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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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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. 

Why? 

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!”

Breathe

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!” 

Exercise

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

It:

  • 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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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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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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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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Acceptance and Change

Tiles spelling out the word ChangeWhen most people hear the words “acceptance” and “change,” they automatically associate them with opposite ends of the spectrum. Change is hardly ever associated with acceptance, but rather with resistance and fighting back. For example, when we are struggling with unhealthy behaviors and habits, accepting our current selves or our present circumstances is never in our wildest fantasies — and there are good reasons for that. Many believe that if they accept themselves, they will never feel motivated to change.

However, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches us to accept and change simultaneously. Acceptance and change are two critical dialectic components that form the core of DBT. The DBT method teaches radical acceptance and instills in people the belief that change is both attainable and essential. This way of thinking has become one of the most successful strategies for treating anxious people tormented by thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

In today’s blog, we will take a closer look at Dialectical Behavior Therapy — what this evidence-based psychotherapy is and how it uses acceptance and change in order to help people who are often sad, lonely, and depressed.

What is DBT?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of behavioral therapy that teaches people who have impulsive or self-destructive behaviors how to “live in the moment” and manage their negative thoughts. DBT mental health counseling sessions teach clients effective coping mechanisms to manage difficult emotions and tolerate distress.

People participating in DBT counseling may even uncover novel ways to improve their relationships with others. Maintaining healthy and stable relations with friends, family, and acquaintances may be a challenge for some. However, they can finally learn to experience the joy and happiness of having someone they can trust and rely on with the help of regular therapy sessions led by expert counselors in Wake County.

DBT’s origins can be traced back to the 1980s when American psychologist and author Dr. Marsha Linehan developed this new therapy treatment in the hopes of helping people who have borderline personality disorder (“BPD” or emotional dysregulation disorder). She observed that people with BPD are often plagued by their irrepressible negative emotions. These emotions tend to negatively affect their positive interactions with friends, romantic partners, and peers.

Linehan’s DBT was strongly influenced by the philosophical idea of balancing the opposites — as is noticeable in the term “Dialectical” Behavior Therapy. In a DBT session, expert therapists help individuals seek ways to balance the two opposite perspectives to steer clear of the “black and white” way of thinking. In other words, DBT helps people to take a both-and rather than either-or outlook. In this way, the two dialectically conflicting ideas of acceptance and change can be seen as coexisting rather than being at opposite extremes of the spectrum.

Accept Yourself

Accepting and Changing!

Acceptance and change are at the heart of DBT. The idea is that when we accept ourselves as we are in the present moment — rather than fighting or blaming ourselves — we become more open to change. Many of us struggle to grasp this paradoxical concept because we fail to accept ourselves when we have habits and behaviors that are typically not seen favorably.

When we are not in the “perfect” state we wish to be, we struggle with the idea that we must fight against our habits in order to bring about a positive change in our lives. However, DBT practitioners believe the more we resist accepting ourselves as we are right now, the more difficult it is to change ourselves for the better.

So, the trick is to strive to change the current bad habits that cause pain and suffering while also accepting the present self — with all of its flaws and weaknesses — in a non-judgmental way. It is worthwhile to note that you may not like or be happy with your current state, but that does not mean you must refuse to accept it. Doing so makes the suffering worse.

When we say “acceptance,” we simply mean taking something in its natural form or accepting yourself as you are. Please also keep in mind that acceptance does not indicate approval, and the objective remains to change the hurtful or destructive behavior — accepting only ensures lasting change.

For example, if you are plagued by suicidal ideation, you have to recognize that your primary objective is to end your pain and suffering — it is not to end your life. You see ending your life as a way to end your misery, which is clearly not the case. However, in order to change your self-harming behavior, the first thing you have to do is accept that it is just a thought. It does not mean that you embrace suicide as a viable option. Instead, you accept your current state and thoughts while trying to change them with a healthier solution, such as tolerating the distress and regulating your emotions.

DBT, like other types of cognitive behavioral therapy, offers you the coping strategies to deal with unhelpful behaviors. Some common DBT strategies include:

  • Mindfulness: Learning to live in the moment and accepting your emotions.
  • Distress tolerance: Learning to tolerate intense emotions in a positive manner.
  • Emotion regulation: Learning to cope with and navigate emotions efficiently.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Learning to maintain healthy relationships and engage in positive      communications.

Individual, Couples, and Family Therapy Sessions to Accept and Change

Are you ready to accept yourself as you are — instead of fighting back — to change your current self? If you are, help is just a call away! At RDU Counseling for Change, we offer mental health counseling in Wake County for individuals ready to see a positive change in themselves. Our RDU counselors are there to provide you with strategies and help you break free! Call us today at 919-713-0260 or e-mail at to book your online therapy in Raleigh, NC area.

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Are You Ready for Change?

Are you Ready for Change

Have you ever made a New Year's resolution that you kept? Not many of us do. In fact, making lasting change is hard. We get frustrated and lose our momentum. We might not see the results we want soon enough so we convince ourselves it's not going to work. To make lasting change, you need to be prepared and anticipate challenges. It may be helpful to have someone like a counselor who can encourage you as well as work through any blocks.

