Resilience Answers

How do you heal from past hurt? Relationship wise & non relationship wise.

Hi, and thanks for your question. I'm sorry to hear you've been through such a difficult series of experiences, and "difficult" seems like an insufficient descriptor. What you've briefly described is life-changing to say the least, and it's great that you're at a point where you're considering reaching out for help. The short answer to your question of "how do you heal from past hurt" is gradually, methodically, over time, with self-compassion and non-judgment, and with an eye toward growing through the experience and incorporating that personal growth into your life's story of who you are, how you came to be where you are, at any given point in time, and where you want to be going forward (i.e, your hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations). The first step in all of that would be developing the ability to be with your feelings about these situations non-judgmentally, and with compassion for yourself. Many times, it's (initially) hard for people to be that for themselves, so it can be especially helpful to have a trusted therapist to not only provide that sense of non-judgment and compassion, but to help you learn to provide it to yourself, as well. From this grows the ability to be patient with oneself throughout the healing process, and the ability to learn how to sit with those feelings of pain in order to gather information from them about what's important to you, and to learn to give what's important to you the attention and care it deserves. Along the way in that aspect of the process is possibly gently confronting the parts of you that may not feel worthy of such attention and care, and learning the true depth of your worth. As a person learns (and deeply internalizes) their sense of self-worth, they naturally discover the need for the development and maintenance of personal boundaries in various aspects of their life. This too, doesn't often come naturally, and it's often beneficial to have a trusted therapist to guide you through the inevitable sorting process one goes through when learning (and again, internalizing) that they have a right to boundaries, and even that they're absolutely necessary for living a healthy life and having healthy relationships. Most people don't like experiencing the boundaries of others, so it's helpful to have someone guide you through what to expect when "pushback" is received, and encouragement of your ability to stay true to yourself. This is a natural segue into additional stages of self-acceptance, compassion and non-judgment as one begins to get to know oneself more deeply and thoroughly, while hope, trust-of-self and a new stronger identity begins to firmly take root. Here, the person learns to dream and consider fresh new possibilities for their life, and has a strong sense of what's right for them, and what isn't, which can be quite liberating and empowering. And last (but certainly no least) is the point at which the person can "make sense" of all that they've been through in that they've accepted what happened as a part of their life story (which should not be confused with believing that what happened is acceptable, which it was most certainly not); that what happened has not held them back; and that they've become stronger despite it, as a result of their own hard work, perseverance and resilience in the face of That Which Should Never Have Happened. I wish you the best of luck on your healing journey, and again, thank you for reaching out for help along the way.
(M.A., LMFT)
Answered on 10/29/2022

I'm questioning if i should get back into therapy

Hello Liv, Making the choice to reach out and speak, even briefly, with a therapist is an important first step in determining where your own mind is at regarding the situations you are going through.  In general, I will say that if you are questioning if you need therapy, you would benefit from talking to a therapist if even just for a brief period of time to work things out.  What I often share is that a therapist is not an expert on you, they simply have education/training/skills that can help you work out what is going on and see if from a better perspective than where you are at right now.   The most important part to remember is that the therapist has to be the right 'fit' for you.  It is not as simple as being 'assigned' to someone and *bam* they help you work through what is concerning you.  You need to allow time and space to build a relationship and trust with the therapist (and this process can help you identify and work through some of the 'toxic' relationship habits you mentioned).  While we will hold space in the first one or two sessions for everything that you want to let 'spill out' of your mind, to put all your information out there...a healthy relationship with a therapist will help you set some of those things aside (I call it 'putting things in a sealed box off to the side) until you have build trust together to open the boxes in a safe way.  I've included a link to in my opinion, very important things to keep in mind/ask when choosing a therapist: Learning how to break the hold past relationships have on you (for instance, the way you may worry over a new partners words because they happened to say or do something similar to your last partner when they were mad at you) takes time and compassion.  Being open with your new partner about moments when the 'storm clouds of the past' show up, so that they too can help you remember they are not the past partner, that you are here and this is safe, is a big part of the process.  We work to reduce embarrassment and shame around the process, create space for you to openly question yourself and the situation in ways that help you find compassion and kindness.  Therapy can help you identify and connect with friends, family, spiritual leaders, community members or groups, that will help increase your ability to find this compassion for your past self who is growing and changing.   Therapy is not a 100% perfect fix. It can be messy and even painful at times, to work through the things that creates the responses we have.  Therapists do not do the work for you or have a magic wand🪄 (how I wish we did!) to to erase all that has happened...but the right connection and bond with a therapist can create the safe space for you to do this work. I wish you all the best, and hope that you do decide to seek a therapist of your own.  I suggest to all clients that we give 3-5 sessions, to see if this bond becomes evident.  ❣️Your therapist should demonstrate respect for you and your time (arrive within 2-5 minutes of the scheduled session) as you should do for them. ❣️You should feel some small measure of relief from any anxious or depressing feelings within a couple sessions (not that they are gone, just that you feel relieved having a place to talk about them)  ❣️You should feel comfortable correcting a therapist who forgets or gets something wrong (because, we do, we are human too 😊) ❣️You should feel you begin to look forward to sessions, even if you know that what you want to talk about may be hurtful or uncomfortable.   Best wishes in your beginning steps towards healing 💙
Answered on 10/27/2022

How do I calm myself down when something bad has happened? I've tried prayer, meditation & exercise.

