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!

Helpful tips for handling the holiday "blahs"

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.

 

Erika McCaghren

Communication While in Conflict

When in the midst of conflict with a friend, family member, or loved one, inability to communicate can cause frustration, anxiety and even depression for everyone involved. Communication is essential to effectively resolving relational conflict, but how can one make sure good communication happens? Here are some questions that might help you as you attempt to communicate during conflict:

1. Are you prepared?
Chances are, during a conflict, you have some words that you want to say to the other person involved. However, in the heat of the moment, you may say things you don’t actually mean and cause more damage to the relationship. Before confronting the individual about an issue, spend time preparing what you might want to say. You may even want to write an outline, if the conflict is complicated and emotionally charged.

2. Is this the right time?
Part of the preparation process involves choosing a good time and place to communicate about the conflict. If your spouse is having a busy day at work or at home, don’t confront them as they are going into a meeting or cleaning up a massive mess made by the kids at home. If possible, agree upon a particular time or place to talk about the issue, when other tasks can be laid aside.

3. Are you focused?
As much as possible, remove all distractions that could hinder effective communication. Turn off the TV, shut the door, put your phone on silent, and focus solely on the person with whom you want to communicate. This will show that you are invested in finding a solution.

4. What is your body language saying?
Your body posture says a lot about your attitude during communication. If you want someone to know that you are listening, look at them while they’re talking, and not somewhere else. Don’t hover over the person angrily, or walk away as they are talking. Try your best to sit calmly and make eye-to-eye contact.

5. Are you using “I” statements?
Instead of saying “You make me feel ________,” say, “When you do this, I feel ________.” The latter shows that you are taking responsibility for your feelings, while still acknowledging the behavior of the other person

6. Are you making global accusations?
When trying to prove a point, it’s easy to say things like “You always ignore me!” or “You are just an irresponsible person!” Work to make more fair evaluations of the individual. You might say, “When you do _____, I feel like you are ignoring me,” or “There are times that you behave irresponsibly.” These types of statements indicate that, while at times the person may behave in ways that are hurtful, there are also times when they do not.

7. Are you showing appreciation?
Lastly, thank the listener for agreeing to speak with you about the conflict, and thank them for listening to you as you communicate. A little appreciation can go a long way in encouraging effective communication!

Kalli Hendren

The Courage to be True

You are the person most qualified to make the choices that shape your life. You know yourself. Trust yourself to be true. Trust yourself to make difficult choices. Sometimes true learning and growth follows what, in retrospect, looks like a stupid decision. Stupid decisions are opportunities to learn about yourself. Be gentle as you move forward. Be fearless in your willingness to learn about your true self. Close the gap between who you are and who you want to be.

Gratitude

Gratitude has been proven by research to significantly decrease anxiety and depression. Individuals who spend time thinking  about the positive elements of their lives report feeling happier and more motivated. So, as the Thanksgiving season  approaches, what can you be thankful for? Be sure to look around at not only the significant relationships and events in your life, but also the little details that actually do make a difference, even if they may seem insignificant. We all have things to be grateful for, even if it’s just the gift of waking up every day and experiencing life. Sometimes, we just have to shift our focus in  order to see it.

Writing a list or keeping a journal of daily events that cause you to be grateful is a helpful exercise. Additionally, be sure to tell your friends, family, coworkers and others what you appreciate about them. Don’t forget, you can be grateful for yourself as well! Express gratitude towards yourself for who you are and things that you have accomplished. Each of these exercises will more than likely serve to lighten your mood and increase your hope about the future.

Relationships are like a Garden (part 1)

“Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds”. Quote by Gordon Hinckley
Relationships are like a garden. They need careful tending or they don’t produce the harvest. As a relationship and mental health counselor, it’s been my privilege to walk the most intimate journey of people’s lives with them. Through my learning from others, my study and education along with my personal growth through 37 years of marriage, there are 6 skills I’ve found in common with healthy relationships. In healthy relationships it’s important to:

Build confidence in your partner;
Couples that seem to grow strong find themselves purposely lifting up their partner in private and public. They say sincere compliments and act proud to be their friend. Good practice: try several times a day to surprise your spouse with a special act or word or gesture of appreciation. Begin sentences with I’m thankful for..; I appreciate it that..; I’m excited about…; I was impressed that…; The garden analogy may be the trellis. Without a trellis many plants fall over on themselves and eventually break or stop giving.

Be credible;
Secrets or lies by omission are culprits of healthy relationships. In this era of technology, it’s easy to leave spouses out of the loop and create insecurity. Healthy relationships are open about their electronics, phones, and schedules. Good practice: Ask your spouse what one or two gestures would build trust and credibility. Be proactive about honoring their requests. Garden analogy: It’s more than frustrating to think you are planting corn and instead have melons.

Please check back next week to read part two of our three part series on more ways to “grow” your relationships.
Sharon Nelson, LCSW