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What if questions were the answer?

 

Dear Reader,

 

As a counselor and a teacher, I know the value and importance of asking the right type of questions.  In essence, being intentional has value.  The questions we ask ourselves, often, guide our focus, critical thinking and problem solving.

 

I have learned that during difficult times, we have an inclination to shift to survival mode, which is typically appropriate and adaptive depending on circumstances and even past experiences.  This survival lens may influence our perspective and mindset.

 

It is important to keep in mind that if we have experienced any form of trauma, then there are additional layers that need to be considered besides shifting our mindset.  In fact, some of those layers include feeling safe, type of support system, and resources, among many more.

 

My intention is to invite a possible way of reframing some of our internal dialogue in spite of adversity.  The purpose of this is to help us change our perspective and view things in a way that may be more helpful than unhelpful.

 

Counseling After Experiencing Childhood Abuse

Trigger Warning: this blog contains mentions and examples of abuse, neglect, and other sensitive/potentially triggering material.

“At least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year, and this is likely an underestimate.” -Center for Disease Control, April 2020.

This is a startling statistic.

Count the seven closest people around you. One of them has likely endured childhood abuse and/or neglect. The fact that this statistic is likely an underestimate can lead one to believe that more than one of those 7 people has suffered through child abuse or neglect and shows many cases go unreported.

Let’s talk about what abuse is.

There are a few different types, and I will give short illustrations of each one.

Forms of abuse and neglect:

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Resilience: An Anxiety Vaccine

“People experience increased stress and concern in times of crisis as we are currently facing.”

– Dr. Asim Shah, professor and executive vice president in Menninger’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.

A word that has gone viral in our society is anxiety, keeping in mind that anxiety is needed and adaptive in supporting us and preserving life, along with fear, anger, sadness, or happiness.

Until a few years ago, it was estimated that 20.6% of the world’s population suffered from anxiety. A recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association shows that Americans are suffering from anxiety.

The survey found that four out of 10 suffer from anxiety when they think they may become seriously ill or die, five out of 10 Americans experience anxiety about getting coronavirus and six in 10 suffer from anxiety because family members get the virus. In addition, individuals may be overwhelmed with concerns about uncertainty of the next paycheck, increased bills and increase in social isolation.

Considering now, that when we experience a sleep interruption and change in appetite, we find ourselves more irritable or sensitive. When it comes to anxiety, the most recurrent manifestations of anxiety are shortness in breathing, palpitations, headache, back pain, catastrophic thoughts and other symptoms, and managing them is not always easy.

If this is the case, the important thing to keep in mind is to observe these changes and address them promptly by seeking professional support, so that it does not adverse impacts on yourself or your family.

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Five Signs That Tell You It’s Time to See a Therapist

As a mental health professional who has been in the field for a while, it’s been interesting to observe why and how people end up in my office seeking guidance. The following is a list of indicators that may be signaling to you it could be time for you to seek support from a mental health professional.

  1. Your loved ones are noticing that you are different. Sometimes, we are not able to look at ourselves objectively…that is we can’t clearly see how we behave sometimes. It is like when you look into a mirror and only see certain flaws or spots in your face or body but can’t quite see the whole picture.  Those around us, specifically our loved ones, hold a special perspective of ourselves and can see different aspects of ourselves that we are not able to.  If loved ones, people who see us every day, or people who interact with us often notice unusual or “not typical” behaviors and point it out, they might be signals that mean we need some extra help from a therapist. They may tell you that they are concerned about things like substance abuse, irritability, mood changes, isolation, or your daily routines.
  2. You feel a sense of emotional discomfort that has lasted longer than 2 weeks. You’ve made it this far into life with all you’ve got, but sometimes, life can become daunting or unmanageable.  If you feel any sense of apathy, sadness, nervousness, worry, or uncertainty that has been unmanageable or if you’re noticing behavior changes like not wanting to engage in relationships, snapping back at others, feeling like you don’t want to do anything, not finding pleasure in old hobbies, or changes in your appetite, it might be time to take a closer look at yourself.  When these “signals” come up for longer than two weeks it might be time to get Read more

5 Things to Consider when Navigating Uncertainty in Relationships

Dear Reader,

Naturally, life and human behavior can be both predictable and unpredictable.  In relationships uncertainty is closely tied to vulnerability“What ifs and How comes?” are questions that surface and recycle themselves both in our minds and in our hearts.

 

Therefore, to define uncertainty I like to reference Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability:

“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.”

