Archive of ‘Personal Growth’ category

My Solocation

 

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Everybody needs some time alone, to get away, reflect, be still and listen. I haven’t taken a solo retreat really since I’ve been married and decided it was way overdue. Wanting to go somewhere out of the city and around natural beauty, I chose a place outside Austin, TX on Lake Travis called Living Waters. It got its name because the water running under the home was blessed by a group of monks before its construction. They host many yoga retreats and offer on-site yoga, Thai massage and holistic personal training.   Described as a B&R—Bed and Retreat, it is just that:  A place to get away from the craziness of everyday life and relax.

I stayed in the Romantic Red Eco Cabin. It was perfect for what I needed—a bed, a mini fridge for my groceries, a wine opener and wine glass. The bathroom was in a separate little eco cabin right next to mine and had a large bathtub and shower. On top of that building is the wine perch to sit and sip your wine or coffee. Although the lake is extremely low, there are still beautiful sunset views.

I enjoyed spending time at the Hamilton Pool, hiking to the Pedernales River, spending quiet time with God, reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and drinking a glass of wine while watching the sunset. I would encourage everyone to take time once a year to get away and do this for themselves. It’s a good spiritual cleansing that will leave you feeling refreshed and at peace. I went with no expectations or plans other than enjoying each second and being led by the Spirit, and I was not let down. I’m looking forward to planning my next solocation!

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3 Daily Reminders

 

Some days we wake up and feel like a failure. We see the glass as half empty and struggle to find the positive side of anything. We just want to crawl back in bed, pull the covers over our head and try again later. Don’t we all feel like this at times? We all have these excruciating days that we just want to fast forward and be done with. We feel defeated and meaningless. I’ve decided to remind myself of 3 simple truths each day when I wake up to help me get started on the right foot.

Here they are:

1. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my creator (Psalm 139:14) who loves me so much that He died for me (Galatians 2:20).

What more could anyone ask for? The word “fearfully” in this verse refers to reverence and respect for our God and “wonderfully” means unique. I am the only me that there ever has been or ever will be on this earth. I mean so much to God that he sent his own son to die on the cross, so that I could have the opportunity to live with him eternally.

2. There is a purpose and a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).

God created me with an idea in mind. He states that his plans for me are good and fruitful. I can rest in knowing that I am taken care of by the creator of the universe, and that He will direct my steps as I follow and trust in Him daily. I can’t screw anything up when I leave God in charge.

3. I am protected physically, emotionally and spiritually by the Armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-18).

My sweet mom taught my sister and I at a young age how to memorize and put on the armor of God in order to be prepared for each day and whatever trial occurs. We even have motions for each piece of armor! I still to this day put on the armor in the car on my way to work (And yes, I still do the motions.) It makes me feel ready to handle anything that happens that day. I know that I’ve got Christ on my side and the battle has already been won.

So, if you need a little lift in the morning, remember these truths and say them out loud. The more you say them, the more you will believe them, and the more you will feel loved and prepared to handle each day!

Top 10 Healthy Stress Relievers

 

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Stress is something that we all encounter in our lives. Some of us are more prone to it than others depending on our personalities. I tend to stress quite a bit, so I’ve got my favorite go-to’s for when I start to feel overwhelmed:

  1. Lavender bubble bath. Hop in the tub and soak up the relaxation that a hot bath and calming lavender can offer you. Let the stress melt away!
  2. Dance. I love a good Zumba class, the kind where I leave looking like I stepped out of a shower. However, sometimes my stress doesn’t coincide with my class so I’ve been known to turn up the music and break it down in my family room!
  3. Hot tea. My favorite is Tazo Zen with a little honey. Although the green tea does have caffeine, something about it calms me immediately. Maybe it’s the name?
  4. Bubble wrap. I know it sounds weird, but there is just something therapeutic about snapping those plastic bubbles. Pop it with your fingers or your toes to release the tension!
  5. Meditation. I like to meditate on my favorite scriptures that talk of peace and hope. Some references are: Isaiah 54:10, Matthew 11:28-30, John 16:33, Romans 15:3, and Philippians 4:6-7.
  6. Calming music. There’s just something about Mazzy Star and Norah Jones that immediately calms me down. Find a song or album that soothes you, turn it on, and mellow out.
  7. Stretching. When you stress out, your muscles start to tighten up. It helps to lengthen them with simple stretches or yoga postures.
  8. Deep breathing. This is one that we know, but we rarely engage in. If you feel the stress coming on and don’t have much time to do anything about it, take a few seconds to breathe deeply, in through the nose, out through the mouth 3 times.
  9. Positive self-talk. Sometimes it helps to just remind yourself that you will make it through this and you can handle it. Remind yourself of other stressful things that you have overcome. Remember, “This too shall pass.”
  10. Playdough. Who doesn’t love this stuff? I love playing with Playdough when I’m stressed out. It has an immediate calming effect. It’s something I use with my clients as well. They tend to open up more when given some Playdough to work with.

These are just a few, cheap ways I conquer stress in my life. Of course, massages are my number one, but unfortunately they’re too expensive to get every time I stress! What are your favorite ways to handle the stress in your life?

Love Languages

 

Chapman quote Marriage is difficult.  It is rewarding.  It is unpredictable.  At times it seems like an uphill battle and at other times, it the best thing that has ever happened in my life.  I know that it is constantly refining me, teaching me, and making me a better person through the tears of joy and pain, and I am honored to experience this earthly representation of Christ’s love for his church.

A couple books by Gary Chapman that have helped our marriage and that I always recommend to my clients are The 5 Love Languages and The 5 Languages of Apology.  If you and your spouse are not speaking each other’s language, you will not feel loved and appreciated.  We typically speak in the language that we like to hear, but most likely, you and your spouse don’t speak the same language (metaphorically that is!)

The 5 languages of love are listed below.  You can go online to take a quiz that will help you figure out your language if you are unsure.  Sometimes you might feel that you speak two languages equally—that’s okay!  In fact, it just allows your spouse to have more options.

Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation

We all need encouragement, but if this is your love language, you need it in order to feel loved by your spouse.  For some, affirmation comes easily.  For others, it’s a real struggle.  If this is your spouse’ language, here are some examples to help get you started:

  • Write little notes of encouragement at night on the bathroom mirror for your spouse to see when they get ready in the morning.
  • Make it a habit to tell your spouse one thing you admire about them daily—maybe over dinner each night or right before bed.
  • When you pray together at night, thank God for all the characteristics that you love about your spouse.

Love Language #2: Quality Time

It’s the quality of the time together, not the quantity.  If this is your love language, you want your spouse to spend meaningful time with you.  Your time together means the world to you.  Sitting in bed every night watching your favorite shows together probably isn’t enough.  Here are some more purposeful options:

  • “Couch time” Many couples have couch time together each day.  It’s the first 10-15 minutes after the last spouse gets home from work.  Even if you have kids, it’s “mommy and daddy time.”  You are setting an example for them that your spouse is the most important person in your life.  During this time, you discuss anything from how your days were to concerns you have that might need further discussion that night.
  • “Date night” This might seem like a no brainer, but many couples forget to continue dating once married.  My parents always went out on Friday nights.  They made sure they did this for their marriage.  They had a babysitter reserved and saved the cash to pay her. By the way, my babysitter became like an older sister to me and I adored her and my time with her!  Your kids might need a break from you as much as you do from them!
  • “Be intentional” It’s easy to say that you hang out with your spouse all the time because you are in the same vicinity.  That’s not going to cut it for the spouse that needs quality time.  So try to be more intentional.  Make out a list of things that you can ask your spouse when you are together.  This can be anything from “If we could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?” to “If we could work more on one aspect of our marriage, what would it be and how will we do that?”

Love Language #3: Receiving Gifts

A thoughtful gift goes a long way if this is your spouse’s language.  This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a pair of Kendra Scott earrings every week or the newest electronics.  Although these things are always nice, it’s not the amount of money you spend, but the thought that counts.  Here are some less expensive ideas:

  • A letter or card.  I keep all the letters and cards that Patrick gives me and he does the same.  I love looking back and reading them to remind me of our love for each other.
  • Make a CD or song list of all the songs that remind you of your spouse and your relationship.  Or if you’re artsy, you could create a painting or picture collage that they could take to their office at work.
  • Buy your spouse a gift card to their favorite store and go with them there to help pick out what they want.  This way you are also spending quality time with them doing something they love.

