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 Stopping the Thoughts That Rob Your Peace

Anxious thoughts can hold you captive and keep you on a roller coaster of worry and fear. It seems that you are carried along by a cadre of thoughts over which you have no control. These thoughts wreak havoc on your mind and body. Your body bears the brunt of experiencing the hormonal cascade of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol that come with being triggered by a thought that releases anxious energy into the body. The mind is assaulted by being occupied with circular thinking, inability to sleep and idling at a high speed for long amounts of time.

Many people believe that by rehearsing anxious thoughts they are preparing themselves in case bad things happen. It gives them a sense of control to rehearse a negative outcome and how they would react in a variety of scenarios. In reality they are ruining the present by engaging in thoughts and feelings that in no way control the future nor prepare them for what is coming. Anyone who has ever rehearsed the death of someone they love in advance so that they are prepared when the time comes can tell you that it is completely ineffectual, and it robs the days you do have with a loved one of joy, because you are constantly in that space of pseudo-mourning, when instead you could be in a shared place of peace with that loved one while they are still alive.

There are several effective interventions to address these anxious, negative thoughts. First, realizing that anxiety puts you in a position where you are living in the future. You are literally making up scenarios in your imagination and believing in them. Logically it is helpful to realize that it is just as likely that the opposite, more positive scenario may happen. When you realize that you are giving your imagination the power to control how you think and feel, you realize that you have the power to shift the scenario you are envisioning to one that brings peaceful feelings instead.

If you feel you must worry, creating a container for it can give you some relief. Scheduling “worry time” is effective in freeing up some energy for the rest of your day. Tell yourself all day that “now is not the time to worry, I will do that this afternoon from 4:00-4:30.” is a powerful way to clear most of your day of the anxious thoughts that plague you. It is a step towards reclaiming your power over your thoughts.

Allowing your thoughts to pass through your mind with acceptance is another way. Recognizing that “Oh, there is a thought” without judgement that it is good or bad, without becoming engaged with the story behind it is helpful. Notice the thought with your awareness and then pulling your mind back to the present is key to mindfully accepting what your mind is doing. To bring yourself back to the present, engage your senses and focus on the stimuli around you. Notice the feel of your feet on the floor, the feel of the chair to your back, the smell of the coffee on the table, the sound of the birds chirping outside of your window. This mindful presence is the optimal state for all of us to function. If you can master staying present and allowing the thoughts to come and go without interacting with them you will have come a long way towards peace.

Questioning the thoughts is a way to confront their validity and to help you know whether they are worth wasting your time on. Are you worrying about something that cannot be helped? This seems futile. If your thought seems like it could have a solution, brainstorming with a loved one to create action steps may be helpful, rather that ruminating alone without a goal. Once you have an action plan, then executing the steps will give you a sense of purpose. Instead of sitting helplessly wringing your hands, you are accomplishing something and shifting the anxious energy to an energy of motivation and achievement.

It seems the most difficult thoughts to address are the thoughts of the unknown. What if you have to wait on results for medical tests, or wait two weeks to see if you actually achieved the pregnancy you have been longing for, or what if you don’t know if your loved one is telling you the truth about their pornography or drug usage? These situations can consume you and destroy your quality of life if you let them. Engaging in activities of “distress tolerance” can go a long way towards helping you thrive during uncertainty. Positive forms of distraction can busy the mind and keep you engaged in activities that bring you pleasure. Going to a movie, hanging out with supportive friends and gardening are all ways to shift the thoughts away from the anxious situation. Contribution is a very effective way to distract the mind. Donating time to a cause you care about, and doing an activity that contributes to a higher purpose are good ways to distract, but so are doing someone a favor or making someone a nice card for a “just because” occasion. Or writing a letter to a loved one, telling them how much you care. Contributing not only helps distract you from your own painful emotions but it helps one build a sense of self respect and gives meaning and purpose to your life. Doing things for others can be very rewarding, especially when the act is unsolicited. Generating opposite emotions helps. Watching a funny movie when you feel sad or anxious, or listening to soothing music serves as a contrast and helps diffuse the thoughts and emotions.

Addressing the energy of anxiety in the body is another way to free the thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are responding to anxious energy that has become trapped in the body. Emotions are energy in our body that literally want to be expressed or squeezed out. When we refuse to acknowledge them or to address them the energy becomes trapped, putting us on that roller coaster of “what am I going to do?” Noticing where the energy exists, allowing it to be there without judgment and being curious about what it wants to do are the ways to shift the energy and to allow it to release. Drop your awareness to where you are experiencing the energy in the body, and noticing how it behaves, with judging it helps you become familiar with its personality. Energy comes in waves. Notice how it wants to act. Notice the area around the energy. Are you squeezing against it, trying to keep its unpleasantness confined? This is when it becomes a problem. Visualize yourself expanding around the energy and creating a space for it to pass through your body. Visualize the waves traveling from one side of you and out the other side as you practice deep cleansing breaths. Controlling the energy frees your mind to think of other things.

It is not necessary to be held captive to anxious thoughts and feelings. There are interventions that can help. Invest the time to learn and practice these interventions and you will see your quality of life improve today! If you need help addressing these thoughts and feelings feel free to call me at 770-789-0847 to schedule an appointment, or email carolyn@growhealchange.com. For more information see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.