Category Archives: Inspiration

40 Symptoms of a Healthy Woman

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

In a recent session with a client who is struggling with depression, we were discussing some healthy things she could begin to do for herself. She was well aware of the symptoms of depression but she wondered, aside from the obvious, about the “symptoms” or signs of a healthy woman. She asked me if there was a list I could compile for her, and I thought I would share what I came up with. If you notice something I left out, feel free to let me know!

P.S. I asked my husband, Steve Legallet (who is also a psychotherapist), how he thought this list could work for men. He said that I could basically exchange the “shes” with “hes” and it would totally hold up.

40 Symptoms of a Healthy Woman

1) She takes care of her body and treats it with respect.

2) She eats well and doesn’t under-eat, binge, or purge.

3) She moves her body in ways that feel good to her and rests without an ounce of guilt.

4) She gets an adequate amount of sleep and rest. If she has difficulty sleeping, she sees it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and/or other relaxation techniques.

5) She does not abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, or screen-time.

6) She maintains a good balance between resting and accomplishing things (being and doing).

7) She maintains a good balance between being with people and being alone.

8) When she is alone, she enjoys her own company.

9) She treats herself like she would treat a child she adores or her best friend.

10) She has a loving, kind soundtrack of thoughts that play in her mind and when unkind or unhelpful thoughts pop up, she challenges them.

11) She has a good relationship with her emotions. She cries when she’s sad and expresses her anger and frustration respectfully. She welcomes all her feelings and either sits with them, reaches out to safe people, or gives herself what she needs.

12) She is able to grieve her losses and treat herself kindly in the process.

13) She reaches out for support when she’s struggling.

14) She has made peace with the past and also acknowledges and honors her past hurts when they arise.

15) She can tolerate anxiety and change without catastrophizing.

16) She spends a lot of her time in the present moment rather than lost in the past or the future.

17) She spends time doing things for the sheer pleasure of it rather than always thinking she needs to be accomplishing something.

18) She makes time for things that fulfill her and are important to her.

19) She is able to compromise at times without compromising her values or her core needs.

20) She follows her heart and gives herself time to get clarity if she is unsure about something.

21) She maintains a balance between giving to herself and giving to others.

22) She knows that hard times will pass, and she is extra sweet to herself when life feels extra hard.

23) She uses supportive tools (journaling, reaching out to safe people, spiritual practices, reading, therapy, podcasts, etc.) when life gets hard instead of using substances, negative self-talk or unhealthy behaviors.

24) She feels lovable and worthy regardless of the circumstances in her life.

25) She looks for opportunities to practice acceptance and gratitude.

26) She is aware of her finances and lives within her means.

27) She uses her finances to both treat herself and be responsible for herself.

28) She can accept compliments without disclaimers.

29) She doesn’t expect herself (or others) to be happy all the time and uses her struggles as opportunities to get support and be kind to herself.

30) She expresses her thoughts, feelings and needs in a respectful, mature manner and respectfully listens to other people’s thoughts, feelings and needs.

31) She spends time with people she feels safe and aligned with.

32) She sets limits with others when she needs to. She can say “no” or “I need to change my mind” on occasion without thinking she is a terrible person.

33) She does not spend time comparing herself to others. She knows that everyone struggles and that nobody is better than or less than she is.

34) She does not give other peoples’ opinions more weight than her own.

35) When confronted with disagreements, she values the other person’s point of view and also checks in with herself to see if she agrees, disagrees, or needs more time to think about it.

36) She can hear and consider difficult feedback from others without attacking them or herself.

37) She can apologize to others and forgive herself for her humanness.

38) She can forgive others for being imperfect and move beyond relationship glitches.

39) She can be in her strength without being disrespectful to others. She can be in her softness without being disrespectful to herself.

40) She doesn’t think she needs to be perfect at anything — including any of the above!

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How Many Likes Are Enough?

