By Julie Crowell-Gunter

Are meditation and balance on your New Years goals? Have you been searching for ways to bring stillness in your life? Are you looking for ways to relax? Scheduling a massage may just what you need to kickstart your wellness goals. Meditation and balance have been thrown around lately as buzz words. Yet, sometimes it’s difficult to know what those words even mean, or how they can be applied in our day to day lives. Meditation has been boxed into the image of sitting crossed legged on the floor, eyes closed, and chatting ommmmmmmm. But, it can be so much more than that.

Have you ever considered using a 30, 60, or 90-minute massage as meditation? Meditation is about setting aside a specific time to withdrawal from the hustle and bustle of this world. Meditation is about giving your mind, body, and soul a space to rest. Allowing yourself a time to decompress can bring significant healing in many areas of your life. A massage can certainly release muscle tension, stimulate blood flow, and relieve nerve impingement, but a massage can also be a safe space to give rest to your mind and soul.

Take in consideration the comfort of a quiet, dark room with the flicker of candlelight. The fragrance of lavender or peppermint and rosemary. The soft hum of music with occasional words of encouragement and hope sung over you could quite possibly be the start of the long overdue healing process you desire. A massage can begin to lift the heaviness you have been living with for far too long. This is part of what meditation incorporates; rest for mind, body, and soul. Call to schedule your massage today. It is time to start saying yes to rest and begin your journey to wellness for your mind, body, and soul.

Blessings,
Julie

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28

“May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:16

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

By Hillary Chaney, LMHP

When you are in an airplane, the flight attendants give multiple instructions for what to do in case of an emergency by demonstrating multiple life-saving resources. These resources include an oxygen mask that will automatically drop from the overhead console for the passenger to put over their nose and mouth to ensure clean oxygen inhalation. The instruction given by the attendants is to put your own mask on BEFORE attending to a child or person in need of assistance. Any well-versed therapist will use a metaphor much like this one to encourage an individual to “take care of yourself first before trying to meet all of the needs of others.” After all, you can’t very well fill someone else’s cup if your cup is empty! This is such an important truth that it’s no longer just therapists pushing this idea of self-care…it’s our culture.

McDonalds continues to remind me to take “Me Time” with a McCafe.

LINDOR truffles encourage me to take the extra moment for myself to enjoy a bite of chocolate.

Things like massage therapy, floating (huh?), and getting a facial exist to encourage us to take time to pamper ourselves and feel better.

These are GREAT ways to avoid burnout and build resiliency. But what happens when they aren’t working? “I DRANK the dang McCafe and I am still STRESSED!!” Are we destined to an eternity of overwhelming, I-just-want-to-curl-up-in-a-ball, messy days? Well, let’s hope not!!!

Sometimes self-care doesn’t work because the stress monster still lingers overhead after the frothy beverage has been consumed and the knots have been kneaded out of our bodies. We recognize that we are stressed and overwhelmed, but we don’t necessarily identify the stress culprits.

Here are a couple of ideas that are likely to help your self-care efforts be more successful and worth your time and effort:

  1. Identify that there is an issue. You are feeling ready to snap. If you are ready to ankle-butt someone with your grocery cart for going too slow down the isle, want to literally cry over some spilled milk, or have said recently, “Oh, I just punched the door twice in the past week, everything is fine” (trust me, you are NOT fine.), your plane is going down and you need to put on your mask!!! It is self-care time. But, good for you! The first step in making anything better is identifying there is a problem.
  2. Write down all that is burdening your heart. Make a visible list. This is a two-for-the-price-of-one benefit. A list will sometimes ease the sense of stress immediately as we see that our burdens are not as drastic as they felt. The list also puts a label or name to the things you are trying to care for yourself through. I like to then put the list “away” somewhere. It is a mental note for me that I don’t have to deal with this right now. I can go get it when I am ready to tackle it. Then, when you are practicing your self-care and these thoughts or triggers pop into your head trying to sabotage the “me time” you are taking, you can consciously tell the thought to, “Go away, please.” Always be polite, even to your thoughts. Your mom will be proud. 🙂
  3. Figure out what gives you a DEEP sense of satisfaction. There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all way to care for YOU. For me, laughter is a great stress reliever. Take away the warm bubble bath and give me a silly comedy or time with my light-hearted friends and I will be a happy camper. Others deeply need their bubble bath, glass of wine, and People magazine! Is it art or music? Helping people? Reading? Petting a fuzzy animal? Time walking in the outdoors, away from city noises? If you aren’t sure, experiment! Your body will tell you.
  4. Put it into action. Once you have this great mystery solved (what gives you satisfaction) then it is time to PRACTICE!!! Who, growing up, practiced the piano only on the day of the recital? NO ONE! We practiced everyday leading up to the big performance. Why on earth would we wait until we are pulling our hair out to care for ourselves? Perhaps because society tells us we SHOULD NOT need extra time for ourselves, we SHOULD be able to do it all, or perhaps other responsibilities appear more urgent? Nothing could be further from the truth! Remember, put your mask on first, and then help those around you, because you are no good to anyone if you’re passed out.

