5 Reasons Why it is Better To Make a New Year’s Bucket List Than New Year’s Resolutions

Let’s face it, New Year’s Resolutions are a cruel taskmaster. They are just an opportunity to put ourselves on the line one more time and then to guilt ourselves for not following through. I propose that it is better and more effective to make a bucket list at new year’s rather than a list of resolutions. Living our lives as though this year may be our last has many advantages:
1. It is more fun. Electing to “spend one full week with my toes in the sand on a sunny beach somewhere that I have never been” feels a lot more fun than “I will keep my papers organized for my taxes.” Having the added incentive of a reward like a trip to a sunny beach may actually CAUSE you to keep your papers organized so that you are assured of the tax refund that will fund the trip.
2. A bucket list helps you focus on TRUE goals. By really looking at your life as if this year will be your last you are able to clarify what your true goals are, the goals that are lined up with what you believe your soul’s purpose to be. “I intend to spend time daily this year looking deeply into my children’s eyes and sharing authentically from my heart” may not jive as a good resolution but may resonate with your truth when you put it on your bucket list.
3. It feels much more motivating. Example: “I will lose 25 pounds this year” feels like a ball and chain around the leg, doesn’t it? Visions of carrots and celery stretching out before you for 365 days smacks of deprivation and loss. “I will give myself the opportunity to experience life 25 pounds lighter” feels like a gift you are giving yourself. You can practically feel the pounds melting away as your body and mind slip into alignment with this thought.
4. You are more apt to actually follow through on your bucket list than you are on a resolution. When you see your life defined in blocks of 365 days that you will never have the opportunity to live again, you are more inclined to follow through with every exciting possibility. Seeing life as fleeting and temporary gives us a wonderful sense of joyful urgency to grab all of the joy we can while we have time.
5. It keeps you from self sabotage to have a bucket list instead of resolutions. Year after year I hear people beat themselves up about their resolutions and how they failed to keep them. It is a self defeating prophesy for some people to set a goal that is too high, fail to meet the goal and then allow it to reinforce that they are “losers” in their own minds. Our thoughts about ourselves have a direct effect on our moods, our self esteem and our actions. Choosing to give ourselves incentives rather than directives is one way to help minimize the “inner critic” and lessen his effect on ourselves.

Sit down this new year’s and make your bucket list. Really look at it as if this year may be your last. Imagine what it would be like if, at the end of your life, you looked back and felt that you had done everything you truly wanted to do. Imagine the legacy you could leave behind to your family, setting the example of allowing each day to count, making each day vital towards accomplishing all the special and magical things you could dream of in your life.bucket

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Loving Pain

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” Mother Teresa

Many situations in life cause pain. Scorching , excruciating, soul-searing pain. It can come out of nowhere, your lover leaves, you lose your baby, cancer. All destined to turn your world on its ear and to leave you with deep, abiding pain. Alice Cooper described it as feeling like “the man with no skin.” Sleep is evasive, being awake is intolerable, and it feels there is no escape. The only thing that is for sure is that it feels like it will never end.

The more we struggle against this psychic pain, the more difficult it is on us. Like having our wrists bound with barbed wire, the struggle drives the barbs deeper and deeper. The saying goes “what we resist, persists.” There is relief to be had from the pain, but the remedy sounds too radical to be real, too dangerous to risk trying. Believe it or not, love is the cure, because only love heals pain.

There is a point, when you have fought all you can fight, resisted with all your might, and finally have come to the end of your strength, where something amazing can occur. You see, at the end of you lies a miracle, where only the brave dare to tread. It is a place so terrifying, so beautiful, so radical, that I hesitate to direct you there, lest you fear I have lost my mind.

When you’re finished being pissed off, finished fighting, finished trying to create a different outcome by manipulating the world like a Rubik’s Cube, a phenomenon occurs that feels much like what J.M. Barrie describes in his book Peter Pan.  “When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”    When you let go of attachment to “what should have been”, and you roll over in acceptance, you will find that your ego shatters into a million tiny little pieces, and that an ocean of bright, beautiful love comes from your soul, radiating out in a tsunami so violent that it threatens to flood the world. Then you can love your pain.

