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Lovingkindness

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LovingkindnessWelp… it’s finally here. Right when we think we’ve gotten past the craziness of all the holidays- one of the most dreaded (or anticipated) days has finally arrived. Some people spend this day with their significant others or partners, while others spend it mourning the loss of a loved one. Some spend it with their friends, while others completely ignore it. If I am honest… I tend to fall in the camp of ignoring it. I am a person who tries to express my love for others throughout the year and not simply on February 14th.

As I started to think about Valentine’s Day this year, I began to think about it in a new way. It’s easy for me to tell my family members, friends, or significant other how much I care for them. It’s easy for me to thank them for the roles they have had in my life and the impact that they have made. But how often do I stop and take the time to extend love to myself? How often do I give myself the space to think of what I have accomplished or accept where I’m currently at? How often do I show myself lovingkindness?

Lovingkindness is often a very foreign concept to people. It can look and feel strange. Some people view it as a self-care. They will spend time getting their nails done, buying new clothing, or going out to eat at a nice restaurant. But lovingkindness is so much more than that. Lovingkindness is the way we talk to ourselves. It’s the way we treat ourselves and view ourselves.

It can be the way I think about myself. When I make a mistake or do something I’m not proud of, it can be a simple statement of “You’re doing the best you can, Nina… and you can do better.” If I am discouraged about where I currently am in life I can state, “This is where I am. It is what it is. What can I do to make it better or more manageable?”

Lovingkindness can be taking the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from and celebrating successes. It can be acknowledging the fact that while in the past, you may have eaten a whole carton of ice cream on a stressful day… now you only eat half of a carton. It’s recognizing that while you may still engage in unhealthy behaviors, you may be viewing situations differently or approaching them in a different manor.

At times, lovingkindness is setting intentions for myself. It’s saying, “May I be happy… may I be healthy… may I be full of peace.” It’s allowing the space to let those words settle in. To truly wish these things for my life. And to hope for them.

In a world in which we can so easily get wrapped up in relationships, we often forget the relationship we have with ourselves. We forget to take the time to consider what happiness and health may look like for us.

On this Valentine’s Day, as we think through the various people that have been placed in our lives, I would encourage each of you to also take the time to consider yourself. Acknowledge where you’ve come from. Consider where you are. And if you’re comfortable… try to set some intentions for yourself for the upcoming year. Extend yourself some happiness, some health, and some peace.

5 Ways to Ease Loneliness

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5 Ways to Ease LonelinessThere’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Opening Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook makes it feel like everyone else in our lives are busy taking beautiful pictures, making lovely food, or going to exotic places. Loneliness sets in when we feel disconnected, unwanted, or left out. It’s looking at those pictures and thinking “I don’t have anyone to be with or no one wants to be with me”.

  1. Log off your device. Take time to unplug and focus on where you are in that moment. Give yourself a designated time each day to put your phone, computer, and tv on pause. This pause gives you a chance to take a moment for yourself without feeling like you have to be somewhere or someone else.
  2. Create something. Do you like to draw? What about cooking? It doesn’t matter what it is but taking time to create something can fill the time on your own with meaning and purpose.
  3. Find connection. We can find a connection in a lot of ways when we are alone. These include meditation, nature, pet, reading a book, and many others. Find an activity or place that reminds you that you are a part of the universe moving around you.
  4. Name the loneliness. A lot of us are scared to say that we are lonely. It feels like you are admitting something “wrong” about yourself. In reality, the majority of Americans report feeling lonely, you are not alone in feeling alone. Naming that feeling takes away its power to shame us.
  5. Help someone else. Research has shown that volunteering and helping others can lessen symptoms of depression and hopelessness. Find a cause that you are passionate about and spend time pouring into it. You’ll be surprised by how much it impacts you!

Remember, we all feel lonely sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you are alone or unseen.  If you’re struggling with overwhelming sadness, stress, or grief you don’t have to deal with that alone. Please reach out to the Summit if you’d like more information about how therapy could be helpful for you.

“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – Preparing for the Holidays

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It’s that time of the year again- the time when the season starts to change. There is an increase in end of the year get togethers, tacky sweater parties, and holiday gatherings. While this season is called the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, it is often a very painful season for many. It can be filled with grief, anxiety, disappointment, and loneliness.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, we may forget to take care of ourselves. We may not know how to manage the busyness of what each day brings. I want to provide you with three simple tools you can use to help you navigate the expectations, anxiety, and energy of the holiday season. If you follow this process in order, it can help you prioritize what is important to you and teach you how to manage your anxiety level in each potential situation.

  • Create a Pros/Cons List. Yes, this may seem silly and trivial but it can help you determine what some of the best choices and options may be for yourself.
    • First, make sure you are creating this list when you are not feeling overly emotional or anxious. When writing the Pros/Cons list, write down the pros/cons of ENGAGING in the behavior and the pros/cons of NOT ENGAGING in the behavior. (For example, the pros/cons of going to my friend Susie’s tacky sweater party versus the pros/cons of not going to my friend Susie’s tacky sweater party.)
    • When doing this make sure you’re honest with yourself- you will be taking all factors into consideration when making your decision. If a pro is that you get to wear a tacky sweater- mention that! If a con is that it will increase your feelings of loneliness- include that too. Whether or not you realize it, you are thinking about each of these reasons when making your decision.
    • When your list is ready, evaluate your answers and see which one feels better in the short term and what you want to accomplish in the long term. This can help you determine what your next steps should be!
  • Cope Ahead for the Situation. If you decide that you ARE going to go to your Uncle Frank’s house for Thanksgiving and you know it can be particularly stressful, take the time to cope ahead! Often times when we think about a distressing situation, we already act as though the worst-case scenario has happened. Coping ahead helps you come up with a plan before the event and can make you feel more empowered.
    • Think of what situation is likely to cause you emotional distress. Imagine what emotions you may experience and how you will be tempted to respond.
    • Determine what coping mechanisms you have and ways that you can respond to various scenarios. Be very specific and include a great deal of detail when considering the situation.
    • Imagine the situation as vividly as possible. Imagine that you are in the situation itself and not that you are watching it from afar.
    • Rehearse in your mind coping effectively. Imagine exactly what you would say; specifically how you would respond; coping with your most feared catastrophe; and handling new problems that arise. And when you imagine it, imagine responding SUCCESSFULLY and EFFECTIVELY.
    • Finally, practice RELAXATION after rehearsing (and during rehearsing). This helps set you up for success. It helps you to become calm again and reminds you that the situation will end.
  • Prepare a Self-Soothe Kit. Sometimes it can be very helpful to bring items that will help you feel more grounded, distract you from the current situation, and calm you. These can be simple items that help relieve some of the distress and bring you a sense of peace. When making the self soothe kit, make sure that you are bringing items that attend to each of the five senses.
    • Sight- Bring pictures of an upcoming vacation. Bring a coloring book that you can color. Save motivational quotes and funny memes that you can glance at to take you out of the moment.
    • Sound- Create a playlist on your phone- it can be soothing songs or songs that bring you joy. Record your favorite animal or a safe person reminding you how much they love you. Listen to your favorite standup comedian.
    • Smell- Bring essential oils. (My personal favorites are lavender and peppermint). Bring the cologne or perfume of a loved one. Bring an item that smells like the ocean and transports you to another time or place.
    • Taste- Enjoy different foods that have distinct flavors. Peppermints. Chocolates. Pop rocks. Something that will stand out and take your mind off the situation you are in.
    • Touch- Try to bring something with a unique texture. It could be a rock, shell, marble, kinetic sand, or a feather. Something that you can pay attention to and get comfort out of.

And as I always encourage my clients, family, and friends… make sure you engage in SELF CARE. While these steps may not change the situation you are in, hopefully it can help you feel more empowered and prepared to enter into the holiday season.

These skills are part of the four modules of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The Summit Counseling

Center offers skills courses throughout the year. If you or a loved one would be interested in

hearing more about these services, please contact us at (678) 893-5300.

Tackling ADHD at Home

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Child having problem with concentrationThe first 8 weeks of school have finally come and gone and it’s time for that first parent-teacher conference.  It’s going really well until you hear those dreaded comments about your precious kid- “They’re having a really hard time staying on task.” “They are constantly getting out of their seat and just can’t seem to sit still.” “I’m constantly redirecting them back to their work.”  You’re not surprised though.  You see the same things at home.  You’re constantly having to remind them to finish their chores because they got distracted playing with their toys.  They’re always misplacing things.  Getting ready in the morning is always a nightmare.  The teacher never used the phrase ADHD but you know that’s what she was hinting at.

For most parents, parenting a child with ADHD is both frustrating and rewarding.  In spite of the challenges, kids with ADHD are typically more creative, they think outside the box, passionate about their interests, and full of personality.  The day to day routine of wake up, homework and getting to activities on time, however, can make you want to pull your hair out.  Some parents choose to go the medication route first and for a lot of kids, it is needed.  Other parents want to try non-medication interventions first.  There isn’t a right or wrong way to go.  Whatever you choose, there are some thing you can do as a parent to help your child and yourself cope with the inevitable struggles that comes with ADHD.  Here are my top 5 tips.

  1. Keep a predictable routine going at home. For example, keep wake up times and bedtimes consistent.  Have the same after school routine such as snack first, start homework by 3:30, and take a short break every 20 minutes.
  2. Keep the rules simple and consistent. For example, “treat others with respect” is easy to understand and covers a lot of different behaviors.  Some may think that is too broad but it’s actually too hard for kids with ADHD to remember lots of different little rules.  It’s also hard for you, the parent, to keep track of them all.  Therefore, keep it simple for your sake and theirs.  Don’t forget to reward the behaviors you want to see more of as immediately as possible.
  3. Help them stay organized. Color-code their folders according to subjects.  Clean out their book bag weekly.  Have a consistent spot in the house where everything goes.  Sometimes it may feel like you have to hold their hand on everything in order to keep them organized.  However, if you hold their hand in the beginning, do it regularly and consistently, they will develop a habit of their own over time.
  4. Incorporate movement breaks during the day. Let them stand to do their homework or sit on an exercise ball.  Take a break every 20 minutes and let them stand up, move around, or even go outside.  Ask the teacher to send them on “errands” during the day.  You will get far more out of them if you work in more movement into their day.  Also, sign them up for at least one activity that involves movement.
  5. Take time to really connect with your kid. Set aside time each week to just play with them.  Let them lead the play and pay attention.  Give them your undivided attention.  The more you know your kid, the more you know about what they need.  When you can anticipate how they will handle something, you can work on setting them up for success.

There are tons of resources out there for families with children who have ADHD.  Educate yourself, partner with their teachers, and make sure you have your own support system to lift your spirits on the rough days. Believe me, you are not alone in this journey.  If you’re not sure how to proceed, help is available.  Reach out to your child’s teacher or school counselor.  If you think your child needs to be tested for ADHD, contact a psychologist who specializes in working with kids. If therapy is needed, seek out a child therapist with training and experience in play therapy.  All of these professionals can help both you and your child achieve success.

3 Clues that You’re Feeling Anxious

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Often when I’m working with clients they ask me about the difference between stress and anxiety. I hear, “Everyone is stressed out so why can’t I handle this?” or “Why do I always feel tense?”. In a culture like ours where everyone is trying to do everything at once stress can feel pretty normal. It’s difficult to see when that tense and overwhelming feeling is coming from anxiety and not stress. Here are a few clues that what you are experiencing is anxiety:

  1. The feelings last a long time. Stress is usually temporary. It can be a reaction to a specific change or challenge. A student is stressed because they have 3 tests in one day. Anxiety is longer lasting and does not directly relate to a specific change or challenge. It is a constant feeling of tension. The anxious student will feel tense and overwhelmed even after they finish their tests.
  2. You can’t move. Though the feeling is difficult, stress can actually motivate you towards action. The student that is worried about their tests and pushes harder to study because of that pressure. Anxiety, on the other hand, is debilitating. You feel like you can’t move forward or do anything about it. Anxiety freezes you in place.
  3. Anxiety is a bully. You find that your self talk is negative and demeaning. Anxiety will tell that student that they already failed those tests. When someone feels anxious their thoughts jump to conclusions and believe that the worst case scenario is definitely happening.

If you relate to these clues and are wondering whether you are struggling with anxiety, then you are not alone! You also don’t have to continue struggling with these thoughts and feelings. There are a lot of tools that can help including mindfulness techniques.

If you or a loved one is struggling with issues related to anxiety, then we’d like to help! If you’d like to talk to a therapist about anxiety or learn more about how therapy can help, then feel free to contact the Summit Counseling Center at 678-787-0958.

6 Tips to Prepare for When Your College Student Come Home

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summit-college-children-homeWith the holidays approaching, parents can often experience a mix of emotions, especially when their kids come home for the holidays. Parents often imagine having multiple conversations with their college student about his/her classes, new friends, and campus life. However, college students imagined sleeping in late, eating homecooked meals, catching up with friends and handing over their massive amount of laundry to their mom. Here are some great tips to making the holidays full of laughter and fun:

  • Try not to ask too many questions. This is the hardest thing for parents to do, but you’ll be shocked at the information that comes your way when you least expect it. This allows for your child to open communications when they feel comfortable.
  • Establish new rules. Communicate with your child what is to be expected of them while under your roof. However, take into consideration that he/she has been on their own, having complete freedom. For example: giving your child a curfew could give them the impression that you do not trust or have faith in his/her decision making.
  • Have lots of food in the house. During their time home make sure the fridge is stocked, favorite meals are cooked, and frozen dinners don’t exist. Nothing compares to when your child is eating Ramen 5 nights a week.
  • Let them sleep in. They are sleep deprived from staying up late, studying for finals, socializing, and dorm living. No one likes having a cranky child at home, it doesn’t make it peaceful for the household.
  • Expect disruption. Your child has been independent at college, not having to report to anyone. Expect their friends to be in and out of your home. (For example: their schedule might not correlate with yours). Reentering the home may feel restrictive and will require compromise on everyone’s part.
  • Comfort is key. Home sweet home! College students look forward to coming back home to their secure environment. Keep their bedroom the same. Who doesn’t love coming home to the comfort of their own bed and personal space. Example: The idea of converting their bedroom into an office or guest room can wait.

If you and/or your spouse needs someone to talk to, The Summit Counseling Center has couple’s therapist at both our Main and Satellite locations. To schedule an appointment or for more information call 678-893-5300 or visit us at www.summitcounseling.org.

 

 

 

Coping Ahead for the Holiday Season

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Christmas dinner. Family with kids at Xmas tree.Whether you have lost a child to cancer or your child is undergoing cancer treatment, the upcoming holiday season will not be typical of the holidays you have experienced in the past.  It is important and extremely helpful to acknowledge that simple fact so you can Cope Ahead.  Coping Ahead helps prevent us from being blindsided by our grief.

We can Cope Ahead by anticipating which situations may be difficult and preparing what we will say or how we will act in these moments to reduce our vulnerability to intense emotions and manage our emotions most effectively.

The following tips will help you Cope Ahead this holiday season.

Anticipate Heightened Emotions

For many of us, this time of year presents as a dialectic. A dialectic teaches us that two things that seem like opposites can both be true and exist at the same time. While the holiday season may be a time of joy, celebration, and getting together with loved ones, it can also bring about intense emotions of grief such as numbness, anger, sadness and irritation.   Allow yourself the full range of these emotions without avoiding your feelings.  This year tell yourself that it is understandable that you will feel many emotions and give yourself the permission to respond to those emotions as you see fit.  Appropriate responses may include declining an invitation to an annual function, spending time alone, or pushing through when there may be positive outcomes to being with people you love.  Decide if you want to keep certain holiday traditions or create new ones. Plan, in advance, how you want to spend your time and with whom. Coping Ahead may be reviewing your holiday schedule and determining which traditions and gatherings are important to you and your family and which ones you plan to decline or eliminate this year.  Coping ahead would also include preparing and practicing your response to invitations.  For example, you may decline an invitation by saying simply, “Thank you for inviting us.  We always look forward to your holiday party but will have to decline this year.”  No further explanation is required.

Recognize Situations Which May Trigger Intense Emotions

It is not hard to imagine the situations that may be particularly triggering.  They may be times when you will be seeing certain people for the first time in a while.  It may also be with people who often say things that cause us distress.  Visualizing the situation and imagining what might happen or what might be said allows us to prepare and plan for those awkward and hurtful moments.  If there is a certain family member who always tries to find the “silver lining” or tells us we need to choose to be happy or hopeful, it would be best to plan for that encounter and cope ahead with how we would handle those situations.  We may plan to say, “I know it helps you to think optimistically, however, I have my own way of dealing with my grief right now.  Thank you for your concern.”

Set Realistic Expectations

 

Give yourself a break this year.  Cope ahead by asking for help.  If you usually host during the holidays, ask someone else to take over this year.  Let friends and family know that you and your family may not attend everything this year and/or may leave early if things feel too stressful.  Discuss with your family ways that the holidays may be different for everyone this year.

Take Care of Yourself

Cope ahead by making sure to plan time for self-care.  Taking care of our physical, emotional and spiritual self will help us be more resilient during the holiday season.  Good self-care also protects us from increasing symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Practice healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, prayer and/or mindfulness practices, and appropriate medical check-ups.

Self-Soothe and Distract

Plan times when you can take a break from grief and the stress of the holidays.  Cope ahead by making a list of activities that will distract you, even momentarily, from the realities of treatments, loss and the expectations of the holidays.  This list may include distractions such as a movie, coffee with a good friend, or listening to your favorite music.  A self-soothing list may include a run, massage, or a hot bath. Cope ahead by pre-planning and scheduling these activities otherwise they will not happen regularly enough.

Seek Help

Cope ahead by researching and understanding the signs of depression.  Promise yourself that you will reach out for help if you see these signs during the holidays.  An excellent way to cope ahead is to research and know where you will go or who you will call if you recognize depression symptoms.  Discuss this with your spouse or a close family member or friend.  Hold each other accountable.

Recognize the Good

It is often hard to see anything beyond our grief.  Coping ahead to help yourself temper grief and increase your resilience may include naming three things that went well at the end of each day.  Another option may be to list three things that we are grateful for each morning.  Including the whole family in this practice may help with surviving the holiday season and who knows, it may become a new family tradition.

 

Anxiety is a Powerful Word

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Anxiety is a Powerful WordWe all experience anxiety from time to time. Sometimes, it’s the simple feeling of trying to remember if you got all the items on the grocery list as you drive home from the store. Sometimes it’s the overwhelming sensation that you are not prepared for the final exam in the last class you need to graduate. It can even be the paralyzing wave of feeling that you will fail at everything and will indeed be a failure.

So, yes, anxiety can be a powerful word. However, it does not always have to be a controlling word. When we recognize that we are feeling anxiety, it is important to remember this is our body trying to prepare us for danger or make us aware of something we should be concerned about. We need to understand that we will survive and that we can get through whatever the situation is. I know it is hard. I deal with anxiety every day, and some days I deal with it better than other days. It is powerful, I just try to not let it be controlling.

If you find that anxiety can be controlling in your life, here is a great article with some tips to deal with anxiety. Let it be powerful, but let yourself retain the control.

Social Media Guide for Parents

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Pre Teen Girl Being Bullied By Text MessageIt can be difficult to keep up with the latest apps that kids are using. Just when you get the hang of how to talk to your kids about text messaging, they’ve moved on to Instagram or Snapchat. If you are prepared, able to have open communication with your child, and trained to know what to look for, you can help your kid avoid the harsh reality of social media such as cyberbullying, talking to unsafe people, and drama.

Does this mean your child should be banned from all these apps and/or their iPhone? Not at all, it just means we need to prepare and educate ourselves on different apps and their potential uses. Talking about using social media safely, responsibly, and respectfully is the best way to help your child identify and avoid red flags. Here are some common social media red flags, the apps they’re found in, and tips for dealing with them

Disclaimer: most apps, including just simple texting, can be used to send inappropriate content back and forth or be used to cyberbully. Also, a lot of apps have features that can be disabled or checked frequently by parents. If your child has a phone they are capable of either choosing to use it responsibly or irresponsibly. As parents, it is important to know what’s out there and have constant, on-going, conversations with your child on internet safety, self-respect, and the implications that sending something rude or inappropriate can have on their future.

Applications that can be downloaded to any iPhone, iPad, or android device:

Instagram

What to look for: Private messages and public settings 

Instagram has a feature commonly referred to as DMs which stands for direct messages – this is something you may not be able to see when checking your child’s Instagram. To find messages click on the inbox (paper plane looking) icon on the top right of the Instagram.

Instagram can be made public or private –  go to settings of this app to check the default – you can either choose to have this app public so that anyone can see your child’s profile and photo or private so your child can choose to accept only people they know to view their profile.

Privacy Hiding Apps

What to look for: Check all apps to see if this one is hiding 

There are numerous “vault” apps that can be downloaded to phones to hide photos or messages – the most popular is called “keep safe” and the icon looks just like a vault. Although, some of these apps are made to look like other things such as “my utilities” or flashlights.

Snapchat

What to look for: Location settings and anonymous message

Snapchat is a popular one amongst tweens and teens where you can send a picture and it disappears in 10 seconds or less – there is also a my story feature which allows the video or pictures to be displayed for 24 hours.

Click on the chat icon in the top left to view any chats occurring. Go to location settings on the phone AND on the app and make sure they are disabled, so tracking your child’s location through the app is not possible.

Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge

These are all dating apps that allow your child to sign up if they are 13 and have an active Facebook account. These apps allow viewing photos of others and engage in back and forth chats

Blue Whale Challenge

Please read the link to see what has be reported to cause the suicide of over 130 teens in the past 3 years:

http://metro.co.uk/2017/08/31/what-is-the-blue-whale-challenge-6893410/

6 Perks of Becoming Empty Nesters

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6 Perks of Becoming Empty NestersWith summer coming to an end, this can be an emotional time for parents of college bound children. Instead of worrying about what life will be like without children at home, I encourage couples to view this time to rekindle their marriage. Though it’s normal to feel bittersweet, here are some benefits of being an empty nester.

  1. Date Nights. No more kid-friendly environment needed. You and your spouse can go to any restaurant, venue, concert or event and not have to worry about whether it’s appropriate for the kids, will they like the food, or will they have fun. You and your spouse only need to worry about each other. Take the time to catch up with your spouse and hear about their day.
  2. Travel. You no longer have to plan your vacations around summer, spring break, and winter holidays. Now you and your spouse can take the vacation you have been waiting for without working around the kid’s school schedule. Travel abroad, go see an old friend. The possibilities are endless.
  3. Volunteer. No reason to not give back. “Now, what am I going to do with all my spare time?” Find an organization, community or corporation you’re passionate about and give back. Spend a day at church or at a homeless shelter. Help stock the local food pantry. Giving back is rewarding for both you, your spouse, and the community you are helping.
  4. Reconnect with Spouse. No more excuses. Take this time to focus on your spouse and rekindle your relationship. Start flirting again, making time for one another and planning things together. Go on a spontaneous walk through your neighborhood. Go out to dinner or see a movie. Relearn how to interact together.
    JMV Therapy, N.A., jakevoelker.com, N.A., http://www.jakevoelker.com/interesting-articles/
    JMV Therapy, N.A., jakevoelker.com, N.A., http://www.jakevoelker.com/interesting-articles/
  1. Establish New Hobbies. No more having to drive the kids around, attend sport events, and revolve your schedule around theirs. It is all about you and your spouse again. Take this time to focus on yourself and what you enjoy. Take a cooking class or a yoga class together. Establish what things you both like to do together and on your own.
    This Busy Life, Empty Nest: Recipes, thisbusylife.com, 20 Sept 2012. http://www.thisbusylife.com/2012/09/20/empty-nest-recipes/
    This Busy Life, Empty Nest: Recipes, thisbusylife.com, 20 Sept 2012. http://www.thisbusylife.com/2012/09/20/empty-nest-recipes/
  1. Regain Independence. No more excuses about not having time for yourself or your spouse.  Start taking care of yourself, doing things for yourself and focusing on what you want in life.  The workout class you stopped going to, start going again. The book you stopped reading last year, pick it back up again. There is no excuse to not do what you want to do.

If you and/or your spouse need someone to talk to during this transition, The Summit Counseling Center has couples’ therapists at both our Main and Satellite locations. To schedule an appointment or for more information call 678-893-5300 or visit us at www.summitcounseling.org.

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