Live Better, Feel Better: Extending the Boundaries

A price will be exacted from us for everything we do or leave undone. We should find the courage to win, to win back our finer kinder and healthier selves. It is possible to find within ourselves the capacity to be thankful even while we grieve. Loss is a part of life. Although being thankful and feeling emotional pain do not coexist very often, it can be done. Only gratitude will allow your heart to be truly happy. Just counting the losses keeps the score very uneven. Even in times of loss you can find many things or memories to carry you forward. Grief only exists where love once lived. Having loved is something to be thankful for.

We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios whenever they are needed. Life seems to love the person living it. Life is pure adventure. The sooner that is realized, the sooner you can treat life as art. Bringing all your energy to each encounter remaining flexible. And if the outcome is not as you planned understanding that it doesn’t mean the outcome itself was wrong.

Extending the boundaries of your thinking, being open to new ways of thinking about situations, accepting losses throughout the year still leaves so many things to be grateful for, and even being thankful for the pain that accompanies grief will help you heal and find more happiness. Because without that pain you would have never known the love and joy that person or time brought to you. Just as people, places, things, events, etc. affect your life each day. You, your actions, your expressions, your choice of words affect others around you each day. Be an example of who you want to be, who you hope to become. Extend the boundaries of your hurt tired self and count your blessings, even if some of them are from the past.

~Audrey A. Adams LCSW

 

What the Mind/Body connection teaches us about relationships?

By Terry Richardson MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- What the Mind/Body connection teaches us about relationships?

Of the most important things we need to know about life, having healthy relationships is foremost. So where do we learn this vital information? It’s easy to identify relationships that aren’t working, a short read of the newspaper, fifteen minutes of the evening news broadcast or just standing in line at the grocery store reveals the difficult and sometimes tragic results of a relationship gone wrong. So what does a healthy relationship have? From my perspective, each of us, in our mind/body existence, are given a natural example of the potentially perfect relationship.

The essential elements of all healthy relationships are balance, contrast and complementarity. Effective application of these elements give us tools to interact with family, friends and coworkers, and how we treat ourselves.

In order to illustrate the mind/body relationship think for a moment about your body as a vehicle and your mind as the driver. The next time you get into your car, consider the relationship you have established with it because of the cooperative and collaborative agreement you have with it, you accomplish your purpose of being transported from point “A” to point “B”, and whether it’s in a Lamborghini or a Ford, the results are the same. The mind/body relationship your “self” is the journey you are on and the people in your life are passengers for the trip. Are you having fun yet?

Balance

What is balance? One physical definition is “the equalization of forces.” In other works, neither the body or mind dominates or assumes complete control. If you’ve ever experienced a stuck gas pedal wildly accelerating, had to push a car you’ve failed to fuel, or the frustration of an exhaustingly long trip, and in spite of “cruise control” your hands on the wheel – literally in “co-operation.” In a healthy relationship sharing responsibility is more productive than dominance or control.

Contrast

Night and day, sweet and sour, sharp and dull, old and young. Contrast is what helps us examine and experience one thing by knowing its counterpart. Though not always an opposite, contrast is an inescapable acknowledge of the other side of the coin, the “flip side” of what is known versus the unknown. Contrast helps us get clarity about our own identity by providing a framework of reference that makes us distinct from our surroundings. A healthy relationship creates a backdrop in our experience of life so that we might more clearly define and know who we are.

Complementarity

I would be ludicrous to get behind the driver’s seat and just sit there, waiting for the trip to start. Why? It is the interaction of all of the components involved that makes the difference. Complementarity is the harmonic blending of balance and contrast into action. It is the reason that apparently impossible things can happen – the reason you can” drive” to St. Louis in 5 hours. When we focus on complementarity in our relationships, conflicts created by power struggles and insecurities created by differences, dissolve. In a healthy relationship strengths and differences are assets that make the sum greater than its parts.

In my work as a psychotherapist, I often remind couples or individuals I am working with, that most people know more about maintaining a car that a relationship. That is primarily because we too often accept relationships as a “given” part of life, whereas a car is something we work for, and need to know how to take care of. Our learning about relationships “just happens’ through observation and experience (primarily trial and error) and when we do ask for advice we generally don’t consult the experts.

The next time you find yourself unhappily stuck by the side of the road, the mind/body owner’s manual of relationships might be the first place to look.

Can Stress Be Fatal?

