The Reality of Grief

Grieving is not something that many of us are comfortable talking about.  Perhaps, talking about grief makes us think about our own mortality and most don’t want to think about that; at least not until we reach a certain age.  Also, often people do not know what to say to those who are grieving.  Yet, grief is something that each of us experience and will continue to experience throughout our lives.  My goal of this blog is to help people understand grief more and learn ways to help ourselves and others to grieve in a healthy way. 

Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of 9/11.  Amazing how it seems so long ago yet our memories of it seem like it happened just yesterday.  We most likely remember exactly what we were doing when the first plane hit the North World Trade Center Tower.  We remember what we were feeling at that moment and likely continue to feel it today.  We not only grieved and are grieving the mass loss of life during the attacks, but we also have been grieving the sense of loss of security that most of us once felt in the United States.  In the days, months, and years following 9/11, we reached out to each other and provided comforting words and embraces and continue to do to this day.   

Grief and loss is most often associated with death.  However, grief and loss includes so much more, such as loss of a job, loss of relationships, loss of cognitive and physical abilities, and loss of tangible items such a wedding ring belonging to one’s great grandmother.  There is no set time frame for how long grieving lasts and there is no one set way to grieve “normally”. 

Grieving is very individualized and needs to treated and respected as such!  People grieve differently.  Some will block it out and move on as if nothing has happened and will not want or need additional support.  Others will experience and express deep emotion for maybe 6 months to a year; whereas others will have debilitating grief that lasts longer than a year and greatly limits their lives and this is referred to as Complicated Grief.  Many people believe that there are stages of grief and that one goes through phases ending with acceptance of the loss and “being ok again.”  However, the reality of grief is like a ball of yarn that a cat has gotten a hold of….no order with lots of twists and turns with no identified start or end point.  Furthermore, not only do you grieve the loss that you are currently experiencing, but you again actively grieve losses you have experienced previously.  For example, 10 years ago your aunt died, 5 years ago your beloved cat died, 2 years ago you lost your “dream job”, and now your best friend died.  You not only are grieving the death of your best friend, but again grieving the deaths of your aunt, and cat, and the loss of your dream job.  Thus, each loss often feels so much more painful because you are grieving again the other losses, not that you ever stop grieving entirely.   Most tend to feel the loss less intensely on a continuous basis as time progresses, but the grieving will intensify at times such as holidays, anniversaries, new life events such as marriage, and a favorite song of the person comes on the radio.  Many people will experience what is termed Anticipatory Grief which is grieving a loss that has not yet occurred.  For example, one’s mother is getting older and one’s father just died, this person will likely begin feeling grief for the parent that is still alive for they know that eventually the mother will die which could also lead to the person feeling like an orphan.

Most people are uncertain about what to do or say to someone who is grieving.  Here are some strategies that can help with what to say and do for someone who is grieving:

1.     Avoid saying platitudes:  For example, instead of saying, “They are in a better place and no longer suffering”, express “I am sorry for your loss”.  Although one may say platitudes with good intentions, the reality is even if the death of a loved one ends suffering, the person grieving is still suffering and greatly misses and wants their loved one back. Platitudes can minimize their loss.

2.    Talk about the person:  Don’t be afraid to talk about the person. People want to hear about their loved ones; people want to know that their loved ones were important to others.

3.    Reach out to the person who is grieving:  Even if the person who is grieving does not want visitors, still make the offer.  Reach out in 6 months, a year, and 5 years.  Those who are grieving often feel that once a certain amount of time has passed that everyone else has forgotten the loss and this is when those who are grieving need more contact and support.

4.    Offer to help in practical ways:  For example, offer to do lawn care, pick up children from school and babysit, make a meal. These are just few of the things that greatly help those who are grieving since so often those who have just had a loss such as death of a loved one will be in a somewhat of a state of shock and making funeral arrangements and plans and will have little time for meal prep, lawn care, and could really use some help with childcare.

5.    Just be there:  Often words are not needed nor wanted but a shoulder to cry on and a hug will be so much more of what the person grieving will need and crave yet often is hesitant to ask for.

Again, since we will all experience loss throughout our lives, here are some tips to help you with your own grief:

1.     Talk about the loss:  Be open and honest about how you are feeling and what you need from others.

2.    Maintain some traditions and start some new traditions:  For example, if you and your loved one that has died used to get the Christmas tree the first Saturday of December, continue do so and then take a branch or so from the tree and turn it into a swag and take it to the cemetery.

3.    Honor the person’s memory:  There are many ways to do this.  Perhaps, the person that died was a school teacher- what better way to honor the person by establishing a scholarship in their memory for students pursuing education on college.

4.    Allow yourself time to grief and to do so in your own way:  Many people try to tell others how to grieve and for how long but do it YOUR way such as if you don’t want to date again or get married again after the death of your spouse, DON’T.  Continue to wear your wedding band if that is what you feel you want to do. If you want to take a month off work, do so. 

5.    Seek therapy and/or join a support group:  There are others who understand and care who are not directly related to or impacted by the death such as Compassionate Friends.  Therapy is very helpful and beneficial for everyone at least at sometime in their life and can be simply talking without the need to filter your words.   There are therapists that “specialize” in grief and loss.

We know that this blog is likely hard to read for it brings up many emotions and thoughts and we are here to help and support you!  Please contact us to schedule a session.  Also stay tuned as I plan to host a Grieving Through The Holidays workshop that will run in early November.

 

Tips for Deal with Bullying in the Work Place

Do you feel like you want to quit your job and just go home?  Do you feel anxiety and physically ill thinking about going to work?  Are you “walking on egg shells” at your job?

Today at work you come out of your office and a coworker approaches you demands “what is wrong with you?!”  This is not a onetime experience.  This coworker frequently insults you and your work in front of others and challenges you in front of your customers and coworkers.  The coworker questions your sanity.  The coworker often tells you how you are living your life wrong, such as not having kids but instead choosing to do rescue work.  When you have approached a supervisor about it, they minimize it and say it is just his way of talking and interacting with you.  Nothing changes.

You work to excel at your job.  You have a strong work ethic.  You follow directions well.  You know your job and consistently do it correctly.  However, you are often told that you are not doing your job well and that the policies and procedures have changed, yet no notification has been provided.  When you seek clarification, you are spoken down to and threatened with write ups.  You are overworked and not given time off for self care.  Your job is constantly being threatened for one reason or another.  Petty complaints are filed against you such as you take breaks when you should not, or that you sit sloppily at your desk. You are told that you talk to others too much, yet are not social enough and don’t participate in activities.

Do either of these scenarios sound familiar to you?  Have you or someone you know experienced similar situations?  We often think that when we enter the work force as adults that we won’t experience bullying anymore. This wrongly assumes that as people get older they mature and stop bullying, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.  According to many resources, it is estimated that 50%-75% of the work force experiences bullying at some time.  Below are descriptions of bullying that you may have or will experience in your work place:

1.    Verbal abuse-such as name calling , insulting a person, criticizing. Insulting how you talk or using nicknames for you against your wishes are some examples of this.

2.    Offensive behaviors (both verbal and non verbal)-such as threatening, intimidation, or humiliation, including mocking or threatening harm or damage to your reputation.

3.    Work interference-such as preventing one from completing work such as constant distractions. For example, frequently coming to your desk to ask to borrow items or rearranging your work space and removing needed items from your desk.

4.    Spreading rumors and gossiping-such as telling others about a person’s personal life whether it is factual or not and without that person’s permission.

5.    Creating and instructing a person to keep an impossible work schedule-such as working 12 hour shifts 6 days a week and mandatory overtime regardless of personal needs or plans.

6.    Taking credit for work or ideas completed by a person other than oneself-such as the bully telling the boss that they had completed the spreadsheets when you did them.

7.    Changing policies and expectations without notice-such as changing the lunch break times and not informing staff yet addressing their “misconduct” and attempting to make them feel confused or “crazy”.

Workplace bullying has several consequences such as:  causing good employees to resign, decreased productivity, increased use of sick/personal days, and causing physical health and mental health issues of the one being bullied including heart issues and anxiety.   Are you experiencing any of these? 

Here are several tips to help deal with bullying in the workplace:

1.    Tell the bully to stop!  I know, not so easy, but do it!  Remove yourself from the situation and avoid engaging in retaliation or responding to their taunts.  Do so every time and keep repeating it!

