the healing journey counseling fl

healing, anxiety, loss, grief, depression, ptsd, self-care, suicide prevention, post partum depression


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Your Body on Anxiety

Our Daily Lives

Our lives matter and each day it becomes difficult to grasp our daily struggle. Our silence may be taken for-granted, but know that you are not alone.  Anxiety takes a toll on our body which seriously affects our health.  Let’s take some time to recognize what happens to our body when we are anxious.

When you first encounter anxiety:

  1. Throat- This becomes dry and the throat muscles tightens.
  2. Liver- There is a spike in your blood sugar levels that can be reabsorbed in the body.
  3. Skin reactions-  Our blood flow increases which causes some people to become more paler while others may be flush.
  4. Active Spleen- Your spleen discharges more red and white blood cells.
  5. Tense Muscles- Muscle immediately seize as a reflex action.

Long-term Anxiety

When you are dealing with anxiety for awhile it can affect the following:

  1. Heart- cardiovascular issues.
  2. Lungs- Weaker respiratory functions
  3. Brain- overworked nervous system and problems falling asleep.
  4. Immune system- Weakened immune system.
  5. Stomach and Digestive tract-  Digestion issues and changes in the metabolism.

Managing Anxiety

  1. Take some time for yourself- listen to music, journal, go for a walk, yoga, exercise, color, paint or learn an relaxation technique(My favorite go to is Meditation)
  2. Eat well-balanced meals- Do not skip  meals
  3. Limit alcohol and caffeine- Alcohol and caffeine can affect anxiety and triggers panic attacks. (Drink lots of water)
  4. Exercise daily- Exercising makes you feel good and overall it helps to release stress.
  5. Slowly count to 10
  6. Accept that you cant control everything.
  7. Volunteer and give back to your community.
  8. Get enough sleep- at least 8 hours per night.
  9. Be gentle with yourself
  10. Maintain a good attitude regardless of the situation.
  11. Learn what triggers your anxiety- work, family, school etc.
  12. Talk to someone

Links for mobile apps for anxiety: https://adaa.org/finding-help/mobile-apps

 

 

References:

American Psychological Association, The New York Times Health Guide. University of Maryland Medical Center, National Institute of Health, Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved on 9/21/17 from https://adaa.org/tips-manage-anxiety-and-stress

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Mental Health Matters

Parenting and Self-care

Parenting can be very challenging and rewarding at the same time. How do you take time for yourself? Self-care is not selfish, but it’s one of the best things that you can do as a mother or father. Taking a break from the normal routine helps us to reflect and re-energize you so that you can take care of everyone else. Maintaining day to day activities often leaves very little time for mother or fathers to be able to relax, have fun and rest.

Parent must be ready at all times for their children which often causes burnout and makes things that could be everyday treasures feel like everyday chores. It is so important that parent start taking time for themselves which can be difficult if you cannot afford to do so. Parent may need to ask a family member to watch the kids etc. Whatever you need to do, make it happen.

In my home, I do have a hectic schedule which is flexible at times. After taking my daughter to high school, I take some time to schedule some me time which may include going to the nail shop, reading, meditation and simply listening to nature. My husband who is retired from the army often was away for weeks at a time and that we didn’t even see each other due to his demands at work.

It’s not self-fish to take some time for yourself, know that parents need self-care the most. Parents push themselves to the limit and often have no more energy for anything which causes a variety of issues that includes depression, anxiety and insomnia. So before you take a day off focus on sleeping, eating well and moving your body. At times, I would just schedule lunch with myself, yes by yourself and read in the coffee shop. Sometimes, we go the beach and just enjoy ourselves. It’s all about reconnecting yourself with nature and its various healing properties. Give yourselves permission to get away from the kids because kids will wear you out.

