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The #1 Question You Need to Ask Yourself if You are Struggling to Make a Change

Change can be hard.

If you are the kind of person who can generally set your mind to something and make changes with ease, then you may get especially frustrated when one particular problem or area of life continues to challenge you.

Sometimes the changes that matter to us most are the hardest to make.

If you find that no matter what, you just can’t make the change you desire, then ask yourself this:

“What do I stand to lose by making this change?”

It seems counterintuitive—but asking yourself what you stand to LOSE if you make a healthy change can help you understand why you might be unconsciously self-sabotaging.

Often my clients are at first confused when I post this question to them. I’ll ask, “What do you stand to lose if you make _______ change?”

They’ll say, “I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t think there would be anything to lose.”

On the surface it seems like there aren’t any down sides.

Then, I explain more saying, “Okay, what would you have to give up if you you were to make this change?”

Once we drill down a bit, we get to the good stuff. This may take several rounds of questions, but eventually we get there.

Like, “Well, I guess if I weren’t sick all the time, I’d have to give up being taken care of (and getting extra attention from) my spouse.”

Bingo! There are some benefits to things staying the same.

(In this case, there are benefits of being sick. Getting well would have unintended consequences, such as loss of special care and maybe would require the ill spouse to go back to work full-time).

Sometimes we get extra love and care from others when things stay the way they are.

Think about the child who might pretend to be sick, just to get taken care of a bit more than usual (think popsicles, chicken noodle soup, and movie marathons on a school day).

While this is more of a temporary example, it still showcases the benefits of being sick that we can all relate to.

Often times people stall in making positive health changes because there are some benefits to being sick.

Beside extra TLC, there are many other potential things people would have to give up if a change were to take place.

Sometimes, there is the realization from some people that their current life situation allows them to feel justified in their feelings (such as anger, resentment, or depression).

If they were to change, they’d have to give that up. Then, who would they be without that thing they’ve held onto for so long?

Commonly, making healthy changes would mean taking responsibility for your life rather than feeling justified in blaming it on circumstance.

Pain, struggle and dissatisfaction can be addicting.

Notice if you may be unintentionally holding on to any of these things and letting them keep you from what you really want.

Staying the same can offer protection.

For example, sometimes it can feel safer to be alone than in relationships with others.

Notice how staying the same might keep you safe from attracting a partner (which you say you want, but actually it terrifies you).

Or perhaps you are afraid to change your diet and lifestyle because you believe the extra weight will keep you safe from unwanted sexual advances.

If you’ve been objectified, assaulted, or abused in the past, it makes sense that you’d be afraid. (If this is the case, it may be good to see someone who works with trauma and can help you heal).

Whatever the reasons, it may be hard to realize the truth about a pattern you’ve been letting run your life for years.

However, it ultimately lays the groundwork for REAL, lasting change.

Even if you’ve spent a portion of your life letting fear hold you back from being healthy, happy or fulfilled, it’s never too late to reclaim what you really want.

By asking yourself this simple question, you can see the unintended consequences of making a change.

If you feel stuck in a rut, or need help uncovering your hidden barriers to change, I can help. Part of my job is to help you see your blind spots and develop a plan for moving forward.

Interested in learning more? Please don’t hesitate to reach out. There is nothing to lose.

Reach out now.

Stress and the Nervous System

Here is a great article on stress and the nervous system. http://upliftconnect.com/stress-its-not-in-your-head-its-in-your-nervous-system/

In this article, yoga and breathing are listed as some of the most beneficial ways to relieve stress and impact mood through working with the nervous system.

In my Psychology of Yoga for Anxiety and Depression workshop on Nov. 4th, you will learn specific strategies for reducing stress and alleviating anxiety and depression using yoga and breathwork.

We will go into depth about how to help restore emotional balance by understanding the nervous system.

This is cutting edge work, with an emphasis on the neuroscience of yoga. Register now by emailing me at jenna@jennagriffith.com. Space is limited.

Workshop Info:

Time and date: Saturday, November 4th, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Location: The Wellness Center of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA
Investment: $50

Description:
Join psychology and yoga specialist Jenna Griffith in exploring the different types of stress, anxiety and depression and why treatment is not a one-size-fits-all. Weaving the ancient wisdom of yoga with current evidence-based treatments, this workshop offers an introductory glimpse into how to tailor your own practice or assist others using yoga. Ideal for professionals or anyone struggling with these issues. Beginners welcome!

