Feeling overwhelmed?

It’s so easy to get to that place. We’ve all been there. Life ‘gifts’ us obstacles from all angles, leaving us feeling tired, stressed, even defeated. Let’s take a look at some steps toward balance and stress relief:

  1. Take a step back and evaluate the circumstances.
    • What is contributing to me feeling this way?
    • Is any of it in my control?
  2. Make a move:
    • Step away to allow yourself to physically calm down.
    • Distract yourself with a brisk walk, or a good book.
  3. Find a tool that works:
    • A big belly breath is cleansing! Try deep breathing to help soothe your body and your mind.
    • Visualize a safe and peaceful place.
    • “Return to where your feet are” – Grounding exercises can be very helpful when we become overwhelmed with things of the past or worries of the future.

It’s so important to remember that our thoughts dictate our feelings. Work to shift your thoughts so that you can feel more at peace and less overwhelmed by the stressors that come your way.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like to talk to a licensed professional about strategies to help reduce your stress, contact us today to schedule an appointment! We look forward to supporting you in your time of need.

Tis the season to be…exhausted???

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.  The holidays bring us special opportunities to come together with our loved ones and create precious memories together.  But with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we can quickly become overwhelmed with the many festivities and commitments the season brings. With a bit of self-care however, you can enjoy the holiday season without overextending yourself!
Remember to rest!
Many times we commit to attend many if not all the holiday events we are invited to.  Suddenly, what should be a joyous time, can feel more like a burden.  You may find it helpful to schedule in some “down” time in between the parties and festivities.  Take this time to rejuvenate yourself.  A few great ways to refuel may include taking a brisk walk, journaling, do stretching exercises, take a power nap, or watch your favorite holiday movie. 
Cheers to your health!
The holidays are traditionally a time of gathering with those we love to share in the spirit of the season. These gatherings aren't complete without endless supplies of baked gooey goods, delectable desserts, and comfort casseroles!  Before you know it, you’re having pecan pie for breakfast and an array of cookies for dinner!  Don’t worry, it’s not too late to find a balance.  Instead of candy, perhaps grab a handful of almonds for a quick protein snack.  Enjoy the scrumptious holiday meals while being mindful of portion control. And burn off some of those extra calories with a walk around the neighborhood with those you love.
Mindfulness Matters!
This special time of year does not come without its share of stress and perhaps a bit of tension.  Using these few easy tips can ensure you will maintain your mental health during the holidays.  Deep breathing exercises are a wonderful way to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, and release toxins from the body.  Remember to “smell the roses” and “blow out the candles” to ensure your breathing is deep and meaningful! 
Pick and Choose!
Avoiding conflict will also aid in reducing stress and lowering any anxiety.  If problems arise, be mindful to collaborate together, rather than attacking one another. Use effective listening skills, and stay solution- focused.  By acknowledging your feelings, setting healthy boundaries, and expressing your needs and desires effectively, your holidays with loved ones can be both enjoyable and meaningful.
Loneliness and Depression?
Lastly, the holidays can often bring up emotions surrounding feelings of loneliness and loss.  One way to feel connected during the holiday season is to volunteer to serve those in your community.  You may enjoy serving others at a holiday luncheon, or pass out gifts to those in need.  Studies show that giving back to others reduces stress, decreases risk of depression, improves your self-esteem, and improves mood! 

From our hearts to yours, have a bless holiday season. May you show yourself kindness and compassion as you create precious memories to last a lifetime.

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!

Lessons learned from resistance to change

“I need to change” is probably one of the most common issues that bring a person into counseling and frequently the person has a specific idea of what needs to change. However, how change will occur and what needs to be different in order to bring about change can be very challenging for many people. There are numerous reasons why we resist change–fear, anxiety and uncertainty, just to name a few. The counseling process can help one sort through their resistance and discover that in every situation– no matter how unfortunate, painful, hurtful or scary, there is a meaningful lesson that can be learned from the experience. Think what wonderful lessons are waiting to be discovered if you allow yourself to stop resisting and appreciate what your problems and experiences can teach you.

Why it is hard to write

Why is it hard to write once you get a homework assignment or have a speech to make for your job? Why does the task of speaking from your heart and soul shut us down so much that we get seemingly ‘writer’s block’ when it is time to share our story? Maybe it is the feeling of being put on the spot or under fire to make sense of things for others. Maybe it is stress about how your boss will feel about your speech or how well you will do on your assignment once it is graded.

I have a different theory about why it is hard to write. Writing, whether a speech for a huge conference or in your journal at home, is an intensely personal task. Whether we like it or not, it forces us to listen to ourselves and to own what we feel and think at that exact moment. It may seem like writing is pointless…”Who cares what I think? Who will ever read this? Why do I have to share my thoughts if everyone has their own opinions about life?”

All these questions are important. You have unique answers to all of these questions. It may not seem like you have any answers when you go through the writing process and wait for the inspiration to flow. The truth of the matter is that you can inspire yourself to write and to speak from your heart, head, gut, or wherever your fingers take you. I can guarantee you one thing: writing will never be bad. You might have grammar issues, misspellings, or bad handwriting…but your original thoughts as they are right now are your own and are worth sharing at least for your own benefit. Writing down your story, or even part of your story, helps you to realize you are worth accepting yourself and your thoughts. You are always worth it, so just write and see what happens.

Erika McCaghren

The holiday "blahs"

With the holiday season and winter months fast approaching, feelings and symptoms of depression will often surface or increase. Feeling “down in the dumps” or “blah”, sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, cranky, or easily frustrated are typical symptoms of depression. Also feeling withdrawn, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, sleep, energy, difficulty concentrating, and making decisions are commonly reported. A sense of feeling worthless or excessive guilt may be experienced. Some of these feelings may actually interfere with our relationships, school, job, social activities, and even day to day functioning. If you experience a few or most of these symptoms it is wise to pay attention to what your body is telling you and to take care of yourself.

Often people minimize or don’t understand depression and the possible effects of going untreated. Working with a mental health professional can help you understand depression and learn multiple ways to manage its symptoms. Regardless of the season, feeling better means living better!

 

Erika McCaghren

Releasing Fear

There are challenges, conflicts and crisis that are an inevitable part of being human. In these times of difficulty we can become overwhelmed by our emotions, fear, shame, anger, disappointment, and sorrow as a result of living through these experiences. The emotional responses can be as painful as any physical injury or illness. They may cause us to feel that life is dangerous and out-of-control.  The psychological pain experienced during periods of loss or trauma can be so uncomfortable that we may become numb. Our emotions shutdown and the results are often described as a feeling of detachment from oneself or others.

 

During periods of difficulty like the loss of a loved one, financial loss, physical injury or decline, breakup of relationships, or job loss, we often find ourselves beginning to feel that the world is an unsafe place. A common response to this anxiety and fear is to become more and more controlling or passive within our own lives, feeling like we have less power and control. Most people have some sort of major loss by the time they’re in their early thirty’s. Given the commonality of these events, the majority of the population is reporting some level of stress or anxiety. Anxiety symptoms include irritability, feelings of being on edge, excessive worry, fatigue, and physical distress in the chest or stomach. These symptoms can be slight or become debilitating.

 

The brain protects the body from what is considered to be more pain than can be processed effectively by denial and shock. The shutting down process allows us time to process. These coping mechanisms are intended to be temporary, survival strategies. At times the body does not reset itself after a traumatic event and therefore the fear last for years. The brilliant human beings that we are sometimes get stuck. The system that manages and regulates a body’s response to danger sends messages to the body to prepare for run, or fight in defense. Getting stuck often feels like we are unable to relax, adrenaline pumps, the heart pounds, and awareness of the environment is heightened.  Feelings of anxiety or nervousness become common during situations that are not dangerous but feel dangerous as a result of the body not resetting after difficult events.  The discomfort in experiencing the event is usually very short lived in comparison to the duration of the pain experienced by anxiety and fear we carry on for years after these events have passed.

 

 

Humans are resilient beings who are built for surviving and recovery. So what is it that goes wrong? We don’t bounce back or we are unable to move on after tragedy in our lives.  As Franklin Roosevelt said “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.” What he meant by this is that it is actually the fear that does the most damage, not the events themselves. The challenge in releasing or facing these fears is that humans are often under the impression that being afraid of things is helpful to them, protecting them from future harm. However, fear results in anxiety, worry, and potential increased depression as we try to control the circumstances or the responses of others. The result of becoming guarded, and waiting for the other shoe to drop, is that feelings of anxiety and fear increase and people begin to feel worse not better.

 

So what could we do to feel better? The simple answer is to start releasing the fear. Letting go of fear and the feeling of guardedness is usually great relief if one can give permission to do so. How do we release the fear? First, it’s important to remember that the concept of fear is designed to keep us safe from dangerous situations. It is in the generalizing of feeling afraid that we get ourselves into trouble. Therefore, to begin getting out of fear is crucial to understanding that there is more to be gained by feeling good than being guarded.  As we learn to release our fear by letting go a piece at a time, we are free to love and to find more joy in life. The key is recognizing that when we are afraid of the unknown we are practicing the state of worry instead of the state of hopefulness.  In reaching for a feeling of hope and releasing the feeling of dread, we become open and available to opportunities we may not see while being fearful. Developing the spirit of curiosity about what’s next helps reduce the worry that it is going to be something bad.  There are many wonderful new experiences ahead for each person who is willing to leave behind feelings of fear and face the future.

 

 

Torie Sullivan, LPC