Blog

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.

 

Thoughts on the New Year

Posted by on Jan 2, 2020 in Ask The Therapist, Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Written by Marty Laska, LPCC-S, LICDC-S, ACHT

 

Here are some thoughts I am moved to share:

I have read many lists, books and listened to many teachers on the topic of what a person should do if they want to be successful, spiritual, mature… and so on.
What I am reminded is this: all the lists or requirements are developed by someone else. And even if we make our own list, there is a judgment involved of “in order to do better” there is some behavior or thought that needs to be rooted out. As if by magic, if I am perfect I will be happy or successful.
How about just allowing yourself to have an open mind? How about asking “What do I want to do with this precious 1/2 hour?”
Of course, there are basic rules – we know we cannot live on Christmas cookies! (Sigh) But give an open mind approach to your day to day life and see where you go. Happy New Year!

EMDR: How the Heck Can Eye Movement Help Trauma?

Posted by on Sep 25, 2019 in Blog From The Experts, Hot Topics | 1 comment

First, let’s talk about trauma. There are all kinds of trauma both physical (like a serious injury) or emotional (like an assault). Sometimes there is a combination of both.

We all have a pretty solid grasp on how our bodies can heal from physical trauma, but healing from emotional trauma is not so clear. Here’s a common example that illustrates this. We have all gotten a splinter at some point. A splinter in our skin would be a physical ‘trauma’ or injury, and when that splinter is removed, your body works to heal that wound. Now in a different scenario, what happens when that splinter is not removed? That wound becomes irritated, swollen and causes pain.

While it may be a simple task to remove the real-life splinter, how can an ‘emotional splinter’, or painful traumatic memory, be removed so we can heal? The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms of emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life events by effectively processing the memory and resolving it.

What is EMDR session like? An EMDR certified therapist and his or her client will have determined which traumatic memory to target in session. The client is asked to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind while also using his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. During this procedure, patients tend to “process” the painful memory emotionally and cognitively in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution.

So how does EMDR work? There are a couple of different theories behind the effectiveness of EMDR, and both involve ‘over-taxing’ the brain with tasks to make the traumatic memory less emotionally painful. One theory is that the left-to-right movement in EMDR causes bilateral stimulation in the brain. Bilateral stimulation in the brain has a calming effect on the nervous system, causes increased attentional flexibility (feeling less ‘stuck’ on an uncomfortable thought or memory) and has a distancing effect (making the uncomfortable thought feel smaller or farther away). All of these effects help the client process the painful memory more easily.

The other theory that explains the effectiveness of EMDR has to do with ‘working memory’. Working memory is also referred to as ‘short-term memory’. We use our short term memory system to store and manage the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. This system has a limited capacity so during an EMDR session when the client is asked to recall an emotional memory and also start following the left/right movement, the competition of these two tasks on the working memory reduces the memory’s vividness and emotionality. As a consequence of this, the less vivid memory is what will be pulled up in future recalls.

There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense.

Relationship Tips for People with Anxiety

Posted by on Jul 5, 2019 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

Relationships can be stressful. From the very first date you might be worrying, ‘Do I look ok in this outfit?’, ‘What if there are awkward silences during dinner?’ and ‘Is he/she going to like me?’ And it gets more complicated from there, because being in a relationship, getting to know someone and building intimacy requires being vulnerable. This is hard for anyone. 

 

Now lets add on top of that, you are a person who already wrestles with high anxiety or an anxiety disorder.  If you, your partner or both of you have anxiety, it can make it even harder to have a strong and healthy relationship.

Below are a few tips to help keep your relationship strong if you or your partner has anxiety.

 

Communication is Key

Anxious thoughts are extremely personal and you might be tempted to avoid talking about it with your partner.  But it’s important to remember, the tough conversations are what will bring you closer. One of the most effective ways to cope with anxiety in a relationship is to be open, honest and direct with your partner about it and about how they can best support you when you are feeling anxious.

 

Learn Together

It can be very difficult for someone who has experienced significant anxiety to understand how it feels. Explaining what it feels like to have intense anxiety can also be hard to convey. Share some articles or websites that help describe what your anxiety feels like and look at them together. Let your partner ask you questions to help clarify what it feels like to be in your shoes. 

 

Boundaries are Important
Talking is healthy, but talking over and over about the same thing can be draining on your partner. If your partner sets some boundaries with you when it comes to your anxious feelings, know that it is not because your partner does not love or care for you. Boundaries are important to enhance your relationship, not to push against it. This will help to keep the connection strong.