You will gain:

~A deeper understanding of the neuroscience behind stress, anxiety, and depression

~A deeper understanding of how yoga and breathwork impact the mind/body

~Safe and effective methods to support mental health with yoga

Pre-Registration is required. To register, contact Jenna Griffith at jenna@jennagriffith.com.

How to Re-Energize Yourself in Five Minutes (or less!)

I’m about to share with you one of my favorite ways to re-energize yourself and recharge your battery. What I love about this practice is that it can be done quickly. It’s a simple process that only requires one thing: sunlight.

This exercise can be done inside or outside. If you live in a place that is consistently cloudy part of the year, then this may be more challenging. However, even if it’s bright but cold outside, you can still practice this through a sunny window. Ideally, you’ll be able to be outside somewhere in nature, but do what you can!

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Plant your feet on the ground and stand up tall.
  2. Feel the support of the surface beneath you.
  3. Take in three slow, deep breaths while feeling the soles of your feet.
  4. Begin to feel the sunlight on your face and body, letting it warm and comfort you.
  5. Imagine that you have an empty column or battery-like shape in your core. This column runs along your spine from your tailbone up the top of your head.
  6. Now imagine that with every breath, the sunlight begins to charge up this inner battery, from the bottom up.
  7. Keep breathing and using your imagination, allowing the sun to power you up until your “battery” is full.
  8. Once you feel fully charged, take in a couple more deep breaths to soak up the energizing effects of this practice.
  9. Allow your eyes to open, and go about your day.

I hope you find this exercise useful. I’d love to hear about your experience in trying it out!

Health Kick or Eating Disorder?

An article in the UK-based Independent outlined 6 warning signs that your health kick might be an eating disorder.

The six signs are:

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with food thoughts?
  2. Do you have rigid rules around food?
  3. Do your rules affect your mood?
  4. Do people close to you notice your extremity?
  5. Do you categorize foods as good and bad?
  6. Does food dictate what you do socially?

When I first saw this article, it really hit home because I have experienced all of these warning signs. What is scary about this kind of eating disorder is that it’s easy to fool yourself (and others) into thinking that you’re doing something healthy.

When I was in my early 20’s, I went on a slew of health kicks. It began innocently enough as I was trying to resolve some diagnosed health issues. I believed that I could greatly improve my health through my diet. (I still 100% believe that diet and nutrition are critical parts of health — mental, physical and emotional).

I tried raw, vegan, and “clean” eating. While I felt better at first, I began to rapidly feel worse. I lost a lot of weight. I made an emergency visit to the doctor because I thought something was terribly wrong with me. In hindsight, I was having a panic attack, but didn’t know it at the time. My health habits were causing a high amount of anxiety.

They took my weight at the doctor’s office and I weighed 105 pounds (I am 5’6” so that is definitely too low to be healthy). I had just come off a 5-day juice cleanse. I my mind, it was something to be proud of. I was taking control of my health. When I told the doctor, she was critical and suggested I put on more weight by lifting my restricted way of eating and adding in more variety of foods. I wrote it off under the guise that Western doctors don’t know what real health is. I thought they were all just brainwashed to believe in the merit of the standard american diet, while I knew better than that. I left the doctor’s office feeling frustrated and misunderstood.

As the months went on, I noticed that I had stopped with a lot of my regular social activities because I felt people didn’t understand (or support) my way of eating. I didn’t want to have the pressure of being around “bad” foods, so I just opted out of social events or dinners with friends all together. I was lonely. People began to express concern, but again I ignored it because I thought they just didn’t understand.

This loneliness eventually led me to binge on the “bad” foods in private. I would obsess over obtaining the object of my craving. Once in hand, I would start eating it and couldn’t stop. I had all sorts of justifications and rationalizations for this, including, “if I finish it all tonight, then I won’t have any tomorrow (or ever again).” This kicked off a whole cycle of guilt and shame. Many of you reading this may know this cycle well.

However, once I was able to recognize that the stress, shame and guilt began to outweigh the benefits of my health kick, I knew it needed to change. It didn’t happen overnight, but I am fortunate that I had the tools, resources, and support to shift my habits. I slowly began to ease back into an more balanced approach to eating again. However, it wasn’t until years later that I realized that my “health kick” was really a form of an eating disorder.

