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The Power of Music and Dance

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Happy African American having fun together indoorsMost of us love music and find ourselves singing or dancing along when our old favorite songs come through our radios. Almost everyone can think of times music and dance has positively impacted their lives. It can send shivers down your spine, bring you to tears or transcend you back to a specific time in your life. Music and dance can lift our spirits and give us joy, but have you ever thought about using it as a way to reduce stress and improve behavior? Can it be used to support your mental wellness? Well the science is out… Yes, it absolutely can!

According to Neuroscientist Alan Harvey, it has the power to lower blood pressure, slow down the heart rate and release hormones. When we listen to music it activates our limbic system; this is responsible for learning, memory and emotional responses. This helps explain why there is such an emotional reaction when listening to music. It can also help with pain reduction. A study from the University of Alberta found patients who listened to relaxing music while getting an IV reported significantly less pain, compared with patients who did not listen to music.

Throughout time humans have used music and dance to communicate, connect or express emotions. It has been a universal love in every culture and period of time. Music has helped create major social change and can be used as a platform to empower others. It is also an important aspect of almost all religions, as a way to give praise or feel connected to your faith. The word universe can be translated to mean, uni-one, verse-song.

With music, comes dance… There are health benefits to dance that are similar to the research on music. Dopamine, serotonin and other feel-good chemicals are riding through your body as you listen to music and dance. When you combine music and dance, the two hemispheres of your brain “talk” to each other, creating new neural connections. That is right…. you can improve brain health while getting your twist and shout on! Not only will you improve your cognitive functioning, but it also releases stored up energy and a great way to let go of emotions. Need some inspiration before you bust a move?

Here are 20 Happy Songs To Make You Smile — Best Feel-Good Songs to help you move and groove!

Telehealth and VideoTherapy

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African American man in headphones making video call in cafeTelehealth and teletherapy are two words we are hearing about more in today’s recent social climate. With limitations being set on in-person interactions, we are beginning to rely more and more on the ability to connect and communicate through technology, and our health is no exception.

Telehealth is defined as distribution of health-related services and information through electronic information and technology. A common example of this would be the use of online programs that allow you to speak with a doctor or nurse without leaving the house. More specifically, teletherapy involves conducting counseling and therapy sessions by phone or video.

Therapy is considered by most to be a sacred space of growth and connection, so the thought of moving from in-person therapy to video therapy can feel both scary and confusing. That being said, most changes in our lives can feel uncomfortable at first, but we can grow from these experiences and our feelings may change. Therapy and teletherapy are no exceptions. Whether you are beginning therapy for the first time and deciding on teletherapy or you are transitioning with your current therapist from in-person, here are some helpful things to remember to make this next step feel more comfortable:

  1. Make sure you have a good Wi-Fi connection so your session doesn’t have any unexpected interruptions due to internet connection.
  2. Find a space where you have privacy to talk openly and feel comfortable to sit in for your session time, whether that be in your house or your car, anywhere can work! Headphones can be helpful as well to reduce voices carrying in a room.
  3. It is okay to be nervous about the process! Talk to your therapist about these feelings so you can work together to both address them and make therapy a space that you feel safe and comfortable in.
  4. Adjust your screen/view to what fits you best. Most applications will allow you to see both you and your therapist or solely your therapist, so choose what feels most comfortable for you. If you cannot adjust this, try placing a post-it note over your image on the monitor if you are getting distracted or prefer not to see yourself.
  5. If you have a question, ask! Your therapist will know the answer to any questions you have about confidentiality, scheduling, billing, and any logistics involved in the process. You can ask these questions prior to beginning services as well if you are still unsure.

Addressing Our Grief Over COVID-19

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Addressing our Grief over COVID-19Needless to say, there has been major changes in our world in the past month. We are all going to adjust and come terms with COVID-19 at different times and different levels. For instance, do you look outside your window and still question why people are out? Do you question for yourself is it safe to go for a walk or to the store? Are your kids struggling with not going to a friend’s house? Do you struggle with feeling helpless at home? Or are you fearful of your future and health? Depending on where you live and who you live with, these questions can all be normal. We see each other reacting differently to our restrictions and can get frustrated or anxious when we are not all reacting the same. But can we react the same? Are we all the same people? The things we know to be true is that we are all living in an environment of uncertainty. We also know that we are asking to help each other by keeping distance and isolating when our instincts are to be together.