Yes, I am suggesting loving cancer, and loving loss and loving grief. You see, as terrible as they are, they are your tutors that bring you to this beautiful land of love. They are the signposts on the path to a love so satisfying that it feels like you have transcended this world and have been transported to the next.  This journey is not for the feint of heart, but if you want to weep with joy at the beauty of a sunset, or be brought to your knees by the sound of a bird singing, this is the path for you. It’s only a simple shift. Just roll over from the fighting, the anger, the fear, and decide to love.

By giving up, you save yourself. As Antoine St. Exupery  said, “A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” The journey is not pleasant, few would choose to begin, knowing the cost on the road, but the destination is surely splendid.

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How Technology Can Help Reduce Anxiety Surrounding Child Custody

Custody issues are stressful enough, having to communicate with your spouse or former spouse over them can be a minefield. Being expected to communicate and coordinate schedules with someone that you may have a contentious relationship is at times difficult and at other times impossible. Fortunately technology is available to make communications and coordination easier, and it is increasingly being applauded by lawyers and judges.

Technology also enables the non custodial parent to have more seamless access to their children, enhancing relationships. Online custody management tools, Skype and cell phones have revolutionized how former couples communicate, enabling parents to make arrangements without having face to face dispute and facilitating parent/child relationships. It is a win/win for the children and the parents. Unfortunately, if you aren’t tech savvy the prospect of depending on technology to manage your child custody calendar, medical expenses, communications with your former spouse, communications with your children, child support management, etc may feel daunting.

In helping my clients navigate the waters of the divorce process both before and after, I consider the technology piece a major boon to assist in keeping anxiety levels low during the process. In addition to learning coping skills and interventions to address the inevitable life stress that comes with this transition, getting connected with technology to help make life easier is now a standard part of what I do.

Fortunately there are people who are well versed in this technology and are able to get you set up in a way that will facilitate good record keeping for the court, interaction with your child’s school, coaches, etc, and communication with your former spouse. In my psychotherapy practice specializing in pre and post divorce issues this is commonplace. By taking some of the conflict out of divorce by making communication more collaborative and cooperative we help the parents feel more secure and less anxious. More secure and less anxious parents make for more secure and less anxious children, which in the end, is what really matters.

If you are having difficulty adjusting during the pre or post divorce process, or if you just need some support around the technology, please reach out to a qualified professional to help make the transition a time of growth and discovery for you.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist specializing in pre and post divorce issues and anxiety. For more information please call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.

Anxiety and Divorce: Holiday Style

Going through a divorce is tough, really tough. Going through a divorce during the holidays is excruciating. Everything you have known about the holidays changes, and if you have children it is complicated exponentially. There are few situations that inspire more anxiety than figuring holiday schedules for children and planning how you will fill the hours while they are with their other parent. Even if you do not have children, the holidays represent a death of the norm.

Grieving is normal and natural during this season. Your singleness is magnified by images of happy couples gathered with their happy children around the tree, while you try to figure how you will pay for gifts and groceries on an income that has been decimated. Not spending holiday time with the family that had become like your own can be a painful part of the loss that no one acknowledges.

There is hope for you if you are going through a divorce during the holidays. Despite the fact that nothing feels secure until the divorce is final, you can learn to thrive during the ambiguity. I know that thriving may sound like a stretch. If you are like many, you spend much of the time curled up in bed trying to sleep the time away until the divorce is final and all the arrangements are in place. Learning to live mindfully can help you begin to appreciate your life again. Even though it may feel like you have had a giant bomb thrown into your life, learning to live in the moment can help you get out of bed, put your feet on the floor, and start all over again.

The first step is learning to breathe again. Yes, you heard me, breathe. When is the last time that you took a really deep breath? When we are anxious and grieving we actually forget to breathe. When we focus our attention on our breath, and really notice how luxurious it feels to throw our heads back and take a deep belly breath, we become engaged in the process of life again.

Remembering the little things that we love about the holidays is a big step towards learning to thrive again. A glass of eggnog in front of the fire, the twinkle of the lights at night, the smell of the Christmas tree, the feel of the winter chill on your cheeks when you step outside in the morning are all precious moments if we notice them. It is REALLY noticing the little things, the special moments, that make for quality holidays. When you string together several special moments, you have created a lovely day. Once you have created a lovely day, then you have the pattern for creating a delightful holiday season.

Making new memories is another way to help you flourish during the season. Time with friends, a chance to travel, shopping or seeing a newly released movie can all become thrilling adventures if you reframe how you expect to experience the holidays. Engaging with other single people or joining in celebration with another family can begin a tradition that will provide you with beautiful memories. A nice bottle of wine and your presence may be all that is required in return.

If you are having a really difficult time I recommend that you volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. There are people everywhere who are in need of encouragement, of a warm body to remind them that they still matter, that they are important. It is amazing how connecting with those less fortunate than yourself can give you perspective on your blessings.

The game plan for thriving through the holidays as you are going through a divorce is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. Keep your mind in the moment. Do not think about the future, do not dwell on the past. Take a deep breath, and realize that right now, this very minute, is enough.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach specializing in pre and post divorce support and anxiety. To find out more information call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

Feeling Love in The Midst of Imperfection

Feeling Love in The Midst of Imperfection.

Feeling Love in The Midst of Imperfection

Living in an imperfect world is stressful. Imperfection can look many ways. It can look like an argument with a loved one, being let down by a friend, losing a job or even not being able to pay the bills. When things do not go how we want them to the imperfection seems to mock us and get us twisted into a bundle of nerves. Many of us walk around in distress much of the time due to our circumstances.  Most of the discomfort we experience is from negative emotions wreaking havoc in our body.

We have two primary emotions, love and fear. The discomfort comes from resisting fear and thus trapping it in our bodies. Fear in our bodies can manifest as anxiety and can cause many physical symptoms. Our muscles tighten, we get knots in our stomach and lumps in our throats,our heart rates increase, our breathing becomes quick and shallow when we experience fear. It can feel almost unbearable.

We are hard-wired to have the fight or flight response from the beginning of time. It does not serve us well because we rarely encounter a pterodactyl waiting to devour us for dinner these days. The evolutionary response that saved our lives when we lived among carnivorous beasts is killing us now. It causes our bodies to idle at a high-speed, exhausting our adrenal glands and wearing out our minds with repetitive thoughts of “danger”.

 Fear is literally an energy in the body, as are all of our emotions. When we recognize it as such we are able to visualize control over it, being able to manipulate it and to help it shift. We usually resist uncomfortable energies, because it feels like if we focus on them they may consume us. Actually dropping your awareness into the area where you are experiencing the energy and noticing its presence is helpful in taking away some of its power and causing it to dissipate.

Making a conscious choice to shift to the place of love inside of ourselves is the cure for this discomfort. Fear and love cannot exist at the same time. To make the shift we focus on the area of our heart in our bodies. We begin to call into our presence picture the faces of those we love (their smiles and hugs, picturing them at tender and vulnerable moments), remembering fond experiences from childhood (playing a game, enjoying a toy that we loved so much, playing with a special friend), we focus on gratitude to the universe for all we have.

As we do these things we will notice an energy being created in our chests directly above our hearts and we then begin to consciously visualize swirling that energy of love and happiness down into our entire bodies. Notice how when the energy of love reaches the area of your body that experiences the fear, that you can literally feel the fear leave and be replaced by to love.

The more we practice this intervention the better we become at shifting from fear to love. The ultimate goal is to shift right into love when an anxious thought hits. If we intervene immediately we save ourselves from the unpleasant physical effects of fear. If we learn to exist in that energy of love, we can forgive ourselves for not being perfect, our relatives for not being perfect, out mates for not being perfect, and our circumstances for not being perfect, and we can begin to be alright in the midst of imperfection.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach and energy healer who provides services face to face and via SKYPE. For more information call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

Anxiety and the Horrible Breakup

So your relationship is over? Whether it is a divorce, a breakup with a long time partner or the dissolution of something that you felt would have potential, breakups are painful. My clients report being in literal physical pain after a breakup, and many do not know how to soothe the pain or where to turn to get better. Let’s discuss the energy of ending a relationship.

When a relationship ends there is a grieving process that is rivaled only by death. I have heard some say that death might be easier.  I believe it was Alice Cooper that said he felt like  “the man with no skin” after a breakup. This is echoed by my clients over and over. One client stated that she felt like someone had poured gasoline on her and lit her on fire. This is no small pain.

Anxiety prevails alongside the pain as the major emotion that is reported to me. What will I do now? Will she come back? Is it really over? Will I ever really heal? Having to rebuild a life that you thought would be different is a monumental task when you are in pain and twisted in knots with anxiety. Doubting your ability to make decisions and lack of confidence in yourself comes with the blow to the self esteem. Learning who you are all over again seems impossible, since it feels like half of your identity walked out the door.

I have been told that the feeling of grief of losing someone is the same feeling of loving someone. The difference is the story that the brain is telling about the sensation. Since you are already in that energetic space in your body, you can leverage the energy by focusing on something that you love and dwelling on that instead of the lost partner. Learning to shift out of the energy of grief and into the energy of love is very helpful in transforming the pain. Transform the focus from the lost partner to your dog, or your child, or even your wounded self can help change the story your mind is telling your body.

Allowing the pain and anxiety to flow through your body without resistance is so important. If you resist the waves of pain and anxiety they will set up residence in your body and will be unremitting. If you can focus on your body, visualize the pain there as transitory and actually visualize it passing through you you will find some comfort.

Common advice like the “no contact rule” is hard to follow, but I promise if you block their number, unfriend them on Facebook, and give yourself a chance to breathe, you will feel a small surge in anxiety at first, but you will notice a feeling almost like a buffer between you and the energetic tie to the partner. There may be times that feel almost like panic when you realize that those ties of communication are cut, but if you breathe through the panic, and get really grounded (notice the sensations in your body, be aware of what is going on in the moment, feel your feet on the floor) the panic will pass.

Actually determine what your emotional needs are. Do you need to socialize? Friends are a life line during this time. Lean on them and let them meet some of your social needs. Do you need to spend some time in the cave? Stock up on comfort food and Kleenex and give yourself time alone to lick your wounds. Do you need to keep busy? Make some plans to start a project, finish one, or pitch in to help someone else with theirs. Really knowing what you need during this time will help you process the grief.

 When you love someone, what you are really loving is how YOU feel when you think about that person. Given this, know that you can feel that way again about someone else because the feeling comes from within you. During a breakup it is hard to look for the gift. You will know that you are beginning to heal when you notice that you can look at the things you brought out of the relationship that made you stronger, helped you learn to love deeper, or that made you a better communicator.

In some people the discomfort passes quickly, in others it feels that it will never go away. Learning to function with the pain and anxiety is key to moving on and thriving after a breakup. Look for small things that bring you joy, notice the change of the seasons, really tune in to others, looking for things you have in common. Making deep connections with others is an activity that stimulates oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and can help ease the pain for awhile.

You will get better. One day you will wake up and notice that it does not hurt to breathe, or that you are looking forward to your day. When you can tell your story without wanting to cry you will know that healing is taking place. Until then, be very gentle with yourself. You deserve your love!

The anxiety of what your life is going to be like after a breakup is very uncomfortable, but there are a few things you can do to help you to understand the healing process and to ease the discomfort. If you find that the grief if not passing and that you are not able to move on, maybe counseling or life coaching are an option that could help you. Feel free to call me at 770-789-0847 or see my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.