Category Archives: Counseling

The Importance of Sleep in Stress Management

Are you finding yourself more tired and needing a change in your sleeping routine? Here are some interesting statistics to consider: “26% of women report trouble sleeping at least once a week compared to only 16% of men. 19% of individuals ages 25-64 admit to losing sleep due to stress a few nights per week. 54% say that stress or anxiety increased their anxiety about falling asleep at night. 52% of men and 42% of women reported that stress affected their ability to remain focused the next day.”

According to the American Institute of Sleep, there are about 50 common signs of stress, many of which impact one’s sleep quality. Some of those signs include the following: Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain; Gritting, grinding teeth; insomnia, disturbing dreams; difficulty concentrating and making decisions; forgetfulness; lightheadedness; sweating and several others. When we don’t manage our stress well, our body produces more stress hormones that send us into “fight or flight mode”; this can certainly disrupt a restful night of sleep and negatively impact our functioning the next day.

Questions for personal reflection?
How many hours of sleep do you get on average per night? Do you have a regular sleep/waking schedule? Do you feel rested at waking? Do you have any barriers to restful sleep that are likely stress-induced? How has your sleep schedule impacted the next day, your week, and your sense of productivity? Are there any desired changes to your sleep regimen that you need to make in order to improve your sleep?

Here are some tips for bettering your sleep quality in terms of stress management; they address one’s environment, routine and emotional state (provided by CNet). Lower the temperature. Put down your phone or laptop at least one hour before bed. Invest in a comfortable mattress, sheets and pillows. Mask noises. Avoid the news & social media. Wake up at the same time every day, no matter what time you go to sleep. Limit caffeine, alcohol and chocolate (esp. at night). Avoid catastrophizing. Perform deep relaxation exercises. Control your breathing.

Today is a great day to start to make a change and build better habits to improve your quality of sleep. This may mean setting boundaries with relationships and work in order secure a peaceful night’s rest. If you still have further questions or problems, check with your medical doctor to make sure there are no medical issues that are causing issues with your sleep. You can always seek out services with our practice to address stress management and any underlying emotional problems.

Read more about sleep at the following sources:
www.stress.org
https://www.cnet.com/health/how-to-fall-asleep-fast-better-sleep-hygiene-is-crucial-when-youre-anxious/

What’s Your Word for the New Year?

During the end of a year and upon the precipice of another to come, people often reflect on what was and what their hopes and fears are for what will come. This can often be a crucial time of stress for some as they reflect on what did not happen or what went wrong. I would offer the reframe that this could be an opportunity for refreshment and a restart. Taken in retrospective review, one can have a realistic perspective of where one is and make goals to propel self into the future that is ultimately desired. But how does one combat fear in order to organize oneself for such an embarking adventure?

1) Define “better”. Everyone could possibly conceive what better is. In Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT), this is the “miracle question,” the idea of envisioning oneself with the problem(s) solved? Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg are the therapists who are credited with the name and practice of SFT. “Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”

What would you be doing, feeling, thinking? How different would your life be? These are some of the questions that come to mind as I work with my clients. Answer those questions for yourself, right now. Get a sheet of paper and begin to write it down.

2) Goal-Setting is taking what is imagined as “better” and creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive, or otherwise known as S.M.A.R.T. This acronym was commonly associated with “Peter Drucker’s Management by Objectives concept.” The first known use of the term occurs in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. Since then, Professor Robert S. Rubin (Saint Louis University) has advised of a greater expansion of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym.

Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
Achievable (agreed, attainable).
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).”
The progress should be monitored and re-evaluated in order to assure compliance with ultimate goal(s) and to update due to circumstances that can influence one’s process while creating space for additional feedback. Some authors have expanded it to include extra focus areas, that is “SMARTER, for example, includes Evaluated and Reviewed” for this reason.

3) For those who would like a more visual and artistic view of “better,” one could try use of Vision boards or setting a “Word” for the year. Vision board include pictures, words/phrases, and images to visualize the “better” in one’s mind on paper, poster board, etc. In setting a “Word” or words for the year, consider the values you’d like to embody for the next year. This sets a goal in mind for how to orchestrate your focus, attention, and puts into practice what behaviors, activities one chooses based on if it falls within the set goals/values of the year.

For example, consider the word: CONFIDENT. If one chose this word for the year, how might this impact how the person attacked their fears of success, healthy relationships, career aspirations, leisure and play. According to Acceptance and Commitment Therapist Russ Harris what we choose as our values are: “your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being. Values are not about what you want to get or achieve; they are about how you want to behave or act on an ongoing basis.”

