Working out is not your therapy

You still need to do the work

By Jessica Militello

Working out in its many forms has tons of benefits; it boosts your mood, it keeps you in shape, and it keeps your body healthy. Getting moving is a great way to help you cope with anxiety and depression, and it certainly helps to get your mind off of what ever may be troubling you, especially if the workout is intense and fun. It gives you an outlet to relieve stress and so I can see why people believe working out is their therapy.

There’s a saying that the head instructor at my martial arts school likes to say, “come in, train, leave your problems at the door-when you head out, they’ll still be there waiting for you.” And what he has always meant by that is to come to class, have a good time and focus, and enjoy being in the moment so you can train and better yourself.

But the saying actually means a little more in a way he may not have intended. If you work out to forget your problems, then just like my instructor says, they’ll still be waiting at the door for you. Working out is an outlet, and its mental health benefits are proven-but working out is not a substitute for doing the inner work and emotional regulation.

Working out and avoiding the inner work is like having a leaking roof and thinking that because you have a bucket to put under the leak for the water to drip into, that you have everything solved. It may seem like a fix, but it’s a temporary fix.

You can avoid it and pretend you have a solution for as long as you want, but eventually you will need to hire someone to look at your roof and fix what is causing the leak in the first place.

And what always happens when you hire someone to fix a “small” leak or some home repair? The professional looks into it, and not only do you need a whole new roof, but there’s squirrels living in the attic, and there’s a wall that needs to be fixed, too. And after you get a price quote then you wish you never looked into it and just kept the damn bucket for when it rains. What was so bad about a little bucket here and there? You knew there was a problem, but you pretended there wasn’t and you didn’t have to deal with it. But- after you sort through it all, get the repairs, set up a payment plan, and enjoy a nice, safe, home with no leaky roof or pesky squirrels, then you realize it was all worth it.

This is literally what its like to do the inner work, with a therapist, or reading books, learning your patterns, triggers, behaviors, and emotionally regulate. It is hard work, it isn’t always fun- healing is a lifelong journey, and just when you think you’ve reached a mountaintop in your self-journey, you realize it was just a resting spot and get another hurdle to navigate.

Working out is not therapy-punching bags don’t teach you why you got triggered by an off-hand comment someone made, the elliptical won’t help you to learn why you sabotage relationships and push people away, and the weights won’t help you to realize that you internalized the emotional neglect growing up and that’s why you people-please, can’t ask for what you want, say yes to things you hate, or get into codependent relationships. Avoiding this is just putting the bucket under the leak-it works in the meantime, it seems easier, but eventually you have to face what’s really causing your inner turmoil.

What do you think? Are you ready to put away that rusty bucket and really do the work to find yourself and your own peace? What are some books that have helped you? What kind of therapy are you trying or have completed? Leave your thoughts below.

How to stop feeling lonely

How you may be adding to your loneliness

By Jessica Militello

I’ve written about loneliness and coping skills before, but let’s face it; even when we know what to do, sometimes we just struggle with certain feelings when they come around. As humans, we want to feel love, belonging, and comfort and there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel connected to others. But- when you feel lonely it can be difficult to see a situation clearly or notice how we may be making our loneliness worse in the moment.

Here are some ways you may be making your loneliness linger

  1. Counting other people’s “blessings”

When I feel dissatisfied with the state of all my relationships or lack thereof, I have a tendency to start thinking of other people I know and begin comparing whose life may be more magical based on my own assumptions of the perceived quantity of their family, friendships, and love life while conveniently glossing over the fact that I have no idea of the quality of these perceived relationships. The truth is, regardless of how many people we think someone might have in their life, in many instances, we really don’t know what the relationship is truly like or if the relationships they have with these perceived people are even satisfying, meaningful, or if these same relationship dynamics that they have are even what we would want for our life.

