All posts in Stress

Responding to Difficult Events

Responding to Difficult Events

Traumatic experiences are in the headlines almost daily.  It’s hard to not see it.  Unfortunately, our kids see it too, and they don’t have the same reasoning abilities that adults do to understand, or not be overly scared about the things that happen.  How do we strike a balance between letting our kids know and shielding them from the realities of our country and the world? How do we do that for ourselves?  We have many skills in managing anxiety that may help.  They are in categories of distraction, management of physical symptoms and thinking properly about the situation.

aware-1207670_1920Distraction – this is more than just turning our eyes away from something and not thinking about it.  It helps us have a manageable “bite” of what is going on.  This might come in the form of putting down your phone or turning off the TV, it might be taking a few deep breaths, or it might just be focusing your thoughts on something else for a while.  We can still think and do something about upsetting events even if we don’t constantly get the news, or are constantly talking about it.

Managing Physical Symptoms– when you feel your heart starting to pick up speed, or your breaths get more shallow, it’s time for some management.  You will need to consciously take deeper breaths and exhale deeply, as well.  This will help both your heart and your breathing.  The idea is this:  in order for your brain to function well, it needs oxygen.  It needs other things too, but it needs the oxygen that we take in to be able to clearly think.  The more oxygen you give it, the better it can perform for you.  The more deeply you breathe, the better opportunity you give your brain to think of other options, be able to access things you know and commit them to memory.

beautiful-day-1374424_1920Thinking Properly About the Situation – There are awful things that have happened all over the world, and we seem to get instant and constant information about it.  If you are a “news junkie” you might consider how long you have been watching/reading and see if you have learned anything new in the last few minutes.  If not, it’s time to give it a rest.  Repetition is only going to cement it into your memory.  Take a break, remember that you are safe in your own home and in your own location.  Take some time to think about what you have seen and maybe pray about the situation.

sadness-1325507_960_720Our kids need the same kind of help.  Each parent needs to manage the amount of content their children see, the things they are thinking about them and if there are any negative symptoms after having seen or heard about terrible things.  If your child develops nightmares or fears based on hearing about an event, then maybe they need to talk about it more with you.  They might not be ready to hear about these kinds of news events.  Remind your children that they are safe, remind them that you will always protect them, and remind them what we learned from Mr. Rogers – to always look for the helpers and see the good things that people are doing to make the situation better.

You will need to be available for your kids to answer other questions they may have.  Teenagers usually have some understanding based on what they are learning about the event from school, but may need some guidance in how to proceed or integrate what they know.  Elementary kids may need to do something to feel like they helped; like write a note, or draw a picture for one of the helpers.  Middle school students probably need a mix of both.  Again, it depends on your children, their maturity and the amount of exposure they have had to the event.  Families can use these kinds of situations as a time to come together and discuss what happened. Talk about the issues that the situation brings up that relate to what they are learning.  Is it about obeying the law?  Is it about accepting someone that is different? Is it about different beliefs that people have?  Use the events to start talking to your kids about important character development and behavioral implications of the tragedy around them.  Who knows, maybe your child is the next first responder or news anchor who will be the helpers in future situations.

 

Stephanie HamannStephanie Hamann, BS, MA, NCC, LPC – is a seasoned therapist with a particular passion for working with children and adolescents.  She has been an anchor for the Center for Human Development staff since 2004.  She reflects that “What I enjoy most about being a therapist is to see people gain new skills or understanding and move forward in life in a positive direction.”  Read more about Stephanie on her bio page, click here. 

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Newlyweds Pay Attention–Ten Steps to Insure Marital Satisfaction!

Newlyweds Pay Attention–Ten Steps to Insure Marital Satisfaction!