So consider this as you embark on the New Year. You can choose to focus on what you lost, what is broken, missing, and incomplete. OR You can choose to embrace the opportunity to persevere in spite of the losses. This requires a mindset shift from problems being non-existent in order to have a positive and engaging life. Some things are impossibilities. What you can do is choose to press through, not get over, but live through it. Whatever your “it” is, if it is too heavy for you alone, seek out help and resources in your community, family, and friends. There is no weakness in seeking help; there is only wisdom in that decision.
• Do not isolate. Let your friends and family in.
• Seek professional resources (therapist, crisis line, psychiatrist, primary doctor, for example).
• Exercise and eat healthy foods. Treat your body well.
• Find an activity that inspires you again (painting, journaling, sports, music, etc.)

Who knows? This could be your start to a better year! We at 1Alliance CPS wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year!

Resources:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-therapy/201001/cool-intervention-10-the-miracle-question
https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm
thehappinesstrap.com

Practicing Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Gratitude does not come easy and often is not the mind’s default way especially in times of crisis and change. Periods of transition can be hard because with change can come uncertainty of outcome. Fear of what’s to come can leave people anxious, stressed and zeroed into or tunnel vision about the identified problem(s). Often times, holidays can be triggering for points of increased depression, anxiety and loneliness, especially during a pandemic where recommendations are to be socially distant which feel/seem counter to our innate human need for connection but necessary for community-wide health for all. Here are some small, but significant ways to keep a positive undertone to your life during the holiday season in the midst of a pandemic.

1) Stay connected with friends, family and loved-ones. Even as you are socially distancing during the holidays, there may be ways to stay in touch with those you love. Examples: virtual meet-ups, Facetime calls, drive-thru visits, etc.

2) Beware of idle time. Idle minds are the breeding grounds for wandering thoughts that can increase negative feelings and thoughts. Identify and implement coping activities of interests in order to occupy your time and give your mind productive focus: journaling, talking to a friend, listening to music, art, exercise, games, volunteering, etc.

3) Make a gratitude list or keep a gratitude journal. Bringing your focus and awareness to positive things in your life, such as your character assets, emotional and physical resources, and any other supports will foster a more positive outlook and highlight your strengths even in dismal situations.

4) Identify your personal values. Do you value self-development, fitness, authenticity, connection, adventure, forgiveness, for example? Make sure that your values are tangibly represented in various aspects of your life (e.g. career, personal health, relationships, etc). According to Acceptance Commitment Therapy, those that live their lives in accordance with their values tend to be more satisfied with their lives. Find productive ways to engage your body, mind, emotions, and spirit that is affirmative and encouraging.

5) If you are having difficulty with this holiday season, please reach out for further support. Speak to a counselor, your doctor, and/or loved-ones. Don’t isolate and keep silent. If you are in crisis, remember there are services available during the holidays and 24/7 that allow for anonymity and promote safety. See below:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255    https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Georgia Crisis and Access Line: 1-800-715-4225 https://behavioralhealthlink.com/services/crisis-contact-center/

Other Resources:
Mental Health America of Georgia: https://www.mhageorgia.org/getting-help/

National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://namiga.org/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Treatment Locator: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment

From our practice to you, Happy Thanksgiving! Have a safe holiday.

Anxiety & Coronavirus

If coronavirus scares you, read this to take control over your health anxiety

(*By The Guardian)

A pandemic is fertile ground for those who suffer from anxiety – here’s a short guide on how to manage it.

1) Avoid the (health-related) news: Try having a news detox, or allocating yourself a time limit for reading or watching news. If you’re really worried about missing something crucial, you can always tell friends and family to contact you in the event of an emergency situation in order to keep you informed.

2) Try not to seek constant reassurance: Your brain creates a feedback cycle where you become increasingly reliant on reassurance, which only serves to reinforce the anxiety. It’s natural to want your loved ones to tell you things will be OK, but when you start needing that reassurance several times a day it’s time to take a step back.

3) Introduce an absolute ban on Googling symptoms: Dr Google is not, and never will be, your friend, especially not when you are a sufferer of health anxiety. Nor will message-boards and forums.

4) Try a countering technique: This is a CBT exercise which involves giving a persistent thought the courtroom treatment, by confronting it with a rational counter-statement. For example, if your persistent thought is something like “Everyone I love will die from this virus” you can counter it with factual statements such as “Actually, most people who get Covid-19 are likely to make a full recovery. “Just because you think something, doesn’t make it true.”

5) Do some exercise: Even if it’s just star jumps in your bedroom, exercise will help get the adrenaline out of your system and channel the panic elsewhere.

