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Inspiration from the Couch

Author: Avery Hoenig, PhD, Jamie Wilson, PhD, and Lucy Smith, PhD

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Ever wonder what tools and advice psychologists are inspired to use in their own lives? Join Avery, Jamie, and Lucy, three psychologists, and moms, as they discuss what they’ve figured out, what they’ve yet to figure out, and what there’s just no figuring out. Through our stories and pearls of wisdom, we hope we can inspire listeners to connect to themselves and others more mindfully, authentically, and powerfully. It’s sure to be fun, and you may learn a little something along the way!
68 Episodes
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In today’s episode, Lucy, Jamie, and Avery discuss the midlife experience. We explore whether it's an actual crisis or whether it’s more about navigating a lot of transitions. We discuss what differentiates this period of life from other times in life marked by well-defined rituals and a map of sorts. We share our experiences with bodily changes, empty nesting, job and marital changes, care-giving of aging parents, etc. We also talk about the positive sides of being in midlife such as feeling more settled, doing less striving, and having more space for “want to’s” vs. “have to’s.”  We talk about doing a “mid life review” to evaluate where you feel satisfied in your life and where you’d like to have more fulfillment. The following questions can help you reflect: What do you want more of in your life? What do you want less of? What is something you’ve always dreamed of doing but never done? What is an adventure you’d enjoy? What people would you like to surround yourself with as you navigate this time period?
In this episode, we talk about the stories we tell ourselves. In intimate relationships, it can be incredibly helpful to notice the stories that we tell ourselves and share them with our loved ones. Often, we’ll find that our stories are inaccurate and talking about them can improve communication and trust with our partners. We don’t just tell ourselves stories about other people - we also tell ourselves stories about ourselves! Sometimes these stories can be helpful (ie: I can’t drink caffeine after noon or I’ll be up all night) and sometimes they can limit our experiences (ie: I don’t like roller coasters). We’ve noticed that a lot of these limiting stories start with “I don’t like…” or “I can’t do that” or  “I am…”  It can be helpful to challenge the stories that hold us back! Jamie, Lucy, and Avery talk about some of the stories we’ve told ourselves and strategies that have helped us to question them. Do try this at home:Notice the stories that you tell yourself and pay attention to how they change when your mood changes.When you notice a story that is holding you back or limiting your experience, challenge it.  How can you use this language: “The story I’m telling myself is…” in your relationships? How can you integrate it into your communication with others?
EP 66: People Pleasing

EP 66: People Pleasing

2022-12-2231:34

Today’s episode focuses on people pleasing. We explore what it is, including how it manifests in our own lives and in the lives of our clients. We delineate some of the pros and cons of this behavior (as there are both ups and downs to showing up this way!), as well as the warning signs that you might be a people pleaser. Some common warning signs include: always saying yes, having a hard time saying no, a pattern of resentment, pretending (to be someone you’re not), over-apologizing, not sharing how you truly feel (withholding, being avoidant), and taking responsibility for others’ feelings. Lastly we discuss strategies to help us shift away from people pleasing, as well as potential barriers that might get in the way. 
The plan was to take a deep dive into “time off,” but as we got to talking, we realized that it’s hard to isolate this aspect of how we spend our time. So we broadened the conversation to the ways we spend our time, with specific focus on time off, time on, time away, time in(ward), and half-ass time (when we’re in no man’s land/purgatory of time, so to speak). We strategize about how we can spend our time over the holidays, connecting this back to our boundaries, knowing what we want/need, and intentionally managing our time in a way that supports being our best selves. Do try this at home: If you’re going to do something, do it (and only it). Do one thing at a time. Set a time limit (and an actual timer) for activities you might get lost in. Practice these mantras: “I deserve time off” and “I am allowed to take time off.” Be thoughtful and mindful about what time off (including when and how) works best for you. 
Happy holidays! Today’s episode focuses on various ways we can celebrate.. We explore the what and why of our favorite holiday celebrations. We discuss some of the ways we can celebrate everyday - the big things AND the small things. We also differentiate when celebrating might slip into overindulgence and entitlement. We then talk about things that get in the way of celebrating such as stress, depression, and anxiety and how celebrating can be used as a tool to boost your mood. As we’re in the thick of the holiday season, we encourage our listeners to focus on their purpose and intention for the holidays, to get clear on what feels celebratory and let go of things that are dreaded, and to be intentional about how to show up (how to be) during this holiday season.
In today’s episode, Jamie, Lucy, and Avery talk about how expectations come up for us in our lives. We notice that expectations can have a negative effect on our daily experiences and can impact special occasions like the holidays. We talk about how expectations can sneak up on us and threaten to “ruin” our experiences. We discuss how expectations feel in our body and some strategies we have found helping in managing our expectations. We talk about the pressure to have the “best holiday ever” and how difficult it can be when the holiday experience doesn’t live up to our expectations.   Do try this at home:Be mindful of your expectations. If you are a person that often falls into the high expectations trap, pay attention to how you are feeling (especially during the holidays).Voice your expectations. Don't keep those things buried deep down inside. It may help if you reframe expectations as intentions or goals. You may find that putting words to your expectations helps to diffuse them. Keep expectations low. When you keep your expectations reasonable and reachable, it is more likely that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by reaching them rather than disappointed when you don’t. 
EP 62: Comfort Zones

EP 62: Comfort Zones

2022-10-2722:56

In today’s episode, Lucy, Jamie, and Avery discuss comfort zones. Comfort zones get some pretty negative press, but great things can happen when we have a comfortable place to land where we can rest and feel secure, confident, and safe. Comfort zones can be, well, comfortable, but they can also become constraining. There are drawbacks to doing things as they have always been done before. Even though it can feel scary at first, pushing ourselves beyond the comfort zone can really be exciting and fun. Because life doesn’t always let us remain in our comfort zones, it is also important to get comfortable with unpredictability and the “new”. We tell some stories about when we have pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones, touch on some strategies that have helped us to manage the uncertainty and fear that come with trying new things and discuss the importance of balancing the “new” with comfortable routines. Do Try This at Home: It is important to prioritize:  if you are really pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone in one way, keeping routines in other aspects of your life may really help. Being  intentional about balancing discomfort to comfort can help you push through the “new”.Pay attention to where your comfort zones are and ask yourself, “do I  truly feel comfortable or do I feel more ‘stuck in the mud’?” Which comfort zones are working for you and which ones get in the way?Sometimes we stay in our comfort zone because we are trying to avoid anxiety. Pay attention to whether you are unintentionally avoiding something that is important to you in an effort to avoid the anxiety that comes up when you think about trying something new. 
In this episode, Jamie, Avery, and Lucy talk about the pros, cons, and boundaries around social media and technology. We briefly discuss our own love/hate relationships with social media and tech. We then explore the pros and cons of this dimension of our lives and how it affects our mental health. We offer suggestions and clues regarding when stricter boundaries around social media and tech might be needed. Lastly, we offer tips and tricks to help us keep our social media and technology usage in check. Do Try This At Home:Set time limits for your social media usage (use an actual timer to alert you!).Ask yourself, “What do I need a limit around? What do I want to foster more of?”Turn off notifications and put your phone on “do not disturb” regularly. Have regular conversations with your kids about appropriate technology use – where are they using technology and where is technology “using them?”Resources:Tawwab, Nedra Glover. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself. New York: TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, 2021.
Settle in and pop on your oxygen mask, as today’s episode is all about taking care of yourself. The Inspiration from the Couch ladies walk you through it all: what is self-care, why it’s important, and what gets in the way. Instead of adding more self-care “tasks” to your to-do list, we frame our discussion as giving yourself permission to prioritize yourself. We walk you through our top 5 permission slips: Permission to Say NoPermission to Ask for HelpPermission to Hit the Easy ButtonPermission to Slow Down, Rest, and SavorPermission to be Kind to YourselfDo Try This at Home:Pick the one permission slip that you need the most and make yourself a bona fide, actual, paper permission slip that you post somewhere in your house (if you don’t want to make your own, you can download ours for our website!)Tag us on social media! #selfcare #permission #permissionforselfcare
Lucy, Jamie, and Avery dive into “vulnerability hangovers,” which is what we experience after putting ourselves out in the world in some way (i.e., after we are vulnerable!). We define the common symptoms, including exhaustion, shame, regret, turtle mode (desire to avoid, withdraw), distraction, overthinking, overanalyzing, tenderness, headache, and insecurity. We explore how this comes up in our clinical work, as well as in our own personal lives. Discussed factors that influence whether or not we have a vulnerability hangover, as well as individual differences in this experience. Lastly, we talk about how to tend to ourselves during these difficult moments. Do Try This at Home:Name the vulnerability hangover when it comes up. Put some words to it!Do things to get out of your head so you can feel more grounded in the moment. Practice compassion and kindness towards yourself. Let all the feelings belong! Anticipate when this might come up, and prepare for how you might take care of yourself. 
EP 58: Let's Begin

EP 58: Let's Begin

2022-09-0128:35

In this episode, Jamie, Avery, and Lucy talk about the concept of Beginner’s Mind. We briefly discuss the characteristics of having a beginner’s mind, as well as things that get in the way such as ego, being the expert, comparison-making, and habits. We share some of our most humbling experiences as beginners. We then talk about how a beginner's mind can be helpful in our daily lives and how “not having it all figured out” can create connection and closeness. We also share the importance of asking for help and having a sense of humor about being a beginner.Do Try This at Home:Ask yourself how you can approach things with a beginner’s mindset.Try something new, especially with others who are also beginners.Take your time. Have a slow approach and drop your expectations.
EP 57: The Easy Button

EP 57: The Easy Button

2022-08-1831:57

Today, Jamie, Lucy, and Avery discuss the benefits of taking the easy way out. We talk about how we inadvertently make things more difficult for ourselves by over-analyzing, over-controlling, people-pleasing, over-planning, and simply forgetting that doing less is an option.  We also review strategies that have helped us to notice when we are falling into these habits and make different choices instead. Do try this at home:Create/choose a physical reminder to invite more ease into your daily life. Whether it’s an actual easy button, a post-it note on your computer, a background on your phone screen, or even a login or password that you have to type often – remind yourself that taking the easier way out is an option. Make a shift in your mindset. Notice the ways that you show up in your life and the ways that you make things more difficult than they need to be. Ask yourself, “How can I let this be light and easy? or “How can I have less urgency? “Perfectionism gets in the way of taking the easy way out. Do an experiment: Put yourself in a situation where you don’t do something perfectly and see what happens.
In this episode, Jamie, Avery, and Lucy talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of vacationing. We briefly discuss the differences in vacation policy between the U.S. and other countries, share some of our own vacation plans, and talk about all the stressors associated with planning, traveling, and being on vacation. We then talk about post-vacation depression and share tips on how to minimize stress so that you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest, Do Try This At Home:If possible, plan a transition period before and after your vacation so that you are less pressured when returning to your normal routine.Plan future trips to have something to look forward to.Set an intention, rather than an expectation, regarding your vacation to be more present. 
EP 55: Dialectics

EP 55: Dialectics

2022-07-2129:37

In today’s episode, Jamie, Avery, and Lucy talk about the concept of “Dialectics,” which is holding two opposite viewpoints that are simultaneously true. This entails leaning heavily into both-and thinking, rather than getting trapped in either-or thinking. We talk through several “dialectical dilemmas,” including: Acceptance (validation) vs change (problem solving)Emotion Mind vs Reasonable Mind (which equals Wise Mind)Rigidity vs flexibilityLie the Fuck Down vs Get the Fuck UpBeing self-less vs prioritizing ourselvesSpeaking truth vs being kindWe also explore some of the factors that make dialectics hard, as well as the benefits of approaching life from a more dialectical perspective. Badass Boundaries: https://badassmethod.com/boundaries
EP 54: Roe v Wade

EP 54: Roe v Wade

2022-07-0727:58

In this episode, Jamie, Lucy, and Avery discuss the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. We focus on strategies to manage the emotional distress that this decision has caused for many of us specifically in regard to politically charged conversations, general empathy and concern for others and the future, and the personal relevance of the decision. We touch on strategies to foster compassion as we each navigate our own response to the decision and our interactions with others. Do try this at home:Know that you are not alone. This is a distressing thing that has happened and a lot of people are very upset.  It's important to allow yourself to feel your feelings and get support for them.There's not one “right” way to manage your emotional response to this. When feeling a loss of control, attending to self and noticing the things that you can control (like your own behavior) can be helpful in managing your emotions. According to grief expert, David Kessler, “Grief doesn’t really get smaller- you get bigger.” Having a network of individuals to support you can help you to be able to handle what is going on.  When you access support that can help you “get bigger”, it can be easier to manage the feelings associated with this current situation. 
EP 53: Essentialism

EP 53: Essentialism

2022-06-2327:25

Inspiration from the Couch book club returns! Today we are diving into Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The tagline of this book is “the disciplined pursuit of less.” We start by defining both essentialism and nonessentialism, comparing and contrasting these two ways of being. We then explore the core mindset of an essentialist, including choice, discernment, and the reality of tradeoffs. Lastly we talk about the 3-step process for becoming an essentialist: explore, eliminate, and execute.  Do Try This at HomeRead the book! We all LOVED it! Shift your mindset to acknowledge that you can only do so much with your time. If you don’t prioritize it, someone else will. If you want to make a kick ass contribution to the world, YOU are your best asset. So you have to prioritize yourself. Ask yourself: “What’s most important now?” (Practice discerning noise from the essential.)  
Waffles and spaghetti are both delicious, but we aren’t talking about food today. We're talking about personality styles. “Waffles” are more compartmentalized with each task fitting into its own little separate square, and “spaghetti” is a more aerial view of interconnected parts. We touch on problem solving strategies and some communication skills that have been helpful to us as we have interacted with the “spaghetti” and “waffle” personalities in our lives.Do try this at home:Appreciate your own personality style and acknowledge ways to use your strengths to manage your weaknesses. Take a look at what processes you have in place and evaluate how you are implementing them. While it may take some energy and time to change to a more intentional process, a more efficient system could definitely save you time and effort in the long run. If you are working with someone who has a different work style, ask yourself, “What is the advantage of their particular work style and how can I complement that?”
In this episode, Jamie, Avery, and Lucy talk about work. We briefly discuss the impact of The Great Resignation on the world of work, share some of our early work histories and what moved us into the world of psychology, and what a “work identity” is. We then talk about the drawbacks of shaping one’s entire identity around career and offer self-reflection questions to help determine whether one is “enmeshed” with career, We also share tips on how to disentangle your self-worth from what you do for work. Do Try This At Home:Fund your time – give yourself permission to free up time by relying more on othersBe intentional about your time – set boundaries around work so that you can invest in other activities.Revamp how you describe what you do to disentangle what you do from who you are. (e.g., I educate youth vs. I’m a teacher; I help others make changes and find meaning in their lives vs. I’m a psychologist).
Ep 50: Distracted

Ep 50: Distracted

2022-05-1232:21

In today’s episode Lucy shares about her biggest current struggle: feeling distracted. She asks Avery and Jamie for guidance on how she can intervene to find more peace and presence. We explore how distraction shows up, both for Lucy specifically and for many of us more generally. We talk about potential culprits for distraction, as well as dive into some specific strategies to help settle our brains and nervous systems so we can be more present in the moment.  Do Try This at Home: Read Deep Work by Cal Newport, and start setting aside time for “deep work”Set limits around technology, one of the biggest contributors to our distraction (e.g., only check email at pre-determined times, turn off notifications, have blocks of tech-free time)Look for opportunities to experience “flow”Practice being intentional with your time (especially leisure time)
EP 49: Teen Frienships

EP 49: Teen Frienships

2022-04-2833:09

One topic that we can’t seem to stop talking about these days is adolescent relationships: with our patients, with our friends who are parents, and at home with our own teens and pre-teens. As a parent, it can be difficult to figure out when to step in, when to step back, and when to step alongside our adolescents as they navigate social dynamics. Recent situations such as the pandemic and the increased reliance on technology for social communication have made connection and interaction even more complicated. In today’s episode, we touch on some strategies that we have found helpful as we make our way through this terrain.   Do Try This at Home:Check out the book, The Power of Validation by Karyn Hall and Melissa Cook for practical tips and great advice on how to offer your kids validation. Another great resource is How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims which covers strategies to appropriately step back and step alongside children throughout their development.As parents, it is really important to ask ourselves how we can slow it down, take a step back, ask a lot of questions, let go of our own desire to fix, control, and manage the situation, and work towards becoming more of a consultant to our kids in certain areas. 
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