It Just Happens!

Stress, anxiety, and frustration are feelings that everyone experiences from time to time, just like happiness, excitement, and joy. There is this tendency to connect the latter to what has occurred. “I am so overjoyed my granddaughter was born today...I could not be happier that family is visiting...I am so excited to be graduating!” When it comes to the initially identified feelings though, people tend to shrug their shoulders and through up their hands exhausted, “I don’t know why I’m so stressed...I don’t know why these anxiety attacks keep happening...I don’t know; it just happens!”

 

“It just happens,” implies automatic. That is exactly what is occurring for many of us. Our senses, memories, and thoughts are trying to tell us something. But, these processes are so automatic that we often times do not realize they have occurred. Go back to the anxious individual throwing up their hands. Perhaps, they have experienced increasingly intense anxiety everyday for the last three months. At some point, you stop noticing what precipitated the feeling, even though the precipitating factors still occur. Your senses still take cues from the environment, memories still triggered, and thought processes still flowing. 

 

If you find yourself throwing up your hands, take some time to truly be present with yourself and your thoughts. What automatic processes are occurring that could use your attention? The first part of changing your answer from “I don’t know,” to “I was thinking...” is acknowledging that it has taken place.  

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Learning To Wait

Waiting is an art. Waiting can be powerful. 

 

Not many people enjoy waiting or learning patients, yet people who are the most successful at living and loving are those who learn to wait successfully. Not many people enjoy waiting or learning how to be patient. Most of us want things just to happen pretty quickly- no line to stand in or stop to wait at. Yet, we can not always have what we want when we want it. Waiting, therefore, becomes a powerful tool that can help us accomplish good in our lives. We need to look at waiting as not being time wasted. Waiting simply means something is being worked out- in us, in someone else, in the world. Rather than looking at waiting as something useless, lets focus in on what waiting allows us to do.

 

Waiting allows us to focus on:

 

Acceptance- Surrender to the moment. So much relief, release, and change are possible when we accept. Acceptance does not mean we are giving up- it means that we accept what is, so we can make conscious decisions to change.

Patience- Being patient does not mean we go through things without feeling our feelings. Feel the impatience. Get angry. Feel your fear. Patience comes from feeling yor feelings and being ready to move forward. 

Grattitude- Once we acknowledge that waiting is our friend some important things will shift in our heads- we lean to practice thankfulness. Instead of being frustrated and overwhelmed, we can be grateful for them and make the most of them. 

Tolerance- Waiting can be great humbler. A humble person is aware of the struggles of others and can empathize with their troubles.

 

 

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Helping Your Toddler Express Emotions

Feeling and being with our emotions can be difficult and overwhelming at times. Imagine that you are just beginning to develop the common language. And in order to get your needs met for the last few months, you have relied on crying. Starting to feel all of those big feels would understandably be frustrating when crying no longer adequately expresses your needs but you don’t yet have the words either. 

Helping your child grow developmentally appropriate language to express their needs and feelings is an important piece of their cognitive and emotional development. Consider the ways in which they have learned to sit, walk, and say their first words. They are constantly observing, while others in their environment model the behavior. They interpret and process this information and begin to practice themselves. So, consider your role in their development of emotional expression:

  • Be a model

 Use appropriate feeling words as often as you can

 “That makes me feel scared that you will fall...I am sad because...I am so excited to...”

  • Naming feelings

 Until they have developed appropriate feeling words, help them name their feelings

 “I can see that you are sad that we need to leave the park...That fall was scary for you...Are you so happy to see daddy? ”

  • Foster empathy

 Displaying empathy will encourage your child’s understanding that other may feel and respond differently than them at any given time

 “It looks like your friend is feeling sad right now...Your friend looked really happy while opening her gift from you.”

 

What they learn now, lays the groundwork for years to come.

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Your Thoughts Are Just Thoughts

What if I told you your thoughts are just thoughts, nothing more, nothing less, and they don’t always have meaning or purpose. Would you believe me? For many people thoughts present to pass on through, and instead of holding onto every thought they can let them go. However, for those who struggle with OCD the concept of letting go of an intrusive thought is so much more difficult because the thought/s must mean something. Changing your thought process isn’t as easy for everyone, but it is possible with practice and being open to different techniques and ways of thinking.  

