For the shortest month of the year, February has a lot going on. It’s the month of Valentine’s Day, a holiday that may hold many spoken or unspoken expectations. It’s the month where we start to realize if our New Year’s resolutions are sticking around this year. It’s been a month of some sunny days that make us a little restless for summer. It’s the month of anticipation and a potential rollercoaster of emotions. In other words, February is A LOT.
The good news is, you’re not the only one who is feeling this way. The other good news, you have the ability to choose what you do in response to the unsteadiness that is the shortest month of the year.
February can be the month where you stick to the basics. Keep a February resolution of celebrating simply doing the day-to-day and finding peace in that. Celebrating the fact that you made it to work or your appointments on time, cooked dinner, and made it to bed at a somewhat decent time. All in one day? WOW!
February can be the month of intentional self-care and self-love. This month often comes with the pressure of loving others and showering them with gifts or dinners. What about doing something to celebrate yourself?
February can be the month of leaning into your healthy resources. Whether this looks like friends, family, groups, podcasts, books, or counseling. Reaching out and connecting with people and things that fuel your life for the better can be a focus starting this month.
Instead of being the month of expectations and a potential rollercoaster of emotions, why don’t we make February the month of focusing on strengthening ourselves? Focusing on strengthening the core foundation of your life in order to build upon it and grow. This may be something completely different than what you’re used to or even may feel daunting. But, again, the good news is that you’re not the only one who is feeling this way. You have the ability to choose your next step in how you’re going to change the narrative on what February means and you’re not alone on this journey.
Reach out soon so that we can start this change work together!
Samantha Doorn, Clinical Intern
Do you look forward to the holiday season or have a sense of dread about it? Maybe a bit of both? As the holiday season approaches, I get excited for holiday themed food and decorations. I buy magazines from the store advertising the latest fabulous holiday cookies, ways to have a spectacular stress-free hosting party, or how to decorate to make your house pop. My ambitions are high when I dream about it but the stress of doing it all can build as you try to do all the holiday bucket list things. For many of us, holiday stress leads to emotional eating.
Many of us have trouble with food at various times of year. We strive to mentally keep ourselves in check, care for ourselves effectively, but don’t always consider how to connect to our body and it’s wants and needs also. Add in a holiday season full of activities, expectations, and performance and we can easily cave and grab a quick dopamine hit with those tasty sugar cookies or salty holiday Chex mix (I’ve recently tried a new recipe and it is amazing!).
Consider the following 3 tips for avoiding holiday stress eating, adding joy to the season not weight around your waist.
Create some space.
Usually, our desire to emotionally eat is a need to feel better NOW. We dive in to the fridge or pantry and grab what we know will make us feel better right away. This often leads us to feed our emotional brain, and later feel guilty by our logical brain. Setting a time for 5 – 10 minutes can create some space to tune in to your body. Are you actually hungry or are you thirsty? When was the last time you ate? What might fuel you the most right now? Maybe you decide that cookie sounds great and you still want it. That’s okay too! But give yourself time to evaluate.
Now that you have decided what you want to eat or drink, enjoy it! Try the script below to slow down and enjoy it to the fullest.
“ Inhale the aroma. Break off a piece and look at it, examining every nook and cranny. Pop it in your mouth. See if it’s possible to hold it on your tongue, noticing any tendency to suck on it or chew it. See if you can sense all the different flavors. If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, then gently escort it back to the present moment. Now begin to chew it, counting how many chews it takes to finish it completely. Repeat with the next piece.”
Telling ourselves, “I shouldn’t have eaten that” or “Why did I eat that? That was bad for me” is unhelpful and will lead to decreased self-esteem, criticism, and falling in to a reactive pain cycle that may lead to other poor choices or uncomfortable feelings. Instead of shutting down or lashing out at yourself, try these steps toward self-compassion instead:
Many situations and memories can lead to us feeling all sorts of uncomfortable things or lead us to cling to nostalgia by eating more than we feel comfortable. You are not alone in this experience. Reach out to a friend and share your struggles. Share with your therapist how the holidays impact you so you can talk through it and practice some of these strategies to increase your strength and confidence heading in to this season.