The reason we may be reacting differently is because we each are grieving for our life from a month ago and are grieving for what we know is to come ahead. Grief is a cycle that can help explain more than death but also of loss. First, we want to deny that COVID-19 won’t be that bad and that our lives won’t be affected long term. This stage is where a lot of society will react different. Some will deny fully, and some will fully embrace the news. This can cause friction amongst communities on how to handle the virus. Next, we will be angry. Angry about the people getting sick, the loss of lives, the loss or cutbacks in jobs, and we look to blame. We can also be angry to those still in denial. Then we may bargain, if I don’t get sick then I will help someone else who does, or if I bring you food will you stay home? Next, we become sadden by the state of our world and the people being affected. COVID-19 might affect us personally or in our community and we are upset this is happening. Finally, we accept that this is happening, and our lifestyle is changed. We become proactive to help from our homes and plan for the future. Now these stages do not have to be linear and you can go back and forward between a few. No human will grieve the same, therefore we are reacting different. So how do we support each other and make it through?

We need to remember we are all diverse beings, yet we are in this experience together and we need to provide grace to others and ourselves every day. We can hold our reaction in one hand while also acknowledging our peer’s reaction. If we differ, we communication, we learn, and maybe adapt new ways. For example, talk about how you’re angry and why, and try to gain hope from their support. Share successful ways to social distance and stay at home, so others can benefit. I know we all feel guilty complaining about our loss because others have lost more but give yourself a break when you are grieving because your loss still matters too. In the mist of grief, it is hard to see the other side, but gratefully there is the other side. We will get through COVID-19 and by maintaining our relationships and communities, we will be stronger.

How to Manage Our Household Anxieties

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How to Manage Our Household AnxietiesSo here we are, still at home with school remaining out, all due COVID-19 and keeping each other healthy and safe. Yet, how do we keep our household happy and calm with everyone home and getting annoyed? We have tried lots of tips and tools to keep busy, entertained at home, and calm, though we still hear yelling from the living room, arguments about dinner, and anxieties turning to frustrations. The big tip is to continue to communicate with our children and learn what we could be doing for ourselves and those around us. Here is also a more expanded list to consider when you’re at home with all the kids:

  1. Validate and call out your children’s (or own) fears. Be honest about how this situation is not great because they are away from friends, school, and other family. Ask how they are feeling and probe a little to get them to share. Remember the saying “feel to heal” or for all the Frozen fans out there “reveal don’t conceal”. You don’t have to fix your child’s feelings but just validate and allow them to share.
  2. If you have an anxious child or children who are having a hard time grasping their “new normal”, assure them that you are all in it together as a family and they are safe. Limit the news on the television and give them short facts, so they are not overloaded but feel confident themselves and the ones they love will be fine.
  3. Be sure to calm your own fears before talking to your child about theirs. Be able to communicate and model the attitude you want to see in them.
  4. Have a schedule for the day. Create a chart or white board with what the day will look like. Your child is used to schedules with school and need one to feel the control of what comes next. Apart of this scheduling, is also getting up, showering, and getting dress. As much as we love our pajamas, it is hard to work seriously in them!
  5. Assign tasks to do around the house. Write them down too! Try not to look at the tasks as chores but ways to keep the household moving and it will give your child accountability for their own time in the house.
  6. Try to get outside at least once a day. Depending on where you live, this can look like walking around the block, playing in the backyard, or creating something fun in the driveway. The fresh air and movement will do everyone good physically and mentally.
  7. Create time in the day for you all to have a break from each other and do separate activities. We are not used to being together 24/7, so by creating space we also create time for those frustrations to calm. It is also important for parents to find time alone for themselves. If you model this stress reliever, your kids will follow. They will be okay alone for awhile and it even promotes autonomy and self-sufficiency.
  8. Allow siblings to lean on each other for help and support during this time. It can be a great source of bonding moments for siblings to work together. Let them fight it out and work it out, then also allow them to ask each other for help versus always coming to you.
  9. Do something for the community outside your home. We your kids are thinking of someone else and helping beyond their own struggles, their anxieties will decrease, and sense of purpose will increase. Plus, you are helping someone who will appreciate it!
  10. Think of something positive each day or share something that went well. Finding things to be grateful for will help your children focus on the positive.

