This past month, the topic empathy has come up quite a bit. I've had conversations with friends about how they either feel that they aren't being empathetic enough, or they feel that they aren't receiving empathy. As someone that works with clients one-on-one, empathy is a huge part of my practice. It's not always easy and I am nowhere near perfect, but I thought it would be a great blog as we all can relate to this topic in some way or another.
Empathy by definition is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's position. Some people have a harder time feeling empathy. This is something that is out of my scope of practice, but if you're interested in learning more I highly suggest checking out Brené Brown; she has some great podcasts around the topic of empathy.
Empathy is something I've become more aware of since my car accident 6 years ago. (You can check out my About Me page for the full story) It was an intense life experience and there have been countless times where I've felt misunderstood or that people in my life haven't shown empathy in the way I was hoping for. Want to know a secret? I've done the same thing! I've had friends who are experiencing something difficult, something I've never experienced, and I've kicked myself in the butt for not showing empathy in the way I'd hoped. Does that mean that we are bad people? Hell no. Being empathetic when loved ones are going through a difficult time, especially when we cannot relate or haven't experienced it, can be really freaking hard.
How do we connect? What can we say to help ease the situation? Below are my top 3 tips on how to practice more empathy:
1. Open up a safe space
The next time you're talking to a loved one that is having a hard time, open up a safe space for them to be how they need to in that moment. If they start the conversation, just quietly listen to what they're saying. If you're able, try to put yourself in their shoes mentally. Try and understand where they are coming from and the feelings they are experiencing. Simply just listen. Remind them that they are in safe place to say what they feel with no judgement.
2. Ask before you give advice
You will find yourself in moments where people are seeking advice, but in my opinion, it's always smart to ask before giving it. I've been in the situation where I've offered a friend unsolicited advice and she told me she knew the solutions and that she needed to hash it out with someone. This is totally valid and I've been on the other end of this situation as well. Now, if someone is venting or talking to me about a hardship, if I have advice to give, I ask before offering it. Simply just saying, "can I offer some advice" or "do you want another persons point of view" are easy ways to ask. Some people may say yes and some may say no. Either response is valid and it's important to respect their decision.
3. If you don't know what to say, tell them
If you don't know how to respond to someone, it's common to get flustered. Some common responses are: not saying anything at all, offering unsolicited advice or even shutting down. When you don't know what to say, I find the easiest thing to do is just to be honest. Next time you don't know how to respond, try: "I'm so sorry to hear that, I wish I knew what to say to make you feel better". In my opinion that's a great response. You can even ask "is there anything I can do to help"? Both of these responses show that you have good intentions and you want to help. More often then not, the person will respect and appreciate your honesty.
These tips are things I've uncovered since working with clients and also just reflecting on past experiences with my family and friends. At the end of the day, people just really want to be heard. Be loving and open up a safe space so they don't feel alone. Remember nobody is perfect, but if you go in with good intentions, that will shine through.
When we think of health, we often fall into the trap of just focusing on one tiny aspect of it. If we want to lose 10 pounds, we focus on cutting out carbs; if we want to meditate more, we block out 10 minutes each day to meditate. While these things are great, they don't take into account the other aspects of your health. In this blog I want to talk about how health is all-encompassing, and where I am with my journey.
I will admit that I haven't done the best job recently focusing on all of my aspects of health. I've been trying to get back into a rhythm since moving to New York and I've been guilty of focusing on only a few areas of my health. Lately, I've been focusing on moving my body, specifically going on runs a few times a week. When anyone works out consistently, they need to properly fuel their body. Wanna know a secret? I haven't! (embarrassed face) I haven't been eating unhealthy per see, I just haven't been eating the proper foods that my body needs. I've been caught numerous times this month skipping lunch because I'm either running around or I'm just too busy. This usually results in me snacking and not getting the balanced meal my body is looking for. And because I'm not fueling my body properly, I get more tired during the day, which means my work starts to suffer. It's like a chain reaction! If I had just eaten a balanced meal for lunch, I wouldn't feel like I need a nap at 3 pm.