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. Before scheduling an appointment, it may be helpful to ask yourself what it is you want to change and identify specific goals.

Why Is It Hard to Change? 

People sometimes become accustomed to negative habits without realizing the impact on their mental and physical well-being. For example, smokers may logically know that cigarettes come with a risk of cancer, but they may not think that it is hurting them. Their family may complain about the smell or express concern for their well-being, but it is still hard to quit. 

Others may dread scheduling a counseling session because they don’t believe it will help or don’t want to open up to someone they do not know. After all, therapy can be intimidating, as it requires self-evaluation and honesty with yourself and a total stranger!

People who have experienced traumatic events in their childhood — such as physical and emotional abuse or neglect — may find it extremely difficult to speak openly about the trauma. This frequently leads to mental discomfort as a result of unpleasant recollections of the event.. Because of the reexperiencing of their trauma, some may think they cannot overcome their trauma due to flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance and depressive symptoms. While it may be difficult, change is possible.

That being said, the challenge of taking the first step and going to your first mental health counseling session pales in comparison to the challenges you may experience if you do not go to one. So, take that first step, fight any inhibitions, and understand that help and support is available..

What are the Different Stages of Change?

The road to living a joyful, stress-free life seems to be long and is exhausting. However, once you have the GPS that shows you the quickest and easiest route, you will find that there is light at the end of the tunnel. To that end, these are the five main stages that every prospect who is willing to make a change in their life is likely to go through.

1. Knowing your “why” 

You will never be able to succeed in your endeavors unless you have a compelling purpose to do so. If you start solely because your relatives or friends tell you to do so, you will quickly find it difficult to maintain consistency. To avoid falling into this trap, it is critical that you first understand why you are trying to make a change in your life in the first place. Whether it is because you are aware of the negative consequences of your current behaviors or because you want to attain your long-term goals, you should have one motivator that keeps you going.

2. Accepting the faults

As we previously stated, in order to take the first step toward a better life, you must first recognize that the life you are currently living is not ideal! In other words, you must recognize that there are some things in your life that are no longer working — these can be anything like  like alcoholism, substance abuse, binge eating, or impulsive shopping. The key to making corrections is to accept that you need improvement.

3. Being ready for change

Now that you have decided to bring about a change, own it. This means that you have to understand that transformation will only come when you take some actionable steps. In other words, following the current routine will yield no real results. Disrupting your current lifestyle and adopting some positive habits is a crucial part of bringing about some real change in your life. So, you cannot be passive about this endeavor — you have to be an active participant. After all, it is only you who will benefit in the end, not your therapist. 

4. Looking for a change catalyst

Leaving your current negative addictions and introducing new habits in your life can be a demanding task and requires supervision and guidance — you cannot do it all alone. You need encouragement whether that is a friend, support group, or a professional. By having a support system in place, you will have others who believe in you and can encourage you to take the right route, identify and overcome triggers, and bring change to your life. Sometimes doing it alone will result in relapsing back to where you were. 

5. Celebrating the success

After taking consistent action that you have decided along with your counselor and support system, you should see tangible results. You may even be surprised to see you are living a life you have always wanted to — free from traumatic flashbacks or bad habits. This would be the right time to celebrate your victories and keep adhering to the positive manners you have learned along the way.

Related Blog: Why We Experience Flashbacks

RDU Counseling for Change: Individual, couples, and family therapy sessions

Our counselors at RDU Counseling for Change have years of experience helping people with a wide range of problems. When you reach out for help to our expert counselors, you can rest assured that you are in safe hands and a judgment-free zone. If you have realized that it is high time to schedule a mental health counseling session, all us today at 919-713-0260 or e-mail to take the first step towards a better you!

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Healthy Boundaries

Healthy BoundariesWhich boundary did you grow up with and which do you think is healthy? 

A clear boundary helps people know where they end and another person begins.  - Kelly Harrison, MA, LMFT, LCMHC

1.  Rigid Boundary 

No apparent entry or exit point. People who live here are not accessible to the outside world and usually are closed off from family members. They live in fear.

2. Diffuse Boundary

Anyone can enter and do what they want because there is no safety and security. People who live here are not protected from the outside world and maybe not others in the home. They live in denial.

3. Clear Boundary

Only the residents can grant access to the home and choose how much access is granted. This provides a sense of security to those who live here. They live with protection and safety.
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Why Breathing is Important


Breathing Is Important - Man taking a deep breathWhy Breathing is Important

We all know that breathing is essential to human life, but it is crucial to understand the importance of the breathing process. 

With breathing, we inhale oxygen, which is then distributed throughout the body — therefore, it is important to know what we are breathing and how we are breathing. However, with changing times and lifestyles, it seems as though people have forgotten how to breathe correctly. Breathing can better benefit the body and boost the efficiency of everyday life and processes, when done mindfully.  

What Is the Correct Way to Breathe?

Before we dive into the different breathing exercises you can try at home, we must first learn how to breathe correctly. Breathing is not an isolated process — it works alongside and influences other bodily processes.

First and foremost, you must assess your posture. It is vital to maintain an upright sitting posture rather than a slouchy one, which does not offer adequate breathing room. Upright posture allows air to enter, distribute, and exit the system without any obstruction. 

