As February marks the final stretch of winter, many individuals grapple with the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In this blog post, let's explore understanding SAD, its symptoms, and practical mental wellness strategies to help individuals navigate and cope with this seasonal challenge.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression, tends to occur during specific times of the year, predominantly in fall or winter when days are shorter, and daylight is scarce. While some may attribute their feelings to the common "winter blues," it's crucial to recognize that these mood changes can be more serious, impacting one's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Notably, individuals may experience either winter-pattern SAD or, alternatively, summer-pattern SAD.
Common signs and symptoms of SAD encompass persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" moods, changes in sleep or appetite, decreased energy, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. Winter-pattern SAD may involve additional symptoms such as oversleeping, overeating, and social withdrawal, while summer-pattern SAD may manifest as anxiety and/or violent behavior.
Addressing SAD involves various interventions, including Bright Light Therapy, Psychotherapy, and medications. However, initiating a conversation with your doctor or therapist is imperative to determine the most suitable approach based on your experiences. Additionally, incorporating a well-balanced diet and regular exercise into your routine is pivotal in managing SAD symptoms.
To proactively manage the change of seasons, consider creating a personalized plan that includes scheduling outdoor activities, seeking therapy, and maintaining social connections even during cold days. Taking these steps contributes significantly to alleviating the impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder on mental well-being.
In times of need, reach out for additional support. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 and the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) are available resources offering assistance and understanding. By fostering awareness, understanding, and a supportive community, we can collectively work towards overcoming the seasonal challenges posed by SAD and promoting mental well-being for all.
Has the prospect of seeking therapy left you hesitant, overwhelmed, or uncertain about where to start? The abundance of information available at our fingertips can make the process of finding the right therapist seem daunting. Let's explore various therapeutic approaches, pose essential questions to ask potential therapists, and address what steps to take if you find that you don't quite resonate with your chosen therapist.
Therapeutic approaches serve as the framework through which counselors address clients' concerns. There are five broad categories, including psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and integrative approaches that blend strategies from multiple therapeutic types.
Psychodynamic therapy delves into uncovering and examining past events or patterns influencing a person's current state, emphasizing psychological drives and forces. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a brief, skills-focused form targeting irrational thoughts to foster emotional well-being. Dialectical behavior therapy provides structured psychotherapy with an educational focus on managing intense emotions and navigating social relationships. Acceptance and commitment therapy is action-oriented, encouraging clients to accept deeper feelings while moving forward in their lives.
Some therapists may combine strategies from different therapeutic types, tailoring their approach to the client's needs. This holistic lens ensures interventions are selected to achieve more meaningful results.
As you embark on your search for a therapist, consider it akin to a job interview. Asking questions is crucial for understanding the therapist's approach and ensuring a comfortable environment. Sample questions include inquiring about the type of clients they usually work with, their areas of expertise, treatment methods, acceptance of insurance, and the possibility of involving a family member in sessions.
Importantly, address concerns such as not meshing well with the therapist, feeling like your problems aren't as significant as others', or differentiating therapy from venting to friends. A good therapist should be open to understanding your concerns.
Give your therapist a fair chance by attending two or three sessions before deciding if they are the right fit. If you discover that the connection isn't there, don't hesitate to seek a new therapist. Request a referral and remember that finding the right therapist is a personalized journey aimed at supporting your mental well-being.
Setting boundaries is an essential aspect of self-care that establishes guidelines, rules, and limits on how we want to be treated by others. Boundaries are divided into different categories, including emotional, material, time, physical, and sexual boundaries. These boundaries are crucial for our emotional well-being and provide us with the framework to establish clarity, expectations, and a sense of security within our relationships.
Setting boundaries is about creating a supportive structure for relationships to flourish. Through effective communication, we can establish healthy boundaries that foster mutual respect, openness, and understanding. Boundaries help manage expectations, reducing the likelihood of disappointment, resentment, or misunderstandings. This, in turn, creates a safe space for open communication, where needs and concerns can be addressed without fear of overstepping.
To establish healthy boundaries, we must recognize which areas require boundaries. We can do this by clarifying our values or by evaluating our reactions to things that influence our daily lives. Here are two great worksheets, A Value's Worksheet and Visualizing your Boundaries that you can download and use as a tool to help establish and evaluate your reactions. These include personal space, communication, and emotional needs. By setting limits on personal time and physical space, we can maintain our identities within a relationship. Clearly defining expectations regarding open communication ensures that both parties feel heard and understood. Recognizing emotional needs and establishing guidelines for providing support without compromising one's emotional well-being is also crucial.
Parents can teach their children about boundaries by respecting their needs and encouraging open communication. Respecting a child's boundaries instills a sense of autonomy and self-respect in them and equips them with essential skills for setting boundaries in their own future relationships.
