We have all heard the expressions: “Good Vibes Only”, “Think Positive”, and “Be Happy”. It was refreshing to read the recent blog posted by S. Wall that brought to our attention the toxicity of always seeking positivity.
As a therapist, I have long believed that suffering, loss, and pain are not feelings simply to be medicated or avoided. Instead, we can strive to process and absorb them. Despite the messages we may receive, it is important to experience your painful feelings. Feeling sorrow, fear, and grief at times is not only normal and okay, but necessary to experience, so they can be released. The full spectrum of emotions must be felt; it is virtually impossible to embrace elation without knowing disappointment—a titular paradox that there is no happiness without sadness.
Melancholy is a species of sadness that arises when one is open to the fact that life can be inherently challenging, and that suffering and disappointment are core parts of universal experience. Feeling down at times is not a disorder that needs to be cured.
Modern society tends to emphasize buoyancy and cheerfulness, but we must admit that reality is in part about pain and loss. The good life is not one immune to sadness, but one in which this emotion contributes to our development and growth.
As humans we were born with the ability to feel the whole range of our emotions from elation to despair. Figuring out how to do this in a healthy way is an important part of growing into a mature adult. How do we deal with both melancholy and joy? How do we straddle these in a way that feels genuine and true to ourselves?
Although this journey is not always paved with ease, there is a round map. We can follow a guide to help us identify and walk through these feelings in a way that is both productive and nurturing.
The first step in experiencing painful feelings is to notice what is going on inside of you. Identify what it is you are feeling by naming it and locating where it resides in your body. Ask yourself directly: “Is it disappointment, grief, fear, loneliness, rejection, shame, or another feeling?” Brene Brown, in her most recent book, reminds us that there are 88 human emotions, and the name we give to them dictates how they are interpreted physiologically and mentally. Our bodies react differently if we term our state stress or overwhelmed; being precise in this diction is key. If it is fear you identify, notice what other feelings are underneath that fear. Do you feel lonely or abandoned? Pay attention to what is going on inside your body. Are there areas of tension, pain, or other sensations? These sensations are where the feelings live in your body.
The next step is to find a safe way to express the feelings. Healthy ways to release your feelings are by:
- Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or therapist
- Use self-dialogue that is compassionate
- Recognize your triggers: People, situations, and places often hold strong associations. If you find yourself feeling emotionally blocked when it comes to certain triggers, it may be worth avoiding them when possible.
- Limit your distractions: Cell phones, television, music, or video games hold many people’s attention hostage. Once you turn off the noise, you will be better able to tap into your inner feelings and express them outward.
- Write in the form of journaling or poetry: Regardless of your skills, writing is an effective way to express emotions and communicate with others.
- Practice Acceptance: Try to accept those aspects of your life that are out of your control. Doing so will make you feel better while freeing up your mind to become more emotionally expressive.
- Be Grateful
- Explore a novel interest: Getting out of your comfort zone often leads to greater emotional expression and wellbeing.
Hiding your emotions limits the honesty of your communication. Being in touch with yourself allows you to be in better touch with others. Hold the space for the full spectrum of feelings.
Written by Francine Baffa, LICSW, BCBA-D
Edited by Joe DeNoon
As posted at Operation Happy Nurse
Sometimes when you’re in a relationship, you can start to forget who you really are. These 4 tips can help you stay true to yourself.
Have Personal Time:
Just because you live with your partner does not mean you have to be together all the time. It’s not healthy to be around one person 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Having alone time can help keep the spark alive and allow you and your partner to miss one another.
Keep Up With Your Hobbies:
It’s common for couples to have similar interests and hobbies. At the same time, you can’t let your partner’s hobbies stop you from participating in your own.
Spending your afternoon finishing a painting or reading a story doesn’t mean you don’t want to be with your partner. It just means you have other interests, and that’s okay!
When you’re in a relationship, it’s very important, to be honest with yourself and your partner. Here’s an example. Let’s say your partner asks you to move in, but you don’t think you’re ready. Don’t put off telling them how you feel. Even if you think the news may upset them, you have to be honest. This helps you continually adjust the relationship to keep it running well.
Loving your partner doesn’t mean you have to do everything they want to do. It is completely okay for partners to disagree and have different ideas. If your partner ever asks you to do something you aren’t comfortable with, don’t be afraid to tell them. They will never know how you feel unless you’re honest.Learn More
Everyone worries and doubts themselves sometimes. It is completely natural and part of life. However, too much of anything is not a good thing – especially excessive worrying.
Anxiety can be very exhausting, draining and even impact our relationships.
We all experience anxiety in our own way. Sometimes we can feel it approaching, and sometimes it can come out of nowhere.
The next time you catch yourself feeling anxious, these 3 tips can help.
Several studies have shown that just a few minutes of slow and deep breathing can significantly decrease anger, anxiety and even pain.
Keep in mind; you do not want to breathe in too fast or too heavy.
The key is to breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth.
Don’t rush. Take your time. Focus on nothing else but your breathing.
Not all workouts need to take place at the gym. In fact, there are several physical activities you can complete at home or in your own backyard.
It is a common misconception that all workouts need to be intense and high impact in order to be effective. That is far from the truth.
A 15-minute walk around your neighbourhood can be very relaxing and help ease anxiety.
Sometimes when we are anxious, it can be hard to think clearly, and our mind can instantly jump to worst-case scenarios.
Once we get stuck on a path of negative emotions, it can be tough to bounce back.
Writing down our fears and negative thoughts can help us better understand them and challenge them.
If you’re not sure where to even begin, here are a few self-reflection questions that can help you get started:
1) Why am I feeling anxious right now?
2) What small steps can help me feel better?
3) How have I dealt with similar situations in the past?Learn More
Boredom isn’t always a bad thing. It can teach us patience and encourage creative thinking. However, like most things in life, too much of anything is not healthy. For many months now, children have been learning at home and seeing their friends virtually.
Even though staying at home is keeping us safe, the truth is some days can be a little boring. If your children have been complaining of boredom lately, here are some tips that can help.
So many children miss seeing their friends at school, going on playdates and participating in after-school activities.
Even though we are spending the vast majority at home, that doesn’t mean we can’t spend time with the people we love.
Get-togethers will just have to take place over Zoom.
Weekly Zoom calls with friends can boost your child’s mood and give them something to look forward to every week. Work with your children to create a game, fun questions or activity they can do in order to create engagement while on Zoom with friends.
Looking at the same four walls every day can be tough. It’s always nice to get a change of scenery and spend time in nature. Even if it is a little chilly outside, spending as little as 10 minutes a day outdoors can boost your child’s mood and increase their energy levels.
You can take family walks around the block, or your child can play or read in the backyard. To make sure each walk looks and feels different, always go a different route or direction. Anything different is good to help being present.
Preplan with a word game, a guessing game such as “eye spy with my little eye”, or fun questions. That can help keep the walk more interesting and engaging.
Listen To Upbeat Music:
Music is a wonderful thing. It can energize, motivate and inspire us.
Now, tasks like homework and reading should be completed in silence with minimal distractions. However, more mundane tasks like chores can easily be completed with fun music playing in the background.
Not only will it help pass the time, but it’ll also make chores more fun.Learn More
As a parent, you probably woke up one morning and realized your child has become a teenager. This is a big change. Yet, while this is a new challenge for you, at least you were a teen once. It’s important to remember your teen is going through changes too, for the first time. So things seem bigger for them.
If you remember, being a teenager is not easy. Everything from homework to friends to wanting to fit in can be very stressful. Teens need to be able to talk and share to help manage that stress.
Your teen will only talk and share if you have a good relationship with them. Unfortunately, most teens prefer to talk to their friends because their friends will listen versus lecture.
