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How to Release Your Fear of Change

Posted by on May 19, 2020 in A COVID-19 World, Ask The Therapist, Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

How to Release Your Fear of Change

Written by Kristine Davis, M.Ed., LPCC

 

CHANGE = The act or instance of making or becoming different

We are all dealing with change especially now as we are adjusting to life with the Coronavirus. However, change isn’t all bad. Change is constant and necessary – to keep us moving, to keep us interested, to keep us growing. When people feel stuck and frustrated it is often their fear of change that is causing the problem. When fear is too strong it is because they are under great stress and feel out of control.

 

There are 5 major fears of change:

1. Fear of the Unknown – We are most at ease when we are completely familiar with our surroundings and sure of what the future holds for us. Fear of the unknown can paralyze us.

2. Fear of Failure – People expect to get everything right the first time instead of being more realistic and taking their time to work things out.

3. Fear of Commitment – This fear is why people don’t set firm goals or accomplish what they set out to do. They are afraid to focus on what they really want out of life for fear of feeling trapped. It would be better to be honest with oneself and to create a few small and simple action steps toward one’s goals.

4. Fear of Disapproval – Some might call this fear of rejection. When people make positive changes, someone will likely disapprove. You might lose weight and get the cold shoulder from your spouse or friends. You stop drinking and a frustrated mate might say “I liked you better when you were drinking”. You will quickly learn who is truly on the side of your self-esteem.

5. Fear of Success – Are people going to like you if you are successful? Think you’re stuck up? We are often afraid of appearing selfish and egotistical to others. People often feel guilty for feeling good and feel selfish and egotistical for taking care of themselves.

 

Five Stages of Change

Frequently we feel we don’t have control over what we need or want to change and therefore we don’t change. There are 5 difficult stages we must go through before we embrace any change.

1. Crisis – You feel you have got to change or else. You’re backed into a corner. This crisis is usually very emotional – it is a wake up call.

2. Hard Work – This is the stage that many enjoy. It involves hard mental work. Maybe you take classes, read books, network with business contacts, start therapy. There is a sense of control in this stage. You are working hard to figure out the solution to the crisis.

3. Tough Decision – You reach a point where you must make a difficult decision. Maybe you quit your job, ask for a divorce, start up a business. This stage isn’t easy but it is a relief. You feel glad that you are making a commitment. You are choosing a direction and there is often a feeling of optimism.

4. Unexpected Pain – At this stage, you are doing the right thing but getting the wrong results. Many feel tempted to give up their goal and unfortunately, some do. They feel awful and focus is on failings. During this stage, people don’t recognize that they have made positive changes, so they stop changing. Thousands of times, people quit when success is right around the corner. It’s a shame that after all the hard work in the first 3 stages, the unexpected setback causes us to quit. When we give up and don’t finish the change we begin to feel resentment, depression, & rejection. Usually, if we hang in there and crawl forward a few more steps from being knocked down, we will be able to reach the next stage.

5. Joy and Integration – In this stage, the changes are truly a part of your life. You realize you are happy about the changes you have made and they begin to pay off in a big way. You are enjoying your new job or your business takes a turn for the better, or you are healthier and have more energy.

 

Help to Change

If you are struggling with a decision about making a change, one option is to create a circle of advisors for yourself. Ask 3 people you trust who are not afraid to give you blunt, honest, accurate, and timely feedback. Another option is to consider going to counseling for objective and supportive guidance and suggestions.

Answering Your Questions About Counseling with Thomas E. Nemerovsky, M.Ed., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, ICCS

Posted by on May 11, 2020 in Ask The Therapist | 0 comments

Thomas E. Nemerovsky, M.Ed., LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, ICCS is here to answer your questions about counseling!

 

Read more about Tom Here.

 

How can I tell if I might need to meet with a counselor?

Whether it’s alcohol and drugs or any other mental health issue, you might want to meet with a counselor if you feel these issues are negatively impacting you or those around you in any way. Completing an assessment with a licensed therapist can help identify whether this is an issue where counseling would be beneficial.

