Why Is It So Hard To Ask For Help?

Feel Better, Live Better
Why Is It So Hard To Ask For Help?
By Tammy Kennedy, LPC, LADAC

Why is it so hard to ask for help…It shouldn’t be, should it? When did it become so hard, anyway? When did that moment in life occur that changed everything so drastically? Suddenly, it wasn’t expected of you, nor was it okay for you, to ask for what you needed anymore. When was that moment when asking for help felt “WRONG”. That may be the very question that brings you into therapy, doing the thing you dare to do – Ask for HELP! In therapeutic circles, we like to call that “reflecting” and “testing boundaries”. Doesn’t that sound better? Of course it does, because the word “help” implies a negative connotation…it implies weakness…it implies vulnerability.
Nobody wants to be viewed as weak or vulnerable. But, “Is vulnerability a weakness…Is asking for help a negative thing?” I see all kinds of people in my practice everyday struggling with difficult life situations that have slammed them to their knees but when I ask them “Who is your go-to- person?” Again, and again, I hear “Nobody”. People struggle alone in their grief…their sadness…their fear…They even struggle alone in their anger. When I ask “Why do you struggle alone…Why don’t you share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust?” Most often, I hear “I don’t want to appear weak.” When I talk to them about trusting someone enough to be vulnerable – enough to share their innermost thoughts; they’re confused, because they view vulnerability as weakness. Brenè Brown tells us that being vulnerable with someone you trust…someone you love, is an act of courage. Trusting someone enough to share your innermost negative thoughts about yourself and the world around you is a very scary thing to do but, that’s where the healing process begins.
In the therapeutic process, we explore past experiences to discover who/what influenced the development of your thoughts/feelings/beliefs about yourself and your connectedness to others. If your core belief about “self” is negative, you may interrelate with others from a “fear-based response” which may be very offensive, aggressive, critical, or even neglectful. When we react from a fear-based response we often push away the very ones we desire to be connected; we act in ways that sabotage any chance we may have of getting our needs met. Our interactions with others are inappropriate and ineffective, so we feel like a failure. This conflict between “what we want/desire” and what we “believe we deserve” invites shame. Shame invites us into a cycle of self-hate, self-sabotage, and self-defeat, denying ourselves any chance of stepping out to claim happiness, joy, and fulfillment. We don’t see a way out of this insane cycle of shame. We can’t ask for help because we don’t believe we deserve it. We’re – stuck.

So here we are, back at the initial question: Why is it so hard to ask for help? I think Brenè Brown got it right: asking for help…trusting others…being vulnerable…is a very courageous act. Are you courageous enough to step out and ask for help? The First step is always the hardest. We will be here to help make each step thereafter, easier.

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!

Anatomy of Grief

Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and it is forced to multiply its strength. ~~ Ovid

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  But what is happening inside the body after a significant loss?  Whether it is the loss of a job you loved, a home, a beloved pet, a good friend, a child, or your partner in life you will go through the grieving process and you will feel the changes in your body.

The grief process is similar to the aging process:

  • Slowing of the metabolism
  • Shrinking of tissues
  • More contraction, less flexibility
  • Less clarity and awareness
  • Less vitality and energy
  • More stiffness, weakness and atrophy
  • Less muscle tone
  • Less appetite, difficulty with digestion
  • Dull, confused and foggy thinking
  • Slower response time in any given situation, including physical healing
  • Less deep and full breathing
  • Slower blood circulation
  • Slower lymphatic circulation

Love really does hurt according to evidence from new brain scanning technologies.  Researchers have found that the same area of the brain processes both physical and emotional pain and like physical pain, emotional pain can become chronic and move into what is known as “complex grief” causing debilitating depression.  To combat the physical changes you need to get up and move!  Join a gym, try yoga, water aerobics, or take up golf.  You’re working your body and you’re being with other people, both of which you need at this time.

Humans are survivors and we’re social, so the single most important factor in healing is having the support of other people.  Even if you’re not comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you are grieving because sharing your loss makes the burden easier to carry.  There are bereavement support groups in your community that you can be part of.  Find the one that addresses your type of loss.  Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help.  Also, seeking professional counseling is a healthy choice.