Here are a few tips that can help you better communicate with them and keep your relationship strong. Getting out of that parent/teacher/lecturer role is critical. Here’s how you can do that.
Validate Their Feelings
It’s normal for parents to want to jump in and solve all their children’s problems and worries. You know the answers, right? However, when you do that you communicate to them that they aren’t capable, which hurts their self-esteem. Instead, focus on validating their feelings first.
You may not always agree with how your teen reacts or feels, but that doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t valid. Validating their feelings has nothing to do with agreeing with the facts. “I can see this is hard for you.” Or, “I don’t blame you for feeling this way.” Statements like this communicate acceptance. Acceptance strengthens the relationship.
The next time your teen is upset, don’t fix anything. Instead, be there and listen without judgement and validate their feelings. Then you can ask them what they think might help or work for them? Now you can brainstorm – do not solve it for them!
Sometimes all we need is someone to listen to us.
Control Your Emotions
Almost every single teen experiences mood swings.
It’s normal for them to say things they don’t mean or be reactive to their emotions. When we’re upset, we can’t always think clearly and look at things logically. If you have trouble with that, don’t expect them to do what you can’t. This is a key area that we work with in therapy – emotional regulation.
Even though it may be hard at times, the next time your teen loses their temper, try your best to stay calm and be validating and empathetic. “I know you’re upset right now.” Or, “I can see this really frustrates you.” Statements like these lower the fight/flight response and help get them into their thinking and reasoning brain.
Once your teen has calmed down, the two of you can discuss the situation and come up with a game plan.
Do Fun Things Together
Sitting down and having a conversation isn’t the only way to communicate. Doing activities together you both enjoy can strengthen your relationship.
You can go to the movies, hike, or take a cooking class. It’s completely up to you. You might be surprised how much they talk and share while doing activities with you.
The more positive experiences you share, the deeper your bond will become.
Eat Dinner Together
When teens have a lot going on, it isn’t always easy to participate in family time. Having consistent family dinners is a great way for families to connect.
Your dinners don’t have to fancy. All you need is good food and good conversation.
Spending time letting your teen drive the conversation, talking about what interests them, and keep getting to know them. Be validating of their feelings and try to coach them instead of lecture and “fix” their problems. Do these things and you’ll improve your communication and relationship with your teen.Learn More
Back-to-school season is always a challenging time for kids and parents alike. No more free summer schedules of sleeping in. It’s time to wake up early, get back into a routine and head off to school. Except this year, school will look different right from the start, as learning will be done virtually for most kids.
There are some things you can do as a parent, to help your child get into a routine steady and make sure your children’s learning is not too disrupted, especially for the first days back.
Create a Consistent Routine
One of the best ways to get started right, is to create and follow a consistent daily routine. This will build clear expectations of what’s next and minimize distractions. A routine will also help turn transitions into habits over time. Habits are things kids can do faster without much push back. The routine has a start time, breaks, lunch, recess and an ending. This type of detail will help them transition back to in-person school, when it happens.
Create a Dedicated Work Space – Not Their Bed
Having a place set up specifically for school time, including supplies for their lessons, will help them settle into that consistent routine. When they are at the desk or table and surrounded by the things their brain associated with school, children will shift into thinking about school. Just like when we go to work, we shift into work mode. Their bed is already associated with relaxation and sleep. This is why their bed is a poor choice for school work.
Make the Schedule Visual
Once you figure out what the daily routine looks like, make a chart, use pictures, make it a visual experience so they can learn to follow it. This gives them a resource to consult instead of simply asking you. When you are inevitably asked “what’s next?”, your reply can be, “I’m not sure. Have you checked the schedule?” This is a solid step towards helping children manage their own time and schedules as well as learning to solve their own problems.
