Anxiety as a Messenger

Anxiety is one of the top concerns for many people seeking counseling. From mild body tension to full blown panic attacks, anxiety can make the every day feel overwhelming and exhausting.

But what if anxiety itself is a symptom, not the problem? What if it is a messenger, warning us of a real or perceived threat and prompting us to prepare? Our systems are highly sensitive to danger, especially if you have experienced a threat, discomfort, or trauma in the past. Our brains and bodies remember and try to warn us.

Seeing a counselor can help you develop techniques to more effectively manage your anxiety. But more than that, by working collaboratively with a counselor, you can get to the root of your anxiety.  If this is you, contact me today to get started.

Check out this Tedx Talk about listening to the message anxiety is trying to tell you:

Good Morning from the Intersection

There is a retirement community and a school near where I live. Every weekday morning, I can expect to spend some time sitting on the street that leads into the school as a police officer directs traffic at the intersection for the parents who are dropping off their children. 

We’re all busy in the mornings. People trying to get their kids into the school before the first bell rings, men and women trying to make it to the office on time, college students trying to make it to class. It’s a busy intersection, and everyone is all business. I’m usually lucky if someone lets me out onto the road from the driveway. 

About a month ago, something changed. An intersection before the school leads to the retirement community down a short road. At the corner, on his walker was a resident of the community, sitting in his camo jacket and Alabama beanie, waving at all the cars as they passed. 

Initially, I was concerned. Does the staff know that he walked down the street to sit here? He’s an older man, and I hoped he was warm enough in the cold. There he sat, waving and grinning at everyone as they began their busy days.

This became a daily tradition. After a few days, he moved to the other side of the street, where the cars sometimes come to a stop in a long line as the parents wait to pull into the school. He started off smiling and waving. The next week he held up what looked like a door decoration that had a frog holding up a “Welcome” board. For the past week, he has held up a poster board that says, “Welcome!” on one side and, “Have a great day!” on the other. 

After about the first week that he began sitting on the corner, people started honking in greeting. Two to five friendly “beeps,” to which he would respond, “Hello!” or, “Have a great day!” as he waved from his seat. At least twice in the last week, people have stopped their cars to chat. I live close enough that I can hear their conversations. 

“You are making everyone’s day, sir.”

“You are bringing so much joy to our mornings.”

“Good morning! Have a blessed day!”

“We just love seeing you and your sign on our way to school!”


A lady and her children brought him McDonald’s yesterday, and there are now people who stop by on their morning walks to say hello. High school and college boys stop their lifted trucks to say hello and thank him for his encouragement. 

This morning, the honks started at 6:30 and kept going until 7:30. He waved, said, “Good morning!” “Have a great day!,” or, “God bless you!” to everyone, and cackled with joyous laughter as the people passed. At 7:45, he picked up his walker and walked back to the retirement community.

I often feel like I’m not doing enough – at work, at home, with family and friends. But then I’m reminded of how something so small can make such a difference. 

I don’t know that man’s story or why he sits there every morning in the freezing cold, but I do know that he’s bringing a lot of joy to a lot of people, just by waving hello with a smile on his face and wishing everyone a great day.

Maybe you need a reminder that the little things count. Those little things you do for others that you think no one notices? They do. They put a smile on people’s faces and make their days a little brighter. They spark hope when things look bleak. They provide that little bit of encouragement that we didn’t know we needed.

Take a moment to appreciate all the things other people do for you, and take a moment to recognize all the things YOU do that might not feel like they matter. They do. And you do. You never know how you’re touching someone’s life.

Reflecting on 2018

November of 2018 marked the end of a challenging professional training series in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Since March, a group of 20-30 of clinicians gathered one weekend every other month for these Core Skills trainings to deepen our knowledge and experience with this model of therapy. At the conclusion of the training, we all went around the room and shared one word or phrase that we were taking with us as we concluded the series.

Mine was, “Getting comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Even thinking about that phrase makes me cringe a bit. In some regards, I would consider 2018 to be a year of growth. A year of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. A time of wrestling with my own fear and anxiety about what I thought life would look like and what it actually is.

And yet, I also recognize that I am not nearly where I would like to be. I know I did grow, but in many ways wading into the discomfort has forced me to acknowledge that there’s a lot more fear and anxiety there than I initially realized. Which means there’s a lot more work to be done.

These are the times when I’m tempted to write off the whole year as a failure. “It doesn’t count.” “I didn’t do enough.” “I’m not where I want (or am “supposed”) to be.”

I’m learning that this is when perfectionism rears its ugly head, and usually shame isn’t far behind. They both tell me lies that I often accept as truth. Things like, “You’re so far from where you want to be that the progress you have made doesn’t count.” Or, “You should just give up; it’s not worth it.” How about, “You should have this figured out by now,” or, “How do you expect to help others when you still struggle?”

Yikes.

Many of my friends and colleagues have chosen a word of the year for 2019, and I am so inspired by them. While I haven’t yet decided on mine, I do know that I want 2019 to be a year of continuing to face my fears, getting outside of my comfort zone, and becoming more confident in who I am and what I bring to the table. I am determined to make this a year of hope, joy, and deeper community.

Whatever your dreams are for 2019, lean into them with confidence, knowing that you DO have the power to grow and stretch as you work toward them this year.

Social Media and the Illusion of Community

why you need a support system other than social media

I have a love/hate relationship with social media.

On one hand, it allows me to reconnect with friends from my childhood and keep up with family members who aren’t local. It provides a snapshot view of my friends’ and family’s everyday lives that I might not otherwise have.

But on the other hand…so many things.

  • Political arguments
  • The facade of perfect lives
  • The fact that you can get sucked in and lose hours at a time.

Perhaps the biggest downside to social media that I have seen in my own life and also as a counselor is that it provides an illusion of community.

Many of my clients likely have a few hundred Facebook friends or Instagram followers, but the majority of them are lonely. I have never had a potential client call me with loneliness as the primary concern, but I have addressed it with most of my clients at some point during our time together.

When we are struggling, having a solid support system is essential. You need people with whom you can laugh and cry, and people you can call when you are experiencing hard times and need encouragement.

For some people, their parents fulfill that role. For others, it may be friends or a significant other. Regardless of who they are, your support system is more important than you may realize.

And that is my biggest problem with social media. More and more frequently, I am encountering people who have 500 Facebook friends and no one to talk to.

You see, social media provides us with a false sense of community. We observe the lives of others, “like” a few posts or articles, and admire how put-together all of our “friends” are. We begin to compare our debt to their new house, our 9-5 to their freelance career, our sorrow to their apparent joy.

It makes it that much harder to reach out.

“They don’t want to hear about my problems,” we think. “I don’t want to be a burden.” “They won’t understand.” And so we’re isolated. We’re lonely. We’re surrounded by hundreds of friends and have no one to turn to.

When you have no one but need someone to turn to, finding a counselor is a great option. He or she can help you through those hard times and work with you to set attainable goals for developing those relationships.

As a counselor, I am grateful that I am able to help my clients, but I also know that they need a support system outside of me, because the ultimate goal of therapy is to equip you so that you don’t need me anymore. Eventually, you will have the skills and support to navigate your concerns on your own (and with the help of friends and/or family).

Developing, maintaining, and nurturing relationships is hard, particularly when you are no longer in some sort of educational setting. It requires more of you, and if you are introverted, it is even harder to put yourself out there.

But it’s worth it. Genuine community, genuine friendships are worth the effort.

I always encourage people to start where you are already comfortable. Do you attend church? What about work? Take a look at your hobbies.

Engage with those who are already around you. After all, they may need a friend like you.

 

Click here to learn more about how we can work together to navigate your concerns and start developing your support system.

Couples: 3 Reasons Why You Should Talk to a Counselor

 

3 reasons why you should talk to a couples counselor

Most relationships begin with romantic dates, charming quirks, and blissful happiness. Your partner knows just what to say or do to make you feel loved, and disagreements are few and far between. Then life happens. The quirks aren’t as cute anymore, the romance requires more work, and the fights seem harder to resolve.

Every couple experiences peaks and valleys.

Marriage can bring the greatest joys and sometimes the deepest pain, too.

It can be hard to seek help when your relationship has become challenging and effective communication has ceased. It can be tempting to hope that things will blow over, to brush your concerns under the rug, or to vent to others about your frustrations. Those strategies often work in the short-term, but the results are just that: short-term.

Eventually, the issues must be worked through if you are to see positive changes in your relationship But why seek the help of a professional couples counselor?

Here are three reasons why talking to a couples counselor about your relationship concerns can be beneficial for your partner and you:

 

1) Family and friends mean well, but they may not be objective.

  • When you feel like you have no one else to turn to, your parents and friends are there. They will listen and love you, but let’s face it: Your mom is likely going to take your side during disagreements, and your spouse’s mom will probably agree with his or her side of things. The same goes with your good friend(s).

You can’t blame them, really. They have a much longer history with you, even if they love your partner. And truth be told, for extensive issues, recurring problems, and things that have driven you nuts for a long time, the story they hear may be a little one-sided.

  • When you are angry or upset and looking for someone to whom you can vent, you tell things in the way that you see them, and that makes sense. It is what you are living, day in and day out.

Nevertheless, it can lead to an incomplete picture of what is happening.

  • A counselor is an objective third-party who listens to both sides of the issue. Both partners are heard, and each person’s concerns are valid.

Your friends and family are valuable support systems, but they may not have the expertise you will find in a trained counselor who has experience working with couples and individuals like you.

2) It can be hard to fix a relationship on your own.

I enjoy reading self-help books, and I think there is a lot to say for learning things on your own and putting them into practice to better yourself and your family. However, some relational concerns cannot be effectively resolved in this way.

  • Even with the best books or advice, it can be hard to put into practice the concepts you have learned.

Seeing it on paper is different than making it happen in your daily life.

  • A counselor is up to date on the latest research regarding couples therapies and their effectiveness. He or she can guide you through the process of working together toward the common goal: a more intimate, loving relationship that endures the trials of daily life.

3) It can be easier to express yourself in neutral territory.

  • Some things are just hard to talk about. The fact that it makes you frustrated when your husband forgets to take the trash out like you asked him to probably isn’t one of them.

Telling him that it makes you feel unheard and unimportant? That may be a little harder.

  • When you feel like there are more fights than ceasefires, it is hard to risk sharing what you are truly feeling. It doesn’t feel safe. A counselor can guide you through expressing those tough emotions in an atmosphere that is conducive to responsiveness.

Relationships do not change just by walking through a therapist’s door, but a skilled couples counselor will work with your partner and you to help you determine when and how you will each be most receptive to hearing, accepting, and working through the pain you are experiencing.

Taking that first step of reaching out to a counselor can be scary, but it can also be life-changing and life-giving to your relationship. Don’t let fear keep you from a more fulfilling relationship.

If this sounds like you, be courageous and reach out to a couples counselor today. Think we could be a good fit? Head over to my Contact Page to reach out via phone or email. If you are not local or would like to find other couples counselors, try the Psychology Today directory to find a qualified counselor near you.

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