  1. It is learning and accepting your that mind is a separate entity from your brain and yourself. Think of your mind as a component of a computer, it is the processor. The processor filters the data such as feeling, emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations. It then decides what to do with that data such as to add, reject or promote color and meaning to the data.  

  2. By using mindfulness, you can take a step back, observe what your mind is doing, and decide how much you want to be involved in this process.  

  3. It is knowing your OCD can twist things to present as what Is happening Now when instead it Is what Has already happened.

  4. OCD lives in the “what if” not the “what is”.

  5. Although your intrusive thoughts may be a part of your experience, it is remembering these intrusive thoughts do not get to declare or determine your identity, and you do not have to act on those thoughts.

  6. By changing our perception of these intrusive thoughts, we get to decide how we view and interpret them.

  7. By taking away the meaning and validation you give intrusive thoughts you begin to give yourself a true reflection of your character.

  8. Sometimes trying to ignore the OCD thoughts can make them worse and even multiple, which  can trick you into believing they must mean something. Being mindful doesn’t mean that everything will go away, and you will be at peace; it is accepting what is going on right now, without judgement, and potentially without fear.

  9. It is knowing that OCD will take your core values and flip them; e.g. if your OCD thoughts are reviewing ways you could snap and hurt others, then being in control is one of your top priorities.

  10. OCD presents through a black and white lens, however in real life there is always some amount of gray. 

What OCD thoughts do you see as all or nothing scenarios? Now challenge yourself by thinking what the gray area in each scenario would be.

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Daily Mental Health Workout

Our mental health plays a huge role in our well-being. Mental health affects how we think, feel and act. It helps determine how we make healthy choices and cope with stress. Because our mental health can affect us in drastic ways, it's important to take care of it. 

 

Here are a few mental health workouts we can do everyday:

 

  1. Exercise: Studies have consistently shown us that exercise positively affects our brain function. Getting our heart rate and moving our body supports healthy mental functioning. We don't need to spend hours at the gym. A good 20 minute workout will do the trick.

  2. Socialize: Spend time with others. Having strong social ties can decrease risk for depression, improve physical heath, and lengthen lifespan. Spend time making genuine connections. 

  3. Express gratitude: Take 5 minutes each day to write down things you are thankful for can help lower stress and allow for a more positive mindset. 

  4. Go outside: Go for a walk, do something outdoors, especially if it's sunny. Sun exposure helps boot our mood. 

  5. Have a good laugh: Find a funny show and laugh. Laughing is important, as it can help improve mood and decrease anxiety. 

  6. Practice kindness: Committing kind acts can not only benefit someone else, but it can also make us feel better. Hold the door open for someone, say hello, or compliment someone.  

  7. Get a good night sleep: Sleep is important. Strive to get good sleep. Sufficient sleep energizes your brain cells and can help improve motivation.

 

Take care of your mental health. Your mental health is important and you deserve to care for it. 

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I Never Got to Tell Him

This is Us - Season 3 Episode 11 – From the Eyes of a Counselor

After endless searching on Kevin’s part The Big Three finally get to meet their Uncle Nicky in this episode. With the introduction comes the retelling of the tragic story of how Nicky was sent home from Vietnam. The Big Three also learn that Nicky was never able to share this story with Jack and has lived with the shame of Jack thinking his actions were intentional. Nicky says he has replayed the event in his mind over and over and thinks he will even hear the screaming in his head on his death bed. We learn that Nicky has continued to struggle with addiction as well as suicidal thoughts. He seems to live a very secluded life – alone with his thoughts. 

When thoughts get stuck inside our head, they often grow to be much stronger and much more destructive than they would be out in the light. Cognitive Processing Therapy calls these thoughts stuck points. These are the thoughts that circulate around why a tragic event happened, what could have been done to stop it, and what life will look like forever moving forward. These thoughts often include phrases like “if only”, “I should have known”, “It’s all my fault”, “I will never get it out of my mind”, “I am damaged forever”, and many others. With proper therapy we are able to replace these thoughts with new thoughts that are more committed to reality and true relief can be experienced. 

