season-of-second-chances

A Season of Second Chances

Have you ever heard someone say I EARNED a second chance? Or I MADE a second chance? What about I CREATED a second chance? No, not really. Generally, we say we GOT a second chance. So why is it that we feel we GET second chances?

Because we do! We all GET second, third, fourth…countless “second” chances. Just take a look around you. Brown lawns are turning green. Bare trees are growing leaves. Flowers are blooming. The sun’s filling the days with more light. Spring rains are washing away the winter.

It’s like the earth is saying, “Hey guys, I know it’s been dark and cold for the last few months, but that was just a season. We’re turning this around now.”

Spring is a season of second chances. It’s a time to break cycles. Change behaviors. Start fresh.  And even if you’re not religious, it’s a time of resurrection – rebirth, new life. Because it really doesn’t matter how many times we fall, it matters that we keep getting up.

Here are three things you can do now to take advantage of this season of second chances.

Forgive. Few things impede development like blame. Learn to forgive AND accept forgiveness.  Withholding forgiveness usually does more harm than good. It often leads to bitterness, anger or resentment that ultimately takes a toll on our physical, emotional and mental health. Forgiving yourself – or accepting someone’s forgiveness – is also a critical part of shedding burdens that weigh us down.

Hope. Depression, anxiety and addiction can lead to feelings of helplessness. This can leave us feeling vulnerable and strip away our hope.  So it’s critical to find and embrace hope. Hope comes in lots of forms. It may be in a conversation with a good friend, attending worship services, professional counseling or a morning run. Wherever you find hope, embrace it.

Serve. Nothing helps us look past ourselves like helping others. A religious man once said, “He who gives money gives some. He who gives time gives more. He who gives of himself gives all.” Serving others through volunteerism can be rejuvenating. Some studies have suggested that a part of our brain lights up when we help others. That part of our brain produces feel-good chemicals like dopamine that may lead to reduced stress, anxiety, possibly even mild depression.  Find ways – everyday – to incorporate small acts of kindness or help bear someone else’s burden.

Take this time of year to start fresh and embrace your second chance. If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or addiction, this is another opportunity to find hope, new life and a resurrection from your old self. If you have trouble finding that hope, please call us and let us walk that path with you.

coping-in-a-climate-of-fear

Strategies for Coping in a Climate of Fear

In the wake of the horrific attacks in Brussels,it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by sadness — and fear.

These are times that we’ve never seen on such a global level, and that’s part of the challenge with coping—we’re in uncharted territory. There are countries that have lived with the daily reality of terrorism and violence for decades or longer.  But for many parts of Europe and especially for us in America, this is something relatively new that we’re learning to live with.  The other challenge is that when a terrorist attack happens, we have an overabundance of information and images at our fingertips.

The two mistakes we don’t want to make are looking for something terrible to happen everywhere we go—or—acting as if those things will never happen. So how do we live with the in-between?  How do we balance that tension and guard against irrational thoughts and fears in this new reality?

A few ways to cope:

Be responsible with information and limit how much we take in
24-hour news and social media expose us to an overload of information that can actually magnify an event in our minds. When something horrible happens, we almost immediately have access to graphic pictures, iPhone videos, eyewitness accounts and seemingly endless news stories.  We see things up close in a way we never did before.  So one of the things we have to do is manage how much of our mind and our time we occupy with it. It’s critical to limit how much we watch and take in, and guard against obsessively reading or reviewing coverage.

Be mindful of our thoughts
When a violent attack like yesterday’s or those in Paris or San Bernardino happens, it’s easy to slip into a mindset of fear and start looking for a threat around every corner.  Because these events are so shocking, they strike us at an emotional level.  So we have to step back and let our rational thoughts mix in with our emotional thoughts to have a realistic perspective on our safety and the probability of danger.  Think about getting on a plane soon after reading news of a plane crash.  We all know that statistically, flying is much safer than driving around our own neighborhood, but at an emotional level our thoughts can get the better of us.

Be aware of what is driving our choices
When we find ourselves limiting our activities and what we do and where we go because of fears, we need to check those things out.  Without pausing to examine the reasoning behind our choices, we risk making our world so small that we are missing out on life.  It’s the same as not getting on an airplane because sometimes airplanes do crash.  If we continue to let fear make our world smaller and smaller, we’ve allowed our thoughts to irrationally affect how we move about and how we live (exactly what terrorists hope we’ll do).

I’m not saying we should be reckless and careless.  But we shouldn’t swing the other way and think we live in a world where there is no safe harbor.  Because the reality is that terror attacks, plane crashes and other horrible tragedies simply don’t happen as often as we might think. And it’s our thoughts and our conscious choices that can help us navigate this uncharted territory without the burden of fear.

If you try these strategies and are still feeling overwhelmed by fear or are experiencing obsessive thoughts, we encourage you to reach out to us or another professional.

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The politics of anxiety

Bored at the office today? Try this. Go over to your co-worker’s desk and (depending on their political slant) tell them you can hardly wait for Donald Trump to get his finger on “the button”; or suggest that Hillary Clinton is a victim of the system and never intended to delete classified emails on her personal server!

Yup. Nothing brings out the political Honey Badger in us like a presidential campaign. Especially this one. We’re worried about big problems – national debt, education, race relations, immigration and terrorism – so public anxiety is steadily climbing to its summit. (Just rummage through your Facebook feed and you’ll see what we’re talking about).

A recent Washington Post / ABC News poll backs us up on this. The poll reported that 69% of Americans were anxious about a Trump presidency. And on the flip side, 51% of Americans were anxious about Hillary Clinton becoming president.

But there’s a take away here. (By the way, I was just joking about starting a political debate with your co-worker). You see, on a macro scale, society’s anxiety that is bubbling up over the presidential campaign is similar to our personal struggles with anxiety. There are certain triggers (job, sickness, relationships) and causes (genetics, how you were raised) that lead to anxiety, which in turn lead to panic attacks, worry, an active mind, fatigue or even sweaty hands.

Fortunately, anxiety disorders can be highly treatable (unlike our political problems). We work every day with people to make it possible for them to move forward with daily life activities in a supportive and encouraging environment. If you feel like you’re struggling with anxiety, we can help. Sit down with one of our trained professionals and start identifying the underlying cause or triggers that lead to your anxiety. And oh yeah, we promise not to bring up politics…

 

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Even celebrities can be vulnerable

In December I joined with 11.2 million other people who watched Adele Live in New York City. Jimmy Fallon introduced her as a “once in a generation artist.” She belted songs from her former and most recent albums with such power and sincerity that I had tears welling up more than once. She got a standing ovation for When We Were Young, and then, she surprised me.

This woman: the voice of a generation, the one who can capture the attention of millions and whose album has stayed at the top of the iTunes charts since its release, she started to cry and thank the audience for welcoming her back.

She expressed her worry about being gone for so long and how she wasn’t sure about the response she’d get. She was overwhelmed by the acceptance this standing ovation communicated. Her worry had lied to her, seemingly made her doubt her abilities.

How often do you worry or feel anxious? How often do you look at others and only see confidence? Do you compare yourself? My guess is that this happens from time to time, and that’s why Adele’s crying moment was so surprising to me.

I tend to get caught in those comparisons too, thinking that if someone appears confident/successful/famous (fill in the blank), they must not struggle with anxiety. I start thinking that I’m different in the way I struggle.

The truth is that we all have times when worry gets out of hand; we get anxious. We all feel fear and wrestle with the questions of whether we’ll be accepted. It’s one of the needs we long to have met as humans – to belong. If you’re resonating as you read this, why not take a moment to consider how often you compare yourself.

If you’re spending more time on comparison than acceptance, worry might be dominating your life, and if that’s the case, we can help. Come talk, come play, come practice what it’s like to let that comparison go and to instead accept your feelings, knowing that most likely, they’ll change in another hour or two. And if you need something to do in the meantime, watch Adele sing and show us what it’s like to be vulnerable.

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The 3 R’s of talking about teen suicide

Recently, two teen girls from Murphy, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, died in apparent suicides. Both of the girls attended the same high school, but police are unsure if their friendship played a role in their deaths.  Last week XGames icon, David Mirra, took his life with an apparent self inflicted gun shot.

Meanwhile in Utah, Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers with gay children, reported recently that she had been told 32 young LGBT Mormons died by suicide since early November. Of those 32, the average age was 17 and all were between the ages of 14 and 20. Utah health department officials have confirmed 10 suicides in that age range in Utah since the start of November.

Sadly, the fate of these youth is not unique. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death”. This is why it’s critical to talk with your teen about suicide.  But it’s hard. I get it. Bringing up a conversation about young people taking their own lives can be just as uncomfortable as talking to your teen about sex and drug abuse.

But, as a parent or guardian, you have to be proactive when it comes to opening dialogue about suicide. Here are 3 ways you may be able to approach the conversation with your teen:

  1. Be Relevant. Sadly, current news stories, like those noted above, can be powerful tools in engaging your teen in an open discussion about suicide. Ask open-ended questions like, did you hear about the death of the two students in Murphy? What do you think about what happened? By avoiding questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” and “no”, you’ll be more likely to engage in a meaningful conversation.
  2. Be Relational – No amount of money or latest tech toys can substitute for spending time with your teen. By regularly engaging with your teen through activities you both enjoy, you’ll build a relationship of trust that naturally fosters open conversation. Be attentive to the moments when a natural conversation can be engaged without appearing confrontational or suspect.
  3. Be Responsive – According to the Jason Foundation, 4 of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Nothing says “I don’t care” like not being responsive when your teen has questions or shows signs of depression or anxiety that may lead to suicide. As a parent or guardian of a teen, it’s your responsibility to be available to your child when they’re feeling vulnerable. Likewise it’s your duty to know the risk factors of suicide and to know your child well enough to spot a change in behavior that reflect those risks – and then act.Your teen has everything to live for. Yet because of societal/peer pressure, biological changes, depression or addiction, he or she may feel life is hopeless. There is no simple solution to ending teen suicide. But by staying informed and engaged, you’ll be more prepared to be a meaningful solution to helping your teen navigate a minefield of emotions that may lead to suicide. If you’re not sure where to turn, call us. We can help. Our trusted counselors can help you and your teen rediscover how to live a purposeful life.
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Music expresses what words cannot

“Music when healthy, is the teacher of perfect order, and when depraved, the teacher of perfect disorder.” – John Ruskin

Not everyone can speak the language of music, but we can all understand it. It has a way of evoking emotion and become the expression of feelings for which we do not have words. Music is around us so frequently that we are often unaware of it. It is playing in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office, at work, and even in the elevator. We find music everywhere because it is so effective at influencing our mood.

Pay attention next time you are in a grocery store. Chances are you will hear soft and slow music playing in the background. Soft and slow music tends to put a person at ease. It slows our breathing and heart rate as well as our physical movement. Slower physical movement through the store often means more products in your cart.

Now think of the last time you were at a football game. Even if you are not a fan of the game, you can’t help but feel the energy in the air. The marching band plays loud and upbeat music to unite and energize the crowd to enthusiastically support their team.

When we have the opportunity to listen to music of our own choice, we often choose music to match our mood. Whether or not we aware of it, we are attempting to regulate our emotions by choosing music that helps us express what we are feeling. If you are heading out with your friends on a Friday night, you are going to play music that gets everyone excited. If you just finished a hard day at work where your boss reprimanded you, you will likely choose music with an aggressive or sad tone to it.

Regardless of what mood you are in, the music you choose can have a dramatic effect on your mental health. Recent studies have used MRI technology to see the brain’s unconscious emotion regulation processes and record neural activity as the participant listened to various kinds of music (see link below for specific study results). If music can have that kind of effect on our brains, it is very powerful indeed. As Bono famously said, “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

How will you let it change you?

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How play can change your life!

“The opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression. Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.” – Stuart Brown, M.D.

Play is an integral part of every child’s development. Through trial and error, imagination, and creativity, play provides a safe process for children to learn about themselves, how the world works, and how to engage in relationships. They test limits and begin to understand how to set and respect boundaries, and learn how to work through conflict. They experience failure at reaching an objective and begin to grasp the life lessons of determination, endurance, and resilience. Something changes, however, as we grow up. Many of us think to ourselves, “I’m an adult—adults don’t play.” “Fun, who has time for fun… I’ve got work, the kids, and I need a couple of hours to zone out in front of the TV before I go to bed and do it all over again tomorrow.” I’m guilty of that last one.

Recently, I read the book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, M.D., and it has inspired me to re-prioritize play and fun as a value that I seek to pursue on a daily basis. In the book, Dr. Brown makes the case that even though there is a purposelessness to play on the surface, there are serious benefits for children and adults. On the National Institute for Play’s website it states that play has profound benefits for all stages of life: “play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding. It generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun, leads to mastery, gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community.” Through activities like sports, creative writing, painting, traveling, board games, and movies we can in turn impact other areas of our lives like work, relationships, and physical, mental and spiritual health.

At i360, we hold a value for play. We are intentional to play together as a staff, always looking for creative activities to do together to develop the team’s bond. We’ve been indoor skydiving, played trampoline dodge ball, and even ridden a donkey… don’t ask, you had to be there.

As part of our holistic approach with clients, we also want to help clients discover play again. For someone struggling with anxiety, depression or addiction, therapy can be a helpful tool to gain insight, self-awareness, and healthy coping skills. We provide individual, couples, family, and group therapy. However, we also realize that therapy is limited. As a co-worker once told me, “knowledge or insight is great, but if you don’t make actual changes in your life to meet your stated goals, then what’s the point?” In addition to the traditional therapies, we also offer a service called Life Development. Through Life Development, we walk with clients outside the office and in their everyday environment to help them translate their insights into behavior change. One benefit of this program is to practice the value of learning how to enjoy life again through meaningful relationship and healthy activity.

In his book, Dr. Brown describes the following 8 different play personalities. He states that typically each of us connects with a mix of a few of these and sometimes it depends on the environment or situation. Take a look below. Which types do you identify for yourself?

    • The Joker – You enjoy making people laugh, crack practical jokes, and engage in nonsense.
    • The Kinesthete – You are happy when engaged in physical activity, but not for competitive purposes. You feel alive pushing yourself to physical limits.
    • The Explorer – You love exploring the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual world through traveling, researching, listening to music or meeting new people.
    • The Competitor – You enjoy games with rules and play to win. You strive to be the top dog.
    • The Director – You live to plan, organize, and execute scenes or events.
    • The Collector – You desire to have the best of particular objects or experiences.
    • The Artist / Creator – You find joy in making unique things or experiences.
    • The Storyteller – You use your imagination through acting, dance, music, or teaching to tell a story.

 

Now that you’ve identified with one or more, take a moment to reminisce on that time of your life when that part of yourself thrived. How was that time? What activities did you enjoy? What was your mood like? How were your relationships? Finally, how can you incorporate these activities back into your life on a consistent basis? I encourage you to take play seriously, and learn how to have fun again. It just may change your life.

If you’d like to learn more about play and its benefits, check out the following resources:

Written By: Mitchell Isle, MA, LPC, CSAT – Clinical Coordinator and Therapist

unlock-lasting-change

Working From the Inside Out: A Key to Unlocking Lasting Change

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

It’s one of those unique qualities of being human — even if it doesn’t always look like this to others: The majority of us have a deeply-rooted desire to improve, to get better at something, to transform an area of our lives. Whether it’s related to work, relationships or our health, there’s almost invariably some things we need to stop doing and some things we want to start doing. Change is one of the key ingredients that allows us to grow and mature.

It’s only taken me about 20 years to get that idea settled into my life. I’m embarrassed to admit what I originally thought about change when I first started working with people as a therapist: I actually thought that if someone took the time out of their schedule and paid me to talk about the difficult things in their lives, that meant they were ready to change. I began to realize over time that seeing a therapist (meaning me) actually told me very little about their desire to change, their motivation to change or even their belief about the possibility of change.

I’ve learned a few things about the process of change from therapy and research (I’ll share more about that in the blogs to come). But the first thing that needs to happen if we want to change, in big ways or small, is that we need to be more honest with ourselves. We have to start the process of change with where we are, not where we think we should be. Take, for instance, New Year’s resolutions. A lot of people think they need to get healthy at the start of a new year, in part because of the excessive eating and lack of exercise during the holidays. So every January, every health club is packed. But most of those newcomers at the gym don’t really want to change; they just feel bad about the choices they made over the previous couple of weeks (or even the previous months or year). Rather than over-committing to work out, say, five times a week for an hour at a time, it would be better if they started walking or jogging for a short time once a week.

 

Compliance vs. Change

It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between compliance and change. Usually, compliance is somebody trying to change us. I often joke, “I’m not sure where in the city my wife is right now, but if she’s talking to a friend about something that she thinks I need to change, I can feel that conversation 20 miles away and I’ll start my resistance.”

People hate being forced to change, and compliance — giving in, agreeing to do what’s asked of us — is simply a strategy we’ve all used to get someone to quit talking to us about what they think we should do. But the truth is, if I’m open to change and if I’m the one doing the work, then I just might end up starting a change process that lasts. So compliance and change are two very different things. While compliance usually originates from someone else or something else, change, on the other hand, must become personal to us if it is grow. Put another way, for lasting change to happen, at some point there has to be something that happens internally, not just externally.

Even though therapists and researchers are well-versed on the subject how change happens, it’s still both fascinating and mysterious to not only observe the process in others, but to experience it first-hand. If you’re willing to risk changing yourself from the inside out then you will never be, as Teddy Roosevelt once said, “a cold and timid soul that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

–Written by Kevin Gilliland, PsyD for the Addiction.com website. For more from their expert bloggers, please follow this link.

engage-in-motivation

Engaging in Motivation

How many times have you felt unmotivated to do something? Or have used the phrase “I’m just not motivated to do that right now”? We tend to use a “lack of motivation” as an excuse for not acting. Could it be that by not acting we are actually removing any opportunity for motivation?

Often times we can think of motivation as something that one either has or does not have. When taking this view in the context of treatment, we can be quick to dismiss people on the basis of a lack of motivation. According to Dr. William R. Miller and Dr. Stephen Rollnick, motivation is not a trait or something that one either has or does not have; however, it is an action. “Motivation can be understood not as something that one has but rather as something one does. It involves recognizing a problem, searching for a way to change, and then beginning and sticking with that change strategy. There are, it turns out, many ways to help people move toward such recognition and action.” -Dr. William R. Miller

I love this! With this redefinition we can now empower people with motivation instead of it being a prerequisite for treatment. 

This is one of the great benefits I have found in i360’s Life Development. Many times people have the desire to change but struggle with actively engaging in the motivation to make those changes and stick with them. Life Development helps people participate in that motivation by reflectively listening and helping to identify goals. It also aids in processing through current behavior to see if that behavior is helping the individual move towards those goals or away from them. With our clients, we work through conflict and confrontation and continue to focus positively on the ever constant opportunity we have for impactful and meaningful change.

It is my personal opinion that for anyone to engage in motivation that will lead to sustainable change, one must have another individual to participate with in the process. Whether it’s resisting the urge to take a drink or going to the gym to work out, it is easier to obtain continued favorable outcomes when we are actively involved with others to achieve motivational success.

To read more about Motivational Interviewing refer to http://store.samhsa

Written by Matthew Green

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How to Care for those Experiencing Grief during the Holidays

The holiday season brings with it certain nostalgia. The cooler air is filled with memories of family gatherings, friendly meetings and a general coming together with those we love. There is an expectation of sorts to be merry, to be carefree, to be whimsical. Yet, for those of us dealing with the loss of a loved one, the holiday season often amplifies the pain and sadness already lingering in their absence. As we move through December and into the new year, be mindful of those near to you that may be struggling through this season. Here are some specific ways we can extend care for those experiencing grief this year:

·Reach out and remember: Sending a card, extending a phone call, sharing an invitation to coffee all serve as fairly simple ways to communicate you care and haven’t forgotten about the person’s loss during the holidays. Offer to help bake or decorate or shop for gifts. These tasks can be overwhelming for someone that is dealing with raw emotions. Especially if time has passed since the loss, you may unintentionally forget that the holidays can be hard.

·Do not avoid the topic: It can be uncomfortable to inquire about difficult situations, yet leaning into the discomfort can help someone who is grieving talk about the event, and the gesture relays that you are truly interested. Questions such as, “How are you doing?” “What is difficult right now?” “What do you need during this season?” can open the door to conversations someone may not bring up otherwise.

·Listen, listen, listen: As you engage in conversation with someone grieving, listen without preparing how you will respond. This is not a time where you have to be conversational. However, if you are comfortable, share what you are feeling as he or she continues to share, or even how you may relate to his or her loss. Try to connect with the feelings of hurt, the feelings of pain, and avoid attempting to solve or fix it. It is risky to share about a sad or difficult topic if you do not believe you will be heard. Letting the other person know you hear him or her and are ok with being with there in that moment of grieving goes a very long way.

It can feel scary to ask or inquire about a person’s loss. However, making the effort and expressing concern is often appreciated. Additionally, some folks may request to not talk about their loss, but still be thankful you asked. Respect where the person is in terms of dealing with that circumstance. Anger may accompany the sadness and often it is not personal towards you. As you offer support, honor how the person chooses to respond and trust that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays while navigating a loss.

When we go through difficult times, we often isolate and disconnect from the things in life we need. Maybe you are going through a hard time. Maybe a loved one is. Whatever the case, connecting with others can give us hope for a different future. Talk with someone, sit with someone and explore some possibilities to have a very different chapter in life. Reach out to us at i360 at 214.733.9565.

Written by Lindsay O’Connor, LPC – Client Advocate and Therapist at i360