Articles

Drawing Lines in the Sand

by Kristin Goodwin

Does this sound familiar… you wake up on a rainy morning and instantly, dread seeps in. You start thinking about your jerk of a boss that will pile a million and one things onto your to-do list today, most of which aren’t even in your job description. Then after work you have plans with a “friend” who spends the whole time talking about herself and her problems, all without once asking how you’re doing (despite the tired look on your face and the fact that your shoes don’t match because you spent the morning taking care of your kids and didn’t leave enough time for yourself). You finally arrive home, only to be met with housework that wasn’t done by any of the other 4 family members living in the same house. Some may read this and say, “Wow, what a complainer. I would hate to be around her too”. However, when I read this all I hear is the need for better boundary setting skills.

Lots of us have difficulty setting AND holding appropriate boundaries. For some of us it’s easiest to have boundaries with our friends, others it’s hardest to have with our families. Many struggle setting boundaries with their supervisors and co-workers.  Let me sum it up by saying, boundary setting is an incredibly challenging thing to do, but not impossible! I outlined a few important guidelines on setting healthy and appropriate boundaries:

1. Allow others (and yourself) the grace of “natural consequences”. If I had received a check in the mail for every time I overspent, I would have never learned how to live within my means. Your 16 year old who always waits until the night before to complete a project isn’t learning anything by you staying up all night to finish the project for him. What he is learning is that he never has to truly experience consequences because mom does it for me. Furthermore, your teaching yourself and everyone around you that your time and wants don’t matter as much as everyone else’s and that’s ok with you (which I’m sure it’s not).

2. Focus on the “I”, not “them”. Whenever I talk with people about boundary setting, inevitably the conversation becomes “I feel selfish for setting the boundary” or “I don’t want this to offend them.” We aren’t drawing these boundaries for them; we’re doing it for us. We worry that our humanly limits will hurt someone else’s feelings when in reality, overstretching ourselves puts those around us in harm’s way because it’s impossible to keep up.

3. Boundaries aren’t for offending people, they’re for protecting you. Healthy and appropriate boundaries don’t hurt, control or attack anyone. They protect you from being taken advantage of, intentional or not. It’s likely really uncomfortable saying no when a friendly co-worker asks you to finish their part of the work project so that they can leave early to spend time with their boyfriend. Your co-worker may seem disappointed. They may even be rude towards you. However, setting this boundary does not cause hurt, nor does it control someone else, it simply protects you.

A really helpful resource for learning when to say yes and how to say no is ‘Boundaries’ by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It breaks down what boundaries are (and aren’t), conflicts that arise when setting boundaries and how to develop healthy boundaries with friends, family, work, yourself and God. If you or someone you care about struggles with boundaries, I highly recommend this read.

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Let’s All Be Present!

by Kristin Goodwin

Have you ever stopped to wonder what really depression looks like? Or anxiety? I started thinking about this recently when I attended an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) training. I was taught a definition of depression and anxiety that made a lot of sense to me. Depression is ‘past dwelling’ and anxiety is ‘future tripping’… makes a lot of sense right!?! Often times people experiencing depressive symptoms find that they are living in the past. That may mean past choices, past regrets, past failures, even past relationships. This sort of focus on things gone wrong would make even the most positive person feel pretty down. Life is full of mistakes, poor choices, undesired outcomes… depression just has this way of holding tightly to these things and not letting us free.

People with anxiety would most often say that they think too much about the future, causing them worry and extreme nervousness (hence, anxiety). For years I’ve struggled with sleep troubles. It used to be falling asleep was difficult, now it’s more about staying asleep throughout the night. My brain just loves to wake me up at all hours of the night and have me planning for my day ahead. I’m a planner, that’s just how I’m wired. However, I’ve learned sleep is also super essential when trying to plan for a productive day ahead.  The grounding technique I’ll be talking about throughout this blog is the most effective thing I’ve found when dealing with anxiety and depression, and many of my clients echo a similar sentiment.

First step is that we have to become aware of our thoughts. Not in a judging way, but rather in a noticing way (see last blog entry for help on what this means).  Once we’re able to label our thoughts (ie: “that thought is anxiety”, “that thought is depression”), we are better able to choose how we want to approach the thought. Go ahead, practice. Sit in a quiet place for 2-3 minutes and see if you’re able to simply notice and label your thoughts without judgment. Notice if by labeling your thoughts it helps give you some space between yourself and the thought.

Second step would be recognizing if a thought is helpful or unhelpful. For example, let’s go back to my brain waking me up at all hours of the night to help me “plan” for my day ahead. The way I view this is that my brain is trying to be helpful in that it wants me to prepare for potential future circumstances; funny thing is though, at 3am, my brain’s way of doing this feel incredibly unhelpful!  Therefore, because I find it unhelpful I do not want to engage any further in this thought and would just like to focus on getting back to sleep. So here’s come the third step…

Bring yourself back to the present moment! Easier said than done, right? It doesn’t have to be that hard though either. When you try to bring yourself back to the present moment, simply bring your focus back to the thing you’re doing in that very moment. Say to yourself, “I’m watching my favorite TV show right now” or “I’m talking with my best friend”. If it’s 3am and your brain isn’t shutting off, say to yourself, “I’m lying in bed trying to relax”. By bringing the attention back to the present, you then can decide what it is that you need to get where you want to be. Do you need to reach out to a friend? Do you need to take a walk? Do a progressive relaxation exercise to help you get back to sleep? By living in the present and engaging in helpful coping skills, you will likely feel more equipped to handle your depressive and anxious thoughts.

