Category Archives: self-compassion

How I Help with Racial and Political Anxiety

Dealing with the overwhelm of the times

34818D1D-896F-455C-A2B7-6215FC4A3ED5.JPG

It’s been another difficult week, and this week people have had to contend with hearing about more negative interactions in the government, and the possibility of long-lasting terrible implications related to our justice system. Anonymous op-eds, the continued separation between parents and children, deaths of the good ones…the stress from these news events is enough to make anyone anxious.

You might notice you are carrying an underlying current of agitation or feeling hopeless and frustrated (or horrified), even more often than not. You dread hearing about, yet another ludicrous decision made by those in government. You cringe in the face of everything happening, you have heartache in response to the bad leadership we have, you might rather stick your head in the sand, or barely be able to put one foot in front of the other, you feel so overwhelmed. You might feel powerless or enraged. Or afraid for the future.

And you really care – about the impact of this troubled time on your children, your family, your community, yourself. You care deeply about all those people who are struggling so. And often don’t know how to respond or what to do next.

While there is no easy answer, and no one thing that will resolve everything, there are many things that can ease the overwhelm, and continue to bring light into your life. Even with so much suffering going on, it is possible to live a life filled with compassion, courage, and meaning. And even joy.

At this anniversary time of 9-11 and in honor of all the lives lost and devastation that impacted so many, physically, socially and psychologically, I offer these suggestions for living a whole life, even amidst the heartache and wretchedness that surrounds us. This is not meant to ignore all that’s going on and the precarious state of our world; but to provide support and a buoy, if you will, toward strength and well being, especially during difficult times.

Here’s a list of some things I do to help clients who are struggling with the  political/ racial anxiety of the times:

  • As a bilingual woman of color therapist, I offer a safe place where clients of all backgrounds can share deeply about their real experiences, sometimes in the comfort of their mother tongue, and have the experience of being heard, understood and not judged. My warm down-to-earth presence lets them know I get them.
  • Sometimes it helps to simply let my clients grieve their deepest feelings, hold those feelings, and even grieve with them about the world’s sufferings or their own. I invite the depth of the emotion of their woundedness, and often shed tears with them, in my heart or on my face.
  • I honor whatever acts or actions of courage my clients have demonstrated.
  • I encourage putting into the universe small acts of kindness, or sending goodwill to self, to loved ones, to difficult people, to acquaintances, to strangers, and then to enemies, if possible.
  • I advocate self-compassion as a key to empowerment.
  • I encourage listening deeply to each other.
  • I encourage my clients to speak with their wise voice.
  • I support honest reflection and soul searching into oneself, and the welcoming of all emotions, even the difficult or hard to admit ones. I help them to unpack their own biases, and to recognize the damages of internalized oppression.
  • I suggest, teach and practice mindfulness skills as a way of calming the soul.
  • I advocate dance, journaling, walks in nature, yoga, a variety of breathing techniques – and various ways of freeing the body from the bondage of hatred or discrimination.
  • I help couples, and parents and their kids to have calm caring discussions especially about sensitive issues, with the intention of doing no harm, especially when they themselves are triggered.
  • I offer that those of us who are resisting must take great care to not get stuck in the bitter rage and divisiveness and negative thinking of the times, or we become part of the problem and no better than those we are angry with. We must care well for ourselves, so we can continue in the struggle.
  • I remind people that often the turbulence comes just before the true transformation that occurs. I offer hope that things will change for the better.
  • I offer guided meditations, mindfulness apps, body scans, sleep practices and ways of bringing mindfulness into everyday life, in order to build resilience so they can continue on in the struggle without being completely overwhelmed.
  • I listen. And listen. And listen some more.
  • I share a RAIN practice to use when dealing with difficult experiences: R for Recognize (Notice and name what’s happening in the moment); A for Allow (Can I be with what’s happening right now?); I for Investigate (How am I relating to what is happening? Can I do it without judgement or avoidance or resistance?); N for Nurture (How do I care for this distress?).

These are but a few of the ways I help clients to manage the distress and overwhelm of the current negative political and racist society we are surrounded by.

I am also proud to acknowledge that I was quoted in a colleague’s blog, who talked with several therapists to get best ideas for helping clients who are dealing with anxiety related to the difficult and stressful political and racist times we are living in. He is the creator of the progressive mental health directory, Therapy Den. To read the blog of Jeff Guenther, and to get more ideas about how to take care of yourself during these very upsetting times, click here (I’m honored to be mentioned three times): how to cope with political and racial distress.

I hope these suggestions are helpful and thoughtful to you and others. I’d love to hear from you…How are these times affecting you? How do you tend to what’s really important in your life?

Take good care.

If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed and is struggling to find peace amidst all the negative political and racist injustice swarming around, please call me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Tips for Taming the Inner Critic

How to manage that critical inner voice

elf compassion helps to tame the inner critic.

This month I’m starting a series of simplified blog posts. They will be more in the form of lists of best tips on topics like:

  • Favorite and best tips for:
  • Parenting with Mindfulness (being the best parent you can be)
  • Brain building activities
  • Improving intimate relationships – getting along with your partner
  • Dealing with anxiety and stress
  • Dealing with depression and stress
  • Dealing with overwhelm
  • Managing the time you don’t think you have
  • Navigating difficult parenting years
  • Having more family harmony
  • Women of color dealing with stress
  • Taming the inner critic
  • Developing a sense of personal power
  • Helping your child to limit device time
  • Managing difficult emotions (or calming down your Hot Mess)

My purpose is twofold:

I want to present useful information that’s easy to read and digest so you can apply it easily to your busy life. I know your time is precious, and if I can offer you one kernel of wisdom that doesn’t take 20 minutes to read, that will make your life easier and richer, I am all for that. I believe in making mindful practices more easily accessible in everyday life, to everyone.

Second, I have been told by many that I offer too much information – it’s good information, but sometimes difficult to digest because it requires more time. So I am being intentional about putting out the information in more bite-size pieces. Still powerful, but you only need to taste.

I don’t want to give you a firehose to drink from when you only need a sip of water!

Also, I have some professional projects I’m working on presently that require more of my own time and attention than I have left over after writing a full-length blog post. So, good for you and good for me too.

I still am available to hear from you and share ideas you have about living your best life in this challenging world we live in. Please feel free to respond, ask questions, or just share your perspective. Let me know if there are other topics you’d like “tips” about.

Today, here are some tips to manage that pesky inner critic’s voice…

Best Tips for Taming Your Inner Critic

Have you ever had a meditation experience that goes something like this?

“…Oh, it feels so good to follow my breath….My shoulders were so high…I’m just starting to let them drop…I feel myself sinking into the chair… I feel my weight in the chair……I think I’m gaining weight… My pants are too tight. It’s my own fault that I have no control when I walk by the donut shop….I eat when I’m stressed… I should know better than to eat when I’m stressed…Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be meditatingjust paying attention to my breath…It feels so good to just breathe…even though I’m sure I can’t even breathe right….Nowhere else to be…Nothing else to do...My to do list is so long – I can’t finish anything on it. Everyone else does such a better job. The one thing that’s been on my list for so long is to call my friend…It’s a terrible thing when I say friendships are so important to me and yet I don’t call them  back…I’m such a bad friend. I’m sure they’re annoyed with me…Don’t think about that right now! Just ‘meditate’!…I’m supposed to be meditatingJust breathe naturally...what’s the point of this anyways? All I do is think about everything else.  I can’t control my mind. I can’t even meditate right. I’m not good at this….WHAT? It’s time to stop already? I’m such a Hot Mess!…I wish I could just take a breath….”

This mind chatter often comes up when one is trying to create space through meditation or mindfulness. Then it just makes people feel bad and feel as if there is something wrong with them that prevents them from meditating right.

If you notice, this kind of mind chatter also comes up everywhere else in all kinds of circumstances and situations (like having dinner at a friend’s house, at a meeting at work, when your partner is complaining about their day, when your kids are stressing you out…).

Usually, it’s not friendly mind chatter. Usually, it’s a mean or critical inner voice that tries to take over…

Everyone has an inner critic. Here are some tips to keep your inner critic from ruining your life:

  • Soften your Hot Mess voice. Try to speak your feelings from the heart.
  • Speak to yourself like you would your child, or pet, or BFF.
  • The negative inner voice can negatively affect relationships with yourself and with others. So be gentle.
  • See the inner voice as a bubble of words coming out of your head… Poof it away.

Whenever you hear that tone of “you’re not good enough“, let that be a cue that this is not something you have to listen to closely – you won’t be tested on this.

Hold your inner critic with care, compassion – befriend it, get to know it and what it’s protected you from. Describe it. Ask questions of it (like what does it need? What’s it here to help you learn?).

Don’t try to get rid of it – just lessen its power.

Anytime you’re beating yourself up for making a mistake, not knowing, not being good enough, you’re treating yourself in an abusive way – taking away your own personal power, and victimizing yourself. Try treating yourself with compassion instead.

Instead of bringing criticism to the critic’s voice, bring curiosity, openness, inquiry.

See what it needs. What are its fears? Consider treating your inner critic with kindness. Problem-solve with it.

Know thyself. Know your feelings, wishes, thoughts, decisions. And speak them kindly to others, and especially to yourself.

Your Inner Critic can be associated with depression, anxiety, perfectionism. Catch yourself when you’re not letting your Inner Supporter get a word in edgewise.

Don’t be critical about the critical inner voice. Lots of times people don’t like to meditate because it brings up their inner critic and they think they’re doing it all wrong.

Inquire as to what are some favorite topics of your inner critic? Give a name to your inner critic (i.e. Zelda). Relate to it. See the inner critic as being in your corner. Appreciate it and that it cares about you and really wants you to live your own best life (though it might be awkward about how it communicates that to you).

Recognize and greet it when it shows up, but don’t let it be the only one you talk to you throughout the whole party. You must appreciate it, but keep a boundary – don’t let it be mean to you. When you notice it being mean, say “Get thee behind me Zelda!” Or something else a little dramatic and silly.

Using humor is one way of softening the inner critic’s voice.

Focus in on your values. When behavior is driven by things innately important and meaningful to you, that is a more powerful motivator than the critic demanding you to do something.

To clarify values, think of the happiest and most content person you know – somebody you admire most, and write down what traits make them so. Also when you’re dead and gone what do you most want to be remembered for? Write those traits down. These traits are indicative of your core values. Better to use these as a motivator than the inner critic.

Often times people are reluctant to let go of their inner critic because they think they won’t do anything and they’ll be lazy. It’s way better to motivate yourself with values than with self-punishment.

It’s not about getting rid of the inner critic, just know when to listen or not; or be able to turn down the volume of it.

You can have good self-esteem and still have an inner critic. You must be able to discriminate when to pay attention and when is it just noise.

Everyone has an inner critic. Some good ways to handle it are to picture it on a volume control knob that you can turn down. Or as a barking dog tied to a tree and you just keep on walking by. Or you can tell the inner critic to shut up. Or ask the critic what it’s trying to teach you and try to figure out that lesson. You can argue against it.

People who listen passively to the critic end up feeling terrible. This can then connect to depression. To defend yourself or make it a learning experience or take some action with it is more helpful.

Pay attention to how you decide when to listen to that voice and when not. Often it never occurs to somebody that they don’t have to listen to that voice.

Something silly but profound to try:

  • Say out loud what that voice usually says internally, for one minute.
  • Pick a cartoon character or funny voice and say all the exact same things again out loud, but with that funny voice.
  • Notice where the location of that voice is in your body.
  • Move the voice to come out of your body from a different place like you’re butt, or from your big toe, muffled through your shoe. Say again out loud, but only for a minute, those things your inner critic typically says, from that body part or with that voice. Notice how ridiculous it sounds. Let yourself laugh with kindness about that voice. This might seem superficial but can really reduce the power of the inner critic.

So these my best tips list for today. Do any of them resonate with you? I’d love to hear how you’re getting along with your inner critic, and any wisdom or challenges you’re aware of.

If you or someone you care about is having a hard time taming that inner critic, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445