Recently, I've also noticed that I need other outlets for my health. I can't just focus on the fitness and food aspects and forget the rest; I need to take care of my mental and emotional state too. A friend of mine recommended journaling every morning when I'm eating breakfast. Write down things such as: what I'm going to do that day, positive affirmations and what I'm grateful for. I've been doing this for the past week and I can already tell how much it's helped my emotional well-being.
These are just some examples from my own personal life, but everyone is different. I've provided some examples below of different areas in your life that are important to your health. Some are more obvious than others.
Looking at this list, do you need to focus on some of these areas more than others? For me, I need to continue to put effort into journaling until it becomes a habit.
What's one thing you can work on this week?
Ever feel like you're constantly doubting yourself? Doubting your abilities, purpose, uniqueness, etc. If you said yes, then I'm right there with you!
These past few months have been crazy for me work wise. I spent months developing and launching a women's wellness company with an amazing business partner. After a few months, I came to the realization that I wanted to help people who are experiencing some of the hardships I faced after my accident. It wasn't an easy decision or easy conversation, but I knew in my heart that this is the direction I needed to go in. The phrase that's consistently come up for me is, "I feel like I survived my accident for a reason" and I know that this is the reason.
Since I made my decision, I've been working with clients post-physical setback and I absolutely love it. It's so rewarding to watch people grow in a short amount of time. This is something I have extensive experience in. If you follow me on Instagram or have read my About Me, you know that I was a collegiate volleyball athlete. After recovering from my car accident, I was told by my doctor that I would be back to normal. To me, normal meant being a great volleyball player. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. I couldn't regain the strength I once had and it showed in my abilities. I was crushed. Because I didn't have anyone to talk to, I slowly started to give up. I dwindled from a starter to a bench player within 2 years and I ended my career on a sour note. This is why I'm so passionate about helping people post-physical setback; I know how difficult it can be.
Knowing the type of clients I want to help is a great feeling, but I would be lying if I said that there haven't been moments of self-doubt. Questions like, "will people take me seriously?", "do I know enough?", "do I deserve to have a great job where I get to just help people?" have been circling my brain for the past few weeks. When I write them down in this blog I even think, "how silly are these questions?"! Going through my experience makes me knowledgable on the topic. I know the feelings that can come up and I know what to do and what not to do to start moving forward.
When these moments of self-doubt come up, it can be very debilitating. I've learned that keeping these feelings to myself only makes things worse. For the past few weeks, I've made it a point to verbalize my self-doubt with others. I've found that this is the best way for me to break through my insecurities. When I sweep my fears under the rug and act like they don't exist, I find I'm not as productive.
If you're reading this blog and you are struggling with insecurities, know that you're not alone. Self-doubt is something that everyone experiences! To work through these insecurities, try out different techniques. (i.e. journaling, talking with a friend) Take it from me, bottling up those insecurities is not the best use of your energy!
When we get out of our routine it can be hard as hell to get back into it! The longer we prolong getting back into said routine the harder it becomes. Phrases like, I will start tomorrow become your new routine.
Today I'm going to talk about the 3 things you can do to get back into a routine. Why? Well I just moved to NYC and I'm finding it hard to get back into my own routine. This blog is just as much for me as it is for you!
1. Schedule bits of your routine out
I don't know about you, but if I have a schedule it's important for me to stick to it; especially if I write something down. When something is in writing it holds more weight for me and I feel like I need to do it!
It can be super beneficial to schedule small parts of your routine back into your life. Notice I used the phrase small parts? Overwhelming yourself and doing too much at first is one of the worst things you can do. If you're trying to get back into the swing of things, the last thing you want to do is try and do everything at once. You will end up getting too overwhelmed and you will have a harder time sticking to your routine.
So start with baby steps. If you have a morning routine that you want to get back into, try incorporating one thing for the first few days. Then when you feel like that's turning into a routine, you can add on another bit of your routine. The baby steps will create lasting change!