When something bad happens we can struggle with understanding why it happened to us, how someone could do something like that to us, and then with how to move forward.  In order to move forward from a situation we have to process it.  To process it we have to identify our feelings and thoughts related to what happened, feel those feelings, understand those thoughts, identify whether or not those thoughts are rational or irrational, and then challenge any thoughts that may not be rational so we can correct them and change them.    So some thoughts could be - "this shouldn't have happened to me", "I didn't deserve this", "why would this person do this to me", "what did I do to deserve this", while some feelings may be, "I'm angry", "I'm frustrated", "I'm confused", "I'm hurt".  Now that you know those are the thoughts: are those thoughts valid, was this personal, do you know the person's intent, does the person's intent matter? The reason those questions are asked is because sometimes people's actions say more about them than you, and are personal to them - not you, they could be jealous and frustrated with their own situation. Either way, when people antagonize people they don't know, it is typically because of something that is going on with them and tends to have nothing to do with the person they antagonize.     Then when you examine your feelings, you look at the validity of those feelings. Are you angry that this happened to you or angry that someone questioned your personal integrity and antagonized your character? Are you hurt because this person didn't know you or hurt because this person criticized your image and made others question who you were as a professional? What is the actual feeling you are feeling and why?   Once you identify those thoughts and feelings then you can begin to look at how do you move forward. And moving forward requires identifying statements that remind you of the facts but allow you to move past the situation. For example, "I didn't know this person and they didn't know me and I know that I am a professional and the situation was resolved so neither them nor the situation require anymore of my attention". In order to move forward, you have to process what happened.
Answered on 10/26/2022

How do I get past flight mode?

Thank you for reaching out to us with this question! The first step and the step that you are taking now is important which is seeking help and asking questions. I want to start by first addressing what childhood trauma is. Childhood trauma is an event experienced by a child that evokes fear and can be violent, dangerous, or life-threatening. It does not have to be life threatening but sometimes it is. It is also sometimes referred to as adverse childhood experiences and there are many different experiences that can lead to trauma. On going stress, such as living in a dangerous neighborhood or being the target of bullying, can also be traumatic for a child—even if it just feels like daily life to an adult. Childhood trauma does not have to involve experiences that occur directly to the child. Watching a loved one endure a major health issue, for instance, can be extremely traumatic for children. Violent media can have this effect too. Traumatic events can affect how a child’s brain develops, which can have lifelong consequences for them physically, mentally, and socially. It can impair their physical development. The stress can impair the development of their immune and central nervous systems, making it harder to achieve their full potential. The piece I want to focus on is how Children exposed to complex traumas may even become disassociated. Dissociation involves separating themselves from the experience mentally. They might imagine that they are outside of their bodies and watching it from somewhere else or they may lose memory of the experience, resulting in memory gaps. Dissociation is the brain’s way of protecting itself from traumatic emotional experiences and allows a person to override their emotions to survive the perceived threats around them. Without this coping mechanism, some people may not be able to perform the necessary functions of daily life without becoming overwhelmed. Dissociation tendencies may go away with time but can become debilitating if left untreated. Children experiencing dissociation may not be aware of what is happening and there are some warning signs that may happen: Loss of memory of important or traumatic events known to have occurred Frequent dazed or trance-like states Perplexing forgetfulness Rapid, profound age regression Difficulties seeing cause-and-effect consequences from life experiences Lying or denying responsibility for misbehavior despite obvious evidence to the contrary Repeatedly referring to themselves in the third person Unexplained injuries or recurrent self-injurious behavior Auditory and visual hallucinations   Now, knowing all of this, it is possible to examine your triggers and think more deeply about how to stop lying as lies can have serious consequences. If lying’s become a more regular habit in your life, try not to be too hard on yourself. After all, most people do lie, even if they do not admit it. Instead, ask yourself how you can break this pattern and be more truthful going forward. The next time you find yourself in a lie, stop and pay attention to what’s going on inside. Ask yourself: Where are you? Who are you with? How do you feel? Are you lying to make yourself feel better or avoid making someone feel bad? Answering these questions can help you pinpoint which scenarios, emotions, or other factors trigger you to lie. Once you have identified some triggers, take a mindful look at them and think about some new ways to respond to them. For example, if you tend to lie when you are put on the spot, try planning out possible responses before going into situations where you know you might get in trouble with the people around you. What types of lies do you often tell? Types of lies  white lies lies by omission  exaggerations “gray” or subtle lies complete untruths Many of us want to seek approval and avoid rejection. Lying addiction is a defense mechanism to protect your self image against a number of things. Being addicted to lying may be the result of: Shame: John Bradshaw, a leading authority on addiction, believes that shame is the driving force behind addiction. Shame is recognition of wrongdoing, but without a separation of one’s self from the wrongful act. Shame processes mentally as “ I made a mistake and I cannot recover. I am a failure. I am defective,” rather than “I made a bad choice and acted badly. I need to change and make up for my mistake.” Negative Consequences: People with addictions hope that things will work themselves out without them having to take any action. So they convince themselves that they can avoid the consequences associated with their bad choices. This avoidant coping style is common in addiction. Criticism and Confrontation: Intense shame often makes it difficult for addicts to handle criticism, so they lie to avoid confrontation or other circumstances where criticism of them may arise. Fear of Repercussions: Addicts at some level know that sooner or later they will have to change if they are to survive. But fear of the repercussions of returning to a state of honesty (shame, guilt, possible additional damage to relationships) makes it difficult to commit to this path until all possible options for avoidance have been exhausted. One of the first steps toward recovery is to recognize that shame and guilt and other negative character traits are not qualities that are unique to addicts. Such obstacles are in all of us, and it is simply the job of adulthood to address them and – rather than try to eliminate them – to integrate them into our larger personalities. There may come a time when pathological liar treatment is necessary. This is where Liars Anonymous or a 12 step program for lying can help. Step 1 is about recognizing the need to align with, and ask for assistance from, something higher than the personality part that you are currently aligned with. If you want to know how to stop lying compulsively there are a few steps you should take to hold yourself accountable. If you are wondering how to help a compulsive liar in your life it would also be beneficial to encourage them to work through these actions: Admit that you have a problem with lying. As long as you are in denial, you won’t stop lying. Be accountable to someone. Talk to a friend, a counselor, or a 12-step sponsor and commit to being completely truthful with them. Consider the consequences. Sooner or later, your lies will be exposed, and you risk losing people’s trust and friendship. But by admitting your lies and committing to positive change, it is more likely that you will be given a second chance to repair broken trusts. Journal. When you lie, reflect on the reasons for your lies. Become aware of automatic, habituated, irrational thoughts. Then consider alternate, more positive choices that will help you meet your emotional needs with honesty and honor. Set positive, life-enhancing goals and make concrete plans to work toward these. Give yourself something to be genuinely proud of yourself about, so that lies and deceptive, pretentious ego-boosts are no longer necessary in your life. I hope this helps even a little bit, best of luck!
Answered on 10/10/2022

What are some healthy ways I can learn to express what I'm feeling and how I can stay in the moment?