Some suggestion on how replenish your energy

  • Know your limits- It is okay to say no without feeling guilty. Set your boundaries and say no to things that are not important. Say yes to things that are rewarding and replenishing. For example, it’s okay to say no to another volunteer opportunity. (Yes, I am guilty of saying yes.) But, say yes to a lunch or dinner with a friend.
  • Get therapy- For me, I felt overwhelmed close to christmas and I just had to talk to someone to keep my sanity. I made the effort to get counseling while helped me to overcome my anxiety.
  • Find a new hobby – For me, I took up loom knitting with was fun at first or simple attending a cooking class. I also love to paint and color.
  • Set a firm goals Instead of setting a short-term goal why don’t you think about competing in a walk-a-thon that forces you to practice every week.
  • Ask for alone time in the house –  Yes, this may seem to be difficult, but just lock the door and let everyone know that you are taking sometime for yourself with no interruptions. (Side note- this worked for me for sometime and then I had several interruptions)
  • Take some time to be with your spouse-  Previous in the past, every Friday I would schedule a dinner date with my husband  without the kids. Of course, in my situation my children are older, but get a sitter and go out and enjoy yourselves.  This will force you to focus on each other which can be challenging for me at times. But, this is so important for your marriage. Remember, your kids need it, and you need it as well.


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Self care Tips for Counselors/Psychotherapist

The practice of psychotherapy can be very rewarding and psychotherapist spend several years making a positive impact on lives of  whom they work. However, this field can be very demanding and difficult at times due to the challenges that are presented.  It is very important that we attend to the our own mental health so that we can be effective professionals.

Feelings of Distress

As stated in the Merriam-Webster , the definition of distressed is ” unhappiness or pain: suffering that affects the mind or body.” We all experience distress, but when it goes unchecked overtime this leads to burnout.

While attending grad school it was very concerning to me that several of the professors clearly needed to attend to themselves.  I have become very sensitive to this topic every since completing my masters degree. It is very important to become self aware  of ourselves and monitor our reactions. At times our body is giving us a signal to take a step back and take care of ourselves. Some of us take actions while others simply just pour themselves in whatever task is at hand.

Therapist Burnout

As therapist we must be aware of the signs of burnout which often goes unnoticed or pushed aside. If we do not attend to our own mental health, how effective can we be while assisting clients.  It is important to take a step back and rejuvenate your mind and body.

Vicarious Traumatization

When we are assisting clients that are victims of trauma, counselors may be traumatized  by the information that is stated to them during the session. This leads to several symptoms of vicarious traumatization such as intrusive thoughts, avoidant responses, psychologic arousal,  somatic complaints, distressing emotions,and addictive or compulsive behaviors  that will affect one’s competence.

9 Tips for Self-care

  1. Listen to your body. At times we have so much to do and often forget about ourselves so identify what activities are best for you to do. For example, I take time out for myself which includes a quiet time reading.
  2. Put a reminder on the calendar. Even if it is 5 mins per day put aside some time to do some art activity, painting or journaling.
  3. Whenever you can do something for you in between session close your eyes and do some breathing exercise. In addition, you can listen to some music.
  4. Exercise if so important for you so take the time to do some light activity such as riding the bike for 30 min and increase it by 5 mins every week.
  5. If you don’t know how to say no then this will burn you out very quickly. Know your boundaries and weakness.
  6. Make an effort to ask yourself is you are working too much.
  7. Make sure to surround yourselves with people who will encourage you to take some time for you.
  8. Minimize your time and don’t surf the internet for several hours.
  9. It’s up to you to make the effort for your health, therefore, do not bargain with yourself. Just do it!

 

 

 

References:

Distressed.(n.d.). Retrieved July 29,2016 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distressed


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Healing the Inner Child

When you look back at your childhood, we may notice that we got hurt very easily. It may be hearing mom shouting all the time or our father giving us the stern look. As children, we find that it is not easy to express yourself, but we try and try. At times, we find that adults don’t listen, too busy and interrupt us every time. Its time for us to listen to our children and respond directly to them. It may also be time for us to listen to our own inner child, that have been neglected for sometime. We must come back and comfort, love and care for the child within us.