While your focus is on breathing, do not forget about exhaling. Most people do not completely exhale, leaving carbon dioxide in their lungs. Try to expel all of the air out of the system, which will enable your lungs to function more efficiently.  

What are the Most Effective Breathing Exercises?

Breathing exercises are simply breathing with additional conditions to optimize your breathing experience and respiratory system. You can try the following breathing exercises at home:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing (Click here to learn more about the five steps to diaphragmatic breathing)
  • Pursed lip breathing
  • Breath focus technique

What are the Benefits of Breathing Exercises?

Breathing is Important - Woman taking a deep breath

Boosts immunity

A 2005 review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences shows that breathing can positively impact your immune functions. Breathing exercises raise the amount of oxygen in the body while also increasing the discharge of toxins, along with carbon dioxide. Increased oxygen in the tissues and cells helps them to be healthier and perform better. Organs that are healthier, and function properly, naturally benefit the body's immune response as well. Clean, oxygen-rich blood is more effective in combating pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Improved breathing will also aid in the body's absorption of minerals and vitamins.

Reduces anxiety

Psychologists recommend deep breathing to combat bouts of anxiety as well as incorporating breathing exercises into long-term treatment practices. Deep breathing assists in restoring normal heart rate and increasing oxygen levels, which helps signal the brain that it needs to relax. So if you ever feel anxious, depressed, lonely, or sad, take a deep breath. Deep breathing regularly will help balance the chemicals that release endorphins — often called the "feel-good" hormone — in the body.

Increases sleep quality

Per a 2018 article published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, better sleep can be achieved by deep breathing exercises that include complete exhalation of the air out from the lungs. Even those who suffer from sleeping disorders like insomnia can benefit from a deep breathing practice before bed.

Reduces the body's toxicity

Stress, bad dietary habits, and shallow exhalation make the body acidic, while deep breathing flushes all toxins, making the body alkaline. In other words, it detoxifies the body. Deep breathing also contributes to removing strain from the body by allowing lymph to circulate throughout the body.

Improves digestive system

Deep breathing improves the amount of oxygen in the digestive organs, allowing them to work better in treating gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion — also called dyspepsia or an upset stomach — and constipation. Proper digestion maintains the body's energy and wellness.

Improves heart health

Breathing exercises will help you strengthen your cardiovascular muscles and lower your blood pressure. Regular deep breathing also reduces the risk of stroke, also called "cerebrovascular accident." Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, lowering the 'fight or flight' response.

Improves concentration and cognitive skills

Regular breathing exercises can help you focus and concentrate better. It also enhances memory and cognitive functioning.

Provides healthy, radiant skin

According to a 2016 article published in Future Science OA, breathing exercises raise the oxygen levels in cells, resulting in healthy skin with an inner radiance. Breathing exercises also help burn fat and balance hormones, resulting in less stress and flawless skin.

Strengthens the body and joints

Breathing techniques raise the oxygen level in the cells, which strengthens the joints and muscles. It helps in minimizing the strain of physical exercise and the risk of muscle fatigue. The body's ability to withstand extreme body exertion improves.

Strengthen lungs

People's lungs have suffered considerably as a result of their lifestyle choices. Breathing exercises help to increase the amount of air in the lungs and diaphragm. It enhances lung flexibility, allowing for more breathing room.

Reach Out to RDU Counseling for Change

If you are interested in exploring the benefits of breathing exercises to calm your anxiety, you may want to reach out to expert counselors for a Raleigh therapy or counseling session. At RDU Counseling for Change, our wonderful counselors can provide you with mental health counseling in Wake County to effect the transformations you seek to improve your life. We provide a supportive, compassionate environment paired with evidence-based interventions to reduce emotional pain and foster interpersonal empowerment. We also offer individual, couples, and family therapy sessions. 

To book your online therapy in Raleigh, NC, or speak to an RDU counselor, call 919-713-0260.

 

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Tips for Improving Your Self Care

5 self care tips for stress 5 Self-Care Tips When You’re Always In A State of Stress   

1) Eat a blanced diet.  First, eat healthy foods.

2) ZzZzZzZ... Next, make sure to get enough sleep. 

3) Find your stress reliever.  I.E. walking, hobbies.

4) Spend time with family and friends. 

5) Give yourself a break. Take time to recharge.

 

 

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Mindfulness of Chronic Pain

Mindfulness of Chronic PainUnlike post-injury pain, chronic pain can linger for months or even years. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of chronic pain go far beyond physical strain and mobility issues.

This type of lasting pain can inhibit cognitive function and have a negative impact on one's mental health. If you suffer from chronic pain, it may also be difficult for you to socialize, sleep properly, or be productive and motivated at work. To that end, it can make you feel anxious, lonely, and depressed.

Thankfully, many studies—like the systematic review and meta-analysis posted on Annals of Behavioral Medicine journal—have discovered an effective and potent way of relieving chronic pain. It is none other than mindfulness—the most trusted, age-old "natural" therapy.