Our oldest granddaughter is getting married this summer which gave me cause to consider giving advice to her and other newlyweds from my years of providing marriage counseling.  The decision to marry is one of the most important ones that you will ever make.  Be prepared for the journey of a lifetime which can be incredibly rewarding, neutral, or devastating.   Hopefully you entered into this event with the firm decision committed to the age old vows, “…to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part.”  As with all good intentions, there is also a need for preparation, coaching and action.  No couple is fully prepared for marriage, but there are things that you can do to insure a positive couple relationship and to provide a strong example for your children.wedding-626020_1280

  • GET MARRIED–You have already committed to the first step. Research shows that the very act of sharing your marriage vows is predictive of success as a couple. 1 Couples who live together without that commitment are much more likely to separate.
  • BE COMMITTED—the commitment to your marriage needs to be more than a commitment to stay in the marriage, it must be a commitment to support one another and grow in the relationship. Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, suggests that growth when he asks the question “What if God designed Marriage to make us holy, not to make us happy”. 2 It’s easy to be committed when things are going well but in times of difficulty cling to one another and see them as times of growth. Those incidents and disagreements always point to areas where you and your marriage can grow.
  • BE PREPARED—Good pre-marriage coaching is an important aspect of marriage preparation. It is an opportunity to “read the manual before exploring the repair.” This should be more than simply wedding planning and is a wonderful preventive measure.  This is an opportunity provided by many good counselors and should include written pre-marriage assessment such as Prepare/Enrich* or the more recent offering from Les and Leslie Parrott, SYMBIS.  Research also shows that marital satisfaction and success are correlated with pre-marriage coaching. 3
  • TAKE TIME-OUTS—every couple develops a script, a pattern that they follow during disagreements. When tempers rise and you feel hurt these patterns are predictable. Once started, it has a life of its own regardless of the issue or issues that triggered it.  Agree in advance that when either of you recognize you are in that script, that you will call time out.  As with any time out, take time to sort out what is happening, figure out what your partner may need at that time and what is going on in your thoughts and emotions.  Praying for direction can be helpful, “it is like going to the coach”. THEN call time in to talk about what you have discovered and LISTEN to your partner before talking.
  • COMMUNCATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUICATE—don’t ignore issues but learn to problem solve them. Start by renewing your commitment to growth in your marriage and to your partner. Then, LISTEN closely being sensitive to the needs, emotions and thoughts being expressed. The areas of finances and sexual expression are often particularly sensitive.  The temptation is to avoid difficult subjects, but that only results in the buildup of frustration or distancing which is harmful to the relationship.  On the other hand, working through issues builds intimacy.
  • COOPERATE, DON’T COMPETE— Competition in sports requires a winner and a loser. Two become one in marriage” and you can’t win a fight against yourself. Men and women are very different in many ways including the ways they think and communicate (our brains are actually quite different). In addition, we all have real personality differences.  These provide for the opportunity to succeed, or can become barriers in the relationship.  Strive to understand these differences and celebrate the contribution each of you can make as you grow together.  After all, that is what attracted you to your spouse in the first place.
  • DATE YOUR PARTNER—during the courtship the relationship is usually based on sharing and having fun together. The responsibilities that take over and pressures of married life often result in couples forgetting romance in their relationship. This is especially true with the responsibility of raising children and all the pressures put on parents.  It is easy to grow apart, so set regular date times (I suggest weekly and a regular get away together at least twice a year).
  • DEVELOP POSITIVE RITUALS—Take time to do the little things that tell your spouse you love them. Regular kisses and hugs, little notes, asking how their day went, taking time for meals together, pray together. Little things are the things that cement a relationship together and are often the things that will be cherished memories for your children.  My wife and I like to take time to read a novel to each other, a few pages on a regular basis.  And don’t forget a good long hug when leaving one another!
  • wedding-1149219_1920MAKE FAITH THE CENTER OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP—Values are supported and relationships encouraged in a good faith community. There are few institutions left in our culture today that support marriage and the Church is one of the few remaining. In addition, it provides a wonderful place to transmit your values to your children.  Don’t forget to pray regularly for your spouse and your relationship.
  • SEEK HELP—In every relationship there are times when problems don’t seem to get resolved. Recognize when you are in “over your head” and commit in advance to seek professional guidance. Too often, divorces take place after people have “stuffed their feelings” and avoided dealing with issues for weeks, months, or even years.  As with most problems “a stitch in time saves nine.”  Perhaps the person or agency who provided your pre-marriage coaching is a good place to start.