2.     Document everything!   Make sure to keep a record of when, where, and how you are being bullied and any events leading up to it or following it.  Make sure you keep this documentation safe and document everything-no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

3.    Address concerns with your supervisor. If it is your supervisor who is bullying you, then contact their supervisor.  Be sure to state facts and use “I statements”  Be direct and firm with your discussion.  Do not allow others to intimidate you or make you feel like your feelings and impressions are false or overreactive.  You have a right to your feelings and thoughts and no one should or can take that away from you!

4.    Understand that the bullying behavior is not about you, but about the bully. They may have been bullied and this is their way of handling it BUT-it is not acceptable!  Don’t take it personally and accept that it is something that is wrong with the bully; however, I certainly understand and know this is easier said than done.

5.     Remain calm! Usually bullies look for a response that they have harmed you.  If you keep calm and don’t react, they will not be rewarded.  Try to keep a neutral expression and not display distress; again, not easy but with practice you can and will do it!

6.    Participate in therapy….Experiencing bullying can be very traumatic and often brings up memories of being bullied as a child.  Therapy will allow you the chance to process your feelings in a safe and supportive environment. 

7.    Practice self care!   Yes, we have talked about this in previous blogs, but it so very important that it can’t be reviewed and discussed enough.  Some suggestions for good self care include going to a park, doing something fun from your childhood. I like blowing bubbles, daydreaming, and taking a staycation where you stay home and just not work!

8.    Find a new job. No job is perfect, but remaining in an environment where there is bullying and bullying is tolerated is not good for your emotional or physical health.  Explore your options and begin applying, especially if you do not get support from your supervisors to end the bullying.

9.    Remember and focus on your strengths!-You are a great person!  You were hired for a reason and you are doing well.  You don’t deserve this!  Love yourself!

10.  Remember what Dr. Seuss said:  “Be yourself because the people who mind don’t matter and the people that matter don’t mind.”  You can’t go wrong listening to and following Dr. Seuss!

If you have experienced bullying as a child or as an adult, I am here to help you work through the trauma and anxiety related to it.  I care and I understand! 

 

Tackling Time Management

Do you feel overwhelmed with all you have to do?

Do you find there aren’t enough hours in the day?

Do you lack motivation to tackle your to do list?

Let’s talk time management. We all have things we need to do on a daily basis.  We have work obligations, children’s sports activities, community involvements.  Some of these are things we can’t get away from. When these responsibilities become something you dread, it is time to examine what exactly is going on and why.

Sure, you might just need to streamline things, work to prioritize a bit more, but there could also be other reasons why you feel like time management is a problem for you.

Try these tips to practice better time management and get things done!

Prioritize – What needs done now?  What can wait?  What are the things you probably will never do that keep showing up on your to do list? If something- like making homemade bins for your children’s school projects -keeps getting moved to next week’s to do list, perhaps consider it’s not that important for you to do and keeping it on your list might just be setting you up to let yourself down. Part of good time management is knowing what to say NO to, or to take off of your list. In case you missed our previous blog post on saying no, check it out here.

Delegate – What is something that you can delegate to others? Maybe you look into hiring a nearby teenager to mow your lawn, or do a grocery delivery service rather than a trip to the store.  Maybe you empower your (pre)teens to do their own laundry or clean their own rooms and bathroom.  Ask yourself “Is this something I have to do, or can someone else do it?”  If someone else can do it, then have someone else!

Break Tasks Down Into More Manageable Parts - Sometimes big projects can cause us to get stuck in worry because they stress us out.  Or, we are overwhelmed because there is so much do to and we don’t know where to start.  Take that big work presentation, and break it down into smaller chunks to tackle.

Reflect – Reflect on if there are possibly other reasons behind your poor time management.  Could you be unmotivated or tired because you are depressed?  Could you be overly nervous about failing or not doing it perfectly, and so you chose not to start it? We addressed perfectionism in this blog post here, so be sure to check that out if you think you might not be starting something because you are nervous about not doing it perfectly. Could you have inattention issues that are contributing to you feeling as if you can’t get anything completed?  

Working to address the root causes of your time management difficulties can help you to be less stressed, more productive, and have better mental health.  Some of this work can be done on your own, but if you need guidance, we are here to help.  

What Is Burnout, And How Do I Deal With It?

Crying, exhaustion, increased anxiety, anger, emotionally and physically shutting down….does this sound familiar?  If so, you are like many of us and are possibly experiencing burnout.  Most of us have heard of burnout yet many of us believe that we will know when we are starting to burnout or that we can prevent it before it becomes too severe.  Unfortunately, this is not always true and can lead to many problems in our relationships, jobs, and emotional and physical health.  Furthermore, burnout is not solely related to jobs but also relationships and life in general.  Merriam Webster’s definition of burnout includes “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration”.  I like how Michael Gungor explains his understanding as “Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” 

Signs and symptoms of burnout often fall into one of three categories:  Physical, Emotional, or Behavioral.  Examples of Physical Symptoms of burnout include feeling tired, lowered immunity resulting in increased episodes of illness, headaches, muscle pains, changes in appetite, and changes in sleep patterns.  Examples of Emotional Symptoms of burnout include feelings of self-doubt, failure, defeat, detachment from others and the world, loss of motivation, negative thinking, and decreased sense of accomplishment.  Finally, some examples of Behavioral Symptoms of burnout include avoiding responsibilities, isolating from others, increased procrastination, using unhealthy coping strategies such as using drugs and alcohol, taking your anger and frustration out on others, and not showing up to work or committed events. 

According to Stress and Burnout in Ministry (helpguide.org), many people associate stress and burnout as the same thing.  There are some key differences between stress and burnout.  First, stress is associated with over engagement, being overly emotional, and extreme sense of urgency.  However, burnout is associated with not being engaged in activities, not feeling or expressing emotions, and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  One often feels and is aware of being stressed; however, one doesn’t always notice feeling burnt out.  Perhaps, what begins as stress leads to burnout.  For example, one may initially engage in too many activities resulting in feelings of stress which then often will lead to feelings of disengagement when burnout is present.  Also, one may have hypersensitive emotions when feeling stressed and will transition to lack of emotions and feelings of numbness when burnout is present.  Finally, stress is known to lead to anxiety whereas burnout often lead to depression.  Thus; experiencing both stress and burnout can and often does lead to anxiety and depression. 

Several lifestyles and personality traits are more prone to leading to burnout.  Do you work too much, not have enough time to socialize or not have quiet and alone time to recharge?  Do you have too few close relationships or take on too many responsibilities that result in lack of sleep?  If you answered yes to these questions, your lifestyle is prone to leading to burnout.  Do you struggle with perfectionism or have a pessimistic view of yourself or others?  Do you have the need to be in control or identify as a Type A Personality (constantly busy, very competitive, high ambition, schedule oriented)?  If you answered yes to these questions, your personality traits often contribute to burnout. 

If you have identified feelings of burnout or recognize it in others, what do we do now?  If that answer was as simple as turning a light switch on and off, it would be beyond awesome.  However, no awesomeness here.  However, don’t fret, there are many strategies to help prevent and overcome burnout. 

Here are 8 strategies to help prevent and overcome burnout:

1.      First and foremost, Identify that there is a problem: For example, you may start to feel disinterest in work or relationships and are beginning to feel exhaustion, sick, and angry towards others.

2.    Refocus on good self-care as a part of your daily life:  examples include saying no when you mean no, relaxation techniques such as grounding, and getting enough sleep and balanced diets.  (read more about self-care in a previous blog here)

3.    Take needed time off:  Take a vacation or staycation to regroup and reenergize.

4.    Reassess your goals:  For example, a previous goal may have been to save $1000 a month to put towards a down payment on a home and you revise it to saving $250 a pay instead….you will still reach your goal but perhaps it will take a bit longer, but you will be physically and emotionally better in the long run.

5.    Practice positive thinking:  For example, reframing a situation such as acknowledging the progress you have made on a goal rather than focusing on the areas that you have not achieved YET. Check out this blog on how to use gratitude to help you stay positive.

6.    Seek and accept support from others:  Therapy is a great option because therapy provides a safe place to process thoughts and feelings.  Also, try to increase your supportive social network to do leisure activities like going to the movies.

7.    Avoid negative people:  Negativity is contagious!  How can you increase positivity in your life if you are surrounded by negativity?  You can’t!  Find and surround yourself with positivity and if you prefer, find it in your pets or nature.

8.    Love yourself:  You are enough, and you are a good person!  If you don’t believe this now, work on learning to love yourself!  Practice complimenting yourself and accepting compliments.