Mindfulness and Chronic Pain Management

It may sound strange that mental training can remedy a physical problem. However, mindfulness and meditation have been used to treat many physical ailments. Scientists have recently harnessed the power of mindfulness to treat chronic pain. Because there is currently no definitive cure for chronic pain, this treatment method is considered incredibly beneficial.

So, what exactly is mindfulness? And why is it recognized as a viable therapy for chronic pain?

We have all heard how meditation can help us live in the present moment, accept our true selves, and attain inner peace. This is the same principle that applies when discussing the role of mindfulness in treating chronic pain.

The primary reason meditation and mindfulness relieve physical pain is that our bodies only feel pain when our brain tells us to. So, if we train our brain to shift its focus away from the distraction of pain, and toward something more important, we will feel less pain.

Get it?

This is why mindfulness is thought to be a potent pain-relieving treatment. It helps us disengage from the distraction—in this case, our pain—and redirects our focus to something more meaningful (selective attention). When we use mindfulness to keep our minds wandering away from pain, it allows our body and brain to function normally.

Benefits of Mindfulness for Patients Suffering from Chronic Pain

If you suffer from chronic pain, the best gift you can give yourself is to practice mindfulness.

Today's lifestyle is highly taxing, and just about every other person is stressed. However, stress and depression are a no-no for patients with chronic pain.

Related Read: Specialization Series: Depression

When our bodies are under a stressful situation, they secrete particular hormones that increase inflammation and cause pain to body parts that are already hurting. Mindfulness can help solve this problem. When you meditate, your body releases good hormones called endorphins. These hormones naturally alleviate pain.

Typically, pain is accompanied by negative thoughts and feelings. It inhibits growth and prevents us from being happy. But when you meditate, you can purge yourself of all the negative thoughts weighing you down. This will improve the quality of life and help you remain happy by facilitating acceptance. Not to mention, mindfulness will help you get a decent night's sleep, which is particularly tough for chronic pain patients. When your sleep quality improves, so do your cognitive abilities and energy levels.

Another most common symptom of chronic pain is hypervigilance and fear avoidance. Chronic pain patients are hypervigilant, which means they are constantly aware of their physical discomfort. Additionally, they avoid situations that they anticipate will cause more pain (fear avoidance). With mindfulness, you can overcome both hypervigilance and fear avoidance. Mindfulness will help you shift your focus from your pain and make you feel relaxed by eliminating that lingering fear in your mind. This will help improve your mental health, which will help you cope better with chronic pain and make you feel stronger.

Top Mindfulness Techniques to Treat Chronic Pain

Here are some mindfulness techniques that will make you feel relaxed and alleviate your pain.

Guided meditation

In this technique, a person guides you and helps you meditate and relax. The soothing voice will ask you to close your eyes, sit in a relaxed position, and imagine certain positive scenarios. It will help you address your issues and come up with solutions. For the guided mindfulness sessions, you can either visit a mental health counselor in North Carolina or use an app on your phone that offers a guided meditation service.

Body scan

The body scan mindfulness practice will help you reconnect with your body and ease the pain. The primary goal of this practice is to make you feel relaxed. A body scan will help you connect with each part of your body, find the lingering tension, and relax those body parts. It will allow you to let go of the past and negative energy and focus on being present in the moment.

Mindful movement

Mindful movement is all about gently moving your body while being conscious of those movements. This is beneficial for patients with chronic pain as they get the best of both worlds: they get to exercise and be mindful. If you want to enjoy mindful movement further, you can go in the lap of nature, stroll, and focus on your steps as well as breathing. This will relieve you of your fear of movement and shift your focus from your pain to the picturesque landscapes.


Contact RDU Counselors for Your Dose of Therapeutic Mindfulness Sessions

If you want to embrace mindfulness to alleviate your chronic pain, you can trust RDU Counseling for Change. Our expert counselors in Wake County will guide you through our mindfulness therapies, which will leave you feeling relaxed and empowered.

We also offer family therapy and mental health counseling for couples and individuals suffering from a variety of disorders and concerns. Learn more about our counseling specializations by clicking here.

Our Raleigh therapy and counseling sessions have helped countless people live their lives without any fear or worry. To learn more about our online therapy in Raleigh, NC, please contact us by email at or by phone at (919) 713-0260.

 

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Dealing with Anxiety During A Pandemic


Dealing with anxiety during a pandemicHome has always been a place of respite from the anxiety and stress of living in the world. Whenever we felt sad, depressed, or heavy with the exhaustion of a long, stressful day at work, we would return to our homes. This was our safe haven, a place where we could cry our heart out to our loved ones, or sometimes, to our pillow.

Ironically, at the advent of the \coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is this very “safe haven” where we feel depressed, lonely, and anxious. Our lives have narrowed down to the four walls of our homes, and it seems claustrophobic to not be able to step out and meet our friends or travel. Our lives are now closeted in the small screens of our laptops and cell phones.
In fact, it is not that we are feeling more anxious these days, but rather that it had all been simmering underneath since the earliest news of the virus was made known. Life with masks, gloves, and PPE kits seemed unfamiliar and proved stressful to all of us. As the COVID-19 cases skyrocketed, so did anxiety.

In this blog, we are sharing a few tips that we hope will help you to deal with this pandemic-induced anxiety. But before that, let us first try to understand what anxiety really is.