Listening to your Inner Child

We must go back and take care of the child in our past that has been wounded. Embrace him or her and be gentle with ourselves. It takes a lot of courage to face the hurt inside of us and it okay to give yourselves permission to heal that child right now. The tears may come and that is fine as well. Let it flow and embrace that child. There are so many people who are suffering because they have buried those emotions for decades. But, if we continue to practice being more aware of that wounded child, comfort him or her so that we can see more peace and mover forward.

Talking to you Inner Child

Yes, this may sound unrealistic; however, your inner child influence you in a mighty way. The inner child has become an adult who has come from a very difficult life. Thich Nhat Hanh suggested that “if we have the tendency to go back to the past and live the painful memories of the past, we have to be aware that we and our inner child are going back to the past to live that experience again, that fear, and that desire'” (Hanh, p.71). This will become a regular habit which hinder us to move forward.

Reference

Hanh, Thich N. (2010). Reconciliation~ healing the inner child. Parallax Press. Berkeley, California 94707.


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How to Protect and Center Yourself

“Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe. ~Tao the Chang “(Orloff, 2000, p.155)

Everyday we must make the decision to use our intuition in order to help ourselves. One way of accessing our intuition is to be centered which means “finding the still point inside, no matter what is happening” ( Orloff, 2000) p. 156). We must also protect ourselves from any negativity or threat such as dealing with an angry boss, annoying mother-in law, manipulative spouse etc. We have seen this played over and over again and we know exactly what is going to happen. How do you protect yourselves from people who drain your energy? Wouldn’t it feel good to arm yourself with tools to help you block this energy?

For many years, we experience so many emotional,physical, spiritual challenges that knocks us out. For some time, we realize that these emotions such as depression, anxiety, and envy take over our lives.  You didn’t  get any respect from your boundaries and yes it took some time for you to get back on your feet. Now let’s get some help for you to protect yourself now.

Step 1.

Notice Your Beliefs

Begin to ask yourselves what are my triggers? When life steals your joy, how do you deal with this? How could you protect yourself? We need to call on our inner self for guidance, by connecting with this part of yourself so that you can feel more confident. Resilience is the key to get through these feelings so that you can keep all negativity away.

The following are some common beliefs that deplete your energy:

  1. I’m not strong enough This is a lie that we tell ourselves every day and we need to believe in ourselves. When was the last time you actually looked in the mirror and said ” I love you?”
  2. Other people’s negative thought destroys me.- Yes, this is an area that we all need to be aware of when someone’s negative energy take over. We must know how to deflect this energy and ask it to leave. Avoid dwelling on what was said and do not pay any attention to negativity. The more you feed into negativity the more it destroys you. Focus on your strength within yourself and block it.
  3. I’m so sensitive Well, aren’t we all sensitive? If we realize that we have a thin skin, then make sure to run when it get to be too much. If we stick around, we will become overwhelmed and we need “to teach ourselves how to remain vulnerable and feel safe. And this doesn’t mean that we shut our sensitivity off but to develop it as a creative resource.” (Orloff,2000, p. 159).
  4. We often take on the pain of others If you are a very compassionate person, you are deeply affected by the pain of others. But we need to realize that we can’t help everyone. It’s natural to want to help a homeless person, a hurt child etc. We must be a supportive person that will not take on the pain of others. Yes, it hard to see others suffering, but we need to respect the fact that they need to go through this process. No matter how much we feel we can do for others, but just the act of doing too much hinder us. We can be caring, thoughtful and honest with our feelings. Lastly, don’t get carried away, preserve your energy so that you can have some balance in your life.

 

Step 2. Be in your Body

We need to be aware of our body and how it is affected when we are experiencing various emotions. Sometime we feel tension or pain in our back, a headache etc. We need to center our body at all times such as “exercise, hiking, dancing, yoga, pedicure, long bubble bath etc. Getting a massage, going for a walk,spending some time with your pets, gardening and listening to nature are great ways to help. Here are some suggestions by Dr Orloff:

Techniques for centering

Watch your diet- I know we hear this over and over again. But it’s true, we need to watch what we put into our mouths. For instance, today I wanted to get a subway tuna sandwich, but instead I made salad with grapes and strawberries.