May you find the space to find peace in the season. May you savor the holiday food and enjoy it in the moment. May you recognize your strength of tolerating difficult emotions and ability to make the choices that fit for you.
Happy Holiday Season!
In today’s day and age, teenagers are faced with many challenges related to school, friends, family, or social media. It is no wonder that teens are experiencing higher rates of depression and anxiety! Parents, caregivers, teachers, and friends of young people might find themselves asking, “How can I help?” A great way to help is simply being there for them. When a teenager believes they have a good support system, it creates a sense of safety against feeling like they are alone, or not good enough.
A great place to start is noticing how your teen feels at home. Reevaluate how you interact with your teen at home. Do you find yourself always asking them questions like if they have done their homework, and chores, or whom they are hanging out with? Creating a loving and trusting relationship is key. In therapy, our main motive when working with teens is showing empathy and validating their feelings. Some ways we do that is by meeting them where they are and spending time with them by playing games or creating art which could easily be done at home.
Parents/caregivers should also encourage kids to form positive friendships by participating in school and extracurricular activities, such as sports, theater, or clubs. Creating that circle of people they trust and feel comfortable around is essential in protecting teens from depression.
When working with teenagers, I believe it is very important that the therapist build trust with them and create a safe and empathetic environment. It is also important to understand that traditional talk therapy might not always be their preferred method of receiving help. Because of this, I like to incorporate games, art, meditation, and music into therapy sessions.
If you find your teen struggling and you are at a loss of how to help them, I would love to help empower you and your teen in navigating through the ups and downs of life.
-Mady Sniecinski, MA LLPC
It’s yet another new year and many tend to be pretty reflective of the last year with hopes that 2019 will be even better (or completely better). I also hear and see the phrase “New Year, New Me” being tossed around a lot. But should we be striving for new versions of ourselves? I would argue that the best part of being human is that we can take our past experiences and learn from them, rather than being completely blind to the past.
So instead of “New Year, New Me”, how about “New Year, Renewed Me”? The new year is a great time to take inventory of how things are going with us. Perhaps you aren’t as far in life as you thought you would be, or you just had that dreamy New Years engagement that you were hoping for. But now what? What do you do with that?
This is also the time, more than ever, to be compassionate towards yourself and get away from the comparison game that our culture is so used to. This way you don’t have to be a completely new person to feel accomplished. Despite what the voice that tells you to measure your success against others, challenge that voice to tell yourself what you have accomplished in the last year that has gone towards fulfilling your values and goals.
Those past experiences from the last year can go into informing your choices and decisions for the next year. The choices that you made last year were for a reason and being compassionate towards the you then will help you become the you that you hope to be. Little has ever been accomplished by putting yourself down and usually much more can be accomplished when you are kind to yourself. You might even be more fulfilled in the process!
In our reflections and resolutions, try looking towards renewal, restoration, and attainability. Above all, be kind towards yourself in the process.
In our reflections and resolutions, try looking towards renewal, restoration, and attainability. Above all, be kind towards yourself in the process.
-Tracy Norcross, pre-licensed counseling intern
If you are interested in learning more about Tracy, find more info and contact information here: www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/tracy-norcross-grand-rapids-mi/405530
by: Tracy Norcross
Being a mother is supposed to be one of the most wonderful, fulling experiences a woman can have. It’s the creation of life and babies are beautiful beings - right?
Even though that can be a part of the reality, it’s definitely not the full picture. Pregnancy itself is challenging enough with the body aches, nausea, and cravings. At the end of it you’re given a human being that demands your undivided attention and instead of any attention being put on you for the amazing work that you have been going and continue to do, everyone just wants to hold the baby. Not to mention things like body aches don’t stop because you’re still the main source of nutrition for your baby or your two year old is kicking you because it’s funny (to them, the humor is lost on us). Whew.
If my almost 10 years of working with moms has taught me anything - moms are some of the most compassionate and hard working people that I have come across. It is time that moms are given the tools and reminders to be compassionate to themselves. Afterall, you should be able to enjoy the hard work that you have put into this. Sometimes we aren’t able to react how we want to, but many times this is because we’re already at the end of our rope.