Redefining Anxiety

Experiencing anxiety is part of being human. Sadly, anxiety never comes alone; it brings with itself feelings of restlessness, a lack of patience, trouble with sleeplessness, as well as constant worrying. When we speak of COVID-induced anxiety, we mainly speak from the base from the uncertainty that surrounds this pandemic.

No matter how well-prepared the government may try to be for what is coming next, no one can accurately predict when the pandemic will come to an end. No one knows when things will be back to normal, and a “maskless” life will resume. All of this uncertainty can quickly spiral out into overwhelming, almost incurable, panic.

But is anxiety that bad, after all?

As mentioned, experiencing anxiety is part of being human, but the emotions and feelings that it brings with itself are pretty unbearable. You would think it is really a beast within us that we must try to tame, but surprisingly, it is not. Our anxiety is like the male protagonist, the misunderstood beast from the movie Beauty and the Beast. It may look terrifying from the outside, but there is a sensitive soul behind the fearsome facade. Likewise, our anxiety is an unpleasant beast, but it's only motive is to protect us from forthcoming threats (or what we perceive as a threat). All of its intentions are right, but our perception of it is flawed. Anxiety is impatient and wants to know when all of this will come to an end. It seeks our welfare; therefore, it is desperately waiting on the complete cure for this virus.

How to manage Pandemic-Induced Anxiety

Listed below are many things that you can do to alleviate your anxiety.

1. Do NOT check the news obsessively
Yes, it is good to stay informed, but you have to understand that in such a time when people cannot witness things in person and are solely dependent on visual media, there is likely a lot of misinformation. On top of it, sensationalistic coverage only feeds into fear. Therefore, where COVID-related news is covered, it is crucial to tune in to genuine sources, such as WHO, CDC, and local health authorities.

2. Shift your focus to things you CAN control
This is a time when uncertainty is at its peak. If you ask questions that have no reliable answers, you will be further pulled into the sea of anxiety and may end up depressed and sad. Instead, shift your focus to things that are under your control. You can control what you do to steer clear of COVID - wash your hands, avoid touching your face, stay at home, avoid crowds, eat healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep to boost your immune system.

3. Stay connected
Though you have to maintain physical distance, make sure to stay in touch with your friends and family to keep your anxiety from exacerbating. If you need, reach out to them for support and schedule regular phone or ZOOM calls so that you do not feel lonely and depressed. Most importantly, whenever talking to your friends or family, do not let the ongoing pandemic be the main topic of your conversations.

4. Practice self-care
Though it is easier said than done, try to maintain a routine as best as you can. Stick to your regular schedule whether it is for sleep, eating, or work. This will help you maintain a sense of normalcy and keep chaos at bay. Make some time for activities that you enjoy doing, and do not forget to exercise regularly, as staying active will help you to release anxiety, alleviate stress, and uplift your mood.

5. Help others
If you want to be happier and healthier, remember to help those in need, as all of us are in this crisis together. Not only will your help make others happy, but it will benefit your own mental well-being. Through helping others, you can regain a sense of control, and lessen those feelings of powerlessness. Did you know that helping others can also prolong your life?

6. Consider therapy
If you are feeling hopelessly anxious, we recommend that you consider mental health counseling. Although we know that the usual avenue towards counseling in Wake County - where you could physically meet the counselors - is not quite possible, help is available with RDU Counseling for Change.

RDU Counseling for Change is offering online therapy in Raleigh, NC, via telehealth. Be it individual, couples, or family therapy, our counselors are trained to deal with patients suffering from anxiety and depression. The Raleigh therapy provided by expert RDU counselors will surely help you alleviate this pandemic-induced anxiety. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at (919) 713-0260.

The Last Word

Follow all these tips to help you address pandemic-induced anxiety, and the next time anxiety does come your way, treat it with compassion. This is the only way to reduce your suffering.

 

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5 Steps to Diaphragmatic Breathing

 5 Steps to Diaphragmatic Breathing Start by sitting down and getting comfortable. 

#1 Begin to slow down and deepen your breath

#2 When you inhale, stomach goes out, as you exchale, stomach goes in 

#3 Inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose or mouth

#4 Lengthen the breath out

#5 Pair the breath with a postivie memory or calming word you prefer 

Ultimately, the breath should feel natural and calming. 

  841 Hits

The Cycle of Emotion and Understanding Your Coping Mechanism

An image of a man with a depressed expressionAttachment is a deep emotional bond between people through which comfort and security are found. When we are upset about something or when we find ourselves dealing with a traumatic situation, our brain is unable to process our emotions all at once. This results in different interpretations and meanings by the brain, which may not always be correct. This blog will discuss the cycle of emotion and how we can understand our coping mechanism.

Your Hidden Fear
We all have certain fears, and we have our own ways of dealing with them. Sometimes we ignore our fears, and we tend to avoid them. On the other hand, some people deal with their fear according to how their brain perceives it. Their response may seem irrational to some people and oftentimes even unacceptable. But in their minds, this is the right response because that’s what their brain tells them.

Let’s take an example. For instance, if you have a fear of making the wrong choices or constantly saying or doing the wrong things, how you react to it will be much different and even eccentric to most people. Maybe you will stop talking to people, or maybe you will become socially awkward.