 

I do drink alcohol to relax, but I don’t miss work or anything, how can I tell if I drink too much?

When assessing alcohol related issues it is important to look at its impact on all aspects of daily life including; relationships with friends and family, work or school, finances, legal, hobbies and interests, mental and emotional health, spiritual health.

 

I had a normal childhood and an average day to day life, how could I have trauma?
Trauma can be experienced in many ways and is dependent the way an individual experiences an event. For example: moving to a new location may be traumatic for one individual but not for another. It would depend on a number of factors. Individuals can also experience what is referred to Second Hand Trauma or trauma that is not experienced by an individual first hand but one they were exposed to in other ways.

 

I feel stressed and anxious a lot, what things should I try at home to help calm myself down?
Relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises are a good way to help relieve anxiety. It is important to remember that these are skills to be practiced and they should be incorporated into a regular routine. It is also good to reach out to your support such as family and friends to process stressors.

 

My problem is that I feel depressed and unmotivated, how would you help me with this?
It is important to identify underlying causes. Is this situational depression or clinical depression? Those are the questions that would help me determine the best course of action. From there, we could develop a treatment plan that best suits your needs.

 

Do I have to hash out my childhood in therapy?
While it may be beneficial at times to review past experiences, it is not always necessary in addressing issues you’re are having in the present.

 

What should I expect in my first few therapy sessions?
The first session is focused primarily on an assessment to help the therapist get to know you and to better understand what issues and concerns you have. It is also an opportunity for you to get to know the therapist and to make sure they are a “good fit” for you.

 

How can I tell if I’m making progress in therapy?
For many individuals progress can be gradual and, as a result, difficult for them to notice. I make it a point to highlight and review progress that is made during the course of treatment.

 

My teenager is moody, sleeps a lot and always cops an attitude with me, is this just normal behavior?
That type of behavior can certainly be normal for a teenager depending on the extent to which it occurs and the impact it is having on daily life and functioning.

 

Is relapse really just a natural part of recovery? What do I do if I relapse?
While relapse is part of the disorder and can be a using learning tool IF it happens, it is important to understand that it is not a necessary of recovery. It is always good to review a relapse with someone who understands addiction and recovery to help identify triggers and to develop coping skills for those specific triggers.

Help for Sleep Problems during COVID-19

Posted by on Apr 24, 2020 in A COVID-19 World, Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Are You Missing Out on Sleep Right Now?

Written By: June Phelps, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist

June Phelps, Clinical Psychologist at Avenues of Counseling

Many of you may have had no problems getting to sleep and staying asleep before COVID-19, but the 24-hour news updates, concerns about layoffs and just general uncertainty about the future might be keeping you up at night.

Whether this is a new experience for you, or something you’ve often struggled with,below are some suggestions that could help you to fall and stay asleep during this challenging time.

  • Try to maintain a consistent rhythm in terms of your sleep/wake cycle. Go to bed the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Base the time you go to bed and the time you wake up on the typical number of hours you need to feel rested. However, no matter how much you sleep during the night make sure you get up at the designated hour the following morning. Do not make up for a lack of sleep at night by taking long naps during the day. Napping during the day robs you of sleep drive at night.
  • Your bed should be reserved for sleep and sex. Your bed is an excellent cue for sleep, if and only if, you are not doing everything else on your bed. The more things you do on your bed (other than sleep or have sex) the weaker your bed becomes as a cue for sleep. If you are in your bed for more than 20 minutes and can’t sleep then you should get out of bed and do something boring. Do not engage in a stimulating or social activity. Once you start to feel sleepy get back into bed and do a relaxation practice. If you still cannot sleep after another 20 minutes get out of bed again.

Woman in bed unable to sleep

  • Reduce how much you read about and gather information about COVID-19 prior to bed and generally during the day. Be informed and rely on good sources of information (e.g., CDC) but do not spend hours over-investigating.
  • Exercise during the day or early evening but not right before bed.
  • Spend time outside in nature during the day.
  • Do not have a heavy meal before bed – digesting a heavy meal can keep you up. However, if you wake up hungry eat an apple or a bowl of cereal to help you fall back asleep.
  • Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is on the cool yet comfortable side.
  • A white noise machine or a fan facing the wall can provide the background noise that helps you fall asleep.
  • Do not spend time looking at computer or phone screens right before bed; the blue light interferes with sleep.
  • Keep you room on the dark side. Use light blocking shades if necessary.
  • Reduce caffeine intake. Some studies suggest that you should not have caffeine past 3:00 in the afternoon if you intend to go to bed by 11:00 pm.
  • Alcohol use interferes with a good night sleep.
  • Have the same pre-bed routine each night (e.g., shower, wash face, brush teeth, get into Pjs). Consistency in this routine signals your brain that it is time to move from an alert state to a sleep state. Engage in relaxation exercise and meditation once you are in bed (e.g., counting your breath)
  • Do not problem solve in bed. Have a special time earlier in the day when you address problems.
  • Catastrophic thoughts about the effects of missing sleep overestimate sleep deprivations effects. Remind yourself at night that generally speaking you will function the next day much better than you think you will.

Hopefully one or more of these tips will help you fall and stay asleep; being rested is one of the most important things you need to maintain your physical and mental health right now!

Read more about Dr. June here.

Creating a Bridge of Connection and Meaning with the Kids in Your Life

Posted by on Apr 22, 2020 in A COVID-19 World, Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Written by: Celeste A. Mullen, M.A.Ed., LPCC-S, CCTP

Are You Missing the Connection with Grandchildren, Nieces, or Nephews?

grandmother making cookies with granddaughter

Our daily lives are often busy and make it a challenge to have quality interactions with those we love. While adults can easily banter and ask questions that assure us they are okay, it takes a
little more thought to make sure our connections with kids are engaging and meaningful. The physical/social distance guidelines that have been recently implemented to keep us safe, have
many of us missing our families and friends and especially the kids in our lives. We can no longer look forward to attending the dance or music recitals, baseball games or karate ceremonies that would typically be coming up in June, so how do we “do” things with the kids to continue to create memories and meaning?

 

As I am navigating the present “new normal” and choices for connection, I am finding that experiential activities on Skype with my granddaughter help create quality time spent together, in addition to providing time for my daughter to have a little time to breathe. Some of the things she and I do include:

  • Talk about specific details of her week which will provide opportunities for her to share her life, e.g. a zoom birthday party, her zoom session with her class and the past week the Easter bunny.
  • She and I both enjoy taking pictures and we will look at family albums and share different memories or stories.
  • Mailing cards with stickers. She loves to get mail with her name on it!
  • Sometimes I leave pictures or notes for her on Skype so when she turns it on to contact someone she will see it, she does the same.
  • Sometimes I read to her, or she chooses a book she would like to read to me.
  • She was taking piano lessons and will play something on her keyboard for me.
  • We are talking about each getting a copy of the same chapter book and we can each read a chapter to each other.

 

Other options I am exploring:

  • Playing Hedbanz
  • Play Charades
  • Play 20 Questions
  • Pictionary
  • Have a dance party
  • Play I Spy
  • Play Hangman
  • Tell Jokes and Riddles

 

I’m sure you will come up with more ways to share your LOVE!

Take care of you and those you love.

 

Read More about Celeste Here

Honor Your Superpowers

Posted by on Apr 17, 2020 in Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Written by Martha McDonald, MA.Ed., LPCC

Our Emotions Really Are Our Superpowers!

Martha McDonald, counselor at Avenues of Counseling and mediation

Do you dream of having superpowers? Maybe a burst of energy and strength when you need it most? A super sense and warning signal that tells you when something is wrong or needs to be changed? Or even the ability to recognize when you need to morph into your detective or warrior persona? I have some awesome news…you DO have such superpowers. Most people call them “feelings.”