Another way to bring relief after trauma is the sharing of shame. Its unfortunate that Nicky never got the chance to share with Jack but hopefully there is still time for him to experience healing having shared with Kate, Kevin, and Randall. When we share our shame with safe people in our lives we are often met with compassion, truth, encouragement, and maybe even a “me too”. This helps us believe that we are not the only ones who feel this way and helps us have the courage to forgive ourselves and others. 

The trauma Nicky experienced is no joke. It makes sense that he has locked himself up inside a camper and avoided the world. But he could also experience healing if he chooses to work through the difficult memories. 

Some Things to Consider:

  1. Have you experienced some type of trauma? Are these stuck points running through your head? Are the ways you are currently coping actually working? What next steps could you take to get the help you needs to find relief?

  2. Do you know someone who has experienced trauma? Could you offer to be a voice of reason, empathy and compassion in their life? 

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Supporting Love Ones with Eating Disorders

Knowing how to support a loved one with an eating disorder can be tricky business. After all, eating food is an essential part of daily life to which most people happily look forward, but in a world where we build our private celebrations and public festivals around food, it can be challenging to navigate supporting loved ones who suffer from such a complicated relationship with food. So when it comes to having a loved one with an eating disorder what do we do? How do we support them? 

 

1. Remember that eating disorders are not really about the food. The relationship that individuals with EDs have with food is a complex web of anxious thoughts, distressing emotions, and compulsive behaviors. As a result, oversimplifying “solutions” by telling those suffering with eating disorders to “just eat!” or saying “it’s just food” often only serves to make the individual feel increasingly invalidated, frustrated, and powerless.  

 

2. Ask how your loved one what is helpful to them. Coping mechanisms for dealing with the thoughts and emotions of eating disorders are different for every individual. What is helpful for you when you are stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious may not be helpful for your loved one. For instance, some individuals need an activity like playing a game to get out of their head after a meal, while others may need to talk or journal in order to process their thoughts and feelings. 

 

3. Engage in light conversation at the table. Many individuals with eating disorders get stuck in anxious thoughts during mealtimes, so it can be helpful when others engage them in stimulating conversations or games during meals to distract them from the turmoil of their inner world while they eat. It is important to not discuss issues that may be triggering or stressful; grades, strained relationships, finances, and other tough topics may add anxiety and distress to what your loved one already experiences during meal times. Keep table conversations positive and encouraging. 

 

4. Avoid food talk. Whether it be positive or negative, commenting on how food looks, smells, or feels, discussing whether it is “healthy” or “unhealthy,” talking about how many calories or carbohydrates are in it, and other similar conversations are immensely unhelpful for individuals with eating disorders. These types of commentary perpetuate negative perceptions of food that are already present by reinforcing rigid thinking around food. 

 

5. Avoid commenting and giving compliments based on appearance, especially size and weight. Even when well-meaning, this is highly triggering to individuals with eating disorders. A comment about how thin an individual looks often serves as an encouragement for the individual to continue in restricting patterns. Likewise, comments about an individual coming out of treatment “looking healthy again” often translates in their minds to having gained weight and can trigger a re-emergence of unhealthy eating disorder behaviors. Instead, try giving encouragement and affirmations based on character or gifting such as, “Your compassion always makes me feel so cared for,” or “That painting is beautiful; You’re really talented.”

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It's Okay to Feel Your Emotions

Emotions play an important role in our lives. Our emotions can offer us clues into who we are and can compel us to take action and influence the decisions we make about our lives.  In order to understand ourselves fully, we must be willing to recognize and explore our emotions. However, our culture has taught us to try to avoid unpleasant emotions or distract ourselves from them.  

 

Rather than hiding or distracting ourselves from feeling our feelings we really should be allowing ourselves the time and space to feel our emotions.  

 

Here are a few reasons why we need to feel our emotions:

 

  1. Processing emotions is a healthy part of living and thriving: Feeling all of our emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant are all apart of being human and can help understand and make decisions. 