The Emotions Others See
If we consider the same example, we might notice people avoiding us or not paying enough attention to us. This is because we have become the odd one out. This further adds to anxiety and increases our emotional need for attachment and acceptance. We find ourselves longing for the need to belong and feel the comfort and security of attachment.

The Way You Perceive It
Let’s consider another example now. Let’s suppose that you are upset about something that happened, and now you don’t know how to react. You find yourself feeling attached to things that you know are not good for you, but you still hold on to them because that is the only way you know how to deal with them. This is because there is an influx of emotions that your brain is trying to process, and since you can’t find that form of attachment anywhere else, you hold on to the one thing you find comfort and security in.

NYC Therapy suggests that there are certain experiences we have had either in our childhood or in our adult life, which also define how we perceive things. We become victims of some events which determine our emotions and judgment.

What Should You Do?
There are ways to deal with your emotional cycle. The first and foremost thing you should do is give yourself some time and express your emotions to someone. This will take a load off your shoulders and you will eventually feel better afterward. Anyone who is going through a tough time deserves to speak about their feelings. You can consider therapy sessions that will help you deal with your emotional attachment needs. RDU Counseling for Change can help you improve how your brain responds to certain events by offering counseling sessions for you and your loved ones. You can also get in touch with us here if you have any questions.

 

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Tips for Fighting Holiday Stress

Tips for Fighting Holiday Stress A man lying down and getting a head massage to relieve stress while on a holiday. 

Stress is our mind and body’s way of telling us that something scary may happen. It happens to everyone for different reasons whether it is an approaching work deadline, an overdue project or examination, a wedding or any other event.

Most people take the holidays to get away from all the stress and relax. However, holiday stress is a whole new ballgame. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. The numbers are much higher for women. Survey respondents also are less prone to engage in healthy coping strategies during this time of year.

How Our Bodies React to Stress

In situations where we have low motivation, stress can be a catalyst that motivates us to get things done. However, when it starts piling on for unnecessary or mundane reasons, it can have negative effects on our mental and physical health.

Stress can turn into anxiety, which can lead to a panic attack. In its mild or “normal” state, stress is a gut-clenching feeling. You may experience heart palpatations, sweating, headache, stomachache, or shortness of breath. But overall, it’s purpose is to trigger your natural fight-or-flight response so you can take action. This is helpful when there is an actual threat or deadline. However, in other situations, it can cause more distress.

What is helpful to realize is that your body also has a natural relaxation mechanism that can reverse your body’s defense mechanisms. Your brain calms down and so does your heart, immune system, breathing, and your chemical responses. You can get back to your normal state. It may take longer for those who have extreme stress, but eventually, there are ways you can destress.

Tips for Beating Holiday Stress

It’s okay when stress gets to you during the holidays. Who doesn’t get stressed by the obligatory get together with extended family or trying to make the holiday perfect for everyone? Below, we’ve mentioned some tips that could help you alleviate stress so you can enjoy your holiday instead of fretting over the small things.

Breathe

It may sound cliché, but controlling and guiding your breath can work wonders in stressful and anxious situations. When your body is stressed, it reduces the amount of oxygen flowing to different body parts. By using diaphragmatic breathing (also known as belly breathing), you are able to increase oxygen to your brain and cause your body to relax. This one technique can have an immediate effect, so this should be the first response for beating holiday stress.

Be Ready to Adapt

Expect things not to go exactly according to plan by preparing yourself for potential changes and mishaps. Recognize your disappointment and frustration as it arises; it is valid after all. But then accept what you cannot change. This will reduce some of the stress that unexpected situations cause. You don’t always know exactly what can go wrong, but having some idea can lessen the anxiousness.

Budget

Finances and overspending are universal stressors, especially during the holidays. The stress of travel expenses, accommodation, food, shopping, and other expenses can be overwhelming. One way to reduce this stress is by creating an honest budget before your holiday. If you don’t have enough financial resources, don’t do it. 

Manage Unrealistic Expectations

People often assume that this holiday will cure all their anxiety. You expect everything to be perfect and go as you planned. You may even assume that everyone will be perfectly happy all the time. While it’s human nature to hope for great family members and connection, you need to recognize what may be unmanageable and unrealistic expectations. Somebody will have a sour mood and the weather might not be perfect. We’re not telling you to expect the worse. We are just telling you to be optimistic in a realistic way.

RDU Counseling for Change can help you with stress and anxiety issues. With a few sessions, we can help determine the root cause of your stress and equip you with ways to cope with it and enjoy a much more relaxed life. Contact us today.

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Three Ways to Manage Your Anxiety When a Pandemic Occurs

Pandemic mask. The coronavirus is known for its potent viral nature, allowing it to spread quickly from person to person. As of right now, the world is suffering a terrible pandemic, the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Because of the rapid spread of this virus all over the globe, and with no vaccine in sight for the foreseeable future, it has left virtually all of us in a state of stress. 

Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. However, such a condition can potentially weaken the immune system. Overcoming this stress is key to making ourselves less vulnerable to the virus. Here are three ways to manage your anxiety in the midst of this pandemic. 