I hope these things feel MUCH more healthful, even enjoyable, than past dwelling or future tripping!

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Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life?

by Kristin Goodwin

Welcome to my blog and thank you so much for checking it out! My hope for you in reading this blog is that some piece of it speaks to you and leads you towards living a more healthful life. Health means a lot of things to a lot of people… it’s one of those words that everyone seems to have a different opinion about the meaning. For some, it’s exercising and eating healthy, for others it’s following a structured meal plan. Some say it’s living a balanced life and others it’s more about being mentally well. Your definition of healthy could be a combination of all the things I listed and more. I’ll be touching on all aspects of health: mental health, physical health, spirituality and healthy relationships. As a licensed therapist and a wife I feel like I can use my formal education and personal experiences to guide you towards growth and change. Well, let’s get started, here’s my first post…

Am I the only one who just hates it when someone tells me to “cheer up” or “change my attitude”? I personally am of the belief that we can’t just change the way we think or feel. As a therapist I know I’ve been guilty of not only trying to change my own thoughts but even worse, telling my clients to change theirs… I immensely apologize to those clients by the way! What I have found to be really helpful is focusing on changing the way I approach the thoughts and feelings, namely the uncomfortable, self-defeating ones. I learned about this whole ideal when I began researching a therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), I immediately bought in! It feels more realistic to say that I can work towards not internalizing a thought, rather than just replacing it with another, more positive one. For example, when I have the feeling that I’m not good enough, instead of trying to replace that feeling with a ‘well sure you are Kristin’ feeling, I instead become more mindful of how I choose to react to this negative feeling. Most of the time, I simply notice the thought (and noticing is key to this process; noticing means acknowledging without judgment) and then I visualize placing that unwelcome thought on a cloud and letting it float by. Cheesy, maybe… it really does work though! By not feeling like I need to change the thought I’ve given it less power and thus it becomes less powerful to my life and how I view myself. My goal is to always put space between my thoughts and my behaviors so that I can truly be intentional about how I react. I encourage you to practice this for a week to see if it’s as life improving for you as it’s been for me. If clouds aren’t your things, visualize putting the thoughts on leaves and letting them float down the steam or waves that go out to the ocean or even floats in a parade. Whatever works for you!

I hope this is helpful in learning how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings in a healthier way 🙂
Did you know…? Scientists claim that there is always some emotional sensation occurring in the body. Think you’re not feeling anything? Take a second and check in with yourself. Likely there’s some emotions present, whether they be positive or negative!

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Sunday Morning

We ended up staying home today because one of the girls was sick last night with a fever and tummy ache.  I blew up the air mattress so she could sleep in our room incase she woke up and needed us. My wife Jill took her to a local ER place this morning and found out she had strep — not fun.  But she has some meds now and the fever subsided at least temporarily.

Our schedule was empty for the rest of the day so it has been relaxing.  It’s sunny outside but up until now the girls have been playing inside.  My wife Jill is getting some things organized in the house which makes her life better.  I’m doing some reading and writing in the study.  So far, our four girls have come to me a least two dozen times and it is still the afternoon.  Let’s see:  an argument about a sister wearing something of the other without asking, having to do a chore together but one sister is not doing her part, one yelling at the other and other being sassy back, “Can we stay in our pajamas all day?”, and more.  Now, they’re playing from upstairs and down through the rest of the house.  Shrieks of laughter, ribbing each other, running, slamming doors, sneaking around with some crying in there too.  I usually have mixed success on how well I respond to these returns to me.

A child returning to their parent is an important attachment experience that repeats itself every day even into early adulthood.  The parent is the secure base from which the child ventures out in their world to experience and then return to help them regulate — that is, get in order their emotions, thoughts, physical reactions, and develop a healthy identity and world view.  How the parent responds influences several developmental factors for a child.

Isn’t it funny that our kids barge in when we’re naked?  I’m getting ready this  morning and it is “Dad…,”  “Dad…,” “Dad…,”.  And it is right there where kids learn about issues such as fairness and “are you going to take care of my needs when my sister has on my shirt without asking me?”  It didn’t matter I was in my birthday suit, what matters is:  do you care dad?  That shirt is mine which is code for me.  “Yes, Dad, as you’re naked please make this right and let me know life will be fair and I will always be treated with dignity.”  Geez, and I was just focused on relieving razor burn with some aftershave lotion.

You know, life is like this.  Children are like this.  And the demand to respond often leaves me feeling pretty naked and vulnerable because I don’t have all the answers and I wish I could but I can’t make your sister treat you nice.  But I can let you know I’m sorry that is happening and ask what you think the solution could be.  Ok, now where is my aftershave lotion?

