Like so many of you, I am still reeling from the Supreme Court decision to take away a women’s fundamental right to reproductive healthcare. Make no mistake about it: Roe’s overturn was another collective trauma.
The ruling, while not surprising, was a punch to the gut. It was an assault and an insult to our autonomy and a basic premise: Women can and should be trusted with their own bodies. If you are feeling despair, fury, hopelessness, anxiety, numbness or any combination thereof, please know these feelings are a valid and healthy response to trauma. So many women (and folx with uteruses) feel threatened and powerless right now. For women in red states, with marginalized identities and/or with less resources, that threat is heightened. And for women in blue states like California, we may be wondering what to do next. How do we use our privilege to help other women who have already been impacted by restricted or no access to healthcare?
It’s for these reasons, women-centered psychotherapy is essential right now, and that’s where Feminist Therapy comes in. Feminist Therapy, unlike many other therapeutic approaches, centers the nuanced experiences of women and girls and recognizes that one’s emotional health hinges not only on a strong sense of self and nourishing relationships, but on a society where everyone feels safe and respected. That starts in the therapy room by creating a therapeutic relationship that feels collaborative, respectful and acknowledges the client as the expert of their own experience. You’d think those tenets would be more common place than they actually are.
To be clear, I’m not speaking for all feminist therapists here or the field at large. Instead, I’ll share some values and principles that I incorporate into my own Feminist Therapy practice, which focuses specifically on the support of self-identified women and girls in California.
I share my approach here because as I've written many times before, I believe Feminist Therapy is revolutionary, just as I believe healing is our birthright. Both are needed now.
These continue to be trying times, and women and girls deserve support tailored just to them. Too often people shy away from therapy because they fear their experiences won't be fully honored. It feels safer to push through on their own, despite the pain it may cause, not realizing there is a therapeutic frame that is in line with their own values and experiences.
I expect in coming weeks I’ll write more in detail about women’s mental health and how to care for ourselves in a post-Roe era, but for now I wanted to offer that women-centered support is available and that we don’t need to get through this on our own.
If you're interested in knowing more about Feminist Therapy, the work I do, or are in need of support during this trying time, don't hesitate to reach out.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
Anyone who is familiar with my work as a therapist knows that I am a fan of interventions that (a) focus on client strengths and (b) are creative and often outside the box. I tend to pull from a variety of modalities and approaches in my work from well-researched practices such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to emerging therapies (i.e. those that have been around for a long while, but have only recently been accepted by the mainstream mental health community) including nature-based and expressive arts interventions. I even utilize - wait for it - tarot cards.
Yes, it's true. I'm a licensed clinician and I utilize tarot with clients when they are interested and when the intervention is clinically indicated.
But before I share how I use the elusive tarot in session, let me backtrack a bit because I want to share that I first stumbled upon what would become my first tarot deck when I was just thirteen years old, wandering around the back of a bookstore with my mom. She had no idea then the seed she was planting!
I was immediately smitten with the imagery of the cards; the universal experiences and personality types represented; and the feeling of entering another world filled with symbol and metaphor. Although, my long-term draw to the practice of tarot was the honing of and reliance on intuition. This is to say that by using the cards, reading the traditional meanings and drawing my own associations, I would gain insight into questions and situation that had me feeling stuck. As it turned out, I didn't need someone else to tell me what I already knew deep down, I just needed a way to access it.
In my therapy practice, I offer clients the opportunity to do the same with my support and guidance. This is especially relevant to women and girls I work with who are often learning to trust themselves as well as explore identity and cultivate self-esteem.
If you're intrigued and wanting to explore the world of tarot its easy enough to pick a deck based on which imagery you are drawn to. Most bookstores carry tarot decks, but there are also a host of unique small-batch decks sold on Etsy.com and other online sites.
Once you've picked your deck, an easy way to start practicing is to pick a card a day and let yourself engage with the card. Take a deep breath. What symbols do you see? What is the wisdom or the lesson of the card? Do you feel resistant or open?
Have fun with it! And if you're interested in learning more about this work either as a client or a clinician seeking consultation, feel free to reach out here. I absolutely love chatting about the use of tarot in healing work.
Till text time, wishing you health and ease,
Let’s take a collective deep breath. Here we are in the wake of another dystopian news cycle and it’s leaving folks feeling hopeless, filled with grief, rage, and even numb.
I’ve spent much of the week (and really the past two plus years) talking with folks about how to navigate these times when it feels like we’re pummeled with wave after wave of tragedy, and there isn’t an easy answer. What I am sure of, however, is that caring for ourselves and each other in meaningful ways is no longer optional. It has to be a priority and the norm. Even for people who feel they don’t have the time. Especially for the people who feel they don’t have the time.