1. Get More Physical 
Physical health has a clear link to your mental health. If you are not looking after yourself and eating unhealthy snack foods, you are more likely at risk of developing poor mental health conditions. While you need to be indoors, this is no reason to skip out on some exercise. Not only does being physically active help boost your mental health, including combating the risk of anxiety but it’s good for the body’s immune system as well. There are many types of exercises you can do at home and without needing any special equipment. You can go for a walk while maintaining your social distance. You also can do some calisthenics in your yard or family room. Many gyms or fitness studios are offering virtual workouts in which members can participate.

2. Have a Good Night's Sleep 
A well-rested body provides stronger protection against viruses. It is good for your mental health as well. Improper sleep can be extremely detrimental for the brain, impairing cognitive functions such as thinking and feeling. This can make you more easily stressed and thus vulnerable to anxiety. 

Of course, if you are already suffering from anxiety and stress, it can be difficult to get a good night's sleep. A good way to overcome trouble with sleep is through cognitive theory. Identify and write down the fears contributing to your anxiety and replace them with more positive and rational thoughts. In the midst of a pandemic, you may remind yourself that you are doing your best to keep yourself and others safe by staying home. Another way is to practice mindfulness or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). When our bodies are stressed, they tend to tense. PMR helps us to focus on our muscles and intentionally tense and then relax them. Some helpful apps to walk you through these steps are CALM, iBreathe, PMR, and Superchill. 

3. Quarantine Your Mind
Protection against a physical illness requires you to isolate yourself from the outside world. In a similar way, to better protect yourself from anxiety and other negative mental conditions, it is important to quarantine your mind and unplug yourself from the constant doom and gloom you are exposed to on social media and on the news. It also is a good idea to schedule facetime or zoom meetings with friends and loved ones. This will allow you to not feel so isolated emotionally and socially, even if you are physically.  

RDU Counseling for Change helps people suffering from anxiety and stress-induced mental health conditions. Due to the Coronavirus, our counselors are only meeting with clients via telehealth for the foreseeable future. For any queries or further details, email us at or call us at 919-713-0260.

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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Combat It?

RDU What is Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Combat ItSeasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is characterized by a seasonal shift in overall mood. For most people, winter months are usually when SAD symptoms are at their most intense, though some people may experience them more in the summer. Annually, around 5 percent of the U.S. population will suffer from this seasonal depression. Younger people and females tend to be higher at risk. There are many forms of SAD treatments available. Some of the most common types are mentioned below:

 

Psychotherapy
Also known as talk therapy, in this treatment, a counselor will try to identify triggers that may be making your symptoms worse and attempt to remedy them. They will coach you on how to manage your stress better and cope with the symptoms of SAD. Some strategies include exercise and doing the opposite of what your depression is telling you to do. For example, instead of staying in bed all day, get up and go outside for a walk. Also, instead of withdrawing from your family and friends, get involved and participate in social activities. Even though you may not feel like it, your feelings may follow these changes in your behavior.


Light Therapy
Light therapy involves the patient sitting a few feet away from a lightbox that mimics natural outdoor light within the first hour of waking up each day. While research on this therapy remains limited, tests have shown it to be quite effective in treating SAD with minimal side effects. Positive results usually start showing within the first few days of the therapy.

Medications
Medications, such as anti-depressants, can be used for treating SAD symptoms. The doctor will usually advise you to start taking the medication before the symptoms typically appear each year as well as continue it for a length of time after the symptoms disappear. There are many different anti-depressants available on the market, and it is important to consult your doctor on which one is best for you.

Exercise
There is plenty of evidence that regular exercise can be good for your mood and help you better cope with symptoms of depression. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and dopamine that can give you a euphoric feeling. Exercise also helps to balance your body’s stress hormones.

Concluding Note
Since many of its symptoms can be familiar to other forms of depression, SAD can be hard to diagnose and treat on your own. RDU Counseling for Change helps individuals suffering from the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder get the most effective treatment for the condition. For any queries or further details, email us at or call us at 919-713-0260.

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Suicide and the Grieving Process

Death is not an easy topic to understand or talk about for many people. When someone dies by suicide, that difficulty is compounded. This is because suicide deaths are catastrophic losses that combine both grief and trauma.

Coping with a loved one’s suicide reaches the same levels of psychological trauma brought on by war and genocide. Survivors of such horrific events frequently reorganize their lives into two categories: before and after it happened. Often this is true for “suicide survivors” because they are the friends and family members who must cope with a sudden, tragic death that takes on such instant magnitude.

Before we delve more deeply into why grief for suicide is inherently different than dealing with other types of loss, let’s first establish a general understanding of the grieving process.

Overview of the grief process
The grieving process does not come to us in a one-size-fits-all form; resources vary widely as to which and how many phases a grieving person experiences. Many experts agree that it includes some combination of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Albert Hsu, the author of Grieving a Suicide, suggests that there are more emotions involved like shock, loneliness, panic, guilt, resentment, and hope or affirmation.

Personal grief takes its own path, so it is important to allow space and time for yourself or someone who is grieving to experience the process fully, however it manifests.