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How to Communicate with Your Spouse

How to communicate with your spouse is a must-have for couples. Poor communication breeds mistrust. There are three principles that will improve talking with your spouse.

1) Non-verbal communication is important. Non-verbal communication is our posture, eye gazing, facial reactions, and tone of voice.   It’s how we feel towards each other – our affect.  In every interaction we are reading each other.  We have this amazing network of nerves in our body called the Vagus nerve.  It connects different parts of the organs and brain as well as facial muscles.  When we talk with each other our bodies are reading all this information at the same time.  This is where our gut instinct can tell us that something is off between what is said and what is felt.

2) Give and receive. This is not attack and defend. Good communication is when you both can give and receive from each other. Any feelings of defensiveness or knee-jerk reactions block communication. If you expect your partner to receive your feedback or opinion you need to be able to receive theirs as well. Think of the “information” piece here as something personal about your feelings – rather than “information” about how you perceive your spouse has failed in some way. Another way to give to each other is to validate each other’s feelings. This is not pacifying the other person. Validation is where you value what the other person feels. Validation is something to give and receive, not demand or take.

3) Be close. Verbal communication is great but you need to be physically close.  When you are physically present with each other you can see the reactions, feelings, and the mood in each other’s body. Being close helps you to be physically close, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and romantically. Text, email, and electronic means is limited. Marriage is important, it deserves attention and closeness.

Talking with each other is really a gift to offer. But it does take consistency and intentionality to improve it.

What is one way you can offer communication to your spouse tonight?

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1 is 2 Many: Protecting Your Children From Sexual Abuse

May is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in this article we’re going to unpack some helpful information parents need to know.

What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse

Here are some stats parents should be aware of:

  • According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey in 2010 nearly 1 out of 5 women and 1 out of 21 men have been raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually coerced in their lifetime.
  • A 2000 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement found the following:
    • 67% of all reported cases of sexual assault were victims under the age of 18.  And, more than half of all juvenile cases were children under the age of 12.
    • 1 out of 7 victims of sexual assault were under age 6.

Continue Reading

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Feeling Alone as a Parent? Here’s What to Do

Parenting is not easy and as we answer the demands, cries, and needs of our children we can be unaware that we are suddenly feeling alone in our parenting role.  This can be more difficult when we feel disconnected from our partner or even ourselves and significant friends.  When left unchecked, isolation in parenting can lead to burn-out, exhaustion, and difficulty regulating our own emotions.  Parents can become aware of isolating feelings by recognizing these important warning signs. Continue Reading

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Understanding a Child’s World

Sandcastle Gulf Shores, AL, Dean Wisdom 2014

I love children’s sandcastles.  I took this picture on a sunset stroll with two of my daughters on a family vacation in Gulf Shores, AL.  We spent several days just hanging out on the beach and doing fun stuff.  A beach draws a lot of families because parents can get some sun while kids play right in front of them.  Kids get lost in building sand castles, finding shells, and swimming.  This sand castle drew our attention.

Children don’t have the cognitive development like adults yet to talk about what’s going on for them so instead they play out their many thoughts and feelings.  This can be frustrating for us parents because our kids act and react sometimes in ways that we don’t understand.  This causes us to react in ways that later we regret or just feel like we missed the mark. Continue Reading

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“Daddy, how fat is the Bible?”

I knew we were in trouble when I heard her question.  It was dinner, we were all together at home eating the assortment of baked chicken, spaghetti, raw carrots and ranch sauce, pizza, sweet potato, ketchup, and asparagus my wife and I put together.  The question is no reflection on her, I wouldn’t use a blog post like that.  I just thought, “Oh no.  That is the most boring question I’ve ever heard about God.  What am I teaching my kids about God anyway?”

Back up a few minutes.  We’re “plating” – ha!  I like that, like we’re on Chopped or something.  Anyway, Jill and I are plating the food.  And I think, “Talk to them about doing this diaper drive thing.  Read something from Luke and tie it in.”  Plating, plating.  Somewhere between the ranch and the pizza I decided, “Naw, I haven’t studied that passage good enough, I need to be sure before I say anything.  Need to do it right.”  I had been reading Luke some mornings and loved the fire under Luke for writing his letter to just one person. Continue Reading

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Baby Bootie Diaper Drive

baby booties flyer standard(1)

Is your baby’s bootie covered and clean?  Some families in Collin County can’t afford diapers.  The  Baby Booties Diaper Bank is a non-profit organization that distributes diapers, wipes, and cream to needy families in Collin County.  I will be hosting a diaper drive right after spring break leading up to Easter.  If this is something you might consider giving to, please bring by diapers (sizes 1-4 especially size 4), sealable wipes, and/or creams to my office at 6309 Preston Rd., Suite 1200 in Plano.  The marquis on the building reads “Premier Foot & Ankle” – I share office space with my wife Jill who is a podiatrist.  Or you can contact Baby Booties Diaper Bank directly at the number listed on the website link.

I think this is a great way for me and my family to get out into our community and serve others in a practical way.  I really hope you can join us!  Be looking for additional stories and posts on the Drive.

© 2014, Dean Wisdom

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