Tony Robbins provided great advice when he stated “Understanding how to find the magic moments in your daily life is critical.  If you subscribe to the philosophy that says, ‘My vacation will free me from burnout,’ then you’re waiting for a few days out of the year to make up for many days of stress.  Instead, you have to be able to take mini-vacations on a daily basis.” 

What “daily vacations” are you going to take?  How have you experienced burnout?  How are you managing burnout?  Share with us your experience on burnout below!

 

The Counseling Collective turns 2!

Tomorrow marks two years since I opened the doors to private practice! In case you missed it, I reflected on one year in private practice in a previous blog post here. What started as a small practice with 14 clients the first week has grown to more than 200 clients who we have had the pleasure of working with as we continue to serve our community.

As expected, much has changed in the last year. We expanded into three private offices within our current building, have one therapist out on maternity leave, and have another three therapists working with me to serve our clients. (Yes, you heard that right….three other therapists….so stay tuned in the next few weeks to that announcement of our latest therapist joining the group!) We increased our hours to include evenings and weekend availability. We also have an amazing client coordinator who helps with new client inquires, and gets new clients set up with a therapist who fits their needs and schedule. I am honored to work with this fabulous team of people!

To continue my yearly reflections on lessons learned, here are my newest insights:

  1. Sticking to boundaries I’ve set takes constant work! - Even as I write this, it’s late at night and I should go to bed. I admit that I check email on the weekends and on vacation, and that I do some social media management in the evenings when I’m at home. As a business owner, it’s tough to turn off my brain and not think about work. My rationale is that if I check my email Sunday, then that’s less work I’ll have to do in the office Monday morning. The problem I find though is that then I don’t ever stop thinking about work to take a break and recharge. This is an area I am fully aware of that needs more of my attention! I am working on slow and steady progress…..

  2. Surround yourself with support - As I launched my business, I was fortunately enough to have support of my loved ones. I don’t know how I would have done it otherwise! And, as I’ve expanded the business, I continue to seek out those who can encourage me with positivity. From a website developer friend who did me a (huge) favor, to lunch with another practice owner, to running business ideas by trusted confidants, to dinner with other business owners, to panicked texts to my accountant, I am grateful to have such loving, caring, supportive, and encouraging friends and family. If you are embarking on a challenge, it is so helpful to have people in your corner cheering you on.

I want to thank each of you for your support over the past two years….for “liking” our business Facebook page, for following us on Instagram, for sharing our posts, for reading our blogs, and suggesting us to your friends or family who are struggling and are considering therapy. Our best marketing tool is YOU…..a personal referral. Your support is humbling!

Dealing with Difficult Family Members

Holidays may be something you look forward to, but for others, it might mean spending time with friends or family who are difficult to get along with or who don’t respect your boundaries. Holidays can cause worry, or even conflict in these cases. Since you will probably be attending a variety of holiday events over the course of the next few days, we wanted to revisit a blog post from last year on How to Deal with Difficult Family Members.

Here’s to a safe, and happy 4th of July!

Change: Why We Fear Change and Ways To Embrace It

Change is a good thing, right?  If it is, then why is it so uncomfortable and scary?  Do you find your self wanting to see changes yet dread them at the same time?  You are not alone.  Most of us like changes once they have happened but dread them before and as they are occurring.  We are creatures of habit and even when situations are bad; we often prefer them to change that could lead to better things and we do so due to knowing what to expect in the current situation.  We like a sense of balance and what we perceive as “normal”.  Change gets us out of our comfort zone.  Scary and uneasy which are two feelings that most don’t like except when watching a Horror movie or riding a roller coaster.   

Many changes we anticipate with excitement despite some fear such as graduating, getting married, buying a home, and taking a vacation to name a few.  However, we also dread many changes such as a change in a boss, new policies, and death. Deepak Chopra said it well with “All great changes are preceded by chaos.”  Sounds pretty accurate, right?  Is there not some chaos before graduating, getting married, buying a home, and taking a vacation such as needing to plan and follow a budget, who to include in our plans, and where to do these things.    Walter Anderson suggested “Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.”  This too makes sense…..has your anxiety not decreased after you make progress in changing and realizing that it was not as bad as you anticipated and if it was as bad or worse than you anticipated then at least you survived it.

Some reasons why people resist and fear change include:

1.     Loss of control-we may say that we don’t like control but most of us at least like some level of control in our lives whether it is how we spend our money, what we eat, or who we associate with.

2.    Uncertainty and surprises:   not everyone likes a surprise birthday party or engagement so why would those same people like the uncertainty of change.  Even those who like surprises like a gift likely won’t enjoy the “surprises” associated with change.  

3.    Differences being experienced:  such as routines.  If you accept a new job that you need to be there at 5am yet you used to sleep in until 8am, does this not take getting used and time to do so? This is not usually a comfortable adjustment, at least not at the beginning.

4.    Concerns about our competence:  how do I know or will know if I can do whatever is being asked and required?  An example of this could be if one can learn a new computer program and do well doing so.

5.    Possibility of pain and discomfort:  Change can hurt.  Who wants to hurt; likely not many if anyone.  Our relationships will likely be different; some will improve and some will dissolve and facing a loss of a relationship is quite painful whether through death or physical/emotional separation.  

Now that we have explored and discussed why people, including ourselves, resist and fear change; lets explore and discuss strategies to become more comfortable with and embrace change.  

1.     Explore, process, and discuss the positives of changes: An example of this could be you are getting a new boss. Lots of things are racing through your mind. Step back and think about what good can come from this change.  Perhaps the new boss will advocate for you more and have new and improved ideas and will seek your help in implementing the new ideas.

2.    Allow yourself time to feel and process your feelings about the changes:  No feeling is wrong.  Learn to acknowledge and sit with your feelings such as fear, anxiety, excitement, etc.  These are your feelings and they are ok.  

3.    Practice making small changes in your life to get used to changes: Perhaps you can read a chapter of a book in the evening instead of watching the latest episode of a popular TV series or you could decide to not eat meat one meal a week.

4.    Allow yourself to grieve the loss:  Yes, I said grieve the loss.  Grieving is not just about death it can be about grieving changes that result in loss of something; such as daily work routine.  Remember what was good but also process the positives that are coming.

5.    Practice good self care:  remember to eat balanced and nutritious meals, exercise, and get much needed sleep.  Don’t forget to include activities that relax you such as listening to music, taking a walk, or cuddling with your cat.  In case you missed it, read this blog on self care.

Change is very scary but it is a constant in life. Ironic huh?  I challenge myself and everyone to work at learning to view and accept change in a more positive light and work on looking forward to changes rather than dread them.  It won’t be easy but we can do it.  I believe what Kareen Lamb says “A year from now you will wish you had started today.” 

If you are struggling with change, we are here for you. Please reach out to us for we want to help.  What changes have you had in your life?  How have you handled them?  What have you learned from them?  We would like to hear your experiences.  

5 Ways To Keep Your Teen Entertained This Summer

Summer can be hard. Teenagers are used to having a strict school schedule and being told what to do and where to be all day long. Although they may complain about this schedule and the demands of it, they can be at a loss for what to do without it! Here are 5 ideas for you to suggest to your teen to keep them busy and occupied so you don’t hear the dreaded “I’m bored.  There’s nothing to do!”

1.    Work-I am a huge fan of teens working a part time job! Most of a teen’s life is spent with their peers.  They are in school for 8 hours a day and then often spend time with friends after school or doing sports or clubs.  And, they typically don’t want to spend a whole lot of time with parents. As a result, it can be easy to have a skewed sense of the world when the majority of your interactions are with other 14-18 year olds. That latest song or the latest episode of that popular show becomes the new “it” thing that they feel they have to know about or talk about, and they don’t get a sense of the bigger picture of life or the world. Working a part time job allows teens the chance to learn responsibly (such as when their shift starts or how to ask off for a vacation), independence (they have their own money now!), navigating interactions with customers and learning customer service, and interacting with coworkers and supervisors. Even if your teen is not interested in working at the local ice cream shop or retail store, he/she could mow lawns, walk dogs, or babysit for neighbors. 

2.    Volunteer- Maybe your teen loves animals or clothes, and they could volunteer some time this summer at the Humane League or a clothing bank. Volunteering gets teens out of house, and around other people who are giving back to the community. Especially if your teen is too young to work, this is a great option because it still teaches responsibility, independence, and how to navigate interactions with those outside of their peer group. 

3.    Summer camps-These can be a few days to a week long, and are often themed, so try to find something your teen is interested in. Or, instead of attending one, he/she could be a camp counselor for a camp of younger children. 

4.    Visit with family- This gives you a week (or even a long weekend) break and allows the teen one on one time with a relative. Even if grandpa lives a little too far away to see on a normal week, having your teen visit with him for a week over the summer can help to develop or deepen their relationship.  Don’t all great memories start with “I remember that summer I spent at my aunt’s house…..”?!

5.    Additional responsibility at home- Ask your teen to take on additional responsibility at home such as cooking dinner one day a week or doing their own laundry.  Now, your teen probably won’t like this suggestion, so you might have to sell it a bit more! But, if he/she is home all day long, why can’t he/she help out a bit more at home?! With the goal of teaching responsibility and developing life skills, being in charge of cooking a meal every Monday can be fun.  Rather than demanding they do a new chore, ask your teen what task he/she would be interested in doing to get their input so they feel heard and as if they are part of the conversation and decision.

These are just a few simple ideas to help keep your teen entertained a bit more this summer.  Let us know if you have any other ideas that have worked for you in the past!

 

 

Strategies of Help for Addiction-Part 3 of 3

Today’s blog is the final in a 3 part series on addiction.  This series is to help you gain a better understanding about what addiction is, signs and symptoms of addiction, and help available to those struggling with addiction as well.  Please click here to read the initial installment in introduction to addiction, and click here to read about sign and symptoms of addiction. Today’s focus is on help available for those struggling with addiction, and some do’s and don’ts of getting and accepting help for addictions.

As I mentioned previously, addiction is very much stigmatized.  This is very unfortunate for stigma often results in people not seeking or accepting help that is very much needed and recommended.  Furthermore, many people struggling with addictions will minimize and rationalize by making statements like “I am not as bad as the person who injects drugs since I only snort them” or “using is better than harming someone when I get mad”.  Others may believe or at least say that they can quit anytime as Nikki Sixx’s quote says “Addiction-When you can give up something anytime, as long as it’s next Tuesday.”  One may laugh at this but this is often said by people struggling with addiction but who are not ready to admit or accept their struggle with addiction or accept help.

To begin, it is very important to know, understand, and accept that recovery is a life long work in progress and to become complacent often results in relapse whether it is drug use, alcohol use, gambling, shopping, etc.  Seeking and accepting help with addictions can be internally or externally motivativing and sometimes a combination of both internal and external motivation.  An example of internal motivation is wanting better health.  An example of external motivation is legal obligations and compliance.  

Cirque Lodge has shared some do’s and don’ts of seeking and accepting help with addiction as listed below:

DO’s:

1.     Keep working on recovery efforts such as therapy and 12 step programs and remember to include others in your recovery efforts

2.    Involve others in your recovery program such as going to 12 step meetings and participating together in counseling sessions

3.    Participate in positive activities that you enjoy such as gardening, doing volunteer work, reading. These are different for everyone, so be sure to find ones that work best for you!

4.    Maintain boundaries such as saying no to things you don’t really want to too.

5.    Maintain good health such as balanced diet and regular exercise as well as completing wellness exams for good health is a significant part of recovery.

DON’TS:

1.    Minimize addiction…it is very powerful and can affect anyone!

2.    Replace your addiction with another addiction, such as no longer drinking but now spending excessive amount of money shopping. This is called Cross Addiction.

3.    Participate in activities or with others who trigger your addictions, such as going to a bar or going on shopping trips.

4.    Dwell on relapse if it happens. Instead, learn from it and move on and refocus on recovery efforts.

5.    Let fear or doubt keep you from setting goals and and working on them.

Treatment is becoming more accessible to people who struggle with addictions and an overview of the level of cares is as follows, starting with the lowest level of care:

1.     Community supports such as 12 step meetings

2.    Outpatient Therapy-9 total hours or less of therapy a week completed in both group and individual counseling sessions (This is the level of therapy our office offers).

3.    Intensive Outpatient Therapy-9 or more hours a week completed in both group and individual counseling sessions

4.    Partial Program-a step down from inpatient treatment consisting of 20 or more hours a week of individual and group counseling

5.    Detox-inpatient program that is 24 hours a day which provides medical monitoring and clinical services to help someone safely “cleanse” their bodies of substances such as alcohol, Opiates, and Benzodiazepines

6.    Inpatient-24 hours a day treatment that provides medical and clinical care; typically 28 days or longer

7.    Medicated Assisted Therapy is on an outpatient basis where people struggling with Opiate Dependence receive medication on a daily to monthly basis which also includes outpatient level therapy.

**More information about the levels of care can be reviewed in American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) website.**

Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, stated “Believe more deeply.  Hold your face up to the light, even though for the moment you do not see.”  This has been a brief introduction to strategies to get and accept help for addiction.  I will conclude with a quote by Walt Disney that really sums it up….”The way to get started it to quit talking and begin doing”.  If you or someone you care about struggles with addictions, please contact us.  We care and we are here to help you!

 

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction-Part 2 of 3

Today’s blog is the second in a three part series on addiction.  This series is to help you gain a better understanding about what addiction is, signs and symptoms of addiction, and help available to those struggling with addiction as well.  You can read Part 1 of this series here. Today’s focus is on recognizing and accepting of signs and symptoms of addiction.  

As I mentioned in the previous blog; people often associate unemployment, homelessness, limited education, and having an unkempt appearance as signs of addiction.  However, as we will discuss, there are many more signs and symptoms of addiction and often they are much more discrete than most people think and often go unnoticed in those who are “functioning addicts”.  Signs and symptoms of addiction vary significantly in different people as do the signs and symptoms of different addictions.  

There are many more people struggling with addiction in the United States than most believe and even more have not been identified due to the stigma associated with addictions.  Unfortunately, this also indicates that many people do not seek or accept help for their addictions.  

Statistics about addiction are quite startling as you can see below; however, again, it is believed that the numbers are much higher than reported.  According to The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) website, it is reported that 2-3% of Americans struggle with Problem Gambling and 40% of those struggling with Problem Gambling start gambling before the age of 17.  The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity website reports that an average of 6-8% of Americans struggle with sex addiction.  Furthermore, The Talbott Recoverywebsite reports that 15 million Americans struggle with Alcohol Use Disorders. The National Institution on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website has that 24.6 million Americans were using illicit drugs in 2013.  Illicit drug use means drugs that are being used that are not legal and/or  prescription drugs that were either not prescribed for the individual using them or that they were being taken more than what was prescribed.  Some examples of illicit drug use include Crack-Cocaine, Marijuana (THC), and PCP.

To begin, lets clarify the difference between signs and symptoms.  Symptoms are experienced by the person struggling with addiction whereas, signs are observed behaviors and physical appearances by others.  Also, it is important to understand that just because one doesn’t feel many or all of symptoms and someone does not observe some or all the signs of addiction, that addiction can still be present.  Signs and symptoms can be further broken down into 3 categories:  physical, behavioral, and psychological.  Some examples of physical signs include:  blood shot eyes, pupils are larger or smaller than usual, changes in appetite which can lead to weight gain or weight loss, changes in physical appearance such as blemishes, scars, hair loss, broken blood vessels, excessive sweating, shaking, and slurred speech.  Some examples of behavioral signs include:  decrease in attendance to school, work, social activities, financial problems, being more secretive, unaccountability such as blaming others and circumstances, changes in leisure activity participation, legal involvement including criminal activity, and being in high risk areas such as a person struggling with gambling being at a casino. Examples of psychological signs and symptoms may include:  sudden change in personality and attitude, mood swings, increased or decreased energy, increased agitation, and distorted thinking.  These examples are some of the many signs and symptoms of addiction and you can find more information about this at websites such as verywellmind.com.

Some questions to ask yourself or someone you care about to help determine if one is struggling with addiction include:

-Is withdrawal present such as aches, increased anxiety, cramps, restlessness, nausea, diarrhea, watery eyes, runny nose, insomnia, seizures?

-Do you or someone you know need more of the substance or activity to gain the same amount of pleasure and comfort?

-Are legal problems and behaviors developing or increasing?

-How is use or an activity such as gambling affecting one’s life such as financial, emotional, physical, legal?

-Do you or someone you know use drugs alone or do activities such as shopping or gambling alone?

-Are you or someone you care about preoccupied with use of a drug or the activity?

-Has anyone expressed concerns about your use or the use of someone you know, activities, or behaviors?

-Do you or someone you care about use drugs or participate in activities to help relax and deal with stress.

