Do you find that you cannot stick to that diet even after it was working? Do you feel out of control like your life is controlling you instead of the other way around? Do you just want to be successful but find it hard to do so? You may find that your life is actually a lot like water. If we can learn some lessons from how to properly channel water, we can apply these lessons to our lives to properly “channel” it.
Life, like water, will always follow the path of least resistance and will always settle at the lowest point if you are not guiding and directing it. When water has no structure to follow and nothing to push it is just settles and sits. It becomes worthless. Our lives act much the same if we don’t have effort, expectations, difficulty, pressures, structure, management, and goals.
If I want water to move up hill and be useful I need two things; structure and pressure. If I need water to get to the top of a hill I need to build a structure guiding the water up the hill to the spot needed, that structure would likely be a pipe. Then in order to get the water to move up the pipe I would need something to apply pressure, like a pump. Then the water is channeled correctly and becomes useful to me.
This same analogy applies to our lives. If we create sufficient structure we can direct our lives to where we want it to go. This structure would include setting goals, sticking to a routine, taking the path less traveled, and managing our lives on a regular basis. All the structure in the world won’t help you with out some sort of pressure.
Life’s pressure is expectation. Expectations could come from yourself, family, friends, coworkers, God, or society at large. These expectations should be realistic and challenging. Let those expectations push you to become better. In summary structure your life and allow expectations to push you. If you do this you can accomplish anything.
What happens when the water arrives at the top of the hill? Can we take away the structure? What happens if we lose the pressure? Without either of the two elements the water will again run down the hill following the path of least resistance and settle and the lowest point. Once you have achieved your goals don’t stop doing the things that made you successful in the first place! There are no quick fixes if you want to be successful it must be a lifestyle change of continued structure and expectations.
Losing weight, being healthy, and staying in shape can be hard. That is why there are thousands of weight loss options, diets, gyms, and career paths dedicated to helping us live physically healthy lives. Most people struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle and consider the options of turning to a professional to help them with the knowledge necessary and how to apply that knowledge into real life.
A therapist is essentially a personal trainer for your emotional and psychological well-being. Our goal is to give you the proper knowledge to understand and deal with emotional and mental issues. Then we teach you how to apply the knowledge in your life. Therapy is not just for those with mental illness or emotional disorders just as personal trainers are not just for the over weight or unhealthy. Everyone can benefit from some professional training on how to live a healthier lifestyle.
In our physical lives we cannot eat healthy once and go to the gym for an hour and expect to be “ripped”. The same holds true for our mental health. We cannot go to therapy once and meditate for an hour and expect to be mentally healthy. Becoming mentally fit is a lifestyle just like being physically fit. We want to train you to live an emotionally healthy life and change the way you live. I am not saying that you will need a therapist for the rest of your life in order to be healthy just like I would not say you need a personal trainer for you whole life to be healthy. What therapy can give you is the knowledge and skills to apply that knowledge so you can manage your own healthy lifestyle.
What is anxiety? Anxiety is defined as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension and worried thoughts that are persistent with or without an actual threat of something happening. It’s activated by the amygdala, a little almond shaped set of neurons deep within the brain. The amygdala’s job is to scan the environment for threats and deploy the fight or flight protocol to help a person survive. In the caveman days, man would go hunt for food looking for ways to sustain his family. When he came across the saber tooth tiger, instinct (or the amygdala) would kick in so he could make quick decisions to survive.
So anxiety isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even though saber tooth tigers are extinct, we still need that amygdala for say when we are crossing a busy street and a car is coming right at us. Time to get out of the way!
When does anxiety become a problem? Well, when there isn’t a saber tooth tiger, or a car careening in our direction, but our mind has created some threat that is not actually likely to happen, we can become anxious. Think of it like this. You are taking a test tomorrow and have plenty of time to study tonight. But you don’t feel confident that you know the material and you just know, YOU KNOW you are going to fail. That persistent thought “I am going to fail” is the threat. It’s not likely that you will fail if you study. You may get a lower grade than you’d like, but it’s not likely you will fail. This is anxiety my friend.