Hello Hiccups! Thank you for your question.  You indicated that you are autistic, and have ADHD and anxiety. My first question would be "do you have a psychiatrist, a psychiatric APRN, or any other kind of doctor who has made these diagnoses and/or treats you for these conditions?" If you and I were working together, I would consider this important information to ensure that your provider and I do not provide you with conflicting information. And also, if you did have a provider, I would want to know what, if anything, that person has suggested that you try to help with your symptoms. So that would be first on the list. Then you said that you become unaware and sort of freeze up when you experience high anxiety and stress. This would suggest that your body is interpreting various situations as "threats" and is automatically going into the "fight/flight/freeze" mode. Our nervous system tends to respond to perceived threats even before we are able to process the situation with our logical brain. Probably the most common suggestion that you would likely hear (although this would not be the only one) would be to learn mindfulness practices. This would involve learning to take note of what your body is telling you on a pretty regular basis. Awareness of thoughts and feelings (both emotional and physical) are important aspects of mindfulness. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? The purpose of this is to be able to notice if/when we are starting to escalate so that we can take some action before it gets any worse. There are many mindfulness practices that help calm the nervous system. The most common -- the easiest technique -- is intentional breathing -- deep breathing. Deep breathing helps to calm down the nervous system. There is a therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT for short) that is essentially a curriculum of skills that help people learn how to manage strong emotions. If we were working together, I would provide you with DBT information. These skills would be very helpful not only to avoid emotional dysregulation but also to manage it if it has already started. There are certainly other skills that would help with both the ADHD and the anxiety. For example, having a fairly organized schedule written on a calendar will help keep you on task. Creating a "to do" list helps people manage their time better so they don't become overwhelmed and stressed. Learning boundary skills such as saying "no" to things you just don't have time to do (or don't want to do) also helps with stress and anxiety. Keeping an organized home and work space helps with stress, anxiety, and the symptoms of ADHD. So all of this could probably be summed up under the heading of "planning and organizing." These  skills are very helpful in maintaining a sense of calm. Many people like to use meditation techniques to help with their strong feelings. Meditation does not have to be difficult. It can be a traditional approach or it can be as simple as taking a walk among the trees and just noticing the features of the trees. Self care is also important on a regular daily basis. I call this taking care of your emotional bank account. Your EBA is like a regular bank account -- money in, money out. No money in, no way to pay bills. Same with your EBA. Every day that you get out of bed and do whatever you do during the day you are making withdrawals from your EBA. You have to make regular deposits to have a reserve to draw from. When a person does not have anything in their EBA, the withdrawals tend to feel something like stress, anger, frustration, depression and anxiety. So taking care of yourself very regularly is important to managing these strong emotions. Many people do not have a good understanding of autism, anxiety, ADHD, and the fight/flight/freeze response. So, helping the people who are in your environment to understand these conditions and symptoms would be helpful to you as well. You could educate them as to what would be most helpful to you in certain situations. And then you also want to be able to express what you are feeling. Learning a "feelings vocabulary" along with healthy assertiveness skills (which is part of the DBT curriculum) would help you identify and express to others what you are feeling and what you need or want from them. One other skill that is worth mentioning is called exposure therapy. It just means that you expose yourself little by little in small increments to situations that cause you high anxiety. You start out very small and work your way up every so slightly each time -- like going up the steps of a ladder -- until you get to a place where you can tolerate the situation that you fear or makes you anxious. Another skill would be to examine your thinking patterns to see where you can reframe your thoughts about a situation so that the situation is not quite so frightening or anxiety provoking.    These are many, but not all, of the techniques that you could use to help manage your symptoms. There certainly are others. I hope you have found this overview helpful. Judi
Answered on 10/07/2022

How can I help myself cope with stress, while also ensuring I can enjoy the things I should?

Thank you for reaching our with your question. It is understandable that you might be feeling overwhelmed as I think most of us go through that. There can be a lot of stressors and overwhelming situations that we encounter. I am not sure about your exact situation, but some of those things may include relationships, work, parenting, the pandemic, etc. I would take time to think about what are your current stressors. This can help you to see and understand where you are expending your energy and if there is any place that you can make any modifications.  Stress can be overwhelming and can impede our lives everyday. It is important to see how we are letting stress impact us and how we can work to mitigate any negative impacts. How do you currently cope with stress? Do you ignore it or work to confront it head on?  You mention that you do not have much motivation currently. How long have you noticed this? Are there times where you are more motivated? What are some things that might be motivating to you? (For example, reading a good book, going for a walk alone, eating a delicious meal, etc.) Sometimes we can neglect ourselves and put others first. You may want to prioritize even 5 minutes a day to dedicate to nurturing yourself. It sounds like you may be focused on things that have happened in the past and that is taking you away from the present moment. One simple way to check in the present moment is to take a deep breath, hold for 3 seconds, and exhale for 3 seconds. It seems quite simple yet can allow you to check in physically and notice any areas of tension. Some helpful coping strategies may include: Keep a positive attitude – sometimes the way you think about things can make all of the difference. Your attitude can help offset difficult situations. Accept that there are events you cannot control – when you know there are times when you have given all that you can to a situation, it allows you to expend energy where it can be more effective. It can be important to identify what is within your control and what is not to be able to let go of those things. Learn to relax – purposeful relaxation, such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation and meditation is essential in training your body to relax. Relaxation should be a part of your daily regimen. Be active regularly – being active also helps your body more easily fight stress because it is fit. This may involve a short walk or doing a dance video game. Eat well-balanced meals – staying on track with healthy eating habits is a great way to manage stress. Cooking can also be a way to engage in the present moment. Rest and sleep - your body needs time to recover from stressful events, so sleep is an important part of caring for yourself. You may want to look into developing a sleep routine if you do not already have one, that may involve winding down before going to sleep. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful to you. It can be challenging to change your way of thinking or your current habits, but it can be very powerful in helping you to live a more fulfilling, joyful life.
Answered on 09/14/2022