2. If you are on your own on Friday or Saturday night and you don’t feel good about it- do yourself a favor and stay off social media

Loneliness has a few different outfits-one of them is FOMO. The “feeling of missing out” or the fear of it happens when we are dissatisfied with our current company, especially when that company is ourselves. Remember, being alone and being lonely are two different things, but I’m sure you know that there are tons of times when you were alone and having the time of your life and basking in the moment, and then there are those times where you feel despair, left out, and wondering why is it that everyone seems to have their social life on max, meanwhile your last text was from CVS reminding you to pick up your prescription. What I know is-anytime I am alone and feeling lonely about it I can promise you what added a sting was watching Instagram stories of friends and acquaintances, looking at what they are up to, and comparing it to my current pity party for one. If you know that watching what others are up to is going to make you feel bad, then do yourself a favor and set your social media aside for the evening. This intertwines with point one and it does nothing but turn what could be a period of loneliness into a night of wallowing in despair and it simply doesn’t have to be so.

3. Wishing for things to be different and feeling helpless

There’s a difference between your hopes and dreams being rooted in your own abilities and musing that if only you had more friends, more invites, a committed relationship, THEN you would feel happy. You may not think this in this exact wording, but its certainly underlying in times of loneliness. It’s normal to want human connection- but you need to make sure you are choosing the right people for your life. This is a game of patience and you need to know what your standards are and only accept quality, reciprocal friendships and relationships. You need to feel good enough with yourself that if these relationships are not meeting the mark, you are able to gracefully walk away. I wish I could keep count of all the times in the past where my loneliness mixed in with low self-worth, and a desperation to belong got me into trouble by choosing unhealthy friendships and relationships. It is now the reason why I would rather choose a season of loneliness than pick the wrong people just to fill voids. If you let this desire make you feel desperate for company you will throw your standards out the window.

4. Isolating yourself and expecting other people to magically know you want connection

This step usually comes about after we’ve spent enough time dwelling on the first three points I just wrote about. You can thank your inner critic for convincing you the reason you are lonely is because you aren’t good enough, amongst other unhelpful, negative thinking. We feel alone and then we feel resentful of the people who aren’t reaching out to us because we spent the time convincing OURSELVES that it is correlated to our worth and then project these feelings onto others. None of us can read another person’s mind and know what it is that they want and need especially if they aren’t asking for anything. Sometimes when someone seems to be going it alone people can assume they want space and this can especially ring true if you are known for being independent. It would be like going to a buffet with your friends and sitting at the table with an empty plate while they are going up and getting their food. Your friends notice you not getting food and ask if everything is okay and you say “sure I’m fine,” while in fact not being fine and at the end of the meal feel upset and offended that your friends didn’t “just know” that you wanted food or that they should of got up and brought you a plate while you sat there being hungry and sad. Do you see how insane that thinking is-yet that is what we do when we want company and say nothing. You cannot make your phone ring no matter how long you sit there and hope for it to. We also have to know the difference between wanting connection and wanting validation from others because of not feeling good enough due to our own thoughts and worries that made us think that way about ourselves in the first place.

What are some things you do to get yourself out of feeling lonely? What has worked really well for you? Share your advice in the comments-

“Noticing the ups and downs”

How meditation taught me to find peace instead of searching for happiness

By Jessica Militello

Every morning as soon as I wake up I open up my Lumosity Mind app and meditate for 10 minutes. The app has tons of guided meditations and there is one that I revisit called “noticing the ups and downs.”

As humans, our brains are always thinking- part of the art of meditation is not necessarily to have complete calm and silence in your thoughts, but simply noticing yourself getting distracted by a thought or feeling. That in itself is training your mind to notice when it is getting caught up with things that aren’t necessarily important in the moment, or if you are revisiting a situation from the past that is over and done with, or rehearsing for something in the future that hasn’t and may not even happen.

