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Expectations – Another Step in Developing Coping Skills

As mentioned in the previous article on Attitude, stress affects every part of our life. We can’t avoid it, so we want to learn to cope with it in a healthy, productive way. This is essential for our wellbeing.  We all can learn the skills it takes to cope with stress.  In this article we’ll focus on just one – managing expectations. 

In John C. Maxwell’s article It Only Takes 6 Steps to Change Your Life, he states “hope is the foundational principle for all change. People change because they have hope, and if people do not have hope, they will not change.”  Steps 2 and 3 in his article relate to expectations.  According to Maxwell, when you change your beliefs, you change your expectations.  If you can change your expectations, you can change your attitude.  

When our expectations aren’t met, we can become depressed, angry, or frustrated, which just makes us more stressed.  We feel let down and lose hope. When we lose hope, we have more difficulty coping with the stress in our lives.  If you evaluate why your expectations weren’t met in a situation, you can determine if your expectations were realistic, too high or too low.

Our expectations are often based on our perceptions of situations, rather than reality.  How and why are you perceiving the situation the way you are? What influences in your life are affecting your perception toward the situation? Is there another way to view the situation? Is there another way to meet your expectations or can you change your expectations?

We need hope to overcome the negative stress in our lives. And with hope we can have a joy filled life, regardless of the stressful circumstances happening around us.

If you would like help in managing your stress and to learn more about the steps to take to improve your coping skills, please call our office and schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.

One Step in Developing Coping Skills – Attitude

Stress affects every part of our life, in both positive and negative ways. We can’t avoid it, so being able to cope in a healthy, productive way is essential for our wellbeing. Anyone can learn the skills it takes to cope with stress. This article’s focus is on just one skill used in coping with stress – attitude. Or more specifically a positive attitude.

When we develop and nourish an attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness, we open ourselves to finding the positive in even the most difficult of situations. Our family recently experienced a stressful situation. A 13 year old family member required an emergency appendectomy. After the event was over, we discussed what a great weekend we had. Yes, he did have a ruptured appendix. But his mother recognized this was more than a stomach ache. His doctor recognized he needed to go straight to the ER. He had an excellent doctor that knew to keep looking after the first test came back normal. He had an excellent surgeon, caring nurses and family and friends for support. This was not a “good or fun” event, but with the right attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness there was hope for a successful outcome. Hope can overcome negative stress.

In John C. Maxwell’s article, It Only Takes 6 Steps to Change Your Life, steps 3 and 4 relate to attitude. According to John C. Maxwell our expectations affect our attitude and if we can change our expectations, we can change our attitude. If we can change our attitude we can then change our behavior. The goal here is to change our behavior in how we react to stress.
How do you change your attitude? You can’t always control what happens around you or to you, but you can control how you respond to it. A positive attitude is not about being happy or having fun all of the time. Those are fleeting moments and feelings, but a positive attitude is not dependent on the circumstances happening around you. When things are going wrong you can choose to focus on everything that isn’t working the way you want. You can constantly dwell on all the negatives. Or you can choose to consciously seek to find the positives in every circumstance. When you choose to respond with thankfulness and gratefulness, you will find you can harness your stress into a more manageable part of your life. Managed stress will give you greater strength, energy, enthusiasm, confidence, success and joy.

If you would like help in managing your stress and to learn more about the steps to take to improve your coping skills, please call our office and schedule an appointment with one of our counselors.

Counseling Success Story in Rogers, AR

A Rogers, AR client said, “My sessions with Sharon have been very meaningful and rewarding and I feel I’m making excellent progress thus far. I initially thought I would feel very embarrassed and uncomfortable speaking candidly with a counselor but the exact opposite has occurred thanks to her relaxed and friendly demeanor and her genuine interest in me and my issues. I’m so glad I took what was a giant leap for me and turned to Pinnacle Counseling for guidance and help.”

Counseling in Rogers, AR

Controlling Your Health and Well-Being

There are many factors in our lives that are out of our control. The genes we inherit, the environment we are born into, the behavior of others, sudden storms and so on. But there are factors we can control. We have control of our decisions and how we choose to react to situations.
 
When you take a trip, you can plan ahead: you choose the best destination for a rewarding vacation, map your route, reserve motel rooms ahead of time, and plan what you want to do and see. If you come across a road detour or a rainy day keeps you inside, you can allow it to ruin your entire vacation or you can plan ahead for those contingencies and choose to still have a great time.
 
You can’t control the genetic factors that might affect your health, but you can control how your lifestyle impacts your health. Choosing healthy behaviors such as eating healthy, exercising, not smoking or drinking, and focusing on the positives can decrease the genetic risks you may have inherited.
 
Trying to control the uncontrollable can create anxiety and stress in your life. Trying to take on responsibility for things that you are not responsible for can also create anxiety and stress. When this goes on for too long period of a time, it can create unresolved anger that can then lead to depression.
 
By identifying the areas in your life that you can and can’t control you can begin planning a journey to better health. Make a list. What uncontrollable things are you trying to control? Are you experiencing misplaced responsibility? Do you feel guilt over things that weren’t your responsibility or you had no control over? Are there people you need to forgive, even though they will never ask for or want your forgiveness? Where can you let go and where can you take control?
 
Unmanaged stress and anxiety can lead to feelings of helplessness, fatigue, apathy, health issues, and depression. Managed stress gives you greater strength, more energy, enthusiasm, confidence, success and joy. You can take control of your health and well-being. If you need help managing your stress and anxiety, contact us today to schedule an appointment! We look forward to helping you find the best solution for you to get relief.

Supportive Relationships

We need and deserve supportive relationships. Often people come to counseling because they feel lonely and dismissed from family and friends. Relationships get damaged or broken by hurtful words, actions or sometimes by presumptions about the meaning of words or actions. To build supportive relationships one needs to adhere to the following six healthy aspects. Therapy is a source of in depth discussions of needs and desires and ways to cultivate each of these skills.

  • Feel relaxed in each other’s company.
  • Build confidence in each other’s strengths and needs.
  • Care what the other needs.
  • Be credible, honest, loyal.
  • Be noticed for individual likes and dislikes.
  • Enjoy fun together.

These basic components of supportive relationships can bring relief from anxiety and depression. Take steps today to define your supportive relationships.

Vulnerability.

By Beth Tellez, LCSW

Vulnerability.  Wow, that word can stir up a series of emotions for many people!  Fear is often a common reaction in therapy when the very notion of vulnerability is mentioned.  When given the space to explore fear, however, we find that it is simply a defense mechanism in action attempting to keep us safe from anticipatory emotional exposure.

Fear may try to tell us that vulnerability is too painful, scary, or even a demonstration of weakness.  If we look to Vulnerability Expert, Brené Brown, her research tells a very different story.  Brené’s years of research resulted in this incredible notion that she so eloquently describes in her best seller books: Vulnerability actually breeds connection with others.  Additionally, the monster emotion – shame, when spoken in a place of empathy, simply cannot exist!

Imagine the freedom and healing that can come when you allow yourself to sit in an empathetic space with a trusting individual and explore your own vulnerability.  Not from a place of weakness, but of empowerment and freedom.  Imagine rather than running from your problems, you learn to move into vulnerability with compassion and grace for yourself and others.  Instead of staying stuck in your hurt, you use the power to heal. Just imagine.

If you are interested in learning more about vulnerability and connectedness, visit Brené Brown’s work at her website: www.brenebrown.com.

If you would like to visit with a qualified therapist about your needs, please contact us today!

Coping with High Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts, and OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can occur in many realms and may lead to serious mental health issues. An obsession is an unwanted, intrusive thought. This type of thought may present itself as an idea, image, impulse, urge, or memory that you experience as unwanted and distressing.

A compulsion is a behavior designed to reduce and avoid the discomfort that comes from your experience of an obsession. The behavior may be physical such as washing or checking or it may be mental such as reviewing or neutralizing. The disorder impairs functioning and reduces quality of life. The lost time attending to your obsessions and compulsions can create obstacles in relationships and difficulties with employment or education.

Everyone has anxious moments and irrational thoughts, but people who are chronically anxious are in a highly sensitive state most of the time. They feel a deep urge to protect and follow their obsessive thoughts even when they don’t make sense. Other stressors that can exacerbate OCD may include: other mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, or personality disorders. Also insomnia, family issues, work issues, financial issues, and medical health issues can heighten the prominent obsession. Our obsessions tend to link to what we care most about.

Common intrusive thoughts include repeated thoughts of hurting self or others. Post partem depression combined with intrusive thoughts leaves new parents feeling isolated. Fear of talking about thoughts leads to more fear of being misunderstood perpetuating a need to isolate and remove self from relationships. This confusion and detachment harms bonding and connectiveness with others. Automatic thoughts do not necessarily result in actions or need for protection, but more likely a need for guidance and support. Trained professionals are able to offer tools to minimize risks and further complications.

The following are some other specific types of OCD. Most OCD sufferers have 2-3 obsessions interfering with behaviors and relationships. Here is a brief outline and description.

Contamination OCD: Washing hands and taking excessively long showers to rid self of illness or germs. Also avoiding contact with surfaces contaminated by known germs.

Responsibility / Checking OCD: A compulsion to check that no irresponsible behavior took place that could lead to a catastrophe – often exemplified by locking doors, checking correspondence and monitoring safety measures excessively.

Harm OCD: Focuses on unwanted, intrusive, violent, or tragic thoughts of harming self or others. This may be heightened in post partem depression.

Sexual Orientation OCD: Is rooted in the fear of not being certain about sexual orientation paired with the fear of never being able to have a relationship with a partner whom you feel genuinely attracted.

Pedophile OCD: Obsessions of being a predator of children that is debilitating to every aspect of functioning due to the most unspeakable thoughts.

Relationship OCD: Difficulty in tolerating uncertainty about the quality of a relationship and genuineness of your feelings.
Scrupulosity OCD: Targets people who place a high value on religion, rules, laws, or existential meaning.

Hyper Awareness OCD: Typically involuntary excessive awareness of breathing, blinking, swallowing, sounds, songs, or memories.

As trained therapists at Pinnacle Counseling we are skilled at guiding clients and their families in recognizing obsessive compulsive disorder and making recommendations for reclaiming a healthier lifestyle and increasing quality of life. Some tools to explore are acceptance, mindfulness (staying present in the moment), challenging our thoughts and creating a structured approach to managing compulsions. A medical practitioner may also recommend a pharmaceutical approach. Unwanted thoughts, distorted thinking and compulsive urges don’t need to be overwhelming forever. If you’ve tried different treatment options with little success, don’t lose hope. Call us today 479-268-4142 for an appointment.

Managing Social Anxiety

If you’ve ever experienced significant fear and anxiety in a public setting, you know that social anxiety is very much a REAL thing! Most of us experience some level of anxiety from time to time, which is very common. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health states that 1 in 5 of us experience anxiety regularly (www.nimh.gov).
Anxiety can often interfere with our daily lives. Social anxiety, however, can be debilitating. The intense fear of being around people in public can cause a person to avoid certain settings and connections with others, placing limited expectations on their lives. There are several steps we can take to weaken the impact that social anxiety may have on us. Let’s take a look:
Step 1
Recognize it – We want to be aware of how social anxiety shows up for us. Is my body talking to me? Is my heart racing? Is my chest tightening? Are my hands trembling? When we recognize how anxiety presents itself, we can then acknowledge it.
Step 2
Address it – Once we acknowledge that symptoms of social anxiety are present, we can use simple coping strategies to decrease the intensity. Strategic breathing is an easy, free, tool that can be used anywhere, anytime! The 4-7-8 breathing technique assists with shifting us from a “fight or flight” state to a more manageable one. You can watch a short, simple video here to learn more about this quick and effective tool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c5yrOlGDbk.
Step 3
Collect evidence – I may feel unsafe, but am I really? That “fight or flight” response is built in to our physiological makeup to keep us safe. Thankfully our bodies have this built in “bells and whistles” tool available to protect us. Sometimes, those alarms go off, but we’re actually not in harm’s way. It’s just our body attempting to keep us well protected. A simple check-in such as, “is there PROOF I’m unsafe?” may do the trick to remind your body and your brain that things are actually ok and you can give permission for the bells and whistles to settle.

Using mindfulness to better acknowledge and accept your thoughts and feelings is a great coping tool to help us better manage our anxiety when we’re in social or public settings. If you’d like more information about how to utilize mindfulness and other tools to decrease symptoms of anxiety, contact us today at 479-268-4142!

The Holidays – Fa la la or Bah Humbug?

Tammy Kennedy, LPC
EFT Trained Relationship Counselor

Are you exceedingly happy to see the holidays are “finally over”? To some the holidays are Great! But to others the holidays can be stressful and even dreadful!

The holidays can be stressful to all of us from time to time, but when there is added stress in the home, the holidays can be dreadful. When we feel disconnected in our relationship and we’re arguing about everything, the holidays can be a nightmare. The holiday get-together with the in-laws from hell is not typically met with happiness and cheer. Maybe your in-laws are amazing, but you and your spouse are contemplating separation and you haven’t yet told your family because after all, you’re just contemplating it, right? Nothing’s been set in stone and you don’t want to raise unnecessary fear – these types of scenarios don’t make the holidays pleasant. Difficult situations lead to the need for difficult conversations and we don’t like difficult. We tend to avoid these conversations all together, but they can loom over our heads for months and sometimes even years. We avoid these conversations because they lead to uncomfortable feelings and we don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Yet Feel and talk is precisely what we need to do so we can begin to move forward to a happier place with one another and perhaps even greet the holidays with cheerful thoughts.

Tough conversations like these can be much easier aided by a trained therapist. Sue Johnson developed a therapeutic approach to couple’s counseling that teaches couples to talk in ways that encourage their partners to hear and listen in ways that encourage them to talk. In her approach, therapists teach couples self-awareness to recognize and understand their own triggers for unwanted feelings and other-awareness to recognize and understand the effect our behavior has on others. How can we begin to change if we don’t see there’s a problem? When we allow ourselves to be open and talk to one another – really talk to one another, we can learn things about one another we never even knew were important. This changes the way we see and understand one another. Understanding is the key to wisdom. We can’t possibly understand one another if we can’t really hear one another. We want to connect but we can’t begin the process of change until we understand and see ourselves from our partner’s perspective. This process is difficult – we must step out of “self” and step into “other” to see “you”.

Sue Johnson’s therapeutic approach to couple’s counseling is called Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and it is rocking this nation. Research shows that EFT counseling has satisfaction ratings as high as 70% even 2 years after therapy ends. Couples report their relationships continue to improve with time as they continue to implement the skills they learned in therapy. Dr John Gottman, a leader in couple’s counseling, admits that Dr Johnson’s approach is “exactly what we needed in marital therapy” stating that his model of couple’s therapy has all the laboratory data to back “what makes marriage work and what doesn’t” but states that Dr Johnson’s approach takes the research to a deeper level. Dr Gottman states that Johnson’s approach gives failed marriages “a new chance for connection, an emotional connection”. This new level of connection gives couples a new roadmap to follow to resolve their differences in ways that lead to deeper more meaningful connections thus more satisfying relationships.

 

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