If you or someone you care about have answered yes to any of the above questions, you or someone you care about may be struggling with addiction.  Please reach out to us for help because we are here to help you!  

This has been a brief introduction to signs and symptoms of addiction.  Stay tuned for the final installment which will focus on getting help for addiction.

An Introduction to Addiction - Part 1 of 3

Today’s blog is the first one in a three part series on addiction.  This series is to help you gain a better understanding about what addiction is, signs and symptoms of addiction, and help available for those struggling as well as their loved ones.

What are your first memories and thoughts about what a person looks like and acts like who struggles with addiction?   Was the person homeless, unemployed, living under a bridge, unkempt, and with a lack of education?  Sadly, I am sure this is what many of our first impressions were and I am sure many of us were also taught this.  However, this could not be and cannot be further from the truth or reality.  Sure, these may be characteristics of a small number of people struggling with addiction; but there are also pharmacists, doctors, therapists, teachers, clergy, pilots, truck drivers, to just name a few who have families and who are working daily but who also are struggling with addiction.  The thing about addiction is that it does not discriminate based upon age, gender, race, education, career, or socioeconomic status.  It can and does affect any and everyone.  Likely you either struggle with or have struggled with addiction yourself or know someone who is or has struggled with addiction.      

I highly doubt anyone ever had the goal or desire to become addicted to something; whether it be drugs, alcohol, gambling, or sex to just name a few.  However, manypeople tell those who are struggling with addictions to “just stop”; as if it is as easy as that!  I remember hearing at one of my many substance abuse trainings  “telling someone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol to just stop is like giving someone several laxatives and then telling them that they cannot go to the bathroom”.   Quite a way to look at it from a different perspective.

So, what is addiction?  Great question and as mentioned before, there are many ideas and beliefs about what addiction is.  There are also many beliefs as to why someone becomes and is addicted.  Some have said that it is a moral defect.  Others describe it as a weakness.  Most recently, addiction has become known as a disease, yes, like Diabetes.  However, unlike Diabetes, there are still many stigmas associated with addiction and how one should “just stop and get over it”.  Again, if it was just that easy!  American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) definition of addiction is “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.  Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic, biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations”.  So, to put this more simply, addiction is very much apart of how our brain functions and responds to use of chemicals or activities that produce pleasure chemicals in the brain, especially the “reward center”.  Addictions affect every aspect of life such as financially, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically.  Addictions can be related to genetics, nurturing, or both genetic predisposition and the environments we grow up in.  For example, if a child is raised in a family where alcohol is consumed in excess and is socially accepted, the child is more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol and/or other substances or behaviors due to both genetic predisposition and the environment.  Addictions can “skip generations”.  Furthermore, many family have held the unspoken rule of not discussing one’s drinking too much or use of drugs and instead describe it as “that is just how uncle John is…crazy uncle John”.  It is very important to gain a better understanding of what addiction is so that instead of fearing the stigma of addiction, people will and can seek out and get very much needed help.  

This has been a brief introduction to what addiction is.  Stay tuned for the next installment which will address how you can know if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.  

What questions do you have about addiction?  If you feel that you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and is interested in learning more and getting help, please contact us.  We care and are here to help!

Is There Such a Thing as Too Perfect?

“I love sitting back and finding joy in the things that I have not finished or need to do more work on” …. words never said by anyone! Often there are times when we come up short on tasks or have a feeling that things are incomplete. This can be irritating to us and for some reason we can’t find peace with the feeling of things not being perfect. It can even become discouraging when you are not able to get it just the way you envisioned it. Sometimes you may make a small mistake that you feel you can’t take back. Yes, those are all truly frustrating things which can really affect how you feel, but did you know that it could be of our own doing that we have these repeated experiences of feeling things are incomplete? Well it’s most definitely possible especially if you’re struggling with Perfectionism.

Perfectionism is when we believe we must be look perfect, act perfect, or even believe that perfection is achievable. You are probably wondering how this could be a bad thing. It is a good thing to be driven and goal oriented, but if we are honest, nothing and no one is perfect and there will always be flaws in everything. When “Perfect” becomes our standard, we often set expectations for ourselves that are not realistic and cause us distress. This can often block us from truly appreciating the work we’ve done and cause us to minimize or discount what was accomplished. Perfectionism is often overlooked, but it can and will zap the joy out of anything if we allow it.

Perfectionism can show up in 2 negative ways. The first is the societal perfectionist, which is when someone is trying to be perfect to meet the unrealistic standards of society. Examples may be when you have high expectations set for you because of your job title, the school you attend, or the sport you play. When this happens, the likelihood of negative feelings and thoughts increases. You may have begun to have feelings of depression, worthlessness, and increased stress levels. Also, some have even experienced urges to self harm and suicidal thoughts due to failing to meet the standards set by societal perfectionism. The second type is the self-critical perfectionist. This person feels too much pressure from the unrealistic goals set for themselves. Failure to meet your own unrealistic goals can cause you to start talking to yourself in negative ways or be self-critical which is like bullying yourself. This causes decreased feelings of value or worth in ourselves and can cause our motivation to decrease.

Perfectionism not only shows up in work or school. The way we judge our environment, our physical appearance, how you speak or write, and even how you manage your friendships and intimate relationships can be affected as well. Perfectionism can be something that is taught to us or it can be a side effect of our mental health. When we experience frequent put downs or criticism from family members such as parents, friends, or siblings, it can lead to the unrealistic thoughts about perfection. Anxiety can also cause some to be perfectionistic, as the fear of having a panic attack due to failure could push you to go beyond realistic expectations. 

So, by now I bet you’re wondering how to know if you’re struggling with perfectionism. Here are some warning signs of perfectionism:

·       Spending more time than would be expected on tasks (Example: taking 3 hours for a 1 paragraph assignment)

·      Minimizing accomplishments (Example: feelings of failure over getting a 95% on a paper because it’s not a 100%)

·      Being frustrated by others success (Example: finding flaws in their achievements) 

·      Avoiding tasks because they can’t be done perfectly (Example: skipping out on school or work projects rather than starting them)

·      Only focusing on the end goal and not the process (Example: being discouraged by only losing 3 lbs instead of the 10 lbs you wanted to lose after two weeks in the gym)

·      Sticking to tasks you know instead of trying new things that you might not be perfect in (Example: only playing games you win and refusing to try to play new sports or games with friends to not look bad)

Can Perfectionism Ever Be Good?

Perfectionism can really block our satisfaction in life and limit our perspective, but there is a type of perfectionism that can be effective. When we have goals based on our own standard or perfectionism that is motivating and not deflating. This comes with an understanding of what is realistically accomplishable for yourself and making sure you achieve it. An example of this would be knowing you can get in A in math class if you study because every time you study you earn an A. You would not compare yourself to others who get A’s without studying or people who study more or get a higher A by 2 points. When you have personal standards for perfectionism, you will be satisfied with the A you receive because you set a goal and achieved it using the method you know works. Also, you would not allow anything else to influence your feelings about your accomplishment. Those who can set goals without their disregarding their own standards are less likely to experience stress, anxiety, instability in mood, and distress.

6 Tips to on Healthy Standards for Personal Perfectionism:

·      Share goals and expectations you have for yourself with trusted and motivated friends or family members

·      Plan to celebrate after trying new or difficult things

·      Set limits on the time you take to complete small tasks

·      Reward yourself for the achievement of short-term goals

·      Break projects or big tasks into parts

·      Set goals that motivate you to complete them

Perfectionism is a very tough thing and can easily go unnoticed. Hopefully this helps open your eyes to perfectionism and ways to make it work for you.

 

 

 

How Yoga Can Improve Anxiety and Depression

Last fall, I wrote a blog about how physical fitness can help your overall mental health. I wanted to follow up with a blog about how yoga and mindfulness specifically can help with symptoms related to anxiety, depression and even trauma. Yoga is defined as a discipline that includes breath control, simple meditation, and a variety of body positions that is widely practiced for health and relaxation. Yoga, as a form of physical activity, used as a regular practice, will also increase the trait of mindfulness, as well as increase the “feel good” chemicals in your brain. As a result, it is a healthy coping skill for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and trauma. Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s body, one’s thoughts, and a greater connection of mind and body. Mindfulness teaches you to clear out distractions, with a goal of totally emptying your mind, while you are practicing yoga. 

There are many benefits of using yoga, which are not limited to but include:

            -Stress reduction

            -Sound sleep

            -Lower blood pressure

            -Improved mood

            -Increase strength and flexibility

            -Coping skill when feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed

Yoga can be used as a coping skill for worry in a way that the focus is on safety, the present moment, concentration, and relaxation. As the yoga pose is held, a mantra can be used. Breathing while in pose is important as well, as we use breath to calm ourselves. Yoga allows you to release stress and tension by helping you shift your focus to the present moment, the way your body feels right now. This allows you to let go of the negative energy and feel in control of your stress reaction. 

Yoga can be used for trauma, to represent safety in the environment and body, to be aware of body boundaries and inner body sensations, demonstrating a posture that reflects worthiness, and saying affirmations. Some examples of affirmations are “I am safe. I am alive. I choose. I feel. I speak.” Yoga is a healthy way to use your mind and body, rather than turning to unhealthy coping strategies such as drug or alcohol use or other self-medicating behaviors. 

A 3 month study was done on people experiencing depression, and a 50% reduction of symptoms was reported in those that participated in yoga practice. More days of yoga resulted in fewer symptoms (Dr. Chris Streeter, Boston University School of Medicine Journal of Alternative and complementary Medicine, 2017). Yoga helps the autonomic nervous system to be balanced, therefore the rest of the brain works better. The autonomic nervous system is what regulates organ functioning, the fight or flight response, and relaxation. When using yoga, the fight or flight response decreases, and the rest and digest response increases. Therefore, you enter a more relaxed state. As soon as your breath slows down, you decrease your fight or flight response and calm your nervous system.

As I previously mentioned, mantras are a great practice to use while in a yoga pose, or practicing mindfulness. A mantra is a statement or sound that is repeated. An example of a self-love mantra is “My dear I am here, I am learning to take care of you”, while holding your hand over your heart and breathing deep breaths. 

Along with all of the mentioned benefits, yoga can help you find or build your sense of self. It helps you get to know your body, and create a nonjudgmental relationship with yourself. When you become more rooted in your center, your breath, and your sense of self, you develop a healthy, balanced ego. If you are more at peace and centered with yourself, relationships around you will flourish as well. 

Yoga is designed for anyone to practice, and can be suitable for all ages, body shapes, and fitness levels. Yoga is never about who is the strongest or most flexible, but finding what poses work best for you. There are many yoga studios available for use, if you are interested in participating with others. There are a variety of classes available, whether you want gentle and relaxing, or strenuous and challenging. It will benefit your physical and mental health in a positive way. Get started today!

Here are 4 steps to get started with yoga:

1)    Consult with your doctor behavior starting any exercise program

2)    Decide if you want to find a studio near you to go to for instruction, or if you want to follow instruction on YouTube, or poses off of a link like this: https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/yoga-by-benefit/anxiety

3)    If you want to follow instructors on YouTube, a few examples are “Yoga with Adriene” or “Yoga with Tim”

4)    Practice your breathing as this will be important for any program. Take a few moments everyday to take a deep breath in to the count of 3, and then let it out to the count of 3.

For those of you who do yoga regularly, please share with us what benefits you see from practicing!

 

 

Easy Ideas To Manage Your Anxiety (And Ways to Help a Loved One Who Might Struggle)

Racing heart, dizziness, tightness in the chest, nausea, shaking, difficulty sleeping, chills yet sweating….sounds like a heart attack, right?  It could be a heart attack, yet if you are one of the 40 million adults (18.1% of the adult population!) or 25.1% of the 13-18 year old population in the United States, it could also be related to symptoms of anxiety.  

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health diagnosis in the United States and people who experience symptoms are 3-5 times more likely to seek treatment with their family doctor and 6 times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric care than those who do not experience or have anxiety disorders according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  These statistics are quite an eye opener and hopefully makes anyone who experiences anxiety feel less alone.  

Many people say that they have anxiety and likely they do experience anxiety from time to time, such as before taking a test, before a job interview, or driving during a snowstorm.  However, for those who have an anxiety disorder, it goes way beyond having short term and temporary period of feelings of nervousness.  For them, anxiety instead encompasses much of their lives and affects many aspects of their lives such as relationships, work, schooling, and health.  Anxiety never seems to be too far from a person’s mind when they have an anxiety disorder. It often feels as if people are in a constant state of increased stress, what is called “fight or flight” mode, where they feel as if they need to be ready to defend themselves or quickly get out of any situation.  One such example is if you are afraid of spiders and see a large one in a room, you feel a sense of panic and feel the need to either remove the spider quickly or run out of the room screaming.  As Jody Aman said “Ask your anxiety this question:  Why don’t you just leave me alone?”  If it was only that simple.  

How to manage and get through feelings of worry or nervousness requires constant work, but don’t give up!  Try the below strategies, and also check out this previous blog post on other ideas to reduce your anxiety:

1. Talk to someone, such as explaining what you are feeling and telling them what you need… whether it is a hug or for them to simply listen to you and talk to you about how you are feeling.

2. Listen to soothing music. As I have mentioned in past blog posts, I like Orla Fallon and Chicago, but choose what music is calming for you.

3. Cuddle with an animal. Animals are non judgmental and very accepting….the sound of a cat purring is so very relaxing, at least for me it is!

4. Focus on your breathing….feel yourself breathe in, feel the breath held in your lungs, feel the release of your breath and keep repeating this breathing exercise.

5. Get active….take a walk, cook, clean, or whatever you like to do.

6. Practice self talk such as “yes I am feeling anxious, yes I don’t like this feeling, yes I will be ok”.

7. Enroll in and participate in therapy…therapy is so beneficial, including for those who provide therapy.

 

 5 tips to help a loved one who has anxiety:

Many people do not understand anxiety and what people who experience anxiety are going through.  Many people who experience anxiety have often been asked “Why don’t you just stop being anxious and calm down like I am?”  Well, wouldn’t that be nice for it to be that easy?!?!  It is not like anxiety is a light switch that one can turn on and off with a flick of a wrist.  Heck, those who experience anxiety would be very grateful for it to be like a dimmer switch that they could at least lower the intensity of worry!  Charles Schulz once said “My anxieties have anxieties”.  How true is that?!?!  And, Lauren Elizabeth stated “Just because I can’t explain the feelings causing my anxiety, doesn’t make them less valid”. This explains why your loved one might not be able to verbalize how they are feeling.

Living with and being in relationships with people who have anxiety disorders can be very challenging also.  Often, family members and others involved with those with anxiety disorders wonder what to do, how to help, and what to say.  This can be tricky, for often attempts at helping like saying “Please calm down.  Everything is ok and you will be ok” often increases the anxiety level of those experiencing anxiety.  Instead, try these suggestions:

1. Reassure the person experiencing anxiety that you are there for them and that you are available to talk such as “I am here for you and that I am always willing to listen and talk.”

2. Encourage the person experiencing anxiety to take their time and to work through the stress and anxiety together such as saying “I am not in a rush. I am here for you and we will work through this together.”

3. Offer some physical comfort such as a cup of hot herbal tea, a hug, or draw a hot bath.

4. Reassure them that you know and understand that they are not choosing to feel or act this way such as saying “I know this is difficult and that you don’t like or want to feel this way or experience this.”

5. Reassure them that you will still like and love them no matter what, such as saying “I love you in good and bad times.”

 

What are some ways that you manage anxiety?  What do you need from others when experiencing anxiety?  We would love to hear your strategies to manage anxiety and what you need from others to help you through your worry. If you are struggling with controlling your worry, please reach out to us.  We care and are here to help!

Celebrating One Year of Blogging!

In case you missed it on our social media pages, last week marked ONE YEAR since we started blogging! What began as a challenge for one person has evolved into a way for 4 of us to share helpful information about mental health and topics we might not necessarily talk about very much.

First, we’d like to THANK YOU! Thank you for reading the blog, for sharing it with your family and friends, for your comments, and for supporting not just the blog but the entire practice. There isn’t much of a point to blogging if no one is reading it!

In celebration of one year of blogging, we are asking for your feedback. We would love to hear which was your favorite blog post and what made that one stick out for you. We’d love to hear what else you’d like us to address, or what other topics you want to learn about. Please give us feedback, so we can direct the next year of blogging to what you’d like to read!

Be Your OWN Valentine!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2019!  We are all being bombarded with advertisements and store displays reminding us to get our sweetheart the “perfect” Valentine’s Day gift such as candy, cards, flowers, jewelry, to just name a few of the most popular items.  Valentine’s Day has not always been associated with romance.  In fact, some of the history of Valentine’s Day is rather gruesome.  However, most of us focus on love and romance when it comes to Valentine’s Day and frankly, that is much better in my humble opinion.  

What is love?  That is a great question with so many descriptions and interpretations.  One definition found in Merriam Webster is “warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion; to hold dear”.  Sounds like a good summary of what many of us believe love is.  However, many descriptions  include “towards another person” in the definition.   Loving and being loved by others is great; however, many definitions lack “loving yourself”.   Is loving yourself not very important?  Well, of course it is!

Lucille Ball stated, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line”.  How perfect is that!  How can we love someone or be loved by someone else if they first do not love themselves?  That is an easy answer… they can’t!

Loving ourselves sounds so easy; yet, for many of us, it is very hard to do!  Instead, many of us focus on loving others and relying on others to love us in return; that is, if we even can believe or accept that we deserve to be loved.  This sounds very sad and, it is!  The reality is, each one of us deserves to be loved no matter how many mistakes we have made and continue to make in life.   We need to love ourselves!  Robert Morley stated “To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness”.  Again, many find truly loving ourselves very challenging, and again, I ask, why?  I do not believe that there is one single answer or explanation as to why we struggle with loving ourselves for it tends to be very complicated and deep rooted.  However, it is very important to learn to love ourselves for who we are.  Sahaj Kohli said “The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself”. This is such an amazing quote to believe and live by!

  Let’s explore and practice ways to love ourselves. Here are 8 strategies to help us learn to and to continue to love ourselves:

1.     Look into the mirror daily, yes, daily! When you are looking in the mirror, and say at least 3 positive things about yourself.  It will likely be hard to do at first but with continued practice, it will become easier.  Be sure that you identify and state different things each day!  Each of us have so many good qualities!  I love the quote by Byron Katie ”Do you want to meet the love of your life?  Look in the mirror.”

2.     Practice self care daily, such as taking a nap, exercising, dancing in the rain to name just a few.  See a previous blog post on other self care ideas here.

3.     Establish and maintain boundaries such as saying no and standing up for yourself. Do not let others push you into things or bully you.  This too will take practice but once you do it once and keep doing it, the feeling is so great that you will want to continue to do it all the time!  

4.     Accept you for you!  You are you and you are awesome!  Don’t compare yourself to others- instead cherish your uniqueness and your personal growth.

5.     Forgive yourself!  We all make mistakes but instead, let’s view them as learning experiences and celebrate what you have learned from them.

6.     Avoid perfectionism!  No one is perfect and if someone would be, how boring would that be!  Trust me, I struggle with it too.  It can be my worst enemy at times!

7.     Avoid negative people and instead surround yourself with others who value you and love you for who you are!  They see the true you and love you for it!  Quality of friends is so much more rewarding than quantity of friends.

8.     Treat yourself!  I love to purchase a new book to read.  Maybe you will do the same or maybe you will buy a new video game or something else, the point is, do something for you!

So, now that we have identified some strategies to love ourselves, what are we going to do for ourselves to celebrate us being our own best Valentine?  Does a nice dinner out sound good?  Maybe a nice quiet night in curled up in PJ’s with a pizza and watching a movie is more your style?  Whatever it may be, please treat yourself not just on Valentine’s Day, but on a regular basis such as once a month.  You certainly deserve it!  

We would love to hear how you practice loving yourself and what you love about yourself.  If you are struggling with loving you, we are here for you. Please reach out to us because we care!

How To Know If You Are Communicating Effectively

“Why are you not getting it? Are you even listening?”

 Are these the questions you routinely ask yourself when talking with others? Do not worry -these are common questions that come up when two people are struggling to communicate. These feelings of frustration can show up in a conversation between spouses, siblings, and parents with their children! If you're having these frustrations, both of you are probably struggling with ineffective communication.  What might cause ineffective communication you might ask?  Well, one of the quickest ways we end up communicating ineffectively is by not listening the other person. How many times have you found yourself responding to something the person did last week, last month, and sometimes years ago? When that happens conversations can get negative and confrontational quickly! When talking to someone feels like a negative experience, it can actually cause us to not see the benefit in communication and instead avoid talking about tough topics. 

But how do I know if I'm specifically bad at communication? Well, how often in heated conversation do you resort to talking over someone, placing blame, or even bringing up past incidences where they hurt you? We usually do these things because we believe we know what the other person wil say, do, or even think next. Those kinds of assumptions can be very wrong and bring about the thing we feared the most, causing our own negative thoughts to come true. That kind of communication causes people to be defensive and they will either stop talking to you or lash out to protect themselves. I mean think about it, if we bark at a dog and blame it for barking back, what are we really doing? So, let's stop and take a closer look at what communication really is. Communication is one of our primary ways of talking with someone to accomplish a goal, whether that goal be to get work done, feel closer to others, or just learn something new. This is why ineffective communication is so frustrating- nothing gets accomplished!  Ineffective communication blocks any progress that could have been made in conversation which then defeats the purpose of communicating with each other. So, if your communication isn't accomplishing its goal due to the other person feeling attacked or defensive, you could be communicating ineffectively.

Now let's talk about what effective communication is, and some small fine-tuning tips that can help you and your loved ones effectively communicate. The first thing is to remember that what both people have to say is important. Each person should be ready to hear out the other person whether you agree or not- everyone's feelings are valid even if they have different perspectives. Making good eye contact and repeating back to the person what you heard is always helpful so you know you aren't misunderstanding them. Also letting the person know what you're feeling while talking to them is important. You can do this by using “I” Statements, which can help the other person to not feel blamed or attacked and can help both of you to be on the same page about how you are feeling  and leave out any assumptions. “I” Statements are simply comments about how you are feeling that start with “I feel….”.

Example 1:

Possible assumption of wife when husband seems to be avoiding her- “He doesn’t want to talk to me again today!”

I-statement from husband- “I feel frustrated when we talk about the bills so I avoid that conversation.”

 

Example 2: 

Possible assumption of parent when teen doesn’t want to talk about school-“He probably wasn’t paying attention or was goofing off in class again!”

I-statement that teen could say“I feel overwhelmed when I think about school work.”

When you use “I” statements, it allows the person to ask “why” or “how come” and possibly increase both peoples’ interest and motivation to understand each other. Also setting boundaries helps when you want to communicate effectively.  Identifying the goal of the conversation, tone of voice, locations, and statements that will be the most helpful and/or damaging to your efforts to communicate effectively is important. Writing down these rules and making them readily available and helps each person to remember what makes your communication effective. You can talk with your family and decide what rules work best for everybody a write them down so each person knows how they can stay focused on effectively communicating.

Example of rules: 

The Don’ts- No yelling, no talking when one person is angry, no name calling, no placing blame, no talking in front of the kids, in the living room, in public, or over the phone. 

The Do’s- Talk in the car, bedroom, face to face, or in private space. Talk calmly, use I statements, be supportive, listen and wait my turn.

It's true communicating effectively can be very hard work, but it's worth it in the end so that both people feel heard. That’s why most of the problem is how we talk about the problem and not what the problem actually is. With effective communication, most problems can be solved. I hope these tips will be helpful the next time you need to communicate with one of your loved ones!

New Year...New You

Are you looking to make that lifestyle change of better health for 2019?

We are excited to announce one of our therapists (who is also a certified personal trainer) will be running a group that focuses on whole body wellness. Starting in February, the “Beat the Winter Blues Fitness Group” sessions will be held once a week for 4 weeks. It will be held on Saturdays from February 2 to February 23, from 1pm-2:30pm. It will be held at Crossfit Lititz, located at 37 W. Millport Rd, Lititz, PA 17543. The group will be 45 minutes of exercise, followed by 45 minutes of group therapy. Some examples of topics that will be covered are healthy coping skills, depression, anxiety, healthy relationships, and self-care. The sessions are $60 a week, and you must commit to all 4 weeks. This group will help your overall mental health, by improving your physical and emotional health while being in a supportive environment. 

For more info or to register, contact Stacy at stacy@DiscoverCounselingCollective.com
or (717) 723-8040, ext 300

To support the premise that working out is good not only for your physical wellbeing but also your mental wellbeing, here is a reprisal of Stacy’s blog from last year on how working out is good for your mental health:

How Physical Exercise Benefits Your Mental Health

Make Lifestyle Changes, not New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year 2019!  

What are your plans for the new year? Let’s see, mine are watching Penn State win the Citrus Bowl and then having the traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner for luck throughout the year. 