 

Audrey A. Adams LCSW

We’ve all heard the saying, “stress can kill you.” Is that true? Well, as a matter of fact, YES it is! The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive, keeping you alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked, and stress-related tension builds. A Health and Safety Executive states around 9.9 million working days are lost each year to stress, depression, or anxiety. But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think. Most of us are so used to being stressed; we often don’t know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point.

Common symptoms of stress are headache, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, excessive worry, and sleep problems. Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Besides these very serious health problems, stress that’s left unchecked can manifest itself in anger, resentment, depression, and anxiety. Stress can interfere with your judgment and cause you to make bad decisions, make you see difficult situations as threatening reducing your enjoyment and making you feel bad, making you feel rejected, unable to laugh, afraid of free time, unable to work, and not willing to process your problems with others. A lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol for immediate relief, but drugs and alcohol quickly turn into more stressors, problems, addictions, and health problems of their own.

In the world we live in today, we not only are concerned with our own personal issues, family problems, employment situations, finances, etc. But, we are bombarded with daily news about extremely scary and violent behavior from thousands of miles away to right in our own backyards. One thing that is in our control is making sure we make time for self-care. Your first thought to hearing that was probably, “I don’t have time,” or “I wish!” But think of this, if you don’t find time to do things for yourself, then who will? No one. As adults it is our job to take care of ourselves the best we can or we may not be around as long as we had hoped.

While most of us would likely prefer to take a cruise, rent a cabin in the woods, or go the beach, it is important to remember when it comes to stress, a little bit really does go a long way. The 10 minutes it takes to drive through Starbucks to buy your $6.00 morning coffee, the 30 minutes spent wandering around the grocery store because you’re not sure what you want, or the extra 15 minutes on the phone talking to someone you don’t even really want to speak with can produce stress. Those precious few minutes add up. Taking small chunks of time for yourself can make a profound difference. You deserve to be as stress free as possible. You have to pick your battles. Is what you are stressing about today going to matter this time next year? Is what you are stressing about today something you can control? Putting yourself first is not selfish. Take a walk, talk to someone you trust, take a bubble bath, go fishing, read a book, get a massage, color, dance, watch a comedy that made you laugh 20 years ago, have a picnic by the creek, fly a kite, leave your phone in the other room, look at old pictures, go barefoot in the back yard, try wood carving… The point is just do something…..but do it for YOU!

 

Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

 

Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

Is it ok to compare my spouse or partner to someone else?

     It can be a common practice to compare your partner to that of someone else you know and can be particularly true if you are not satisfied with your relationship.   Let’s say you selected a good partner and didn’t “settle” on just anyone to commit to, you need to remind yourself of just that.  After the honeymoon, or several years of being together, it can be easy to forget what a terrific partner you have and start asking your partner why they can’t be more like “so and so”.  While this can be common among couples, giving in to this kind of thinking can damage your relationship and here is why.

  •  Comparing can betray trust
  •  Comparing can make you both feel inferior
  •  It is easy to idealize someone you don’t know
  •  The novelty of getting to know someone you don’t know is temporary
  •  Comparisons are not fair or even comprehensive

     If you find that you tend to compare your partner to someone else on a regular basis rather than acknowledging the positive and loving traits of your partner, it may be a signal to seek help and in doing so, you may be able to get your relationship to where it needs to be.

Social Media and Mental Health

Social media is regarded as a tool to stay connected, informed, and interconnected with everyone in your inner circle and even around the world. The days of writing a letter or calling a distant relative to catch up on what is going on in his or her life seem but a memory. The world seems to prefer the click of an app or your mouse to get the latest and greatest news as fast as your browser or phone can download it. You do not even have to worry about the small talk before getting to the 140 characters of what is really going on in someone’s life or the daily (sometimes hourly) ‘status’ on Facebook. While there are seemingly no limits to what one can search for and learn about, there is also something fundamental missing in the constant refreshing of pages and pages of information. A real, deep connection to someone or something is severely lacking. Instead of communicating with an open heart and open mind, one can scroll through to get to the high points of a ‘likable’ moment.

Loved ones are people we share our lives with for a reason. That reason is because of the love and deep personal ties that these people have with us. They might have been there to help you through a break-up, loss of some kind, or have even shared a joyous occasion that bonded you. Those are memories. I believe that I will never tell my grandchildren of the time I got 35 likes on Facebook or the time I read a tweet about what celebrity got arrested.

A lot can be said for the amount of comfort, satisfaction, and joy comes from spending time with someone you really care about or a quiet moment alone. The hustle of figuring out the Wi-Fi password so you can tweet about what a bad day you just had will never be a substitute for meeting your best friend to talk it out. Connection and interaction feels so comforting because it is a building block of human nature. We have to have it. Without the communication and belonging, we would be endlessly scrolling and uploading; instead of living and loving deeply. Being social is not about how many social networking websites you are a part of, but your real social network is made up of those around you every day. Cherish those that you care for and search to find the connections that you are hard wired to make. You will be much happier.

 

Erika McCaghren

New Year’s Resolutions: A Counselor’s Perspective

The start of the new year is a great time to think about changing your habits and lifestyle. Want to lose weight? Communicate better? Pay off some debt? Become more organized? No time like the present to move your life in a healthy, more positive direction. Go for it!

But be careful. A New Year’s Resolution is not a license to savage yourself for being too disorganized, too fat, too scattered, to poor, or too anything. You don’t need a successful (or super strict) New Year’s Resolution to be worthy. You deserve to feel good about yourself right now. Exactly as you are. Resolutions fueled by shame are destined to fail. So watch out for destructive if, then statements. Too frequently we place these types of statements between ourselves and our self worth:

  • If I lose fifteen pounds, then I’ll feel beautiful.
  • If I organize all my closets, then I can relax and enjoy my home.
  • If I am out of debt, then I’ll feel secure.
  • If I am married, then my life will have meaning.
  • If I am perfect, then I’ll be worthy of self-love

Some of the above statements are flat-out wrong, dangerous. But some of them are partially true. If you are debt free, you will feel more financially secure. But can you feel more financially secure just by taking action to become debt free? That’s the trick. Give yourself the credit you deserve for your actions. Do not look only to your destination for satisfaction and peace.

Stress and the Brain

Stressful events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job or home, or serious/chronic illness can actually affect the grey matter in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.  This region of the brain is responsible for self-control, emotions and physiological functions such as proper glucose and insulin levels.  Stressors can affect our mood centers and skew our ability to regulate pleasure and reward.  Prolonged exposure to stress can actually shrink the brain.  Brain volumes in the mood centers are linked to depression and anxiety.  People who have brain shrinkage seem to be more vulnerable when faced with a life trauma or sudden adverse event as the effects are magnified and their ability to cope is compromised.

Brain-enhancing activities to combat stress and make our brains more resilient to stress are recommended to diffuse some of the potentially harmful effects stress can have on the brain.  Some valuable stress relievers include exercise, meditation, taking a daily dose of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid-an Omega 3 fatty acid) and maintaining strong emotional relationships.

Innovative, Creative, and Inspiring

Innovative, creative, and inspiring are tags used to search for videos on TED.com, the source for videos on almost anything. While it is nice to find something something funny to watch while you are at work, here are some videos that might spark your attention in the “tag” areas. Check them out:

Sarah Kay
“How many lives can you live?”
https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_how_many_lives_can_you_live
Sarah Kay uses two spoken-word poems to explain her love/hate relationship with living one life. She shares her hope to rush and hear everyone’s stories and to share her story so that she can see life through another person’s frame of reference as many times as she can, so as to not miss out on anything that others have to offer. Sarah ends her talk with another spoken-word poem about the power of experience and living lives of our own and of others in a special way.


Ash Beckham
“We are all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up.”
https://www.ted.com/talks/ash_beckham_we_re_all_hiding_something_let_s_find_the_courage_to_open_up
Ash Beckham discusses the closets that keep us from opening up and sharing our story. The story that makes us shut the door to the closet of secrets and pushes others away. Although she tells her own story of having a hard conversation about who she was to a little girl in a diner, Ash sends an important message about connection. That message is that the safety of covering up secrets and hiding from owning our story scares us into believing that we are alone. What we are is different and unique, but we are never alone in our struggles.

“All a closet is… is a hard conversation.”  –Ash Beckham

 

Colin Stokes
“How movies teach manhood”

http://www.ted.com/talks/colin_stokes_how_movies_teach_manhood#t-46850
Colin Stokes uses two classic movies, The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, to illustrate the differences between masculine and feminine ideals presented by mainstream video media that play continuously throughout a child’s upbringing. These ideals in the form of movie protagonists in Disney and Pixar films can be masculine or feminine, but the message of courage transcends much deeper than hero or heroine. Stokes challenges parents to see the journey of the movies to show children themes that are more impactful and universal than fighting the bad guy or saving the princess; they involve friendships, self-discovery, and teamwork.

Erika McCaghren