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What are Emotions, Feelings, and Facts?

 Feelings vs FactsWhen we experience strong, negative emotions and feelings, it is difficult, if not impossible to remain objective. Our mind can become overwhelmed with persistent, negative thoughts that distort our perception of what is real and what is not.

When this happens, our feelings become fact to us.

But feelings are not facts.

This is not to say that our emotions and feelings are not real, in and of themselves. They are quite normal and natural. But that doesn’t always mean they are serving us well.

The Difference Between Emotions and Feelings

Some of the problem in dealing with our emotions and feelings stems from the fact that we equate the two. This is because they are interrelated, so much so that it is often difficult to distinguish what we are experiencing: an emotional reaction, or a feeling.

It might be helpful to examine the two experiences as they are currently defined in the field of psychology.

What are Emotions?

Emotions are instinctual, physical sensations triggered by the amygdala (our reptilian brain) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex VPC (the area linking our hippocampus and frontal cortex). 

Our amygdala is designed to scan our environment for potential threats, to protect us. It triggers base emotions in our body to prepare us to fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. We experience these physical sensations as fear, anger, sadness, or happiness.

These are largely physical, though there is of course an element of ‘mental’ activity, since these emotions are triggered by part of the brain, but we are rarely aware of the process.

Our emotions seem to pop up out of nowhere, unannounced. But they don’t actually come from nowhere; they are subconscious reactions to our environment, or our perceived environment. This means that our thoughts can trigger the amygdala to react, even if there is no actual threat. 

The amygdala cannot recognize the difference between an actual danger and a danger created by our feelings.

What Exactly are Feelings?

Feelings are interpretations of our emotions. We experience an emotion, then our ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VPC) interprets that emotion to give it meaning. 

The reason we know there’s a difference between emotions and feelings, is that people can respond to the same emotional sensation in very different ways. They interpret them differently.

Let’s imagine a common scenario.

Imagine two people in line to ride a rollercoaster. Person A has never ridden a rollercoaster before and has always had a fear of them. Their amygdala triggers an emotional response in the body (accelerated heart beat, lower blood flow to the extremities). 

Because of their underlying fear, their VPC interprets these physical experiences as fear. Fear is what they are feeling. It is their interpretation of their emotional reaction to the perceived threat of riding a rollercoaster.

Person B has ridden rollercoasters many times, or at least they have no preconceptions about the experience and generally like to take risks and try new things. 

Person B will experience the very same physical sensations as Person A, (accelerated heart beat, lower blood flow to the hands and feet). But Person B interprets these emotions or sensations in a very different way. Instead of feeling fear, they feel excitement. 

The physical sensations associated with fear and excitement are exactly the same. But the feelings of fear and excitement, interpretations of the emotions, are as different as night and day.

Person A might worry something catastrophic will happen on the rollercoaster. If their thoughts are not checked or interrupted, their unfounded fears will become a ‘fact’ in their mind. This false ‘fact’ may prevent them from the thrilling experience of riding a rollercoaster.

Person B sees the facts very differently. They are certain the ride will be exciting.

What are Facts?

Facts are measurements of objective reality. This means they can be corroborated with physical evidence. In the case of our little story, the rollercoaster is a fact. Person A and Person B are facts. They exist in the physical world. We can say that their emotions are fact. Both of them are experiencing, in this case, the same physical sensations. These physical reactions can be measured with scientific instruments. 

Feelings are real, in the sense that we all have them. They have a certain degree of reality, of factual basis. But the content of those feelings may be very far from factual, indeed.

Person A, whose feelings were unchecked, is now convinced something bad will happen. Even though nothing has yet happened, their feelings have become a kind of fact, in their mind. But it isn’t a fact. Their feeling of fear, projected into the future, cannot be measured. It is an interpretation of their emotional reaction to the situation.

If Person A gives into their feelings, they will miss out on an exciting experience. Not the end of the world, of course.

Missing out on riding a rollercoaster might not affect their life in any major way, but if they always give into their feelings of fear, it can adversely affect their life in profound ways. 

They may miss out on loving relationships, career goals, and life-enriching experiences. Their ‘facts,’ which are really only feelings, may stop them from truly living the life they could have. 

How Can We Distinguish Feelings from Facts from Emotions?

In order to interrupt this process of emotion to feeling to false fact, which can then trigger the process all over again, we must first realize that this is what is happening in our mind and body.

Practice Awareness

If you’re reading this, then you are already on the right path. You have gained a degree of awareness of what is happening. That’s good!

The more you become aware of the process, as it happens, the more you can interrupt it when it does. It is like inoculating yourself against false facts in your mind. If you know your feelings aren’t facts, then when you feel them, you can stop yourself, and say, 

“Self, I’m feeling fear. Why is that? What emotion or physical sensations am I actually experiencing?”

Then notice the physical sensations in your body: where they are, what’s happening? Is your heart-rate up? Are your hands and feet colder? Are you experiencing the urge to run, fight back, freeze in place?

Then ask yourself, 

“Is there really a threat here? Is the threat a fact?” 

Flipping Feelings on Their Head

Maybe you’re afraid of flying and you had to get on a plane to go somewhere for work, or to see a family member? You experience the same reaction, and feel it as fear. 

But what if you caught yourself feeling fear, and then flipped it?

Here’s how to do that

Once you’re aware of what’s happening in your body, ask yourself,

“Why am I here?”

“I’m flying to see my mom.”

Then simply tell yourself, 

“I’m excited to go see my mom!” 

You’ve just replaced ‘fear’ with ‘excitement,’ because you gave your amygdala a reason for the physical sensations it generated in your body. 

Try this!

It isn’t easy in the beginning, because you have to consciously focus attention on things that are largely unconscious. It takes practice and time, but it’s well worth the effort. 

Reach Out to a Professional

Of course, some feelings are difficult to overcome on your own. Deep-seated fears and anxieties are hard to overcome. Our professional counselors at RDU Counseling for Change, have the experience and expertise to help you through this process. 

We offer individual, couple, and family therapy. If you live in the Wake County/RDU area, give us a call to set up an appointment. We also have Telehealth options!

Contact us today, and let us help you on the road to better mental health!

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What is OCD, and What Can You Do About It?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

We’ve all heard the term: OCD, but what does it mean, exactly? And if we, or someone we care about, is suffering from it, what can we do to treat it, or help them with it?

What is OCD?

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health disorder marked by increased anxiety, which includes invasive and frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsions to repeat certain habits, beyond what is necessary or healthy.

What Does It Look Like?

Someone suffering from OCD will often feel compelled to repeat certain habits, in an attempt to alleviate stress. It is very difficult to resist these urges. When giving into these urges, there is a temporary relief experienced but the obsessions and compulsions return with greater frequency. 

A common OCD behavior stems from a fear of disease and germs, where the sufferer may wash their hands, repeatedly, and even to the point of doing damage to their skin. They may also realize they are overdoing the ritual, to the point of feeling shame and embarrassment.

OCD can lead to problems at work, in school, and put undue strain upon relationships with family and friends.


The obsessive thoughts cause people to make a catastrophic assumption about the thought, which leads to increased fear and anxiety.

Some common obsessions include, but are not limited to:

  • An abnormal need for order and tidiness
  • Fear of uncleanliness
  • Anxiety about important tasks: forgetting to lock the door or leaving the stove on
  • Fear of uncontrolled thoughts: anger, sexual, or religious
  • Anxiety over thoughts of causing harm to one’s self or others
  • Fear of inappropriate behavior in public
  • Perfectionism: especially an obsession with objects in the home or office (making sure they face the right way or are symmetrical)
  • Fear of germs or contamination, usually manifesting as avoiding contact with others, or unclean surfaces


Then there are the compulsions: the attempt to control the anxiety or fear through ritualistic actions.


Some common compulsions are:

  • Repeatedly checking to make sure the stove is off, returning home to check the door locks, or that the windows are closed and locked
  • Manic, repetitive washing of the hands
  • Repetition of certain words, phrases, prayers, or mantras
  • Internal mental rituals and thoughts
  • Constant cleaning of one’s living space
  • Excessive time spent rearranging things, or putting them into a precise order

While giving into the obsession and compulsion sometimes offers temporary relief, in the end, this only reinforces the OCD, and makes it stronger.

How can spouses or parents help someone with OCD without enabling the disorder? 

It is difficult to watch someone we care about suffer from any mental disorder. It’s frustrating and can make us feel helpless. You may feel compelled to help them, but what is actually helpful is often counterintuitive.

That being said, there are some things you can do, and not do, that are helpful.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t tell them to “not think about it.”
    • It isn’t helpful, because thinking is the problem. You can be assured they’ve already attempted to ‘not think about it.’ The more they attempt to suppress a thought, the stronger it becomes.
  • Trying to relate doesn’t help.
    • It’s natural to try to find a connection with them and their disorder. You might even suffer from it yourself, maybe to a lesser degree. But often, what you feel is OCD, may only be a surface level obsession. Many OCD obsessions are deep seated and can be extremely distressing. Sufferers often feel embarrassed. Offering up your mild obsession in an attempt to relate, might make them feel you are downplaying the seriousness of their OCD.
  • Avoid attempting to reassure them.
    • This is a very difficult one to avoid, because many OCD sufferers will seek reassurance. They may be worried they’ll hurt someone else and look to you to reassure them they won’t. But reassuring them will only give them temporary relief, and the obsession will return.