Ok, so that is not exactly what I meant when I ask what your plans for the new year are; although you likely will be doing some traditions that are very special to you and I encourage you to continue celebrating them!  I am talking about the New Year’s resolutions which have been drilled into our heads since being young children. I will be frank here, I dislike the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I believe it sets us up for poor follow through with the changes and often making unrealistic resolutions “goals” that are not well thought out and lacking steps to accomplish and maintain the resolutions “goals”. Some of the most common resolutions I’ve heard are “I will eat better”, “I will exercise more”, or “I will save more money”. These are great; at least they are in theory. However, my questions are...how are we going to achieve these and how long will we maintain these “resolutions”? I personally prefer to call them life style changes. It makes them more realistic, attainable, and sustainable. I also prefer to and encourage others to make positive life changes throughout the year instead of waiting to make them on New Year’s. It is always a good time to make positive life style changes.

January 1, 1994 someone very dear to me did not make a New Year’s resolution but instead made a life style change which he continues to this day, 25 years later! He stopped consuming alcohol entirely. He was what many call “a functioning alcoholic”. He maintained employment and relationships. He paid his bills and supported his family. However, much of the time beer was his best friend and what he did to celebrate good things, to “numb negative emotions”, to socialize, and to relax. The reality is, everything was a reason or time to drink. He did not think about potential consequences related to drinking but rather the good feelings associated with drinking.  He shared that his drinking continued to increase and that he remembers drinking in excess during college.  He shared that his drinking decreased some when he had a family; although, he now understands and accepts that his drinking never decreased enough to be healthy until he stopped drinking entirely January 1, 1994.


He started his life style change when he was told by his family that they would not continue to watch him drink and that it was damaging their family more than anyone could know.  Despite his family’s desires, insistence, and ultimatum; he had to make the decision himself to stop drinking.  This was not easy for him, but he made the commitment to doing so.  He began by contacting Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and that day, an AA member came to the house and dumped all alcohol down the drain.  He then made conscious daily, and sometimes minute to minute decisions, to not consume alcohol.  He attended and participated in AA meetings.  However, what worked best for him was a commitment to change which meant changing his responses to thoughts and urges to drink and avoiding people, places, and things that were triggers for him to drink.  This was not always easy; especially after life stressors such as death of immediate family members and job loss.  However, he was more understanding and accepting that to return to drinking to numb his feelings and emotions would just make him feel better for a time but then his feelings, situations, and thoughts would be just as bad if not worse.  This life style change will be something that he will work on and towards for the rest of his life.  


Making positive life style changes is not just about addressing drinking too much or using illicit substances.  People can be addicted to anything, including working, exercise, sex, shopping, and social media, to just list a few. Caffeine is a major addiction for most people, for it is in coffee, tea, chocolate, and many other things that most of us consume at least once daily, often consuming it throughout the day. However, it seems that few people acknowledge or associate addictions with daily activities and socially accepted actions such as consuming too much caffeine.  Many say they could change these patterns and behaviors if they wanted to but don’t because either “I don’t want to” or “it isn’t a problem”.  Life style changes can and often include better self-care and maintaining boundaries as noted in previous blogs.  Making positive life changes is not easy, but anyone can make and maintain positive changes.  It takes much time and effort but the positive results are very rewarding and worth it.  Also, it is important to remember to not get discouraged about any set backs but instead learn from what has caused the set back and make different decisions and change actions in the future so that you can continue with your progress to a new and healthier you.  I know you can do it just as I knew and still know that the friend I mentioned can do it! Here are some steps to help you start your positive life changes.

Steps to make positive life style changes include:

1.    Identifying what you would like to change for example “I want to spend more time doing self-care activities.”

2.   Identify strategies to make the change for example; “I will read daily and I will maintain boundaries.”

3.   Identify what may not be working with regards to making the changes and learn from them- for example deciding to exercise for an hour a day 7 days a week may not be realistic or even the best practice initially so first try small steps such as exercising for 15 minutes a day at least 3 days a week.

4.   Review and celebrate your progress, acknowledging even the small progress such as “I said no to working overtime when in the past I would have agreed to do so.” 

5.   Seek and accept support, help, and encouragement from others.  Positive self-change is most successful when you have a positive support network in place which often includes family, friends, and other peers making similar positive life changes. 

6.   Most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP OR GET DISCOURAGED!!!!!!!!!  We are all “a work in progress” and we can and will do this! 

If you are struggling with addiction or have a desire to make positive life changes, I encourage you strongly to seek help doing so and we are here to help you!  What are some areas of your life that you would like to change?  

But I'm Just A Teen...How Can I Set Boundaries?

I am writing this post for teens to read, and for parents and caregivers of teens to read. It can be difficult for teenagers to set boundaries in relationships, whether it is a friendship or an intimate relationship. It is hard for teenagers to know what their personal values and beliefs are, and furthermore, to stand up for those values and beliefs when they engage in a relationship. However, it is a very important thing to do. With alcohol use, drug use, and the growing population of young people engaging in sexual activity, it is easy to let their guard down and give into peer pressure or “what’s cool and popular”. It could be hard for teenagers to be leaders, especially if they feel like they are outnumbered in their beliefs. 

Anyone in a relationship has the right to stand up for what they believe in and say “no” if they don’t agree with something. If you tell a friend or a partner how you feel, and they decide not to listen to you or understand your opinion, then it may not be a good relationship. A true friend or partner would listen and respect what you are saying. 

Some qualities of a good friendship or relationship are:

Listening- Actively listening to the person who is talking means using eye contact, body language such as head nodding to show that you are paying attention, and rephrasing pieces that they talk about when responding.

Talking to each other- Not yelling, taking turns, expressing yourself.

Respecting each other- Actively listening, giving feedback, and understanding each other’s perspectives even if they are different.

Compromising- If you have different beliefs about something, find a way to make both of you happy.

Trust and honesty- You want the other person in the relationship to feel like they can tell you anything, and you won’t share it with others if they ask you not to.

Sharing- In any kind of relationship, it is important to share time together, things that each of you have, and communicate about things that happened to each of you.

Being supportive- No matter what the other person in the relationship says, show that you support their opinion or belief.

Not teasing them- If they have a different belief or opinion, you should listen and respect their viewpoint, not tease or make fun of them for it.

Apologize if you are wrong- We all make mistakes, and that’s ok, it’s part of life! It is important to apologize when we are wrong if the relationship is important to you.

In romantic relationships, whether it is an emotional or physical attraction, it is also important to express how you feel about something. If your partner does not respect your word or your belief, then it is not a healthy relationship to be in. Talking about your beliefs and boundaries is a great way to communicate with your partner, to make sure the relationship will be healthy and that you feel safe in the relationship.

Setting boundaries defines what your property is- physically, emotionally and mentally. It defines what is yours. You have control over your body, mind and heart. Boundaries protect you. They keep the good in and the bad out. You have control over how others treat you. And, you have control and choice over what boundaries to set. You deserve to be yourself and be respected for who you are and what boundaries you choose to set.  You have the right to be treated with respect, no matter what your values, opinions and beliefs are.

Some values to set boundaries around about are:

How physical or intimate to get with each other- In a healthy relationship, your partner should respect you if you do not want to “go all the way”, or become sexually involved. 

How fast to say “I love you”- One partner may feel this way faster than the other, but that does not mean the other partner has to say it. Say it when you are ready, not just because you feel like you need to.

Time together vs. time apart- It is important to have time away from your partner, even when you are in a relationship. If your partner wants to be with you or talk to you constantly, this is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

Being around alcohol and/or drug use- Whatever your values and beliefs are about alcohol and/or drug use, communicate them and your partner should respect them. Do not give into peer pressure! Communicate how you feel about alcohol and/or drug use, and being around others that use these substances.

Social media use and sharing- With all of the social media out these days, it is important to set boundaries and express how you feel about being “tagged”, following each other’s friends, commenting on each other’s posts, posting pictures, and sharing passwords, etc.

If you are a teenager, or a caregiver of a teenager and you want help identifying your beliefs and values, there are some activities you can do. You could do role playing where you act out a situation where the teenager is put in an uncomfortable situation, and talk through what they would do and say. You could look at your values, beliefs and opinions and how you can use them to set boundaries in relationships. You could watch or read something, and talk about the relationships in that movie or book, and discuss if they are healthy or unhealthy, or what boundaries are being set between the two people.

Do you have any personal stories or advice for teens having difficulty setting boundaries in their relationships?

Sources:

https://www.livestrong.com/article/560486-activities-to-reinforce-healthy-boundaries-in-teenagers/

http://tentotwenty.com/teaching-teens-boundaries-and-harmful-relationships/