  2. Emotions allow us to understand each other: Social communication is an important part of our daily lives and relationships, and being able to interpret and react to the emotions of others is essential. Emotions allow us to build deeper, more meaningful relationships and it also allows us to communicate effectively in a variety of social situations. 

  3. When we try to avoid our feelings, we avoid feelings of joy and happiness: The reality is that we cannot selectively numb emotions. Experiencing negative emotions is part of what makes it so wonderful to feel positive emotions. Our feelings come and go- rise and fall. No one emotion will last forever. 

  4. Fighting or numbing our emotions often leads to more negative feelings: When we try to fight or numb our feelings all we are doing is putting a band-aid on a wound. We might feel better temporarily, but these behaviors do not help resolve the feeling.  

 

We deserve to experience and feel all of our emotions. Let's allow ourselves to do this more often.  

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What Makes Him Stronger Than You?

As I hear the screaming, the yelling, things breaking, and footsteps racing to the kitchen I peek out, and there I see a gun being pulled out of a cereal box-I was four years old. Fast forward twenty plus years and I wonder will this ever happen to me, will I be a victim just as my mother, and will I choose to stay as she did.  

You are nothing, you are the one who is crazy, and you don’t know how to survive without me. It’s just a “love tap”. Try, try to take my kids, I dare you. I will kill you if you don’t answer me again, and next time this will go off with you in front of it. I am so scared, maybe he is right, and it is my fault.

These are just two examples of how partners and children of domestic violence are affected.  Domestic violence can happen to anyone, and the primary question I am asked is how and why, do they choose to remain in the relationship, especially when there are children in the home. When an abuser uses intimidation and emotional abuse it is not only used to continue to gain power and control over their partner but used to begin breaking down their partner piece by piece. Sometimes the partner becomes so broken the only thing that runs through their mind is I can’t do this anymore, I am nothing, and everyone will be better without me.  When power and control have been taken it is walking on eggshells because they don’t know when it is their partner will react or explode. It is believing their partner is a good parent because the kids have never been harmed, are taken care of, and would more than likely be better off if I weren’t in the picture. It is smelling a strong odor of alcohol and being shown a gun at the same time. It is engaging in denial that my kids aren’t being affected and or they won’t remember this.

 Next time instead of asking, why don’t you just leave, ask can I help you create a safety plan for just in case You decide You want to leave and are trapped. Instead, ask is there anything I can do to be more supportive or helpful, what do you need in this moment, and most important it is asking do you need help. When you get frustrated and feel helpless remember the scenarios above, remember how their sense of power and control have been striped, and remember to provide resources even though it is not guaranteed they will use them in that moment. 

 

If you are a victim of domestic abuse or a child who has been impacted by witnessing domestic violence please remember you are not alone. Other resources that may be helpful:  www.thehotline.org and National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.  

 

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Trust and Accountability in Marriage

Healthy relationships thrive when personal accountability and trust are present as each partner is working to be the best version of themselves. But sometimes selfish desires blind us to the making wise responsible choices leading to a fracture in vulnerability and intimacy. In come feelings of betrayal, isolation and fear in place of trust and security. 

 

When this happens, the knee-jerk reaction may to deem the new role of “accountability partner” to the hurt spouse. While the hurt spouse should be involved in creating boundaries and expectation for restoring trust, he/she should not be the first line of defense as there is fresh pain and trauma. It is therefore prudent for the faulted spouse to gain outside accountability while rebuilding the relationship. A good accountability partner would be someone who can relate, empathize and be non-judgmental. He/she must also be someone who can gently confront and comfort when temptation inevitably rears its ugly head. Regularly meeting and setting goals for healthy thinking and behavior will help barricade the slippery slope of returning to self satisfying behaviors at the expense of your relationship. 

 

Even if trust and personal accountability are currently strong in your relationship, you may consider seeking out an accountability partner as a preventive measure to avoid potential blind spots or temptations. "It is strong to admit weakness," "The best offense is a good defense," and "Pride comes before the fall" are all truthful reminders to safeguard the most important relationship you have. 

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