Do mundane tasks- For instance, if you are shopping concentrate on the task at hand.

Practice anonymous service-  Helping a neighbor, hold the door for an elderly person, Let someone go ahead of you. Volunteer at an homeless shelter and serve food etc.

Spend time in nature- This is one of my favorite activities which include just going to the part, walking by the lake, listening to the birds while on the porch, go to the beach, listen to the waves etc. Water is a great source to soothe you and purify yourself.

Mediate- Yes, we all hear about this and yes it was not easy to mediate the first time, but with practice we need to sit still and focus on our breath. If you are cramp for time, I would suggest just sit back, close your eyes and inhale peace and exhale frustrations etc. Complete a body scan that include focusing on your feet and work yourself all the way up to the crown of your head.

 

Step 3. Sense your Body’s Subtle energy

When we were younger, we find ourselves enjoying going to the mall, parties, etc, but we may realize that we didn’t really want to do this. After sometime, we begin to feel overwhelm and exhausted around groups and we begin to ask what is wrong with me? If you are like me, I suspect that we soak up the energy of the people around us. I also began to realize that I can feel what someone else is feeling both physically and emotionally. Dr Orloff stated that ” the more people per square foot, the more our energy fields intersect–thus the tendency to become overloaded in high-density areas. This aspect of intuition is the most neglected and misunderstood.” (Orloff, 2000, p. 163).

Four ways to avoid absorbing other’s people energy

  1. Walk away This may seem rude at first, but with practice we need to walk away when we realize that this situation is taking away our energy.
  2. Shield yourself Yes, it is important to protect yourself such as if someone is upset, you need to take a deep breath and center yourself. No, this is not being selfish, but it helps to place yourself in  bubble so that we don’t absorb their energy.
  3. Practice vulnerability – “Too often we are taught to equate vulnerability with weakness. Not so, I like being vulnerable and also strong. This disarms people.” (Orloff,2000, p. 166).
  4. mediate Practice daily mediation which helps you to connect with yourself.

Step 4. Ask for Inner Guidance

At times no matter what we do, we first need to ask for guidance for everything. So take a breath, center yourself and ask for guidance from the Lord. Set aside the excuses that we often lets us missed a great opportunity to receive guidance. Give it a try to see what happens. It takes a lot of practice and patience so don’t give up on yourself.

Step 5. Listen to your Dreams

We often go to sleep at night and wake up to some nightmare or we can’t seem to shut off our thoughts. Dreams are way of telling you something that may help you in your life. Don’t be troubled my your dreams. Continue “to cultivate inner peace and resolve, strengths that come forth invisibly. There’s nothing like a little centeredness to

counteract even the biggest, baddest, most unsettling calamity. Have confidence in your own power.” (Orloff, 2000, p. 175).

Reference

Orloff, J. (2000). Guide to Intuitive Healing. 5 Steps to Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Awareness.


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Depression and Loss

In honor of suicide prevention awareness month, I wanted to share about Depression and how it affects us all. Yes, there are several people who are suffering in silence due to not wanting to burden their loved ones which their problems. But, I wanted you to know that you are not alone and together we can cope and live a better life.

Did you know that “suicide is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. among young people and the there are a variety of mental health conditions that affect people who are very vulnerable” (NAMI, 2015).

Lets review some of the warning signs of suicide

  • Mood swings
  • talking, writing or thinking about death
  • increase in alcohol and drug use
  • aggressive behavior
  • isolate from friends, family and community
  • impulsive behavior

Let’s review if there is an imminent danger?

  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Mood shifts from despair to calm
  • planning to borrow, steal or buy tools to commit suicide

Mental health professionals such as your primary care physician, psychiatrists,psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners are trained to assess if you are at risk. The first step is to acknowledge that you cannot do this by yourself and give yourself permission to get the help that you need. We may believe that we can handle this, but a therapist will be able to help you understand so that you can cope with your thoughts and feelings.