We wish you and our granddaughter a long, happy and prosperous marriage as you embark on this journey called marriage.  May your bond of love and your relationship become stronger each day.

1 Waite, Linda J., The Negative Effects of Cohabitation, George Washington University, Institute for Communitarian and Policy Studies, Volume 10, Issue 1, Winter 1999/2000,

2Thomas, Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 2000

3Saleh, Alexandra D., Premarital Counseling & Marital Satisfaction Alexandra D. Saleh, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Lee_and_Barb_637x425Lee Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over 40 years of counseling experience. He is also the founder and clinical director of the Center for Human Development.  To learn more about Lee click here.

Barb Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social worker with over 30 years of counseling experience.  She enjoys working with clients of all ages, individuals, and couples. To learn more about Barb click here.

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Why People Procrastinate

Why People Procrastinate

Everyone procrastinates sometimes and for different reasons.  Here are some of the common ones with suggestions as to how to get those tasks done that have been haunting you!

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1 – Overwhelming –

The task is so overwhelming that you don’t know how to start.  It will help you to break down the big task into smaller tasks on paper.  Than only focus on task at a time.

2 – Unenjoyable

You avoid something that was previously unenjoyable.  Your thoughts made you unhappy while doing the task.  Identify what thoughts are making you suffer, the thoughts that are not true.  It will be bad if ______________.  It is not the activity that’s bad, it’s the story you tell yourself about the activity or that you are not good or smart enough to complete the activity.  Let yourself know it is possible and that you are capable to complete the activity to the best of your ability.

3 – Comparison

You compare the job at hand to a fantasytemporal-distance-1138191_1280 world.  You have a task to accomplish but your mind visualizes doing something fun.  Your mind starts complaining that this job has no purpose or meaning, it’s boring and unsatisfying.   Ask yourself what you want most in life.  Purpose and meaning attainable only having fun or are you really looking for peace in your life.  Thoughts that compare you to others do not give you peace.  Don’t give attention to these thoughts, they are a waste of your time. Look at how you feel in the moment.  What is the story you are telling yourself.  Focus on now.  Get rid of the fantasy thoughts and get to the business at hand so you can finish the task and attain peace.

4 – Distractions

You distract yourself to avoid thoughts and suffering.  Your mind naturally goes to what makes you happy (shopping, eating, internet).  These things are stored in your memory and have offered you a temporary high in the past so you run to them to take away the suffering you are experiencing in the moment.  Don’t try to force these thoughts to stop with distraction.  Instead, look at how you are feeling in the moment.  Ask yourself what you are trying to escape from (not good enough, won’t do it perfect, boredom, too stressful).  What is the story you are telling yourself?

5 – Not the Right Fit

You feel the task is not the right fit for you.  You may love interacting with people but you have an accounting job which may not be a good fit for you.  You may have to pursue a different job but don’t avoid your current job. Focus on your current job while seeking a better fit for you but don’t let your thoughts make you procrastinate the tasks at your current job.

The cure for procrastination is ACTION.  Examine your thoughts and correct your story.

Stop procrastinating, focus on the task at hand, and attain peace.


IMG_0072_DawnDawn Schroeder
 is a professional counselor who enjoys helping people of all ages overcome life’s struggles.  She also has a special place in her heart for working with children and teenagers.  To learn more about Dawn, or to set up an appointment click here.

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New Year’s Resolutions and Its Beginnings

New Year’s Resolutions and Its Beginnings

It is believed that the Babylonians in Mesopotamia were the first to celebrate New Year’s in 2000 B.C. At that time, New Year’s occurred in mid-March. The Babylonians would make promises to their gods that they would return borrowed objects and repay their debts. They believed if they kept their promises, the gods would bestow good things for them throughout the year.

Julius Caesar’s reign over ancient Rome made a change in the months of the year. Caesar added the month of January and named the month for the Roman god, Janus.  Resolutions were repeated annually and renewed the bond between the citizens, the state and the gods. Ancient Roman citizens would reflect on their past and look toward the coming year. The people would trade sweet fruits and honey with each other.

The early Christians believed the start of the New Year should be a time to reflect on past mistakes and work on self-improvement. At that time, the resolutions were more about treating other people kindly and seeking forgiveness from their enemies. By the end of the 18th century, many resolutions involved being more helpful, more diligent and to be a better person.

Isidor Thorner, an American Theologist, did a survey in 1951 to determine the relationship between Protestant values and New Year resolutions. The New Year resolutions according to Thorner helped Protestants manage their emotions. Over time, New Year’s resolutions lost their religious meaning and became a tradition with the general population. Listed below is a comparison of resolutions between 1947 and 2014.Resolution Man

Resolutions for 1947 – Gallup Poll

  1. Improve disposition, be more understanding, control temper
  2. Improve my character, live a better life
  3. Stop smoking, smoke less
  4. Save more money
  5. Stop drinking, drink less
  6. Be more religious, go to church more often
  7. Be more efficient, do a better job
  8. Take better care of my health
  9. Contribute more in home life
  10. Lose (or gain) weight

Resolutions for 2014 Resolution Woman

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less, save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Stay fit and healthy
  6. Learn something exciting
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others in their dreams
  9. Fall in love

10. Spend more time with family

According to a study done in 2007 by Richard Wiseman, approximately 88% of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail. The study showed 52% of the 3,000 participants were confident they would succeed in fulfilling their resolution.

So, what about a New Year’s resolution for 2016? Is your resolution going to focus on:

Returning borrowed objects and repaying debts?

Keeping promises to others?

Renewing a bond between yourself and the state?

Reflecting on past mistakes and working on self-improvement?

Whichever New Year’s resolution you choose, make sure that it is obtainable and realistic. Lastly, make sure the resolution is accountable by sharing it with someone else.  Make it known to this accountability person that you want them to ask you how you are doing with keeping the resolution.

Dave Tice is a licensed professional counselor at the Center with over 6 years of counseling experience.  To learn more about Dave, or to set up an appointment, click here.

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THE GIFT OF HOLIDAY STRESS

THE GIFT OF HOLIDAY STRESS

By this time, most people are already well into the “Holiday Spirit”. Unfortunately, for many, that means being overcommitted, over taxed, over spent and often frustrated with commitments or behaviors of friends, colleagues or other family members. Somehow this season of “joy and peace”, celebrating the coming of the Savior, is anything but that for many. There are many articles written about how to avoid holiday stress, but my suggestion is to see it as a gift.

I have been a therapist for many years and have taught numerous “Stress Management” Seminars. What I have learned is that distress and symptoms are positive, a gift if you may. Seminar leader, Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage, raises the question “what if Marriage was not intended to make people happy but to make them holy”. The same principle applies to the symptoms of distress—they point to area’s in which we may need to consider change.

  • Over-spending- perhaps it is time to review spending habitsHolidy Stress
  • Alcohol consumption- consider moderation, or even quitting
  • Over commitment- time management
  • Guilt or shame- grace to self and others
  • Relationships—reconciliation, or perhaps a change in plans, or associations
  • Over-eating- a healthy diet plan
  • Lack of sleep- a plan for self-care
  • Sadness or grief- the need for expression and support

The list goes on and on, but to be certain, each symptom has a cause and points to a remedy which results in good self-care and stress management techniques. We tend to look at symptoms as being negative and increasing our distress, but they point to the need for solutions. What if I were to ignore a pain in my side that was pointing to an appendicitis?   Are stress symptoms any different? The tendency is to overlook, or deny them, which only makes them worse and increases the probability that they will continue, or intensify. Stress is characterized by a “fight, flight or freeze” response, but is intended to initiate us to action for our health.

There are some problems that have been persistent and resist individual attempts to change them.   They may have become such a pattern that they resist correction by all of your “resolutions.” Rather than give up, seek out support from a trusted friend, mentor, pastor, or counselor. As a counselor and professional therapist, I am only too much aware that people often seek out help “too little, or too late.”

This holiday season, look on your symptoms as a “gift” that point the way to healing and peace– the indicators of good New Year’s resolutions to grow and change!

Lee Webster imageLee Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over 40 years of counseling experience. He is also the founder and clinical director of the Center for Human Development.  To learn more about Lee click here.

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What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition associated with depression during the fall and winter seasons of the year. The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.”

SAD was formally described and named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health.  Dr. Rosenthal a psychiatrist, author, and scientist is credited with identifying SAD, as well as, the use of light therapy for its treatment.  Although experts were initially skeptical, this condition is now recognized as a common disorder.  SAD’s prevalence in the U.S. ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska.

SAD can often begin as mild depression and may progress to a more severe condition.  As the days begin to shorten and available sunlight becomes scarce, some people themselves (or others) may see changes in their mood: they become irritable, possess low energy, are hypersensitive to criticism, and see changes in their appetite (craving for foods high in carbohydrates).  Comparisons of people suffering from SAD to those of a bear preparing for hibernation have been made.

Light therapy is one way to treat SAD by exposure to artificial light.  During light therapy, you sit or work near a device called a light therapy box.  This box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light.  Light therapy is thought to cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts one’s mood and eases the symptoms of SAD.

In addition to light therapy, it is important to be sure that your levels of vitamin D are sufficient.  People in Northern Climates simply do not get enough sunlight which supplies this vitamin.  Vitamin D levels can be checked by your physician using a simple blood test.

Exercise and diet may also help relieve or reduce the symptoms of SAD.

Finally, remember that not all winter depression is related to SAD.  If the above recommendations do not work, seek out a professional counselor.   SAD_2

As with most health issues it is important to seek help early because symptoms may start to develop as early as September.  The sooner the SAD problem is addressed, the better.  Winter can be a wonderful season and it provides for some very special activities that can be enjoyed by you and your family. It doesn’t have to be a SAD time..

Symptoms specific to winter onset of SAD may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy “leaden” feeling in the arms and legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

Dave Tice imageDave Tice is a licensed professional counselor at the Center with over 6 years of counseling experience.  To learn more about Dave, or to set up an appointment click here.

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WAR ROOM

WAR ROOM

The movie War Room quickly jumped to the top of the charts in recent weeks. I had the opportunity to view it with my wife and another counselor. Although it was not what I expected, I found it to be an extremely positive film which accurately portrayed situations and principles consistent with good counseling practice.

In this film, the middle-class Jordan family is facing the kind of marital and family crisis that is typical of those we see daily in the counseling office. The film clearly depicts Danielle, the daughter, experiencing the devastating impact that marital issues and lack of parental attention have on children. Often couples in the midst of marital problems deny this reality.

Elizabeth Jordan, the wife and mother, is confronted by Miss Clara who perceives her marital and faith struggles. Miss Clara is a wise, delightful and engaging character that I enjoyed very much. As a result of her interventions, Elizabeth is challenged to focus on herself and her role in the marital discord. She strengthens her faith and changes her behavior with the results having a tremendous impact on the relationship. She “rocks the family boat”.

Tony Jordan experiences the natural consequences of his behaviors and “hits the bottom.” His changes result in some unexpected and positive changes.

