Relaxing: 3 Reasons Why it’s Hard for You

stressed ladyYou’ve probably never chewed on your laptop (maybe you have–no judgment here), but I bet you can feel what she’s feeling.  You know stress and what stress does to you, so you know your need to relax.  Do you ever have a hard time relaxing, though?  There are a lot of internal and external things that can get in the way of a person’s ability to relax.  Anxiety and trauma are two things that can make it really difficult, but that’s for a later post.  Today, we’re looking at three of the more common reasons why people struggle to relax:

 1.  You’re doing the wrong thing.  Somewhere along the way, you got the idea that relaxing looks a certain way:  laying in a hammock, soaking in a bath, doing yoga on a hill by a single gingko tree, silhouetted by the setting sun.  However, when you try these conventional things, you can’t relax!  Could it be that you haven’t found an activity which is actually nourishing to you?  Which of the following pictures seems the most relaxing to you?

Our misconception that relaxing has to mean finding a low-key, agendaless activity can leave us feeling antsy, restless, and bored when we try.  And while research has lots of great things to say about the positive effects of meditation and silence on the brain, you may find your brain still needs a certain level of engagement in order to refresh.  Maybe for you, it’s learning something novel or trying and creating something new.  Think about the times you most feel like yourself.  That’s going to be a clue as to what ways you need to relax.  Also, you may need to invest in a sweater to tie around your shoulders.

2.  You’re in the wrong place.  This is one that I think a lot of people run into.  I know I do.  They have spent most of their time away from home during the day or week and feel being home is where they need to restore.  For a lot of people, this simply is not going to work.

Home is not always “Home sweet home.”

This can especially be true for stay at home mom or dads and type-A people where home is pretty much a giant work cubicle.  You may just have to get out.  Get away from your stacks of paper that needed to be taken care of last week and the bathroom tile that needs regrouting.  Get thee to a coffee shop, a friend’s house, a park–anywhere outside of your house-cubicle!

3.  You’re wrong.  Our beliefs about relaxation can be out of whack.  Here are the most common erroneous beliefs I run across:

  • Relaxation = Laziness.  Actually, relaxing well, in ways that are nourishing to you, is very productive.  It protects and restores your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.  Relaxation doesn’t hinder productivity, it boosts it.
  • There’s no time.  This is one I’ve had to grow in the most.  I have the perfect storm of roles and personality traits that compels me to always be working on something and feeling like I have no time.

What I’ve learned is that feeling busy is usually just that…a feeling.

You have more time than you think.  Unsure about that?  Try doing a time journal for a week.  You may find there was plenty of room. For instance, if you’ve had time to read this blog, you have time to relax; especially since you didn’t log on just to read this (Right?  No offense taken.).   However, if taking a real look at your life truly shows you don’t have time—that’s a problem.  Examine the things you have in your mind as “musts” and “have to’s” and discover what really isn’t, and do the hard work of letting go.

  • Doing what I need to do to relax is selfish.  Such caring, kind-hearted, well-meaning people are vulnerable to this way of thinking.  Really try to understand and believe that when you take care of yourself, you take care of those around you.  You prevent burn out and protect your capacity to give without building resentment and feeling neglected in your relationships.  You retain your individual identity because the world–your family and friends–needs you, not just a warm body that can do things.  It’s a very giving thing and an amazing skill to role model to your kids.

So, how about you?  What gets in your way and what has helped you relax?  Have you come up with any “unconventional” ways?


The Perilous Life of an Introvert

intoverts-uniteNothing will highlight your introversion more than when you have an extroverted kid.  I still cringe when I recall the time I took my five-year-old daughter to the park and she took it upon herself to make me a friend.  Loudly she says, “Mom! Say, ‘Hi’ to that other mom!”  “No, that’s okay. She’s playing with her son.”  “Yes! Go over there!”  “Sshhh…I don’t need to…It’s fine.”    Now the mom is looking in my direction.  How can I hide behind this swing?  “THIS IS MY MOM!  HER NAME IS SARAH!”  Weak wave, dying inside.

Besides going to parks with my children or riding in elevators with them because they’ll introduce me to strangers there too, here are a few of the uncomfortable situations for my introverted self and what I rely on for rescue:

1.  Ordering food over the phone or any type of cold call.  Hello, I’m calling because…uh…my name is Sar (I probably shouldn’t start with that, they’ll ask me that later)…um…for the love of God, please just take over and ask me yes or no questions! 

Rescue: Online ordering, email contact forms, online customer service chat, or getting someone else to do it.

2.  Chatty Bank Tellers or chatty anyone in the service industry.  I just want to make the deposit and go.  Stop asking me personal questions like, “Do you have big plans for the rest of your day?”  Now, I feel obligated to ask you about your life, and I don’t want to because of number 3. 

Rescue: Online checking, self check-out lines, and Amazon!

3.  Small talk/how’s-it-going? conversations.  As evidenced by number 1, not only do I really have no idea how to start a conversation cold, I’m horrible at small talk.   This is why I’m a therapist and not in sales.  When clients come in, I start with, “So, where do you want to start this week?” not, “Those meteorologists sure are wrong a lot!”  No warm up–just get into it.  Related to this, please don’t ask me, “What’s new?”  I have absolutely no idea how to answer that.  When I hear that question, my mind races around all the corners of my life trying to figure out which ones have new things to report, and do you mean “new” as in “hasn’t existed before,” or a new thought, or a new way of being, or a new thing in the world at large, or a new development?  I’d honestly be way more comfortable with talking about my deepest fears and your family of origin.

Rescue:  Texting and facebook messaging.  Able to check in and or get down to business without needing any intro or conclusion!  It’s all middle!  Check in, say, “I hope you’re doing okay,” send a funny video, iron out a detail, and be done!  Even better, using text or messenger to set up a time to get together–then I know we will connect on a deeper level.

4.  Home Product parties.  I’d rather run icepicks through my eye sockets than sit in a room of people I don’t know, having small-talk, and potentially having to buy something.  I’m not exaggerating. 

Rescue:  There is no rescue for this one–not even the promised wine.

Now that I’ve shared with you how socially inept I am, what about you?  What are your most cringe-worthy social situations?  Maybe it’s having someone ask about your family of origin 😉

Pillow Talk


Lately, there’s been a lot of conversation, posts, and monologues that beg an answer to these questions: “Are you for or are you against?”  “Are you hopeful or are you scared?” “Do you support or protest?” “Pancakes or french toast?” (that was this morning).  Debates ensue, like buttons are pushed, posts are shared, friends are unfollowed, and pancakes are eaten (because that was 2-0).

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I often find myself as a spectator watching comment sections on Facebook blow up, marveling with curiosity at how people can be so unwaveringly adamant on their positions, to the point where they can be so dismissive of those who think differently.  For some, it seems like engaging with these issues doesn’t cause much internal turmoil at all.  For them, figuring out where they stand is easy, simple, straightforward, and confidence abounds.  Here’s my concern:  while the simplicity and apparent strength of this may be attractive and seem noble, it’s often a decisiveness that is born out of a style of thinking that can actually be pretty damaging.  It’s called BAWT.

Black-and-white thinking also known as BAWT (because I don’t want to keep typing it out), all-or-none thinking, and either/or thinking is defined by a person’s inability to hold both the positive and negatives about a person, self, or situation at the same time in order to have an accurate picture of reality.  They see one part, not all.

BAWT’s a big no-no that we therapists work to help people catch and shift because it makes people vulnerable to depression, perfectionism, low self-esteem, anxiety, overreactions, despair, unfair judgments, misunderstandings, and hurt relationships.

Please allow yourself to entertain the following vignette that demonstrates BAWT (I’m getting tired of typing that out, too):

(This scene takes place upon returning home after a mother has lovingly and dutifully put aside her own needs and comfort and accompanied her daughter to Chuck E. Cheese where three hours and $40 were spent for her child’s pure joy and entertainment.)

Child:  (kicks shoes off in the entry way) “Can Avery sleep over?”

Mother: (Lugging in purse full of airheads, bouncy balls, tattoos, and other things from the “5 ticket” bins).  “No, we’ve had a long day, and–”

Child: “WHYYYYYYYYY?  It’s NOT a school night!”

Mother:  “I know, but we’ve had a full day, and tomorrow there’s a bunch of stuff we–”

Child:  “THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

Mother:Do not talk to me that way.”

Child:  (Child screams as she runs up the stairs towards her room) THIS IS THE WORST DAY EVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

(Mother slowly sits down on the entryway bench and ponders what just happened)  “My daughter’s BAWTing all over the place.  Because of her emotion, she has forgotten about the positives of this day.  This is causing her picture of me and the day to be inaccurate.  I, however, will go to her, soothe her emotions, and help her understand that her day has held both joy and disappointment.”

Actually, I believe I said, “Slam your door again, and you won’t have one”  (Gold star!).

Kids are notorious for this type of thinking because the poor things barely have a developed frontal lobe.  That’s their excuse, but after age 25 we have more of an opportunity to be a little more nuanced.  We have the opportunity, to protect ourselves from the pitfalls of black-and-white thinking and stretch, as uncomfortable as it may be, for the type of thinking that says, “and.”

Maybe we can look at an issue and say, “I’m for and against,” “I’m hopeful and scared” “I support and I protest” “I agree and disagree” “I will eat panfrenchycakes.”  Our ability to hold positives and negatives at the same time will allow us to be more understanding, compassionate, reasonable, wise, and heard by others.

When I started thinking of a title picture to go with this post.  I thought of zebras for the obvious reasons and the title, “Beware the zebra.”  Then of course, Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” annoyingly popped into my head–and it’s still there.  Then, I thought of Michael Jackson, for the obvious reasons.  What I landed on, however, is the pillow that’s in my office.  It’s an ampersand, a symbol for “and.”


Don’t Call it a Comeback

llWhen I look at my blog and it’s one post, I think to myself, “Wow, in October 2015, I was a really an active blogger.” After October 2015, I became a person who pays fees for a website that goes untouched. A person who occasionally thinks to herself, “I like to write. I should do a blog post,” and then says, “Nah” and goes on’s app looking at colonial homes for sale in Vermont. You know the type—the type of house and person.

Even as I type this, I wonder if I will finish it. I have a client coming in thirty minutes, which means I’ll no doubt have to end this incomplete, which means I’ll have to save it, and then it will hang in the corner of my mind next to “fill in the nail holes on the base boards” as something I should do that I’m not.

Despite this, I feel a nudge to do it. If not for blog’s sake for mine. To shake loose the cobwebs and dust from my Facebook, TMZ-numbed brain.

So, I’m back.

As a starting point, let’s catch up bullet-point style on what has happened over the past two years:

  • Vacations
  • Work
  • Overflowing laundry baskets
  • Death
  • Cat death
  • Remodeling
  • Love
  • Anger
  • Contentment
  • Busyness
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Excitement
  • Laughing
  • Netflix
  • Cat adoption (Farmer: “I’ll throw the third one in for free.” Us: “Sounds like a great idea.”)
  • Seasons
  • Making cold lunches

That’s about it.  Now, I know it’s all rather enviable. However, if you keep reading my blogs, perhaps you’ll be able to obtain it. 😉


Love and Croutons

croutons_shopify_1024x1024I picture my daughter, ten years from now, sitting in her college counseling center and telling her counselor that her mom is a therapist.  I see the therapist nodding, and with a raised brow, scribbling some notes (Mom: therapist–able to care for her clients but not her own children.  Typical.  Explore this).  There’s a reason I stress the power of reparative work with my clients as they raise their children, and it’s that I need to do it myself.

Last night I really fumbled with my 8 year-old daughter.  She approached me using her code phrase, “I need to turtle dum you” which means she needs some one-on-one talk time (I have no idea where that phrase comes from).

So, we sneak away from the prying ears of her little sister, lay on her bed, and she goes on to tell me how at recess she confessed her love to her schoolmate crush.  Apparently, the boy freaked out and ran away.  She says he hasn’t spoken to her in 4 days.  “Well, maybe he didn’t know what to say,” I offer.  She just turns on her side, away from me.  “That sounds hard.”  She comes back and proceeds to sadly talk about two other girls that he likes.  “Well, if he likes someone else, then he’s missing out on you, and then maybe it’s not a fit.”  Again, she turns away and sobs, “I hate those girls.  They stole him!”  Here come two lectures:  How and why we can say we don’t like people but not that we hate them (“BUT I DO HATE THEM!) and “it takes two to tango.”  She glazes over.  “They didn’t steal him, honey.”  “YES THE DIIIID!  THEY TOLD HIM THEY’D GIVE HIM A CROUTON IF HE WENT WITH THEM AT RECESS INSTEAD OF MEEEE!  AND HE LEEEFT MEEEE!”  Now, besides almost laughing, I’m angry at this fickle kid and say, “Well, if he likes croutons more than being friends with you, that’s not a person to like.”  I don’t know what I was expecting.  I thought maybe I could get her angry at him too.  Then her little heart wouldn’t hurt, right?  “YOU’RE MAKING ME FEEELL SO MUCH WOOORSE!!” she wails.  “I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOOOOOUUUU!”  But, I care about you, but I just want you to understand that,  you’re not hearing…, but, but I say.

Do you know the phrase, “the shoe cobbler’s children go barefoot?”  That’s what was happening here.  Where did all my counseling skills go–even the basic ones?  Did I really need to give my 8 year old life lessons about love at that moment?  Did I need to critique her choice in men?  No, what she needed was someone to hold her and be with her when while she was hurting.  Now, not only was she hurting over this boy, but now there was a rift between her and me.

I added to her pain in my desperate attempt to eliminate it.

Stop I tell myself.  Slow down.  “Honey, I’m sorry I’ve been saying a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter and made you feel worse.  That was wrong.  This whole thing sounds so hard.  You’ve been so hurt.  Come here–let me hold you.”  Rift mended.  I’m holding her in my arms and she’s calming down.  The good news is that reparative moments really do repair, and I’m thankful for my daughter’s graciousness towards me in those moments.  After school on Monday, I will ask her how things went with Romeo and just listen and use the skills I have in being a safe presence for her.  I will say, though, that I am tempted to pack croutons in her lunch so she has some leverage with that kid, but I think I’ll let that be.