 

Good self-care grows our emotional resilience. Dictionary.com defines resilience two ways: 1) The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity; and 2) The ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy. Once you have practiced and mastered self-care, the things in life that appear to be consuming you will not feel as monstrous. They may drag you down momentarily, but you’ll be able to find your way back to a place of hope and joy. You’ll have renewed energy. You’ll find that you have more patience and compassion for others. You will be more RESILIENT!

Lastly, if you try all of this and are still finding that the stress continues to grow and you’re experiencing symptoms that keep you from functioning well on a daily basis, reach out via the Hope and Wellness website to someone to talk to and help you through it. That’s what therapists are here for!

 

Photos by Jonas Jacobsson, Jennifer Pallian, Tim Gouw, & Jonathan Fink on Unsplash

By Sarah Dabney, PLMHP

Christmas and New Year’s are days that most of us look forward to all year round, and they can provide an amazing shot-in-the-arm reminder that joy, peace, love, faith and family are the beating heart of life. But statistically, they are also the time of year when depression and suicidal ideation rise, when stress levels are high for emotional, physical and financial reasons, and when sicknesses like colds and flu get passed around, as well.

While no one is immune to pressure around this time of year, families with younger children can be particularly susceptible to the fever pitch surround the attempt to create magical, wonderful memories, have the perfect, glittering Christmas morning, survive on a diet of turkey, egg nog and fruit cake, and balance big changes in eating and sleeping schedules, not to mention time off from work and school.  Life can seem like it’s just bulldozing on, and mental health issues are no respecter of holidays.

Some common thoughts are:

I’m too stressed out to really enjoy anything this year…which makes me more stressed.
The holidays just seem like more work instead of rest.
I’m actually dreading spending time with my family.
I’m not where I want to be in life, so it’s painful to go to these parties…I leave feeling like I didn’t really connect, like I was vague and fake.
I just want things to be like they used to.

Self-care can fall by the wayside during the holidays, to their detriment…not because we meant to let it go, but because the different demands on time and energy can simply derail what we usually do to take care of our mind, heart, and body. Maintaining a loving connection with our hearts and bodies is the way to maximize what we give and receive, and to let the season be what it is meant to be—one of a renewal of hope.

Some practical ways to do that this year might include the following:

  • Listen—Ask your body (and your family) what it really needs this Christmas. Not every holiday season has to honor the same traditions. Do you need time to grieve, to leave the decorations in storage? Or is it a year to start new traditions, welcome new family members? Are you more hungry for connection or peace and quiet…and in what ratio? What is the gift you would love to receive this year?
  • Simplify and Prioritize—Sit and down and assess which of the usual Christmas social functions are life-giving, and which ones are life-sucking. Do you love making Christmas cookies for the church program…or do you just feel you should? You only have a certain amount of energy to spend, and you have to care for your body by identifying where you would really prefer to spend it. If you’ve already said “yes” to too many things (or the wrong ones) this year, consider setting a boundary with yourself and calling them back to say “no” graciously, or make a plan around limiting your “yeses” next year.
  • Check Out Your Options—Some individuals have the opposite challenge around the holidays: loneliness. Call around to your local churches, community centers and soup kitchens or homeless shelters, and see what activities you could be involved in and connect with new relationships. You are not the only one with these feelings. Someone needs your gift of presence and conversation this year just as much as you need theirs.
  • Monitor Alcohol and Sugar Intake—Remember that alcohol is a depressant, and can increase feelings of depression and grief. A glass of wine with Christmas dinner is a wonderful thing, but consider leaning toward extra glasses of water instead of a refill for the sake of your emotions and your energy level, and to help flush out the extra salt and sugar holiday foods usually contain. A daily serving of leafy greens will also help balance the holiday diet, particularly if you are sensitive to certain kinds of carbs and sugars or dairy, and tend to feel that fog and malaise the day after eating a lot of dessert.
  • Keep Exercising—As the weather gets colder, it gets harder to go for a jog in the neighborhood or even get to the gym. But this is precisely the time of year when you need to do so. Maintain good sleep and energy/mood levels by being faithful to do at least some light cardio every other day, or Pilates in front of the TV. It’s also a good way to work off the adrenaline of tense conversations or misunderstandings.
  • Schedule in Blank Space—In the midst of increased social activity, the need for down time can be overlooked, but quiet intervals during the holidays (an hour or two between coming home from work and going out to a party, twenty minutes here and there to creep away to your room in the packed house and have a quiet moment, or a whole day a week to regroup, heat up leftovers and take naps) go a long way toward ensuring that we can actually enjoy the holiday cheer, rather than just enduring it. Unless this blank space makes it into your planner/Google calendar, you set yourself up to go non-stop until after New Year’s…because there is always something else to say “yes” to!
  • Allow for Lower Expectations—It’s OK for this year to be a little less magical. It’s OK for it to be hard. It won’t always be, but for now, it just is. The important thing is to be gentle with yourself, with where you are. To both sit and breathe with the hard moments, and to catch the great moments in your hands and enjoy them while they last. To be aware of both.