This blog was inspired after reading a guest post on a blog that you can find here at this link http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/blog/ . A husband (Brandon) shared a story about his wife Naomi who had a long history of troubles. In any marriage there are good times as well as bad times and Brandon got engaged to his wife after knowing her for 3 to 4 months. The story begins with the loss of their baby boy who had down syndrome. This loss was very devastating for his wife and Brandon wanted to share the story of his wife so that it can help others.  Patience is not easily acquired, but with persistence we need to encourage one another to talk to someone if they are experiencing depression. Yes, it’s easy to say, I don’t feel like they understand. But,  know that you haven’t given yourselves the chance to let someone hear your story. Yes, it may be painful, but when we hold unto our thoughts this will do nothing for us but bring us downhill. My plea as Brandon mentioned in his blog post is for you to talk to someone about whatever is going on with you. If you are depressed, grieving, sad, lonely….please call someone. There is hope for you and me so ask and you shall receive it.

If you need to talk to someone please call  the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255

Here’s a link to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention where I am a field advocate in the state of Kansas.

https://www.afsp.org/. This organization has a variety of events and I will be participating in a Community walk in Kansas to raise funds for suicide prevention.

References:

Hibbert, C. (2015). Depression, Loss & A Grieving Husband’s Plea:  “Too Short a Fairy Tale, by Brandon Gerdes.” Retrieved on September 20, 2015 from http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/blog/

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).(2015). Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  Retrieved on September 20, 2015 from https://www.nami.org/suicideawarenessmonth/hp


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June is Post- Tramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month

Each year we recognize PTSD in the month of June and as we enter a new month, I would like to focus on understanding PTSD.

The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs provides a definition of PTSD  that occurs “when a person experience a traumatic event such as combat, assault or disaster which most people have some stress reactions after trauma that lingers for some time” (U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015).  There are several types of trauma that includes war, terrorism,violence and abuse and disasters.

Effects of PTSD and the Family

It can be very difficult to live with someone who has been diagnosed with PTSD and often your daily life is disrupted  by nightmares, avoiding crowds, and  difficulty driving. The children at times have a lot of trouble in schools and PTSD affects the relationship with their spouse, family members and friends. There is also a list of common reactions of family members of a person with PTSD that includes sympathy, negative feelings, avoidance, depression, anger and guilt, variety of health problems.

At times family members neglect themselves and spend a lot of time taking care of their loved ones with PTSD which is a set up for failure.  It is important to seek help and surround yourself with others who understand what you are going through.

What can providers do to support family members?

Family members often neglect themselves and are confused about what to do when they find out that their loved one has PTSD.  As a clinician, we must educate the family members and let them learn more about trauma and its effects. It will take some time to learn about PTSD which can be overwhelming, but if you are not aware of what PTSD is and its effects then you will be lost. It also takes a lot of patience to help someone who is affected by PTSD and in time they will heal.  There also various classes that are offered to help the family which includes stress and anger management, addiction, couples communication or parenting (Carlson,E & Ruzek, J,2014).

Help to spread the awareness of PTSD by printing this PDF flyer: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/RaisePTSD_Awareness.pdf

Follow this link for a About Face PTSD videos on Youtube: 

Follow this link provided by the Defense Centers for Excellence – PTSD Fact Sheet. http://www.dcoe.mil/Libraries/Documents/DCoE_PTSDFactSheet_20140410.pdf

References

Carlson,E.B (PhD), & Ruzek, J.(PhD). (2014) PTSD and The Family. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/family/ptsd-and-the-family.asp

Defense Centers of Excellence. (2015) PTSD Treatment Options.  Retrieved from http://www.dcoe.mil/PsychologicalHealth/PTSD_Treatment_Options.aspx

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.(2015). Promotional Materials and Tips to Raise Awareness. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/about/ptsd-awareness/promo_materials_awareness.asp