Love Language #4: Acts of Service

For some, it’s words; for others, it’s actions.  Doing something out of the kindness of your heart speaks volumes for those whose language is acts of service.  Some examples for you to do for your spouse:

  • Ask your spouse at the beginning of the week what they would like you to do around the house by the end of the week and make a list so you don’t forget.
  • If your spouse has had a tough or busy day, make dinner and clean up after dinner without being asked.
  • If you and your spouse have designated daily chores, do theirs for a week, in addition to your own.

Love Language #5:  Physical Touch

So this one is probably the most obvious.  We all need physical touch but if this is your language, it’s super important that you get it to feel loved and appreciated by your spouse.  Here are some ideas:

  • Hug more often.  First thing you do in the morning and last thing you do at night is hug your spouse.  Always start the day off and end the day by letting them know you love them and they come first in your life.
  • Hold hands more often.  Do it when walking down the street, driving in the car, watching a show or while praying.  It something that is so simple but can make you feel closer to your spouse.
  • Make time for each other.  It’s so easy to say that you’re tired and had a long day.  Pick a night each week that you will reserve for your spouse and put some effort into the occasion—massage, bubble bath, mood music and candles?  Whatever will let your spouse know that you went the extra mile for them!

I hope you find this as helpful as Patrick and I did.  We would definitely recommend buying the book for you and your spouse to read together.  You will be amazed at how your spouse responds once you start speaking their language!

Thoughts on discipline

 

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Discipline…ugh.  It’s a topic that I tend to steer clear of on most occasions; however, a trait that we all need nevertheless.  Typically, I consider myself a free spirit.  One who doesn’t like to follow rules—a walk to the beat of my own drum kind of girl.  That makes discipline a very hard thing to swallow.

I like how Julie Andrews describes discipline: “Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”  Her positive spin on an otherwise not-so-fun topic makes it seem more manageable and actually appeals to my free spirit soul.

Think about how much more you can accomplish when you have some sort of schedule to your day.  I know for me, waking up is one of the hardest things to do. However…the days that I do wake up early, I’m always amazed at how much I can get done.  My body also feels better when I wake up around the same time on the weekends as I do on the weekdays.  Now, I’m a sleeper.  In fact—I love me some sleep!  So, since I wake up earlier now, I’ve had to go to bed earlier.  That was quite a switch for this night owl, but the way I feel the next day makes it all worth it!

Exercising is another thing my body needs to feel my best.  There are some days that I would rather die than go to the gym!  I’m tired after a long day at work, stressed out and all I want to do is lay in bed.  However, I know though that going home and lying around will only make me feel worse and lazy.  Have you actually ever regretted exercising?  Probably not!  Usually the hardest part is getting up and actually getting out the door. Once I’m out, it’s go time! So, to make it easier, try setting out your gym clothes the night before.  Maybe you create incentives for yourself for each day you work out?  Do you have an accountability partner?  A partner in crime always makes difficult tasks easier.

For all you teens out there, I know that discipline is the last thing you want to hear about.  So, if you’ve read this much of my article—way to go!  I will say one thing to you: You will be thankful for the discipline you have received from your parents one day.  I know it’s hard to understand that right now, but your parents have limits on you because they love you and want the best for you.  They want you to be ready to fly in this great big world once you leave their nest.  As crazy as it sounds, discipline is the practice that teaches you how to fly and sets you free.

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Acceptance

If there’s one thing that I say repetitively to the teens who I see in my office, it is this: “You’ve got to be comfortable with you!”  However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.  It involves several thoughts—being confident in who you were created to be, being content just being by yourself, and not worrying so much about what others think of you.

1.    Be confident in who you were created to be. 

You were created uniquely you; you are the only you that exists.  Love yourself for the incredible person you are!  Know yourself well enough that you recognize your strengths and weaknesses.  Remember—no one is perfect.  We all have flaws.  When you feel insecure, focus on your positive attributes.  Set goals to improve your weaknesses so you can become an overall stronger, more confident individual.  You were created for a reason, so discover your purpose.