In these moments, it is especially important to maintain compassion for one’s self. Feel free to recognize what didn’t go as planned or how you wanted it to. But also accept that this was the result of many different factors, rather than any one thing or person’s fault. Then there will be room to feel kindness for yourself in that you are human, a shared quality among everyone.
This can be especially hard when, as a mom, you have many people depending on you. However, you have the power to work towards your best life that involves self-compassion and connecting with your child. It can just take a little help to get there.
Tracy is working towards getting her professional counselor licensure. She currently is seeing clients at Kool Counseling and is running a group focused on New moms. Check out the services tab to find out more information about the New mom group. If you want to learn more about Tracy, check out her Psychology Today profile here.
Ah, February… the month where love is in the air and you are flooded with pink and red, hearts and chocolate. I love chocolate so this month has its perks but it can also be a month that is very difficult for many. So I thought I would make an attempt to shift the focus from couples in love to reconnecting and falling in love with who you are instead with a 28 day self-love challenge!!
Self-care is touted by many to be beneficial for us and assists in maintaining a healthy balance of mental, emotional, and physical health. Engaging in it regularly can help you be more present with others and prevent us from feeling burned out and tired. But self-love takes it a step further. Self-love is having genuine acceptance of who you are deeply caring about your own well-being and satisfaction in life. One needs self-love in order to find the value in making time for self-care.
Self-love can look so different for so many.
It may mean slowing down because your life is so full and busy.
It may mean speeding up because you have been denying a part of yourself to let loose, take risks, and let the wild side out.
It may mean paying attention to how you talk to yourself and taking a break from self-judgement.
It may even mean reconnecting to yourself and understanding yourself better and how you function.
Sound like something you could use right about now? How would you like to join me in a challenge of loving yourself for the month of February? The 28 challenges will include various things that will encourage you to connect to yourself and develop a love and acceptance of who you are. I will wrap up our month with a drawing where active participants will be entered into a giveaway where they will be eligible to receive a one month gift box from Therabox!! Therabox is a therapist curated box of happiness filled with joyful ingredients delivered straight to your door! How great is that!?
Head to my facebook page "Rachael Kool Counseling!" Like and follow so you don't miss any of the challenges!
It is common in my practice to encounter people choosing to seek counseling in hopes of finding happiness and fulfillment in life, but it is most common among men. With the natural wiring to strive for success and provide for those they may care for, they spend a lot of their life working a job with hopes they will not only be able to make a living for themselves, achieve success, but also hope they will find fulfillment and satisfaction as well. I am happy to have Nathan Hansen (a Licensed Professional Counselor in Grand Rapids Michigan, and a colleague of mine) guest blog today to help men figure out what they may be doing to prevent themselves from finding satisfaction and how they can move towards achieving it. Enjoy!
There’s a question out there for men, and women, that seems to plague us day in and day out. Men are struggling with it. Some people seem to find the answer and the rest of us keep looking. It is kind of like finding the fountain of youth. We all think it’s out there somewhere and we keep looking. Maybe it’s hiding in plain sight? Maybe it is fake?
The question many men struggle with is ‘how do I find satisfaction in life?’
We ask ourselves over and over, how do we get off the hamster wheel of repetition. It’s like the movie Ground Hogs Day with Bill Murray. His character wakes up every day experiencing the same thing no matter how many times he tries to change it.
I bet there’s many men like you out there right now waking up day after day wondering if everything will change. You feel lost. You look around and see all your friends getting promotions. You see them getting bigger houses. You see them having nicer cars and going on vacations. You’re trying to manage stress. You get the promotion and it doesn’t do much. You work out. You have the toys. You have the girl, the kids, and the dog. But, at the end of the day you still feel like something is missing.