My advice: check out this list and see if anything strikes a cord. If you recognize some of these warning signs, be really honest with yourself about where you’re at with it.

If you notice someone you care about displaying some of these, then it may not be easy to approach that person about it. Likely, they will defend their choices in the name of health. However, keeping an eye out and letting them know you are there is a great starting point.

Disclaimer: I would never want to discourage people from eating more cleanly and avoiding processed foods (for the most part). I think it’s always a good idea to add in more organic, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as high quality meat (if you eat meat). I would also never want to encourage friends or family to judge someone’s healthy lifestyle as “disordered” without having a clear understanding of what an eating disorder looks like. Sometimes it’s hard for people to develop healthy habits because of a lack of support. I would not want to contribute to this lack of support for a healthy lifestyle by writing this article.

Here’s the invitation:

Step into a healthy relationship with food.

  • A relationship where you don’t obsess or stress over food.
  • A relationship where you don’t need to label foods good and bad.
  • A relationship where you are able to ask your body what it needs and nourish it appropriately.
perfectionist

Meet the Perfectionist — Is This You?

I find that many of my clients (often unknowingly!) suffer from Perfectionism.

Confession: it’s easy for me to spot in others because it is something that struggled with for most of my childhood and into my late twenties. I have done a lot of work to unravel the tightly wound persona of the perfectionist (and it’s still a work in progress).

So what is perfectionism, and why does it matter?

  • Perfectionism can result in a rigid mindset, where the expectations do not fit with the situation.
  • Perfectionists can only like themselves when they do something well.
  • Perfectionists are so self-critical and hard-driving that they push themselves beyond what is reasonable.
  • The perfectionist’s greatest fear is being exposed as incompetent.

These traits are problematic because they create significant stress and pressure in the perfectionist’s life and can cause  a cascade of physical, mental and emotional problems.

If you are a person who struggles with anxiety, addiction, or trauma then this sneaky persona may be at play.

The perfectionist is all wrapped up with attachment to certainty and control. In theory, if you can control your environment and circumstances, then you will be safe. (This is what the perfectionist believes, at least). And it makes biological sense! If you have experienced trauma (major or minor), then your primal brain has learned to try and control things as much as possible so that you don’t have to experience that trauma again. It is a survival mechanism, designed to keep you safe.

Once you begin to recognize and identify the patterns of perfectionism, then you can consciously choose to act in more empowering and productive ways.

The problem with a perfectionist mentality is that it stomps out happiness, joy, and spontaneity. The perfectionist has adopted a rigid way of thinking that is driven by the pressure to be perfect and do things perfectly.

As a perfectionist, you believe that you have to earn your worth and value as a person. Your identity is equal to what you have accomplished or achieved. When your self-esteem and identity are attached to these external factors, then anxiety and depression can result. Your self-esteem will rise and fall along with whatever you attach it to.

A common example I see with many of my female clients is with weight. Self-esteem is attached to the number on the scale, thus creating an emotional roller coaster ride from hell.

This creates an addictive cycle, driven by the pressure to “get it right.” This pressure can be so great that it takes over your life. You make it more important than your relationships or enjoyment of life. You put being productive at work or achieving your goal weight above your significant other, your friends, and taking care of yourself. This creates isolation and further anxiety and depression for the perfectionist.

As a perfectionist, you may also have to use food, substances, shopping, or work to numb yourself from your real feelings. This is how you effectively crush your ability to experience life fully. You attempt to carefully control what you feel and how much you feel it.

This is a lot of work — it’s exhausting!

You can see now that perfectionist thinking is a slippery slope. It was designed to keep you safe, yet it has unhelpful consequences that can take over your life.

Luckily, with practice and intention, you can let go of the perfectionist way of thinking. You can undo the unsupportive mental habits you’ve developed and create new (healthy!) ones.

I am a self-proclaimed Recovering Perfectionist, and I can help you on your path to recovery. I know what it’s like because I’ve been there.

I can help you see your blind spots because they were once my own. We often think that we need to push ourselves in order to be successful, but that’s simply not true! Once you open up and let go of what’s out of your control, you allow your creativity and passion to flourish. It’s a beautiful thing!

Are you a perfectionist? Take the free quiz here!