2. Have someone keep you accountable
Having someone keep you accountable is a great way to get things done. Find a friend or someone close to you that will give you some tough love if you don't keep up your end of the deal. It will help you stay accountable to follow-through with your tasks.
It also helps if you find a friend or find someone else that is also looking for some accountability. You both can keep one another accountable and it won't feel like you have a friend that is constantly nagging you.
My friend is my old business partner. We have weekly calls where we talk about work and set out weekly action steps for one another. When we have our check-ins we make sure the other person has been keeping up and doing their work!
3. Focus on what you've done - not what you haven't done
When getting back into the swing of things, you're going to have some slip ups. You may not hit all the marks in your routine and that's totally fine! Instead of focusing on what you didn't do, focus on what you have done. If you did one solid bit of your routine during the day but didn't do 3 other things, focus on the fact that you even did one part of your routine. You don't need to have it all figured out and be perfect every day. When we focus on the good things we've done, it motivates us to continue to work. When we focus on the bad, it demotivates us.
The most important thing is to remember that you're constantly evolving and changing. Don't get down in the dumps if something doesn't go as expected or you don't do everything you hoped for the day. Keep that positive attitude going and it will fall into place.
Gaining new scars, burns or marks on your body can be a weird experience for some people. I know it was for me. Most of the time, these marks don't go away. They may get better over time, but there is a good chance you may have an everlasting mark on your body. In this blog I want to talk about some of the biggest things I learned about having scars.
I want to start off by saying that your feelings towards your new marks on our body are valid. One of my big frustration points when I got my scars 6 years ago was that I would hear phrases like, well at least it's not on your face quite often. Yes, of course I'm lucky my scars aren't on my face and there is ALWAYS a situation that is worse, but that doesn't mean I wasn't allowed to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable about my scars. By hearing that phrase from people it made me feel like I was foolish for having those feelings, so I never really liked to talk about my scars. I didn't want to seem like an ungrateful person. However, I know that people tend to say those things when they don't know what else to say. I may not have known that at the time, but I've learned that over the years. So however you're feeling towards your marks is totally valid, and you shouldn't let someone make you feel otherwise. As I said, there will always be someone that has it worse than you, but that doesn't mean feelings you have should be diminished.
You may also feel like there is something wrong with having marks, especially ones that are visible for others to see. There are a few reasons why that is, but one thing that happened often was people offering unsolicited advice on how to get rid of my scars or make them less noticeable. Now, I know that some people that offered advice meant it in a kind way with no harmful intention, but when you're offered advice without asking, it makes you start to feel like there is something wrong with you. This still happens to me from time to time. The old Molly would think, I guess maybe I should try and lessen these scars if they look that bad. The new Molly will just respond saying thanks, I'm fine with my scars though. People that offer such advice don't realize that you've probably already Googled a zillion times how to get rid of marks. Unfortunately, you will always be offered unsolicited advice, even from complete strangers or companies trying to sell you their product. Just know that it's okay to have marks on your body and that people are usually coming from a place of love or maybe even discomfort because they don't know what else to say.
A last bit of advice for this blog is do what makes YOU feel comfortable and don't let anyone make you feel less than for doing so. For me, that was walking into a room with a cardigan first before unveiling my scars to a group of people who had never seen them. My mind was always racing thinking, what if I make someone uncomfortable? But looking back on it, it wasn't about them, it was about making myself comfortable. Wearing a cardigan into a room made me feel that everyone's first impression of me wouldn't be of my scars, it would just be me. This doesn't mean I wasn't still uncomfortable when I took off my cardigan but it did help me build the confidence up to do it. Now I wouldn't even think about wearing a cardigan for that reason. But it's all about baby steps.
These were a few of my biggest learning lessons over the years. These may not apply to everyone and they may not work for everyone, but even opening yourself up to other ideas and solutions will help. It's always great to read or talk to other people who also have scars because it reminds you that you're not alone.
