My go-to, one-minute therapy for anxiety and depression.

This is an old video from 2007 showing two cats (they are both female, and both about ten years old at the time this video was made) having a “conversation.”

The cats are not just adorable, but their trilling, purring, and cooing noises and soft little vocalizations are so relaxing I could listen to them on endless loop.

Besides the relaxing effect, I also noticed my mood always improves dramatically after viewing this video (or other ones like it).    It’s incredible how something so simple can improve your entire outlook.

I wonder what the cats were talking about.   Whatever it was, it’s clear these kitties love each other.

If you want something a little longer that has the same relaxing and soothing effect, I recommend this beautiful video of a mom cat and her adorable, playful kittens.

 

 

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Throwback Thursday (a day late): My Christmas present to myself.

This was originally posted on December 21, 2014, when I’d only been blogging for a little over three months.  So much has happened in three years!   But this is a pleasant little memory, so I may do this again this year.   What a crazy year 2017 has been.  I could sure use a little self care right now!

comfort

As ACONS or victims of narcissistic abuse, we can be nervous, hypervigilant, and constantly feel stressed out and overwhelmed. It’s so hard for us to relax and just feel happy and in the moment.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that work best and take us to a place where we feel more at peace and more sane. We need to seek out and savor these small things.

The other day I received a gift card for Cracker Barrel. I have to admit, I love their country stores that are always a treat after pigging out on their heavy country cooking.

This morning I had to go have two of my tires changed and get an oil change. I hate dealing with servicing my car, but it had to be done. I already felt better knowing at least my tires won’t skid off the road, even though my car is 13 years old and the transmission is starting to slip.

Blasting rock music and singing along to it on the way home, I remembered my Cracker Barrel gift card and decided to stop by and buy a few things with it.

I adore candles and always buy those big scented jar candles at the dollar store, K-Mart or Walmart because usually those are all I can afford. Those are fine, but today I decided I could afford to splurge and buy a $20 Yankee Candle. I had a tough time choosing an aroma, because they all smell so great, but I finally settled on a new scent called “Silver Birch,” which smells just like woodsmoke and reminded me of a crackling fire.

I also love bath products, so I bought myself a bottle of JR. Watkins apothecary bath salts in Menthol/Camphor with Eucalyptus oil. The bottle, charmingly printed in a late 19th/early 20th century style, says it’s great for soothing colds and flu, but I’ve tried it before and it’s great for everything. It makes your body feel energized but relaxes your mind at the same time.

So when I got home, I decided to take a long hot bath, and just let the scents and warmth of the water swirl around me and bring me into the moment, only the moment. I lit the candle and placed it on the sink, poured a handful of the scented bath salts into the water and mixed in a little vanilla/lavender scented bath gel (cheap from Dollar General) in there too to make the water softer for a little moisture. Then I slid into the tub and literally sighed as I settled in. I lay there with my eyes closed for about an hour, just letting my mind wander and focus on the moment. I also said a little prayer of thanks for small blessings like this.

I nearly drifted off to sleep, but finally, when the water began to get too cool, I dried myself off, put on some comfortable clothes and decided to write a blog post about the bath from heaven.

We need moments like this to validate ourselves. We need to give ourselves little gifts every day if we can. If we didn’t get the mothering and nurture we needed, or we’re still surrounded by narcissists who don’t give a shit about how we feel, we can still give ourselves comfort and nurture every day in small ways like this

It’s not even necessary to spend the kind of money I did today (and the only reason I had it was because of the gift card I received). You can get the same effect with cheaper products from lower end stores. I always find great stuff at the Dollar General a few blocks away Their candles are limited in variety but smell really good. You can also mix a little baby oil with a cheap scented bath gel. At some smoke shops and other stores, you can buy little bottles of scented oil, or even learn to make your own (I’m sure there’s plenty of how-to instructions online).

There’s nothing like a long, hot, leisurely, great smelling bath to soothe your nerves and make you feel normal again, at least for a little while. And make sure you light a candle while you soak.

I’m still feeling so relaxed I think I’m going to nap for about an hour.

 

4 awesome reasons to cry.

awesome

One of the things my therapist and I have been working on is getting me to cry in session.   I’ve talked before about how hard it is for me to cry, except in private, and even then it isn’t always easy.   As a child I cried all the time.  Because I was usually shamed for my tears, sometime during my teens or early 20s, I pretty much stopped being able to cry and outbursts of anger, seething resentment, or “freaking out” seemed to replace the tears.  Rage and anger, while they have their place, is often destructive to others and yourself, and if used as an outlet where tears would be more appropriate, isn’t really very healing.  Freaking out is never adaptive because it just makes you appear crazy.   Before I learned mindfulness in DBT, I’d act out against others or freak out without thinking about the consequences, and usually feel regret, embarrassment, and shame later, much more so than if I had just cried instead.

Sure, tears can be manipulative.  Narcissists cry to get attention or to manipulate others into pitying them or giving them what they want.   Babies and young children do this too.  That’s the kind of crying that has given tears such a bad reputation.     But if a child is crying for other reasons–because they are hurt, because they are sad or overwhelmed with any other emotion (ANY strong emotion, not just sadness, can cause tears)–parents should never tell them “big boys (or girls) don’t cry” because that just teaches them to stifle their emotions, and stifling emotions is bad for you and can even affect your physical health.  If a child is shamed out of crying often enough, they may learn to turn off the tears and become unable to cry as adults.  This is especially common for boys in a culture that has traditionally frowned on men and boys crying because it’s a sissy or “weak” thing to do.  But this no-crying policy applies to women as well, especially in the business and professional world, where showing softer emotions is a big no-no.

People cry for many reasons, but I think there are four basic reasons for genuine emotional (not manipulative) tears: (1) need for help or care; (2) connection, empathy and love;  (3) awe, gratitude and joy; and (4) stress relief.   I’ll go through each of these and explain why each one is awesome.

1. Need for help or care.

babycrying

When a baby cries, it’s usually because they need something.   They may be wet, in pain, hungry, tired, or just lonely.    A baby’s cry brings mom running to give the baby what it needs, after which the baby stops crying.   We are born into the world crying; tears are a pre-verbal language and the first language we ever learn. When we are born, we cry to communicate our distress or other needs, and get what we need to survive.   If healthy attachment is achieved, a baby learns more sophisticated ways to get their needs fulfilled later on, but there are still times when needy tears are appropriate and NOT manipulative, even for grownups.

It’s always healthy and appropriate to grieve after a devastating loss, such as the death of a friend, family member or beloved pet.  It’s appropriate to cry when hearing very bad news or when in great emotional or physical pain.     There are survival reasons for this.  A crying person usually draws people near them and attracts sympathy.  If we have normal levels of empathy, we have an instinctive urge to touch or physically comfort a crying person.     A person who has just found out their best friend has cancer or Fluffy died needs the comfort of others.  They need to be held and hugged and have their back stroked and their hand held.   They need physical contact.  They need to be able to pour their story out to another person.   It would be cruel to deny someone in great physical or emotional  pain that kind of succor.  Some societies understand this need, and that is why there are public rituals such sacramental wailing in some cultures, or sitting shiva in the Jewish faith after a loved one dies.  Only when it becomes excessive or is done to attract attention to yourself does this type of crying become annoying to others.

2.  Attachment, empathy, and love.

crying_bride

This is closely related to the above, but a bit different because the tears shed aren’t intended to draw help or comfort, but to connect with others or with the world.   Many new mothers find that they become very emotional during pregnancy and for a few months after their babies are born.   Even though as an adult I’ve always found crying difficult, an exception was made when I was pregnant or lactating.  My emotions went into overdrive!   I remember when I nursed my babies, sometimes I became overwhelmed with pure emotion I couldn’t name or explain, and silent tears began to run.  It wasn’t unpleasant at all.  It just felt natural and real.  I think those tears connected me more deeply with my children.   Tears are words an infant can understand instinctively, and when a young infant sees his or her mother’s tears, they understand this means attachment and love with her has been achieved, and a good mother responds to and feels her baby’s emotions too.

Grownups, even men, sometimes just feel overwhelmed with emotion, sometimes very positive emotion.  People who are deeply in love sometimes find as they gaze into their lover’s eyes, their own well up.  It can happen at any moment when the love they feel seems bigger than they are.   This is why sudden tears are common in lovemaking that isn’t merely for sexual release, but to more deeply connect with the lover.

Tears of attachment and connection indicate high levels of empathy.   A person who is able to feel the emotions of a friend who is sad can sometimes actually cry with their friend, and this serves to connect them on a deeper level.  A world in which we can’t share the emotions of those around us–either negative or positive–is a world where no one cares and everyone is out for themselves.    Any society that regards empathy as a weakness is a sick and dangerous one.  If the human race is doomed to self destruction, I’m pretty sure the growing lack of empathy and care for others we see around us today would be the primary culprit.

3. Awe, joy, and gratitude.

KellyClarkson
Kelly Clarkson learns she won American Idol, 2002.

Tears of awe are the kind you shed when you are blown away by an incredible sunset or magnificent landscape.   Some people get very emotional in church or when hearing a certain piece of music or reading a certain poem.   I think these are the kind of tears we shed when moved by something we perceive as being greater than ourselves.  They are humbling and remind us of our insignificance, but not in a bad way, because at those times, though we feel humbled, we also feel more connected to the universe or to God.  Tears of awe connect us with the divine.

People shed tears of joy when something wonderful happens to them, usually a great surprise.  Winning the lottery, winning a contest, your team winning the Superbowl, walking into your house to a surprise birthday party, hearing your baby’s cry for the first time…all these things make people cry.    They’re anything but sad or manipulative!   Tears of joy may also be a form of stress relief, as in some cases, there’s often an element of relief, which I’ll explain more in the next section about stress relief. For example, contestants in singing or dance competition shows or in pageants almost always cry when they win.   For many months, they’ve been under enormous stress.   The moment of winning not only validates all the hard work they’ve done, it’s also a sudden release of months of the built up stress of heavy competition.   It’s okay to let go!

Related to tears of joy are tears of laughter–those times we laugh so hard we begin to cry.  Crying and laughter are physiologically very similar and serve a similar purpose of relieving stress, so it’s not too surprising that sometimes our bodies get laughter confused with tears!

Finally, there are tears of gratitude.  Sometimes we are taken by surprise when someone does something nice for us.   Especially when it’s unexpected, kind words or deeds can bring on tears.   Colloquially, this is known as being touched, which differs from being moved because it’s more human and less spiritual/humbling than being moved.     Tears of gratitude connect us with each other.

4.  Stress relief.

cry_in_shower

Some unpleasant emotions aren’t normally expressed through tears.  For example, people don’t usually cry when they’re afraid or anxious or angry.   To do so wouldn’t be in our best interests survival-wise.  When we’re in danger or there’s some kind of threat facing us, showing vulnerability might get us killed.   So when we’re angry, we want to attack.  When we’re afraid, it’s fight-or-flight.   When we’re worried, we want to remove the source of worry or solve the problem.   But once the danger or stressor has passed, and we feel a measure of relief, it’s common for people to break down in tears.   A child who has become lost doesn’t usually cry while they’re looking for their caregiver, because that’s too dangerous.   They cry the minute they see Mom or Dad’s arms reaching out to them (and very often Mom or Dad cries right along with them!)

Sometimes people cry even when the danger hasn’t passed, when they just feel overwhelmed and have given up trying to fight or escape or trying to solve their problem.   In those cases, crying is a last-ditch effort to solve the problem.   If all else has failed, then crying may bring help or comfort from others.   It’s not necessarily manipulative if everything else has been tried first and nothing has worked.

Sometimes even when the threat is gone or the issue resolved, or the horrible outcome we expected didn’t come to pass, we still cry, because it’s finally safe to do so. The tears shed at those times are really tears of relief because they help release all the emotion that was pent up while we were in danger.  When thought of this way, it makes no sense to tell someone not to cry, because it doesn’t mean they’re upset, it means they’re relieved and finally feel safe enough to release all that bottled-up stress through tears.

And then there are those times when you just need to have a good cry, and you don’t even know why. After a few minutes or hours of sobbing, pouring out snot and tears, you come away feeling like a million dollars. So if you want to cry, go ahead and let it out. It’s good for your body, mind and soul.

How to Remove a Mindworm

I stumbled across this post and was like, OMG, this happens to me CONSTANTLY! Mindworms are SO annoying! How to deal…

Lessons From the End of a Marriage

Much like earworms are snippets of a song that refuses to vacate your auditory processing center, mindworms are remnants of thoughts that stubbornly replay through your brain. It’s not only annoying; it’s maladaptive. The stuttering brain becomes stuck on a particular thought and is unable to move on to the next or be receptive to new ideas.

Mindworms are tenacious little buggers. They like to hide when you focus on them too intently only to start their slithering once you allow yourself to relax. They may go quiet for hours or even days at a time, prompting a false sense of security, before making themselves heard once again.

Although not fatal, mindworms are parasites that remove some of our lifeforce. If allowed to wander for too long, they hold their host back from optimal health and wellness.

There are no quick fixes for the removal of mindworms. The development of…

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“Hand crack” for my birthday.

My birthday isn’t for 3 more days, but I was browsing in a rock shop (I collect geodes and other interesting rocks) and was looking for something that “spoke” to me. I finally found these beautiful unglazed squares of “picture” jasper. Besides the natural patterns of the jasper that look like desert scenes, I liked the way they felt–kind of heavy and smooth at the same time, and I liked the soft clacking sounds they made when they hit each other in my hand.

Immediately I thought what a marvelous DBT tool these could be. I have my turtle, of course, but it’s a little big and the feel of it isn’t all that special. These are little natural works of art that I know could help me calm down with their sound and feel in my hands when I’m stressed, upset or angry. I think the $4.00 spent was well worth it.

jasper1

I turned them around to show the patterns on the other side:
jasper2

Pinecones.

pine-cones

I am seeing pinecones everywhere. I love stepping on them and hearing that satisfying crunch under my feet. Stepping on pinecones is a great stress reliever, and at the same time it helps them release their seeds.

If that sounds crazy, try it. You’ll instantly feel better. I’m serious. It’s almost as good as bubble wrap.