Grief can be a roller coaster.  Your emotions can be up and down, a mix of good days and bad days.  Even in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness.  With complex grief and depression, on the other hand, the feeling of emptiness and despair are constant and you need to seek professional help.

Grieving is a necessary passage and a difficult transition to finally letting go of sorrow~~it is not a permanent rest stop.  ~~ Dodinsky

Did you know Pinnacle Counseling serves children and families?

Pinnacle Counseling offers counseling for children, ages 5-17, and their families.  A therapist with advanced training and experience in working with young people will meet with the child in our play room designed specifically to provide a safe environment for children to express themselves.  Play is believed to be the language of children, when they do not have the vocabulary, insight, or courage to process things verbally.  Through carefully selected toys, games, books, activities, art mediums, and purposeful play children can make sense of their lives, heal, and learn new skills.  Counseling for children can address different types of issues including reaction to stressors such as divorce or loss, traumas of all kinds, problems with family bonding and relationships, anxiety and depression, disruptive behavior, aggression, school problems, and ADHD.

How do you know if your child needs counseling?

Children often react physically and behaviorally to stressors rather than just putting their problems into words.  This could because they don’t have the words or don’t have the insight to understand what is happening inside themselves.  Looks for signs like changes in eating habits, changes in sleeping patterns including having nightmares, regression in behaviors (e.g, potty accidents, thumb sucking, baby talk), crying and tearful episodes, “touchy” and short fused moods, and withdrawing from people and activities they used to enjoy.

What is play therapy? How will it help my child?

Play therapy is a specific type of treatment, based on theory and principles.  It is more than just typical play time, although your child may not realize that.  The trained therapist uses different avenues in the session to help the child express themselves and learn new skills for coping.  The therapist can also discuss with parents themes that come up in the child’s play, indicating areas of concern.  As the child plays out things and engages in activities during session, he or she will get similar benefits to an adult spending an hour talking with a therapist.

If you have further questions or feel our services are needed for your child or family, please let us know! Visit our website at www.pinnaclecounselingNWA.com for contact information.

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Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

Relationships are like a Garden (part 3)

Relationships are both complicated and simple at the same time. If you are struggling to stay “grounded”, seek professional advice. We, at Pinnacle Counseling are here to help.

Care about what the other needs;
Healthy relationships explore and support the needs of a partner while not ignoring their own needs. Individuals form “couples”, and they still have individual needs, wants, likes and dislikes. Honoring their special traits is key to remaining close. Good practice: Offer support of a need such as affection, attention, inclusion, time to be alone, or social groups even if it’s not a need of yours and is a little uncomfortable. Garden analogy: Some plants need more shade or grow better in sandy or cooler climate. They don’t grow if they don’t get what they need.

Feel relaxed;
In a world of pressure and anxiety, the couple who can be at ease with each other has shared a gift of why most couples form in the beginning. It takes intention and dedication to cultivate a feeling of relaxation in each other’s presence. Good practice: begin some kind of meditation, centering prayer, or down time that is about stillness rather than accomplishment. This is a time when less is more. Being relaxed during the day can add to a better night’s sleep which is also healthy for the mind, body, and spirit and relationships. Garden analogy: It doesn’t help to plant the seed and dig it up the next day to see why it’s stressed. Often we need to just let it be.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

How Well Do You Connect to Your Partner?

While there are multiple reasons couples seek professional help for their relationship, often an underlying issue is that they no longer feel connected with one another in at least one of the following areas. Take a moment to honestly answer these questions regarding your partner:

1. Intellectual: Can this person connect with me intellectually?
2. Emotional: Can this person understand/handle my emotions? Do I feel comfortable sharing my emotions with my partner?
3. Spiritual: Does this person share or respect my spiritual/non-spiritual beliefs?
4. Chemistry: Does it feel natural and enjoyable to be in each other’s physical presence?
5. Lifestyle: How comfortable do I feel and function in my partner’s “world”? (Culture, eating habits, sleeping patterns, cleanliness, health, social habits, hobbies, etc.?)

If you find yourself doubting or rationalizing your answers…if something doesn’t feel “right”, then you probably won’t be satisfied and happy in a long term relationship with your partner. Often people start relationships connecting in only a few of these five ways such as enjoying similar social habits, a physical attraction or idealizing a professional achievement. However, over time, if all five of these connections aren’t satisfied, it can often leave someone wondering what went wrong, when actually the problem is that they didn’t find someone who satisfied all of their connection needs to begin with. Before you make any decision to enter into or end a relationship, make an appointment to see one of our professional counselors to explore your feelings and expectations about your relationship. We will be able to help you make an informed decision about the right direction to take.

Psychotherapy

The first word of this compound word says it all “psycho”. No one wants to be associated with something that is strange, difficult to handle, and perhaps the worst of all: a scary, new experience. If you were to ask a friend or family member what psychotherapy is, they would most likely say something about paying a lot of money to talk about problems (and that’s putting it nicely). If you were to ask a counselor or therapist, we would describe it as a chance to be heard, without judgment through the ears and eyes of a professional, in the comfort and safety of a confidential session. The talking part might be easy…or hard depending on how you view your problems. If providing a safe place where clients can talk about whatever it is that is troubling them is the job of the counselor, what is your job as a client in psychotherapy? What do you have to know before you even walk through the door? Most first time clients wonder how we expect you to tell everything that you are thinking and feeling after just meeting.

These are common questions that can be answered. A client simply has to make the appointment with a counselor or therapist and come ready for the experience. Okay…that may seem a bit more intimidating than helpful, but it’s the truth. If you are open to the experience of psychotherapy as something completely different and refreshing you are on the road to understanding what it is and how it works. Before you walk through the door, you should know that you are not alone. Every single person you pass on the street has a past, a story, a journey. That road is paved with troubles, hardships, and bumps that throw off your sense of balance as you walk the road. This is where you have to believe that there are trained professionals ready to help and to listen to you. Why would a counselor want to listen to all of the “bumps” along the way in your life? Because we are trained to provide the safe haven for you to explore the inner workings of what is really going on in your life. There is no façade, just a real and honest experience with another person to ensure that you don’t trip on the bumps of life and walk, silent and hurting, through the rest of life.

If you are working through the bumps in your life and decide that the word psychotherapy is not as scary as facing it on your own…that is what we are here for.

 

Erika McCaghren

The Habit of People Pleasing

Are you in the habit of always thinking of everyone else first and putting your own needs dead last?  Well, you are not alone!  That issue comes up frequently when someone shares with me about their anxiety or depression.  There are likely several factors at play that cause you to sell yourself short.  But in the end, you are left feeling resentful and exhausted.  Who is there to meet your needs?

We have to start “showing up” and making our own needs and wants known.  A favorite saying of mine is, “You teach others how to treat you by what you allow”.  Powerful stuff! Think about your current relationships.  Do these relationships have a 50/50 balance, with you and the other person being equally important?  If not, why?  Chances are, you definitely deserve to own 50% of the input in the relationship.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful tool for overcoming the habit of people pleasing.  We learn a life time of “messages” we receive from others which reinforce that our opinion doesn’t matter.  We learn that it’s not ok to make others upset or disappoint them. That belief may have served you once in your life, but with those kinds of thinking patterns our souls can really take a beating after a while.  CBT helps by uncovering the messages you hold to be true and teaches you to re-write the script.  The technique of assertive communication is important here, too.  The two extremes, passive and aggressive styles of communication, usually aren’t very helpful in the long run.  Assertive communication says “Your needs matter, and so do mine”.  Try to get in the habit of thinking and responding with that thought in mind.

To many, making themselves a priority has never crossed their mind.  How is there room for that when you are busy being supermom/wife/employee…?  You may find that by taking care of yourself first, or at least making your self-care an equal priority in the equation, you have more to give to others.  You may feel guilt about this, and frankly others may try to make you feel guilty about it, but self-care is vital to mental and physical health.  Self-care can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to enjoy coffee with a friend, getting to the gym for a work out, reading quietly- anything you want that is nurturing to your soul.  The only requirement is that it takes care of YOU.  It is ok to be nice to yourself!

Rachael Nachtigal, LPC