For more examples of anxiety check out this 2 minute fun video:
Men & women manifest anxiety symptoms in different ways. Today, I will focus on men. So guys (and girls if you have a guy) read on to see if these symptoms apply to you or someone you know!
First of all, there are negative societal implications for men who express fear (anxiety). Men have been taught that they need to be tough, don’t cry, whatever. While for women, it is much more acceptable to have and express emotions. Therefore, women can call their friends or reach out for support when they are experiencing anxiety or other crisis. Men on the other hand, are not so proactive in reaching out for help.
While there is likely not a great divide between how men and women experience anxiety, there are some differences in how they cope with it or how it shows up. Here are a few signs of a potential anxiety coverup.
1. Anger or irritability: Since men have been stigmatized for expressing “weak” emotions, they often turn to anger when they feel anxiety. Anger is totally a socially acceptable response from men. And remembering that anxiety triggers a fight or flight response, it’s understandable that men respond to anxiety aggressively. Hostile behaviors could also include accusatory or harsh words. Irritability may come out of nowhere from seemingly minor annoyances, like someone talking too loudly, or even the kids getting a bit rambunctious. Anger is a secondary emotion, that masks intense emotions of stress, fear, grief, guilt, etc.
2. Substance abuse: Men who feel that they aren’t allowed to talk about their feelings, sometimes turn to alcohol, prescription drugs or street drugs. Substances take the edge off of anxiety for short periods of time and often have a negative impact either on the person or close friends/family. So while this hiatus from anxiety seems great, the fall back is that it creates more problems in other areas of life which creates more anxiety. The cycle of anxiety hasn’t been discussed in this blog post, but trust me, it’s a cycle.
3. Depression: Depression is often a best friend of anxiety. They go together like peas and carrots. For men especially, anxiety is coped with by avoiding. (See the two examples above.) They avoid situations that may involve judgement or rejection. I knew a man who used to love to golf, but never felt very good at it. His anxiety made him believe that his buddy’s trash talk was criticism so he stopped going golfing and turned down continued invitations to hang out. Avoidance removes a person from daily activities or social interactions. When I say social interactions, this also means family interactions and the lack of desire to engage in previously enjoyed engagements with the kids or significant other. By using avoidance as a coping technique, the color of life becomes dull and unexciting making many men feel hopeless and helpless - the two pillars of depression.
4. Sexual Compulsions: Men may be more likely than women to use sexual gratification as a way to temporarily relieve anxiety. Whether alone or with a partner, when it’s used as a primary way to cope with anxiousness it can make a perfectly healthy part of being a human into an escape that is ultimately not fulfilling for the man or their partner. Additionally, some men fear treating their anxiety because they are afraid of experiencing (often temporary) sexual side effects that are known to occur with some medications.
In order to promote men’s mental health and well-being, it’s so important to encourage men to reach out for support. Therapy can be a place for men to safely either discuss their feelings, or learn how to label them. And if diving right in to feelings is too difficult, then let your therapist help by educating about anxiety and ways to improve the quality of life. Treatment is really driven by the client. We as therapists are here to help you find YOUR way.
Tia Rowley - CSW
Think I can help? Give us a call at Family Solutions Counseling. I am located in the Brigham City office and Logan office on Mondays. Look forward to meeting you!
Have you ever thought, “I don’t know if I am ready to get help for my trauma”?
Do you find yourself wanting to get help for your trauma but feel that it is just too scary or too hard?
In order to be able to work on trauma you must be properly prepared for it. Come get prepared for your trauma counseling with EMDR. If you feel scared to start working on trauma that is normal and natural. In fact it is a good indicator that you need to develop some skills before you will be able to process your trauma.
I always begin EMDR therapy with a preparation phase. This beginning phase is to completely and entirely prepare you and give you the skills necessary to process your trauma. In this phase we talk about healthy coping, typical reactions to trauma, how to manage your life with trauma, specific techniques for panic attacks, how to deal with anxiety, flash backs, etc. After learning these skills you will be coached on how to develop them. We will not start processing trauma until you feel you have successfully developed the necessary skills and feel ready.