 

Commonly, people think of feelings as either good or bad, positive or negative. Because of this, we often judge ourselves and others for having certain feelings. This can lead to disconnection and even make our discomfort worse. But a feeling by itself is neither good nor bad. It is what you do with a feeling – the behaviors that come from that feeling – that can be good or bad. Just as you can use super strength to build instead of demolish, and laser vision to defensively defeat foes instead of offensively cause destruction, you can first learn to recognize your emotional superpowers and then learn how to use them for good.

 

The first step in superpower training is giving ourselves permission to feel ALL feelings without automatically labeling them as bad or wrong. To do this, we can start by dispelling myths and shifting how we interpret feelings. Anger, anxiety, and guilt are good examples of potentially useful emotions that have bad reputations. Let’s look at them through the lens of each feeling having a “job” or a function:

 

Anger

Anger’s job is to send the message that we don’t like something or that change is needed. Anger has an energy that is meant to motivate us to make that change. Anger has a bad reputation for causing pain and destruction. “Don’t be angry…you shouldn’t be angry.” NO! We all have the right to be angry, but we do have to be careful with it. Learning to use this superpower productively requires several skills including self-control, knowledge of healthy boundaries and healthy assertiveness.

 

Anxiety

Anxiety’s job is to be the alarm that moves us to action or problem solving. When I am training superheroes and heroines, I often hear “Get rid of ALL my anxiety.” NO! That would be like not having a fire alarm in a cardboard building. Anxiety is an incredibly powerful and necessary alarm system. It too has a bad reputation, especially because of the physical ways we experience it. Learning to use this superpower productively requires skills that first turn down the volume of the anxiety alarm. We then learn to recognize which worries need to be problem solved and which need to be let go. There are several specific kinds of skills we use to manage both kinds of worries.

 

Guilt

Guilt’s job is to teach. It indicates that we could have done something differently or that we need to make amends and repairs. People often confuse healthy guilt with unhealthy guilt, and even worse, shame. Because of this, we often try to ignore the discomfort of guilt or we disconnect ourselves to try to avoid feeling bad. Learning to use this superpower productively includes skills of exploration to find the lesson guilt is trying to teach and then addressing and completing that lesson.

 

To sum up, all feelings are ok and are not necessarily problematic. The damage linked to feelings comes from what we do with them. No one deserves chastisement from others or themselves for the feelings we experience. The first step in the process of superpower training, referred to by some as controlling or managing emotions, is giving ourselves permission to feel without judgement or shame. No superhero or heroine must walk this path alone though. Let a superpower mentor, also known as therapist, help you learn to use your feelings for good and not evil.

Read more about Martha here.

Radically Accepting Where We Are

Posted by on Apr 14, 2020 in A COVID-19 World, Ask The Therapist | 0 comments

Written by Lexi Enright, IMFT

 

In a time marked by many unknowns and disappointment around things we have been looking forward to being cancelled or postponed, it is important for us to practice some radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is the practice of acknowledging reality, accepting the things we cannot change and recognizing that just because we accept these things, does not mean we have to “like it.”

 

How can radical acceptance help me during this time?

    • Radical acceptance removes the suffering of fighting against those things we cannot change. There is so much outside of our control right now; if we can accept these things, we can alleviate some of the pain for ourselves. 
    • Radical acceptance allows us time and space to process how we are feeling. It is okay to feel sad about the cancelled school event or the postponed concert/ activity that you have been looking forward to. 

 

Side note: Show up to listen to how your family and friends are feeling during this time AND fight those urges to “solve the problem” or “make it all better” right now…sometimes we just need someone to listen and witness these feelings with us.

 

Radical acceptance promotes growth and the ability to move through or forward. Radical acceptance can help us to “let go” of what we cannot change and to focus on what is within our control. We can find ways to stay connected, stay creative and stay hopeful, especially when we work together and lean on one another for support.

 

Read more about Lexi here.

A Message from a Counselor and Parent of a Front-Line Worker

Posted by on Apr 10, 2020 in A COVID-19 World | 0 comments

Written By Candace Rau, LPCC, LSW

 

Candace Rau, LPCC, LSW, Counselor at Avenues of Counseling and Mediation in our Medina office.My oldest daughter is a front-line healthcare worker.  Many nights on her way home from a long shift on the COVID-19 floor, she calls me to vent and give voice to the things she’s seeing within the walls of her hospital as this monster virus begins to take form. The face of this pandemic is very real for our loved ones on the front lines. They are immersed in it everyday that they set foot into their healthcare facilities. 

 

Our front-line healthcare workers have very specific needs as we move forward into the COVID-19 Surge. The trauma they are being exposed to in the name of doing their job as our “Superhero Healers” is, and will continue to be, a heavy load for them to carry. They need not carry it alone. When individuals are able to divulge the fears, stresses, and anxieties that can swirl around in the chaos of our minds – on a good day, let alone in the middle of a pandemic – something magic happens…the fears begin to lose their power. There is healing in the act of being heard on a compassionate and empathetic level. 

 

During this surge, it’s important for all of us to remember to practice intentional self-care to help mitigate stress and anxiety. For the front-line healthcare worker, this same self-care becomes imperative as a daily practice. The National Center For PTSD recommends fighting stress through preparedness. But what does this actually look like in the life of a first responder during a pandemic/disaster situation? 

 

Plan for the worst, and hope for the best. Things to consider: 

 

  • Identify who will be your sounding board to process the things you are seeing and the strong emotions associated with those experiences. 
  • Know the signs of stress: https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body#1
  • Have a daily self-care plan including hygiene, alone time, eating good foods, exercise
  • Take vitamins and herbal supplements: zinc, raw vitamin C, elderberry, pre and probiotics, multi-vitamins. **(always check with your primary care provider before beginning a supplemental health care regimen)**
  • Have a plan for if you get sick: 
    • Where will you quarantine during your illness? 
    • Who will care for your children and your emotional support companions if you are unable to do so? 
    • Have a hospital bag packed. 
    • Who will manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated for a period of time during your illness? 
    • Assemble important information in a binder: bills, due dates, and hard copies of insurance information. Ask yourself what information would someone need in order to manage your affairs should you contract the virus and find yourself too sick to do so yourself. 
    • Have at least two weeks worth of groceries, vitamins, supplements, medications, and household supplies on hand in case you are unable to acquire them during your illness. 
    • In the event of the worst case scenario, have your end-of-life documents in order. This would include: life insurance, powers of attorney, advance directives, funeral plans, and estate planning documents. 

While it would be unhealthy to ruminate on such unpleasant ideas, preparing for the worst-case scenarios protects yourself, your loved ones, and it can help alleviate your anxieties. Many anxieties and fears come from the “what-if” thoughts we all entertain. Answer the “what-ifs,” and they lose the edge to their power.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and keep watch for more posts from me in this series.

Read more about Candace here.

Tips for Managing Anxious & Depressive Symptoms

Posted by on Apr 7, 2020 in Ask The Therapist, Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Written by Jacklyn Fairchild, MS, LPCC, CCTP

 

Although individuals may experience anxiety or depressive symptoms for various reasons, there are a number of strategies to
reduce these negative feelings. Practicing these skills ahead of time (while calm) may increase the likelihood that these coping
skills will be used during times of emotional distress. Parents can model the use of these skills for their children by
implementing them as a part of their own coping process. If symptoms are severe, seek additional support through a qualified
mental health professional to determine the best way to address your unique symptoms.

 

1) Deep Breathing: slow, paced deep breathes in through the nose, blow out through the mouth.
2) Muscle Relaxation: tensing a specific muscle group, holding it for 5 seconds, then relaxing the muscles.
3) Calming and Creative Activities: adult coloring books, sketching, painting, cooking, listening to/writing music, molding
clay/Play-Doh, reading.
4) Journaling: writing out feelings, worries, and events may help express thoughts and feelings more easily than verbalizing
them.
5) Mindfulness: staying in the present moment and letting feelings come and go, without holding onto them for too long.
6) Get Moving: exercise and get active, such as playing a sport, walking, or stretching.
7) Think Positive: recognizing negative thoughts when they occur and work to think in more positive ways can help improve
your mood.
8) Communicate: effective communication is important in letting others know how you feel. “I” messages support ownership of
one’s own feelings, even if these feelings were in direct response to the choices or behaviors of someone else.
9) Gratitude: practicing gratitude helps one appreciate the good in their lives, instead of focusing on things they are lacking or
wish they had. This creates a more positive, appreciative effect and can boost feelings of happiness and satisfaction.
10) Spread Kindness: doing something kind for another person not only makes others feel good, but it helps you feel better as
well! Send someone a note, offer help without being asked, give a compliment, volunteer your time, or check-in on friends,
neighbors, and relatives.

 

Read more about Jacklyn here.

Creating New Rhythms in Your Life

Posted by on Mar 31, 2020 in Ask The Therapist, Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Creating new rhythms in this season of change, at first, surfaces in its mild form as discontent, and in its intense form as frustration. These emotions are information and call forth a response and recognition. If we delay we may react with negativity when we need delicate and mindful. Humans are abounding with resiliency when we give ourselves the chance to express our creativity. This is the time to create out of what feels, like a weight of helplessness. However, we can transform it into empowerment.

 

For example here is what we can do when feeling out of sync:

Be Aware

Stay aware of the simplicity of every day. The smiles of our loved ones, the goofy and funny insight of our kids, the songs of nature, the glories of sunrise and sunset, the scents of new spring life, our own breathe unchecked by the hurry and tyranny of the rush of life responsibility.

Explore

Be mindful of the new sensations that unrushed time can allow. Be an unstructured explorer of your world indulging in taste, vision, smell, sound, and touch.  This sense grounding allows the mind to rest and to take a break. This exploration is intentional. It is physical, not a mental exercise.

Embrace Love

Love in all its generous applications.  Enfold yourself and others in the gifts of words, thoughtful deeds and meditations of our place in the hearts of others and our Heavenly Father. Ephesians 4 says ” Rather let our lives express truth in all things speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly enfolded in love.”

This moment in time can be a gift to embrace. It is not always comfortable but it can be joyous.

 

Written by Kathaleen Stevenson, M.S.Ed, LPCC-S. Read more about Kathaleen here.

Having a Hard Time Working From Home?

Posted by on Mar 25, 2020 in Ask The Therapist | 1 comment

Many of us have been faced with the new challenge of having to work from home during these uncertain times. Below are some tips to help you maintain productivity and manage work/life balance.

  • Set a routine. Try to wake up at the same time as you usually would for work and keep the same hours and break schedules as best you can. 
  •  Try to get yourself psychologically in the mindset of work by getting dressed as if you were working in the office. 
  • Create a comfortable workspace, with comfortable furniture, privacy (as much as possible), and required technology, supplies, and tools, 
  • Set a schedule and create boundaries with family members in terms of when you are and are not available. 
  • Use a planner and create a daily to-do list to stay on track.
  • Re-frame from getting on social media, having the tv on or other distractions that you usually would not be able to access if you were in the office. 
  • Take regular stretch breaks or short walks when losing focus to help get back on track.
  • For people with children, create a routine for them as well.  Encourage them to engage in their online school activities at the same time you are working.  Have structured activities on hand that they can do by themselves such as reading books, playing games, puzzles and art projects. If possible set up play sessions with friends through virtual chat platforms. 
  • To avoid social isolation stay connected with coworkers. Make it part of your daily work routine by sending a quick morning hello, or have a virtual lunch.
  • Make it a goal to end your workday at the same time as you usually would.  Put away work materials and stay out of your “office” until your next workday.

 

Written by Noha Everetts, MA.Ed, LPCC. Read more about Noha here.