Simply put, uncertainty is a form of vulnerability and courage.  We do, hope and love in spite of our fears.  The challenge with uncertainty is that there are no promises, no guarantees or assurances.  It can truly trigger fear in us which can lead to a fight or flight response.  We can feel both activated and powerless at the same time.

That is not to say that we don’t like uncertainty.  To some degree it actually brings variety and spontaneity to life which can be delightful and fun.  But, in some cases, too much uncertainty can leave us feeling insecure and doubtful.

Therefore, let’s consider the following 5 things when navigating uncertainty in relationships:

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7 Types of Anxiety: Not all Anxiety is the Same

Anxiety is a totally normal response in daily life, it is a conditioned response that distinguishes us from inanimate objects. For example, when we feel hungry we have a feeling of anxiety, which preserves life.  The same is the case when an animal threatens us.  We tend to flee or defend ourselves, but when anxiety is shown disproportionately to the stimulus that caused it , or when it comes up for no apparent reason is when we are faced with a pathological situation.  Typically, this is when we seek and need help.

Usually the first answer is to go to anxiolytics, methods to reduce anxiety.  However, it is very important to find out the real triggers of anxiety so that we can feel and manage own our emotions again. That’s when we require the assistance of a professional. Anxiety of this kind deteriorates the quality of life; the world becomes a threat.

These manifestations can last a long time and/or present themselves intensely, leading to panic attacks and anxiety.  Many times, this can lead to an in individual to visit the emergency room in a hospital, where, of course, they do not discover physical problems.

Symptoms that usually occur include, but are not limited to:

  • Feeling nervous, agitated or strained
  • Feeling imminent danger, panic or catastrophe
  • Increased heart rate
  • Accelerated breathing (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Problems concentrating or thinking about anything other than the current concern
  • Having trouble falling asleep
  • Having gastrointestinal problems
  • Having difficulty controlling concerns
  • Having the need to avoid situations that create anxiety

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Living with Pain is a Hard Thing to Do

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the sun, doo-doo, doo-doo, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

– The Beatles

“Sam, hold on, I can’t move” I desperately called out.

“What?”

“I cannot move!!”

I was frozen in the parking lot of a supermarket and I needed some time.

That’s my first real memory of living with back pain, although I know that there were some other times before that.  I had been visiting one of my best friends in Carrollton more than 20 years ago and my back locking up was rare, but not an uncommon thing.  The pain left me, but then it would come back with revenge.

In 2014, a few months before my wedding, I was working out with a personal trainer when my back gave out as I was performing some deadlifts.  The pain was excruciating.  It felt as if thunderbolts were constantly striking my back and leaving a burning forest behind.  From then on, my back would not be the same for years.  The back pain would happen at any second, “whenever, wherever, we’re meant to be together” as a famous artist would sing.

In early 2017, I finally made my way to a chiropractor next door to my office.  Dr. Will performed x-rays and told me that my L5 lumbar and sacrum were almost fused since I was born.  He has helped relieve some of my pain since.  I did not feel my pain as constantly as before, but when I did, I wasn’t able to move or continue with my life as I wanted.

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Wired to connect. Wired to grow.

Dear reader, 

Are relationships feeling complicated?

As much as connecting is important and valuable, it can be a great source of conflict.  Sometimes, it’s assumed that being in a relationship should be natural, effortless or easy.  However, relationships require attention, effort, and development.  There are essentials ingredients to helping them work.

What research has shown is that we are wired to connect, both at a biological and intuitive level.  We need connection to survive and thrive.  But, what do we do when it’s just too complicated to get along?

There are ways to improve the quality of relationships.  The first step is to reflect on the quality of our current relationships.  Dr. Amy Banks, explains that a way to assess relationships is to rate and reflect on 4 ingredients such as: safety, acceptance, mirroring, and energy.

We are capable of improving the quality of relationships within what’s under our control.  There are variables that are simply not a reflection of us, but the other individual’s past and present circumstances.  With that said, that helps us know our own boundaries and how far we can develop a relationship without sacrificing our needs and dignity.

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What if questions were the answer?

  Dear Reader,   As a counselor and a teacher, I know the value and importance of asking the right type of questions.  In …

Counseling After Experiencing Childhood Abuse

Trigger Warning: this blog contains mentions and examples of abuse, neglect, and other sensitive/potentially triggering material. …

Resilience: An Anxiety Vaccine

“People experience increased stress and concern in times of crisis as we are currently facing.” – Dr. Asim …