You don’t have to follow every thought that pops up; and you also don’t necessarily have to do anything about what thoughts or feelings are coming up. One of the best things I’ve learned is the delicate art of noticing feelings or thoughts that arise without shame or judgement, simply letting it come and pass. It is normally when we judge ourselves for what we are feeling that we add to it and let it linger. This is how a bad mood can turn into a bad day. Pushing your feelings down only saves them for later and trying to constantly be busy or distracted so that feelings won’t come up will only work for so long; this is still just storing it for another day and time. There are certain feelings that are always harder to digest-loneliness, sadness, anger, anxiety, and grief always seem to carry the most shame. But it has been when I softened my approach toward my feelings and had compassion for what I feel instead of judgement that they come and go more easily. It has also made me learn to appreciate happiness, because like all feelings, they come and go. The search for happiness will always come up short because happiness is a feeling. I am learning that it is better to find peace; peace that when sadness or grief comes to visit that it will go, and peace to enjoy happiness in the moment knowing that it also will come and go. Learning to flow with my emotions is one of the most important lessons that meditation has taught me.

If you don’t meditate or gave up on it because you found yourself still having tons of thoughts and getting distracted, it’s worth it to give it another shot. Trying something new is like trying a new sport or hobby that you’ve never done before. Everything takes time and after a while of being consistent with it, you will definitely notice improvement.

Is there a meditation app you like to use? Is there any music or a place in nature that you seek when you meditate? Leave your comments below-

What to do after a heartbreak

Some simple pieces of advice that can make a big difference in your healing

By Jessica Militello

When I think about mistakes I made after getting my heartbroken, I was in too much pain to think clearly or make decisions that were healthy for me. And that’s okay. At the time I was too focused on how to soothe my pain, but I tried to make my pain go away by staying near to what caused it in the first place. I wanted to make an article like this for a while but I felt hesitant to be so vulnerable. These are things I learned the hard way after many mistakes. I’m grateful for the lessons and the growth that came from it and I hope this helps whoever needs it.

  1. Find one or two trusted people to share your feelings with

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made right after one breakup in particular was explaining the story to a lot of close friends and acquaintances-it was mostly because the breakup itself was surprising, and it was extremely confusing and painful to me to try to make sense of it. I ended up getting a ton of different opinions-mostly from people who barely even knew him. I ended up hearing things like, “he didn’t really appreciate me, he didn’t think I was “worth” fighting for, his reasons for breaking up weren’t in fact the actual reason and he was just bullshitting me,” things that they had absolutely no way to possibly know unless they were fucking mind-readers or fortune tellers and trust me, these people weren’t experts in anything. In retrospect, thinking of these gem “words of advice” that they decided to share with me sound absolutely ridiculous for anyone to try to guess or assume, but when I was going through the raw pain of this heartbreak and confused, I didn’t know what to believe. It’s important to note that when you are in deep emotional pain, your brain perceives this pain the same as physical pain, your IQ is lower, and the feeling of rejection itself causes pain. It’s also important to note that during a heartbreak you are in the feeling part of your brain-logic does not exist at this point. So let’s add up all of this stuff that’s going on in your mind and heart plus getting shitty opinions from well-meaning people-are you picturing this? Yeah it’s a fucking disaster. The last thing you need when you’re sitting on the floor trying to pick up a million pieces of your heart are people idly standing around telling you that the reason you are in pain is because the person that you just lost didn’t really give a fuck about you and that there’s some “top secret” reason that he broke up with you. To be fair, I truly believe these people were trying*** to be well-meaning. It is hard for us to see other people in pain. We want to make their pain go away, but if you don’t know how, telling someone something that you think will make them magically move on seems like the quick fix in the situation. All it did for me was make me feel ashamed and stupid on top of heartbroken and confused. But thanks to all of the bad advice I got, I can now share a golden piece of advice here. Please- do not do what I did. Part of this was a boundary issue as well, which I did not set at the time, with people insisting I talk about it or pushing me to share my pain by telling their friend/spouse/relative what happened for them to chime in. Your life and pain are not a soap opera to entertain and amuse others and give them the chance to play armchair detective and therapist. Find one person, two people max who you trust, who is a great listener, loving, caring, and validating. State your boundary right away in whether you want to simply vent or if you want advice. You are also allowed to tell someone that what they are saying is hurtful if it is. This time in your grieving is about feeling your loss and simply being where you are. I know-especially if the breakup was surprising in any way that you want answers. Part of this is also that when you are in deep emotional pain, it is your brain that is trying to make sense of why you are in pain so that it can protect you from future threats. But this is not the time to think of and question all of the why’s-this will only hold off your healing. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Stop pretending and performing to yourself, your ex, and your social media followers

For some reason, unbeknownst to my soul, there seems to be some stupid contest right after a breakup of who can appear as if they do not give a fuck. There is no prize for the winner of this contest and yet, we love to play. Unless you are both actors vying for an academy award at the end of the year-do yourself a favor and cut the show and theatrics, especially via social media. How many romance stories have you heard that sounded like, “he broke up with me but once he saw my selfies and how fun, hot, and interesting I was from my IG stories, he came back and now the wedding is next spring in Tuscany.?” Oh wait that’s because things don’t work that way and if someone only changed their mind because of the way you look and how entertaining you are on social media, then good luck trying to keep up that show so that they’ll want to be with you. It would be best at this time to remove him as a follower, stop following him, and make your page private. If he truly wants to reach out-he will call you or text you, he will have a good reason explaining why he is reaching out and be understanding if you are cautious about it because he cares about your feelings instead of playing games and being ambiguous via passive Instagram ‘likes’ and random texts for an ego boost or attention. You will know the difference if that happens. If you feel the need to explain why you are doing this social media removing in order to focus on properly healing then use your own judgement on that. In general, your healing should be the most important thing and going no contact is the best way to begin this process.

 3. Don’t try to be friends right away

I get it, you are in pain, trying to accept a loss that you didn’t want, and now you are desperate for some way to be in this person’s life. See point one again about your IQ being lower while you are in pain and being in the feeling part of your mind with logic thrown out the window. I once felt that I was going to be in pain anyway, so the pain of keeping him in my life as a friend immediately after the breakup was better than the pain of letting go. LOL- how wrong I was. Sometimes we just want to find a way to lessen the pain and the loss, it’s our mind again trying to find comfort and not wanting to be in pain. Of course you still want the person in your life, regardless of who ended it-but you can’t keep someone in your life as a friend when you- still have feelings for them, are still attracted to them, still hope to be with them, are actively mourning the loss of them. Do you see why this is not good for you? Any time I thought the pain of holding on was better than the pain of letting go, the universe found ways to slap me back into reality. Hard. Do you really want to find out what they are up to? How would you feel if you saw them hanging out with a girl who might be a friend, but maybe they are hooking up, and going through their social media to compare and assume and put yourself through more pain? I know you don’t want to hear it but no contact is the only way to begin moving on. But I had to learn this the hard way so I’ll let you figure it out after many mistakes, confusion, and more pain. I refused to listen to logic and had to fall on my face more than once before I realized what was good for me.

4. Be where you are

I made this list short and simple on purpose- you’re going through a lot and don’t need to be inundated with tons of advice. Feel what you are feeling-it is normal, it is human. It is not weak or stupid to miss and still care for someone who was a big part of your life. It means the relationship meant something to you, it means that despite all of the heart aches, struggles, and losses throughout your life that you can still feel, you have the ability to love, you trusted yourself enough to let your guard down and be vulnerable enough to risk getting your heart broken in the first place. Understand in a world of apathy and indifference that loving someone and letting them in is the bravest act of all. Take care of yourself, stop judging yourself, blaming yourself, or wondering if you weren’t good enough. Your worth and your happiness is never in anyone else’s hands but your own. Find things that make you happy and small moments that put joy in your heart. You are enough and so worthy and when you are ready, your pain will only help you to grow and become stronger. Please love yourself and be around those who love you and spark joy in your soul. Those moments of joy and laughter will help to soothe you and slowly, over time heal the broken parts of your heart.

On Valentine’s day

 For those that don’t care about this holiday, but kind of do

By Jessica Militello

On Valentine’s day, if you’re in a loving, happy relationship that consists of the things you want and deserve, then good for you. If you’re single and it bothers you a little bit on Valentine’s day, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t love yourself enough or that you’re trying to fill a void.

Wanting a loving, meaningful relationship doesn’t make you broken or needy, it means you are human and have blood pumping through your veins. That feeling only becomes problematic when you believe that you NEED a romantic relationship in order to feel complete, and/or you settle for less through dating people who you know are not good for you, talking to exes who have hurt you, or settling for hookups because of a scarcity mentality when what you truly want is a loving, committed relationship.

I will also say that this particular Valentine’s day is probably one where I feel most loved, fulfilled, and good about myself and I’m not in a relationship with anyone. In the past, some of my saddest and most loneliest Valentine’s were the ones where I was settling for some non-committed “situation,” purposely getting ignored completely on v-day because we were just “having fun,” or the valentine’s where I was in a committed relationship with the completely wrong person who had some bullshit excuse about refusing to celebrate a “made-up holiday” because at that time in my life it was more important to me to feel chosen by someone, anyone, even in pieces and crumbs than to wait out a few seasons of loneliness in order to wait for the right person for me. And yes, those shitty relationships were in fact because the relationship I had with myself at that time was also shit, complete with little self-worth and even less boundaries.

And sometimes it takes being in these wrong relationships and getting your heart obliterated to finally learn that the things you are looking for in someone else are within you all along. That is why even when I settled for less, got my heart broken into a million pieces, and went through pain, it was all for a purpose because it finally led me to myself.

So- if you are single on Valentine’s day that’s okay, if you wish you weren’t, that’s okay too. Let yourself be where you are. And when that feeling passes write a list of all the things you feel like you would get from a relationship- can you get any of those things from yourself, from meaningful relationships with others like friends and family? Also remember that feelings come and go and loneliness passes. Don’t let your loneliness make you seek out people who cannot love you, or settle for less than what you truly want.

Start with one corner

Feeling overwhelmed lately? Here’s how to get out of that feeling

By Jessica Militello

There was something about this week; maybe the week starting with a massive snowstorm, the cold, dull winter sky, the never-ending pandemic, and the general sense of not wanting to deal with any of it. By mid-week I started feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, stuck, and hopeless. By the time I allowed this barrage of thoughts to get me feeling stuck in a corner with no way out, I realized I had way too much damn clutter going on. When we start to have one bad feeling, we can tend to let it get the best of us and let it multiply, and we end up with a list of all the things we don’t have, the people who aren’t there, and the things we haven’t accomplished, and start to attach these external things to why we feel unhappy in the moment when it’s ourselves who are doing that for us. No wonder I felt so helpless. I knew this feeling of frustration was definitely not something I wanted to sit with for too long.

So I thought of my conversation the other day with Mary Cornetta from Sort and Sweet and something she mentioned; “Start with one corner.” I decided to take her amazing advice and break things down into smaller steps; mentally I was standing in a proverbial version of the cluttered garage that she mentioned, not even knowing where to start. So instead of thinking of everything at once, I simplified it to one thing at a time so I could start moving. What is one thing I can do today? Make myself breakfast-check. Do my laundry-okay done. Compile a list of article ideas for the guest blogging I’m doing for a martial arts site-complete.; you get the idea here. And gradually, the feeling of frustration lessened. I may not be exactly where I want to be- but I think I need to first make myself something to eat and get my laundry finished so I have something to wear, right? After that, I realized I needed to make a list of what it is that I truly want, because I never want to feel like my happiness is with anyone else or anywhere else but right where I am.

What are simple things you can start doing for yourself to get out of your own clutter? Break it down into smaller steps. Make a list of what you can do, save the rest for later. Have you had any similar feelings lately? Share your thoughts in the comments.