The concept of soul-care is talked about in different ways. From my perspective it speaks to the expansion of self-care to also encompass community-care and ecological care. It’s about prioritizing our mental, physical and spiritual health, so that we can fortify ourselves and show up fully in our lives and the world.
Deeply caring for ourselves is one of the most socially-responsible actions we can take. Sometimes that looks like a nap or time in nature or therapy. Sometimes that looks like spending time with loved ones and sometimes that looks like giving our time or monetary resources to support a more just world.
So how do we make that shift when the world feels so very out of control and many of us already feel at capacity?
I suggest first brainstorming what you find nourishing emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically. Jot down your ideas. The key here is to note what authentically feels good. Try to avoid writing down practices that don’t feed you. Not everyone finds meditation helpful and some folks need social time instead of alone time. Be true to yourself and allow yourself to experiment.
If possible, invite friends, family or co-workers to join you in this process, and set yourself up for success. I highly recommend scheduling your practices. I know this is not the most intuitive approach, but, believe me it is helpful. I’m offering an infographic here to support your process, but please feel free to edit in a way that’s right for you. Know that it’s okay to start small, but DO commit to a plan.
As always, I’m here to support. Please reach out directly or leave comments if you have questions.
Until next time, wishing you health and ease,
When I tell people that I utilize the expressive arts in my online therapy practice, I am often greeted with enthusiasm ... and some degree of confusion.
"That sounds so awesome!" People will often respond, and then ... pause. "So, what exactly is that?"
I smile because they are genuinely curious and I am eager to share.
So here are some things to know about of expressive arts therapy (or as we call it in the biz, EXA):
Meanwhile, I think it's important to note that EXA is not an ethereal approach to therapy, though it can feel that way because as adults we are so divorced from viewing creativity as a vital part of living. It can seem "so alternative" rather than straight up natural, and even practical.
After all, by incorporating the arts in therapy we often bypass defenses that hinder us, and are able to access suppressed feelings and inner wisdom that otherwise may not be accessed through talking.
Clients often report feeling relaxed or energized after sessions using the arts, as well as gaining new insights.
If you're interested in learning more about how EXA can be incorporated into therapy sessions, please visit here.
Meanwhile, I hope you'll consider creating something this week. Anything. Just to see how it feels for you. I truly believe creativity is life force, and artistic expression, a birthright.
Let me know how you do!
Till Next Time,
Believe it or not sensitivity is a real-life super power, though I get it may not always feel that way. Why would it when you’ve probably been asked more times than you care to remember: Why are you so sensitive? As if sensitivity is a deficit or something to be ashamed of.
Rather than write about why that’s a trash question (and it is), let’s take a minute to look at the nuanced experience of the highly sensitive person or HSP.
While I’ve categorized four types of sensitivity for this post, please know that there are as many types and combined types as there are people in the world. For instance, some people are more emotionally sensitive, meaning the actions and words of others may strongly impact their feeling states or moods. Sometimes people who are emotionally sensitive also identify as empaths – those who are easily able to sense the emotional states of others. Meanwhile, other HSPs may experience sensory sensitivity (sight, sound, taste, hearing, touch) or mental sensitivity wherein folks are easily excited or overwhelmed by ideas or conversation. And then there are those who are energetically sensitive. This last category is a bit more ambiguous in nature, but it speaks to the experience of walking into a room and sensing a collective energy - a vibe - if you will.
While we often hear about the challenges of being highly sensitive, which may include overwhelm or fatigue or even distress due to bullying or gaslighting, rarely do we talk about the joys of being sensitive because our culture focuses so heavily on pathologizing difference. But the truth is, HSPs are just as likely to experience heightened sense of connection, beauty and pleasure as they are challenging emotions and experiences. It’s also worth noting that HSPs often take on the roles of counselors, healers, artists, and other positions that require heightened levels of insight, empathy and imagination. So how can we move towards embracing the full HSP experience that honors the joys and mystery, as well as the challenges that may come with feeling things strongly? Here are some starting points.
Reclaim Your Narrative
First, let’s be mindful of the story we’re telling ourselves and others about our sensitivity. When we’ve been told different is wrong, over time we internalize those messages and it results in us retelling that same story. What if we flip the script and take some time to think about all the joy and beauty that comes from being highly sensitive? Not to replace the challenges mind you, but to present a more robust and accurate picture. What if we tell ourselves a fuller story and share it? How does that change the felt experience of being an HSP?