Keep remembering as a parent, you are not alone. Also remember, your children are not alone in their questions, fears, and restlessness. We are learning how to get through this time together. If you are feeling overwhelmed being a new teacher at home, remember you just need to be the parent, they still have a teacher. If you feel like you are being too “scheduled” when normally on the weekend you relax, remember they are used to schedules during the week and thrive, etc. This period won’t last, and you will make it. Last suggestion…come up with a family motto or phrase that is encouraging or funny that reminds you all that your family is one and will get through this!

Worry V. Concern

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depressed man sitting in dark roomLately, there have been a lot of unknowns. With these unknowns, undoubtedly comes fear, anxiety, confusion, and sadness. It is natural and expected to be concerned right now. But how do we know when we have crossed the line to unhealthy anxiety and worry?

Worry can feel out of control. These thoughts do not come and go; they seem to stay and run in circles through your mind. It is not as simple as a light switch where we can turn off our anxiety; it sometimes can feel like it has a mind of its own. Worrying brings with it stress and a lot of unwanted tension into your mind and body. Worrying seems to come a lot easier during a time when it feels like you cannot escape the negative information being thrown at you.

Concern can be a healthy way of looking at a stressful or negative situation. You can be concerned, but not let the distressful feelings consume your daily life. When you are concerned, you are not ignoring the situation, but you are also not letting the feelings and anxiousness surrounding it take over your mind. Being concerned does not mean ignoring the situation. Continue doing your part: wash your hands, practice social distancing, staying informed on the coronavirus. With concern, there is balance and boundaries.

How do you shift your thinking from worry to concern?

  • Bring awareness to your anxiety – Start a journal and rate how you feel when watching the news; talking about the coronavirus; before washing your hands, etc. If you find yourself feeling anxious in these situations, maybe that is a place where you should set boundaries with yourself.
  • Find boundaries – Find a balance that works for you. Turn off the media. Of course, stay up to date and be informed, but know when it is time to step away. A twice-daily news check-in may be beneficial. Limit conversations surrounding coronavirus if you find yourself becoming anxious.
  • Implement relaxation techniques – Try some breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, etc. These can help calm your mind and body if you find yourself feeling distressed. We have great blogs and resources that can help on our COVID-19 resource page.

It is important to remember that you are not in this alone. Everyone is facing the same uncertainty.  Concern can be healthy, and although this is a scary time, always remember that this uncertainty will pass.

Simple Ways to Stay Stimulated When Binge-Watching Gets Boring

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Writing in notebook. Close-up.Create a conversation jar

Have everyone come up with lots of fun, silly or deep questions and place them in a jar. Take turns picking questions, and enjoy going down a fun rabbit hole of conversations! You might learn something new about a family member. If you need help coming up with questions, here is a list of  225 Conversation Starters for Any Situation and all age groups. Conversing with others is a great way to feel stimulated, especially when you have already rewatched your favorite episodes of The Office or Seinfeld…

Journal or write a short story

Maybe you are tired of talking with your roommates or partner, now what? Turn inward and journal to stimulate your brain. Journaling brings you into a mindful state and helps you live in the present moment. Writing helps you release energy, get your thoughts untangled, and could spark creativity. You might feel inspired to write a short story!  ahead and create a world in your imagination to travel to! Here are 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery to get you started.

Play Charades

Test your nonverbal skills with this fun and silly game. Not only will you be stimulated mentally, but your body gets some movement as well. Go ahead, have fun and enjoy some friendly competition. Here are 120 Easy and Hard Charades Ideas – Suitable for Any Age Group!

Virtual tour of The American Botanical Gardens

Spring is here and so are the beautiful blooms! Many of us are itching to go to a beautiful garden, so enjoy spring “quarantine style”  and Take a Virtual Tour of the American Botanical Gardens. Take your time and see how many plants you can identify, talk about what you think the plants might smell or feel like. Pretend you are truly there!

Stuck Inside With Spring Fever

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Enjoying viewThe change from Winter to Spring is something many of us look forward to. Cold weather is replaced with warmth and sunshine, the days are now longer, and everything seems brighter and greener. Many of us count down the days until the flowers start to bloom and we don’t have to wear coats just to go check the mail.

However, this Spring looks a little different for many of us this year.

If you are now working from home or practicing social distancing, you may feel a little stir-crazy. Keeping your distance from others is crucial as we push through COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy the weather. In fact, the warm, sunny weather could be quite beneficial while we are all at home.

Sunlight and fresh air have been shown to aid in overall feelings of happiness and cognitive functioning.  Being outside, even for a few minutes, could really help elevate your mood and help you not feel as “trapped” inside your home.

Going outside does not mean you cannot continue social distancing. Here are some ways to incorporate some sunshine in your new daily routine.

  • Go on a walk around the block – Keep the 6ft distancing rule in place and go on a walk around your neighborhood.
  • Work from outside – If you are working remotely, you could move your home office onto a porch or backyard if that is an option that is available to you.
  • Open a window – If you cannot go outside, let some fresh air inside. Open a window or even just the blinds to let in some of the spring sunlight.
  • Family Picnic – Throw a picnic in the backyard. This is a good way to spend family quality time, allowing you to enjoy the fresh air and still practice social distancing.
  • Start a new project outside – You could start a garden or work on projects that involve you being outside of the house for a little bit.
  • Workout outside – This does not necessarily mean running in a public place. Even doing strength training or yoga in your back yard is a wonderful way to get some sunlight.

We all may feel a little stuck or stir crazy at times right now. As we try to establish a new routine in our homes, consider implementing some time outside into your day.

Free Wellness Webinars To Expand Your Mental Health Knowledge

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WEBINAR hand on table use E-business Browsing Connection in computer, coffeeSummit counseling is dedicated to adapting with the changes, and continues to offer therapeutic services & community education as COVID-19 impacts the world. We have quickly incorporated Telemental Health services for our clients, so they can continue to receive care and support during times of uncertainty. Through our Mental Health Awareness Campaign we are now offering virtual, 1-hour mental health and suicide prevention webinars for FREE. These webinars are for anyone looking to expand their knowledge on mental wellness, coping skills and supporting loved ones going through a crisis. Great for parents, teachers, coaches, youth volunteers, healthcare professionals, and older students. Please review the list of webinars and email Whitney Emrick, wemrick@summitcounseling.org or call 678-893-5336 for a link for a live training or recorded one.

Signs of Suicide/ Trusted Adult Training – (1-hour) Aimed for adults to recognize warning signs of suicide, how to navigate those difficult conversations, and learn practical next steps with youth. By the end of the training, individuals will be considered a “trusted adult” for youth to share their struggles or get support.

Mental Health 101- ( 1-hour) Explains mental health, describes common mental illnesses, the impact of trauma on the brain, and explores effective coping skills.

Maternal Mental Health- ( 1-hour) Reviews perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, describes common mental health disorders, screening tools and coping skills. Great for mothers, fathers, health professionals and anyone who interacts with new moms.

Building Resilience in Youth- ( 1-hour) Explains social emotional development, the impact of trauma on the developing brain, ways to build healthy connections with children, and self-care tools.

Five Tips To Find Some Normalcy During A Not-So-Normal Time

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Cheerful mother and daughter having fun at home“This all feels so surreal”, “weird”, or “uncertain of the future” are just a few phrases that I have (virtually) heard over the past week from loved ones. Our beloved pets are so happy that we are constantly home to give them treats or belly rubs. But what about us? How can we maintain a sense of normalcy and find happiness during a time of confusion? Here are five helpful ways to find balance.

1. Get up, dress up, show up (in your living room)

Do not neglect basic hygiene or stop your morning routines. You do not have to wear office clothes but try not to stay in your pj’s all week. Wearing PJ’s all day can trick your brain into thinking you are not at work and might result in less productivity. It can be tempting to sleep in, lounge around, and be lazy when things seem off… but remember, we are creatures of habit. If you break your routine, you could replace your hard-earned healthy habits with unproductive ones. Try to keep as much of your typical routine as you can.