Holidays aren’t meant for burnout. The wonderful thing about practicing our own self-care is that it gives others permission to do the same! Allow your children, your roommate, your in-laws to notice you choosing to make the most of the season by not trying to consume it indiscriminately. It’s possible that your example might bring them the same relief.

 

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

 

By Sarah Dabney, PLMHP

November is an incredibly bittersweet time for many individuals and families, as they savor the changing of seasons and the anticipation of holidays…and at the same time, wonder inside how they can possibly celebrate this year. For some, the loss of a relationship or the death of someone dearly loved will leave an empty spot at the table. The loss of a job or the loss of health can cast a film of anxiety or depression that threatens to smother the joy this time of year might otherwise hold.

With loss comes grief.

Grief is hard. We don’t choose it…it chooses us. It follows its own schedule. Many of us grievers wrestle with a sort of helplessness or floundering that comes from being out of the normal rhythm of emotion, habit, and reality—a feeling that is compounded by the fact that losses are rarely singular. They tend to come in layered in bunches. For example, the loss of a job is often not just the loss of a job. Most times, it means loss of income (perhaps the loss of the ability to buy holiday gifts for loved ones!), loss of routine, loss of a work community where you regularly see coworkers and friends, loss of a sense of stability and control over the future, and sometimes even loss of an important identity—how we perceive who we are and what we contribute to the world. This type of compound loss can be difficult to verbalize and grieve, especially if we don’t feel like we have permission in our social networks to talk about some of these less obvious losses.

One of the best things we can do to facilitate our grief, whatever the cause, is to simply allow it to be what it is. We gain a lot from learning to accept the presence of grief, rather than fight it or ignore it…from learning to make space for it, both emotionally and physically (in our bodies and in our schedules). It is OK to grieve. More than OK. It’s not something we have to fix or change, get over, or hurry through to the other side. Our bodies are biologically engineered for the experience of grief…we are actually made for it, as a part of being human.

This acceptance as a practice often starts with a list of permissions we grant ourselves; with writing down what we need to allow ourselves in order to grieve well and fully and then repeating these statements verbally and in action. An excellent example of a list of permissions can be found in Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s “Mourner’s Bill of Rights.” Rights three through five read as follows:

  1. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

  1. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

  1. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

Feel free to borrow these permissions, and to write out and add your own. Take the time to feel out what it looks like for you to grieve safely this holiday season, in a healthy way. Care for and speak to yourself during this time with patience and empathy, as you would do for a friend who had experienced a similar loss. Whatever your loss has been, you have the right to grieve for as long as you need. You have a right to be heard, and seen. You have a right to your own journey toward healing.

***

If you would like some help writing your own Grief Permissions, please click this Hope and Wellness Center download as a place to start:

Grief Permission Slips

 

Photo credit: Tom Pumford on Unsplash

By Christy Denne, LIMHP

“Like fireworks /
We pull apart the dark.”
In the Embers, by Sleeping at Last

Last week, one of my clients introduced me to their favorite band, Sleeping at Last. I have been listening to their album Atlas all week. The lyrics are so beautifully written and emotionally charged. As I listened to “In the Embers,” this specific line jumped out of the speakers and into my heart: “Like fireworks, we pull apart the dark.”

This line. This line is the definition of what it means to be a therapist. By nature, fireworks scare some, and excite others; they are beautiful, powerful, and dangerous. This is therapy.

In that space in time sitting across from my client, I seize the moment to pull apart the dark. This can be painful. This can be messy. It can, at times, blow up in our faces. But the process is beautiful and emotional, like a Fourth of July fireworks show.

As we know, there is a certain stigma about crossing the threshold into a therapist’s office. What will others think? I don’t want to be crazy! I don’t want to be labeled! Will they judge my story? Am I weak? Why can I not handle this on my own? These are all fluttering statements that flash through a lot of people’s minds when the word therapy is mentioned. Listen: these statements are far from the truth.

Like fireworks, we pull apart the dark. The almost divine moments of light which can occur within the safe context of therapy are comparable to fireworks. It is our honor to sit in moments of darkness with our clients, to shine light into some of the darkest recesses of the heart. Like bursting showers of color, the counseling relationship is meant to shed empathy, comfort, and insight to help the heart heal. Therapy is so much more than labeling illness…it is a place to gain clarity concerning what is hidden, causing the darkness. When the flame is lit, and the darkness is forced back, our monsters begin to flee.