Some reviewers have been critical of the changes that Elizabeth made claiming that she became a passive, dependent female. They miss the point entirely. What she did was find herself and her personal identity. Rather than falling into old relationship traps, she found personal and spiritual strength and became a strong leader in her family.

One trap that wishful viewers may make in viewing War Room is the belief that if you change, everything will turn out well and you will “live happily ever after”. In this case Elizabeth and Danielle have gained something wonderful no matter what the marital results. Unfortunately, the reality is that as one person in a relationship changes the partner will have to change. That change is sometimes very negative and the relationship is lost. In difficult marriage situations, we find that when one person in the relationship changes the relationship has to change. Unfortunately people usually only seek out help when they reach a crisis point and often that is too late.

This is an excellent, faith based film and I strongly recommend it keeping my cautions in mind. Healthy marriages do not come easily in today’s society. Pre-marital coaching, the early recognition of problems and joint counseling are the best possible options.

Lee Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over 40 years of counseling experience. He is also the founder and clinical director of the Center for Human Development.  To learn more about Lee click here.

war rooms

*Barb and I had the opportunity to meet and have our picture taken with T. C. Stallings who portrayed Tony Jordan at the American Association of Christian Counselors International Conference recently

 

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School is Starting

School is Starting

“School is starting!”  These words bring joy to some and strike terror into others.  I remember as a boy when my parents came to pick me up after spending some wonderful time with my grandfather at his home on a river during the month of August.  I was devastated that the time was coming to an end, and although I enjoyed school, I had no desire to go back.  Obviously, each child has his or her own reaction to the announcement; one of my grandchildren couldn’t wait and loves school; another is very apprehensive; a third sees school as a necessary evil.  In any case, the beginning of the school year brings anxiety as parents and children anticipate and experience change.

During the first days of school, there are a number of situations that confront every child.  Peers, teachers, the very classroom or school atmosphere, to say nothing of homework and educational content.  The first few days often set the stage for the year to come. Hopefully, most will hear about the excitement of having a new teacher, seeing friends, or being thrilled about a new class.  However, there are also red flags such as not being included, feeling bullied by peers or picked on by the teacher, or being exposed to class content that is overwhelming or offensive to family values.  In some instances, some learning difficulties will come to light that were not previously recognized.  For others there have been family changes that have an impact on the child at school – a move, divorce, or other loss that may make adjustment more difficult.

It is especially important to understand and be sensitive to children’s feelings and experiences during this early time of adjustment.  The old adage about “nipping it in the bud” fits here.  There are things the concerned parent can do:pencil-602440_1280

  1. It is important to be particularly sensitive to the child and their communication (both verbal and non-verbal). Celebrate the positives with them and be aware of areas of concern.
  2. If possible, listen and help your child problem solve issues that they are capable of handling. Sometimes just having a sympathetic ear is all that is needed.
  3. When the situation seems overwhelming and more than the child can handle, it is time to step in. Even though the child may not like it, often times the teacher or guidance staff at school is the place to start.
  4. Seek other advice and help when it is indicated. Parenting is difficult and it is hard to handle it alone; however, sometimes there are real medical, learning, or relationship issues that respond best to early intervention by a physician, psychologist or counselor.
  5. Ultimately, as a last resort, you may have to make hard decisions in the best interest of your child. As parents, we reluctantly changed schools for one of our children and the adjustment was immediate and positive.

As a professional therapist and supervisor, I know how important encouragement and sometimes early intervention are.  Too often, I have seen situations that could have been handled early on which develop into major problems.  It bothers me tremendously when we receive a referral in May about a problem that should have been dealt with and solved earlier. Parenting is a wonderful and daunting responsibility.  The task of raising a child from total dependence to independence brings both joys and sorrows.  Taking positive steps now will help insure more joy as you and your child journey forward.

Lee Webster imageLee Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over 40 years of counseling experience. He is also the founder and clinical director of the Center for Human Development.  To learn more about Lee click here.

 

 

 

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