2. Movement as medicine

During times of stress, our bodies need movement more than ever. Regular movement can release endorphins, boosts immune systems and improve overall health. Since the​ body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better, so will your mind. There are many ways to get your body in motion while the gyms and recreation​ centers are closed. You can do yoga, Pilates or walk around your neighborhood to get that heart rate up. A fun and silly way to incorporate movement as a family is to DANCE. This is a wonderful way to get energy out and express yourselves while connecting with your family. Have a virtual dance party with friends so you can dance and be social.  Put on those boogie shoes and turn up the music!

3. LAUGH!

Laughter is said to be the best medicine. It is so easy to get caught up in the worry and uncertainty of it all. Oftentimes, fear can be contagious, but so can smiles and laughter. While the coronavirus is a very serious issue, not to be taken lightly… It is important to smile and let yourself laugh during this time. Laughter connects us while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol. Laugh away and put on that funny cat video or share a joke with a friend.

4. Stay Connected

Social distancing can be a scary word for most, especially extroverts that regain energy by connecting with others. Humans are social creatures, (even introverts) and thrive when we feel connected with others. Social distancing does not mean falling off the face of the earth until things return to “normal.” It means finding creative ways to connect with loved ones. With modern technology it is easier to stay connected than ever before.

Facetime, Zoom or social media platforms are great options to see friends while practicing social distancing. Schedule virtual hangouts with family or write letters to friends that do not use social media. Stay connected, my friends!

5. Do not overdo it on the comfort food​

Stressful times can often turn into comfort food binges. It can be easier to binge on salty snacks when our pantries are filled. It is important to find a healthy balance of eating what is comforting to us and filling our bodies with nutrition. Remember to stock up on fruits and veggies when you head to the grocery store. Frozen options are great, so you do not have to worry about it spoiling quickly. Drinking lots of sugary sodas or alcohol could have a negative impact on your mood and could increase anxiety. Remind yourself to stay hydrated and eat your greens to boost your mood and overall health!

There is no right or wrong way to feel right now…  Breathe and we will get through this together!

If you or a loved one is wanting to speak with a licensed therapist, please consider reaching out to Summit Counseling Center to schedule an appointment by calling 678-893-5300. The Summit has licensed therapists who are certified TeleMental Health Counseling providers and can provide video counseling sessions to meet your needs at this time.

Calm During COVID-19

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Young Hispanic family sitting on sofa reading a book together in their living roomPreparing for something as significant as a pandemic is not usually something on our “to-do” lists. It’s normal to feel both a desire to stay informed and inundated with information all at the same time. It’s also not uncommon to simultaneously feel scared of the unknown, and unclear about the factual details regarding the spread of COVID-19. We are all doing our best to navigate uncharted territory and anxiety is likely a component of this journey.

With schools being closed, individuals being required to work from home, travel bans, and the general uncertainty of any end in sight, you are likely feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. In a time such as this, it is imperative that we bond together to support one another, even from a safe social distance! Let’s explore some tips for emotional management and regulation together!

Avoid Information Overload. While watching and reading information and updates through the news media outlets can be helpful and informative, it is important to manage the exposure to facts and data regarding the spread of the corona virus. It’s okay to walk away and unplug for a bit. It’s more than okay, it’s healthy and important for overall mental and emotional health.

Avoid Thinking Errors. Black and white thinking is a common response to feeling a lack of control. For example, “everyone is going to get this virus” or “well there is nothing I can do about it.” These types of thinking errors often lead to feelings of overwhelm and a lack of control.

Control What You Can. Focusing on what you CAN control is one way to practice avoiding thinking errors and decreasing feelings of anxiety. Some examples of things you can control include hydration, sleep, washing your hands, and practicing social distancing.

Stick To A Routine. Everything feels turned upside down right now. Parents working from home alongside their children who are making their best efforts to complete schoolwork online does not feel normal for most of us! Implementing a daily routine can help provide your family with a sense of normalcy, and can also serve as a maintenance behavior for good habits children and students will continue when school resumes.

Connect. Social distancing can take a toll! Many people feel energized when socializing, and during a time of social distancing this energy may decrease. To combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, find creative ways to connect from a distance with those you care about, such as social media, FaceTime calls, and text messaging.

Give Yourself Grace. Be kind to yourself. This is a stressful time laced with fear and uncertainty. You are doing the best you can! This will not last forever!

The Summit Counseling Center
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