Engaging in therapy provides a structured environment to explore and develop healthy boundaries. Practicing boundary-setting with a therapist helps us articulate our needs and desires while building a vocabulary for effective communication. Therapists can offer guidance in navigating complex relational dynamics, ensuring that individuals feel empowered to express themselves authentically.
In conclusion, setting healthy boundaries is an ongoing process that requires self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication. Boundaries are not meant to create walls between us, but instead, to foster an environment where relationships can thrive. By respecting, evaluating, and practicing boundary-setting, we can create relationships built on mutual understanding, trust, and respect.
How does one go about caring for their mental well-being during the holiday season? While some individuals thrive during the holiday chaos, there are a few who find their stress, anxiety, and personal boundaries taking a backseat to the demands of others, turning what is often dubbed "the most wonderful time of the year" into a less-than-joyous experience. In this month's blog, we will explore the concept of self-care during the holidays and its significance to each of us.
When we mention self-care, what exactly do we mean? It can encompass a variety of practices tailored to your own needs. This might include unwinding with a soothing hot bath, setting clear boundaries with friends and family, or adhering to a well-structured schedule that suits your preferences. Let's explore some ways to safeguard your mental well-being during the holiday season.
It's a customary part of the holiday season to be in the company of family and friends, but at times, these gatherings can become overwhelming. Setting boundaries is a crucial tool for ensuring your well-being, both at home and during social events where you might require some extra support to maintain your peace. Utilize phrasing like "You're welcome to visit, but the kids need to be in bed by 7 PM" or "We'd love to join, but we can only stay for an hour". It's important to establish these boundaries in advance of the holiday season to reduce pressure later. Remember to stand firm in your decisions by sticking to the limits you have set.
Preventing Emotional Exhaustion
Emotional exhaustion can result from life's stressors overwhelming you. You can alleviate this by taking moments for personal reflection and self-care. Consider having a quiet coffee break away from the hustle and bustle of family gatherings, journaling after everyone else has gone to bed, or indulging in a long, relaxing soak in the bath.
Use the HALT method to check in with yourself multiple times per day -
Have you ever heard of the grounding technique? This approach can be highly effective for those experiencing anxiety. Engaging in the 5-4-3-2-1 technique can help you regain calmness in the moment. As you identify each item, vocalize it while focusing on your breathing. Find 5 things you can see – with the holiday season underway (for example look for red or green patterns and objects you've never noticed before). Discover and touch 4 things you can feel (consider the texture of your clothing or identify anything soft). Identify 3 things you can hear (perhaps you can hear the wind or a favorite song). Find 2 things you can smell (can you detect an air freshener or the scent of freshly mowed grass?). Lastly, find 1 sweet thing you can taste, whether it's a piece of gum or a freshly baked cookie.
It's Okay to Buy That Apple Pie
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, there's a great deal of cooking to be done, and the pressure to create everything from scratch can be overwhelming. Does the mere thought of it stress you out? It's perfectly acceptable to ask friends and family if they'd like to contribute something or even consider purchasing certain items. Transform it into a collaborative effort rather than an individual burden.
Let's be honest, there will be moments of stress during the holiday season, but try to focus on the humor or the whimsical aspects of minor frustrations and mistakes. Find the positive aspects in stressful situations; one day, they'll make great stories to share around the dinner table. Keep your eye on the goal: spending quality time with your loved ones and having a positive holiday experience throughout the season.
Give yourself the grace and freedom to prioritize your mental well-being during the holidays. Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup, so taking time to recharge and replenish yourself can help ease overwhelming moments. Give yourself permission to have a wonderful holiday experience, even if that means not making an apple pie from scratch!
Casey Medlin, Office Manager
As the saying goes, time flies when you're doing what you love. Our team is celebrating a significant milestone - the four-year anniversary of Harbor Counseling. These four years have been an incredible journey of growth, challenges, and moments that have shaped Harbor Counseling into what it is today. As October comes to a close, I've been reflecting on what it means to celebrate this remarkable journey.
Four years ago, I embarked on this journey with a dream and a vision. I envisioned a place where clients could find support, solace, and understanding. A place where professionals who are deeply committed to this field and dedicated to evidence-based practices within their specialty can unite to support one another in their shared mission. The decision to open a private practice was driven by a passion for helping others and a commitment to providing individualized and ethical care.
Four years in practice has been a journey of constant learning and adaptation. We've expanded our knowledge, refined our skills, and explored innovative approaches to better serve our clients. Certainly this time has not been without its challenges. We've faced hurdles, learned from them, and grown stronger in the process. These challenges have pushed us to become more resilient and adaptable.
One of the most rewarding aspects of these four years has been the relationships we've built with our clients and other providers within our community. Serving our community often means being a catalyst for change. Beyond the therapy room, therapists are mental health advocates, breaking down stigma and raising awareness about the importance of emotional and psychological well-being. We strive to make our communities more supportive and understanding and I am so grateful for the opportunities we have had to along the way collaborate with community partners to provide mental health resources.
As we celebrate this four-year anniversary, we are filled with gratitude - gratitude for our clients, our network of other providers, and the opportunity to do meaningful work. Looking ahead, we're excited about the future, the new challenges it may bring, and the opportunities for further growth and impact. This month has been a reminder that our commitment to serving others, our passion for what we do, and our unwavering dedication continue to drive us forward. Here's to the journey thus far and the remarkable chapters yet to be written!
-Selena Stanberry, LCMHC, Owner
As October begins, we bring our attention to Mental Illness awareness. Our mental health is essential to our physical and emotional well-being. In this blog, we will discuss what mental illness is, the various types of mental illness, and the significance of self-compassion in mental health recovery. We want to emphasize the importance of mental healthcare.
Mental illness can affect our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, resulting in changes in our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It can impact our daily lives by influencing how we react to stress, our behavior, and our decision-making abilities. Although the medical community has yet to understand the root cause of mental illness, it has been determined that it is a complex mix of different factors, including genetic and other biological factors, early life environment, trauma and stress, and personality factors. Seeking professional help, such as visiting a doctor or a therapist, is crucial to starting the journey toward your desired life.
While there are many types of mental illness, we will highlight four that our counselors often encounter.
Why Should I Learn How to Feel?
Feelings signal something important to us. We will feel fear if our emotional or physical safety is threatened, sadness with the loss of someone or something significant to us. We feel anger in the face of injustice or mistreatment, guilt when we harm others. If we reflexively move away from these primary feelings which reflect actual danger, harm, loss, transgression—we will miss something meaningful that needs attending to. Primary feelings (reflect what’s actually happening), secondary emotions (often related to distorted interpretations), mixed together with all of our avoidance behaviors (our reactive struggle against all of the feelings). We have to develop the muscle and courage to stay with this uncomfortable welter of emotions in order to unpack what is important and meaningful. Think of our initial emotional reactions as the “surface waves” of an ocean. We need to ride these choppy waves, while holding our thoughts and interpretations lightly, in order to slowly drop into deeper emotional waters where the felt-sense of our values reside. Only then can we distinguish our primary feelings (and the values they reflect) from all the secondary noise.
Willingness to feel enables new learning by engaging in new experiences that generate new feelings to transform old, unhelpful beliefs at an emotional level, and grow in new ways. Willingness to stay with our feelings helps us access our values at a deeper emotional level and enables us to pause, resist reactive moves to alleviate negative feelings. Therefore opening up the possibility to choose an action in the service of our values and long-term goals. It’s critical to see that this skill must be developed in order to overcome our nature-nurture wiring. As Victor Frankl famously wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Join us for Part 3 next Friday!
Did you know that our emotions serve to drive rapid behavior?
"Positive" emotions (excitement, joy, attraction, pride, amusement) motivate approach behaviors, are rewarding, and reinforce behaviors. "Negative" or threat-related emotions (fear, anxiety, guilt, shame, disgust, hurt, anger, jealousy, sadness) are part of the body’s alarm system and arise when our brain perceives a threat to our fundamental goals or needs or the well-being of loved ones. "Negative" feelings also mobilize the body for action, but they motivate avoidance behavior: efforts aimed at escaping, reducing, fighting, or controlling the threat and the associated feelings.
We are actually socialized to AVOID our feelings!
“Look on the bright side!” (don’t be sad)
“You need to be strong!” (don’t cry)
“Stop, you're making me feel guilty!” (don’t be upset with me)
Different cultures and social groups (including families) have implicit and explicit “rules” about which feelings are acceptable, and which ones are not. Suppressing negative emotions is often associated with strength, while expressing them is often equated with weakness.
What's Wrong With Avoiding?
If you don’t know how to stay with uncomfortable emotions and therefore must give in to that short-term drive toward or away, there is no opportunity to consider how you want to act in a situation. You won’t have that emotion-muscle to move toward meaningful goals in the face of difficult feelings. The resistance takes up much of our attention and energy, while the core issues remain. As we say in the trade: what you resist persists. Another problem is that our initial feelings are based on our quick interpretation of the situation, which isn’t very reliable. If you simply obey the feeling, you may be acting on faulty information.
So now what?
Stay tuned for Part 2 next Friday!
As you come into Harbor Counseling PC, you may wonder "what does my provider's office look like?". Join us as we answer that question. Above you can see pictures from Micaiah Gilkes' office. Micaiah has lovingly crafted an open space where clients can relax. Micaiah's open concept allows for clients to get comfortable and breathe.
Join us as we explore the other offices within Harbor Counseling!