I think for men, the problem is part of the solution. A default mode with how many men view and interact with life, for better or worse is by compartmentalizing the various areas of our lives. I liken the man’s brain to a hallway with a bunch of doors. These rooms have labels on them: work, family, faith, money, sex, friends, projects, hobbies, emotions, etc. When we’re in one room that’s where our time and energy is spent until we leave that room, close the door, walk down the hallway and enter then next room. Each room is only a part of who we are but they’re separate. Individually they may seem fulfilling but in reality they’re not. We spend too much time in some of the rooms while other rooms are ignored, not cleaned, or left a mess.
I think the answer to finding satisfaction in life is knowing how we’re created to be and interacting with it in a healthy way. It’s not dumping all of our energy into one room and then not having more energy for others. It’s ok to compartmentalize certain areas of our lives for a particular purpose. However, we have to be intentional about caring for all of those rooms in that hallway.
One easy way to do that is to make goals. You might have goals. That’s fine. But when is the last time you actually took a look and figured out which goals you’ve accomplished and how they all impact one another?
If you’re not sure how to make goals write them down and be specific about them. Make them measurable, and give yourself an appropriate amount of time to complete them. I think most importantly, you need to tell someone about your goals! Accountability significantly increases our ability to accomplish our goals. When we tell someone we’re also not isolating ourselves in only one of those rooms. We’re also including someone else who’s in one of those rooms—chances are more than one of those rooms. For those of us who are married it’s our spouse. For others that person is our boyfriend or girlfriend, or a parent, or best friend.
As a professional counselor I believe that many problems we face are caused by experiencing dissatisfaction in relationships. I’m willing to be that if we invite others along with us on accomplishing our goals we will find the fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives that will be greater as a whole than the individual parts.
© 2017 Nathan Hansen, LPC & Great Lakes Wellness Counseling LLC
Nathan Hansen, LPC is owner of Great Lakes Wellness Counseling located in Grandville, MI. He helps couples feel closer and individuals find freedom from the frustrations and problems they are trying to overcome. He enjoys helping his clients find real solutions, experience changed lives, and receive expert care. His goal is to partner with you to help you make your life more enjoyable and free from the problems or struggles you are experiencing.
When life throws you for a loop, we typically have our go-to coping mechanisms to ease the tension of the uncomfortable feelings that go with the troubling situations life puts us in. A lot of the time the coping we choose tends to cause more stress than actual comfort. We eat to stuff our feelings, causing us to struggle with self-image and self-hatred. We isolate ourselves and over think the situation we are dealing with, often causing us to think negatively and struggle with finding solutions because we over emphasize the emotional impact rather than giving ourselves credit that we can deal with this situation like the countless other situations we have found ourselves in. We stuff our feelings down in order to avoid them and not deal with them, causing us to emotionally over react in other non-related situations and relationships we encounter every day and then struggle with understanding ourselves in the process, which leads to self-doubt and lowers our confidence and self-esteem.
As a therapist, I strive to help people gain confidence in working through and feeling their emotions in the moment or shortly after in order to not bury them. When we attempt to experience them and accept them, we gain a better understanding of ourselves and are able to recognize how certain situations influence and impact us. When one gains that understanding we are able to more proactively make changes in our lives in order to gain confidence in dealing with certain people and situations because we understand how it is going to affect us emotionally so we don't criticize or judge ourselves for how we do react when things happen. If we no longer judge or criticize ourselves, we are able to build self-esteem and awareness which makes us more confident in dealing with more situations we face on a daily basis and doesn't throw us off nearly as much. We gain control in ourselves, which far outweighs feeling in control of what is going on around you... because, lets be honest, you can't control what is going on in life outside of yourself anyways and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will become more capable of controlling what we can and letting go of what we can't. This will lead to a higher level of life satisfaction. Who doesn't want that?!
If you are a new years resolution kind of person, how are your goals going so far? How did you choose what goals you were going to set and how have you decided to go about changing yourself to achieve those goals? I don't know about you guys, but typically I create about 15 goals (5 for family, 5 for personal, and 5 for career) and I usually only achieve 2 or 3 of them. I often wonder to myself why I wasn't able to make them all successful. Choosing goals that work together and feed off of each other is usually what I do in hopes of optimizing on my desire to change. Unfortately, I have found that I am not typically ready to set out to change in certain areas, I fall into believing false beliefs about change, or my approach is not a long-term change approach. I am going to lay out some of this stuff for you and, in a few days, give you a simple way to help you figure out what stage of change you are in. I really hope this will help give you perspective on the changes you want to make so you will be more successful now and in the future.
False beliefs of change:
1. Change on your own is SIMPLE: Think again!! Typically this is very difficult because we constantly remind ourselves of our past failures and are tempted to believe we can't change and we don't have what it takes.
2. Willpower is ALL I need: If only! Willpower is only one piece of the puzzle of change as it only effects our ability to commit. So you start by committing to your goal, but don't have self-awareness of why you are doing it so you start failing and soon begin to believe that you have no willpower and give up.
3. Nothing works, I've tried it all before: (If I got a dollar for every time I heard that...) This is not typically true as we often don't use our change method frequently enough or at the right times. For example, if you think about how you look in a negative way 100 times a day but you only work on thinking positively about yourself 24 times a day, the change will never happen. You would have to think about yourself positively 100 times in order to make any change possible.
4. People don't change: Being pessimistic is one of the biggest obstacles of change. We often don't credit ourselves, or those around us, for their attempts to change and give them advice to try something different. This breaks down our confidence in ourselves. Not many people succeed at change their first time around because we learn new mistakes every time we set out to on our change method. It takes multiple attempts to get things right.
Change fails to be long term if you begin your change process by jumping right in because one does not typically attempt to figure out their awareness and readiness to change. Jumping right in to action will result in temporary change. Some examples of trying change in the action phase is by using rewards (ex: earn $1 every time you go to the gym) or trying to control your environment (ex: avoid going to fast food restaurants). A person needs to evaluate themselves and figure out what is keeping them in their undesirable behavior or state in order to make a substantial and lasting bridge into the action phase of change.
I hope this proves to be helpful to you and gives you more motivation to believe in the change process. I can't wait to explain the different stages more thoroughly in order to help you make some more long term changes on your own. In a few days, I will be posting four statements that the book, "Changing for Good," recommends for you to think through in order to help you better understand what stage you are currently in for the change you want to work through. I''d love to hear comments and feedback!
(As I said before, I am currently using the book "Changing for Good" by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemnte in order to help me articulate change correctly. I would HIGHLY recommend reading this book in its entirety in order to understand the process of change better, as I am only highlighting on portions that I, myself, found useful to my practice and personal change practice.)
Self-talk can be described as having a conversation with yourself. We tend to repeat the same statements to ourselves over and over, which soon become silent messages that we believe as fact and don't even think through the accuracy of anymore. Negative self-talk might look something like this...
"I cannot do anything right."
"I'm so stupid."
"There's no point even trying."
"I'm just don't measure up."
Thinking negatively leads to feeling badly about ourselves and not doing as well when dealing with work, relationships, or school. Negative thinking infects our being and leads us to feeling worthless and increases our anxiety. Pretty soon our brain becomes a pac-man running around searching for the negative statements in order to feed, or provide evidence, to the negative beliefs we are telling ourselves.
If we were to shift our self-talk to more positive statements we would find that we feel better about ourselves and more confident and competent to accomplish things we are faced with. Positive self-talk might sound something like this...
"Nobody is perfect."
"I can try my best, that doesn't mean I have to be the best."
"I will do better if I relax."
Self-talk is a skill. Just like any other muscle in our body, it requires focus to get results we desire. The more effort we put into shifting our thoughts to positive, the easier it becomes over time. We change the pac-man from a negative feeder to a pac-man running around looking to feed off evidence that supports our positive belief, rather than our negatives. When you are feeling discouraged, angry, anxious, or afraid, positive self-talk has a way of alleviating these feelings and replacing them with feelings that are more positive and self-enhancing, rather than self-defeating.
I would encourage you to rehearse and memorize self-talk statements that work well for you so that you have a repertoire to use when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or upset.
Rachael Kool, professional counselor and normal, everyday adult screw up.