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

As a therapist who enjoys writing, several years ago I decided to hop on the blogging bandwagon. Having received a moderate number of likes and positive feedback, it seemed for a while that nobody was worse for the wear and maybe a few people even benefited. Then came the day when one of my blogs seemed to strike a chord. A friend called me first thing in the morning and excitedly said, “You have thousands of likes on your new blog and they are increasing by the minute!” “That’s great,” I said. “But maybe the counter is broken!” So, with a little bounce in my step, I headed over to my computer and sure enough, the “likes” were on a roll. Cool, I thought. After all, who doesn’t like to be liked?

Although some may refer to us as the Like Generation, wanting approval is nothing new. It’s human nature to hunger for praise. As babies, we crave the “oohs” we receive when our parents are pleased. As young kids, we feel gratified when we hear “Great job!” As teens, we long for the constant approval of our peers. As adults, most of us seek the approval of partners, friends, family members, bosses, teachers and coaches. It seems our approval-seeking never ends.

So, what about my thousands of likes? Well, a few hours after that phone call from my friend, I received a text from another friend. She wrote, “Love your new blog but you might want to pass on reading the comments. There are some pretty negative ones out there.” I thought: Wait! What? N-n-negative c-c-comments on the H-h-huffington Post? I’m just a small town writer sharing a few personal stories and tips!

While I used to strive for a black belt in people-pleasing, I like to think I have come a long way in my quest to retire from that role. But for me, the HuffPost is where the people-pleasing rubber meets the public access road. Is it fine that I get tons of likes and fine if I don’t? Are negative comments perfectly okay? Can I feel good about myself on the inside, no matter what happens on the outside–in the blogosphere?

For many years I have admired the Buddhist principle about striving to have the essence of a tree; striving to be so sturdy on the inside that even if strong winds blow, you will not blow over. Even if birds poop on your branches, you will not uproot yourself. (The bird poop part is mine, not part of the Buddhist principle!) So, am I finally as sturdy as a tree?

When we seek approval from outside our selves, it is a never-ending search. Not only are we at the mercy of other people’s ever-changing opinions but circumstances are always changing as well. We might make one friend happy but another is disappointed in us. Or we might please our partner one day but not the next. Perhaps our boss is happy with a new project we just completed (Yeahhh!) but is disappointed in the next one (Uh-oh). Or, we feel good about accomplishing a bunch of chores (I rock!) but our spouse points out the projects we haven’t yet gotten to (Grrrrrrr).When we constantly seek and need outside approval, our self-worth seems to go up and down like the stock market.

The need for self-approval (or self-likes, if you will) can be similarly unrelenting. Do we give ourselves credit for taking steps toward accomplishing a particular goal–or are we so hard on ourselves that we must achieve the pinnacle of success in order to warrant a self-pat on the back? If we wait to give ourselves the approval we need until our to-do lists are completely accomplished, our goals are thoroughly achieved, and our positive comments are at 100%, we will be waiting a lifetime. If we live for those likes, we will constantly be striving, waiting, wanting and hoping.

But if we praise and appreciate ourselves regularly then we already have what we are wanting from others. There’s no waiting, no hoping, no needing and no monthly fees or dues! We give ourselves what we have been seeking from others and… voila! And when we truly know that we are okay and likeable and enough (even with our imperfections), we won’t need to go looking for that approval outside ourselves and we won’t crumble if we don’t get it because we’ll already be liked by the only individual who can truly make us feel that we’re okay.

If we regularly give ourselves the love and approval we seek and need, then we won’t have to go looking for it. We don’t usually look for something if we already have it. We don’t go looking for our keys if we already have them in our hand. (Well, at my age, I sometimes do so let me try that again!) If your gas tank is full, you’re not likely to pull into a gas station to fill it up. We only go looking for what we don’t have. So if we are regularly filled with self-love and self-approval, we won’t need to look for it from others.

Some people think that if they stop criticizing themselves and start praising themselves regularly, they will lack the motivation to succeed. I usually find that the opposite is true. In fact, I often challenge my clients by suggesting that when they find themselves wanting approval or recognition from someone else, that they give it to themselves. Then they can discover how that feels and how that might motivate them. This does not mean that we do not ask others for recognition now and then, it simply means it’s not a self-worth deal breaker if we don’t get it!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly thrilled by negative comments. But I no longer crumble or turn the negativity on myself or others. And I hope, if you receive less than positive feedback, you will not turn on yourself or others either! So give it a try. See if you can begin to give yourself the likes you are wanting from others. See how it feels to give yourself what you have been trying to get. Oh, and if you want to like this blog, that’s fine; and if you don’t, that’s fine too!

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Warning: Self-Kindness Can Be Habit-Forming!

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

One of the most common themes I have noticed with my clients over the years is self-criticism. Regardless of the presenting issue — be it depression, anxiety, addiction, relationship conflicts, you name it — so many people are unkind to themselves, in thought and in actions.

I work with people all the time who have developed a habit of beating themselves up. They habitually call themselves names like loser, fat, ugly, weak or stupid. If they were to speak to others like they do themselves, they would likely get fired or lose friends. They would certainly unfriend someone on Facebook who was calling them names day after day.

In addition to speaking to themselves unkindly, some people routinely treat themselves unkindly by eating when they are not hungry, not eating when they are hungry, eating what they think they should eat instead of what they truly want, drinking caffeine when they are tired and need to rest, saying “yes” to someone when they really want to say “no,” or stuffing their true feelings and thoughts because they are afraid to speak honestly.

We human beings tend to be creatures of habit. The more we do something, the more we tend to do it. Some habits are not a problem. In fact, certain daily rituals can be an important part of self-care or part of what brings enjoyment into our lives. As long as nobody gets hurt, some habits can be wonderful. But many people get into the unhealthy habit of being unkind to themselves. The good news is that learning to turn unkind thoughts and actions into kind ones is not only healing but it can be habit forming. The kinder you are to yourself, the more natural it becomes.

So if you have been struggling with self-criticism and self-care, here are some tips for you. But beware: they can be habit forming!

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

I’m not sure self-love was what Ice Cube had in mind when he rapped the words, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself,” but I do think awareness of how we are treating ourselves is the only way to break or make a habit. It is so easy to stay busy in our task-oriented, plugged-in, highly-medicated world and forget to check-in with ourselves and question our habitual thoughts and behaviors.

Upgrade Your Thoughts

Our thoughts have the power to elevate or deteriorate our sense of well-being. If we are thinking unkind thoughts about ourselves, we are going to be unhappy, depressed, anxious, or addicted. We simply will not thrive. However, if we can delete those old internal recordings and upgrade them to kinder ones, our lives will be transformed — even if the circumstances around us do not change.

So check-in with yourself throughout each day, and ask: Is this a kind thought — or am I engaged in “stinking thinking” (as the 12-step program refers to it)? Am I thinking kindly toward myself, my emotions, my body, and other people? Or am I being unkind toward myself, my feelings, my body, and others? If we checked our self-talk as often as many of us check our emails, texts, and Facebook, we would be well on our way to a more peaceful existence!

Upgrade Your Actions

In addition to checking in on our thoughts, we need to keep a check on our actions in order to experience better health. We live in a no pain, no gain culture that encourages us to skip meals or eat foods we may not even like; to load up on caffeine rather than rest; to say yes even when our intuition says no.

So see if you can begin to increase your awareness around the actions you are taking each day. Do your actions reflect kindness toward yourself? If not, how can you upgrade them to kinder behaviors? One client who was saying yes when she really felt no, gathered up her courage and told the organization she had overextended herself to that she would no longer be able to hold the position she had signed on for. Another client who was turning to excess sweets at the end of a long work day created a sweet ritual when she got home that involved stretching, journaling, and a cup of tea — all things that left her feeling refreshed, as opposed to the sweets that felt good going down but left her feeling horrible.

Changing old habits is not easy but neither is living with self-defeating ones. With awareness, willingness and practice, you can learn how to speak kindly to yourself and treat yourself sweetly. And before you know it, you will have picked up a healthy new habit!

View on The Huffington Post

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Genuine Surrender

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

Having been around the spiritual book block a time or two (umm, make that more like 2,000!), I am no stranger to the concept of surrender. If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard it and read it a thousand times too: “What you resist will persist,” “Let it go and see if it flies back,” etc. I don’t know about you, but when I want something, the last thing I am inclined to do is let it go and see if it comes back. And yet, everything I have ever read regarding the laws of attraction and the foundation of spiritual principles has led me back again and again to this: Obsessing and excessive efforting equals misery and usually does not help in attaining my goals, whereas letting go and surrendering brings peace and is often accompanied by some pretty magical experiences. (And if nothing magical happens to occur, if there has truly been a genuine surrender, then peace ensues anyway, which is really the end goal of any goal in the first place!)

Case in point: I spent decades obsessing about relationships. You know, finding Mr. Right, my significant other, my life partner. I dabbled on Internet dating sites, I dabbled with blind date set-ups, I dabbled at parties and gatherings with my mate-matching antennae up high. And not once did anything akin to magic occur. What did happen was a lot of frustration, a lot of feeling unlovable, a lot of mismatches and a lot of painful comparing myself to couples who appeared to be so content.

Eventually came my genuine surrender. I was about a decade into my fruitless search. I remember complaining to a dear friend about a recent dating fiasco and she said, “You know, as long as I have known you, you have been trying to find a partner. What about letting go of trying and just enjoying your life as it is?” Well, I never! I thought I was enjoying my life. I thought I needed to seek a partner in order to deem myself worthy. But, I realized, she did have a point. I had been quite the little “trier.” So, I decided to try to let go of trying. Oh this being human stuff is so complicated, isn’t it?

So, I surrendered. Not the pray with clasped hands and one eye closed while peeking with the other eye to see if my prayer is getting answered kind of prayer. It was a genuine surrender. I truly let go. I decided that my life really was wonderful. That I really was enough, with or without a partner. I decided to just live my life and focus on what I already had instead of what I thought was missing.

My favorite definition of unhappiness is this: “Unhappiness is the exact distance between where we are and where we think we should be.”

I think the opposite is true as well. The definition of happiness is, “Wanting to be where you are.” (After all, we are right where we are anyway, why not enjoy or at least accept it!) Now, I have nothing against a good ol’ goal or two, but when we think we are not okay now and will be okay “when,” it is a set up for never feeling okay!

So, back to my story. I truly let go of looking for a partner. I decided to love my life and myself and let go of the idea that I would only be okay if I was partnered. It wasn’t a fake it till you make it kind of let go. It was the real thing.

And about a year or two into my genuine surrender, I accepted an invitation to go a beach bonfire with a friend. I had no intention of meeting anyone special. I simply had the intention of going to the beach for a bonfire. Period. I didn’t even try to dress cute. I went with my black hoodie, black hat, Unabomber look. And it was there that I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in decades. We learned that we were both divorced. We learned that we had a lot in common, and the rest, shall I say, is genuine surrender history! The main point here is not that I met my wonderful husband at the beach. It’s that I would have been fine if I hadn’t.

I always wonder why the universe gives us these gifts when we let go. Don’t we need them a tad more when we are desperately searching and in need? Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of teaching us the lesson of letting go, but I can’t begin to speak for the universe! I can only speak to my own and countless clients’ experiences. Genuine surrender leads to genuine peace and it’s often followed by some genuinely cool things. If it’s not though, you are already at peace, which is pretty cool in and of itself!

A similar thing happened around my body image. I spent decades on one diet or another. Each one eventually led me back to bingeing, and I was pretty lost in a life of painful and extreme weight fluctuations. I was convinced that losing weight would make me happy. Not only did it not make me happy, I was so starved, deprived and obsessed from every diet I embarked on that I always ended up rebelling and gaining back the weight I’d lost.

Then one day out of the clear blue internal insanity of a chronic dieter, it occurred to me. What if I let go of trying to make my body look different than nature intended it to and just try to eat what I truly love in loving amounts? What if I genuinely surrender? What if I don’t look like the media has led me to think I should look but I am saner with food? What would possibly be worth more than freedom and peace? And for the first time in my memory, I let go of wanting to lose weight. I didn’t go to the extreme of bingeing and giving up on myself, I simply decided I would eat lovingly, let go of dieting and let my poor body finally do what it wanted to do. I figured if I could have butter on my bread instead of no bread followed by bingeing on a whole loaf, it could only lead to some form of freedom.

And, for the first time in my entire life, I truly let go and I truly got what I had been desperately and unsuccessfully seeking for decades: peace of mind. I no longer had to diet and eat tasteless food and I no longer needed to binge on all my previously forbidden foods. My body eventually settled into it’s natural shape and I was left with my thinking and a much freer existence!

I could go on and on with examples but you hopefully get my point here. See if there is something in your life you can genuinely surrender. See if there is something you can make a peace treaty with. See what happens. If something magical occurs, great. If not, peace is pretty magical in and of itself.

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How Are You Spending Your ‘Dash’?

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

I remember many years ago, I was treating a 14-year-old girl who was struggling with an eating disorder and depression. In one particular session, we were talking about her hopes, fears, and regrets. (You know, those light, small-talky topics we psychotherapists tend to bring up!) This young girl told me she was afraid that if she kept going the way she was — starving herself and hating her body — that when she died someday, her tombstone would say, “Here lies Jane. She spent her life trying to lose weight.” Having spent the prior decades of my own life lost in food and weight obsession, I related only too well to her fear of wasting precious time worrying about what she eats and how much she weighs.

Not long after that session, I read a poem to this young girl, entitled “The Dash.” If you haven’t yet read this insightful poem, it basically highlights the fact that when we die, our tombstone will have the date of our birth and the date of our death. And in between those two dates is a simple dash. This small punctuation mark represents our entire life.

What will we do with our dash? So often, we live our lives as if we have forever. As if our weight or our wallets are the most important things. Many people spend so much time worrying what others think of them instead of feeling good about themselves and fulfilled in what they are doing. Too many of us live our lives according to society’s rules of competing and achieving, rather than following our own internal guidance and listening to what we truly want and need.

I will never forget the last day at a therapy conference I attended in Hawaii many years ago. I was browsing in a little store on a remote part of one of the islands. A local woman entered the store and the owner who apparently knew her said, “Hey, what have you been up to?” The patron responded, “Anything I want.”

It struck me how many of us do anything but “anything we want.” Granted, I know we have jobs to show up for and children to raise. I am not suggesting we all live on an island and mosey around all day — though not a bad idea from time to time! But I have counseled countless clients who were living lives that did not feel authentic to them. Young teens playing sports that they didn’t even like but were afraid to stop for fear of not living up to their parents’ expectations. Older clients in careers that they hated but who felt they had no other options. One client confessed that she was going to school for a career that her father had pursued and encouraged her to pursue, but one that she was not truly interested in at all.

And then there are those who are afraid to rock the boat in unhappy relationships. Afraid to speak up, afraid to express their needs or feelings, they become trapped in a situation that does not make them feel happy, safe, or satisfied.

Too many of us do things we do not really want to do and avoid the things we truly dream of. Again, I realize we need to put food on the table, pay the bills and do our chores; we can’t all simply follow our every whim, idea, or dream. But we can stop and ask ourselves from time to time if there are things we can do that would make our lives more pleasurable and fulfilling. Or perhaps there are things we can stopdoing that we really don’t feel aligned with. Even small changes can make a big difference. It doesn’t have to be a radical career move or relocation to a remote island!

Unlike my 14-year-old client who was wise beyond her years as she reflected on her tombstone’s inscription, it took me many years to start living my “dash” in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling. For too long, I lived a life that wasn’t truly me.

I sometimes wonder when I hear about someone’s untimely death if they spent their last day feeling fat or skipping breakfast. Were they eating things they really enjoyed and doing things they truly loved? Were they telling the truth in their relationships? Were they living a life that felt authentic to them? Did they think they were enough?

How are you spending your “dash”? Does your life reflect who you really are? Do you fill the hours in your day with people and things that make you smile, pique your interest and open your heart? If not, is there one small thing you could change to move in that direction? See if you can take just a moment now and then at work, school, during your chores or child rearing, and ask yourself: How am I spending my dash?

View on The Huffington Post

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Can Our Connections Last If We Multitask and Move Too Fast?

By Andrea Wachter, LMFT

At the risk of sounding like my great-grandmother, longing for the good ol’ days, I can’t help but think back on simpler times when people would come home from work, throw their mail down on the counter, check their answering machine for messages and call it a day. These days it’s more like checking voicemails while driving home, checking emails and Facebook once we arrive, Tweeting out something clever, and Instagramming some selfies while checking the queue on the DVR!

Now I have nothing against modern technology. I think it’s miraculous and revolutionary. Yet I often find myself wondering, can we be connected to our devices all the time and still be connected to each other and ourselves?

Recently, while driving home from my office I was stopped at a crosswalk waiting for some kids to pass by on their way out of school. I saw what I considered to be a very sad sight. A mother (or some type of caregiver) was walking several feet in front of a young boy who couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old. The woman, engrossed in her handheld phone, was looking straight down as she walked. She was busy texting, Tweeting, Instagramming or who-knows- what-ing. The kid, walking a few feet behind her, hung his head low, shuffled his little feet in an attempt to keep up, and even stopped a few times to readjust his overstuffed backpack and his oversized baseball cap. The woman never even noticed.

My heart broke. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to picking up kids after school and asking about their day? So, I turned off my radio, put down my sandwich and promptly told my sister I needed to hang up the phone! I’m exaggerating here to make a point — I merely turned my radio down! All kidding aside, I am as guilty as the next multitasker. I often do more than one thing at a time, and I too have several devices I ritualistically check every day. I am as plugged in as the next person.

But I wonder, can we be so connected to the Internet, Facebook and our smart phones and still be really connected to ourselves and to others?

So, as I waited in front of the crosswalk for the rest of the students to pass, I flashed back to some recent memories: an entire family at dinner in a restaurant, all of them on their smart phones, looking straight down while they waited for their food; a couple walking together on the beach, both talking on their phones; people driving next to me, looking down and presumably texting! These images are now commonplace. Believe me, I am not judging here. I recently lay down for a few minutes to watch TV and received a call on my landline. Shortly after, while on the phone with my TV on pause, I heard an email come in, followed by a text ding on my cell phone. I practically had to restrain my own hand to keep myself from checking my devices while on the call! I comically imagined a cartoon pop up in my mind. Me, juggling my remote and handheld devices while a police officer with a megaphone called out, “Put the remote and the mouse down and put your hands where I can see em’, ma’am.”

Can we find a middle ground here? Maybe not so far back as kicking tumbleweed down Main Street, but at least spending some quality time with the people in our lives and putting down our devices sometimes so we can be present with them and ourselves? And at the very least walking across the street with our kids, together? Sharing a family meal together? Perhaps occasionally doing one thing at a time?

I’ll try it if you will! The next time I walk my dog, I will resist the urge to call my sister, check my emails and return texts, and I will simply just walk with my dog! Maybe we can all experiment and make an effort to slow down and, on occasion, stop and smell the decaf. If you do, let me know how it goes. If you email me, Facebook me or Tweet it out, I promise not to read it while I’m talking on the phone!

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