2.    Be content just hanging with yourself.

Independence comes naturally for some, but for others, it’s really difficult and scary to have fun without a friend, significant other, or family member around.  It’s important for you to develop your independence and not become dependent on others for your happiness.  Community is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but people will fail you at times.  When that happens, you need to be comfortable being by yourself.  Have a “happy place” to go where you can reflect, relax, and restore.  Mine most often is a bubble bath with a nice glass of Cab or hot tea.  What’s yours?

3.    Be yourself and don’t worry about what other people think.

As much as we like to think we are not affected by other peoples opinions of us, we all are to some degree.  We have to learn how to look past and let go of others judgments and look within ourselves for the truth.  Honestly, it doesn’t matter that someone doesn’t like my outfit.  They aren’t wearing it, right?  So why should they care?  If things about you bother other people, it’s most likely because they see something in you that they wish they had but don’t.  Their confidence is typically sub par and they make up for it by putting others down.  Keep that in mind before you pass judgement next time.

Get to know yourself and love that face in the mirror looking back at you.  Remember, you are the only you that exists.  You can choose everyday to be your own worst enemy or your greatest ally.  If you choose the former, unfortunately, you have an uphill battle that you will never win.  The freedom that comes from the love and acceptance of oneself is pretty incredible!  Embrace it!

What are your experiences?  Comment below and tell me what you think.  Is there anything that has helped you jump this hurdle or any advice you’re willing to share with others?

Boundaries

boundariesBoundaries are important in every aspect of life.  I recently read the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  Although this book was referenced all throughout my counseling courses in school, I never had taken the time to actually read the book.  I’m so glad I finally did!  For someone who has a hard time saying no, this book was just what I needed.

Some thoughts that I took away from the book:

  1. We are in control of our own lives.  If someone is stepping over our boundaries, it is our sole responsibility to take care of it and communicate our discomfort.  If the boundary crosser doesn’t understand that, then we may need to communicate to them that until they can respect our boundaries, we cannot hang out with them.
  2. Our emotions are our own.  No one else can cause your anger, because you are the only one who can create anger in yourself.  If someone is pushing your boundaries and this makes you angry or upset, you can choose how to respond.  The boundary pusher does not make you angry.  You chose to be angry and you can choose to not be angry anymore.
  3. We are called to treat others as we would like to be treated.  As far as boundaries go, this means that if you want someone to respect your own boundaries, you must respect the boundaries they have set for themselves and do not judge them lest you be judged.
  4. Communication is key.  If someone is not treating you how you want to be treated, go straight to them and let them know.  Don’t hold it inside to where eventually you will explode and don’t go to your mutual friend or family member and complain about them causing unneeded triangulation.  You can lovingly tell someone that they hurt you and together try and formulate a solution.
  5. If you didn’t grow up in a home that valued boundaries you must realize that the older you get the harder it is to set and respect boundaries.  This doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, but it means that others might have a hard time if you’re establishing boundaries later in life.  You must be prepared to handle some negative feedback and answer questions about your new boundaries.

Check out more information on boundaries at http://www.cloudtownsend.com

Goal Setting

 

Everyone makes goals at some point whether you realize you are or not.  We all say things such as, “One day, I’m going to do ______.”  Yes, this is a goal.  In your head, you’ve decided that you, at some point in your life, are going to be someone or do something specific.  As a counselor, I’ve come to realize the importance of setting specific, attainable, and measurable goals.  Without goals, what is our motivation?  What are we working towards?  Goals help us from becoming apathetic, lifeless robots that just go through the motions day in and day out.  Goals bring life!

Here are some pointers to creating working goals:

1.  Know yourself.  Create goals that are realistic for you and your personality.

2.  Make them distinct.  Create a goal providing a specific time frame as well as the steps you will take in order to reach it.  Specific steps are important so that you don’t become complacent along the way.

3.  Vary your goals.  Make short-term and long-term goals, social and career goals, emotional and spiritual goals.

4.  Write them down!  I don’t care how good you think your memory is, if you don’t write your goals down with all the specific steps, chances are, you will not reach that goal as quickly or as efficiently as if you wrote them down with checkpoints along the way.

5.  Tell someone!  Share your goal with a friend, coworker, or family member who will hold you accountable and ask you where you are in achieving your goal from time to time.

Goals require discipline–a word I’m not too fond of, but a subject I will nonetheless touch on in a later post.  I encourage you to set a new goal today and start moving forward in this journey called life!

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