What is best way to move forward from your past trauma?

Hello Blackjack,   I am glad you have reached out for some help with managing your past trauma.  I can see that it is negatively affecting your life and your relationships.   People who experience trauma will very often turn to alcohol and other substances to help manage or dull the powerful flood of any emotion and traumatic prompts and pokes. You may be also using alcohol to try to numb out your feelings. Drugs and alcohol may indeed initially dull out those trauma memories and help manage connected suffering and stress, but what can happen is that a dangerous sequence can often begin.   It is not unusual for me to hear that you participate in drinking alcohol to deal with anxiety, depression, and any irritability or anger.  I hear often that typically, alcohol initially seems to relieve these symptoms for people who have gone through traumatic life events. When you experience a traumatic event, the brain releases a chemical called endorphins that may be helping you to numb any physical and emotional pain of your trauma event/s.   This is your body naturally helping you cope with the pain caused by your trauma.   However, this intrudes with the natural shielding purpose the body was already doing. As a result, we produce a type of emotional withdrawal that can set us up to deal with increased and lengthy suffering and stress that can often lead to the advance of a posttraumatic stress situation. It is important for you to know that drinking alcohol may have been your “solution or strategy” you turned to, but it seems that this is now making things worse for you in your life.   So it will be necessary to work towards reducing your alcohol use and find more effective solutions that do not damage your relationships and your life overall. Drinking alcohol can sometimes contribute to PTSD indicators and thus increase irritability, depression, and feeling off guard. Some people will drink to deal with insomnia that comes from anxiety, anticipating any nightmares/flashbacks, and overthinking. Drinking alcohol actually weakens the quality of your sleep, however, even setting you up for a damaging and unhelpful cycle. Trying to dodge memories of trauma can make them emerge in your sleep. Drinking alcohol also can often make therapy less effective because you are not permitting yourself to successfully deal with trauma in a safe, strong setting with a qualified professional. People who use substances may be less able to cope with a traumatic event. They may have increased difficulty with emotional and behavioral regulation. When chemical use starts, development gets significantly impaired. As an outcome, you may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors that can lead to further trauma. The mixture of trauma and drinking alcohol can increase challenges related to getting close to people and having struggles with the people you do have a relationship with. Weighty drinking can often lead to a confused and messy life. The very thing you need is that support and connection, yet as you are now experiencing is damaged as a result of your drinking and the consequential behaviors. A specialist therapist knows drinking is generally not actually THE problem. It is usually a symptom of another problem.  And for you, as you already have identified that the problem is trauma. In such cases, drinking alcohol is not generally about having fun. It is about managing your pain of the trauma you are dealing with. Just so you know effective handling of trauma does not mean you have to talk about what has happened in your life. A therapist does not need you to reexperience your trauma. That probably happens enough for you too often!  A specialized trauma therapist will focus more on how it is affecting you today and how it is impacting your life now. Drinking alcohol may have been your “solution” that you turned to, but it seems that it is really making things worse in your life. There are many other, more effective ways to deal with the past other than drinking.  It is difficult to do this on your own so I would strongly suggest you reach out for specialized help to find better coping strategies for you.  Skills that your close loved ones will see are making a difference in your life and in theirs too! I hope you take the next step and reach out for some help with what you have gone through in your life.  There is hope and there is help available for you.   BetterHelp has specialized licensed professional therapists to help you navigate your trauma in a safe and effective way. With the right support and your willingness to put in the hard work and remain committed to your recovery you can make progress and create the changes in your life that you desire. The online platform may be a good option for you to feel safer in your own environment.  I hope you are able to reach out for the help you need and deserve so that you can enjoy a happy and healthy future.   In Kindness, Gaynor 
Answered on 07/27/2022

I am able to remove myself from situations that trigger me as a mom, but no idea how to cope?

Being a mom is one of the most rewarding and difficult jobs out there. The stimulation is constant especially with 3 kiddos under 5. I think it is great that you are reaching out for other supports. It is great you're aware of your triggers and when to step away. That is a huge first step! It sounds like cultivating some other coping skills to utilize when you walk away would help with the feelings remaining the same. I also think that utilizing different mindfulness skills that can be implemented into your daily life easily would be helpful. Mindfulness is simply the act of being present. These skills help ground in the moment without fear or worry of the past or future. There are many simple ways to utilize mindfulness many of which use your 5 senses to bring calming. Mindfulness is a broad, umbrella term with many books, videos, and teachings available. It is a practice that can be implemented in activities of daily living that your already do.  5,4,3,2,1 sense mindfulness is not only a favorite of mine but also many of my clients. To do this take 3 deep breaths, identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 you can smell and 1 thing you can taste, ending with 3 deep breaths. Mindful eating and drinking is something that can easily be done during a break. To do this, pay extra attention to the textures and feelings you're experiencing. There are also many guided mindfulness meditations on youtube. You're a mom and super busy! Thankfully the tools available on youtube or other sites can be a few minutes or longer if you have time. There are also many amazing mindfulness exercises for families and kiddos including youtube videos. This is something not only you could utilize for yourself but do with your kids as well. I have experience working with children and families. Oftentimes coping skills for the whole family are beneficial since it is very hard (as you know) for moms to get a lot of time alone to practice coping and self-care. I leave you with this, you are a wonderful mom and showing a great example to your kids reaching out for help to learn more coping skills. Please reach out with any further questions. 
Answered on 06/24/2022

How can I gain confidence back, I'm going through anxiety and depression that my health is poor.

Hi J, Thank you for sharing this with me, I can understand how hard this is for you. Times like these appear to be very hopeless and can really impact our confidence negatively, and make it very difficult for us to remain positive. In times of a health crisis, there are many stressors that are pushing down on people, these include doctor visits, ongoing procedures, the side effects, the health issue itself and its physical and mental effects, the financial aspect of the situation, the medications and their side effects, stress from your loved ones, etc.  It becomes nearly impossible to handle this situation emotionally and can take a huge toll on one's emotional well-being. When having so many things to worry about, it's very difficult to focus on anything positive. However, it's the positivity- the only thing that can actually help us when facing such difficult times. A quote by Ralph Emerson "when it's dark enough, only then can you see the stars" has helped many. It is a very powerful quote, and does say a lot about situations like these. When there is too much stress, we need to look at all the positive aspects in our life, which can give a ray of hope. I know it is not easy-  but It is important, if you don't look at your future in a positive way then it becomes impossible to handle difficult situations. Think about your goals in life- your bucket list, who you want to spend your life with and keep them in mind at all times. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by being negative, it just makes the situation worse and also it impacts one's health very negatively, whereas a positive mindset has a good affect on one's health and many research studies have shown this. Having a positive outlook can cause lower levels of pain and distress, a healthier psychological well-being and even helps in creating resistance to illnesses. So, there is a lot to be gained by being positive. Ask yourself, what am I getting out of being stressed, being worried and being negative about my future? Absolutely nothing. However, you are losing a lot and that is what needs to be stopped. Now that we have discussed the importance of positivity, we need to see how we can implement positivity in our lives. I want you to start by writing a few sentences in a journal everyday. You can start with writing three things that you are grateful for in your daily life. I want you to take time on a daily basis to reflect on them.  Doing this will help you in regaining your confidence and in helping you become stronger emotionally.  I hope these tips were helpful and I wish you the best.  Best, Dr. Saima 
Answered on 06/19/2022

I’ve just completed a major challenge and now I feel I’m moving two steps backward. I’m under a bit

Hi, and thanks for your question. First of all, I'm sorry to hear you've been enduring unrelenting adversity. At the same time, you've survived through it to this point, and that is an accomplishment in and of itself that's noteworthy. There are certainly difficult times in our lives when it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel -- particularly when that same "light" has often proved to be a freight train. These challenges are making you stronger, and they will shift, change, and one day, end. It's true that, the stronger you become, the more challenging situations you're able to handle. At the same time, just like preparing to go on a long road trip and somehow thinking you'll be able to make that cross-country journey on a quarter-tank of gas, you too, need to regularly stop and refuel yourself if you're going to arrive at your destination. This means identifying what you need in your life to keep going -- what specific types of self-care activities (or lack of activity, as the case may be) restore and refuel you to keep going no matter what life throws your way. Make time for those at all costs -- if you find yourself confronting feelings of guilt in taking time for your own self care, remember the "road trip" analogy: you wouldn't feel guilty for stopping to refuel your car -- it's simply what must be done in order to keep going. All that being said, there's a saying that goes something along the lines of, "He who has a 'why' can endure any 'how.'" This speaks to our very human need for a sense of purpose in all that we do. If we have a clear sense of why we're embarking on a certain path toward a desired end goal, our resolve to see it through to completion is bolstered, and challenges become a bit less challenging and a little more tolerable, and often times this is exactly what we need in the face of adversity: just a little break...just a little reprieve from the constant pressure or seemingly never ending calamities... just a small space in which to catch our breath. The world, however, may not dole out the space in which to breathe quite so freely as the challenges are presented. In that sense, it's incumbent upon us -- if we are to keep going forward or even simply tread water -- to intentionally create that space for ourselves in order to catch our breath, assess the situation, recuperate some of our energy and resolve to plunge forward, and bravely face whatever is before us. But I digress. Back to the importance of having a sense of purpose in whatever you do. Look inward and identify your values, your priorities in life, and what motivates you. If need be, write them down. Surround yourself in reminders (in whatever mode works for you) of what's most important to you and why you're doing what you're doing. Some people feel supported by inspirational quotes, pictures, songs/playlists, mantras, beloved objects, etc. Whatever you can do to create an environment that supports you and your connection to that sense of purpose that you identify. Other important points along the way in your journey are knowing which people in your life are your support system, and calling upon them when you need to, as well as making time for them even when you're not in crisis mode. Having the acceptance, love and support of even just one person can give you the strength to move forward when it feels like stopping is the easier thing to do.   That being said (and returning to the point of self-care again), sometimes you *do* just need to stop for a bit. And by "a bit" I mean like an afternoon. Sometimes it's okay to just curl up in bed or on the sofa to binge watch your favorite show. Sometimes your mind and body *need* to check out in a healthy way, and that's okay. Just be sure it's somewhat time limited (i.e., don't allow yourself to fall into a pattern of those activities to the neglect of what's really important to you). Another point -- which ties into the importance of identifying what motivates you toward that/those goals/what your values and priorities are is keeping in mind the power of regret-as-motivator. Ask yourself -- within the context of your values, goals and priorities -- how you would feel about yourself if you stopped working toward those goals? Would you have regrets? Would doing so make you feel as though you somehow betrayed a part of yourself? If the answer is "yes," then that's a good sign you'd benefit from a continued journey forward, even when (or especially when) it's rough...and if *that's* the case, then you'd certainly benefit from ensuring your "gas tank" is properly fueled for the journey. What you've described is one of the more difficult aspects of being human, and it's something we all face, have faced, or will face at one time or another in life. That's why there are so many quotes, adages, etc. that speak to such circumstances and the difficulty in persevering against all odds. It's also a storyline of many movies -- everyone wants to see the "underdog" succeed. Know that, in this sense, the whole human race is rooting for you. :-) Best wishes!  
(M.A., LMFT)
Answered on 05/18/2022

How can I help myself and avoid going down a dangerous path of unhealthy coping mechanisms?

Greetings and thank you for reaching out.  First of all, remember that every coping skill is just a behavior that exists for a reason.  It is almost like a trained or automatic response to any situation in life.  In particular, healthy coping skills are things that have a proven psychological benefit, such as listening to music, exercise or even healthy eating.  The good news is that awareness is half the battle.  We call this "insight", which means our ability to understand why a certain problem exists, and the impact that it has on us.   This leads me to my point about self improvement and discovery.  Once again, I will point our that behaviors are one of the factors that are well within our domain.  We have negative ones and we have positive ones.  Behaviors however are well within our control to change and modify to suit our needs.  Sometimes though, negative behaviors do tend to overpower us, and we become lost and consumed by them.  Being able to regain control of our behaviors is key to overcoming any obstacles that currently exist, or that may exist in the future.  Back to your point about aversion.  That within itself is a behavior that exists because of something.  We are in nature driven by something.  I always ask "what itch are we trying to scratch?" Most do not appear out of thin air, and exist for a reason.   Hope this helps.  Regards,  Luis
Answered on 05/13/2022

Ongoing trauma

Hello Abby,     I'm so sorry to read that you are going through so much pain, loss, and trauma right now.  These things would have overwhelmed any person.  There is only so much we can take before we are thrown out of that comfort window and can no longer stay emotionally regulated and self-soothe.  I would like to look at some of the resiliency factors that might help you overcome the emotional overwhelm you are feeling.    One of the first things that come to my mind is a strong support system.  When something traumatic happens, the first thing we need is support.  This could be support from people already in our lives, but it could also be support of the community, neighbors, therapists, doctors, etc.  Buffer yourself with all the support you can find.  None of us can handle so much stress on our own.  We need people and pets to lean on for support.   The basic needs of air, water, food, shelter, sleep, are the primary human needs that are essential to us before we can move on to safety, love and belonging.  It sounds like you may need to start from those basic needs and build your way back up Maslow's Hierarchy of needs of self-esteem, strength, and living your best life.  Let's start small and work your way back up to comfort.  It's too overwhelming to think that everything can be addressed right away.  We may need to back up and start small.  And, that's ok.  You are never in a rush, and it is always on your own time to recover and at your own pace.   Which leads me to my final thought of self-compassion and self-care.  You have been through so much, and the last thing you need is to be hard on yourself.  We often blame ourselves for the things that happen, and that is the last, least healthy thing you need to be doing to yourself right now.  Let's work on giving yourself some kindness about the current situation you find yourself in, and notice how much room you will have to move out of it and into a better place in life.  Feeling stuck is sometimes fighting what is.  Rather than fighting, allow yourself some compassion to feel what you feel, and slowly rebuild your strength and confidence.  You can recover from this, and with some help, you will.  We are here for you.  Good luck!    
Answered on 05/13/2022

What are some things I can do to help me cope with chronic pain, anxiety, and loss of motivation?

Hey, thank you for asking your question and for providing the follow up details. I was sorry to read about your health conditions, especially about how it is impacting your ability to plan for the future and to work consistently. That can be extremely overwhelming, and can sometimes lead you to feel like you are not making accomplishments or having a type of purpose.   I know you mentioned in the follow up details that you're having trouble setting goals, and that's definitely something that we could talk about in therapy. Setting small goals, basically breaking down into smaller steps what you want to try to accomplish is important to handle what life is throwing at you, and to be honest, it sounds like life has thrown a lot your way!    I also understand the need for privacy, and I encourage you to try to find a way to either talk with your parent about the issue, or to possibly reevaluate your finances as best you can and see if possibly moving out, maybe even with a roommate is something that could work out for you. Being in a rural area would be difficult, especially if it's separated from your friends.   Congratulations on completing school, that is a big accomplishment! Something that I also might think will assist you in feeling less lost and overwhelmed is focusing on what you have already accomplished, instead of simply focusing on what you have left to do. Goal setting is important, but it is not the be-all and end-all. From a young age we are typically taught to strive to be our best, which is important, but it is also important to acknowledge how far you have come.  I'm glad that you have been able to do some freelance work, and with your chronic health concerns I hope you are continuing to be able to do so. I understand if the pain is getting in the way of continuing with your future plans. Something else that I think might be helpful is looking into different hobbies so you feel like you have more of a purpose. I know when I have worked with other clients with chronic health concerns, it is sometimes the boredom and the feelings of uselessness that gets to them.    Thank you so much for your time, good luck and take care!
Answered on 05/04/2022

I'm struggling with stress and friendship setting boundaries and such. Idk where to start.

Ultimately, regardless of the problem we are facing, the answer is always to look at our situation to see where we are with it and what we have at our disposal both internally and externally to deal with it. Whenever you feel lost, whether it be physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually; it is nearly always in your best interest to sit down and get a sense of where you are - because that's where you have to start. The exception to that statement would be if you are in a physically dangerous situation to where you have to keep moving just to stay alive, but otherwise the best course of action for you and others around you is to focus on doing what you can do on your own before you start involving others as well. Dealing with stress in and outside of relationships can be overwhelming at times, but I believe it to be beneficial for us to reflect on what our situation or relationship would look like if we decided not to deal with it by allowing it continue to play out. Typically health challenges will not improve over the long-term unless we decide to take action, and social, mental, and emotional problems aren't any different. My encouragement to you is to visualize the future you want to have where both you and the other person in the friendship/relationship are able to be open and authentic with each other, and then start doing what you can from your end to invite them to meet you in the middle. If they start moving your direction in ways that feel good to both of you, then you just need to keep up the good work. Should they not move towards you, then you have to decide if the relationship is going to be worth it to continue, because some people will not respect your boundaries - which means it's even more important that you maintain the personal boundaries that bring you peace and happiness in your life.  Start working your way towards that relationship today by making little consistent efforts to improve yourself in the areas you want to experience growth. Just like we can't eat all the food we need in a week just in a single meal, the growth you want to see will start from you doing the "little things" on a daily basis that will make your vision become a reality. Talk to family members and/or other sincerely interested people in your life, and if they are supportive of you and your vision for the future, it may be helpful for them to provide an additional layer of accountability for you by sharing some of the goals you have for yourself and having them help you in your efforts to track your progress. You will find yourself becoming more and more happy each day that you're giving your best effort and you have a healthy balance with asking others for help to do more on your own. 
Answered on 05/02/2022

How to use grounding techniques when you can't feel grounded

I feel bad you are going through this causing you to be super stressed. But, when it comes to better managing your stress, the first thing I strongly recommend you to do “ BELLY BREATHING.” What is Belly breathing? During “Belly breathing” you breathe in slowly and deeply, counting to 6 in your head, as your belly and lungs fill up with air. This means your belly stick out as you breathe in. Then, you let the air out, even slower when you breathe in, meaning count to 7 as you breathe out. At this time, your belly go back in as the air is slowly pushed out. If you are still not sure, you can indeed watch a video clip about it in youtube. Do this over and over until you feel relaxed. Once you feel more relaxed, then now try to reframe your negative thoughts that causing you with lots of stress to a more positive thought that can help you feel joy, happiness, excitement, and so on. So, this is like changing from a cup half empty (negative) of water to a cup half full (positive) of water. Or better, changing the channel of the TV from something you do not like to watch to something you like to watch as everything has to do how you interpret your negative life event/situation that you are going through. We cannot change what has happened but we can change how we perceive and interpret it. Thus, changing your thought pattern to a more positive light from the negative ones could help you to better manage your stress caused by your negative life events.Depending how resilient a person you are, it might take several training and disciplines before this actually happens or you can do this fast. Therefore, although different people face similar or the same negative life event, some people can cope with the situation better than the others. According to the cognitive behavioral therapy, the thoughts, emotions, body reactions, behaviors are all interconnected to each other in response to a life event, whether positive or negative. This means that, when a person faces a positive life event, then the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors will be positive, and as a result this person will not have negative bodily reactions. However, when a person faces a negative life event, most people are inclined to have negative automatic thoughts, which will cause him to have lots of stress, and the more this person thinks or overthinks about this stressful life event the more he or she will have a strong negative emotion (stress, depression, anxiety, confusion), which in turn will cause the person to have negative bodily reactions such heart pounding, chest compressing, migraines, tiredness, lack of energy, and the list goes on and on. Then, this is associated with the negative behaviors such as difficulty sleeping, shutting down, eating junk food, and so on. These thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected to each other and how they work together to produce a certain type of emotion depends on what type of coping system, negative or positive, we are using. Thus, depending on the type of the coping system you are using, you could let the stress to come to you to the point that it resides in you and starts to control your life, or you can kick it out of your life when it comes to you so that it does not reside in you and it does not control your life.  I hope this information has been helpful.
Answered on 05/01/2022

I work 6 days a week and need help and methods to decompress.

Thank you for your question. Work-life balance can be tricky, especially if you are working a lot of overtime hours. That can making scheduling in-person counseling appointments challenging. One aspect of live appointments at BetterHelp – they can be scheduled for a 30-minute session. So, if you cannot spare a 45-minute block of time, check with your counselor about a 30-minute block. That may be more manageable for your time management. Another feature of BetterHelp is groupinars. These are group webinars covering a variety of topics. When you register for one and are not able to attend it “live”, you will be emailed a link to the recording so you can watch it/listen to it when you have a chance (within a 1-week time period I believe). This way, you can still receive some benefits of a psychology-related webinar at a more convenient time for your schedule. At the time that I wrote this reply to your question, there is a Self-Care 101 and a Sleep groupinar offered – those topics seem to closely relate to your question/concern about being overly stressed. Let me suggest some ideas to decompress and manage your stress. First, getting adequate sleep can be very helpful as waking up refreshed can provide you with energy for your day. Establish a set bedtime each day (weekends too) so your mind knows when it should start slowing down. Using a routine each evening before bed can help too. Turn off electronic devices at least 30-minutes before turning in and avoid the temptation to watch TV in bed. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can interfere with melatonin production (which helps you sleep). Writing down notes from the day, so you can release them from your mind, may help (especially if you tend to wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing about what you need to do the next day). Meditation and/or prayer can help relax your mind and destress your body, as can some light stretching. A bath or shower before sleeping can also relax your body and signal your mind that it’s sleep time. Just like establishing an evening routine, a morning routine can help you face the day in a good mood. Stretching when you awake and meditating or praying can help set an intention and tone for your day. Deep breaths and saying an intention for the day can help by starting the day on a positive note. A healthy breakfast is needed to fuel your mind and body.  During the day, eat healthy foods – avoid sugar, processed foods, etc. Aim for whole, nutritious foods to give your body and mind the nutrition it needs. Exercise, if you have time (even a few minutes) can help your heart and blood circulation. When stressed, take a minute or two to take some deep breaths – breathe from your belly. Also helpful during stressful times are affirmations and positive statements (reframe the stressful event into an opportunity) – ex: instead of: I can’t meet this deadline – reframe to: I can do this; I know how to prioritize my day and focus my energy. I can ask ___ for help, if needed. Reframing (switching perspectives) can help you focus on what you CAN do and away from what you cannot do. This helps you focus on solutions (and not on problems). Then, lean on your past successful healthy coping skills – what has worked for you in the past to manage your stress? Make sure to use those healthy coping skills, as well as to adapt them to work in your current situation. For instance, if you used to run 5 miles each day but don’t have the time now, adapt to fit in a 1-mile run – or set a time limit for what you CAN do (perhaps a 10-minute run in the morning is all you can fit in – you’ll still be fitting in some exercise). And, finally, on your day off, aim to do at least 1 thing that you find enjoyable. Engaging in hobbies is part of your overall self-care. I hope those ideas help! I wish you well as you manage your stress. In wellness, Dr. Sally Gill, LMFT
(PhD, MS, LMFT, C.C.T.S.I.)
Answered on 07/07/2021

Medicaid insurance?

Thanks so much for your note. I'm sorry to hear that you had such trouble finding the right counselor. Unfortunately, BetterHelp is private pay only; however, there is a place in the registration process where you can indicate if money is a barrier to services for you. There are indeed, scholarships available that mek counseling through BetterHelp more affordable. Yes. Yes. There is no question that virtual learning for children and families is very challenging. You are not alone. You can certainly join BetterHelp for a limited time, to get support related specifically to supporting your daughter. For you, it might be more helpful to have a longer engagement with a counselor. Have you connected with your family doctor, or even your daughter's pediatrician. They often have insight in to local supports, therapists or therapeutic or socal groups that are free or very low-cost. Another thought - is there a Community Health Center in your community. They often have excellent ressources to support mental health, and for certain take medicaid and/or offer services on a sliding scale.  I have put together some additional suggestions for you. Take them. Try them. Keep the ones you like: 1. Practice positive self-talk, or self-affirmation (occasionally called a mantra): There is a lot of research to support positive the practice of saying good things to ourselves - practicing positive self-talk; "Researchers have long marveled at the almost-magical power of self-affirmation ....(and) people with bad health habits become more amenable to shaping up. The simple act of focusing on the sources of meaning and purpose in our lives is incredibly effective at lowering defenses and changing behavior" (Falk & O'Donnell, 2015). An example of positive self-talk is, "I am a kind person" or "I deserve joy and happiness" or "I am courageous". You get the idea. At the start, it might feel strange to begin to say these types of words to yourself, but it will become less uncomfortable as you make the practice of positive self-talk your own.  2. Honor your (difficult) emotions and set boundaries for your sadness, worry, and anxious feelings: For example, set aside specific time to worry, freak out or feel anxious - even set a timer, say 15 minutes - devote time to cry, stomp around your room, or write angrily in a journal - you get the idea; Then, when the timer goes off - that is the signal to end the in-the-moment worry/anxiety/self-doubt and begin something that brings you pleasure . This can be a very small thing (ie. make a cup of tea, watch a favorite TV show, take a walk, or listen to music that makes you feel joy or uplifted.). 3. Talk with supportive family/friends/colleagues: DO seek out those supportive individuals who can listen to you and validate your concerns, and perhaps even help you problem-solve. It might be someone you've never reached out to before, for example and elderly neighbor, or long-lost friend, school-mate or colleague. Remember, they may benefit from your outreach, too. These are tough times. 4. Practice self-compassion/self-kindness (This is different from developing and practicing self-talk.): Notice, write down and reflect on all the components of your life that are are going well, even if very minor - For example, I can bake really good cookies, or my fish or plants need me and and I take good care of them, or nothing I've done today has been hurtful towards someone else or I've worked hard to be kind to others this week....etc. 5. Access technology - smartly: Check out apps to help ease emotional distress. For example, CALM App or HeadSpace App. Also, a research-based website that has important information about mental health and mental wellness is  Be mindful when looking online for information about mental health (or anything else, for that matter) by confirming that the information is peer-reviewed, appropriately cited and is relatively current. 6. Get Organized: Make sure you have some basic organizing tools in your home. For example, it is handy to keep work due, classes, work owed, assignments and appointments in one place, either on an old-fashioned wall or desk calendar or on an iphone/ipad, etc. It takes time to gete used to inputting information, but don't give up. It gets easier. Also, using and alarm clock (or phone alarm) to help you set times to work and time to play. There is an interesting and research-based method of helping you with time management called The Pomodoro Method, just Google it. 6. Reach out: Though I obviously do not know where you are - could be anywhere in the world - please remember that there are many, many groups (social groups, religious groups, groups through local church, libraries or charity organizations, crisis lines and support...poke around and do some research and you you may be surprised at the available services and supports available for free to help bring people together in these very difficult and trying times!) for people to join, and all of them - for obvious reasons - are currently online. Additionally, you can always access the National Crisis Hotline (aka. Suicide Prevention Hotline) at  1 800 273-8255 or by text:741741. 7. Connect with medical professionals: Please take time to visit with your medical doctor and/or mental health provider to share authentically how you are feeling and to review health and wellness goals. Additionally, practice good sleep hygiene, limit social media, eat healthy foods and (of course) get a reasonable amount of exercise. Finally, limit alcohol (if applicable) consumption, as well. If you'd like to start therapy with BetterHelp, I know that their staff will help connect with you a great therapist. Unfortunately, at this time my caseload is full. Take care. Amanda  
(LICSW, MSW, Lic_School_Counselor)
Answered on 03/14/2021