 

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The Four (Surprising!) Anxiety-Provoking Personas and How to Recognize Them

Psychologist Edmund Bourne identifies the four most common negative self-talk “personas” related to anxiety. Do you recognize any of these four anxiety-provoking personas in yourself? Or maybe you’ve acted out ALL of them, at some point in your life.

The Four Anxiety-Provoking Personas are:

  1. The Worrier
  2. The Critic
  3. The Victim
  4. The Perfectionist

The worrier: You may relate to this one all too easily. The worrier is preoccupied with what could happen or go wrong. Worry is a largely unproductive thought pattern, yet we (as humans) are addicted to it. In many Buddhist and Eastern traditions, worry is seen as one of the roots of suffering. I would have to agree.

The critic: Ah yes, the critic. I have had some hard talks with my inner critic over the years. If you have a strong critic, you know that it likes to steal the show (and your happiness along with it). Nothing is ever good enough for the critic. Sometimes the critic and the perfectionist walk hand-in-hand (read about the perfectionist below).

The victim: The victim is pretty self-explanatory. If you don’t personally identify with the victim persona, I’m guessing that you can quickly think of someone who does. The victim is a part I found myself playing a lot in my younger years. It takes a lot of work to shift from the victim into the empowered adult.

The perfectionist: Oh yes, my favorite! The perfectionist is a sneaky one. Often times, people with a perfectionistic mindset are unaware that this persona is in action. They may easily recognize the other personas within themselves, but the perfectionist remains hidden. This is because perfectionists see doing things ‘just right’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ as the norm that everyone should strive for. The perfectionist believes your sense of self-worth must be earned and reinforced. Doesn’t everyone feel that way? (Thinks the perfectionist).

It’s easy to see how these personas contribute to anxiety. When you often have catastrophic or critical thoughts, it’s not easy to be emotionally balanced. These pervasive personas may be continually robbing you of joy, happiness, and peace of mind.

The good news is: with awareness, you can identify, name and change these pesky parts of the psyche. You can move forward with your life, and experience freedom from anxiety.

 

Three Things You Need to Know about Anxiety and Self-Talk

Anxiety is closely related to negative self-talk. The thoughts we have can trigger a response in our body and in our emotional state. If we have negative thoughts, then we will likely experience accompanied unwanted feelings and physical sensations.

For example: if we think of something stressful we have coming up (perhaps a final exam), then we are likely to have a physiological (body) reaction, such as increased heart rate, sweaty palms, etc, as well as a negative emotional response. The negative emotional response could be fear, anger, or anxiousness, to name a few.

The tricky part is: usually we are not aware of the thought that precipitated the physical and emotional response. When we start to use our awareness to link them all together, we realize that our thoughts really do create our reality.

Here are some things you need to know about negative self-talk:

1. You don’t have to believe your thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts. The only power they have is the power you give them.Unfortunately, most of the time we are not filtering our thoughts with this level of intention. Instead, we are simply accepting them as truth (with a capital T). We believe all the mean, nasty, cruel, and unhelpful things that we say to ourselves.With practice, you can learn to develop awareness of your thoughts. Then, you get to choose which ones to believe and which ones to let go. I recommend only holding onto thoughts that serve you.

2. Negative self-talk causes avoidance, and avoidance causes suffering. If you talk yourself out of doing things because of fear or worry, you only reinforce your anxiety. You also put off being proactive about things that would actually help to alleviate the anxiety. Here’s an example; let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say you have some social anxiety. There is a networking event that would provide you with a great opportunity to meet new colleagues and gain recognition for the new book you just wrote. However, you experience negative self-talk that tells you nobody will like you or people will judge your work. This may lead you to avoid the event. You then start having more anxiety about the avoidance. You know you should go, but you can’t bring yourself to do it. Your colleagues ask why you’re not attending, and you go to great lengths to explain or justify your reasons for not going (none of them are true).

Now you have just exerted a tremendous amount of energy, avoiding something that probably isn’t all that scary in reality. Now it has become a big thing in your mind, and the anxiety around it has gotten much worse. All of this is because you believed your negative self-talk and allowed it to create avoidance, instead of taking action toward what you really want.

3. Negative self-talk is a learned behavior that can be changed. You can re-wire your brain to operate differently. Here’s how it works: what you think about the most creates deep grooves in your brain’s feedback loops. If you often revert to negative self-talk, that is the feedback loop that will be the strongest (or have the most well-worn pathway).

Re-training your brain to focus on the positive or helpful thoughts will carve out a new, healthier pathway in the brain’s circuitry. Once you practice utilizing this new feedback loop more and more, the easier it will become. Thinking positive or affirming thoughts will become your new norm.

It is possible to overcome negative self-talk and develop supportive mental habits.

The take home: By first bringing awareness to the thoughts, then taking action toward what you want, you can begin to change your reality. Because negative self-talk is usually deeply ingrained, I recommend working with a professional who can help guide you through these steps of the process. You don’t have to do it all on your own.

Click here to watch an in-depth video on how to re-wire the brain.

How to Relieve Anxiety in 3 Minutes or Less

There is an exercise that I often like to use with my clients and yoga students. It’s called “Five Things.” The purpose of the exercise is to bring your awareness fully into the now.

This is very useful during times of stress, anxiety, and even panic. If you ever get to a point where you are overwhelmed and things feel like they are swirling around you, then this practice can be especially helpful.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Plant your feet firmly on the ground. Notice how solidly they are connected to the floor.
  2. Now, notice 5 things that you notice. The idea is to engage as many of your senses as you can.
  3. If possible, notice one thing you can see, one thing you can hear, one thing you can smell, one thing you can touch, and perhaps a taste in your mouth.

For example, “I notice a white lamp, I notice the sound of people talking. I notice the smell of food cooking. I notice the texture of the shirt I am wearing. I notice a sweet taste in my mouth.”

You get the point…

This is an exercise designed to ANCHOR you in the present moment, even if everything around you seems to be chaotic or out of control.

This can help greatly to calm anxiety and panic, because (generally) when you are fully present, there is no immediate threat in that moment. It also helps you momentarily let go of all the to-do’s that exist in the future.

When you become aware of your immediate surroundings, you tune into what is real in the moment. Most of what we worry about only exists in the future or the past.

Planting the feet is ALWAYS good practice, no matter what the situation. If you are skipping the rest of the exercise and only doing step #1, you are still going to find some benefit.

However, if you are able to do the “5 Things” exercise in it’s entirety, then you are well on your way to finding relief.

Give the exercise a try and comment below on your experience!

What is Somatic Therapy?

Somatic Therapy Defined

The word somatic is derived from the Greek word “soma” which means living body. Somatic therapy combines ancient mind-body practices with the latest research in psychology and neurobiology.

The idea is that many of our emotions and memories are stored in the body, especially with trauma. Therefore, in order to access and heal our emotions and memories, we need to work with the body, not just the mind.

Due to cutting-edge research in these areas, somatic psychology is increasing in popularity as it’s efficacy is becoming more well-known and understood.

Psych Central states that, “According to somatic psychologists, our bodies hold on to past traumas which are reflected in our body language, posture and also expressions. In some cases past traumas may manifest physical symptoms like pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, sexual dysfunction and immune system dysfunction, medical issues, depression, anxiety and addiction.”

The Goal of Somatic Therapy

The goal of somatic therapy is to utilize the body in releasing stored tensions. Basically, it all comes down to regulation of the nervous system and the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response gets triggered under stress or perceived threat, such as being late, reaching a deadline, or getting cut off in traffic. This occurs DAILY for many people, resulting in chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. jenna-griffith-somatic therapy-yoga

There are many forms of somatic therapy. If you have been in therapy before, you may recognize it. A somatic therapist will often ask a client, “where do you notice that in your body?”

In my practice, I often focus on breath work and yoga as a way of releasing tension and restoring balance in the nervous system.

Tai chi, qigong, and other forms of mindful movement are equally effective.

By practicing mindfulness through somatic (body-centered) approaches, you are:

  • Re-wiring your system toward increased balance
  • Creating an internal clarity and calm
  • Learning to stay present and keep breathing, even under pressure
  • Becoming less reactive.

These skills continue to strengthen with regular practice over time, and can have a significant impact on reducing stress and increasing health in the long-run. This is why many people are turning to somatic psychotherapy as a form of treatment.

I highly recommend trying out some mindful movement (ideally with an experienced practitioner) as soon as you can.

You can also check out my introductory blog post on the benefits of yoga for mental, emotional, and physical health.

Want to speak with me directly to see if somatic therapy is a good fit for you? I offer a free 15-minute consultation. Click here to schedule one today.

 

 

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