If you're having a hard time with your new marks, feel free to shoot me an email so we can chat.
It's been almost a month since I wrote a blog - holy smokes! I wanted to write a blog and provide an update on what I've been up to for those of you who are interested.
I've been so silent on the blog because for the past month I've been planning a move to NYC. We had been talking about moving back to New York since the summer, but just kept pushing off the date. We gave ourselves a month to get everything done. Thanks to my sister for the little extra push, we made a move date, booked a ticket, and everything just started to fall into place.
While getting ready for our big move, my fiancé and I were on a run in the evening. We saw a man off his bike, with a cute little puppy ahead of us. We started to run by and we asked if we could pet the puppy. To our surprise, the man said that the puppy wasn't his. There was no one in the area. It was just us, this man and a cute little puppy. The man explained he couldn't take the puppy home and call the ACC because he was on a bike and lived too far. Instead, we called my mom and had her come pick us up with the puppy. It was raining and cold out. This puppy had clearly been out in the rain for awhile. We came home and went through all of the motions. Called the ACC, posted on NextDoor, checked Craigslist daily, took him to a vet to see if he was chipped and no luck. The ACC said it sounded like an abandoned puppy based on the description and the fact that no one had already called for him. But to make sure, we checked back with the ACC to see if we had any bites on the report, but no one had. The puppy had gotten so attached to us, we had gotten so attached to him, and no one claimed him so we took the little guy in. Now we were making a move across the country with all of our stuff, our cat and this new little pup. In case you didn't know, flying with animals is a lot of extra work!
Thankfully, the cat and dog (Tubs and Spuds) were able to make the trip with us and were beyond easy on the flight. After a delayed red eye with two animals, 10 checked bags and navigating a big car through NYC, I'm glad to say the hard part was over.
And to end our big stressful move, we both ended up getting sick about 4 days after being in NYC. I definitely attribute it to stress, as well as consistently being on the go, while being jet lagged from an overnight flight. After a week of being sick, I'm finally starting to get better.
So that's what I've been up to for the past month and a half, and is the reason I've been so quiet on my blog. But now that I'm settled, I'm excited to write again!
Stay tuned. :)
If you saw my past post, Leaning into Fear, you know that I have been working on my anxiety. It wasn't an easy process, but I'm finally at a place where I rarely have anxiety attacks. That doesn't mean that my anxiety is gone for good, far from it. It just means that when those anxious thoughts creep into my head, I know how to handle them.
In my past anxiety blogs, I talked about the steps I take when I feel anxiety starting to set in. I had so many messages from people who struggle with anxiety, so I wanted to write another piece about the things I do to make me feel better when I'm feeling anxious.
These may not work for everyone, but I thought they would be worth sharing because it might help you think of some ideas.
1.) Watching your favorite show
This is a big one for me! I usually turn something lighthearted on that I know will make me laugh. Examples being, Friends, The Office or Parks and Recreation. I always find that doing this helps me stop focusing on the things I'm feeling anxious about. My anxiety is around death, so when I'm watching a funny show it really helps clear my head from those thoughts.
2.) Working out
This one used to seem impossible for me, but I've done a much better job of getting myself moving when I'm feeling anxious. I've been running recently and I find it's a great way to clear my head. I usually start off my run feeling anxious, but as I keep running my head starts to clear, and I start to allow other thoughts to come in. Sometimes no thoughts come in at all which is great! This one can be tough getting out the door, but I always remind myself how much better I will feel when I get home.
3.) Take a nap
When anxiety kicks in, it really can be debilitating. So much so that you start feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. When I start feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I try to take a nap. Even if it's just 15 minutes, I will just close my eyes and let me head rest. I always wake up from my nap feeling better.
4.) Talk to someone
A few years ago, I would've never considered talking to someone. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but I always thought to myself, well I can figure it out on my own. Since I've started therapy, I've really learned that talking to someone is incredibly beneficial and it can be very powerful. Whether I'm talking about anxiety, or just what's going on in my life, I find it can be very therapeutic. You don't need to go to a therapist, you can find a coach (hi there!) or even just find a friend. You can't let that anxiety fester so try talking it out with someone.
These are just a few of my go-tos when I'm feeling anxious. Hopefully they help spark some ideas! And as always if you ever need someone to talk to, you know where to find me.
UPDATED March 17th
My accident caused some pretty unique scarring on my arm, on my leg and down my neck. My relationship with my scars has changed over the years. I used to really struggle with them. I would hide them whenever I had the chance and I would get upset if I saw people staring at them. At this point, my scars are just part of me. I have some days where I love them, some days where I feel weird when people stare at them, and most days I just forget they are there all together.
The only time I remember that my scars are there, is when I notice someone staring at them. This used to bother me, but now I just wish that person would ask what happened rather than stare. I can imagine they don't know how to approach the situation which is 100% normal. I understand the reasons for just looking and not asking but people with scars tend to notice when people stare. You know that phrase, my ears are burning, someone must be talking about me? It's literally the same thing; it's like I have a sense when my scars are being looked at. No joke!
I've been asked on my Instagram, how do you kindly ask someone what happened? This one is hard. Everyone has a different experience and journey. We all handle things differently. This blog is solely based on MY experiences with my scars. This may not work for everyone, and I don't intend for it to. But I thought it could be good to share my experiences.
For me, when people are genuine when they ask, I can feel that. Usually the question will start with do you mind if I asked what happened to your arm? Every time someone asks me, especially with that beginning I always say no I don't mind at all, thank you for asking. This helps make the person feel comfortable. It's important to note that this is an awkward situation for BOTH people. Usually the best response here is, wow I'm sorry to hear that happened, are you ok now? I've found that this is when I feel the most comfortable. Or sometimes if they don't ask if I'm ok at the end, I will just say no worries I'm fine now!
When someone genuinely asks about my scars, it makes me feel understood. That sense of understanding makes me feel like I belong. People that have new scarring or burns often can feel like they don't belong. I did. But why do we feel like we don't belong? I think that may be my next blog that I tackle.
It's been about 6 years since my car accident. Over the past few years, there are things I've regretted not doing after my accident. These are things I didn't even think about at the time, but now I'm kicking myself in the butt for not doing them. I wish someone had recommended doing these things, but I can understand why they didn't. As someone who has experienced trauma, come through it and is now better than ever, I want to talk about the things I wish I did. Who knows maybe it will inspire some of you to do the same!
I used to think journaling was a bit "dear diary" and never really gave it a chance. It reminded me of girls writing in their journals about boys at school so I always laughed it off. No one told me to write at the time of my accident and during my recovery, but I seriously wish they did.
After my accident, I was on a lot of medication to help ease the pain. I obviously wouldn't have been able to journal at this point (it probably would've been drawings of unicorns or something), but I wish that when I was a bit more coherent I would've written down how I was doing.
Even though my brain was foggy at the time, I was still able to function. I remember things from the hospital, but just bits and pieces. I wish that I had written down what was going on in my head. It would be great to see how far I've come since then and read what I was thinking and feeling at the time.
If you're reading this and thinking no way, I know that feeling. At the time after my accident, I just felt like crap. I was already living post-trauma, I didn't want to write about it too. But my advice is really to write something down. It doesn't need to be every day, but I highly suggest writing a few days down. I'm telling you when you're a few years past your trauma, you will want to see the progress you've made!
**My brain almost hurt from doing too much, so I can understand this may come up for some people. If you feel like you don't have the mental space to write things down yourself, ask someone to write down a few notes for you. My friend told me her dad wrote down what happened everyday during her trauma and I thought that was amazing. Parents, family, friends - if you're reading this and you know someone experiencing trauma but can't handle the writing - do it for them! **
For me this was a HELL NO. If you follow me on Instagram, molly_o_shea, you probably have noticed that I post the same before scar photos of my neck and arm. Why? Because that's all I have! I have two photos of me with my scars when they were very red and raw. You can't see my face in the photos because I was so freaking embarrassed of them I didn't want my face to show. Then I have one picture of my neck scar. That's all thanks to my dad. I will never forget him saying you will want to show your kids one day. I'm sure I rolled my eyes but it's totally true. I'm proud of these scars now and I wish I had more!
Post-trauma isn't the most glamorous experience. Whether it's illness, an accident, an injury, or another internal trauma, we don't feel like ourselves. Taking a photo as someone that we can't identify with is hard. Besides scar photos, I have a few photos with friends and family post accident, but not many. In most photos, I'm covering my scars because I didn't want them to be seen in pictures. I didn't like this new Molly, I didn't know who she was and I certainly wasn't comfortable with her.
When I look at these photos, where I can see my face and I'm showing my scars, I can see those feelings on my face. I can see how uncomfortable I look in the photo. I may look normal to people, but to me, I don't look like myself. At the time, I avoided these pictures like the plague and made sure I wasn't tagged in any photos on Facebook. But now, looking back through the photos, it's amazing the see the progress I've made. I've come so far with taking photos with my scars and I look more comfortable in my skin.
It may not be easy at the time, but I'm telling you you will want photos to look back on. Take a few photos either on your own or with a group of people. If you don't want to look at them then don't! Just save them; in a few years you will be searching high and low in your email to find these photos! (Me this past week)
I'm sure other things will come up over time, but I think this is worth sharing because I wish someone gave me this advice 6 years ago! I understand that these things may not work for everyone; we all have a different experiences. I'm just speaking on my personal experience and what I've learned during the process.
Last week, I wrote a blog called Leaning into Fear - Part 1. I wanted to talk about my experience with anxiety after my car accident. I've always been a worry wart, but about 4 years after my accident, anxiety hit me hard. After countless therapy sessions and some reframes, I'm finally in a good place. I wanted to share the steps I use when anxiety starts to set in, especially for anyone that has experienced trauma.
Here's a quick recap of my first few steps from last week:
1.) Understand the root of your fear so you can start to move forward
2.) Remind yourself you're safe
3.) What are your triggers?
As I mentioned, my anxiety involved catastrophic thoughts. I was in worst case scenario mode 24/7. Not only did I have to remind myself that I was safe, but I also had to remind myself how catastrophic these thoughts were. Yes I could get shot tomorrow, but the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time at that exact moment was slim.
While telling myself that my thoughts were catastrophic, I would take deep breaths. Bringing yourself back to a state of relaxation is incredibly important. Luckily, it only takes 2 minutes to get your body back to a state of relaxation. This can be done through breathing. After a few minutes of focusing on my breathe, I felt more in control.
The last thing I would do when I was feeling anxious was to distract myself. I'm a sucker for watching Friends or The Office on repeat. Those shows are my go-to's; they always put me in a good mood. When anxiety kicked in, I would turn on one of those shows and just let my mind take a break from the world. I use this method more now when I'm feeling overwhelmed with work and I just need an easy fix .
The biggest lesson I learned when dealing with anxiety, was that I needed to relinquish control. It made sense that I was having catastrophic thoughts because my accident was so random, but it was out of my control. I felt like I needed to be in control of everything. At the time, I was not a very go with the flow kind of gal. I would avoid events that could potentially cause something catastrophic to happen. That was my way of "controlling" life. I really had to learn to let go of the idea that I can control everything. I can't control life and death. I can't control if I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time. What will be will be.
Remember that everyone's anxiety is different. There are people that will be able to relate to this blog, and some may not. It took me about 6 months of seeing a therapist regularly to get to where I am today. I don't suffer from anxiety anymore. I do think I still have some anxious tendencies, but with these methods that I've described, I know how to handle anxious thoughts that come my way. If you have the chance to go speak with someone I strongly recommend it. Seeing my therapist totally changed my life, and I still go to her because I think it's important talk things through with someone who isn't involved in your life.
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-physical setback, body acceptance and wellness.