6) Breathing and grounding exercises: From guided yogic breathing to using a strong smell (I favored lavender oil), grounding exercises can help bring you back to reality.

7) Allocate yourself a daily “worry period”: Give yourself half an hour to worry about this to your heart’s content, and then you have to go and do something else.

8) Treat yourself: Anything that will give you a little boost can help. It doesn’t need to involve spending money: you can also cook yourself something nice, have a hot bath, or listen to a song you love.

9) Remember that your anxious state isn’t permanent: When you are in it, anxiety always feels as though it will never end, but it will. It’s hard to remember this, but do try. Be kind to yourself. It may be a bit cheesy, but this too shall pass.

 

*For complete article go to:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/16/coronavirus-health-anxiety

Exercise is a Key Factor to Improving Depression and Anxiety

When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference.

Exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Research on depression, anxiety and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you’re feeling better.

Exercise is known to stimulate the body to produce endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones which can make problems seem more manageable. 

Exercise affects our hippocampus — an area of the brain involved in memory, emotion regulation, and learning. Studies in other animals show convincingly that exercise leads to the creation of new hippocampal neurons (neurogenesis), with preliminary evidence suggesting this is also true in humans.

The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk. Further, depending on the activity many people may benefit from getting outside, interacting with others, exchanging a friendly smile as you walk around your neighborhood or calming our minds all of which are known to improve mood and general health.

Put simply: Exercise directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions – in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections. Other theories suggests exercise helps us normalize our sleep which is known to have protective effects on the brain.

Oliver says join him in exercising and see what happens….

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” ― Pema Chödrön

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön
We are bigger than our past, our circumstances and our experiences. Like the sky, we are vast and our future spans out before us. Difficult times pass and so does happiness. Our culture teaches us to seek happiness as a goal or a destination. Many come to counseling because the are “not happy.” Happiness is merely one of many emotions. It would be unrealistic to expect to stay depressed, curious, annoyed or thankful daily for an entire lifetime. Our focus on happiness makes it even harder to hold onto. Happiness can be the giddiness of new love but it can also be the contentment of an imperfect life. Happiness floats away like a butterfly if you begin to focus anywhere but right now.
Mindfulness is the practice of right now. Accepting wherever and whomever you are in this moment. Recognizing that most of the things that make us anxious or depressed are not right now but behind us or in the future. Right now you are breathing and it is good. Right now you need for nothing and it is good. Right now you are experiencing one of many emotions but like the weather, it will change.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ” ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

‘I-Rish’ you a happy St. Patrick’s day!

You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

You don’t even have to be Irish to be Lucky.

Tenneseee Williams said “Luck is believing you’re lucky.”

This St. Patrick’s day we invite you to know a bit more about the power of positive thinking.

The Power Of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, has sold over 5 million copies worldwide and takes a Christian perspective and real-world approach to positive psychology.

3 Lessons regarding positive thinking:

Lesson 1: Believe in yourself and visualize your goals to see how small your problems are.

Lesson 2: Your attitude determines your entire life.

Lesson 3: Imagine your life free of worry to become less concerned about the future.

May you be very LUCKY!

One of the most important parts of love: forgiveness

In the midst of commercials for expensive jewelry, flowers and candy, let’s talk about real love. Love is a much more complex animal than gifts and dates. Love requires forgiveness to survive; forgiveness of self and transgressions big and small. Let’s look at forgiveness – who it is for and what it really means.

Forgiveness is part of the healing process and a letting go of resentment, hatred or self-pity that grips us. Forgiveness is accepting that punishment and resentment will not heal us. It will not erase a wrong. Resentment and a desire to punish only chains us to the event.

What Forgiveness is not:

  • It is not forgetting.
  • It is not condoning.
  • Forgiveness is not absolution.
  • It is not a one-time decision.
  • Forgiveness is not really even for the offender. It is for you.

Large or small, offenses wear away at our ability to trust and to love. We will be hurt again even if we forgive. Our life was not going to be “perfect” even if this particular event had never happened. Forgiveness is a choice. It can be a new and scary process to even think about embarking on, but the opportunity for more joy and love make it worth it.

Keep Calm and Listen to Music

Keep calm and carry on? How about keep calm and listen to music?

Research reported in HEART, a British medical publication, shows that calming music causes the heart rate and breathing to slow down. This often leads to a relaxation response.  Slower breathing also relates to lower blood pressure.

The next time you need to relax, consider listening to some slow music and see if you notice your breathing and heart rate decrease.

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Source: HEART Journal