discuss how it can be helpful for mental health to be a dedicated sports fan.

As we know, participating in playing sports can be supportive of mental health and overall wellness… 

But How About the Benefits of Being a Sports Fan?

Being a sports fan can be good for social, emotional and psychological health, even though there can also be a stereotype that sports fans can overindulge in beer, fast food items and snacks. 

While this stereotype can be true of some fans, there are also other fans who are also actively involved in physical and social activities because of their dedication to sports, playing and following as fans.

Four Benefits of Being a Sports Fan

1 – Studies have shown that fans who actively support a local team tend to be socially engaged and have higher self-esteem.  There is a built-in connection with others locally.

2 – Other studies have shown that being an avid sports fan can improve language skills, since fans often have conversations and discussions about sports — whether expressing opinions or translating what they witnessed into their own words.  It’s a much more detailed and conversational discussion than talking about the weather.

3 – A team’s wins and losses can affect energy, mood and hormone levels, such as dopamine and testosterone. 

4 – As we talked about habits in a previous post, sports teaches us that success comes as a result of continued and dedicated repetitions.

Within sports are inherent lessons about the ups and downs, fairness, playing by the rules, the human stories of disasters and triumphs, that’s also true of each of our life experiences, too.

It’s About Balance – Three Warnings of Being Too Invested as a Fan

But like anything else, it’s possible for anyone to be too invested in any sports or sports teams to the point that individuals may be using them as too much of a distraction or have negative impacts in other areas of their lives.

1 – Be aware that it has been reported that sports fans can get so emotionally involved in intense competitive situations which can then trigger cardiac issues, like a heart attack and also have an impact on mood.

2 – There can also be issues of being so involved as a fan, that an excessive amount of time can be spent on following sports to the detriment of relationships, and personal and professional responsibilities.

3 – Overindulgence in alcohol and less healthy foods, which can lead to less than ideal overall health, which will also impact mental health and mood.

Sports, at its best, are a reflection of life but with specific constraints, rules and stats, so that it’s often a relatable escape. As always, the key is to find the right balance.

In my case, as I’m just jumping in right now as the Raptors are about to enter into their first championship in franchise history, I’ll be throwing on my new Raps gear and cheering them on with the rest of super fans here in Toronto. Go Raps!!

How to Develop Better Habits for Change and Self Improvement

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

What’s the Secret to Making Changes?

Identifying areas for improvement and understanding the need to make a change is one thing, but how to go about making changes is a totally different thing altogether.

Developing Better Habits

Building better habits is the equivalent of the law of compound interest of self improvement.

Habits are the foundation for changes, whether it is for self care, better productivity or overall consistent and ongoing improvements.

Many of us are more often focused on goals and outcomes, with less emphasis given to the need for developing better habits and the continued ongoing process of engaging in helpful habits.

In my work, I often discuss the importance of process and the time it takes to make changes, but today’s discussion will be focused around the work of James Clear and his book, Atomic Habits, in which he has established more clearly defined systems around developing better habits.

Connecting Identity to Our Desirable Habits and Outcomes

It is difficult to connect the promise of a future outcome to motivation, as we can be more tempted by short-term satisfaction over longer-term promises. 

However, it is more meaningful when we can clearly connect our identity to our actions.

Your identity shapes your habits and your habits shapes your identity. Every habit is like a vote for the type of person you want to be.

For instance, ultimately the goal is to become a runner, not to run a 5k.

Making changes doesn’t come easily or quickly.  The key is to think about change as a process, rather than an immediate change.

Relishing Long Term Benefits

Humans are not naturally wired to prioritize long term benefits over immediate rewards therefore it’s more difficult to favour sustained work over immediate gratification.

And when we are striving for improvement, goals are necessary, they are not sufficient. The key is in the in process.

For that reason, the path to developing better habits looks more like this:
Identity => Process => Outcome

Four Laws of Behaviour Change

Adopting a desirable habit:
• Make it obvious – cue
• Make it attractive – craving
• Make it easy – response
• Make it satisfying – reward

Breaking an undesirable habit:
• Make it invisible
• Make it unattractive
• Make it difficult
• Make it unsatisfying

According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, he believes that there are two fundamental habits to develop: Exercise and reading.

Exercise because taking care of the physical self, can also be contributing factor to managing emotional health as well. And reading because it can help to be resourceful in solving any problems.

I would definitely agree with James Clear, but I would also add that developing a habit to also support mental well being is also important. Whether it’s setting aside time to make a habit of journaling, meditating, or engaging in talk therapy, I look at it as one of the foundational habits to help support the other helpful habits to build upon.

What is Self Care and Why is the Right Kind of Self Care So Important?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

For some people, the idea of self care can seem self-indulgent or selfish. There is a significant difference between being self-absorbed or narcissistic versus considered and thoughtful self-care.

Self-care is about taking good care of ourselves and our overall well-being.

That way, we are able to minimize mental and physical health issues and not cause problems at home or work or in our relationships.

Which in the long run, is also about ensuring that we can be at our best for others.

Author Audre Lorde has said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”

What is Self Care?

Over the past few years, there’s a wider acceptance that it’s not possible to do things very well, if you don’t take care of yourself first.

And it shouldn’t necessarily be considered to be a reward, rather, part of an overall balanced lifestyle.

There is a difference between avoidance and impulsive self soothing versus considered and strategic self-care.

And the difference can most often be made between a short term relief versus actions that contributes toward long term well-being.
The key here is that it’s ultimately about balance.

Why Self Care is Important.

As human beings, we have a finite amount of energy at any given time.

Self care, then, is about fuelling ourselves.

Because it’s one thing to practice self-care, but it’s also important to put that energy out into the world.

Taking time to eat nutritiously, moving regularly, and spending time with friends and loved ones can feel like “wasting time” or being unproductive. 

In fact, studies have shown that taking breaks correlates to being more productive by getting refocused and being more energized.

Additionally, self care can:

• Help to manage stress more effectively.
• Reduce the possibility of burnout.
• Help to recharge and re-engage.

Self Care Can Look Like Different Things for Different People 

Sure, vacations and nice nights out can be thought of as self-care, but not everyone has access to be able to do those things. 

Nor, is it possible to do for everyone all the time. 

It can be very basic: 30 minutes playing an online game, video game, or playing a musical instrument.  Or reading, cooking, creative writing or journalling.

The key is to finding right type of self-care that works for you.

Think About Self Care as Part of a Routine

When establishing a self care routine, it’s best if it’s:
• Simple
• Something that’s do-able on a daily basis

Essential Ways of Practicing Self Care

Finding balance is key and practicing self care might mean that there are a number of things that are a part of your specific routine.

They might include:

Nutrition, movement & sleep.
These are three essential areas that can get compromised especially when things are so full and busy, but without these fundamental building blocks, we can find ourselves unbalanced in our overall well-being.

Carving out dedicated time for personal self-care.
This is something that’s going to unique for everyone. Again, think about something for you that’s simple and repeatable on a daily basis.

For some people it might be a daily walk with a loved one, while for others, it can be sports or working out, or for others, it can be a daily meditation practice. It might also be a combination of things.

The important thing here is that everyone find something that’s do-able on a regular basis.

Engage in meaningful relationships. There are some experts that are calling loneliness a public health crisis. Feeling isolated and alone can increase the risk of overall health issues including more rapid cognitive decline to cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Practicing self care doesn’t necessarily mean doing things or having to be alone.

What is the Mind Body Connection?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

Why the Mind Body Connection is Important to Understand for Better Mental Health

As a helping professional, those of us who work using a holistic approach, believe that overall health means having health and that there is a connection in all the area of our lives, including the mental and the physical.

This is often referred to as Mind Body Connection.

And while I work from the basis of this belief, I do want to be sure to clarify that I am not a somatic or body-based trained practitioner, but I will be providing some suggestions to gain more body awareness and therapies.

Mental Health is Not Just Noticeable By Differences in Mood and Behaviours

We often think about our emotions and mental health specifically in relation to mood or behaviours, but based on the Mind Body Connection philosophy, it can be valuable to also consider the impact our emotions can have on our physical selves as well.

Some people might think of the idea of the Mind Body Connection as ‘woo-woo’, but the National Institute of Health a government agency in the US, publicly acknowledges that overall health has a connection with physical and emotional well-being and uses the term “mind body connection” in their literature

In the US, it has been reported that over 75% of primary care visits were considered to be stress-related.

There may be people who don’t realize that they are having emotional difficulties until its noticeable in the physical body. Even then, they may not realize that it is emotionally connected.

Many people who consult their family doctor for a physical concern, such as issues with sleep, lack of energy, higher blood pressure, heart palpitations and so on, may find that many of those issues can also be connected to an emotionally-related concern, as well.

Chicken or the Egg?

There is so much inter-connection between emotional and physical health, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which came first: the mental distress or the physical ones?

Not exercising regularly, nor eating nutritionally, or practicing self-care may mean that there could be other less desirable behaviours like using alcohol, tobacco or other substances for self-soothing.  These can lead to poor emotional health. 

But then, feelings of anxiety and stress can make it difficult to practice consistent overall self-care.  It’s important to consider the on-going need to balance both the necessity for care of physical and mental health.

Compromised emotional health can lead to a weakened immune system, which can leave you more susceptible to colds, flus and infections.

Many people may not realize that their physical symptoms may also be a sign of emotional distress. 
They can include, but not limited to:
• Chest tightness or pain
• High blood pressure
• Shoulder, neck and back pain
• Headaches
• Heart palpitations
• Decreased energy levels and tiredness
•Upset stomach

Importance of Deep Breathing Properly

Something I learned a few years ago that was a total light bulb moment for me was that many of us don’t know how to breathe properly or at the very least, don’t know how to really take deep breaths.

Here’s something that totally illustrates the mind body connection: When we continually take shortened or shallow breaths, it keeps signalling to the brain and nervous system that there’s something stressful happening.

The shortened breath is the body’s way of getting access to do something quickly, like running away.

But when we continually breathe in this shallow way, we can habitually feel stressed or in some kind of danger.

Deep breathing practices are important because it’s an immediate way to signal to the brain and body that it’s safe to relax, and often the mood and physical symptoms of hyperarousal will turn itself down.

Tips to understand the connection between emotional and physical health better

(Especially some of the symptoms above are present.)

  • Speak to your family doctor. Consider asking your doctor, “I don’t think my physical concerns are emotionally related, but is it possible that they may be?”
  • Consider starting a mindfulness, yoga practice or other physical practices like martial arts. These practices can help with developing body awareness.
  • Seek out Somatic Therapies. A combination of talk therapy and specific training in understanding physical responses to emotions such as Sensory Awareness, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Traumatic Release Exercises.
  • Check out meditation and deep breathing apps. Like Headspace, Calm, Breathe or apps for that would guide through deep breathing.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the Mind Body Connection today, but to truly think about what’s required for overall health, it’s necessary to be aware of the health-related connections between the mental and physical.

Understanding Anger as an Emotion and Learning to Manage it More Productively

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

*** As an additional note in relation to this post, the discussion is about understanding anger from the standpoint that every one of us as human beings experience anger. But if there are concerns about yourself in relation to anger or the anger of someone else in your life, please do seek help from an anger management or mental healthcare provider. ***

For many people anger is… Road rage or losing your temper at a drop of a hat, or yelling during conflict or maybe even violence.  But what exactly is anger anyway?

So the reality is this: We all get angry. Anger is often considered to be “bad” and most of us get the message from an early age that we shouldn’t feel angry.

We’re often told: “Don’t be angry” or that it’s unacceptable to feel or express anger.

While in actuality, anger is neither good nor bad, what you choose to do with the emotion of anger can make a huge difference in your life.

Anger is Often Misunderstood

The emotion itself isn’t either positive or negative.  It’s what can happen as a result of someone being angry that can have a negative impact.

On the other hand, if there is anger due to an injustice or some kind of wrongdoing, and actions are taken to improve things, it can be considered to have a positive impact.

Having a better understanding about anger and what might be the cause of it, can be the first step to addressing it more effectively and managing things better when you’re feeling anger.

All Emotions Have a Purpose

Emotions exists to help us survive, avoid danger and can motivate us to be more thoughtful or to make changes.

If all emotions have a purpose then, anger as an emotion is a signal that something is requiring our attention in some way. 

It usually doesn’t feel great to be angry. 

But feeling badly and maybe feeling out of control or doing something destructive or hurtful when there’s anger, is what makes anger as an emotion complicated and maybe also misunderstood.

Anger Itself is a Secondary Emotion 

Anger is usually felt as a defense from more vulnerable feelings like, sadness, disappointment, hurt or fear. 

It can be really challenging for many of us to allow ourselves to feel these vulnerable feelings.

Whereas feeling angry can feel less scary, than maybe feeling sad or fearful.

It’s the defensiveness interconnected to anger that can manifest in undesirable or regrettable ways.

Tips on What to Do When You’re Angry:

Take a Break

Take a time-out and even better, go and get some exercise or go for a walk.

If you’re noticing that your heart is racing and your mind feels “sped up”, these are cues that taking a break, taking some deep breaths and letting out some physical energy could be helpful to be able to think things through more clearly.

Don’t Suppress Your Feelings of Anger

BUT be aware that anger does not need to be expressed through overly physical or verbally aggressive means.

Trying to ignore it or compartmentalizing feelings of anger can lead to passive aggressiveness, depression, anxiety and lowered self esteem.

Try to understand the underlying reason for your anger.

Remember, anger is a secondary emotion and there are other feeling or feelings that you’re protecting. 

As discussed above, take a break, some deep breaths and try to think or journal it out. 

If you find that you’re stuck with the same thoughts and feelings, it can be helpful to talk it out with someone your trust who can help navigate you through it.

Know When to Seek Help

Everyone experiences losing their temper at different times. 

But if it’s a regular occurrence of if your anger feels out of control, and you’re getting feedback from others that there may be a problem, seeking an anger management program or psychotherapy can be part of the solution.

Dealing with Anger is a Part of Life 

Just because you might have learned unhealthy ways of dealing with your feelings of anger up to this point, doesn’t preclude the possibility of learning new strategies.

Resources to Learn More About and Understanding Anger Better

Books about emotional intelligence like The Subtle Art of Not Giving an F*ck by Mark Manson can be helpful as it discusses the importance of seeing things from a different perspective.

For men, there’s a book I highly recommend called I Don’t Want to Talk About It by therapist Terry Real.

For women, Harriet Lerner’s book The Dance of Anger is a helpful resource.

What are the 5 Love Languages? And How Can It Help You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love Languages is a relationship model and concept conceived by Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a couples therapist in the US.

After working for many years with couples in counselling, he identified that there was a pattern in the ways couples described dissatisfaction in their relationships. 

He came up with the concept that there are different ways that individuals express love and they can sometimes not align (or be speaking the same “Love Language”).

Before getting into the Love Languages, here’s ONE BIG IDEA to understand when it comes to relationships:

"No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love."

Your idea of love is not necessarily your partner or loved one’s idea of love.

No two people are likely to have EXACTLY the same way they prefer to give and receive love. 

Another way of putting it is, how we show love is also usually how we expect to receive love.

Understanding this one idea can make a big difference in the quality of a relationship.

There are Different Love Languages?

Right now, if you and I were trying to communicate in two different languages, we may get by being able to understand the simple things.

But eventually, there are going to be limits to the clarity and depth of trying to understand each other more fully. This may lead to only having a vague understanding to getting frustrated.

The same idea applies to being in a relationship where you and your loved one might have a very different way of expressing love, affection, and appreciation.

Especially in a romantic connection, the first few months to two years, the chemistry or the initial “in love” feelings might either mean that you don’t see or ignore things that you might have thought were quirks, which ends up becoming irritations or frustrations later in the relationship.

It’s at this point or even from the beginning, that understanding how you and your partner receive and express love can be helpful for the continued growth and lasting ability of the relationship.

What are the Five Love Languages?

A reminder that many of us are a combination of the five love languages, which again, is a demonstration of how unique and individual we can each be.

This post is meant to be a summary of the concept behind the Love Languages.

If you have been feeling that there are gaps in your relationships (romantic or other loved ones), it’s possible that by integrating these concepts into your understanding of relationships can be valuable.

1) Words of Affirmation – Verbal compliments and meaningful, kind words, while negative or critical feedback can potentially be especially painful.

2) Acts of Service – Express caring through actions, such as planning time or an outing, doing chores or taking responsibility to do things for the relationship is seen as meaningful. In other words, doing thing you know that your partner would find meaningful. Unfollowed through commitments and lack of action may have negative impacts.

3) Receiving Gifts – It’s not so much about big, lavish gifts (although those who like receiving gifts, may in fact, also likes these kinds of gifts). But it’s more the thought and effort that’s appreciated. Little surprises or a personal handwritten note can hold deep meaning. Forgotten special occasions or gifts lacking meaning may feel difficult for those whose love language is Receiving Gifts.

4) Quality Time – What’s most meaningful for these individuals is to have the full, undivided and one-on-one attention of their partner. No cell phone and any other distractions. Cancelling, not paying attention or being distracted may be perceived as uncaring. In a nutshell, these those who crave quality time are looking to experience time together without distractions.

5) Physical Touch – Holding hands, hugs and cuddling goes a long way. And while sexual intimacy is also important, it’s generally not just about sex.

In fact, when it comes to physical touch as a love language it can be helpful to ask, “Does non-sexual touches make you feel love?”

I do want to mention an important caveat here, which is true for all the love languages, but especially for Physical Touch, if there is any trauma that an individual has experienced, there may be some challenges for someone to be able to be able to “speak your love language”.

This is where more ongoing discussions with your partner or work with a couples therapist can help to navigate having both safety and individual needs met.

What’s Your Love Language?

"Childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults."

Often childhood experiences of how love was expressed by parents or adult caregivers often translates to what love language preference we have as adults.

It can also be helpful to think about how you like to prefer to express care for those you love and care for.

And because the internet has pretty much everything, Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages website has free tests you can take to get a better idea of your love language.

What’s Your Loved One’s Love Language?

Just as it’s valuable to know your own love language, for a more fulfilling relationship, find out your loved one’s love language.

While you can be attentive and be curious about your partner or loved one’s love language by noticing how they appear to express love, it can be much more direct to start an ongoing discussion about your individual love languages.

You can start by asking, “What can I do that feels loving to you?”

While we’re mostly discussing romantic partners here, love languages can be applied to family members and friends, too.

It can be especially powerful to have an understanding of your child’s love language.

Fill Up the “Love Tank”

Gary Chapman, who originated the idea of Five Love Languages, also offers the concept of the “Love Tank.”

When I work with clients, I have sometimes used the idea of making deposits into a relationship “savings account,” of sorts.

The “Love Tank” is a similar idea where you and your loved one can use it as a way of communicating about your love language and needs. For instance, if the two of you are on board with the idea, you can ask each other something like, “What can I do to help fill your love tank right now?”

Or if you’re looking to see how you can start improving a specific relationship, you can conceptualize the other person’s Love Tank and genuinely work toward speaking their language.

More Knowledge, More Self Awareness, More Personal Resilience

Just like the other personality models we’ve been discussing, understanding your love language is just a little more information that can provide you with details and insights about bettering all areas of your life.

While you and your loved one’s languages might differ, working together to improve your relationship through understanding each other’s needs can move toward a stronger and deeper relationship.

What are the Results from Wellness Wednesday Hosts Taking the Big Five Personality Test?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

A couple of weeks ago on Wellness Wednesday, along with The Spin’s hosts Michelle Sturino and Barry Davis, we discussed what the Big Five Personality Model is and some of the details around it.

Broadly speaking, it’s a way to measure and get a better understanding of the unique differences each of have in our personalities. This is done through getting a measurement of five specific personality traits, which is why it’s called the “Big Five Personality Model”.

At the time, I know that all three of us expressed an interest in learning more about our specific personality traits. To satisfy our collective curiosity, we went ahead and completed the Big Five Personality Test and we’re going to be talking about our individual results today.

And as mentioned previously, these personality models and tests can provide insights about our individual tendencies and if we choose, give us some ideas around specific areas of improvement. Or they can simply be something fun to talk about with friends, family and co-workers.

Let’s do a quick recap regarding each of the individual personality traits which can be remembered by the acronym: OCEAN

It stands for: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Each of these traits is measured between a scale of 1 to 100%. To keep our test results consistent, we all took it at Truity.com.

Openness to Experience (inventive or curious versus consistent or cautious)

Openness describes an individual’s tendency to think in complex, abstract ways.  People high in Openness are creative, unconventional and artistic. Whereas those who are low are more practical, conservative and conventional.

Average is around 58%
Michelle: 62.5%
Barry: 81%
Mio: 100%

Conscientiousness (efficient or organized versus easy-going or careless)

Conscientiousness describes a person’s tendency to be persistent and determined in achieving their goals. People high in Conscientiousness are orderly, ambitious and dependable.  Those who are low are spontaneous, impulsive and disorganized.

Average is around 55%
Michelle: 75%
Barry: 73%
Mio: 69%

Extraversion (seeking outside stimulation versus preferring internalized introspection)

Extraversion describes a person’s tendency to be energized by being around other people versus being by oneself. Those who score high are energetic, enthusiastic and excitable. Those who score low are more reserved, calm and introspective.

Average is around 51%
Michelle: 94%
Barry: 96%
Mio: 65%

As an aside specifically regarding the Extraversion personality trait: there were quite a few people who visited the SolidWellness blog following our discussion on Wellness Wednesday about the differences between Introverts and Extroverts, so it’s my feeling that this is an area of interest for folks.

I was also extremely grateful to get some feedback that it was helpful for folks to hear that having needs as an introvert and to take the time for self-care was a valuable reminder.

Agreeableness (friendly or compassionate versus challenging or detached)

Agreeableness describes an individual’s tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. Those who score high are accommodating, helpful and selfless.  Those who score lower are competitive, argumentative and brash.

Average score is around 63%
Michelle: 71%
Barry: 69%
Mio: 60%

Neuroticism (sensitive or nervous versus secure or confident)

Neuroticism describes an individual’s response to stress. Those who score high are more anxious, moody and self-conscious. Those who score lower are more stable, resilient, optimistic and self-confident.

Average score is around 54%
Michelle: 23%
Barry: 56%
Mio: 23%

What Did These Results Mean to Michelle and Barry?

We were short on time and unfortunately, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to discuss their thoughts on their results.

However, what I feel I learned from Barry and Michelle sharing their results and getting a little slice of their take on them, was that I was given a sneak peak at some of the challenges that come with engaging in work that is consistently open to other people’s opinions, and the potential impact this can have.

I am not only thankful for this opportunity to speak to more people through my contribution to The Spin’s Wellness Wednesday, but I am also grateful for Barry and Michelle who do what they do, day in and day out, for the benefit of those of us who are looking to maybe have some company during the drive home or to learn something new by listening to their podcast episodes.

Core Personality Pattern Tendencies for Michelle, Barry and Mio

The one result we didn’t share on air was one of other results that Truity provides after taking the Big Five Personality test, which is called the “Core Personality Pattern

Michelle’s Core Personality Pattern
Barry’s Core Personality Pattern
Mio’s Core Personality Patter

In reference to what I mentioned above about Michelle and Barry doing the broadcasting work they do… putting themselves out there as they do.

From the results shown here from both of their Core Personality Patterns, they skew very heavily toward Empathic Idealist. In other words, they’re not just doing it for the glory, but because they empathically genuinely care about others.

Again, I would really like to thank them both for allowing me to share their results here.

As previously discussed, it is possible to use these test results for self improvement.

A couple of examples:

If you score low in Conscientiousness, you may find that you are having some difficulties with staying consistent with responsibilities and being reliable, which may have some undesirable impacts at work, school or in relationships.

Or if there is a lower score in Agreeableness, it can be reflective of having more tensions and conflicts in various relationships, which again can impact many areas of your life.

Because these tendencies are not set in stone, having an understanding of your tendencies can help you identify possible areas you would like to see have change and growth.

Interested in Taking the Test Yourself?

If you’re interested in taking the same test we took, head on over to Truity.com. You can take the test for free, but there is also an option to pay for more details regarding your results.

What’s Your Attachment Style and How Can It Help to Improve You and Your Relationships?

On this site, in the Solid Blog and on Wellness Wednesdays, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
If you or anyone is struggling or in crisis right now, please call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. Alternatively, crisis resources can be found here.

What are Attachment Styles?

In the past few posts, we have been discussing personality traits that are more nature, than nurture. In other words, we have been primarily discussing personality traits we are born with, as opposed to having been influenced by our environment.

Today, we are talking about Attachment Styles which is a theory based on the belief that much of who we are especially in relationships, both strengths and challenges, we have as adults can be connected back to some aspect of our childhood.

“Attachment” refers to the specific way in which we relate to other people.

Attachment Styles are based on research that have shown that the type of relationship we had with our caretakers or primary adult influencers as children have a very strong effect on the kinds of connections and relationships we have adults.

How Can Understanding Your Attachment Style Help You?

Understanding your attachment style is helpful because it can offer insights into why you feel how you feel in relationships now, based on how you felt and developed during your childhood.

It can help you to understand where your emotionally limitations may be and what can be changed to improve all kinds of relationships, including romantic relationships, relationships with friends, children, family, authority figures and so on.

An individual’s attachment style can also be closely connected to self-esteem. Using what you can understand from your attachment style, it’s possible to address certain deficits which can also help with a better sense of self confidence overall.

What are the Main Attachment Styles?

I consider the main four Attachment Styles to be: Secure, Anxious, Avoidant, and Disorganized.

• Secure attachment (approximately 60% of the population) is connected to feeling confident and generally have healthy, close relationships.

Anxious attachment (approximately 15%) may be the source of the need to people-please and at times, being too possessive.

Avoidant attachment (approximately 20%) is associated with being isolated and emotionally distant.

Disorganized attachment (approximately 5%) is associated with being detached and conflicted in relationships, often as a result of having traumatic experiences during childhood.

What Tendencies are Associated with Each Attachment Style?

If you suspect that you might have some anxious, avoidant or disorganized attachment tendencies, some difficulties you might encounter are:

Someone with anxious attachment tendencies can be known to have a Preoccupied Personality. Where they can be insecure and critical of themselves, often looking for approval from others. These individuals often are worried that they will ultimately rejected, so even when receiving reassurance, there can still be a deep lack of trust of others.

Those who are avoidant can have dismissive patterns in relationships as adults. They tend to be loners and might consider emotions and relationships to not be as important. They can also be more cognitively-dominant and suppress feelings.

Individuals with disorganized attachment may exhibit tendencies of what’s described as a Fearful-Avoidant Personality. Those with disorganized attachment may have disconnected from their feelings as children, and have likely continued to do the same as adults. It can be a challenge for these individuals to feel a sense of balance within themselves and likely also have difficulty having close and trusting relationship with others.

What can be Done to Develop a More Secure Attachment Style?

As I often say, self-knowledge can be empowering and provide you with a starting point so that you can make better sense of what’s possible for self-improvement.

Moving toward more of a secure attachment style, can not only enhance your romantic relationship, you may also get along better with friends, family, and those you work with.

Some things to keep in mind:

Conduct an inventory. Do you avoid getting close to people? Do you worry about being left out? Most of us have an intuitive sense of areas where we can improve, but it can also be helpful to take a test like the one available on Dr. Diane Poole Heller’s website, she is an attachment and trauma expert.

It’s possible to move toward having a more Secure Attachment style.

While adjusting your attachment style will require some effort, it can be helpful to intentionally make sense of your childhood experiences to be able to rewire your brain to feel more secure with yourself and others.

Books that are helpful resources include: Daniel Siegel’s Mindsight or Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller.

Counselling or therapy with a psychodynamic (a style of therapy where childhood experiences are included in the therapeutic process) therapist can also be helpful if you see troubling patterns in your relationships or you have childhood issues that you want to sort out.