 

Focus on Them

When you are feeling anxious, it can almost feel like a bubble that you can’t get out of. Those thoughts bounce around you and consume you, and it can sometimes lead to neglecting your partner’s needs. One way to pull yourself out of that bubble is to focus on someone you care about and making him or her happy.  Take some time to give your partner attention, gratitude affection, touch or have conversations just about him or her.

 

And the most important thing to remember… always… is that you are not defined by your anxiety and there is plenty of good that comes with loving you, regardless.

The Benefits of Private Yoga

Posted by on Jan 15, 2019 in Blog From The Experts | 0 comments

Perhaps one of your New Year’s resolutions this January is to get your health back on track.  Yoga could be a great option for you as it can help with anxiety, depression, sleep, chronic pain, flexibility… the list goes on. But joining a yoga class can be intimidating, especially if you are new to yoga.  You may not have thought about doing a private yoga class (just you and your instructor), or you may have thought about it and decided that it’s not worth the money.  I would like to take a minute to discuss how amazing one-on-one yoga can be.

Private space to discuss your health history:
In a group class, it can be difficult to catch your instructor alone to discuss any injuries, surgeries or illnesses you may have. Even if you can tell the instructor before class, he or she may not be able to take class time to help you with specific modifications. In a private session, you can discuss this and he or she can help you modify poses or offer alternatives until you can do them on your own.  Yoga can be good for anybody -and any body-, but it can be a much more rewarding practice when your instructor understands your specific needs.

Get exactly what you want and nothing you don’t:
Just like a fitness coach, when you pay for private instruction you get the undivided attention of a trained professional who will get to know your body and your needs and create a routine specifically for you. That might mean working specifically on deep stretching poses for increased hip flexibility, or the right pose adjustments for your knees, or a focus on breath work to help with anxiety.  Those needs may even change session to session, and your instructor will communicate with you on what you need that day.

Feel confident in group classes:
Not only can it feel overwhelming to go to a big yoga class, it can be risky if you are a novice. A big class will likely have students of all experience levels, and it can be hard to always keep an eye on the instructor for guidance on poses. Following others in the class could lead you to doing a pose incorrectly. This could leave you open to injury.  Having a few private lessons will help you learn the proper way to get in and out of every pose safely. It will also be a more enjoyable class if you are less focused on form, and more focused on being present and enjoying your yoga practice.

 

Battling Winter Boredom at Home

Posted by on Jan 5, 2019 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

We all know the feeling that comes around during January where the Holidays are over, so now what? It’s cold outside and we are more inclined than ever to just sit around inside. You also could be battling Seasonal Depression, which makes getting anything done even more difficult. Here is a list of things you can do inside that will also help you get moving and stay moving.

 

Organize a Section of Your Home

Whether it is a closet or the top of your fridge, clearing out old junk and organizing the more cluttered part of your home can give you a sigh of relief. Sometimes self-care is not always spa days and massages, it is in part keeping your environment tidy as well. Don’t wait until Spring time when you would rather be outside, you might as well just get it done now while it is cold out!

 

Learn Some at Home Workouts

Getting to the gym, like everything else when it is cold, is even more difficult. Picking up some new at home workouts can be a solution to this. There are many learning tools at hand for you such a YouTube. The term “workout” does not necessarily always include weights. It can be things like calisthenics or yoga which are much more accessible in your own home.

 

Cook 

The times where you are stuck inside are perfect for cooking or baking! Try out some new recipes you have been meaning to learn or make some old favorites.

 

Plan a Night In

Having a night in with some of your closest friends can be very stress-relieving. You can keep it simple, maybe just dinner or even appetizers and drinks. Using this time of the year to catch up with those around you can really lift your spirits.

 

 

Getting Ready for The New Year

Posted by on Dec 26, 2018 in Hot Topics | 0 comments

It seems that every year there is the expectation of the classic, “New Year’s Resolution.” This can come with a lot of pressure, and as we all know, a lot of people find it difficult to follow through. A lot of times, this is because when someone promises to make a change, sometimes they just aren’t physically, mentally, and spiritually thinking through the change.

New Year’s Resolutions are great if they are truly thought out and taken seriously. Even if you have good intentions, it is easy to look over the logistics of your decision.

While it is important to make a realistic goal, you also need to make sure you aren’t talking yourself out of something that could be a good change. Just because something is going to be difficult and require a lot of effort and planning, doesn’t mean you should avoid it. The key in a successful New Year’s Resolution is to plan, be prepared for change, and stay consistent. They say that a habit only takes 21 days to form, so by that rate, you will be on a better track before the end of January!