The End of the Line: It’s Time to Face the Pain

The End of the Line: It’s Time to Face the Pain

“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it.” 

Wow. Take a moment to really take this quote by Stephi Wagner... Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it. It takes unbelievable bravery to be the person ready to face pain that has been handed down for generations - and at the same time, it doesn’t feel fair…

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For Sexual Assault Survivors During #metoo and #ibelieveher

For Sexual Assault Survivors During #metoo and #ibelieveher

The past couple of weeks have been intense. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford went head to head with her abuser Brett Kavanaugh in front of a large committee. She was forced to recount painful details of the assault she survived, and even educate others on the mechanics of the brain (well, that was pretty badass...). #ibelieveher became the cry of supports and other sexual assault victims who have hoped to shift the treatment of survivors of sexual assault. Dr. Ford’s testimony is cast in front of a larger backdrop of the #metoo movement. Many people are sharing their own stories of sexual assault and perpetrators are being called out. Needless to say, it has been a very triggering time for people who have survived sexual assault, harassment, or any kind of sexual violence.

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I think I’m having a panic attack, what do I do?

Suddenly it feels hard to breath, your palms get sweaty, you become dizzy, your heart races... You wonder, “am I dying?” Chances are you’re not dying, but you’re experiencing a panic attack.  

Panic attacks are really scary. It seems like out of nowhere you’re consumed with fear, anxiety, and physical symptoms. You’re not alone and there is help out there! Here are some symptoms of a panic attack.

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  • Racing heart
  • Feeling dizzy or weak
  • Intense terror, or fear of death
  • Tightness of chest, or chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeling out of control (especially of your body) 
  • Sweating or chills
  • Tingling in extremities (fingers, hands, feet, etc.) 

Have you experienced this?  Again, you’re not alone! Here are a few basic tips to help get you through the panic attack.

  1. Recognize that you are not dying. You are having a panic attack.  Once you do that, you can begin taking steps to get through the panic attack. 
  2. Focus on your breath. Take a deep breath in through your nose as you count to 7. Exhale through your mouth and count to 7. Repeat this until you feel more in control of your breath. When we have panic attacks, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is bring oxygen to the brain! 
  3. Begin to notice things in the room. What color is the door? Is it cold or warm? What time is it? What day is it? Noticing things about your environment can help reorient yourself to where you are and begin to feel a little better. 
  4. Place your feet on the floor. This is a way to literally and figuratively ground yourself. It can also help remind you that you are okay, you’re in control, and you’re safe. 
  5. H.A.L.T. Ask yourself to “HALT”. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? If so, do something to address this problem as soon as you can. Grab a snack, take a catnap (avoid caffeine though!), find a friend, and take some deep breaths if you’re angry. Identifying triggers for panic attacks can help you avoid them in the future.
  6. Do some simple math! Weird, right? Not only does this distract you from what is happening, but it actually lights up a different part of the brain. When you have a panic attack, the part of your brain responsible for fear and survival lights up. If you start doing some simple math, you’re allowing a different part of your brain to light up and shift the functioning. Try counting backwards by 7s from 100. Try your time-tables from elementary school. Count as high as you can by 17s. 
  7. Go to your happy place. Take a second now to imagine a beautiful, scenic place. Maybe it’s the beach, the mountains, or a forest. What do you see? What do you hear? Do you smell anything? Are you cold or warm? Try your best to make this place as vivid as possible. Now assign a word to it. It could be “beach,” “joy,” “safe,” or any word that feels fitting! When you’re having a panic attack, say the word to yourself and let yourself be transported. Ask yourself what five senses your noticing in this happy place. 

These are some great ways to get through the panic attack itself. Chances are there are some deeper roots to the panic and anxiety. When you’re feeling that your new skills are falling short, it may be a good time to try therapy! A therapist can help you get to the root of this and reduce the frequency and intensity of panic and anxiety. You can schedule a free consultation here to see if therapy is right for you.

What are some of your favorite ways to get through a panic attack? Comment and share your techniques!

It's Time: 10 Ways to Know It's Time to Find a Therapist

A few months ago I wrote about how and why you should invest in your mental health. If you missed it, you can check it out here. But how do you know when it’s finally time to take that investment a step further and try therapy?

1. Realizing something needs to change but nothing is working.

Maybe you’ve been irritable with loved ones, but can’t stop. Or maybe you really want to reach out to someone but you’re afraid. Perhaps you’ve lost interest in the things you used to love, but no matter what you do you can’t get motivated. Having a therapist who you can share these goals and frustrations can relieve this feeling. A good therapist should help you sort through what you’d like to change, formulate goals, and help you reach them.

2. You can’t shake the feeling that something terrible might happen.

When’s the other shoe going to drop? We have all felt this… and it sucks! You just started a new relationship with a wonderful person, but you’re just waiting for them to become toxic for you. You got promoted, but you know they’re waiting for you to fail. These thoughts can eat you alive and stop you from living your life! Therapy can address these anxieties, give you practical tools to stop these thoughts, and replace them with more adaptive and motivating ideas.

3. You feel haunted by the past, and it’s really hard to feel better about it.

We’ve all fallen down, failed, or been hurt. Some more than others. Chances are you feel stuck by something in your past. Maybe it’s one memory, or maybe it’s several. It’s not strange to feel that something in your past is holding you back, but it certainly feels frustrating. There are various types of therapy, like EMDR that can help you get unstuck and leave your past in the past. Or as Pumba would say…

 
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4. Something doesn’t feel right, but you can’t pinpoint what it is.

Just feeling generally crummy and not knowing why can be so frustrating. That bad attitude just won’t go away, you crave being sad, you look through your old Facebook pictures every night and judge yourself. Why in the world do we do this? Well, that’s something a therapist can help you answer. Sometimes something is buried deep and it takes some help finding the source, and other times it can be a number of little things. Having a therapist to support you through this process can not only help you feel better, but help you identify patterns and problems in your life that you may have never seen before.

5. Your distancing yourself from your friends and family.

Are you avoiding the people that love you the most? We do this all the time when we feel sad, ashamed, anxious, or tired. Maintaining relationships is already hard, but maintaining them when you’re not operating at 100% is even more difficult. Seeing a therapist can help you get back in your normal social groove while addressing problems in your life that make you feel alone.

6. Your racing mind is keep you up at night.

“I’m going to go to bed by 10pm tonight so I can wake up early, make breakfast, and get to work early!”
*10:12pm, crawling into bed*
”Go me! I’m in bed when I said I’d be, now time for some shut eye.”
*12:37am, staring at the ceiling worrying about tomorrow*
”I’ll just look at my phone for a while, that will help keep my mind off of things.”
*1:16am, still awake looking at phone*
”Ok, I’m putting my phone away and trying again.”
*2:48am, staring at the ceiling worrying about why you’re worrying about not sleeping*

Enough said, right? Chances are you’re not sleeping because something is wrong with you. You might be experiencing anxiety, depression, or stress. Therapists can help you sort through all of that mental clutter to help you get a better night’s sleep!

7. You’ve been avoiding something, and it’s getting in the way of you living your life.

You know that one restaurant you avoid because it reminds you of a painful relationship? Or that person at work, even though you need to have an important conversation? Or maybe you struggle with a phobia and you can’t even flip through the TV channels because you’re afraid of what you’ll see. It is so tough to live your life avoiding things that are distressing. Therapy can help you face those fears and challenges, and reduce how distressed you feel in the face of them. A good therapist will get to know why this is so hard for you, and help you strategizes ways to get your normal life underway.

8. You don’t have the energy to help yourself anymore.

You’re just tired. It’s hard to get out of bed and it’s hard to take care of yourself. How are you going to pick up that self-help book? It doesn’t even seem possible to cook yourself a meal right now, let alone work on your mental health. You don’t have to do this alone. Finding a therapist might seem like a really tiring step - and it can be! If you’d like a free consultation and some help in finding a therapist near you, please reach out. You don’t have to do this alone, and there are people who can share the load with you.

9. You’re afraid your friends and family won’t understand what you’re going through.

It’s just too embarrassing or burdening, and you don’t feel comfortable sharing with people who may not give you the attention you need. Well, this is the job of a therapist! Every session, you get undivided attention dedicated to reaching your goals, getting over problems, and working towards being your best self. Maybe you have a couple friends who wouldn’t understand, but a good therapist will!

10. Your worry is getting so out of control, you feel it in your body.

Sweaty palms, racing heart, dizziness, difficulty breathing, heavy limbs… sound familiar? Some people carry stress, depression, and anxiety in their body more than others. Sometimes it feels like you’re fine until you get stomach problems, and then you’re sent into a panic. This is a terrible feeling, but there is hope for you! Therapy and types of treatment like EMDR can help reduce these body sensations and help you live the life you’ve always wanted.

You're Worth It: 4 Tips to Begin Investing in Your Mental Wellness

Let's face it... therapy can feel like a luxury. 

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Many movies and TV shows have classically painted therapy as a luxury - a treatment reserved for the upper-class who actually can find the time and money to attend therapy.

On the other hand, we also see therapy portrayed as something reserved for the severely mentally ill. So much of our media capitalizes on the 'asylum' aspects of mental health that portray people stuck behind bars and talking to the walls. 

While I hold no judgment against either type of portrayal of therapy (because there is certainly a place for both), I have to wonder if therapy in the middle can exist?

I have so many conversations about the cost of therapy, and if it is really necessary. The question I often come back with is if they have ever paid over $50 for a massage, a spa treatment, regular manicures/pedicures, beauty products, gym memberships, nutrition supplements, etc. Many spend a great deal of money on health and wellness! Yet, many find it difficult to spend money on mental health and wellness. I know, it can be a hard pill to swallow to imagine spending money for private practice therapy. After all, who knows if it will be worth your money?! You not only have to pay for a service before knowing the outcome, but trust someone with some of the deepest parts of yourself.

Of course I may be biased as a therapist, but investing in your mental wellness is something we can all be better at! Here are a few ways to get started investing your resources into your mental wellness:

  1. Spend your time on meditation, journaling, and other self-reflective activities. 

    This is an inexpensive way to begin investing in your mental wellness! YouTube and Google are filled with free resources for meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, journal templates, and much more! You can even find worksheets for anxiety, stress, depression, body image, and more.

    If you are a person deeply touched by nature, make time once a week or once a month to get outside and be still. Ditch your phone, and spend some quiet time in nature relaxing and reflecting. Let your mind wander.

    Begin by investing your time in these easily accessible tools.

  2. Spend your energy on removing things in your life that bring you negativity.

    It's no doubt that this is challenging and takes a lot of energy! Examine your life and reflect on the different things that bring you stress, resentment, bitterness, humiliation, shame... Are they things you can remove? If so, begin considering taking steps to remove these stressors.

    Perhaps it's being notified of news stories on your phone - turn them off and be intentional about the news you consume. Perhaps it's a person in your life - consider spending less time with them. Perhaps it's a constantly messy environment - spend five minutes a day over the next week devoted to cleaning. Of course, some things will be much harder to remove or maybe impossible. Start with the small things.

    Again, this takes energy! But you can invest this energy in yourself to begin removing barriers to happiness and relaxation.
     
  3. Spend your joy and happiness well.

    Perhaps joy and happiness are fleeting feelings for you. Maybe you don't experience them often... that is really hard. This may be one of the more difficult tips to cultivate, but with consistency it could pay off.

    Notice what is happening around you when you experience happiness. Are there things around you that you can recreate? Maybe being around certain people? Animals? Did you hear of great news? Do you feel amazing in certain clothes? Did going for a walk make you feel better than you did before? You have the opportunity to learn from yourself here. No matter how large or small, paying attention to these things can help you maximize happiness and maybe even recreate it. At the very least, focus on taking mental snapshots of the moment. Return to these snapshots on days that feel tough.

    Too often we pull ourselves out of moments of joy by returning to our phones, or stressors. We do this without even thinking! So take time to be intentional about your happiness. Savor the joy, savor the happiness. Enjoy it like you would your favorite meal. And don't forget to take that mental snapshot! 
     
  4. Spend your money on mental health. 

    This is a tough one to convince people of, but the result is worth it. Ask yourself, "Am I worth it? Do I deserve to spend this money on myself in the pursuit of happiness? Is it worth the cost to feel better than I do now?" 

    It is easy to justify spending money on a massage, or doctor's appointment. It is more difficult to feel worth that money when you consider spending it on therapy... and that is a great place to start with therapy! You can begin in engaging in a conversation about why it is difficult for you to feel okay spending money on your mental health.

    Of course it is not always within our means to attend therapy. Our health insurance system is broken when it comes to mental health, and it is difficult to find an affordable private pay therapist. So here are a few other ways you can spend your money on your mental wellness:
    -Purchase empowering literature. (I highly recommended some Brene Brown books as a place to start!)
    -Attend a group therapy session. It is much more affordable, and you get to meet others who may be going through similar things in your area.
    -Schedule free consultationsMany therapists offer free consultations. Of course this isn't investing your money, but it can help you get an idea of what you might gain from attending therapy.
    -Attend seminars or informational meetings. There are many mental health agencies that offer free or low cost gatherings to teach you about ways to incorporate mental wellness into your life. You can learn about anxiety, depression, or other problems you may be experiencing with practical action steps.

At the end of the day, ask yourself if you are worth it. Are you worth time, energy, joy, and money? Start small, and work your way up to spending resources on yourself. If we treated our minds as well as some of treat our bodies, we would be in very good shape! ;)