What CAN you do?

  • Educate yourself.
    • You’re doing that right now! The more you know about the disorder, how it manifests, and the common pitfalls, the better equipped you’ll be to help.
  • Encourage them to accept uncertainty.
    • Most obsessions come from a fear of uncertainty. The more they can embrace ’not knowing all the answers,’ the lower their anxiety will be. This is one of those counterintuitive mental tricks. When they seek reassurance, as mentioned above, instead of giving it to them, say, “Who knows?” or “Perhaps not?” Even ask if they think this may be their OCD seeking reassurance. They may not be happy with your answer, but it will go further to helping them than reassurance.

The best antidote is recognizing OCD and interrupting it: not doing what it says

Encourage them to engage in their normal activities, even when they are afraid to do so. The best remedy for many mental disorders is to face them and do the thing we fear the most, anyway. This is difficult, but effective. Encourage them to do the things they enjoy doing, even if they feel anxious about it. 

“How about calling your friend and go to hang out with them?”

“You like walking in the park. How about that?”

Continuing to avoid these things, will only reinforce their fears and obsessions further. This only allows their OCD to control them.

Find a Therapist!

If someone’s OCD is deep seated, there may be little you can do to help yourself, or your loved one. They may very well need professional help. That’s why we’re here.

At RDU Counseling for Change, we have the specialists and experience to help with a wide range of mental health issues and disorders, including OCD. We offer services for individuals, couples, and families. We have options for Telehealth visits, as well as in house. If you live in the RDU/Wake County area, give us a call today and get on track to great mental health!

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

EMDR The basic premise of EMDR is that when we are very upset or involved in a traumatic event, our brains freeze and cannot process all of the information that is being stored. This results in our brains making interpretations and meanings about ourselves and our world that is not always accurate. We then react to similar situations in maladaptive ways based on these interpretations.

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How Does Trauma Affect the Brain?

Trauma affect the BrainHave you experienced trauma in the past? 

Was it the result of an accident? Have you been the victim of violence and abuse: sexual, psychological, or physical, or all of them? Were you traumatized by a natural disaster? Have you ever experienced the high stresses of combat and war?

All of these traumatic experiences cause actual damage to our brain, especially if we don’t receive proper help to aid us in dealing and processing these experiences.

The Parts of the Brain and Their Functions

Our brain exists primarily to protect us, by storing our past experiences as memories. These memories serve as guides to positive actions in the future, or as warnings to protect us from potentially harmful situations we may encounter.

The brain consists of basically three areas, or parts:

  • The amygdala, or lizard brain, at the base of the skull. It is the most primitive section of our brain, and deals solely with basic survival instincts. It controls our body’s reactions to fear: our breathing, hunger, and thirst. The amygdala takes control of the mind during traumatic events, and triggers our fight, flight, freeze, or fawn reactions
  • The hippocampus, or mammalian brain (sometimes called the monkey brain) aids us in processing emotions. It also helps us to distinguish between past and present experiences.
  • The prefrontal cortex or neomammalian brain is the part of the brain responsible for sensory processing, learning, memory, decision making, and complex problem solving.

How Trauma Affects the Brain

Traumatic events trigger the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn releases stress hormones to activate our fight, flight, freeze, or fawn reactions. These reactions are natural and nearly automatic.

As the threat passes, the parasympathetic system takes over again and we can relax into our normal mental and physical stasis. But too much trauma, especially if it is sustained over time, can trap us in survival mode where the sympathetic nervous system runs all, or nearly all, the time.

This can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result, we may feel intense anxiety, fear, and find it difficult to manage our emotions. We may experience altered moods such as blame, shame, negativity. We may become hyper-vigilant, always being on alert for dangers and threats. Or we might avoid all possible trauma-related input.

Repeated or extreme trauma activates the amygdala. Fear reactions become stronger. When this happens too often, it becomes difficult to distinguish between past threats and present threats, or real threats and imagined ones.

We may feel all or a mix of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to sleep well
  • Unable to calm down
  • Chronic stress
  • Find ourselves more irritable with others and ourselves
  • Elevated fear and anxiety

Damage to the Brain Itself

Trauma’s effects aren’t simply psychological. It can cause physical changes to the brain itself. If trauma is not treated, it can actually shrink the hippocampus. As it shrinks, we become unable to discern the past from the present. We may suffer from increased panic attacks and live in a constant state of fear, anxiety and hypervigilance.

Trauma also can affect the function of our prefrontal cortex. If this happens, we become less able to learn new things, manage our emotions, or solve problems. Logical thought becomes more difficult. This means we have even more trouble controlling our fear.

As our brain struggles to function normally, the symptoms increase. Along with the symptoms above, we may also suffer from flashbacks to traumatic events in the past. Nightmares can be more frequent and more intense. We might suffer from loss of memory. It may become harder to concentrate on our work and duties at home. It can become very difficult to make good decisions. We might suffer from physical fatigue. All of this may lead to increased difficulty in communicating with those around us. This can put a strain on our relationships, precisely when we need them the most.

Can We Heal Our Brains?

The good news is, yes, we can. The brain is surprisingly resilient to trauma, even to physical injury. It has an uncanny ability to rewire itself over time, once we give it the healing it needs. But in order to do that, we need to address the trauma we’ve experienced, and realize that it takes time and patience to accomplish it. 

For more information on this topic, here are some good articles:

3 Ways Emotional Trauma Physically Changes the Brain

How Trauma Changes the Brain 

Traumatic Stress: Effects on the Brain

How Does Trauma Affect the Brain? 

Seek Professional Help

No matter the trauma you’ve experienced in your life, the counselors and therapists at RDU Counseling for Change have the expertise and experience to help you work through it and get you on the right track again.

We offer all kinds of mental health counseling, for individuals, couples, and families either in person or via a telehealth appointment.

Contact us today and let’s get started!

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How to Not Take Things Personally

Do not take things personallyAre you struggling to get past the actions or words of others? 

Do the attitudes of family members seem to be all about you? Do you feel at fault? Maybe you think you’ve done something to trigger their emotions?

Has someone criticized you or your work? Are you having difficulty letting that go? Do you feel you’re internalizing their words?

I’m such a loser. Why can’t I get anything right?

You’re not alone. 

It’s difficult to resist taking the actions of others personally, especially when they lash out at us, or say things about us, or to us, that are less than kind.

Mark Twain once said, “What other people think about me is none of my business.”

We should take that advice a step further. What they think about us is rarely about us; it is simply a reflection of their own internal struggles.

Of course, there is a balance to be struck. We don’t want to stop caring about other people and their feelings. That can easily lead to dehumanizing them. We don’t want to disengage completely from life, as if we don’t care about anything that happens to us, or around us. But we do need to let go of some of the negative emotions.

Here are some ways to take things less personally:

Resist the Shouldn’t

Most of us leap to the following default thought pattern whenever something negative happens. 

That shouldn’t have happened! 

It’s not right! 

It’s unfair! 

They shouldn’t have done that!

You might be right. They probably shouldn’t have treated you wrongly. But they did. It happened. Be aware of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’. They are unhelpful. Don’t should or shouldn’t on yourself, or others. Whatever happened, happened. The question now is simply what are you going to do about it? How will you respond?

Can the Perfect 

This is part of the shoulding we do. 

We think the world should be perfect, that we should be perfect, that others should be perfect. But it isn’t, we aren’t, and they aren’t. Can it, as in toss it in the trash can. If you think you must be perfect, then you will suffer from criticism of all kinds, mostly self-inflicted. Learn to accept that all things, situations, and people are imperfect.

Replay the Past with Extreme Caution 

It can be helpful, in some situations, and especially with a therapist, to replay past scenes, or future scenarios, but only to play out constructive responses, not to fantasize about revenge. 

If you find yourself locked in the negative thought pattern of replaying past scenes, just so you can figure out how to get even with the offender, then you are doing more harm than good. Talk to your therapist about this.

Get Busy and Stay Busy 

One of the best ways to drive out negative thought patterns, of all kinds, is to occupy your mind with something else. If you can focus enough to work, then work. If not, then do something fun: play a game, call a good friend, go for a peaceful walk, or do some other kind of exercise.

Be Curious 

Be an inquisitor of your thoughts. Question them. Don’t just accept them as fact. Emotions aren’t facts!

Why do I think that? 

Is it true? Or am I just projecting my thoughts on to someone else? 

Do I actually know what they think? 

Be aware of these thought patterns and try to interrupt them. Remember: what they think is none of your business.

Resist Your Gut Reactions 

There is great power in refusing to react. Silence and inaction are not passive, however many people think they are. Sometimes the best response is no response. Especially if the offense was trivial. Sometimes it’s best just to ignore negative stuff. 

What’s the Source? 

Who is the offender? Is it a stranger? A coworker you don’t really like to begin with? Or is it someone you trust and love? How often do you find yourself obsessing over negative comments from strangers or passing acquaintances on social media? 

Think about it. Would you ever ask this person for advice, in a normal situation? Never take advice or criticism from someone whose opinion you would never seek. 

Stop Assuming 

Assumptions are usually wrong. We don’t actually know why other people say or do what they do. As we’ve already touched upon, it is rarely about us. They are having a bad day, or life. As a result, they project that outward onto other people, like toxic vomit. 

It is impossible to really know why they do what they do. Resist the urge to assume you do. Of course, if it’s someone we love and respect, we can always ask them. 

Get Clarification

If you know the person, especially if they are close to you, then stop, take a breath—to avoid reacting—and calmly ask them to explain their words or actions, and their reasoning behind them. 

You’ll probably be surprised to discover they weren’t really thinking about you; they were just reacting to some scenario playing out in their own head. Once they’re aware of the effect of their actions, they may well apologize.

Be Assertive 

It is good to set boundaries and enforce them. This is true no matter our relationship with the person. Part of a good relationship is setting and understanding the other person’s boundaries, and their ‘buttons.’ If we understand them, we can avoid pushing them, or trespassing over them. 

To explore more on this topic, consider these articles:

Don’t Take It Personally

How to Stop Taking Things Personally

6 Ways to Not Take Things Personally

Professional Help is A Call Away

As with all aspects of mental health, sometimes you need a professional counselor to help you work through this stuff. 

At RDU Counseling for Change, our counselors and therapists have the tools to help you work through whatever your issue may be. We offer therapy for individuals, couples, or families both in person and via telehealth. 

Contact us today to book an appointment!

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Meet Our Counselors - Sallie Ratcliffe

b2ap3 thumbnail 20220807 232618RDU Staff Sallie Ratcliffe

Meet Our Counselors: Sallie Ratcliffe 

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHCA)

Sallie has experience working with preschool children, adolescents, and young adults around a variety of concerns including mood disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, stress, anxiety and depression.  She utilizes an eclectic counseling approach, relying heavily on a person-centered approach, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, strength-based, and behavioral counseling approaches. 

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16 Coping Skills to Manage Depression

Are You CopingDo you feel persistently anxious, sad, or detached?

Is your sleep cycle off? Either too much of it, or too little? 

Have you lost interest or pleasure doing the things you normally love to do? 

Feel more irritable or restless? 

Do you find it more difficult to focus on tasks or to make decisions? 

Feel a loss of energy or a nagging fatigue?

Ever feel like you’re not good enough, or struggle with guilt about choices you’ve made in the past? 

Have you thought of committing suicide?

If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you may well be suffering from depression.

If you have, or are, contemplating suicide, please reach out, now, to a suicide hotline, call 911, go to an emergency room, or call your doctor, immediately.

If your symptoms are milder, here are 16 coping skills to manage depression and turn your mental health around.

1. Learn About Depression

Congratulations! You are already doing this. You’ve taken the first step to educate yourself. It is not easy to admit how you are feeling. We found some additional resources that may be helpful for you to consider as well. 

Additional Article on Strategies to fight depression

Self-Help Solutions to consider

Natural Treatments to consider

Facts about Depression

2. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

Depression comes with a load of negative thought patterns. The first step is to question those thoughts and assumptions. Is what I’m thinking actually the truth? Is it factual? Or is it just a thought? Notice the difference between your thoughts and feelings. 

3. Practice Awareness & Curiosity

Once you’ve identified those patterns, pay more attention to them. Become aware when they pop up. Instead of fear, try curiosity. 

“Hm, I wonder where that thought came from?” 

Don’t worry if the answer isn’t immediately apparent. Your curiosity will be rewarded.

4. Talk to Someone

Often when we’re feeling depressed, we insulate ourselves from others. It’s natural to do that, but it doesn’t help. Find someone to talk to: a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor, even if it’s not about your mental health. Talking about anything is good, if for no other reason than it gives your mind something other than your negative thoughts to focus upon.

5. Laugh

This one seems counterintuitive. 

“If I could laugh, I wouldn’t be depressed!”

You’re right. You can’t simultaneously hold a negative thought and a funny one in your mind. Watch your favorite funny video or movie, and see what happens. Didn’t work? Watch another one! Those cat videos tend to do the trick often.

6. Have Fun

Again, this seems impossible when we’re really down. But do your favorite things, even if you don’t think they will help. They will. If you think to yourself, “This isn’t working!,” just give it more time. Stick with it. 

Here’s some advice on doing the opposite of your feelings.

7. Journaling

Write your thoughts down: negative and positive. What did you do today? Try to find three good things you did or that happened during the day. They don’t have to be big things. It could just be that great cup of coffee you had, or that the sun came out.

When you write down your three items at the end of each day, it helps your mind relax before bed and makes you appreciate the small things in life. This activity also helps you find the positive aspects of your life with more ease.

8. Destress and Relax

This will be nearly impossible to do at first. 

Simply find things you love to do and do them. Maybe it’s art? Or music? Or watching a movie with a friend. Anything that can bring down your stress level is good.

But if stress–from work, home, or some other source–is bringing you down, do something about it. 

If there’s nothing you can do, discuss it with your doctor or therapist.

9. Sleep More 

The right amount of good sleep is one of the keys to all aspects of our health. If you’re struggling with this, here are some tips on how to sleep better.

10. Exercise and Get Outside

Physical activity is magical. Moving the body stimulates endorphins and other hormones that help with mood, as well as sleep. If you once had an exercise routine, get back to it. If you didn’t, find something easy to do at first. 

Go for a walk outdoors. Don’t overdo it. Try not to think of it as ‘exercise,’ just go for a peaceful walk. Over time you can increase the length of the walk, as well as the speed. 

Try five minutes in one direction; turn around and head back to where you started. Increase the time to seven minutes after four or five weeks. Then increase the time to 10 minutes after another four or five weeks. Repeat until you are doing 20 minutes out and 20 minutes back for a total of a 40-minute walk.

11. Eat Better

What we eat affects our mood, through the chemistry in our body. Don’t try to make huge changes when you’re feeling depressed, but do try to avoid eating things you know aren’t good for you in the long run: empty carbs, sugar, and junk food. 

Make a conscious choice to eat more fresh veggies and fruits. The nutrients will go a long way to helping your mental health.

Look for Farmers’ Markets on the weekends to find local, fresh produce to eat throughout the week.

12. Drink Your Water!

 A dehydrated brain is a dysfunctional brain. Drink actual water, not sugary, caffeinated sodas. You want to consume between 9 and 13 cups per day.

Some studies show that drinking 50 to 60% of your body weight in ounces is ideal, if that helps you figure out the best number of cups to drink daily.

13. Avoid Alcohol and Recreational Drugs

Resist the urge to drown your depression in chemical substances. While booze and recreational drugs may give you a temporary ‘high,’ when it dissipates, you’ll feel worse than before. 

Coping Strategies14. Work On/Set Goals

What were your life goals before you began feeling depressed? Did you have any? If so, get back to work on them. If not, set a goal. Try not to make it too big. If you have a big goal, make sure to break it down into tiny pieces and steps. 

Start with the smallest step in the direction of your goal, a step you’re guaranteed to achieve. Do that. Maybe it’s just researching ‘how to plant tomatoes,’ or ‘how to find a new job.’ Start there, and then move to the next step. 

Do one small thing each day. That’s all it takes.

15. Restart/Build a Routine

Do you have one? If not, it’s time to start one.

Make a daily list of things to get done: 

  • Make my bed
  • Eat breakfast and drink my coffee
  • Take a shower
  • Go to work
  • Etc…

If you have a routine but it’s become a rut, then shake it up! Do something different!

Help someone else. Help your neighbor with their yard-work. Make a dish and deliver it to your mom, aunt, or a friend.

Volunteer with a non-profit. Help people who really need it. Giving happiness will ensure it comes back to you.

16. Seek Professional Help

If these things don’t work for you, or you’re struggling to get started on any of them, don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling. 

If you live in the Raleigh or greater RDU-Wake County area, give us a call. 

We’re RDU Counseling for Change. We offer mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families, in person or via Telehealth. 

Contact us, today, and let’s get started!

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Understanding Your Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn Reactions

Two boys fighting 

Your Brain and Fear

When faced with a potential threat, whether physical, psychological, or emotional, our brain is wired to react. 


Because the deepest part of our brain, the amygdala (a.k.a., lizard brain)serves as a protector. Its sole purpose is to scan our environment for negative stimuli, or threats, to warn us to take action.

These reactions can be helpful, if and when the threat is immediate and real. But too often, especially in our modern world, we perceive situations as threatening when they aren’t. The amygdala has no ability to discriminate between real, immediate threats, and perceived threats.

For example, there’s a big difference between leaping out of the way of a speeding car in the street, and being terrified to cross the street forever. An overly active fear response leads to anxiety, and all the negative effects anxiety brings.

What Exactly are the Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn Reactions, and How do You Know You’re Experiencing Them?


Girl sitting on a suitcase like she is flying

When the amygdala senses a threat (real or perceived), it races signals to your hypothalamus, which in turn sends them to your autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The ANS then triggers you to react in one or more of four ways, depending on which of the ANS systems are dominant in, at that moment. 

The sympathetic nervous system will trigger you to either fight the threat or flee from it.

The parasympathetic nervous system, if it is dominant, will trigger either a freeze or fawn reaction.

Let’s look at each of the four reactions to see what’s happening in the body and mind when they are triggered. It helps to understand how they feel in the body, because when they are triggered, there’s little we can do to stop them, other than bring awareness to the experience.

Reaction1: Fight

The fight reaction usually manifests itself via a common emotion: anger. Underlying all anger is fear, because anger allows us to act against the threat, to defeat it. It is a mobilizing fear in the direction of the threat.

Reaction 2: Flight 

The amygdala, when faced with a threat it believes we cannot defeat, will sometimes trigger us to run away from the situation: the flight reaction.

The physical symptoms of Fight and Flight

Both fight and flight feel similar in the body. 

You may experience an increase in your breathing and heart rate, and pale or flushed skin. Your hands and feet may become cold as the blood retreats to the major organs to enable you to fight or run. Your muscles tense up. 

Your pupils may dilate so you can take in more light. Your hearing may sharpen as well. Your ability to feel pain may be hampered.

Girl looking like she is freezing Reaction 3: Freeze

There are times when faced with a threat, we simply freeze in place, or hide. 

Why do we do this? Because in some situations it pays to be quiet and still, to let the threat slip past without seeing us. 

If you’re walking through the jungle and see a tiger, freezing might be the best option. Tigers are fast and very strong. It is unlikely you’d survive a fight or flight from a tiger. But you might go unnoticed if you froze in place behind a tree or bush.

In some situations, freezing might give us time to choose the best course of action. 

The physical symptoms of Freeze 

Your heart rate might fall. You will probably find it difficult to move. Some people find it hard to speak. Your hands and feet may be cold, and your breathing restricted. You may feel muscle tension. Your hearing may become sharper.

Psychologists have identified a fourth fear reaction: fawning.

Reaction 4: Fawn

If in the past, the first three reactions failed to protect us from a real threat, we may resort to a fourth option: fawning. 

To fawn is to appease the threatening party, in order to lessen the blow or the attack. 

We may agree with our attacker, play nice, do things to calm them down, or to give in to their demands, in order to protect ourselves from the full brunt of their attack, be that physical, verbal, or psychological. Fawning is at the root of the phenomenon known as People Pleasing.

Fawning is often the result of past trauma. It is common in people who suffer from PTSD due to mental, physical, and sexual abuse or assault. This is especially true in childhood, when fighting, running, or freezing in place were not viable options. It is also common among abused partners, who often feel they cannot escape for financial or emotional reasons.

The physical and psychological symptoms of Fawning

Fawning can trigger many of the same physical symptoms of the other three reactions. \One might also feel acute anxiety and fear, along with sadness, anger, and shock. They may experience denial and disbelief, or numbness and emptiness. They might have trouble sleeping and suffer from nightmares. 

Frequent headaches, body pains, or gastro-intestinal problems are common. As a result, they may lose appetite and experience low energy. Their mental and physical health can suffer, and they often find themselves relying on substances: alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

Some Coping Strategies for Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn

It is nearly impossible to control our natural, fearful reactions to real or perceived threats, but there are things you can do to regain control of your body and mind.

Practice Mindfulness 

It’s always helpful to bring awareness to our emotions.

As soon as you feel a fear reaction coming on, countdown from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… This helps to interrupt the reaction so you can respond, instead.

Then say to yourself, “This is just a reaction to a fear. Is this a real threat? Or do I simply think it is?” 

This simple realization is the key to deflating fear reactions and learning to respond to them. It will be difficult to do, at first, but with practice it really does help.

Find Safety

If you determine that it is a real, immediate threat, try to find a safe place, if you can. If not, reach out for help to a friend, family member, or your doctor or therapist. If you are being attacked, call out to anyone nearby. If you can, point at them and say, “Please help me!”


Once you’re in a safe place, take deep, slow breaths and exhale slowly. This will slow down your heart rate and help you get a handle on your fear and anxiety. 

Reframe Your Fear 

In situations where you know the threat isn’t immediate, shift your fear to excitement. 

The physiological experiences of fear are nearly identical to those of excitement. The only difference is the ‘label’ or frame we put on those reactions: “I’m afraid,” or “I’m excited.” 

Instead of saying, “I’m afraid to confront my boss about a raise,” reframe it, “I’m so excited to talk with them about my value to the company!” 


Physical activity is good for us in so many ways, even when dealing with fear. 


  • Decreases stress hormones (adrenaline/cortisol)
  • Increases endorphins which make us feel better, mentally and physically
  • Helps to calm the mind
  • Leads to better sleep


For more information on Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn reactions, here are some resources:

Fight Flight or Freeze Facts

The Basic Facts for Fight Flight Freeze and Fawn

Responses of Fight Flight or Freeze 

Seek Professional Help

If you find these strategies difficult to implement, or you are still struggling with fear or anxiety, you should reach out to your doctor or therapist. 

If you live in the RDU/Wake County area, reach out to our counselors at RDU Counseling for Change. 

We specialize in individual, couples, and family therapy, and have in person and Telehealth options.

Contact us today and get on the road to better mental health!

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The Cycle of Change

Stages of Change - RDU Counseling for ChangeTo make lasting change, you need to be prepared and anticipate challenges. People benefit from mental health counseling only when they are willing to make a change in their lives and recognize that their current behaviors are not conducive to healthy living. The challenge of taking the first step pales in comparison to the challenges you may experience if you do not change.

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What are the Best Couples Counseling Methods?

Counseling for CouplesAre you and your partner struggling with communication?

Maybe there’s been infidelity?

Do you spend more time arguing than enjoying each other’s company?

Maybe you don’t feel very secure in your relationship?

It’s probably time to try Couples Counseling

Here at RDU Counseling for Change, we have the tools and training to help you through the rough patches. We will work with you and your partner to build a stronger, more loving relationship.

How do we do that?

We offer three different styles of therapies, which our counselors will help you choose and implement.

Here’s a little bit about each, to give you some idea of what to expect.

Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) 

EFT is a popular option. It is founded upon the theory that one’s identity is intertwined with their emotions, and that those same emotions can aid the person in making decisions and individual choices.

Lack of awareness of your emotions, and subsequently trying to avoid them can be harmful, because our emotions can help guide us if we pay attention to them.

A healthy life of meaning can be found by understanding our emotions, not running from them.

What should you expect from an EFT session?

To develop a couple of important skills:

  1. Awareness: To gain awareness of your emotions (what they are and how they arise), and to accept them for what they are, instead of suppressing or avoiding them.
  2. Insight: You’ll learn to use your emotions as a guide to decision making, so you can avoid the negative effects they usually bring.

Each session may include work on the following:

  • Emotional awareness work
  • Acceptance and/or moderation of your emotions 
  • Articulating your emotions more clearly. What are you really feeling?
  • Elevated awareness of the many aspects of your emotions.
  • Being able to pinpoint your emotional reactions.

The therapy then focuses on what to do with your new found emotional awareness:

  • How to evaluate if the emotion you’re feeling is useful or not in a particular situation.
  • How to glean useful information from your emotions.
  • What are the triggers or sources of your unhelpful emotions.
  • How to transform emotions that are less than helpful.
  • Work to find alternative coping mechanisms to deal with those situations which trigger negative emotions.
  • Rewrite your internal dialogue so you can challenge negative emotions and thought patterns.

The Gottman Method

The Gottman Method, also known as the Sound Relationship House Theory, deals directly with relationships between people, especially couples.

In this method, the focus is upon the essential building blocks of a good, loving relationship.

You can expect to work on the following:

Constructing ‘Love Maps’

You’ll learn way more about your partner in this step. Their dreams, their fears, what makes them happy, and what makes them tick. What are they thinking when they aren’t talking?

Expressing Fondness and Admiration

The cure for contempt is respect and admiration. In this step, you’ll work with the counselor to strengthen these aspects of your relationship.

Learn to Turn Towards Your Partner, not Away

Instead of retreating in stressful moments, you’ll learn how to spot your partner’s unspoken cries for connection, so you can face your partner and respond to them.

Taking a Positive Perspective

You’ll learn how to employ a positive mindset to solving problems that might arise.

Managing Conflicts

We’ll delve into the difference between problems that can be solved versus naturally recurring problems which must be ‘managed.’ 

Achieving Life Dreams

You’ll learn how to have honest conversations about yours and your partner’s hopes, dreams, values, and beliefs.

Creating Shared Meaning

Gain insight into the key stories, visions, myths, and metaphors you both hold about your relationship.

Building Trust

One of the key components of every relationship is the belief that your partner is there to support your interests and well-being, not just their own. If trust has been damaged, then it must be repaired.


In order to make a relationship work, in the long term, there must be a solid commitment to working on it, even when things go wrong. You must both commit to seeing the good in each other, and practice gratitude for one another to do this.

Family Systems Therapy

The third system we employ focuses on the family unit as a whole. Hence it is called Family Systems Therapy

The theory behind this is that the behavior of the individual must be understood within the context of the group.

It is important to understand each person’s place in the family system, which can be two people, or multiple.

What can you expect from family system therapy?

  • Each member (both partners, and possibly other family members) will be able to talk about difficult experiences and emotions in a safe space.
  • You’ll work to understand the other’s perspectives, experiences, and beliefs.
  • Strive to appreciate the other’s needs and wants.
  • Learn to build on the positive relationship strengths you already possess. 
  • Make positive changes to your relationship and your lives in general.

Our Counselors Are Here For You

Whether you have trouble communicating or have experienced a breach of trust, our counselors are here to help. 

We know you want to improve your relationship, but it’s often difficult to see a path forward through your pain. 

Because of this, couples often get stuck in their own perspectives and no longer view their partner favorably. 

We seek to shine a light on each partner’s experience so understanding, empathy, and forgiveness can take place. 

If you live in the RDU/Wake County area, set up an appointment today, so you can get started on your journey to a stronger relationship.

We also offer Telehealth Therapy, family therapy, individual counseling, and other mental health counseling.

Contact us today, and let’s get started!

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COVID and Mental Health

RDU Counseling for Change - COVID AND Mental HealthAre you still feeling the stress of COVID and all that goes with it?

You’re not alone!

It’s been a strain on us all. We’re all feeling the effects of a pandemic that seems to keep dragging on. 

According to U.S. surveys, 40% of adults say they are experiencing heightened stress, anxiety, and depression as a result of the pandemic. Much of this comes from economic pressure. More than 30% of U.S. adults say they have experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic. Many have lost jobs, businesses have closed their doors, and the cost of everything has gone up and up. Not to mention an increase in inflation this year is causing a strain on everyone.

It’s only natural for us to feel stress from all of this. The challenges are real. But there are things we can do to help relieve this stress, or at least lower it.

How do you know if you’re over stressed?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you may be overly stressed.

  • Are you noticing changes in your eating? Has your appetite dropped? 
  • Do you feel you have less energy than normal? 
  • Are you less interested in the things you’re working on, or your hobbies? 
  • How is your sleep? Are you getting enough of it? Do you frequently have nightmares?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate on work or make decisions? 
  • Are your emotions all over the place? 
  • Do you feel yourself shifting from fear to sadness, anger and frustration? 
  • Do you feel acute anxiety
  • Or do you just feel numb sometimes, like nothing really matters?
  • Have you found yourself relying on alcohol or drugs to cope?

Our emotions can also manifest in physical symptoms, like body aches, indigestion, headaches, or skin rashes.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, did you struggle with these before COVID?  If so, have the symptoms increased? 

All of these things are normal when we’re under a lot of stress and lack healthy ways to cope with the unknown.

What Can You Do?

If you, or someone you know are already in crisis mode, experiencing feelings of suicide or acute physical symptoms, call 911 and get immediate help. 

Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.

If your symptoms are not life-threatening, then there are many things you can do to mitigate them:

  • Turn off the news, as much as possible. Yes, we all feel the need to be informed, but too much information affects our mental state. The news is largely negative, and over exposure to it can trigger anxiety and depression, among other negative emotions. 
  • Take a break from watching TV and engaging in social media. Put your phone away for periods of time during the day, and find other, more wholesome things to do with your time.
  • It should be a no-brainer, but make sure to take care of yourself, especially your body. Eating healthy and exercising are great ways to help any symptoms of anxiety or depression. Pay attention to your diet. Are you eating enough vegetables and fruits? Or are you gorging on comfort foods full of salt, sugar, and fat? Be conscious of what you eat, and try to regain some balance.
  • Keep up with your regular doctor appointments and treatments.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Set regular hours for sleep. Adults should be getting at least 7 hours a night; perrably closer to 8 or 9. 
  • Get more exercise. We all know we’re supposed to do it. Start out small. Any movement is better than none, but gradually increase it over time until you’re getting 30-40 minutes of it a day. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just start by going for a walk. 
  • Stretch your body. Practice yoga, or simply take time to stretch after an exercise routine. Stress and anxiety tend to build up in our muscles. Gently stretch them out to release it.
  • One of the best ways to deal with stress and anxiety is through meditation. Take deep breaths frequently and pay attention to your breathing. Very few of us really take in enough oxygen, and this heightens stress, as taking in more of it lowers it. Breathe!
  • Take time for yourself, to relax, to do things you enjoy doing. Keep up connections with friends and family. Discuss how you’re feeling about what’s going on. Getting these feelings out is very healthy.
  • Remain, or get,  involved in community and faith organizations. If you can’t do that in person, do it virtually.
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption. If you choose to drink at all, limit it to no more than 1 to 2 drinks per day, on days when you consume it.
  • Do not abuse prescription or illegal drugs. If you know you have a problem with them, get help. They are not helping you in the long run.

Remember, no matter how stressful the situation may be, you are not alone. There are people who care about you. Reach out to them. They probably need your help, too.

Professional Counseling Can Help!

Don’t hesitate to call for professional counseling. If you live in the Raleigh or greater RDU-Wake County area, give us a call. We’re RDU Counseling for Change. We offer mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families, in person or via Telehealth. 

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Depression - You Don't Have to Suffer Anymore

Depression You may think of someone who is depressed as exhibiting symptoms of hopelessness, sad mood, loss of pleasure in everyday activities, isolating themselves from others, irritability, sleep disturbances, loss of energy, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, change in weight or appetite, and thoughts of death. Not all symptoms have to be present but they need to exist most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks. Recommended treatments for Depression include CBT, DBT, ACT, and EMDR.

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How to Conquer Avoidance Behavior

Steps for Conquering AvoidanceDo you find yourself often canceling plans with friends or family? 

Are you avoiding a conversation with your boss about a raise? 

Are there certain places you won’t go? Phone calls you know you should answer, but let go to voicemail?

Does your kid make up excuses to stay home from school? 

Avoidance is a real problem. And it’s common. No one really wants to be in uncomfortable situations, but unfortunately, discomfort is part of growth and success in life. If we avoid too many situations, we suffer.

Why do we avoid things?

Quite simply, we’re afraid. Our brains perceive a threat and try to protect us through avoidance. This, in turn, keeps us from doing what we want to do, or need to do to move ahead with our lives. Where these fears originate is not always obvious, even to ourselves, but even more so when we observe someone else avoiding things. 

We never really know what’s going on in other’s minds.

For example, if your kid is avoiding going to school, there are reasons why. Is he ashamed because he’s struggling academically? Is your daughter being bullied at school? Are they shy and afraid to speak out in class for fear of being teased by classmates?

Maybe it’s not about them at all. They may be afraid to leave a parent at home who’s suffering from depression, alcoholism, or a serious illness.

The Brain and Fear

Fear is a normal emotion. We all have to deal with it. The deepest parts of our brain, the amygdala, the so-called ‘lizard brain,’ exists to protect us from dangers. If we see a bee, it will alert the hypothalamus to release adrenaline, dopamine, and other chemicals needed for fight or flight. 

While amygdala does a great job of that, it isn’t adept at discerning between real threats, and imagined ones. 

Just because we see a bee doesn’t mean it will attack us, but the amygdala triggers the body to react as if you are already under attack. As a result, you will experience physiological reactions, such as heart palpitations, stomachache, headache, nausea, and sweating. 

Because of this reaction, we believe we need to avoid the perceived threat altogether. That’s where the problem arises. It can create a feedback loop of avoidance. These loops can play out in a couple different ways.

Complete Avoidance

One way it plays out is when we feel anxiety rising due to some situation in the near or distant future, and we avoid the situation completely. We start to think, “What if x happens?,” X, being an anticipated negative outcome. Instead of risking X, we decide to avoid the situation altogether, to cancel the dinner date, or the meeting with our boss, or getting on the bus to go to school. 

We have listened to our fear, our Lizard Brain, and heeded its advice. We avoid the fear-causing situation, and we feel better, for a short time.

The problem with this strategy is that it reinforces our fear. Our fear grows with every avoidance. And as our fear grows, our self-esteem takes a hit, making it even more difficult to face the situation the next time it arises. And it will always arise, again and again.

Attempt, then Avoid

The second way this plays out is when we make an attempt to face the fear, but fail. 

We decide to walk into the boss’s office, fully intent upon demanding a raise. But as we step into the room, our heart races, the sweat runs down the back of our neck, and we chicken out. 

Instead of speaking up for what we want, a raise, we may ask a benign question, “How ‘bout that game last night?,” or “I think the printer needs toner,” and we make our exit. 

We run from the fear in front of us.

Again, every time we do this, the fear wins. It grows stronger, making it more and more difficult to overcome it, and our self esteem drops further into the basement.

The only thing we can change in this cycle is avoidance.

How can we break the pattern?

Facing our fear is the only way to break this negative feedback loop. We all wish there was a magic pill to make fear go away. But there isn’t. It’s even simpler than swallowing a pill, simple, yet difficult to do. But here’s a tip to help you face your fears.

Feel the Fear and Stay in It

Feel the fear, but instead of running away to avoid it, just tell yourself, “This is just anxiety. It’s my amygdala misfiring again.” 

Feel the emotions, but don’t try to fight them, or run away. Just let them do their thing. The fear is real, but it will be real even if you avoid it. You will give it more power if you do.

The only way to conquer a fear is to feel it and remain in the situation until it passes

Don’t leave the boss’s office. Stand there and feel the fear. It might be awkward, but do it. Then dig deep to find the courage to speak up. If you do, the fear loses its stronghold. You win. Your confidence and self-esteem will soar. 

And it doesn’t matter whether or not you got the raise. You faced your fear and it retreated. Doing that once is a major boost. Doing it again will only give you more confidence. It is the only way out of fear and anxiety: through it.

We cannot change fear. We have little control over the things other people do or say. The only thing we can control is our response. We can avoid fear completely, run away, or face it head on. Fear will always be there, but it can be faced, and when we do, fear runs away.

Professional Counseling Can Help!

If you’re still struggling to overcome avoidance, don’t hesitate to call for professional counseling.

If you live in the Raleigh or greater RDU-Wake County area, give us a call. 

We’re RDU Counseling for Change.

We offer mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families, in person, or via Telehealth. 


If you’d like to read more about Avoidance, here are a couple resources:

The Anxiety Cure: An Eight-Step Program for Getting Well, by Robert L. DuPont, M.D., and Elizabeth DuPont Spence, M.S.W., and Caroline DuPont, M.D.

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Emotions Aren’t Facts — In Depth

Emotions Aren't FactsEmotions are potent and vital. Together with the ability to think clearly and rationally, the ability to experience and express emotions is part of what makes you human. Identifying your emotions and allowing yourself to feel them can be quite therapeutic. 

Generally, your emotions are triggers that convey important information about events or situations in your life. Fear is reasonable if a man brandishing a gun approaches you. It alerts you that you are in danger and must take appropriate action. What people forget from time to time, however, is that their emotions do not always tell them the truth. 

Yes, our minds often deceive us. At its most fundamental level, the function of emotions is to keep us safe from danger — either by flight or fight. However, not all of the information our brain gives us is valuable or even true. It is a difficult concept to grasp, yet it is true. Not all of the emotions we feel are accurate or even helpful. The more you can acknowledge this, the better you will be at recognizing when you are not being true to yourself.

You may believe that because you feel something, it must be true. However, your emotions might occasionally be out of touch with reality. Consider this — have you ever taken a test and thought you blew it, just to find out afterward that you actually did pretty good?

When your emotions are especially intense, they might lead you to believe things not founded on facts. When you get swept up in a surge of emotions, your thinking becomes warped, and you struggle to stay anchored in the reality of the situation. This is why it is critical to organize your emotions.

How to organize your feelings?

Our emotions rarely hang neatly on beautiful, carefully spaced hangers. Instead, we tend to keep a mishmash of new and old emotions in our closets. But you can ‘Marie Kondo’ your emotions and deal with or eliminate those not serving you right. Comb through your emotions daily, and you will more effectively deal with situations where you end up being anxious, depressed, lonely, or sad. 

Here’s how to separate emotions from facts and start winning in life: 

Step one: Identify how you are feeling.

The first step in organizing your emotions is to make a list of your worries or fears. That may sound like a bad idea, but writing your feelings down can often provide greater clarity. It can be effective to understand the underlying thought or belief, assess its value and truth, and then change it if it does not serve you well.

How can you discover the underlying feeling that is troubling you?

List your problems and assign them an emotion. If you are not sure what those emotions are, try a “so what does that mean?” exercise. Ask yourself “so what does that mean” until it reveals something about you, uncover what you believe, and ask, “is it true?”

Here’s an example: 

Problem: Everyone expects me to change my schedule to accommodate theirs.

Emotions: Frustration, resentment, and hurt

What is going on?: ...so does that mean that I will be on my own and they will inevitably forget about me? I am scared I will be forgotten or that nobody will care about me.

The message we uncover through the process can feel harsh and unfair. But here is where cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or organizing your emotions, comes into effect.

Look for outliers. Ask yourself, “Is it true?” or “Can I find evidence to refute that belief?” In the example given, the individual may recall occasions when people went out of their way to hang out with them or expressed how much fun they had with them. They will soon realize that the conclusion they reached is not a fact. 

Step two: Identify whether or not this is a recurring theme.

Sometimes you have to evaluate if an emotion is real or whether it is just your brain working a game controller. It is worth remembering that our emotions dictate our actions. Therefore, you stay on top of your emotions since they can easily become exaggerated. Exaggerated or irrational emotions eventually create hurdles to achieving your objectives and connecting with people. 

Are you feeling stuck in negative emotions? You might be dealing with a cognitive distortion — your brain lying to you based on past thought patterns. 

If you are anxious about a date you are on, for example, you could overindulge. But your anxieties may be a byproduct of a date gone wrong in the past. This might trigger a cascade of anxiety-filled dates, leading you to believe that you need to be a little drunk to be a good date or that you are not interesting when sober.

You can change your patterns when you are aware of the reasons for your behaviors and have a good handle on your emotions. You can keep anxiety, fear, or anger from dominating and leading you to behave in ways you do not want.

Related Blog: Are you ready for change?

Step three: Watch out for cognitive distortions.

These cognitive distortions (or thinking errors) can have a detrimental impact on how you approach situations: 

  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Overgeneralization
  • Mental filter
  • Discounting the facts
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Magnification and minimization 
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Should statements 
  • Labeling
  • Blame

The first step is to recognize cognitive distortions or a behavior pattern proving to be problematic in your life. Once you have recognized the thought or behavior, you can start to change it. It may be more difficult than throwing out an old hoodie, but being able to challenge these thoughts may be the most positive change in your life so far.

Consider therapy.

Your emotions have a big role in how you process events and situations in your daily life. However, it is also critical to evaluate everything using a filter that can distinguish between facts and reality. Separating your emotions from facts can help you eliminate undue stressors while also improving your relationships with others.

It is worth mentioning that many seemingly straightforward issues can turn out to be extraordinarily challenging and perplexing. So, if things are still not working out for you, you should seek mental health counseling. Our expert counselors at RDU Counseling for Change can help you find ways to be more mindful of why you are feeling certain emotions and alert you to any potential hurdles you may encounter in the way.

Call us today at (919) 713-0260 or email at to speak with our expert RDU Counseling for Change counselors or book your individual, couples, or family therapy. We now provide telehealth or online therapy sessions to make mental health counseling more accessible to those who are pressed for time, stay home, or live in remote areas.

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Meet Our Counselors - Breanna Linn

Meet our counselors - Breanna LinnBreanna LinnMeet Our Counselors: Breanna Linn

Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHCA)

Since no two people are the same, Breanna approaches therapy with an eclectic mindset and uses techniques from a variety of modalities based on each client’s unique needs. Her focus on the therapeutic relationship lends itself to a theoretical approach to counseling rooted in Client-Centered Therapy with an emphasis on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Breanna may also use mindfulness techniques, Expressive Therapy, and integrated Christian counseling based on the client’s needs and preferences. 

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How Do We Respect Others’ Boundaries When We Don’t Like Them?

Respecting BoundariesIt’s natural to resist boundaries when we experience them, especially when coming from someone close: a spouse, family member, or friend. 

“Why are they rejecting me?”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“Surely their boundary doesn’t apply to me!”

But if we want strong relationships, we have to respect boundaries.


Respecting Boundaries is Crucial

The fact you’re reading this article means you care about your relationships. That’s a very good place to begin, because the first step in building and maintaining relationships is to show care and respect for others’ autonomy as fellow human beings. They have a right to their own feelings and boundaries, same as you. But when you do run into someone’s boundary, you may feel rejected, sad, or even depressed. 

It’s time to pause.

Resist Reaction and Negative Self Talk

It’s natural to feel fear, anxiety, rejection, sadness, even depression in this situation. Emotions are real and valid. You may not understand why all of a sudden they’ve drawn a boundary. 

Be Curious, and Breathe…

It’s important to pause, breathe, and make note of your own feelings and emotions. This is difficult to do when negative emotions arise. But if you don’t pause and take a breath they can quickly spin out of control. They may do so anyway.

It’s never easy to check our emotions. It takes practice to catch them as they arise. The earlier we catch them, the better.

Say to yourself, “Hey! I’m feeling afraid and anxious. What’s that all about?” 

Then take some deep breaths and feel the emotion. Don’t fight it or try to get rid of it, just feel it and accept it as a natural, normal experience. 

Tell yourself, “It’s okay that I feel sad, rejected, or depressed.” 

Don’t Assume Stuff

 Don’t assume you know what the other person is thinking! 

You don’t. 

Assumptions allow negative emotions to run rampant. 

When someone says, “NO,” it’s not about you; it’s about them. 

Tell yourself, “This is about their boundaries, not about me.”

They aren’t rejecting you as a person. It doesn’t mean you are bad or inadequate. It just means they’re experiencing a negative reaction to something you’ve done or said.

Take another breath and ask yourself, “What is this person really trying to tell me about themself?”

Apologize and Ask Questions

If you can let go of your negative emotions, even momentarily, the next step is to apologize for breaching their boundary and ask them to clarify what happened. 

“I’m so sorry. I did not intend to upset you. Clearly I have. You are important to me. Can you explain what I did or said so I won’t do that again?”

Again, don’t assume you already know the answer. Actually listen for it.

Communication Begins with Silence: Listen and Pay Attention

Whatever you do, don’t interrupt. 

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to learn anything while talking. Once you’ve asked them to explain their boundaries, let them! Actually listen to the words they use and observe how they say them. 

Listen Not to Respond, But to Understand 

Let me repeat: listen not to respond, but to understand. You might want to repeat that phrase to yourself, now, a few hundred times. The goal is to remember it when conflicts arise. You want to form a habit of listening. It’s not easy to do. Work on it. 

Forget what you want to say about their boundaries. It doesn’t matter. What is important in this moment is to understand the boundary. 

Pay Attention to Body Language

While you’re listening, also watch for visual clues. This might be in their body language. 

Do they fold their arms in front of them or step back away from you? It might not have been something you said, but something you did without knowing it. You might have accidentally invaded their personal space. You might have interrupted them or used a trigger word. Did they suddenly clam up during a conversation?

Accept Boundaries Without Judgement

If they’re willing to communicate their boundaries to you, accept them outright. DO NOT question the boundary, and do not ask them WHY they have a boundary. It is none of your business.

It’s unlikely to be about you anyway. Even if it is, their boundary is their boundary. If you seek to build and maintain good relationships, you must accept other people’s boundaries without question or judgement.

They may explain why. If they feel like sharing, great. Listen to understand, not to respond. Keep that phrase in your head. It’s magical. But do not expect them to share the why. Do not ask why their boundary exists. 

Their ‘why’ is their business and their struggle. Instead of asking them for their why, ask yourself the same question.

Work on Yourself and Your Own Boundaries

If you’ve read this far, you’re already asking yourself important questions. Awesome! Keep working on your own feelings and emotions. Take note of them. Become more aware when they arise. 

Ask yourself, “Why do I feel this? What do their boundaries mean to me? And why do they cause such a reaction in my own mind?”

Give yourself time to find the answers. It takes time to work on your emotional health. Try not to let your emotions drag you down. If they do, that’s okay. Just give awareness to the experience. 

Say to yourself, “I’m being dragged down by negative emotions. I wonder why?” 

This is how awareness comes: little by little, with curiosity and practice. 

There is no silver bullet to deal with your emotions of fear, abandonment, anxiety, depression, or rejection. It takes time and work. You’ve already begun. You read this article! Keep working on it, but don’t feel you have to do it alone.

Mental Health Counseling Can Help!

We at RDU Counseling for Change have the tools and expertise to help you. We promise to listen to understand, not just to respond. We offer mental health counseling and therapy for individuals, couples, and families. If you live in the Wake County, NC area, come see us. Can’t come into the office? We have Telehealth options, too! 

Contact us by email at or call us at (919) 713-0260.

Do it, now! There’s no better time to begin than now.


If you’d like to read more on boundaries, here are a couple of good articles:

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Are You a Sensitive Person?

RDU Counseling for Change - Are you Empathic?Do you inadvertently absorb other people’s emotions? When your emotional boundaries are flimsy, you may find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, lonely, or sad when others are. Or, you may find that you are incapable of feeling happy when those who matter to you are not.

Being sensitive to other people’s emotions can be both a blessing and a curse. It can mean that you are an empath, endowed with the remarkable ability to “walk a mile in other people’s shoes” and connect with others through a deep level of understanding. But it can also become emotionally draining and disappointing to always feel what others are feeling.

Being empathetic is a valuable character trait, but so is the ability to set emotional boundaries so that you are not constantly drained by absorbing the energy of those around you. Change is hard. But setting emotional boundaries, like any other skill, can be honed with practice.

Are you an empath?

You may be aware that you are adopting the emotions or moods of others. Occasionally, however, you may be having an extreme or disconcerting emotional experience after interacting with others without knowing why. You may be wondering whether this is your own experience or if you are picking up on the energy of someone else. So, how do you know if you are an empath or a highly sensitive person? While everyone is unique, the following characteristics are shared by most — if not all — empaths:

  • You need to take a break after spending a long time with others
  • You have a strong intuitive sense
  • You become emotionally invested in the problems of other people
  • You struggle with separating yourself from emotions 
  • You are highly sensitive to sounds, sensations, and smells

If these characteristics sound familiar, it could mean that you are an empath and tend to take on other people’s emotions. Many of these characteristics are associated with feelings of overwhelm, as feeding off other people’s energy can often be too much. As a matter of fact, this may be one of the primary reasons you are seeking advice on how to change.

How to stop being so sensitive?

If other people’s moods and energy affect you all too often, you might even have an inherited temperamental or personality trait called sensory processing sensitivity (SPS). According to Additude magazine, “Sensory processing sensitivity is a trait that explains why up to 30 percent of people experience strong reactions to stimuli – strong smells, bright lights, other people’s moods, and even caffeine.” 

Having some emotional reactivity and empathy can be a powerful asset — but too much of it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there are many ways to take control of your emotions and avoid feeding off other people’s energies. Setting clear emotional boundaries is one of the most effective ways.

Boundaries are clear lines that you draw to prevent others from draining your emotional reserves. Setting boundaries may not come naturally to an empath and may even feel wrong. After all, empaths want to understand and help others in any way possible. However, if you do not set clear emotional boundaries, you will wear yourself down to the point that you will be unable to support others in the way you instinctively desire.

The first step toward establishing boundaries is to define them clearly. 

As a sensitive person, this can be a bit tricky because you may feel guilty about setting boundaries. Nonetheless, you must not let guilt keep you from taking the necessary steps to prevent yourself from owning other people’s emotions as your own. While this is certainly not easy, you must be honest about what boundaries would help prevent others from exploiting your empathetic nature. Ask yourself, what do you need to protect yourself in this relationship?

The second step is to communicate your boundaries with others openly and honestly. 

Once you have identified what will help you unhook from other people’s emotions — such as limiting the time you spend listening to other people’s problems or simply saying no — sit down and talk with people your boundary applies to. Then, assert your boundaries firmly but politely. While you do not have to rationalize your boundaries, if you feel comfortable doing so, it may help to bolster your assertion — especially if you are talking to someone you trust will not react to it negatively. For example, a boundary might be telling a friend, “I care about you but I cannot meet tonight because I need rest.” Or it can be, “I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. If you can’t treat me this way, then we can’t talk.”

The third step is to maintain your boundaries.

Expect others to test your boundaries. They need to know you are going to do what you say. So if they keep saying that they really need you, reassert your boundary. “I understand that you need support right now, and I do care about you. But I have to take care of myself right now. I can call you tomorrow.”

Additionally, you can use grounding techniques to help clear your mind of overwhelming emotions. These include mindfulness and meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, yoga, slow living, minimalism.

Related blog: 5 Steps to Diaphragmatic Breathing 

The Last Word

While being an empath has no inherent flaws, it can have a detrimental effect on some people’s emotional well-being. If you constantly feel overwhelmed because you tend to pick up on the energy and feelings of those around you, expert counseling can help. 

At RDU Counseling for Change, our counselors can help you learn how to create a healthy distance between your own emotions and the emotions of others. No two sensitive individuals are the same. Therefore, RDU Counseling for Change counselors work with you to understand your unique emotions and create strategies to help you cope with overwhelm and stressors.

Call RDU Counseling for Change today at (919) 713-0260 or email at to book your individual, couples, or family therapy session either in person or via telehealth.

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Social Situations?

Social anxiety Some people find that their anxiety is debilitating when they are in social situations. They may anticipate others judgment and want to avoid placing themselves in situations where this may occur. Recommended treatments for Social Anxiety Disorder are CBT, EMDR, DBT, and Exposure therapies.

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The COVID Divide

The COVID DivideIt has been two years since COVID emerged on the scene. We have all felt the fear and uncertainty of a global pandemic, as well as the shutdowns that followed. Most of us worked from home for a year, supervised children doing online school, faced supply shortages, and have gotten used to wearing masks in public. But a casualty that has garnered little attention is the divide that has happened among friends and family members regarding the vaccine. 

With 63% of Americans fully vaccinated, studies indicate that this divergence of view is beginning to affect friendships. A new study shows that one in seven people have abandoned friendships due to their opinions on the COVID vaccine. A survey of 1,000 Americans by OnePoll looked at the reasons for friendship breakdowns over the last 18 months. According to the findings, 16% of participants had cut three friends from their lives since the pandemic began — 66% of those who ended a friendship are vaccinated, whereas 17% do not intend to get the vaccination. Fourteen percent of vaccinated individuals report parting ways with non-vaccinated friends. A Canadian study found that of those who have reduced contact with a family or friend in the past year, almost 94 percent said the split was caused by opinions about COVID-19.

We live in a turbulent time when deep divisions affect all of our relationships, including our friendships. If there are significant disparities between you and your friends when it comes to vaccine preferences, there are a few things you should consider before engaging in a conversation, 

How do you communicate with a friend with whom you disagree?

If you have a friend (or friends) with whom you disagree on vaccines and the distance makes you feel anxious, depressed, lonely, and sad, we recommend the following tips:

1. Constructively engage in the conversation.

Instead of listing all the reasons why your friend is misguided and engaging in a heated debate, stick to “I” messages. State your decision and why this is important for you. For example, if you feel uncomfortable being around individuals who feel opposite you, you could say, “I am not comfortable with [whatever you feel uncomfortable with].” Alternatively, if you are feeling judged, you could say, “I understand you did what was right for you, but I would like you to respect my personal decision here as I have for you.”

2. Be open to understanding their experiences.

Encourage productive discourse by asking open-ended questions and eliciting information about their concerns. What was important to you about making this decision? What has your experience been like after making this decision? Have you felt judged or understood by others?

3. Be candid about your own experience.

Share your personal experience and concerns. Resist trying to change someone’s viewpoint and creating a rift in the friendship. There is a delicate balance to be struck, but if you continue to show genuine concern for the other person, you can have a productive conversation.

4. Avoid playing the blame game or passing judgment.

Do not enter the conversation with the need to be “right.” Accept that your friends have the right to their own beliefs. In other words, avoid starting a conversation with the question, “Do you not care about science and facts?” or “Don’t you care about what you are putting inside your body?” Blame and judgment will immediately put your friend on the defense, and the conversation is unlikely to proceed as you intended.

5. Focus only on what you can control.

Bear in mind that we have no control over other people’s opinions, feelings, or emotions about any matter. Therefore, express your viewpoint with your friend and then understand that they are free to make their own choices and have their own opinions. Engage in dialogue, maintain an open line of communication, but accept that they will do as they like.

6. Remind yourself that your friendship may change as you establish boundaries and prioritize your health.

Consider the impact your friends’ beliefs and actions will have on your friendship. Ask yourself if this is an inconvenience or a barrier you are unwilling to overcome. These factors will vary depending on the nature of your friendship and your mutual understanding of each other’s perspective, but be mindful of them nonetheless.

How can you keep your friendships despite your differences?

1. Demonstrate your desire to stay friends.

If you can agree to disagree, make it clear to your friend that you want them in your life. Accept that your friendship may look slightly different, but that does not have to be a bad thing. There are many ways for you to stay connected in a way that works out for both of you.

2. Stick to virtual hangouts.

We have all grown accustomed to virtual hangouts. While you may be over Zoom/FaceTime hangouts at this point, they are an excellent alternative for those who are uncomfortable with in-person meetings. Join a reading group together, listen to the same podcast and discuss it, cook the same dinner over Zoom, take an online yoga class together or participate in a virtual trivia night and compete as a team. Make the most of the technology you have. 

3. Make outdoor plans.

If both of you are comfortable, try outdoor activities that require you to wear masks and maintain social distance. Why not tailgate in a parking lot? Park a few spots apart and share some laughs and good times. Alternatively, if you are comfortable, have a picnic in the park. And, if all else fails, there are always the old-fashioned modes of communication — write them a letter, a long SMS, a quick e-mail, or give them a surprise call! It helps fill the social vacuum while maintaining contact with your friend.

4. Keep going.

Accept that this disagreement will require some adjustment but that the effort will be worth it in the end. Change is hard but stay committed to making the best of the situation. Furthermore, you can always try bringing in new ideas or adjusting the things you used to do together. We recommend staying focused on the activity itself rather than on the fact that it does not feel the same anymore. If vaccination discussions start to seep into the conversation, try to redirect the conversation by saying, “I understand this is not ideal, and it will not last indefinitely. I am grateful that we can still be friends.” You will have to put in more effort first, but if your friendship is important to you, you will eventually adjust to a new normal.

Related Blog: Specialization Series: Adjustment Difficulties 

The Last Word

RDU Counseling for Change counselors often hear our clients express feelings of pressure to subscribe to a particular belief or face alienation/judgment from their friends. If you are having a difficult time navigating sensitive topics and maintaining relationships, our mental health counseling can help you. Our expert counselors are here to provide you with strategies and help you deal with the COVID divide more effectively! 

Call RDU Counseling for Change today at (919) 713-0260 or email at  to book your individual, couples, or family therapy either in person or telehealth session. 

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Specialization Series: ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderADHD and autism are two of the most common neurological disorders that afflict children. According to a national parent survey conducted in 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. This means you have almost certainly heard of this chronic brain condition at least once. Although it is extremely common, many people do not understand what the term “ADHD” actually means or stands for. They just have a hazy idea that it is connected to hyperactivity and impaired concentration.

In this blog of our specialization series, we will discuss ADHD in detail, including what it means, common symptoms, and treatment options.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is an abbreviation for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a common neurodevelopmental disorder in children that can result in symptoms such as distractibility, hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. It is also common for children with this neurological condition to feel anxious, depressed, lonely, or sad.

ADHD is more common in boys than girls and is typically diagnosed during the early years of schooling when a child exhibits the known symptoms. It also tends to present differently in boys than girls. Often times, girls go undiagnosed until middle or high school since. Though this neurological condition cannot be fully cured or prevented, recognizing its signs early in childhood might help children learn how to manage their symptoms and minimize the impact on their life. 

The symptoms of ADHD often take shape when the child is between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. Unfortunately, parents may not recognize the manifestations of this debilitating mental illness, or they erroneously associate them with disciplinary issues with their children — this is especially true when lack of attention is the primary symptom. As a result, diagnosis is prolonged, which can have severe consequences for the child’s academic and social life.

It is also important to keep in mind that ADHD symptoms are not always consistent. They can change over time. While hyperactivity-impulsivity is the most common symptom in young children, it is not the case for a school-aged child who may struggle with inattention. Other symptoms, such as fidgeting, may develop as a child grows older, but the primary symptoms may persist.

What are the causes of ADHD?

The primary causes of ADHD are unknown at this point, although researchers believe that genetics have a role in determining if a child will be diagnosed with this neurological condition. Other common causes of ADHD include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) or craniocerebral trauma
  • Alcohol consumption or smoking during pregnancy
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature (or preterm) birth 
  • Early exposure to hazardous substances, such as lead

What are the different types of ADHD?

ADHD is classified into three categories:

1. Predominantly Inattentive

Due to difficulty focusing on anything, a child with this presentation of ADHD finds it difficult to complete the assigned task. Such a child may struggle to follow instructions, get easily distracted, forget important details, or stay disorganized.

Some of the most common symptoms of the ‘predominantly inattentive subtype’ include:

  • Difficulty focusing when playing, reading, or even talking with someone
  • A tendency to miss subtleties and make sloppy mistakes in school
  • Not listening carefully due to a lack of attention
  • Difficulty in adhering to the rules
  • Difficulty in following a task’s sequence and completing it in an organized manner
  • Problems with time management and meeting deadlines
  • Being easily distracted by sudden, trivial thoughts
  • Forgetting daily chores 

2. Predominantly Hyperactive 

As the name suggests, a child with this presentation of ADHD is highly active — they fidget and talk a lot. Such a child might struggle to sit quietly for an extended period, for example, when they are doing their homework or even eating dinner. They have a difficult time restraining themselves.

Because they are hyperactive, they may continually run, jump, or climb and feel extremely restless. A hyperactive child is also impulsive and prone to make decisions without much regard for the consequences. The ‘predominantly hyperactive subtype’ is distinguished by behaviors such as speaking at inopportune times, disturbing and interrupting others, and failing to listen to instructions. Furthermore, hyperactive children are unable to delay gratification and are impatient to be rewarded for their efforts right away.

The quintessential habits of a person suffering from this type of ADHD include:

  • Leaving their seats when everyone is expected to be seated
  • Running at inappropriate times
  • Being unable to engage in activities quietly
  • Talking excessively 
  • Having difficulty in waiting for the turn

3. Combined Type

Simply put, combined ADHD is when a child exhibits signs of both the subtypes mentioned above of ADHD: inattention and hyperactivity.

What is the recommended treatment for ADHD?

A licensed psychologist should conduct a psychological evaluation on a child before they receive ADHD treatment and are sent to mental health therapy sessions. Once it has been determined that a child has this neurological disorder, they can receive therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are two effective interventions for ADHD. While some ADHD patients use pharmaceutical drugs to improve their attention, some psychosocial interventions also can be effective in dealing with ADHD. 

DBT and CBT help children with ADHD by addressing troubling thoughts and behaviors. During the therapy sessions, the trained counselors teach patients several coping strategies to help them deal with unwelcome ideas and make positive behavioral adjustments. These strategies are intended to help the child become more organized and focused, as well as to help them navigate distractions and eliminate procrastination behaviors.


Cognitive Therapy ADHDCBT and DBT Sessions at RDU Counseling For Change

At RDU Counseling for Change, we offer individual, couples, and family therapy sessions for a wide variety of issues. If your child has ADHD, our RDU counselors are there to provide constant support and teach effective coping strategies. We also offer online therapy in Raleigh, NC. Your help is just a call away. Reach out to us today at (919) 713-0260 or write to us at .

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Our Team of Professionals

  • Kelly Harrison

    Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC)
  • Kelley Baughman

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHCA)
  • Whitney Chambers

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHCA)
  • Christy Douglas

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Hugo Izzo

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Bryon Lawrence

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Breanna Linn

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate
  • Sallie Ratcliffe

    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate