Doing Life Together
Doing Life Together
There’s not a single person in America that hasn’t been impacted by the current pandemic and resulting quarantine somehow. These past several months have been characterized by loneliness, boredom, stress, and anxiety. That’s why many Americans have turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the crisis and simply pass the time. Protecting yourself from substance abuse during these times of crisis is extremely important.
Dump the Alcohol
Alcohol sales have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. In research compiled by Nielsen, alcohol sales have been up 21% at liquor stores and 234% via online retailers. While drinking alcohol is less dangerous when done in moderation, there is a concern if you struggle with addiction or self-control.
Access to alcohol in your home combined with boredom and cravings may lead you to drink in excess. At least until the pandemic is over and things are back to normal, it’s best to dump the alcohol you do have and stop yourself from buying more.
Both alcohol and drugs can be draining financially, which might keep you from buying them in the first place. Unfortunately, seeing a few extra zeros in your bank account due to unemployment checks or stimulus checks might make obtaining drugs and alcohol easier than ever.
According to the American Medical Association, opioid overdoses have been on the rise since the pandemic began in March. Though you might be excited about your extra funds right now, be sure to spend it responsibly, get your bills paid, and put the rest into savings.
Find a Coping Strategy
Drugs and alcohol are often a focal point of parties and large gatherings, but substance abuse often goes hand-in-hand with inadequate coping mechanisms. Even casual substance use can turn into an addiction, primarily if you rely on substances to ease your emotional pain or “escape” the here and now. By keeping yourself from sinking into substance abuse, it’s best to find a healthy coping strategy to ease your mind and stress. That might include getting exercise, meditating, reading a book, going for a walk, or learning to play an instrument.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
One of the most debilitating aspects of this pandemic and quarantine has been the impact on social relationships. The loneliness and social isolation may cause severe boredom and the desire to “escape” to feel less lonely. Many times, this is done through substance abuse.
The best thing you can do when you feel lonely is to reach out to those you can lean on. That may include your best friend, your parents, your siblings, or even your coworker. Try to stick to a consistent contact schedule through text messages, phone calls, or video calls.
It might seem like this pandemic will never end, which may make you feel as if your life is going nowhere. When you feel like you’ve lost direction and purpose, you may turn to drugs and alcohol to get you through the day.
Giving yourself hope and prioritizing your mental health is vital, so it’s a great idea to set goals for yourself. They should be both short-term and long-term goals. Set goals for yourself during the pandemic, like exercising five times a week, and for when the pandemic finally ends, such as going back to college.
During these times of crisis, the mental health of Americans has been very much at risk. Being unable to cope with the current situation and shutting yourself off from the outside world can make you more susceptible to substance abuse. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, it’s best to reach out to a counselor or therapist to get a treatment plan in order.
Are you feeling like you're in a crisis?
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There is no simple answer to this question. Mental health therapy is different for every person, and if you do treatment two separate times, those times could be completely different.
So how does mental health therapy work? Is it awkward sitting in a chair talking to a stranger? Do you even need a therapist? For all this and more, read on!
How It Works
There are several approaches to psychotherapy, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). These include cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, psychodynamic therapy, and other kinds of talk therapy. No matter which method turns out to be best for you, the conversation is the crux of treatment.
Therapy for your mental health aims to teach you how your mind and emotions work. Therapy’s goal is to change things within yourself that are causing issues in your life or can even be as simple as starting a personal growth journey. Mental health therapy takes a lot of work and involvement on your part, a good therapist is a guide that can give you tools, but they can’t change anything for you; that is up to you.
You and your therapist build a relationship in which you can openly communicate with a neutral, non-judgmental party. As this relationship develops, you and your psychologist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that keep you from feeling your best.
When most people think of mental health therapy, they go right to counseling. Counseling is when you talk with a therapist about what is bothering you, and they ask you questions to try and dig deeper into the real reason you feel that way. It can help you better understand what you think and why you think it, enabling you to identify your issues, develop better coping skills, and grow as a person.
According to Psychology Today, different types of therapies work towards various goals, be it PTSD, depression, anxiety, or working through personal issues of any kind.
• For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to treat various issues, including panic attacks and eating disorders.
• Exposure therapy is a more niche-oriented therapy generally used to treat OCD, PTSD, or a range of phobias. Exposure therapy is just what it sounds like, exposing yourself to something that may be a trigger for you.
Do You Need Mental Health Therapy?
Any time your quality of life doesn’t want you to want it to be, therapy can help. Perhaps you have depression or anxiety issues, and treatment can help. Many people have problems from their childhoods that interfere with their adult life, and therapy can help.
According to the APA, signs that you could benefit from therapy include:
• Prolonged sadness or helplessness
• Chronic anxious feelings or worried thoughts
• Your problems haven’t gotten better despite your efforts
• Difficulty concentrating at work or in your personal life
• Drug or alcohol problems that are harming you or others
• You have problems with your relationships
• Self-esteem issues
• Problems with life skills, like confidence or motivation
• Marriage or relationship issues that require couples counseling
It is also important to note that you do not have to have any urgent issues. You may just want to learn about yourself, who you are, and work on developing a better you. In this case, therapy can help.
Types of Therapists
Different levels of education qualify and license a therapist, including but not limited to:
• MFT (marriage, family counselors)
• LCSW (licensed clinical social worker)
• MD Psychiatrists (medical doctors who specialize in psychiatry and can prescribe medications)
A great place to start is asking your primary care doctor. He or she will be able to refer you to a skilled psychologist they trust. This psychologist will often be covered under your insurance since they are associated with your primate care doctor. There will likely be a waiting period before you can see your new doctor, so be prepared for that. Your primary care doctor can often prescribe you medication to hold you over if your situation is dire. Be honest with them, and they can help.
If you do not have health insurance, consult the nearest university or mental health center. They often provide low-cost treatment and information that will help you find the therapy you need.
Psychology Today offers an online search tool to find a therapist in your area - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
What If It Isn’t Working?
If you’ve been in therapy a while and it doesn’t seem adequate, you should consider your psychologist and your treatment plan. You also need to keep in mind that as treatment progresses, repressed negative emotions may bubble up to the surface of your mind.
If you don’t feel like you can be open with your psychologist, you might want to find a new one. If your treatment plan doesn’t seem logical for you, bring that up with your psychologist and discuss making changes.
The journey to better mental health is just that, a trip, and no one should go on a long journey alone. Therapy can be a great asset, and your therapist can be a trusted confidant that can guide you towards a better you and a better life.
Feeling like you need a change in your life?
If you're looking for someone to help guide you through the process of figuring out what's going on and how to make it better, I'm here. I work with people who are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma or other issues that can affect their day-to-day lives.
You deserve to feel good about yourself and have all the tools necessary to live an amazing life! That’s why I offer counseling sessions tailored specifically for each individual client based on their needs so they can get back on track as quickly as possible. I also offer group sessions so clients can connect with others who share similar experiences.
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Therapy can come in many forms. Talk therapy is a practice that you can do differently where one of the most popular therapies available. Psychodynamic therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, and humanistic therapy are just a few popular therapy options.
6 Popular Types of Talk Therapy Currently Used Today
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely practiced form of talk therapy that involves structured sessions. It is usually a short-term mental health treatment that addresses patterns of existing behavior. By understanding unhelpful thought patterns, the therapist can help guide the patient into making healthier choices.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy can identify beliefs the patient did not know they had. These beliefs can be about themselves, others, or the world around them, just by addressing current symptoms and not spending as much time on the past, the design of this therapy to work on simple changes.
Psychodynamic therapy stemmed from what was once called psychoanalysis. Like psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy allows the patient to talk about anything that’s on their mind. The subconscious thought is encouraged so that a therapist can uncover thought and behavior patterns that may contribute to distress. Psychodynamic therapy can focus on current events as well as childhood and past events.
Unlike cognitive behavioral therapy, a usual practice that is called psychodynamic therapy is on a long-term basis. It is an intensive form of talk therapy designed to treat depression, eating disorders, somatic symptoms, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
These are designed to help the patient develop self-acceptance. For those who struggle with low esteem and depression, this can be a beneficial form of talk therapy. By focusing on current life, a humanistic approach to counseling is different from psychodynamic treatment.
Possible techniques used in humanistic therapy include role-playing, reenacting, and active listening. Those who are suffering from relationship difficulties, trauma, or depression can all benefit from humanistic treatment.
Dialectic Behavior Therapy
DBT is a form of talk therapy that identifies negative thinking patterns by using favorable behavior modification. It is one of the most popular therapies for those who struggle with impulsive behavior and suicidal ideation or self-destructive behavior.
By accepting the patient’s experience of what is happening, a patient’s trust is at the forefront. Unlike many other talk therapy practices, DBT comprises several components, including individual therapy and group skills training. Many patients who have had little success in other forms of therapy do well with this type of intensive therapy.
Interpersonal therapy mainly focuses on depression and relationship issues. An interpersonal counselor can address relationships and mood cycles that impact one another.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
EMDR uses talking and sensation techniques to help those who may be suffering from trauma. Specific eye movements can help reframe memories and situations so that patients no longer have to endure flashbacks or intrusive thoughts. This type of therapy generally lasts between 8 and 12 sessions.
The Efficacy of Talk Therapy
Many people assume all talk therapies are the same. In reality, just as patients are unique, so are their therapies. While cognitive-behavioral therapy may work for some people with depression, it does not necessarily work for all.
Finding the right therapy is crucial when treating mental health issues. With a suitable form of treatment and counselor, therapy can help solve relationship and mood issues.
You may have heard about talk or cognitive behavioral therapies before but not know what they entail. They're both great for different reasons and it's important to find
which one will work best for you!
Reach out today and schedule an appointment with me!
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At some point in our lives, we all deal with painful and negative emotions. Whether those emotions are fear, anxiety, resentment, or other fear-based emotions, if we do not learn to manage those emotions properly, they can get the best of us and destroy us.
Identify the Emotion
You cannot correctly address something you cannot first identify. It requires a level of self-awareness that allows you to sit with your feelings and truly get to the root of what is going on. The act of identifying what is triggering the negative feelings eases the burden of trying to ignore or masking it while allowing room for what was identified to be addressed in the right way.
The ultimate benefits of this can include reduced stress and anxiety (Partnership Staff, 2017).
Once you know what you’re feeling, you can begin to identify what causes you to feel that way. By identifying the situation or the trigger causing that particular emotion, actionable strides can then be taken to remove or reduce the impacts later on.
Or steps can be taken to help you learn how to manage those triggers, so they no longer produce the intense negative pain or fear-based emotion moving forward (Brown, 2019).
Redirecting the negative emotions, you feel into positive activities can be a healthy way to release negative emotions. Redirection is about channeling negative emotions and energy into an action that allows for emotional release without causing harm.
Activities can include physical events, breathing, journaling, or meditation, among others. Each of these outlets provides an opportunity to help you feel less overwhelmed and eventually reduce stress, tension, and anxiety (Scott, 2020).
Getting help from outside sources can be one of the best ways to get help with painful and fear-based emotions. Whether that support is in the form of friends and family or a licensed professional, sometimes having an additional person to talk things through with can help bring relief both mentally and emotionally.
Others can offer advice, tools, resources, and even just a listening ear to help you process what you’re feeling. It can also guide you through developing healthy coping strategies to manage negative emotions (Scott, 2020).
Being thankful is a strategy that can act as a grounding force when faced with painful and fear-based emotions. Gratitude first draws us into the present moment by focusing on the negative stimuli and causing us to find those good things that exist presently in our lives.
Then it replaces the negativity with positivity by causing us to deviate from the negative emotions towards happiness and joy that gratitude is linked with creating. Taking a few moments to either write down all that you are grateful for or even think about them helps counter these negative emotions.
We do not have to live indefinitely with painful and fear-based emotions. We can take action to help ourselves overcome negative feelings and thrive in our lives.
Whether you adopt one of these strategies or a combination of several, these are great ways to first understand how you feel, address the cause of what you’re feeling, and then develop coping strategies for situations where you find yourself encountering these negative emotions.
Brown, L. (2019, October 22). How to deal with negative emotions: 10 things you need to remember. Hack Spirit. https://hackspirit.com/negative-emotions/
Partnership Staff. (2017, May 28). Coping with fear, anger and other negative emotions. Partnership to End Addiction | Where Families Find Answers. https://drugfree.org/article/coping-fear-anger/#
Scott, E. (2020). How to deal with negative emotions and stress. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-should-i-deal-with-negative-emotions-3144603
By Holly Miller
Mrs. Miller, will you be here after school for a while?” In my third year of teaching, one of my tougher students poked her head into my classroom at dismissal. “Yes Maria, what can I do for you?” I said smiling, hiding my own hesitation. Maria and I had a rocky start to the school year. She was defiant, cut class, and often didn’t have her work done. But I tried my best to give her a clean slate every day and be as patient as possible. She asked if she could get some help on the assignment we were working on in class earlier that day and I was pleased to see her actually putting in some effort so I happily obliged. She actually didn’t need a whole lot of help and it seemed like she just needed a place to work and have someone hold her accountable. Maria started coming by after school once a week for extra math help. After a while, she asked if she could come work on any work in my classroom, even if it wasn’t for my class. I had plenty of grading and lesson planning to do, so she came by a few times every week after school and we often chatted and worked, each accomplishing what we needed to do.
After these impromptu work sessions became the norm for us, Maria started to try in class, had her work done, dropped her ‘tough girl’ exterior with me, and stopping missing class. One afternoon, she shared with me that she couldn’t get work done at home. Her mom worked late hours and she was responsible for picking up her younger siblings, making dinner, and ensuring they did their homework. She couldn’t complete homework unless she found a quiet place to work directly after school for the one hour she had to wait for the elementary school to dismiss. After she completed her work in my room, she would walk to the elementary school and basically start a ‘second shift’ taking care of her siblings. Maria shared with me that she felt like no one really cared about her success and well-being and she was too busy helping with her family to worry about herself. But coming to my class after school focused her one hour into time to complete school work and decompress from her day. I saw Maria go from almost failing to an exemplary student. She went from being angry, combative, and evasive to focused, goal-oriented, and even polite. While I heard the old adage “students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care”, Maria was my first encounter with how much truth there is in that saying. I tried my best to give her a place where she felt safe, supported, and loved.
I am a firm believer in the words of Rita Pierson, “Every child needs a champion.” If you have never heard her TED Talk, do yourself a favor and watch it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion?language=en
While I haven’t put in the 40 years into education that Rita has, I can affirm that in my 12 years in education and 4 years previous to that in early childhood education, this is true. I have seen first-hand students who are loved, supported, and have safe environments succeed while others who don’t have consistent support, have hard home lives, or simply feel like no one is looking out for them fail. The number one reason students succeed is love. Behind every successful student is at least one person who told them they could do it; one person who consistently was there for them. I have had the pleasure of being one of those people to many students, but I have also lost sleep and cried over students who I couldn’t reach. While I can’t be a champion for every child, I wake up every day trying to do so for as many as possible.
We all have young people in our lives. Our own children, nieces, nephews, friends’ children, or little ones at church or in our community. It is imperative that children know they are seen, that they are important to someone, that they are loved. You can be a champion for any child. There are studies done on non-parent mentors and the positive effects on children. (There is an excellent article about it in Psychology Today, found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-moment-youth/201301/mentoring-youth-matters). As adults, whether you are formally responsible for children or not, we need to be there for the children in our lives and cheer them on. Have conversations. Check in with them. Get to know them. Ask what made them smile today. Ask what their favorite class is this school year. Ask who they sit with at lunch. Find out what makes them laugh. Do anything you can to show that you care. So many students slip through the cracks. I have mourned the suicides of too many of my students. I have felt the blow of students dropping out of school or being arrested and sent to alternative education. Raising successful young people is not a one-person job. All adults need to step up and champion children in their lives. Eventually, if there are enough people who do not give up on them, students will realize someone believes in them. There will be at least one person they can connect with and be inspired by. While many things go into student success, the greatest of these is love.
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life.
Holly can be reached email@example.com
By Donna Lund
The human brain fascinates me. The information stored in our memory bank is quite remarkable and the triggers that cause memories to be retrieved with such accuracy is even more amazing. I experienced one of those triggers the other day as I read in school news that kindergarten registration is coming up. I felt this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and my heart started to race a little. Kindergarten registration was an exciting time for my 2 girls thankfully. My boys on the other hand, not at all. The memories surrounding my boys starting kindergarten bring back to life the most traumatic school transitions we ever faced. Memories that still are as vivid as the actual events. Honestly, I'd give anything for them to just fade away.
When Donny was set to start kindergarten we did not know he was on the spectrum. We knew something was different certainly, but not exactly what. Nikki was thriving in a Catholic School but we knew Donny needed the resources of our public school district so we decided to uproot her and start both kids in our neighborhood elementary school. Family is everything to us and our kids needed to be in the same school. So during the spring of 2002, a few weeks after Cathy died, I enrolled our children in a new school for the upcoming school year. I remember so well entering the office of Baker Elementary School. I asked to talk to the principal who was retiring that year and I told him something was different about my son and he directed me to the guidance counselor. There I sat in her office. Exhausted, grief stricken and terrified. The tears began to flow as I told her about Donny, Nikki and the cancer ordeal that we had just lived through. I was so fragile during this time I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. As I left the building I saw moms talking and laughing and I thought to myself that this school truly is the beginning of a brand new life for me. I was now sister-less and in a few months I would learn I am an autism mom. I felt like I was being tormented and was yearning for inner peace. Everything I knew was gone.
Donny's orientation to kindergarten was even more fun! Not. As the new students were filling into the school with their moms Donny would not get out of the car. There were a few moms who I was friends with that saw me struggling and they tried to coax him out of he car, even the principal came out to our car but Donny was too stressed and overwhelmed to pull it together. These were the kinds of things Donny would do that made people misunderstand him. I'm not sure how it happened but finally we made it into the building. That's where the details get blurry.
What I do know and will never forget is how remarkable and special those years were for Donny and I. His teacher was so gifted and confident and seemed to make everything ok. She was responsible for Donny's encouraging development and for giving me a game plan for how to deal autism. Donny and I were both learning and adjusting and the fog that felt suffocating was beginning to lift. In many ways I was her student too. I never knew how much a teacher could mean to our family and how that special little school would become a cornerstone in my life. At the most fragile time in my life the staff at that school was exactly what I needed as I began a new life.
Brian's kindergarten registration was completely different than Donny's in that he was already diagnosed and he had attended a special needs preschool. His needs were much different but I was eager, actually excited for him to have the same excellent teacher Donny had. I wasn't adjusting to being a special needs mom anymore and I already knew the players. It was round 2 and I was much more prepared. Of course I was heartbroken, that goes without saying, but I was used to it by now. An autism mom was who I was and probably what defines me in our community. Amazing how times change. In 2002 I could hardly say the word autism without breaking down. 15 years later I'm writing about it and own an autism mom t-shirt! I guess we are all capable of adapting even when we think we can't reinforcing why our brains are so fascinating and powerful.
Sadly, Brian going to Baker for kindergarten was not in the cards. We were informed that he would not be attending the elementary school his siblings attended. We were crestfallen that Brian would not attend the school that felt like family to us and have the wonderful teacher Donny was blessed with. I definitely was not wanting to start over and put down roots in another school. Just as I was gaining some confidence the rug was pulled out from under me and I was back to square one. It was a devastating time but we were determined to adjust and put our best foot forward. Again, as it was when Donny started kindergarten, everything I knew was gone. I have absolutely no recollection of Brian's orientation day. I'm not even sure we went.
Moments are fleeting but memories are permanent. They are a very powerful thing. Some are joyous while others are very painful. I think we share our favorite memories so they do not fade away. That notion is probably why I mention my sister a lot. They keep us connected to the past whether we want to be connected or not. The memories that are stored in our brain; the good, the bad and the ugly create our story and are a reflection of our short time on this earth. They are reminders of what we have lived through and who touched our lives both positively and negatively. I'm grateful for all of them because it means I've had an array of experiences. No one ever said life was supposed to be easy or is promised anything and I'm happy and thankful for each day.
Happy 2020 my friends...….it's time to create some new memories and I wish you all the very best!!
Donna is a wife, mother of four, and loving advocate from Pittsburgh, PA. Both of her sons have ASD. Her contribution to the autism community in her early years focused on fundraising both at the national and local level. In 2011, the Lund family was featured in a documentary, The Family Next Door. The film’s mission was to illustrate the emotional impact of autism on families, and its influence has led to speaking engagements that focus on Donna’s message of compassion. She has been invited to speak at local universities with special education teachers as well as at high schools (including annually at Mt. Lebanon School District as part of their curriculum) to promote professional development. Donna was a speaker at the Robert Morris University Educational Conference and a guest panelist for Representative Dan Miller’s Disability Summit. In 2018, she launched her blog, Labeled to Lunderful. Most recently she was a coauthor for the book collaboration You Are Not Alone. Find out more at http://www.labeledtolunderful.com/
Chou Hallegra, Founder of Grace & Hope Consulting, LLC is now a Certified AutPlay Therapy Provider!
AutPlay Therapy was created by Dr. Robert Jason Grant and is a play therapy and behavioral therapy approach to working with children and parents affected by Autism and other developmental disabilities. It combines the therapeutic powers of play therapy, behavioral therapy, and relationship development approaches together in a collaborative model to assist children and adolescents in gaining needed skills and abilities.
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Chou is a best-selling Author, a Transformational Speaker, Certified Life Coach, Counselor and Consultant on a mission to inspire people to rise above their circumstances. She is passionate about helping others achieve emotional wellness, reach their full potential, and live fulfilling lives. You can contact Chou at email@example.com