Archive for: pinnacle counseling

The Search for happiness

TED.com pioneered the digital presence of speakers on a world stage, to your own computer, tablet, or smartphone. Happiness and people’s perception of happiness is a hot topic of discussion today. How we each choose to pursue and believe in our own happiness is an ever-changing process of growth, introspection, and inspiration. Below are videos from TED Talks about three people’s very different views of happiness and how one can practice happiness daily.

#1: Matthieu Ricard – The Habits of Happiness
Ricard discusses navigating what some call “the dirty work of happiness” and how happiness is an attitude that can be found from within oneself, regardless of the outer experiences of life.
http://www.ted.com/talks/matthieu_ricard_on_the_habits_of_happiness.html?embed=true

#2: Neil Pasricha – The Three A’s of Awesome
Blogger of 1000awesomethings.com, dedicated to celebrating the simple things in life tells his personal journey with the three A’s of awesome: attitude, awareness, and authenticity.
http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_pasricha_the_3_a_s_of_awesome.html?embed=true

#3: Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment
Killingsworth discusses his research into the mental state of everyday people and when they are happier. He talks about his findings that when a person’s mind wanders, people tend to be less happy.
http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_killingsworth_want_to_be_happier_stay_in_the_moment.html?embed=true

 

“May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.”
–traditional Buddhist prayer

 

Erika McCaghren

A More Mindful Existence

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of your entire body, mind, spirit, and the influence of all on your overall presence. While mindfulness has its roots in ancient Buddhist teachings, it is gaining popularity with the wellness movement all over the world. Being mindful is about more than doing yoga, taking a walk, or even relaxing. With every thought, no matter how simple, you add insight and emotion to color your world. The practice of judgment and putting a label on feelings within your world adds stress and complication to simple tasks. For example, walking to get the mail transforms from a relaxing walk down your driveway to watching your neighbor’s children play in the yard without supervision to the worry about your own children. Mindfulness is awareness without the pretense of labeling, classifying, or categorizing your time in any way. You might think that mindfulness sounds a lot more like doing nothing than an activity you have to practice. A good way to think about mindfulness is to think about being aware. Looking around you and thinking about how you experience the present moment. This allows for the clearing of your mind, as well as your heart. You are in the present and have control of where your thoughts go: either to focusing on the moment (mindful) or moving back to your everyday pattern of life. Realizing you have the power to change the way you experience your own thoughts, feelings, and world, rather than simply participating in life as it goes on.

Erika McCaghren

Sports Psychology in Everyday Life (part 1)

As a former student-athlete, I have always considered there to be a huge difference between athletes and all “normal people”. We watch their highs and lows on Friday nights during the big game, root for them to get scholarships to play for good schools, and hope that one day, they can take their passion to the next level in professional sports. We eat, sleep, and breathe for the moment when we get to see our child light up after a tough game or when our alma mater beats our hometown rival. Athletes spend countless hours in the gym, practicing the perfect jump shot, strategizing over a playbook, and conditioning to prepare for a game. They obsess over their skill set, teammates, coaches’ opinion, and preparation level each moment of the day. At the end of the season, athletes assimilate back into the lull of offseason athletics and train for the next year. While athletes are just one example, we are all hyphenated people: student-athletes, working mothers, stay at home fathers, best friends, supportive spouses; but overall, we are not that much different than our favorite star players. This means that “sports psychology” is not only for athletes. It is for the rest of us who live our lives as complex people, hyphenated people. In this three part series, we will explore how everyone can benefit from sports psychology tricks and tips for your everyday life.

Why sports psychology does not apply only to athletes:

Reason #1: Sports psychology involves the connection between your mind and body while performing an activity. The interaction between your thoughts, body movements, sensations, and total involvement in a task creates a unique experience that is not only for athletes. This connection can happen when you do anything you are passionate about. All you have to do is realize what your passion is—reading, lifting weights, playing with your children, running, walking your dog, or writing—and do that. The “zone” and “flow” will come faster than you realize if you allow yourself the freedom and pleasure to do what it is that you love.

 

By Erika McCaghren

How Sugar Affects the Brain

Have you ever wondered what actually happens when you ingest that delicious bit of sugar you have been craving? Here is a TED-Ed video that explains how the reward system works in the brain. This also applies to sugar, other behaviors, and even substances.

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

Fear or Anxiety?

Anxiety can be confused with fear. Fear is a response to a very real and concrete danger that makes you want to pull away from or escape, because it could be a threat to your physical or emotional safety. The fear response can affect both the physiology of the body and the chemical balance of the brain. Anxiety is a generalized sense of dread about something that seems menacing but actually may not be menacing or may not even be out there. Feeling anxious may make it difficult for you to talk yourself out of this foreboding and you become trapped in an endless loop of “what ifs”. Anxiety can produce feelings of worry, stress, stomach butterflies, and other manifestations of anxiety. While this emotional and physical discomfort can be worrisome, anxiety can often be a valuable signal that “trouble is brewing” and signals you to pay attention to be a problem that needs to be addressed. If you feel your anxiety is getting in the way of daily functioning, seek professional help as there are many effective treatments to reduce, manage, or eliminate anxiety.

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

Love yourself enough to seek help with addictions this Valentine's Day

There is no doubt that substance abuse and addiction is difficult during every season of the year. Once the rush of the holiday season, balancing work and holiday time off, and a long few days of travel to see friends and family is over; all that is left is getting back to ‘normal’. January is a month full of change and resolutions, so making time to cope with personal hardships (like addiction and substance abuse) is put at the bottom of your to-do list. As February approaches, the usual hustle of preparing for a magical and romantic Valentine’s Day for you and a significant other, spouse, or partner takes priority. This reveals the real question: is there ever time to get help for myself?

Realizing that you are important enough to get help is the first step on your journey to navigate out of the dark path of addiction and substance abuse to a healthier life. The problems associated with addiction and substance abuse seem to start out slowly and pick up speed in what seems like no time at all. Using and abusing substances affects your life, the life of your friends, family members, children, co-workers, and everyone else you interact with on a daily basis. What began as a coping method for stress or an activity during your downtime quickly becomes a lifestyle and the center point of many more problems. To take charge of the cycle of use and abuse of drugs and alcohol is often the hardest part of the recovery and healing process; and takes courage and support. The process of recovery requires resources to get the help that you need in order to control the substances that have a strong grip on your personal life. Mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment are the vital next steps in the process of your recovery. Overall, wanting to live your life as the healthiest and most well person you can be is reason enough to seek help for addictions for the holiday of celebrating love. Loving yourself enough to get help is a magical and romantic thing that can give you back a healthy fresh start to your relationship with yourse

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

 

Pinnacle Counseling | Covid 19 Update Learn more