Find your People
Being an HSP without a tribe can be a lonely and even destabilizing experience. Shared experience and connection bolster mental wellbeing. If you’re lacking relationships with other HSPs or folks who can hold your full experience you may want to check out Meet Up groups and/or Facebook Groups for HSPs as a first step.
If you find people close to you offering unsolicited or unhelpful advice, pathologizing (i.e. talking smack) about your experience, or even making general comments about your sensitivity, I encourage you to practice setting boundaries. This may feel challenging at first, but boundary setting is a healthy part of relationships and feels more natural with practice. If you’re someone that gets tripped up on words, no need to over think it. You may start with a simple statement such as: “I understand you’re trying to help, but I’d rather not talk about this.”
Get Professional Support
Maybe you’re struggling to navigate the world as an HSP or you’ve experienced the trauma of gaslighting – which many HSPs have. Maybe you’re holding your own, but exhausted and ready to feel more grounded in your own experience. Either way, seeking professional counseling from a psychotherapist who understands the HSP experience can be an essential next step. If you’re in California and would like to chat, I would love to hear from you. Or please feel free to check out the HSP Therapist Directory here which offers listings of therapists globally.
Meanwhile, I hope you’ll be kind to yourself and remember: You are a gift to the world. Act accordingly.
Till next time, wishing you health and ease,
If you're feeling crispy around the edges these days – checked out and exhausted - you're not alone.
For good reason, discussion of burnout is becoming more and more common in mainstream and social media, workplace environments and amongst friends and family. For sure, burnout is having a moment and the conversation is long overdue.
So, what exactly is burnout and how do you know if you’re experiencing it? Definitions vary, but by and large, anyone can experience burnout if they sustain an activity or pace that is just, well, unsustainable for you.
Symptoms of burnout include: feelings of overwhelm, mental and physical exhaustion, emotional numbness, irritability, difficulty focusing, and lack of empathy for others and self, aka compassion fatigue. Physical health ailments may also be part of the package. As a psychotherapist working with high-achieving women and girls, I see this constellation of symptoms regularly in my practice, often with a backdrop of anxiety, stress and/or trauma.
Those in helping professions, frontline workers and caregivers are also more vulnerable to experiencing some or all of these symptoms. Women, and BIPOC women in particular, provide a disproportionate amount of emotional labor to their families and communities putting them at higher-risk as well.
To be clear, burnout is not a character flaw. Say it with me: There's nothing wrong with you! It’s actually an expected response given the context.
Our fatigue is the result of a culture that glamorizes busyness and values productivity to an unhealthy degree. Those messages get internalized over time and often we don’t even know it's happened until we’re feeling the psychological and physical effects.
There's a spoken and unspoken pressure to perform personally, socially and professionally and for that reason, there is no easy fix to burnout because it’s not just about us. We're navigating broken systems, but for sure there are steps we can take to reclaim our sovereignty and our mental and physical health despite the persistence of hustle culture. So, let’s talk about four ways to get started.
First and foremost, be gentle with yourself. It won’t help to beat yourself up over feeling tired or unmotivated. For some, practicing self-compassion can feel tricky, but think of how you would support someone you cared for (a friend or family member, perhaps) if they were feeling overwhelmed, exhausted or ill. What would you say to them? What types of comfort would you offer? Practice offering these kindnesses to yourself as a foundation to your healing process. Psychologist, Kristin Neff, offers a variety of guided meditations and exercises on self-compassion here.
Practice Stepping Back (when and where you can)
Passion projects, career ambition and self-development goals are all wonderful, but when guilt and shame become part of the equation of not “reaching a goal” – it’s time to take a closer look. Start by taking inventory of your day-to-day life as it is right now. What, if anything, can you step back from? Take a look at your To-Do list and take as many items off as possible. If that feels daunting, try taking those items and putting them in a “parking lot” – a separate list of action items you can re-visit when you have more capacity.
Identify Protective Factors
Protective factors are the relationships, activities and practices in your life that fuel you and help you feel sustained. Author and activist, Adrienne Maree Brown talks about this concept at length in her book Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good and highlights the essential link between rest and joy, and showing up more fully in the world. I love this concept and encourage clients to seek pleasure and joy whenever/wherever possible. Sometimes this involves smaller joys like soaking in the sunshine or eating a yummy meal with your favorite person, while other times it means planning travel. Think about what fuels you and engage, engage, engage.
I feel strongly that ultimately self-care and community-care work best in tandem as we attempt to heal from collective burnout. This requires a greater shift in culture that can begin by reaching out with requests for help, as well as offerings of support when appropriate. As you begin this journey, identify a few people who you may ask to be your ally in healing. They may be family or friends, community leaders, physical health practitioners or mental health professionals. Know that you are not alone and that sharing your story and experience is brave and sacred.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
To learn more about my work with women and girls message me directly or book an initial consultation here.
Often clients seek support because they are at a crossroad, not sure what next steps to take. The situation may have to do with career or relationships, making a move or center more on identity.
No matter what the issue, big decisions and transitions can feel daunting and one of my favorite things to talk about with clients is growing our ability to trust ourselves when challenges like these arise. That’s because I really do believe we already have the answers we seek, though sometimes we have difficulty accessing them or even trusting ourselves in the process. Sometimes this is because we’ve received messages that reinforce self-doubt and other times its simply that we’re so busy with the buzz of daily living that we aren’t able to hear the part of ourself that knows. Really knows.
So if you’re struggling to make a decision or looking for guidance, this process is for you. Let’s tap in to our creativity and see what comes through.
Time Commitment: 2 hours over two days +/-
Materials: Pen and unlined 8x11 paper | Mixed Media Paper and Favorite Art Medium (watercolor, pens, pastels, collage materials etc) |
Step 1: Listen – First things first. You’ll need a quiet space and dedicated time to sit with yourself, by yourself. I suggest turning off all electronics and letting anyone you may live with know that you’ll need about an hour of undisturbed time. Make sure you’re in comfortable clothing and your paper and pen are near by. Whatever question you are sitting with, write it down and put the paper aside. If it feels appropriate, say a prayer for guidance or an intention for your process. Then, when you’re ready, sit or lay down in a way that supports relaxation. Focus first on the sensations in your body without judgment. This is a nice way to begin grounding in the present moment. When you’re ready, then turn your attention to your mind and imagine a blank movie screen. Each person may see this differently – color, shape, size and so on. Focus your attention here and notice what images, thoughts, feelings arise. You can continue the first step until you feel complete. If you feel it helpful, you may jot down some notes from your experience.
Step 2: Channel – When you are ready you can move to a seated position and give yourself time to write on the paper you have near. On this paper you are welcome to free write, though I suggest you do it in letter form. You’re writing a letter to yourself channeling whatever wisdom you accessed during meditation. The goal here is not to push or strive, but to allow. See what comes forth with curiosity. Because we tend to have our defenses up, I would encourage you to write without censoring yourself for 3 to 5 pages and see what wisdom surfaces. When you’re complete, read through your words. Are there any nuggets of wisdom that resonate? Did any metaphors come forward. What message did they have for you? Often messages are not straightforward, but more so coded in metaphor! As an example, perhaps your mind wandered to an image of a lion and your question was about moving across country. What qualities do you associate with a lion? What feelings arose when you saw the image?
Take a break here. Give yourself a day or two to metabolize what you’ve experienced and written.
Then move to Step 3: Create – Now, break out your art supplies and create a visual representation of whatever wisdom you received. You may use images or words for this. Some of the most effective pieces are simple phrases that concretize the wisdom we’ve received. Some people choose to make ‘word art’ while others make collages or drawings. This phase is about creating a visual representation of the wisdom we just downloaded. Make sure to place your artwork somewhere you can see it as a reminder that you are the holder of your own wisdom.
Step 4: Honor – Lastly, we move in to honoring the messages we received by taking action. What is the call to action? If you’re not sure, think back to the original question. While there’s not always a linear link between the two there is always a connection and there is much room for interpretation.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you were wondering if you should leave your job and the image you received in your meditation was a resting lion, which you interpreted as tempered courage. Perhaps then the honoring of the message is to practice stepping out of your comfort zone daily in preparation for the bigger move of leaving the job?
What do you think?
Let us know and leave comments and questions below or reach out directly to learn more about my work with women and girls wanting to live their best authentic lives!
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
You’re pretty sure you’re supposed to be excited these days, right? Here in the Bay Area Spring has sprung and businesses and schools are openings. Social restrictions are easing and vaccinations are finally happening. So why then do you feel overwhelmed or on-edge when you hear someone talk about post-quarantine life, like you’ve got some version of the Sunday Scaries?
Well, first let me say: You’re not the only one. Not by a long shot. While folks may not be talking publicly about post-quarantine anxiety, many are experiencing it. It’s also common to experience a mix of anxiety and excitement, craving connection and feeling fearful at the same time. It makes absolute sense when you look a the context.
We've been living in social isolation for the better part of a year, but you knew that. The rest of the recap includes: a fire season fueled by climate change as well as rolling blackouts. All this, against a backdrop of political unrest and much needed social revolution. It’s been a year in which we navigated ongoing grief, loss and trauma, so much so that it became the norm and now our nervous systems may be on high alert. That’s the big picture.
On a micro level, many folks have been and continue to contemplate weighty questions about their personal lives – their relationships, communities, professions, purposes and so on. When all is said and done, folks are wondering what they’re going back to a/o what they’d like to build.
Truly, it’s a lot and it’s important to go at your own pace. It’s okay to go slow. Go fast. Dive in. Back up. Hideout. And try again. Trust yourself and your process. This transition is no small thing and it’s definitely not a race.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed or on edge, here are three strategies to start working with post-quarantine anxiety and stress.
Check your Narrative – Humans are storytelling creatures by nature and we’re always creating narratives to better understand our experience. These stories have power and if you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of worst case scenarios, it’s likely you’ll feel an increase in anxiety. The good news is we can re-write those narratives or expand them to include more possibility. Here’s an example: “There’s going to be pressure to attend social gathering and my friends are going to get mad at me because I don’t feel comfortable.” Vs “Restrictions are easing and I can go at my own pace. My friends will understand. ” If you’re interested in learning more about shaping narratives check out my blog post on just that topic here.
Set Your Boundaries – Here, I’m referring specifically to setting boundaries around information intake whether through media or conversation. Start by being mindful of how much information about the pandemic is actually useful to you and at what point you begin to feel physical or emotional signs of anxiety. This may look like worrisome thoughts, tense shoulders or increased heart rate – as examples. Your boundary should come BEFORE you experience these symptoms. What would it be like for you to set and follow this boundary?
Express Your Feelings Creatively – Symptoms of anxiety, stress and trauma only gain power when keep them in. One way to metabolize your feelings is by expressing them creatively through art or writing. Give it a try! The idea here is to remove any censor and let yourself play with words, images, color, texture etc. You don’t need to create a pretty picture or perfect poem. This is for your eyes only. If you’re seeking prompts for your creative expression, join me on Instagram where I post expressive arts prompts every Thursday.
Before I sign off here, I’ll add that if you feel you could benefit from additional support, please reach out to a professional. In my practice, I specialize in supporting powerhouse women and girls in California, who struggle with anxiety, stress and trauma. Ya’ll know who you are, always thinking you need to get by on your own, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Having someone in your corner that gets you can make all the difference, especially during such an epic transition.
To learn more about my work and approach you can visit here or message me directly. If you're interested in learning more about psychotherapy and clinicians in your area, you may want to check out the Inclusive Therapy Directory, as well as Therapy Den.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,
Most of us have experienced a dose of toxic positivity at one time or another. It tends to happen in the most vulnerable moments when we're feeling down or worried, reach out to a friend or family member for comfort and instead get a message like this: think positive or it could be worse.
If you find experiences like these disheartening, you're not alone. While the person telling you chin-up usually means well, the result can be jarring. It's also possible that the person doling out the advice just isn't comfortable with harder emotions and so their forced silver-lining-attitude is really an attempt at prioritizing their own feelings over your experience.
In truth, pushing someone to think positively when they are feeling anything but, invalidates their experience. At best it can feel tone deaf and at worst it is a form of gas lighting leaving the person receiving the feedback doubting their own experience.
A common scenario these days is based on feelings related to the pandemic. I'll often hear clients recount stories of sharing their grief or anxiety with someone and being received with "at least you're healthy" or "at least you have a job."
In session, I support clients to unpack their experience more thoroughly, as well as relationship dynamics, but for the purposes of this post I'll say that yes, it may be true that someone is healthy and employed and there is plenty of room for gratitude there. At the same time, it may also be true that they are struggling with isolation, grief and worry about so many other aspects of the pandemic. Both can be true and one experience does not nullify the other.
So, what to do when faced with the toxicity? Well, first recognize it for what it is.
Pain, anger, sadness, grief, worry and the like are all part of the human experience. It is normal and healthy to experience these feelings. Please know that.
After noting the dynamic that's taking shape you have the option of either naming it to the other person and making a request OR you can remove yourself from the situation if that feels better to you. The priority is to tend to your emotional injury.
Next, consider seeking healthy support from a source you know to be emotionally safe - whether a family member, community leader or psychotherapist. Reparative experience (i.e. someone who listens, validates and attunes to you) is essential in the emotional healing process.
If you’re need of support please feel free to reach out here! And to learn more about my approach to supporting women and girls you can visit my Web site here.
Till next time wishing you health & ease,