EMDR is a lot like scuba diving. I would never hand someone scuba gear and ask them to dive hundreds of meters on their first dive. First you must obtain the gear and second you must learn how to properly use it. Once you have the knowledge and practice you would then be ready to take those deep dives. With EMDR we start by giving you coping tools for trauma, PTSD, and the anxiety that comes with it. Once you have those tools we teach you how to use them properly. And then we start diving into the depths of your trauma.
If you feel apprehensive about getting counseling for your trauma please come in and talk with me about your concerns and worries. With EMDR I will never force you to go somewhere you are not ready to go, instead I will spend time getting you ready to go there. When you feel you are ready we’ll dive in.
Article by Tycen Sigler, CSW; therapist for Family Solutions Counseling
In life we experience many events, they are then stored in our memories. When we recall a memory we tend to experience them like we do a photograph. We take the picture out and can look at it but we are detached from the experience. When a traumatic event is experienced our brains sometimes store it incorrectly. Instead of storing it like a photograph it gets stored more like a dream.
Have you every woken up from a dream and were sweating, or out of breath? That is because you were experiencing the dream both physically and mentally. You were, in a sense, actually in the dream. When trauma is stored in the brain incorrectly and we remember it, it is re-experienced with all the emotions and even physical sensations of a dream. This is called a “flashback” or being “triggered”. This can be very troubling for someone with traumatic memories stored in their brain. Every time they remember the trauma they have to re-experience it over and over again. People who suffer from trauma get really good at avoiding that “black hole” of pain and trauma.
Today we have a treatment called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) that can help an individual reprocess the memories of trauma correctly so the memory becomes like a picture of the past and not experienced like a dream. With EMDR we stimulate both hemispheres of the brain, similar to the REM cycle while sleeping, simultaneously we process the traumatic event. This allows the brain to heal itself and store the memory correctly thus taking the emotion and physical sensations out of trauma.
Our bodies are hardwired to heal. If I get a cut on my skin my body will heal it self. The brain is no different. If we use EMDR to help you reprocess your trauma your brain will heal itself and take the pain out of trauma. Instead of spending your life avoiding the “black hole” of trauma from your past, we will dive into the “black hole” together. You will come out the other side so you never have to avoid it again. Don’t worry you will be adequately prepared before we dive in and you wont have to do it alone. The greatest thing about EMDR is it takes the burden from the shoulders of those who carry trauma so they can freely live their life.
As a therapist, I’ve heard this many times. You probably have, too. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself! And sure, you can absolutely choose to believe or not believe in something despite the evidence for or against it! But you’re probably not really saying you don’t believe in it, you’re probably saying:
1. I don't think people can change or I don’t think therapy works (for me).
As people, we are constantly changing whether we realize it or not. Our brain is constantly taking in new information and adapting or solidifying behaviors to accommodate. Yet, we don't know what we don't’ know. A therapist is educated and trained in understanding these processes of the brain and can introduce new ideas, concepts and behaviors that will challenge whatever is been holding you back. People can change. Therapists know this because they get to have an active role in clients make amazing and inspiring transformations in their lives. They are witnesses to human adaptability and change nearly every day.
Now, it’s true that some people start therapy and don’t or won’t change. Some people drop out of therapy when challenged on self-protective thoughts or behaviors. Or they give up when they don’t like the therapist or even feel judged by the therapist. There is a term called attrition which is when someone drops out of treatment before desired results are achieved. There are lots of reasons for early drop-out but let’s save that for another article. The point is, just like a diet not followed, an exercise regimen not implemented, or a budget disregarded, the therapeutic process is going to be more useful if you participate in session, be willing to adapt your behavior and challenge your go-to thinking patterns outside of sessions. It’s. Hard. Work. Yet, change is possible and achievable!
2. I don’t want/like to talk to a stranger about my problems
Fair enough. But consider this: When you talk to a therapist, you are not a stranger, you are a client. The difference? Therapists have taken on an ethical oath to have “unconditional, positive regard” for their clients. Their job is literally to see the best in you, to like you, care for you, and to do all in their power to help and not harm you. They’ve also legally promised to keep almost everything you share confidential (unless your at risk of serious bodily harm). This is not the same relationship you have with a random stranger standing at Walmart. Your therapist cares. Yes, it’s their job, but it’s their job to genuinely care. However, not only does your therapist like you and care about you, they care about you enough tell you when something in your life isn’t serving you well. They have no personal motivation to get you to change your behaviors other than to want you to have success in therapy and in life. They also have the skills and tools to back that up by helping you figure out what things would work better for you in your life. The goal of therapy is to work together to create and implement a plan that will bring you the most peace and fulfillment in your life. Not many strangers do that!
So, believe in therapy or not. Go to therapy or don’t. Make meaningful change in your life or maintain the status quo. We, as therapists, will be there as your guide, coach and cheerleader the moment you are ready to believe in us and make the changes you desire. We know it can work because whether you believe in us or not, we believe in you.
There are many who would say that addiction is not a disease or a mental illness. I would like to draw a parallel between two mental disorders to prove that addiction is a disease. Addiction is very similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder. When we think of OCD we tend to think of someone who is really organized. But that is not an accurate description of OCD. OCD is characterized by an irrational obsession that leads to extremely high levels of anxiety. Once anxiety is present a compulsion is acted upon in an effort to relieve anxiety. While compulsion is being actuated anxiety is lessened, but as soon as the compulsion is stopped the anxiety comes back worse because it is reinforced by the obsession. The obsession is driving the anxiety and the compulsion gives credibility to the obsession thus people who suffer from OCD get stuck in a cycle.
Cycle of OCD
Obsession -> Anxiety -> Compulsion -> Anxiety reinforced by Obsession
Let me illustrate what I just explained. Lets say someone has OCD and their obsession is that they will contract some viral disease that will kill them. Being exposed to any type of germs creates high levels of anxiety. The compulsion to try to lessen the anxiety is to wash their hands. While washing their hands the anxiety melts away because they feel they are clean from the germs. The second they grab a towel to dry their hands their obsessions kicks in and says, “there’s germs on the towel”. So the person will wash their hands again, and again only to have the same outcome. Then they get stuck in a cycle of OCD. And you may see someone who suffers from OCD wash their hands 300 times in a day until their hands are cracked and bleeding. This obviously creates a problem for people and it’s easy to see how OCD is a mental disorder.
How does OCD relate to addiction? Addicts suffer the same cycle as someone with OCD. For drug addicts the obsession is the results of the drug. For example with methamphetamines the obsession is the high, escape, numbing, or all of the above. When a drug addict is without their drug (obsession) they get high levels of anxiety manifested through a craving. These levels of anxiety are comparable to OCD, they are very intense and are intrusive in the lives of the individual. Make no mistake extreme anxiety is truly suffering. The addict’s compulsion is to use the drug. While high the anxiety is relieved, but as soon as the high wears off the anxiety comes right back stronger than before. At this point the addict reverts back to their compulsion reinforced by the obsession. And they get stuck in the same cycle.
Cycle of Addiction with Substance Use
Obsession (Effects of Drug) -> Anxiety (Craving) -> Compulsion (Use Drug) -> Anxiety reinforced by Obsession (Guilt, shame, embarrassment, craving)
The parallels between OCD and Addiction are obvious. I make this observation in an effort to help those who would argue that addiction is simply a choice and not a disease or mental disorder. Addiction to drugs may have been a choice initially but once someone is addicted it has become a disease and a mental disorder.
[Disclosure: Holiday-Induced Depression and Anxiety [H-IDA] is not an actual diagnosis. However, the holiday season is a common enough trigger for symptoms of depression and anxiety that we've coined the phrase for the purposes of this article.]
We stereotype the holiday season as a time of happiness and tranquility. You can scroll through nearly any form of social media to see happy families engaging in time-honored traditions and loving embraces. There are picture-perfect family poses complete with santa hats and exaggerated smiles. Many people LOVE the holiday season. If you do, that’s fantastic, but then this article is not for you.
In fact, this article is for those who feel hopeless, lonely, heartbroken, anxious or overwhelmed during the holidays. It’s for those of you for whom the hustle and bustle, stress of difficult family relationships or profound grief following the loss of a loved one permeates the season. Perhaps you already know why the holidays are so painful for you. Maybe you’ve experienced a death, estrangement, divorce, financial difficulties, or health problems this past year that you feel ten-fold during what is “supposed” to be a happy season. Maybe you are not sure why you feel this way at all or you just tend to feel a little down or pessimistic around this time. Perhaps the emotional highs of Christmas morning are followed by a sense of hollowness as the tree is taken down and twinkling lights go out. Even when you do have a loving family, your basic needs met, and realistic expectations that things will continue in that way for you, it’s possible to feel an inexplicable emptiness and pain that is magnified against the joy it seems is felt by everyone BUT you.
For whatever the reason this season is difficult for you, here are some suggestions to get you through:
Manage your expectations.
It’s important to be realistic about the unmet expectations you have for yourself, others and the world when it comes to the holidays. Think of the “shoulds” you might be subconsciously filtering how things actually are, through the way you feel they “should” be. For example, “I should have more money,” “I shouldn't have to work so hard,” “I should be able to have closer, more fulfilling relationships,” “It shouldn’t snow,” “I shouldn’t have to work when others get time off,” “My family should be whole.”
The “shoulds” create inner-resentment and can even build up over time to depression and anxiety. Acknowledging your unmet expectations is the first step in letting them go. Do an exercise where you free-write every should statement about the holidays and evaluate whether you are considering your “shoulds” to be objective truths. Challenge yourself to see it more realistically. The biggest culprit of holiday depression and anxiety is often the fear of, or actual unmet expectations.
It’s easy to get focused on shopping and buying- Filling your online carts full to the brim and enough to break your monthly budget is a common experience this time of year. Do you hit that “buy now” button or do you hover over, knowing you can’t afford it and feeling like it’s all pointless, anyway. While shopping can give you a temporary emotional high, you’re better off dumping your online cart and closing the browser. Instead, turn the season in to “doing” and “creating” rather than “buying” and you're going to create longer-lasting memories and better connections with others.
Check out local community events to participate in, say yes to social engagements, volunteer with charitable organizations and make the gift exchanges a side gig rather than a main event. If you’re still hesitant to pare down, stop and try to name every gift you gave or received last year. How memorable were those items, really, just one year later? Did they provide long-lasting happiness? Did they improve your relationships with others? If not, were they worth it? Focus on activities and people rather than things and you will feel much more fulfilled. In fact…..
Focus on relationships
This seems obvious- the reason for the season is about relationships and focusing on things outside of ourselves. This may mean religious beliefs or connection with others. But if you’ve lost a relationship, it’s hard to feel positive at this time of year. Actively remembering your lost loved one and involving the memory of them in the process of celebrating the holiday can bring some additional peace. They are ever-present in your mind, so talk about them and the good moments you had. Honor their memory and spend some time thinking about what they felt about the holidays or celebrations and traditions they appreciated. The grief process is different for everyone so be gentle on yourself if you can do this yet.
Something else that can be helpful is to remember there are likely many people still in your life worth strengthening a connection with. Set a goal to improve or strengthen one relationship. What can you do to make amends or to forgive? Are there acquaintances you could work toward developing a friendship with? Can you work to build better boundaries to feeler safe in a relationship with someone? Perhaps you could learn the Love Language of your chosen person and focus on creating a better, healthier bond by demonstrating love in their own love language. Due to the nature of historically difficult relationships, you may want to involve a therapist in this process.
Be a GIVER of charity and gracious RECEIVER when offered charity.
It seems obvious this time of year, but if you are going through difficult financial times, you may be the one in need of some charity. If that’s the case, graciously accept help when offered. It’s noble to do so, because when you do, you provide others the opportunity to feel meaningful in their own life. That is a gift you give to them. Of course, no matter how little you have or how much you are struggling, you can find someone you can help as well. Shoveling a neighbors walk, paying it forward at a drive-through, writing a kind note or volunteering will help you feel you have purpose and worth. You feel greater connections to humanity when you help others, even if you do not physically interact with the person. You start seeing the good in the world and believing it is there. You know that because you ARE the good in the world.
Please know, the holidays are rough for many people. You are not alone in that. There may be many differing reasons but following the steps above may help you get through them, and potentially even enjoy them, a little bit better.
Have other suggestions? Comment below!
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