When it is time for a break, make sure that break is a ‘move your body’ break, not a screen break. Kids are bouncy balls of potential energy waiting to bounce. Sitting for hours in front of a computer is far from ideal. So when it’s break time, get them outside to run, jump and burn off that excess energy. That will help them manage their fidgety bodies better during the virtual lessons.
Put in some framework work up front to build a routine, then help your children follow it. This effort up front will help make the rest of a difficult year easier.Learn More
Have traumatic experiences in your past?
Are painful emotions overwhelming you?
Do you turn to substances to cope?
Do addictions control you?
Past experiences can cause real pain. When you can’t escape the resulting emotions from those experiences, even if it was years ago, many will turn to substances to ease that emotional pain. Trauma can lead to a reliance on and even an addiction to substances. Trauma becomes a gateway to addictions, which makes life even more difficult.
What is trauma?
Trauma is defined as an emotional response to a shocking event like a terrible car accident or a violent experience. Immediately after the event, the sufferer typically experiences a jolt to their physical and emotional system. Their brain must store and be able to recall the experience in order to protect from potentially similar experiences. Trauma can be a one-time event. It can also be “complex” when the experience happens over and over.
Unfortunately, as life continues the sufferer can be highly sensitive to reminders or have flashbacks of the event accompanied with the same intense emotions as though it’s all happening again. This “re-experience” can include physical symptoms like chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and gastrointestinal issues. The resulting experience is overwhelming and miserable.
What is addiction?
Addiction here is defined as any substance, thing or activity to which one seeks out repeatedly despite negative consequences. This can be anything from gambling, shopping, going to the gym, using alcohol, nicotine or illegal substances. Through these external substances or activities, a need is getting met. The need to escape the pain! This activates the reward and reinforcement part of the brain creating motivation to continue even though there are strong reasons to stop. If you want to read more, here is an article at Psychologytoday.com that goes further into addiction
What to do?
If you’re using substances or activities to numb or distract yourself from the pain of trauma and want to stop, it’s challenging to know where to begin. Giving up the addiction without a new skill or tool might be too difficult. How would you cope when the thoughts and emotions return? On the flip side, it’s very difficult to make progress in trauma work if you’re using a substance and maintaining the old pain/reward system. This prevents you from learning new tolerance and practicing new skills.
You need support
If you can break an addiction on your own, fantastic. However, if you can’t you might need some backup. Healing from the trauma so that it becomes only a memory and not a trigger for overwhelming emotions is the goal and possible. This is where a skilled counselor you trust, can make the difference. Having someone to guide you toward healing, being compassionate about the addiction, while working to help you break the reliance is key.
Tools like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Lifespan Integration Therapy along with gold standards like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, are techniques we use at Bellevue Family Counseling. If you’re looking to get off the slippery slope and break free, book an appointment and get started today.
Experiencing an impact or blow to the head can create what is known as Traumatic Brain
Injury, or TBI. This is defined as an injury that occurs within the cranium when an external force impacts and injures the brain. When that external force injures the soft tissue of the brain, it is called TBI.
TBI – the “invisible” injury
Unlike a broken bone, the injury isn’t so obvious. The “invisible” injury of the brain can greatly impact not only one’s ability to function but also to manage the resulting distress. Emotions commonly experienced by individuals fighting to recover can be overwhelming, such as anger, sadness, and grief. These can lead to anxiety, hopelessness, and depression. This is exactly what counseling can help manage and reduce.
Medical doctors for physical healing are critical. Occupational therapists to manage the physical recovery are critical. Counseling to have support for managing the overwhelming emotions are important as well. This is what we can help with at Bellevue Family Counseling.
Counseling for TBI
In addition to helping manage the difficult emotions that arise from TBI, counseling can also support your relationships, help with problems that arise and provide tools to manage the stress that life brings. At Bellevue Family Counseling, we have two excellent counselors available to support you on your journey back to being your best self.
Erin Manhardt works with teens and young adults who have suffered from TBI. Contact Erin through her team profile here.Learn More