Grief process for suicide survivors
Now let’s consider three particular areas of the grieving process surrounding suicide. Before we do, please note that the descriptions and explanations below are offered as broad strokes to help gather perspective about suicide and grief. Each individual story and circumstance of suicide will have unique points of pain and importance that cannot be accounted for in this overview.

Many suicide survivors will ask themselves questions about “why” the death happened. They will experience intense emotional turmoil and will often face difficulties lamenting and remembering the loved one.

Why did this happen?
It’s natural for suicide survivors to become preoccupied by the question, “Why.” The struggle to answer this question can threaten to take over the entire grieving process. Asking “why” may connect to underlying fears in a survivor’s mind that they contributed to a loved one’s decision to die. It is critical that suicide survivors understand that suicidal acts develop over time, and a suicide decision cannot be attributed to a single event in anyone’s life.

Emotional turmoil
The trauma that complicates grieving a suicide stirs a range of emotions that can, at times, be confusing, overwhelming, or even debilitating. Losing someone to suicide can feel like the ultimate rejection or abandonment, an act of complete finality that does not offer a chance for response. It’s also common for survivors to experience feelings of relief, especially if a loved one’s suicide was preceded by lengthy bouts with mental illness or additional suicide attempts. Suicide survivors often struggle with intense rage and shame in the grieving process as well.

The possible range of emotions goes well beyond what is mentioned here. Conflicting and difficult emotions can be disorienting, and coping with them can consume a lot of energy.

Lamenting and remembering
The word “lament” is rarely used in regular conversation, but it basically means active practices that make sense of and articulate grief. These practices allow you to form a truthful, sensible account of how your loved one died, which can be harder to formulate due to the associated trauma.

Depending on cultural context, suicide deaths can also evoke euphemisms or carry stigmas that lead survivors to feel shame or denial about their circumstances. Grieving processes that become paralyzed by these feelings may never be fully resolved, but lamenting opens up very personal ways for suicide survivors to navigate toward the internal healing they need.

Remembering the friend or family member who died could initially be painful for suicide survivors. As a result, positive, healthy remembrance often comes later in the grief process than it would otherwise, so suicide survivors should remain patient with this step. The hope is for suicide survivors to eventually enjoy and honor the happy, fond memories they have of their loved one.

Resources
As noted, this overview is not exhaustive in describing the grief or experience of being a suicide survivor. If you need help with this kind of grief, please contact RDU Counseling for Change to schedule a time to speak with one of our professional counselors. (Email: or call: 919-713-0260).

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How You Can Use Nature for a Brilliant Self-Care Routine

Man walking dog in natureThere are countless times during an average day where you just want to head out into nature to have time to care for yourself. You shouldn’t feel guilty for indulging in a little bit of self-care. After all, that is the least you can do for yourself. 

With the busy routines that we have, our minds and our bodies can easily fall prey to exhaustion and become susceptible to numerous ailments. Keeping this in mind, you should follow a self-care program or routine that helps you ease the pressures on your mind and get closer to nature.

Below are some of the ways through which you can use the power of nature to initiate a self-care routine. 

Head Out for a Mid-day Walk 

As humans we have become caught up in our work, suffering at the hands of the downsides that come with remaining indoors, seated at a desk, and living a sedentary lifestyle. But this busyness of routine and work, even during the supposedly lazy afternoons of summer, can bog us down. Remaining indoors without stepping out into nature can have a debilitating impact on our mind and worsen symptoms of depression and  anxiety. 

When your mind is spinning or overwhelmed, head outside for a walk. Even a short jaunt can have innumerable benefits. Your brain needs a break, and walking outside in nature is the best way to give it the rest it requires. But try to disengage and be present while walking. Use your five senses and watch the movement of tree branches in the breeze or hear the birds calling to each other. As you observe these things, you may be surprised to feel a sense of calm come upon you in which you are more refreshed and focused. Whether returning to work or engaging with family, notice how this simple task can change your mood. 

Take a Day Out for the Park 

You should always leave time in your schedule to take a day out for a trip to the park or a botanical garden. Such a trip can help you relax your brain and focus on all that is happening around you. The exotic smell of the floral setting will go well with the greenery of nature to give your mind the peace that it so desperately craves. 

Dine Under the Sky 

This is something that you can surely take some time out for. Whenever you are dine outside with friends, or alone, make it a habit to go for outdoor spaces over indoor spaces. Dining outdoors can have multiple benefits, including the view of the sky and the wonderful sense of fresh breeze kissing your skin. 

Outdoor Yoga 

For those who enjoy yoga, it can create wonders if done within nature. Head to a park with a yoga group, and pull out your yoga mat to get the best exercise. Practicing yoga when you are close to nature can have a positive impact on your health and mind. It brings peace to your mind and focus where it is required. 

RDU Counseling for Change aims to help individuals looking to better their mental health in any part of their journey. Get in touch with us today by visiting our website or call us at 919-713-0260 to schedule an appointment. 

 

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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

    MA, LCMHC
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Hugo Izzo

    LCMHC
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Bryon Lawrence

    LCMHC
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
  • Breanna Linn

    LCMHCA
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate
  • Sallie Ratcliffe

    LCMHCA
    Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate