Acceptance: The Key to Happiness and Peace

It has been having one of those weeks where I am constantly questioning if I am in the right position, if I should be somewhere else doing something else, constantly telling myself that I am not trying hard enough or that I am not good enough at what I am doing.  I will give you a little context to how I have got to this mental space this week.

I am employed as a mental health therapist in a private practice setting; this means that I am independently contracted through the company and I am basically my own boss.  This is something that I love about my job; I have freedom and flexibility to make my own decisions and handle my own schedule.  However, the downside to this type of position is that it is not a salaried position; I only get paid for my services when I have someone show up.  Being that money is what runs our world and it is how society measures your personal “success” this is usually the aspect of my job that I get tripped up with the most. This week is one of those weeks where clients just aren’t showing up which, in turn, means that I am not making a living, hence the previously explained mental space.

My “success” (aka my paycheck) is dependent on things such as the weather, illnesses that are circulating around, the city bus system functioning properly, and my client’s motivation level to leave the house; all things that I have ZERO control over, things that other people don’t even think about when they are going in to work.  For example, most people don’t like it when it rains on days they have to go to work because it makes the commute less convenient, whereas I dread any sort of unpleasant weather because that makes it much more likely that I will not make any money that day.

I know that I am not the only person out there that works in this type of position and I knew the difficulties going into this position but some days or some weeks it is more difficult to remember why I do what I do.  Some days it is hard not to go on Facebook and compare myself to people that I graduated high school with that are much farther along in their career paths.  Intellectually, I can reason with myself and see that I took a different life path than those individuals; not a better one or a worse one but a different one.  However, I still can’t stop the thoughts going through my head of “you are not good enough” “you should be doing better” or “you picked the wrong career.”

What is Acceptance?

Accept  [ak-sept]

to accommodate or reconcile oneself to:

to regard as true or sound; believe:

Acceptance in the context of mental health and wellness is a rather abstract concept. I talk to my clients on a regular basis about accepting where they are at in life or accepting those things and situations in their lives in which they have no control, but what does that actually look like in practice?  I am quickly learning for myself that there is a big difference between telling yourself that you are accepting a situation and then actually doing it.  Or, it may be easy for you to accept there situation at that a particular moment, but then when things start to change that acceptance goes away and you start to fight against yourself and your situation.
The ladder is the cycle that I am currently stuck in. When things are going well at work and my clients are consistently showing up for their appointments I am content with where I am at in life. I may not be making the most money or I may not be in the exact spot that I thought I would be regarding personal relationships, but I am content and, overall at peace with how I am progressing through life.  Then weeks like this week come along and have a way of planting those seeds of doubt.  The doubt starts with my career but slowly ends up creeping to other life areas, which leads to overwhelming feelings of confusion and being lost.
Acceptance is a tool that can be learned and utilized in times of change or in times of stability.  It is a skill that takes away that sense of worry or active need for social comparison.  It is a skill, like any other type of skill, that requires continuous practice and repetition. Acceptance is refocusing your energy and attention in effective and efficient ways, it is giving up control of aspects of your life in which you do not have control, it is funneling your focus to that in which you can control, and it is being okay with not liking things from your past and not knowing what is going to happen in your future. Acceptance is not fighting against your own thoughts and emotions, it is letting your internal and external experiences be as they are and run their natural course.  Letting go off all of this unnecessary struggle within ourselves leaves more time and energy for us to focus on what we want from life, things that we enjoy, and truly experiencing our present moment.

How Do You Accept?

Acceptance is a choice that we make for ourselves and, as I stated previously, acceptance is something that needs to be practiced consistently.  It is not just something that you can take an hour class on and all of a sudden you will be able to accept everything throughout your life for the rest of your life (but wouldn’t that be nice??). You will never be able to fully accept everything that happens to you quickly and with ease.  You will often become sucked into cycles like the one I am currently in where sometimes it’s easier and sometimes it’s more difficult to practice acceptance, but the key is that you continue to practice it anyways.  Overtime and with a lot of repetition you will be able to recognize when you have been sucked into one of those cycles more quickly and move back to a mind of acceptance with more ease.
The most important aspect of practicing acceptance, in my opinion, is practicing and heightening your own self-awareness; you cannot pull yourself out of a cycle of personal struggle if you are not aware that you are in one.  So start by practicing bringing more awareness to the following:
  • Aspects of daily situations that can and cannot control
  • Your thought content
  • Your emotions and mood throughout the day, week, and month
  • Judgment you place on your thoughts, feelings, or behaviors
  • Your desire or intention to push against any of these areas
  • Active prevention of any of these areas

There are 3 main ways that I have been personally trying to practice increasing my self-awareness, these may not be the most effective strategies for everyone but they are where I have decided to start on my journey.  First, I have been participating in a regular yoga practice which is helping me cultivate more awareness in my physical body.  The mind and the body are tightly connected and impact each other greatly, so having more awareness of the physical body will ultimately assist in your awareness of the mind.

Second, I have been attempting to create a formal meditation routine, so actually taking time out of my day, sitting down in a quiet and relaxing space, and purposefully practicing being aware of my body and mind.  So far, this practice has not been as consistent as my yoga practice; however I am working toward improving that and, in the mean time, it is something that I can go to in times of greater distress. Side note, if you have never given formal meditation a shot and are interested in learning more about it, check out Headspace (either the website or the app).  It has a very beginner friendly 10 day program that educates you on what mindfulness meditation really is intended for.

Third, I use an awareness object; this is a practice in which you choose an item that you use or wear on a daily basis (it could be a wallet, a wedding ring, or I personally use my fitbit) and you begin to associate that item with self-awareness.  This means that every time, throughout your normal daily routine, when you notice your object you take a few seconds to “check-in” with your self.  Pay attention to your current mood, what thoughts are going through your mind, what does your body feel like, and what is going on around you.  This practice gives you more frequent informal opportunities to practice strengthening your awareness.

Once you become more self-aware you will start noticing when you are struggling against inner experiences that are holding you back, that you may want to change but you have no control over, and you will start moving toward making the choice to accept those experiences for what they are and move your energy toward something that will better serve you and your precious time.  The purpose of this post was to inform you a little bit about the idea of acceptance, but to also act as a reminder to myself that I want to make the choice to accept the things that I cannot control within my life and that I already have the tools to work toward this goal.  This post will now serve as my promise to you all and to myself that I am going to make self-acceptance a priority from here on out.  I know it will not always be a smooth and easy journey and I will continue to share my struggles along the way, but what’s important is that I continue to move in the right direction not at the “right” pace.

Leave any questions or comments that you have for me below!

Best Wishes!

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The Art of Rest: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

As discussed in my previous post, our quality and quantity of sleep play an important role in our day to day functioning. It is beneficial for you to know and accept this information but it does not do you much good if you do not know how to get the sleep that you need. This post will list out a number of dos and don’ts of good sleep hygiene; however, I would like to state upfront that not all of these tips work for everyone, so experiment with making a few changes until you find what works best for you and your life.

Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule

For many of us, our days throughout the week do not all look the same; some mornings we get up early to go to the gym before work, some days we stay up late watching a guilty pleasure TV show, and then the weekend rolls around and any sort of schedule gets thrown out the window.  Well if you are someone who has difficulty falling asleep or getting up in the morning, this schedule shifting may be part of the problem

Research shows that going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday (yes even on weekends) helps regulate your sleeping pattern, making it easier to fall asleep and waking up in the morning with less difficulty.  It may be very difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to do this on a daily basis; however, making your sleep schedule as consistent as possible will have some positive impact on your overall quality of sleep. So start with your work week and see if creating consistency within this part of your schedule does what you need, and if it seems like that is enough then great! But if you feel like you could benefit from more consistency then start looking at what you can do to tweak your weekend schedule.

Watch What and When You Eat

Eating too much or too little before you go to lie down can have a negative impact on your ability to fall asleep.  If you eat too much, especially something heavy and greasy, your body will still be digesting the food while you are trying to fall asleep and the digestive process is not one that is very conducive to feelings of comfort and relaxation that are helpful for falling asleep.  On the other hand, if you go to bed hungry your mind will be preoccupied with the empty feeling in your stomach rather than focused on counting sheep.  Therefore, try not to eat any large meals within 3 hours of going to bed and have a light, healthy snack if hunger starts to surface within that time period.

Stay Away From Screens

Okay, this is one that I personally have difficulty with but it is an important one to bring up, especially in this generation of technology.  Looking at any type of screen, such as a computer, TV, tablet, or phone can be detrimental to your ability to fall asleep.  The light and movement of the screens’ images essentially “wakes up” the brain making it more difficult to calm down and settle in to rest.  A good rule of thumb is to not use anything with a screen within 1.5 hours of going to sleep; this gives your brain time to wind down and prepare itself for rest.  Looking for something to do in that 1.5 hours? Try journaling, reading a book (a real life book, not on a kindle), coloring in an adult coloring book, drawing, or getting things set up for your morning (setting out clothes, packing lunch, getting gym bag together, etc.). Even if you can’t seem to spare that full 1.5 hours of technology free time, try your best to limit you technology use as much as possible in that time frame, or try going for 30 minutes without screens before bed and see if that makes a difference.

Your Bed is For Sleep Only, Nothing Else!

We all do it, we are having a “lazy day” and do pretty much everything in bed; eat our meals, watch TV, do work (answer emails, study for a test, write blog posts), or just lay there and scroll through social media for hours.  Doing this once and a great while does not have much of an impact, but if you regularly use your bed for these types of activities then this could be leading to sleep troubles.  So if you have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep at night, try making your bed, and maybe even the whole bedroom, off limits during the day.  Try making your bed each morning so that you are not as tempted to mess it up by hoping under the covers when you get home from work.  Training your mind to associate your bed and the room that it is in with sleep and only sleep will help it know what to do more quickly when you finally do get to snuggle up under those covers that you have been thinking about all day.

Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary

This is about activating your 5 senses around bedtime. Find some essential oils that promote calm and serenity (lavender is always a good choice, but there are many others out there), invest in some high quality sheets for your bed and a really soft blanket or pajamas, listen to relaxing music or nature sounds (there are plenty of relaxation sounds on YouTube), and make your bedroom look like somewhere you want to go to relax and unwind.  Use light and calming colors for your walls and decorations and try not to have too bright of lights in the room.  Really set up a space that will instantly calm you as soon as you walk in.

Get Your Exercise, But Not Too Late

Exercising on a regular basis for 20-30 minutes can help tire out our bodies enough to help us sleep with more ease; however, it is important to plan for when this exercise is going to occur in your daily schedule.  Exercising too close to when you are planning on going to sleep can negatively impact you ability to fall asleep.  Exercise does a good job of tiring out the physical body, but it also does a good job of waking up the mind.  So planning you gym time for 9:00 at night will help the body get ready for rest but the mind will be ready to start the day all over again, leading to insomnia.  Therefore, planning your exercise time for the morning or during your lunch break can help wake the mind up and get it ready for the rest of its day and will give it a sufficient amount of time to wind back down before you hit the pillow.

Want even more tips??

These are just a few of my go to suggestions for changes to make in order to improve your overall quality and quantity of sleep.  If these tips and tricks do not seem to help as much as you would like, find more on my Pinterest board on sleep!  Leave any questions or comments that you have on any of the above information!  I hope you found something new that you would like to try tonight when you are preparing yourself for Dreamland.

Best Wishes and Sweet Dreams!

Where Does Our Day Go and How Does Sleep Fit Into It?

How Did We Get Here?

In today’s world where there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything checked off our ever growing to do lists, sleep has become a scarce commodity to many.  We have our 8 hour work days with our half hour (or more) commutes, any errands or shopping that needs to get done, our cooking and cleaning to do at home, an hour or so at the gym, which of course includes shower/dressing and driving time, and maybe somewhere in there we throw in some time with friends and family or an enjoyable activity or hobby.  So if we were to devote as much time as we needed or wanted to all of these tasks in order to do them to our high standards for ourselves, then we are at close to 24 hours right there…so where does sleeping time fit into this impossibly overwhelming list??

Basically what we end up doing is dropping things here and there and prioritizing our days into what “needs” to get done and setting aside what we “want” to get done for later.  For what ever reason, somewhere down the line we, as a culture, have decided that sleep is not one of those things that we need to be prioritizing.  Well folks, I would like to take this opportunity to clear up this myth!

Sleep is one of, if not the most important thing that you do in a day!! (Of course besides breathing and maybe eating, but you get my point)

The Ceaseless Caffeine Cycle

We all feel like we can skimp on a few hours of sleep here and there and compensate for it with our beloved Starbucks in the morning, but it doesn’t work that way.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my caramel macchiato and my chai latte as much as the next blonde, but you can’t effectively substitute good sleep with caffeine.  It picks up your energy level for a little while but then you end up crashing later in the day, leading you to head over to the break room and refill your mug with the room temperature brew from this morning to make it to 5:00.  But guess what? Because you drank that last cup so late in the afternoon, now that serving of caffeine is going to negatively impact your ability to fall asleep and overall quality of sleep throughout that night.  So the next morning we wake up by throwing our buzzing phone across the room, spouting a few “adult words” under our breath, and stomp to the kitchen to make a fresh pot to help us “wake up”… Do you see the cycle here??

Breaking this cycle is a hard thing to do once you get stuck in it.  Weekends can help sometimes to “reset” our sleep schedule or “catch up” on a few hours, but usually by Tuesday we are back to where we started. So how do we break this cycle for good? How do we get the quality and quantity of sleep we need to make it through the day without the equivalent of an IV drip of caffeine? It all comes down to making sleep a priority and understanding the importance of sleep.  If we move it to the list of things that need to get done rather than just a thing we would like to do, then we can allow ourselves to put more focus on it.

Is It Really That Important?

Again, let me make this clear, sleep (or lack of sleep) effects every aspect of you daily life! Let me make a quick list for you of the different areas that the amount of sleep you get a night will impact.

  • Energy level (that’s the obvious one I suppose)
  • Emotion regulation
  • Logical reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Digestion and metabolism
  • Quality of skin, nails, and hair
  • Motivation and productivity
  • Empathy and sympathy

And those are just the aspects that are easy to explain; there are also a ton of body chemicals that regulate various systems within the body that are impacted by the amount of sleep you get.  I am not a biology or neurology wiz so I am not going to even try and attempt to explain all of that, but I hope you are at least starting to see that sleep impacts most of our daily functioning, not only our energy level.

So looking at this list you may be thinking to yourself, “if I don’t get enough sleep and all of these areas of my life are out of whack, am I being my most productive and doing my best work with all of those tasks that I prioritized over sleep?”  Okay, you probably weren’t actually asking yourself that just now but, hopefully, now that I planted that seed you are starting to really consider that question.  In actuality, if we get a full 8-9 hours of sleep consistently every night, in the long run we will be more productive, complete tasks with higher quality, and experience a more stable mood.  So the next time you are considering staying up late to study for a test or get in a quick workout at the gym or write a blog post, ask yourself if this is what would be best for you in the long run. Ask yourself if it would be worth negatively impacting your next few days (because it takes a couple days to get back on track) for that extra couple of hours.  Really be honest with yourself!

To Be Continued…

My hope for this post was to get you really thinking about the impact your sleep decisions have throughout your daily life.  You have the power to choose if those will be positive impacts or negative ones by choosing when you lay your head down at night.  My hope was also to educate you a little about the real importance of getting enough sleep on a consistent basis, and hopefully you learned something that you didn’t know previous to reading this post.

Now that I have stressed the importance of getting adequate amounts of sleep, my next post (hopefully to be posted sometime later this weekend) will focus on tips for getting a better quality of sleep.  I know that sleep does not come easily to every one so I will be discussing what helps and hinders good quality sleep to hopefully help out some of my night owls out there!

If you made it this far, thank you so much for taking the time to give me and my rambling a chance!  Please leave any comments or questions that you have regarding any of the information that I have discussed and I will address them to the best of my abilities.  Also if you have any particular sleep concerns that you would like me to address more specifically in my next post, please leave those below!

If you enjoyed what you have read so far and would like to continue reading about topics like this, please follow my page and visit my linked social media accounts at the bottom of the site to receive more frequent tips and updates!

Best Wishes!

First Blog Post Struggles

I sit here at my dining room table around 9:00 pm on a Tuesday night staring at the bright screen of my laptop trying to find the “perfect” thing to say or discuss in my first post on this blog. Trying to come up with the ideal words is like attempting to recall a dream from the night before; the harder you try, the farther out of grasp it becomes.

So I have decided, within the theme of this blog, I am going to lessen the stress and pressure on myself and simply use this opportunity to introduce myself. If you have read my About Page then some of this will sound familiar, but I promise to open up a little more in the following sentences (but I won’t give all of the good stuff away in the first post because where’s the fun in that?).

My name is Becca Haney and I live in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio called Centerville.  I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and I work in a private practice setting in Dayton.  I work with adolescents, adults, couples, families, and groups regarding a wide variety of mental health, personal, and relational concerns all in the hopes of making some sort of positive impact on the lives of others.  What got me interested in being in this field is a whole other post in itself, but I will say that I have learned a lot more about myself than I expected through the process of learning about and helping others; knowledge that I hope to pass on to all of you.

Going back a little further, I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio (Go Cavs! Go Tribe!) and it was just me and my parents; no siblings for me.  I was a nerd throughout school and I would still classify myself as one today; I now carry that label with honor and pride! I attended college at Miami University (Love and Honor) in Oxford, Ohio and I graduated with my Master’s degree from the University of Dayton (Go Flyers!) just this past May.  So the moral of the story is I am a true-blooded Ohioian.

What you can expect from this blog are weekly posts about:

  • Health and Fitness
  • Yoga (lots and lots of yoga!)
  • Mental health facts and fiction
  • Spiritual exploration
  • Self-care
  • Emotion management and coping
  • And much more…

Also, make sure to follow my various social media accounts that are linked at the bottom of this site to get more frequent tips, tricks, and knowledge about the above topics!

Well, I think that is a good starting point for us to begin getting acquainted with each other.  If you have any questions or comments for me please share them below, I would love to hear from every single one of you!  (Being that I am a blogging newbie, feedback on this first post, either positive or critical, is welcome and encouraged as well)

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day (because whose day isn’t busy nowadays?) to begin this journey with me! I look forward to seeing what this opportunity brings me and I can’t wait to get to know you all through this new and exciting adventure!

Best wishes!