Reading Corner

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There are thousand’s of books on suffering and rightly so. They attempt to answer some of the most asked questions on earth. I jsut finished reading Timothy Keller’s book, “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”, and it does an excellent job at presenting a biblical argument for the necessity of pain and the significance of our response to it.  There are many different outlooks on pain and Keller attempts to teach how a Christian view on pain and suffering differs from various other world views. Keller states “Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” (30) So, if you are looking for a new book to help you find meaning from past painful experiences, I think this one is a great place to start!

Other good reads on Pain include..

C.S Lewis - The Problem of Pain

Victor Frankl - Man's Search for Meaning

C.S. Lewis - A Grief Observed

autopilot

Do you ever feel like your mind is just drifting away for the better part of your day; almost like you have switched from manual steering to autopilot? It is like a passive  switch that moves you from being awake and aware to relying on your default responses and behaviors. A recent study by Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth shows that nearly 50% of the waking day your mind is wandering on other things than your present tasks. What makes this study even more alarming is that findings stated that most of this wandering did not make the participants feel happy. Could it be that you are risking happiness by allowing your brain to go on autopilot and wander away for portions of the day?

The challenge here is to allow yourself to be present in the moment on a consistent basis so your brain can be re-trained to not put itself on autopilot. Similar to the automatic behaviors you have when you role out of bed: turn off the alarm, put your right foot on the floor, stumble to the coffee maker, and then remember it is Saturday. We also have automatic thoughts that take place as well and when we are bored or not stimulated how we want to be we often drift into our automatic wandering thought: making a to-do list, thinking about unanswered emails, thinking about where we want to be in years from now. But this automatic thought sweeps us away from the present moment and immediately miss out on opportunity to live in the present moment and make changes to things we are not content with. To learn more about how you can take your mind off of autopilot you can check out ..

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/201011/new-study-shows-humans-are-autopilot-nearly-half-the-time

You can also read my blog on mindfulness to learn more about living in the present moment. Or email me if you have questions or would like some more resources!

Source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-b...

Burnout insurnce

We all know the feeling of heading into a long week with just a little too much on our plate. Whether it is a big meeting to prepare for or a project that will eat up more time than you’d like, we are all faced with the possibility of burnout if we don’t plan ahead. The idea of“self care” has become such a foreign concept in this rapid paced era; however, it can be essential in maintaining our physical, mental, and spiritual health. A good rule of thumb is to match the amount of stressors in your life with the amount of things that recharge your emotional physical, and spiritual batteries. Things that can recharge us and protect us from burnout include…

-going on walks/runs

-reading a good book

-playing an instrument

-taking up a new bobby

-going to a movie

-journaling

These are just a few things that you may want to try next time you are heading into one of “those” weeks. The idea here is prevention and not reaction. If you can plan ahead and build these things into your week, you have a much better chance at protecting yourself from burnout and frustration. 

what is cognitive behavioral therapy

There are numerous theoretical approaches to counseling; each has their own purposes and weaknesses. While my approach is eclectic, because I believe that the theoretical approach should be catered to the clients’ needs, I tend to stay largely in the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy realm. Simply put, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common and well-supported treatment for various mental illnesses. It is based on the premise that a persons thoughts influence their feelings, which one can learn to control. As we learn to change our thinking styles and patterns our behaviors and feelings can change as well.  

For example, if I had a reoccurring thought that I am going to get in an accident on the way to work, I may feel fearful, tense, or restless on the drive into work. It may follow that my behavior is impacted by these thoughts and feelings. Maybe I begin to leave an hour early for work so there is not as much traffic, maybe I take back roads to work so minimize the chance of a high sped impact, or maybe I try to suck it up and carry that stress into work in hopes that it will die off before the drive home.

In Cognitive Behavioral therapy the three intervention points are the thoughts, the feelings, and the behaviors. Some are easier to make changes in than others. Usually we find that by changing/correcting the thought, the behaviors and feelings will follow. So if I can work to change my thought that I am going to get into a car accident, then maybe I can positively impact the feelings and behaviors that follow.  

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of staying in the present moment without judgment or self-criticism. Mindfulness exercises are usually centered on steadying the breath and calming the mind. At its core, mindfulness is a form of meditation that Western culture is starting to catch onto because of the numerous health benefits. Mindfulness meditation exercises have shown benefits in lowering blood pressure, treating anxiety and depression, decreasing emotional reactivity, and much more.

You can think of mindfulness as the discipline of tolerance and relaxation. With practice, we can learn to tolerate thoughts and feelings that would normally be difficult for us to sit with. As we practice mindfulness, the body and mind are being trained to slow down and rest. Many people describe it as the difference of “doing” versus “being”. Instead of going into our “doing-mode”, or autopilot, mindfulness teaches us to practice a “being-mode”. This being-mode allows us to be present with our thoughts and feelings instead of jumping from task to task.

Additionally, when we learn to sit with uncomfortable thoughts/feelings we become less threatened by things that would typically encourage us to avoid the present moment.  There is no longer a sensation to avoid the present when the threat becomes, well… less threatening.

Over time, our thinking patterns begin to change. Instead of waking up and turning our autopilot on, maybe we can wake up and be present with ourselves in order to listen to what our body is telling us. Maybe we begin to hear our body telling us to take a breath before we answer our morning emails, maybe we begin to appreciate the small parts of our day that we usually miss, or maybe we find the present moment is just more enjoyable when we are not always thinking about the moments to come.

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness I recommend you visit, www.freemindfulness.org. They have a great collection of FREE exercises (I am not affiliated with this website in any way but I do use it a lot in session). If you would like to begin doing some mindfulness/relaxation work of you own, I would be happy to set up a session with you to walk you through the process. 

what is anxiety

Let’s get this out of the way early on; anxiety is healthy and normal to a certain extent. It can be a helpful motivator when we are interpreting the information we receive correctly. For example, it is healthy to have some anxiety when you are deciding whether or not you want to go swimming with sharks because it helps you measure the risks and possible consequences. However, anxiety is not helpful when it becomes invasive in our every day life. Frequency and intensity are the two measuring sticks we would use to evaluate anxiety. Do you feel anxious/fearful more often than not? Is your worry/anxiety inhibiting you from accomplishing tasks in your daily life? If the answer to either one of these questions is yes, you may benefit from seeing a counselor to learn some new coping tools and strategies.

Anxiety is the bodies built in response system to perceived threats.  You can probably guess the keyword in the preceding sentence…. it’s “perceived”. This means that, even when there is no actual threat, your body can kick into fight or flight if you are misinterpreting information.

The feeling that hides behind anxiety is fear; fear of not being enough, fear of being too much, fear of the worst case scenario, fear of being alone, fear of being worthless, fear of being a bad person, and the list goes on. Anxiety tells us that, regardless of the truthfulness of the thought, we are not safe. This is where we find perceived threats and real threats begin to illicit the same fear response. Naturally, when we are afraid, we avoid the thing we fear. This strategy can seem like a temporary fix but over time it teaches us that our fear is out of our control and we never learn to confront or deal with the underlying issues. We begin to accept the bondage that is our anxiety and by doing so become powerless to it.  Here is the good news; anxiety is highly treatable. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach that addresses dysfunctional cognitions, emotions, and resultant maladaptive behaviors, through a variety of goal-oriented, explicit systematic interventions. CBT can be extremely helpful for those struggling with anxiety and it is one of the most researched forms of treatment for anxiety.

I am aware that the term Cognitive-Behavioral-Therapy can sound a bit overcomplicated but it is pretty simple. First, we work on understanding and labeling the symptoms of anxiety. Second, we identify triggers to these symptoms. Finally, we learn and put in to practice the appropriate coping skills to reduce future symptom escalation in anxiety provoking situations. 

Am I depressed

So this blog is going to be a bit more sterile than my usually blogs but I think it is important information to share. Enjoy…

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the standard reference for clinical practice in the mental health field when looking at classifying mental illness.  It outlines diagnostic criteria and provides information on development and course for various mental illnesses.  The DSM states that common features throughout all depressive disorders include; “…the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function.” Since depression is a spectrum and can range from mild to severe it is important to know how to recognize possible threats to your mental health.

You can recognize symptoms of a depression by looking for…

·      Loss of interest of pleasure

·      Significant weight changes

·      Diminished concentration

·      Sleep difficulties

·      Daily fatigue

·      Feelings or worthlessness

·      Recurring thoughts of death

Common Risk factors for depression include…

·      Family history of depression or similar disorders

·      Poverty

·      Unemployment

·      Social isolation

·      Regular drug and alcohol abuse

 

Depression is most commonly treated through a combination of counseling and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques focus on changing self-defeating thoughts and behaviors while medications, such as an SSRI (selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor), work to increase the level of serotonin in the brain.

It is extremely important to remember things like sleep, diet, socialization, and exercise can play major roles in your mental health. If you are struggling with depression and are not ready to see a mental health profession, these areas can be a great starting place to form some goals around and monitor your progress. If you are having any suicidal thoughts the best avenue is always to take yourself (or have a friend/relative take you) to the hospital and let them know how you have been feeling/thinking.

free medicine: Self-Care

Yup, it’s true. Some of the best medicine is free. In the mental health world you may hear this medicine referred to as “self-care”. When a client comes in with a list of ailments, one of the first questions from the therapist will usually be, “well, what are you doing to take care of yourself?” This is because these basic levels of care are can have a HUGE positive impact on our mental health. Unfortunately, they also tend to be the first thing we scrape off of our plate and into the garbage when we feel overwhelmed, or sad, or worried, or tired, or anything but motivated!

So what exactly is this self-care stuff? Self-care refers to the consistent disciplines we maintain so that we give back to our physical, spiritual, and mental/emotional health. These are the three areas we usually break self-care down into because they encompass the entire self.

The best practice for yourself is to start to learn the things that contribute to your fulfillment and health in each of these areas, and to make sure you are practicing them enough that you consistently reap the benefits. Now, these things can look different for each individual but there are some easier places to start. Things like, sleep, exercise, diet, and socialization are all great places to begin to establish small goals in. And I mean small… always start with the smallest, most attainable, goal and build from there. We are not out to set our list of New Year resolutions, instead we are looking to make goals that we can consistently work on that will not be too invasive to scare us away. Once we begin to see the benefit of these small goals it usually encourages us to push forward with more challenging, or new, goals.

It is also important to find, what I call, your sweet spot. This is the level of self-care that is maintainable. Again, we are not going to the moon, we just want to ensure we are not neglecting basic levels of maintenance that contribute to our overall health. There is certainly a balance between self-care and perfectionism that can be risky for some of us. So, set small goals and continue to asses how they impact your physical, spiritual, and mental/emotional health. You goals could be to go on a walk once a week, have 5 minutes of reflection time in the morning before work, and call one friend to catch up ever few days. Find some small goals that give back to you and go after them…set an alarm if you need to! Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to get these things in place. Sometimes it is enough just to get out of bed!

Why go to counseling?

There are two main purposes counseling serves. The first would be to understand and work through an issue that is, or has been, causing distress in one’s life. These would be things like persistent anxious thoughts, or invasive sadness that permeates throughout the day. The second would be to prevent a possible issue from surfacing.  This would look like preparing for big life transitions such as: college, new jobs, getting married, having children, moving to new places.  This second purpose can also look like educating yourself on mental illness that runs in the family and learning warning signs/coping tools in case you start to see them show up in your life or your family member’s lives.

It is important to remember that you are not alone. Everyone is living with some level of discomfort in his or her life, whether it is: the impact of a stressful job, the isolation that can come from changing friend circles, or just the doldrums of falling into a routine that locks significant joy. We tend to define a noticeable level of distress based upon frequency and intensity. Now this can seems subjective because everyone defines stress/pain differently. However, if you do feel impaired by persistent feelings, thought, or behaviors, it may benefit you to give counseling a try.

The gift of counseling is that you have dedicated space and time each week to analyze and work through troubling issues with a trained and unbiased professional. Outside of counseling we usually do not make a habit of looking at painful things because, well… their painful. The counseling room is a safe place to examine life and learn new skills that may benefit your living style.