The next time the words “therapy,” “therapist,” or “counseling” become  stigmatized, scary words within a conversation, I challenge you to rethink their definition. The sacred space of sitting with a safe counselor can be the spark that burns away the dark. You are more than than the embers of your story.

Do you have monsters crawling in your dark? Are your monsters named Depression, Anxiety, Trauma, or Addiction? Fight the stigma surrounding that one, all-important word: “Help”. Reach out to one of our therapists at Hope and Wellness center. We truly are like fireworks, we pull apart the dark.

Photo: Unsplash by Jamie Street

By Christy Denne, LIMHP

 

“She had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach,
like when you’re swimming and you want
to put your feet down on something solid,
but the water’s deeper than you think and there’s nothing there.”

― Julia GregsonEast of the Sun

Have you ever had that feeling of sinking into the daily darkness of life? All you want to do is put your feet down on sturdy ground, but the more you stretch your feet out to the ground, the deeper the water feels around your legs. Depression, loneliness, and grief can all feel like the weight of the ocean crashing down over your head, crushing the air of your lungs—like drowning on dry land. If you have felt like this or feel like this, you are not alone. There is hope, and there is help.

Before jumping off the diving board into the deep end of the pool, we have to learn some of the basic strokes of swimming and floating. Ideally in life, we also learn the basic skills of wellness and health before we are thrown into a chaotic situation or an overwhelming place of grief. However, more often than not, we do not learn these skills early on, and we get thrown into the deep end to figure out it out on our own. When we attempt to tread water in life without the proper tools and skills, it can feel like drowning.

While we cannot control the circumstances which throw us into the chaos of the deep end, we can control how we respond, and we can create new habits as we begin our journey toward wellness. Writing our very own Wellness Plan is a powerful way to be intentional about our response and our future. Perhaps even the idea of creating a plan sounds incredibly overwhelming right now, but following a simple outline has helped many individuals take steps in the right direction.

To begin the process of creating your Wellness Plan, consider following the Eight Dimensions outline by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) to start implementing health and balance into your everyday life.

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness are:

  1. Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
  2. Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
  3. Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
  4. Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  5. Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
  6. Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
  7. Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
  8. Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life

Grab a cup of coffee or tea, a journal, and a seat in a comfortable spot. Reflect on your present—the ways the currents of life are pulling you, overwhelming you, or helping you. Next, write down specific goals under each of the eight dimensions. The more specific and practical you can be, the more likely you are to implement these into your everyday life.

Now, do you have your list? Show someone. Find a trustworthy, safe individual to share in your plan. This could be a friend, family member, or a helping professional. Having someone to ask about your progress and help keep you on the right path will greatly increase your chances of success to implementing hope and wellness into your everyday life.

By creating a Wellness Plan, you can begin to learn the practical strokes  needed to swim upstream in the hard current of life. You may be hit by wave after wave of grief or loss or chaos, but as the Wellness Plan becomes an everyday habit and the habits become muscle memory, you will find that the feelings of drowning grow fewer and farther between. And more days than not, you will be able to catch your breath.

Need help creating and implementing a wellness plan? Feeling like you cannot overcome the sensation of drowning emotionally? Please reach out today. Hope and Wellness Center counselors are currently taking new clients from all ages, backgrounds, and issues. Call or email at 402-639-2901 or hope@hwcomaha.com.

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

By Brandon Pedersen, PLMHP, PLADC

As an addictions counselor, some people come and expect me to fix their addiction. Yet, “fixing” an addiction is not always that simple. Let me explain.

First off, addictions are defined as the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice.  Something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming. (Dictionary.com)

Addictions have a number of different components.   I will explain them simply.

Addictions come from people’s efforts to cope with trauma, negative emotions, undeveloped coping skills, and stress. Addictions are typically failed attempts to overcome a particular trial faced throughout life.   Leading to becoming enslaved to a behavior/coping mechanism.

In light of this, people who are trying to quit their addiction will go “cold turkey.” Sometimes this seems successful.  They will often substitute their addiction with something else. This is because the addictive behavior serves a purpose for the person.  It may reduce stress, take away pain, or numb emotions.  Taking away an addictive behavior may reduce a person’s negative consequences, but it will leave the real issue very much alive.

I have not met a person dealing with addictions that did not have some emotional burden. This emotional baggage is often times the real issue. As a society, we really have not been taught how to deal with our emotions. Two important things to remember are 1. Emotions need to be identified. and 2. Emotions need to be expressed.

Once a person is able to identify and express their emotions appropriately and consistently, they can obtain the power to deal with their inner-self without the aid of an enslaving, addictive behavior.

Overcoming addiction is far from easy but it is possible,  with good tools, support, encouragement, and a willingness to start unpacking the emotional baggage.

 

 

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash