Holiday Cheer and General Coping Strategies by Laurie Patrice, LPC,BCPC,CPCS

The holiday season can be full of joy.  It is also, for many, full of anxiety, sadness, and frustration.  If you are like most people, chances are you experience all of these feelings during the holiday season. For many of our clients at Perspectives, this year is particularly challenging. Advertisers set us up to believe that everyone is happy, smiling, and that families all get along during this time.  Let’s all remember that it is their job to sell us the dream that then helps them to sell us their products. The reality is that we are complex beings with varied experiences with family, friends, holidays, and perception of ourselves and others.  If we are alone at the holidays it can feel isolating, as if we don’t fit in with the rest of the smiling, happy people around us. When we gather over the holidays with family members who have different lifestyles or different world views this can feel alienating, disappointing, frustrating.  If we gather with family members with whom we have unresolved issues, this can open up old wounds.
 
Since most of us would like to enjoy the holiday season as much as possible, here are a few tips you may find helpful:

  1. Remember that there is no such thing as “perfect”.  This means no holiday will be perfect.  You can let go of the idea of perfect meals, perfect gifts, and perfect families… go ahead, try it on… if feels awesome once you get past all the old messages that try to keep you believing perfect exists... somewhere beyond your experience….   In releasing the concept of “perfect” you set yourself free from the shackles of the “never good enough” trap.
  2. Be realistic with your time.  Don’t take on more than is fun. Focus on what matters most and put your time and attention there. Don’t over schedule yourself or your family…over-scheduled people are not generally joyful people. 
  3. Treat yourself as kindly as you would a dear friend.  This is important everyday but it is especially important if you are spending the holidays alone or participating in stressful gatherings with friends or family.  Watch out for negative self talk and don’t let it take root.  Instead, focus on how you can speak to yourself and treat yourself with care.  Make a list for yourself of things that fill you up or help you feel good.  Then refer to the list when you need or want to give yourself some TLC.
  4. Pay attention to your own rhythm.  If you are an introvert, don’t try to get out to every gathering.  Don’t set yourself up to shop with the crowds.  Be mindful of your choices and give yourself permission to set limits. If you are an extrovert, set up your schedule so as to allow yourself time to enjoy all the people and activities around you. Make a list and prioritize so you make conscious choices.  If you live with others, be alert to the varying degrees of interaction and activity that works best not only for yourself but for those you love. This may be a time to openly discuss what everyone needs and wants and plan for how to navigate the holidays in a way that works for each of you.
  5. Look for the best in others and hold healthy boundaries.  We are all trying to do our best to find our way through the holidays.  We all want to believe the dream.  We all want the time to be happy.  Just like you, those around you may have a number of emotions swirling around. See the best in others and be kind.  That being said, if you are in a situation that feels abusive or intrusive, give yourself permission to remove yourself from the situation or to firmly and kindly let others know that you are not willing to be treated in a way that feels bad or uncomfortable.  As is always the case, if you set a boundary and hold it before your anger escalates you are much more likely to set and hold the boundary in a respectful manner.
  6. Get outside of yourself.  One of the best ways to feel happy in general and particularly during the holidays is to take your focus outside of yourself for a bit.  Look at ways you can be kind and helpful to others.  Our brains are wired for altruism.  When we engage in kind and generous acts it elevates our mood and increases our sense of connection to others. Set up a plan for yourself or with friends and family for ways you can spread loving kindness.  

Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season! 

Skills for Living Life Fully: Executive Functions by Devyn Carter, MA

Our minds are always busy at work, constantly navigating the challenges we face each day. Routinely, we are required to pay close attention to an activity or task, despite possible fatigue, boredom, or distractions (sustained attention), remain aware of deadlines or limits (time management), follow through with a task to its completion (goal-directed persistence), or move quickly from one situation to another at a moments notice (flexibility), among other occurrences. This can be daunting for some.
 
Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that are utilized to navigate our daily environments. These processes include working memory, response inhibition, planning, organizing, prioritizing, sustained attention, flexibility, emotional control, task initiation, time management, goal-directed persistence, and metacognition (the ability to take a step back and evaluate one’s own behaviors).
 
Beginning in early childhood, executive functions develop gradually and change across the lifespan of an individual. By the time we enter school, we have established a set of behaviors and cognitive processes that result in smooth or bumpy experiences as we navigate our environments. This continues throughout our development and into adulthood.
 
Those who experience challenges with their executive functions are often very intelligent, capable people who simply have not had the opportunity to learn and practice specific executive functions. A result is often that intelligent, capable, creative people experience a sense of loss of personal control in their lives. This can result in self-doubt, negative self-talk, and overall feelings of incompetence. Ongoing challenges with executive functioning skills can lead to anxiety, poor job performance, feelings of inadequacy, problems in relationships, parenting challenges, a stressful personal life, and even depression.
 
For those struggling with executive functioning, the good news is that due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, it is possible to build new patterns of thought and behavior. Executive Functions are skill sets… nothing more, nothing less… With education, time and practice, neural pathways can be rerouted. New skills create new ways of living and being in the world.  This opens up each of us to explore our own unlimited potential.

Boundary Building by Laurie Patrice, LPC,BCPC,CPCS

Last month we introduced the concept of boundaries. This month, we’ll explore how to set, hold, and respect boundaries. There’s nothing mysterious about it. These are skill sets. They are learned initially by observation and modeling within the the family of origin. Later experiences serve to further our understanding of boundaries. If you have not had models and experiences to learn healthy boundaries, it's likely that your own boundaries are askew. You may not even be aware that unhealthy boundaries contribute to challenges in your life. Boundaries enhance emotional health and they are, at the same time, created by people who are emotionally healthy. 
 
People with poor boundaries tend to be of two types.  The first are those who take too much responsibility for emotions and actions of others.  The second are those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their emotions and actions.  Healthy boundaries involve TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS AND EMOTIONS while NOT taking responsibility for the actions and emotions of others. Healthy boundaries will not solve every issue in your life, but as you begin to build and respect heathy boundaries, you will over time notice differences in self-esteem, confidence, peace of mind, and emotional well-being.
 
The good news is if you didn’t learn healthy boundaries from your family, thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain, you still have the opportunity to develop and fine tune your boundary skill set. There are many ways to build healthy boundaries. Here are a few:

  1. Identify your physical, emotional, and energetic limits for yourself. Before you can set boundaries with others, you have to know for yourself where your limits are.
  2. Pay attention to your discomfort. If you feel discomfort in your body, resentment, guilt, exhaustion or other forms of discomfort when interacting with another… listen to these internal messages.  They are usually indicators that boundaries are being violated in some way.
  3. Clarify expectations: Communicate clearly your expectations and listen closely to the expectations of another. Once they are clearly defined the groundwork is laid for more healthy interactions.
  4. Rewrite old programming: When beginning to practice setting healthy boundaries you may feel guilty, nervous, fearful. There are likely old messages from your childhood causing internal conflict.  Acknowledge the old messages, let them go and give yourself permission to practice your new skills.
  5. Observe yourself:  As you practice your new skills in limit setting and honoring the boundaries of others, note for yourself when you find it easier and when it is more difficult. Use this awareness to get more proficient.
  6. Look for reciprocity:  Assess your relationships and interactions with others. While in long-term relationships there may be times and circumstance when one person does more to support the other, this should be the exception rather than the rule.  If the relationship is not balanced and reciprocal on an ongoing basis, boundaries are unhealthy and so is the relationship.
  7. Fill your cup before you try to fill another’s.  In giving to others it is healthiest if you give from a place of surplus rather than deficit.  Give yourself permission for self care. While others may accept what you give them from your place of deficit, you both likely feel the underlying resentment even if subconsciously.  This type of giving burns you out and ultimately harms the relationship.
  8. Set boundaries early.  If boundaries are set and held before they are pushed to the point of intolerance and frustration, you will be able to set them with more compassion and less anger.  This approach can help to lessen guilt.
  9. Share your plan:  In trying to practice healthy boundaries and give yourself permission to change your interactions with people in your life, it is often helpful if you share with those individuals that you are taking on this; and that your goal is to have healthier relationships with them. It can reduce your internal struggle and help them feel less confused by your change in behavior.
  10. Be realistic.  Set reasonable goals for change.  Don’t expect everything to change over night.  Take it one step at a time, one relationship at a time, one interaction at a time.  Over time your life can change for the positive.

Remember the more you practice anything the better you get at it.  Don’t be dismayed if you find yourself missing opportunities to respect, set or hold boundaries.  Just keep practicing and observe how the changes enhance your overall wellbeing.

What are Boundaries and Why Do They Matter? by Laurie Patrice, LPC,BCPC,CPCS

Anyone having a conversation these days about emotional wellbeing is likely to hear someone speak about the importance of personal boundaries. But just what does that mean? A boundary by definition is anything that marks a limit.  Boundaries can be emotional, psychological, energetic, or physical.  The purpose of boundaries is ultimately to keep us safe and to assure our relationships are healthy. They are the limits we set to protect ourselves from being used, manipulated, or violated by others.  They allow us to separate our personal identity, thoughts, and feelings from those of others. Healthy boundaries involve taking responsibility for your own actions emotions while not taking responsibility for the actions and emotions of others.

When we honor the boundaries of others, we are showing respect for them and for ourselves.  When others violate our boundaries or we violate those of others, personal integrity is jeopardized.  Boundary violations can be as obvious as violence against another or as insidious as a parent manipulating a child to meet his/her emotional needs.  We may be aware when we violate another's boundaries.  Often times, we are not.  Without healthy boundaries we cannot have heathy relationships.  Everyone has a right to personal boundaries, adults and children, alike.

We generally learn about boundaries by seeing them modeled. Unless we have experiences to call to our attention to the fact that others have ideas about boundaries that are different from those we had modeled, we can live out our lives repeating the patterns we experienced in childhood.  This works well if we had healthy models.  It can be problematic if we did not.  It is usually more obvious if we violate or have violated physical boundaries.  It may not be as obvious if emotional, psychological, and energetic boundaries are violated. If you are curious to know if you learned healthy boundaries or not, if you wonder if youare violating the boundaries of others or allowing yours to be compromised, here are some questions to ask yourself.  Notice if the questions you answer as true about yourself suggest more of a tendency to disrespect the boundaries of others or challenges setting and holding your own boundaries.

  1. Do I answer the phone or respond to a text immediately regardless of what else I may be doing?
  2. Do I find myself exhausted after spending time with certain people?
  3. Do I often feel I have “overshared” with others, feeling I have no right to secrets?
  4. Do I need to feel frustrated or angry before I set limits with another?
  5. Do I truly believe that I have a right to my own thoughts, feelings, interests, and opinions? Ask yourself this again..truly…
  6. Do I recognize that everyone else has a right to his/her own thoughts, feelings, interests, and opinions even if I am not comfortable with them? 
  7. Do I have trouble saying no?
  8. Do I tell others what they should do, think, or feel?
  9. Do I have trouble making decisions independently?
  10. Do I take responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings or do I blame others?
  11. Do I feel uncomfortable with the powerful emotions of another?
  12. Do I try to “fix” things for others?
  13. Do I try to change (or take care of before they happen) the emotional responses of someone else?
  14. Do I consistently deny my own feelings or needs in order to help, soothe, or manage another?
  15. Do I take as truth the most recent opinion I have heard?
  16. Do I have few hobbies because I have little tolerance for self-directed behavior?
  17. Am I manipulated by flattery?
  18. Do I disregard my own intuition in favor of wishes or other’s opinions?
  19. Do I do favors that I inwardly resent?
  20. Do I act out of compliance?
  21. Am I enmeshed (entangled) in the lives of others?
  22. Do I have difficulty knowing where my thoughts and feelings stop and another’s begins?

If any of these is true for you, it is likely that you could benefit from learning more about healthy boundaries. The more that you find true for you, the more support you may need to make changes. Reading books, talking with a therapist, journaling to connect with your own inner experience are some steps you can take. Next month’s Perspectives newsletter will also have suggestions for setting and holding healthy boundaries.
Learning how to set, hold, and respect healthy boundaries can be life-changing.  When your boundaries are intact and healthy you can expect to have happier, healthier relationships and a healthier more empowered sense of self. 

Survive AND Thrive the Transition Into Summer by Rachel Millsop, LAPC

Two and a half months; this statement of the period of time during summer when children are out of school often elicits a myriad of different emotions for both children and parents alike.
 
Most children look forward to the release of the pressure gauge of school and the array of fun-filled activities to ensue. Less structure and more free time with your child can be an exciting opportunity to connect in new ways, although the adjustment to this transition can be difficult for parents to navigate.
 
We want our children to continue to learn, grow, and thrive at their pace during the summer months and we do the best we can with the tools we know. Each summer provides a new opportunity to learn and grow alongside your child, exploring and experimenting with new ‘tools’ for your toolbox to add ease.
Below are a few tips to start the summer transition smoothly:
 
Create your structure:
Children need structure and boundaries, and as a parent this is one of the most important ways you show love to your child. A break from the regimented school structure can be regulating for you and your child, while providing a basic, flexible schedule can help keep you and your child grounded and organized through the summer months.
 
Sit down with your child with a calendar, let him/her decorate and personalize the calendar while together you come up with the basic structure of a day/week. With this activity be aware of your child’s developmental level and adjust how much input you ask of him/her.
Use technology to work with your child. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kids-calendar/id469019071?mt=8
 
Brainstorm ‘Activity Jar’:
With ample free time parents often hear the dreaded five-letter word: BORED.
Tackle the bored-monster before it rears its head by brainstorming activity ideas with your child.

  1. Make a list of: Indoor activities, outdoor activities, community outings, things to do with a friend, and technology-free.
  2. Put it up on the fridge for a week so if other ideas emerge you can add them.
  3. Use popsicle sticks and write one idea on each stick.
  4. Place the sticks in a designated jar or cup (have your kids help you come up with a name i.e. “FUN jar”) in a central place in your house.

If the five-letter word shows up during the summer, you and your kids have a way to kick it to the curb.
 
Sibling relationships:
With more time together, summer is naturally a time for kids to learn and explore how to navigate needs between siblings. An opportunity arises to help each child connect to their needs and learn the skills necessary in navigating conflict resolution.

Learning more about your role in helping your child navigate sibling relationships can enable you to support his/her continued growth. Learn more at https://www.positivediscipline.com/

Self-care:
Identifying self-nourishing activities and creating time for you to recharge is essential to your capacity to to be present and meet the needs of your child.

  1. Find at least 5 minutes each day to designate for your self-nourishing practice (yes, it is a practice).
  2. If you notice you are stressed, worried, or anxious about the upcoming summer months, seek support. As children are often very perceptive and respond to the emotions around them, it benefits both you and your child to have support moving through this transition. 
  3. Be compassionate. Repeat to yourself  “I am doing the best I can with what I have. I am enough.”

Wishing you and your family wellness and ease!

Summer is coming… School’s almost out……Are you ready?!

May is the month when most schools in the Atlanta area release children to the summer. Summer…that blissful time for children when they feel free from the structure of the classroom and the accompanying homework…. That time for parents when many of us are scrambling to find camps and activities to keep them occupied. The best, most exciting thing you can do with your child this summer is give the gift of time and attention. Even if you are crazy busy, here are some suggestions that can fit into a hectic schedule and will make you all happier and will likely reduce acting out behavior. We all like to feel seen, heard, and valued. Your child is no exception. 1) Slow down. Look at your child when you speak to her. 2) Do something wild and crazy like put down the work you are doing to sit in the floor and play…… A lot of love can happen in 10-15 minutes. 3) Engage in conversation with your child about his interests for 5-10 minutes. Be sure you don’t start drilling him with questions. You’ll know you are connecting when he starts volunteering information. Never mind if you are interested in the topic. You are interested in your child and he can see it in your eyes and body language. 4) Spend “Special Time” with each child. This can be as simple as a 10 minute story or an activity out in the community. The important thing is that your child gets you to herself. Do this at least once a week. 5) Make a game of leaving love notes for each other and other family members. Even if your child doesn’t read, pictures work too! There are bunches of arts and sports activities in which your child can participate. There are numerous camps of all sorts in the Atlanta area. There are vacations at the beach and mountains and theme parks. What your child will likely remember most about his summer, however, is feeling seen, heard, and valued by the people he loves. Even if you are busy beyond belief, the few minutes you make to really be connected with your child can make a very big difference. They grow up so quickly and there is no time like the present to be fully present.

Written by: Laurie Patrice, LPC, BCPC, CPCS

Overwhelm and What To Do About It

Overwhelm…we have all felt it….do feel it, will feel it. It is a unifying experience of humanity. It occurs when we feel we are unable to respond effectively to the challenges at hand.

Sometimes overwhelm comes with the long list of to do’s at home or work. Overwhelm can come to us with the tremendous sense of responsibility for someone else. For some of us it can be the bombardment of sensation in the environment….or being exposed to so much information that we have trouble processing it as it comes (that would have been trigonometry in high school for me). Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by our own emotions…. anger, worry, shame, fear, sadness….grief.

Some synonyms for overwhelmed are “engulfed” “drowning” “defeated”. When we are in that place it can be difficult to find a way out. What I have discovered over the years is that in every instance of overwhelm any of us can experience, there is always a path to peace. Depending on the circumstances, the degree of overwhelm, the motivation, skill set and internal resources of the person in overwhelm, and the support received, the time it takes to find and walk the path will vary.

When we are in overwhelm we automatically go into a fight, flight, or freeze reaction. Depending on how we are wired, one person may become irritable, angry, aggressive, another may go into frenetic action, while yet another may shut down and withdraw. All of these reactions are responses to feeling threatened. Overwhelm, remember, is a time when we feel pushed beyond our ability to respond effectively to the challenges at hand.

To find our path to peace and follow it, the steps are essentially the same for all of us.

  1. Take a moment to breathe….literally….. deep breaths help your nervous system regulate and this allows you to think more clearly and less reactively.
  2. Take an inventory. What do you have control over and what to do you not? What are your energy gains and what are your energy drains? Are you willing to let go of activities thoughts, behaviors that contribute to your overwhelm?
  3. Get in touch with your needs. What do you really want? Take some time alone to figure this out. You may also want to process this with trusted support figures in your life.
  4. Prioritize. Which needs need to be addressed first? How will you do this?
  5. Stay focused and true to course. If you have made a list and prioritized, stick to it. You’ve done the leg work to get here. Be aware of distractions that can pull you off your path. Trust the system you’ve put in place. If, for example, you’ve listed that time to yourself is a high priority need, and you have come up with a plan for taking four hours to yourself on Wednesday, then stay true to you plan. Treat this appointment time with the same importance you would an appointment with a doctor. It is as important…maybe more so.
  6. Utilize support. Support can come in many forms from friendship, spiritual practices, mentors, therapists, ect. None of us is an island and we all need some level of interconnectedness. If we are to thrive we must make certain that our support systems have more energy gains than drains.

Overwhelm is a natural part of modern life. There is nothing unusual about becoming overwhelmed from time to time. If you find however, that your life is more overwhelm than joy, you may want to evaluate choices you are making. You can utilize these steps in your exploration and in finding your own unique path to peace.

Written by: Laurie Patrice, LPC, BCPC, CPCS

 

How Do You Do Anger?

ANGER…let’s talk about it. Everyone has it. Some are more comfortable with it than others. How do you do anger? How was it modeled for you as a child? How does that affect how you do anger now?

In everyday life few people are formally taught what anger is… so we try to figure it out… Maybe as a child you got some concepts about anger that you still carry with you as an adult. Did you decide anger was scary or powerful or something to be avoided…. ugly, confusing? Did anyone teach you that anger is a message….a response to perceived threat….. that it has merit and can help us hold boundaries, protect ourselves and those we love….. that it can help us recognize that something is not right or safe? Anger often gets a bad rap, and no wonder when there are so many ways it can be expressed…many not healthy……Most of us had models for anger that involved either explosive anger episodes or the quiet suppression of emotion that could almost convince us that the anger wasn’t there, but it could be felt… and that …well what do you do with that as a child?….. Then of course, we may have known the sneaky little passive-aggressive expressions of anger that would seep out, confuse us, and somehow make us wonder what had just happened to make us feel so bad. Perhaps we had a parent who suppressed the anger until it exploded…sometimes at the most confusing of times…often not in the direction of what was driving the deeper anger. Perhaps we had a parent who stuffed the anger for so long that it turned inward and became a suffocating depression. We may have watched that parent disappear… into withdrawal…. or substance abuse……or work….other addictions.

Many parents are not taught healthy methods of how to respond to anger in children, so often children are shamed for having anger, punished for it…giving the child the message than he has no right to feel anger. Perhaps the parent is intimidated by a child’s anger and acquiesces to angry outbursts. This gives the child a sense of power that is very frightening for him and gets all mixed up with the child’s perception of anger…What if your parent was inconsistent in responding to your anger? Where did that leave you?

If we were very fortunate, we had healthy models for anger that were not scary or confusing. We had a parent or adult in our life who could verbally express feelings of frustration, pain, helplessness, who knew how to move the energy that comes with anger… the rush of adrenaline… out of the body through exercise, hard work… or maybe dancing. This healthy model of expressing anger taught us to address frustrations before the emotions overwhelmed us or exploded and overwhelmed or harmed others. This healthy model showed us by example, and sometimes maybe even talked with us about how anger stems from our own feelings of helplessness or fear and how we can take responsibility for those and sort it out. This model taught us that we get to choose our thoughts and thus choose our response to things. We saw this person sometimes take some time away from a volatile situation to work on lowering the rush of “fight or flight” chemicals in the brain and body so that the more rational part of the brain could take charge and make good choices. If you were not one of those lucky enough to have these models, our newsletter next month will have some practical tips for doing anger in a way that keeps you healthy and empowered in the world.

Written by: Laurie Patrice, LPC, BCPC, CPCS

 

New Beginnings and New Groups

NEW BEGINNINGS

Welcome to a new year and yet another opportunity to begin again. This is the time of year when many of us set New Year’s resolutions or set intentions for the coming year. Some of us may have done this so often that we’ve figured out that they don’t all come to fruition. If you have managed to meet every goal, resolution or intention you’ve ever set, congratulations to you… and I encourage you to notify the press for you are certainly one of a kind. The truth is that no one has ever managed to make every change or meet every goal they’ve ever set immediately. The brain is not set up for such rapid shifts. In order to create new behaviors that are consistent, we have to establish new neural pathways. This is not instantaneous. It requires repetition for new pathways in the brain to form and for new behaviors to become established. Read: practice. This takes me back to my original statement. This new year is an opportunity to begin again….and again…and again. Here are some tips that may help.

  • Set your intentions–not too many if you want to really succeed.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable and attainable.
  • Visualize throughout the day accomplishing your goals. Imagine how good it feels.
  • Practice new behaviors.
  • When you mess up (and you will) just begin again.
  • Avoid self-punishing self-talk when you need to begin again. It doesn’t help anything.
  • Notice the small changes and appreciate them.
  • If it feels good to have support, let others support you.

Wishing everyone the adventure that lies in new beginnings.

Warmly,

Laurie

 

NEW GROUPS IN THE NEW YEAR

This month and next Perspectives is beginning new groups for those who are interested in making changes, growing, healing, and getting support from others. Most of these are time and space limited. Some may be ongoing. This newsletter includes an overview. If you are interested in exploring more about what is being offered you can visit our calendar on the website. Also, watch your inbox for more information.

The groups include a meditation group for adults, a meditation group for children, a support and education group for adults interested in improving health and nutrition, a support group for LGBTQ teens, a social skills group for teen girls, a stress/anxiety management group for teen girls, a support and education group for new mothers and their babies, and a process group for psychotherapists.

If you think you’d be interested in any of these groups, please email us soon. We don’t know if groups will fill quickly or if they may be cancelled if there does not appear to be enough interest.

Adults’ Meditation Group

This group will focus on learning and integrating meditation techniques, breathing and mindfulness exercises. The benefits of practicing these tools are self awareness, empowerment, emotional freedom, stress management and personal growth.

Children’s Meditation Group

A mindfulness workshop helping kids to connect and inspire socially, academically, emotionally and physically. We will be using these holistic tools to integrate mind, body and spirit: Breathing exercises, yoga, self awareness, and EFT tapping.

For the HEALTH of It!

Do you find yourself wondering what all the nutritional hype is really about? Do you want to live a healthier life but are just not sure what path to take to get there? With so much talk about GMO’s, organic food, supplements, etc. are you wondering what it really means and how it affects you and your family? Do you wonder what foods are really healthy? ‘Wondering about all of the different types of diets in the media, paleo, SCD, GAPS, GFCF? ….’Not even sure what all the letters and abbreviations mean? Are you addicted to sugar? Do you want to know how to best support your brain, to help protect it against toxins and stress? Do you want to make changes to feel better, but find yourself stuck?

Information is power. It gives us the opportunity to make conscious choices. With so much information out about healthier living, it’s sometimes difficult to know what is best. This group will allow for a safe and confidential environment for you to learn, discuss, and explore the world of healthy living so you can make truly informed choices.

This is an ongoing therapeutic and educational group. You may check with your insurance company to determine if it may be reimbursable under CPT code 90853.

InQUEERies

A safe and confidential place for LGBTQ youth to discuss and explore relationships, sexuality, health, wellness, identity, coping with stress, religion, and many other topics. This is an eight week therapeutic and educational group.

Social Butterflies

Successfully navigating the social realm is a vital aspect of a girl’s world! Many struggle with friendships, social bullying, and standing up for themselves. These aspects coupled with academic pressures make middle and high school a complex and challenging time that often leaves tween and teen girls feeling excessively “stressed out” and overwhelmed.

Through participating in this social skills group, girls will develop tools to navigate the social world with increased awareness and confidence, as well as development of healthy strategies to cope with the pressures of middle/high school life. Through connection with similar peers, girls will have the opportunity to strengthen social skills while having fun!

Social Butterflies: Stress Management

As changing bodies, navigating social relationships, and academic pressures come to the forefront in middle school years, girls may feel overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.

Navigating these changes with similar peers while exploring strategies for healthy choices can help build positive self-esteem moving into the adolescent years.

Through participation in this group, girls will explore topics related to physical and emotional changes, social relationships, and practical tools for coping with stress in a safe environment. Participants will learn self-soothing techniques and explore methods of expressing emotions/needs appropriately.

Baby and Me (Babies under 1 year old)

This group provides a safe, nurturing, and confidential environment for mothers to discuss and explore child development, oral motor feeding skill development and nutrition, positive supports for nurturing your baby’s brain, challenges of parenting, exploration of personal identity as a woman and mother, coping with stress, family dynamics and more.

Mother’s will gain insights and knowledge into how to foster baby’s development to reach their highest potential.

This is a therapeutic and educational group. You may check with your insurance company to determine if it may be reimbursable under CPT code 90853.

Self Love: What It Means and How to Have More of It

What does it mean to love yourself? Self love is touted by experts as necessary for our emotional and psychological wellbeing. It is something we want for our children. Self love may also be something we feel uncomfortable about…after all, we don’t want to be one of those people who are so self-involved that they are difficult to be around. As much as we talk about it, most people don’t really know what self love is.

Simply put: Self love is the act of caring for yourself in a compassionate and responsible manner.

Self love is not narcissism, which is built on the deep wounds of feeling worthless and ashamed. Narcissists may appear to love themselves, but underneath there is self-loathing. This self-loathing inhibits the ability to really love others in a healthy way. Self love involves allowing yourself to be imperfect and at the same time understanding your intrinsic value in the world. The beauty of self love is that the more we love the beautiful, messy, imperfect us, the more love we have spilling out of us for all that surrounds us. Those who truly love themselves are kind to others.

If you would like to get better at loving yourself, listed below are a few suggestions that will help if you practice them:

  • Be responsible for what you say to yourself. Notice all the times you speak unkindly to yourself, the criticism, the impatience and judgment. Don’t talk to yourself in any way that you would not talk to someone you really love.
  • Pay attention to your inner world. Notice what you like and what brings you joy. Do more of it. Notice how it feels to be joyful. Be present for it.
  • Break free of automatic behavior. So much of how we go through our day and how we interact with others is automatic. We are not conscious about so much of what we do. It is like being on autopilot. Wake up. Pay attention to what you do and say. Make intentional choices that are healthy for you and your relationships.
  • Treat your body with care. Be mindful of the choices you make in terms of nutrition, environmental toxins, movement, and sleep. If you take care of your body as you would someone else you love, the biochemical changes that effect mood, energy, and sense of wellbeing will be reward in and of themselves.
  • Set healthy boundaries and hold them. By saying no to people, activities and things that drain you, you create a space that pulls in the people, activities and things that fill you up. While it is important that we each do as much good in the world as we can, not everything that needs doing is yours to take on. Listen to your inner voice and the way you feel when you are with people or engaging in activities. Do those things, and be with those people, that make your heart sing.
  • Practice forgiveness. When you practice forgiving others, you are set free of the negativity of bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness is for you and not for the other person. Forgiveness does not mean you stay in a position to be hurt on an ongoing basis, but it does mean letting go and moving on to the big and beautiful life you are creating for yourself. This one can be complex, but it is well worth figuring out.

It is a fact that you can only truly love another person as much as you love yourself. No other person, no matter how hard they try, can make you feel loved if you do not do the work inside yourself. No matter how much love you offer another, if they do not love themselves, they can never really feel the depth of the love you want to share. To have the healthiest of relationships with those that matter most to you, learning to love yourself is the not only the compassionate path to take, but also the most responsible.

Laurie Patrice, LPC, BCPC, CPCS

 

Movies

The Oscars just aired this past weekend. Presented and awarded were a number of movies. As I observed the clips, I thought about how each movie contained dialogue, story lines, music, scenery, lighting, special effects, etc. that served to evoke an emotional reaction in the viewer. I was struck by how similar these movies are to the process of creation inside our own heads. Inside our heads every day we are creating our own movies. We tell ourselves stories, engage in internal dialog, imagine ourselves relating to others. We give our characters motivation. We may imagine scenes in the past, in the future…All of this activity in our heads serves to evoke emotional responses–just like in the movies. Sometimes we are aware that we are creating a story, a movie….about an event, about an interaction, even about ourselves and who we believe ourselves to be. Often times we are not conscious of the movies we create in our minds. We believe that we feel sad or happy or angry because of what is happening outside of us, when in reality these emotions (with the exception of biochemical imbalances) are the product of the movies WE create in our heads. Even in the case of biochemical imbalances, we still have a lot more control over emotions if we are in control of our own movies. There are so many examples of how internal movies affect our emotions. I’m sure you can think of many of your own. To illustrate how it works, here is an example: Scene: The inside of a restaurant. The occasion is one in which a friend does not show up on time for an important dinner. In order to react to an event emotionally, there has to be some context in your head. The old movie of a time in which someone else (or maybe even this person) disappointed you begins to play in your head. You remember the feelings. The story you told yourself then and that you repeat now is: “ If I was important they would be here. This failure to show means I am … not important enough to this person, I’m disliked, maybe unloved….possibly unlovable”. The story line can go all kinds of places from there… imagining the faults in the other person, imagining the faults in yourself. Playing old film clips of other encounters in which you were hurt…you may tell yourself you are being hurt by this…You get the idea….. You find yourself feeling irritated, angry, maybe sad. You tell yourself it is the fault of the other. You believe you cannot help your feelings. This is disempowering. Imagine how different it could be if you created another movie instead of this one. In this movie, the fact is still the same that you are waiting at a restaurant for someone who has not shown up. You still need to have context to have emotion about this, but you decide you’d prefer a more upbeat emotion. Your new movie begins with a scene in which you are the captain of your own ship. When someone is late, you have decided to treasure these moments for yourself. In this storyline you relish the time to yourself. You begin to plan and imagine your next vacation or you pick up the phone and call a friend to catch up. You may decide to call the missing friend to check on their arrival time and wellbeing. You have the power to decide what amount of time you are willing to wait. You are not at the mercy of others. You will find you feel more at peace. You are in a position of power regarding your emotions. What most people don’t realize is how very powerful these movies we create in our heads can be. We create them so often that it feels like a natural part of us. We are often unaware that at any given time, we have the power to change the movies. We can create the story lines we want. We are not a slave to them. These movies we create can define us as adventurous, timid, kind, selfish, connected to others, etc. These movies create the setting needed for every emotion and interaction we may have. They can help us expand our views of ourselves and of the world or they can keep us stuck with the same old scenes and stories played over and over. One of the advantages of psychotherapy is that we have a place to take out our movies and examine them with support. We can become more aware of the stories we tell ourselves and those that we have lived by for much of our lives. We can examine these movies. We can make choices about them. We can understand how they evoke various emotions in our lives. We can decide what is healthy for us now…what works for our good now. We can discard, or rewrite old stories. We can write new ones. We can become conscious in daily life of what movies we are creating with each circumstance…with each interaction. We can live more awakened and more empowered lives. When we have awareness we have the power of choice.


Laurie Patrice, LPC, BCPC,CPCS