Sunday, November 25, 2012

Anxiety and Divorce: Holiday Style

Going through a divorce is tough, really tough. Going through a divorce during the holidays is excruciating. Everything you have known about the holidays changes, and if you have children it is complicated exponentially. There are few situations that inspire more anxiety than figuring holiday schedules for children and planning how you will fill the hours while they are with their other parent. Even if you do not have children, the holidays represent a death of the norm.

Grieving is normal and natural during this season. Your singleness is magnified by images of happy couples gathered with their happy children around the tree, while you try to figure how you will pay for gifts and groceries on an income that has been decimated. Not spending holiday time with the family that had become like your own can be a painful part of the loss that no one acknowledges.

There is hope for you if you are going through a divorce during the holidays. Despite the fact that nothing feels secure until the divorce is final, you can learn to thrive during the ambiguity. I know that thriving may sound like a stretch. If you are like many, you spend much of the time curled up in bed trying to sleep the time away until the divorce is final and all the arrangements are in place. 

Learning to live mindfully can help you begin to appreciate your life again. Even though it may feel like you have had a giant bomb thrown into your life, learning to live in the moment can help you get out of bed, put your feet on the floor, and start all over again.

The first step is learning to breathe again. Yes, you heard me, breathe. When is the last time that you took a really deep breath? When we are anxious and grieving we actually forget to breathe. When we focus our attention on our breath, and really notice how luxurious it feels to throw our heads back and take a deep belly breath, we become engaged in the process of life again.

Remembering the little things that we love about the holidays is a big step towards learning to thrive again. A glass of eggnog in front of the fire, the twinkle of the lights at night, the smell of the Christmas tree, the feel of the winter chill on your cheeks when you step outside in the morning are all precious moments if we notice them. It is REALLY noticing the little things, the special moments, that make for quality holidays. When you string together several special moments, you have created a lovely day. Once you have created a lovely day, then you have the pattern for creating a delightful holiday season.

Making new memories is another way to help you flourish during the season. Time with friends, a chance to travel, shopping or seeing a newly released movie can all become thrilling adventures if you reframe how you expect to experience the holidays. Engaging with other single people or joining in celebration with another family can begin a tradition that will provide you with beautiful memories. A nice bottle of wine and your presence may be all that is required in return.

If you are having a really difficult time I recommend that you volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. There are people everywhere who are in need of encouragement, of a warm body to remind them that they still matter, that they are important. It is amazing how connecting with those less fortunate than yourself can give you perspective on your blessings.

The game plan for thriving through the holidays as you are going through a divorce is to put one foot in front of the other. Do the next thing. Keep your mind in the moment. Do not think about the future, do not dwell on the past. Take a deep breath, and realize that right now, this very minute, is enough.

Carolyn Tucker LAPC is a psychotherapist and life coach at TRU Integrative Health and Wellness specializing in pre and post divorce support and anxiety. To find out more information call 770-789-0847 or see www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Truth About Discipline



 In my work with children and their families I have found that we often forget what discipline really is and what it is intended for. Discipline comes from the Latin word “disciplinare” which means “to teach”.  We so often associate the word with punishment and consequences but when we do that we lose sight of the reason we discipline our children. We discipline them to teach them. We need to teach them how to move around the world safely, treat others, treat themselves, and how to navigate various social situations. Ideally we teach them all this in a loving and supportive way so that they have healthy mental and emotional health.

People often equate discipline with punishment and consequences but this isn’t really what discipline is all about. Remember that discipline means to teach. We discipline our children not only with providing consequences to behavior, but also through setting clear expectations, setting limits, and modeling the behaviors we want to see. What we often don’t realize is that the way we discipline our children teaches them just as much, sometimes even more, than consequences and punishments.   How we respond to our children teaches them how to respond to others. An out of control tantruming child for example, needs a calm parent who can model and teach them how to calm themselves. I know this is WAY easier said than done, but it is so important for parents to find ways to teach their children what they are lacking in that moment…the ability to self soothe and words to express feelings . If we respond with a “tantrum” that consists of yelling, spanking, threatening, then how can we expect our children to behave any different.

We often forget that discipline doesn't just occur after a behavior. It happens all the time. Discipline is what happens when a parent intervenes before a behavior gets out of control. It is what happens when we give our child choices, or when we talk to them about our expectations in regards to their behaviors. Good discipline consists mainly of instructions and only a small percentage of actual correction of behavior.  It includes praising the behaviors we want more of not just correcting the ones we want to see less of.

Below are a few discipline basics:

  1. Use  praise  to increase behaviors you want to see more of. Praise should be used more than correction.
  2. Model the behavior you want from your children. 
  3.  Make clear what the unacceptable behaviors are as well as acceptable behaviors, provide options. So for a child that is running in doors one can say “running is not for inside the house, you can go into the yard and run there.”
  4. Consistency: respond consistently, have consistent expectations of behavior. All caregivers need to be on e the same page in terms of rules and expectations.
  5. Ignore unimportant misbehavior such as leg shaking, fidgeting, etc. The more rules you have the less effective they can be. Pick your battles for the rules that truly matter. Children bombarded with rules struggle because they are constantly being corrected/punished so it can lose its effectiveness. Try praising the behaviors you want more of  such as “you are sitting so nice and still” (for a child who is fidgeting). 


Remember that your child is learning about the world and how to navigate it. We often forget that when we learn anything we need to practice it and often have it explained to us more than once. Think back to learning to spell. I remember doing spelling drills and practicing the words over and over to learn and remember them. I didn't get them right after seeing the word just one time. We all need repetition to learn.  Try to keep this in mind as you are disciplining your child. They may have to make the decision to behave a certain way a couple of times before they get it "right".


Claudia Glassman, LMFT, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist specializing in working with children and adolescents ages 2-17. To learn more about how she can help you and your child go to http://growhealchange.com/practitioners.htm. 





Friday, November 9, 2012

Thriving Through the Holidays: Raising Expectations


The countdown is on. We have only 2 weeks until Thanksgiving, and 47 shopping days left until Christmas. I've seen Christmas decorations in stores for weeks now, and I'm starting to see all the tell-tale signs of the holiday season not just approaching, but being fully upon us: decorations in parking lots, holiday TV commercials, and a growing number of Pinterest posts of fabulous looking sweet treats and gift ideas.

People have a lot of different feelings about the holidays. Probably for most, there is a large variety of both positive and negative emotions surrounding this time. One of the interesting things I see concerning this "holiday season" is the way it tends to amplify and magnify our everyday emotions and life experiences. Those struggling with weight loss or trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle through out the year feel a stronger temptation in the presence of so many seasonal treats (haha, can you see what I'm focused on this year?). Those who have experienced the loss of a love one or a significant relationship feel a deeper sense of loss or nostalgia at this time of the year. Some are anxiously awaiting the birth of a child, enjoying a new relationship, or are experiencing their first holiday in a new home, and seem to notice the magic of every "first" through the holidays. There is the potential for so much joy, but also so much pain as we all balance the highs and lows of life and everyday living during this special time.

So it seems like an important subject to talk about. I'm beginning a series of posts concerning Thriving Through the Holidays. I will examine different topics and give you tips on handling difficult family relationships, healthy communication, memorializing those you have lost, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and tips for stress-management and relaxation (because one can never have too many of those!)

Lesson #1: I want you to raise your expectation for this holiday season.


I don't like when people say they are just going to survive the holidays. I believe that our words have more power than we often give them credit for. I want you to focus on not just surviving, but thriving through this season. So many times in life, we get what we expect. And we all know the old adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. So lets start by not expecting the "normal" level of holiday stress! Who wants to be "normal" anyways? I want extraordinary! I want to thrive this year, and look back on this season as the best holiday season yet. Thats my expectation. What's yours?


Liz Fava, MS, LAPC is a Psychotherapist focused on Relationships and Trauma at TRU Integrative Health and Wellness. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, visit www.favacounseling.com. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Think Like a Therapist© is your lay source for becoming your own psychotherapist.  Think Like a Therapist© helps you learn about yourself and others as if you were actually in counseling—minus the time and expense. Your session begins now!  Think Like a Therapist© is not a substitute or service for the treatment of any mental health problems.  Please see a clinical mental health professional to address your mental health symptoms and illnesses. Copyright © 2012 Charles O’Connor. All Rights Reserved.

Think Like a Therapist©: Your Relationship, Part I

You tell me that you’re having relationship problems and would like to work on your “communication” to lessen the tension and conflict in your marriage.  Your previous experience in counseling was unhelpful and felt like a verbal wrestling match without a referee: You and your partner fought while your counselor said little.  Your couples counselor before was more active but got caught up in the details of your accusations.  Reflecting on these sessions you tell me that they served only to help you argue better.  You claim victory because from your perspective both therapists sided with you and not your partner.  With my encouragement, however, you’re honest with yourself— that this is not the outcome you had hoped for.  You and your mate agree to work with me, skeptical but very much in need of a professional who understands not only relationships but also the uniqueness of your partnership.   

            I begin by validating your distress and how exhausted, confused, and raw you both feel.  Anxiously, you add that it is your “communication” that must improve to save your relationship.  I assure you that you do communicate well.  You look at me puzzled and unsure of what to make of my response.  Let’s be honest: You don’t need me to communicate effectively.  You are already experts at sending clear messages through your criticizing, blaming, defending, and withdrawing.  After all, your gestures, like rolling your eyes, or sometimes what you don’t say through silence, speak volumes about how your feeling.  You get it and add, “We both want to communicate in a way that resolves and lessens conflict.”  Your partner adds, “Where there doesn’t have to be a winner and loser.”  I acknowledge your hopes and mutual goal of communicating in a more authentic, genuine, and loving way.     

            As a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), I have a different way of listening.  My training and experience allows me to hear beyond the content and details of your relationship—namely, the many reasons that your partner is at fault—to identify the unspoken need that you convey through these details—that you want a partner who is emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaging.  Instead of refereeing or judging who is right and wrong, I look for how you communicate.  This becomes the therapeutic foundation from which new, more rewarding ways of interacting emerge.  Because, after all, you know how to communicate; you’re just speaking a language that neither clearly expresses your need nor allows your partner to meet it.   

            I assess how you communicate by working to understand the interactional process that unfolds and results in conflict.  Common patterns between couples include: pursuing and withdrawing, mutual attacking, or mutual retreat.  You mention that there is a lot of criticizing and blaming that leads to defending and withdrawing.  You both are left feeling alone and upset due to the vicious relational cycle that you have co-constructed, meaning that neither one of you is to blame for the relationship that you have collectively created. 

            You come to understand the purpose of your behavior and how it contributes to your pattern of pursuing and distancing.  You learn that your defenses or behaviors are yoked to your vulnerabilities or emotions.  Your behavior is an expression of your emotional insecurities. When one partner pursues out of loneliness in a hope of not feeling so alone in the relationship, the other withdraws feeling overwhelmed and inadequate by the pursuer’s criticism and blaming.  The dance is complete when the pursuer feels rejected by the distancer’s withdrawal and either pursues more intensely hurling demands, threats, and insults or gives up and retreats emotionally.  The withdrawer is left feeling even more inadequate, like a failure, paralyzed, afraid, and angry.
            Your dance may look something like the following, where your loneliness (or any other emotion) is triggered and leads to your pursuit (or any other defensive behavior), which stirs up your partner's feeling of indadequacy (or any other emotion), which leads to his or or her withdrawal (or any other defensive behavior), in turn leaving you feeling lonely.  This interactional cycle will continue until successfully interrupted and replaced with a new pattern of relating.

           Loneliness --> pursuit --> inadequacy --> withdrawal --> loneliness
                                                               
            Our session ends with your relationship deconstructed and you feeling hopeful it can improve.  You state you have an awareness of how your behaviors are tied together and how you each trigger one another’s vulnerabilities.  I offer to help you interact differently to replace the dance that you both agree has kept you miserable for too long.  Excited and eager you wait for guidance only to hear that we have run out of time.  See you next week!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Anxiety and the Horrible Breakup

So your relationship is over? Whether it is a divorce, a breakup with a long time partner or the dissolution of something that you felt would have potential, breakups are painful. My clients report being in literal physical pain after a breakup, and many do not know how to soothe the pain or where to turn to get better. Let’s discuss the energy of ending a relationship.

When a relationship ends there is a grieving process that is rivaled only by death. I have heard some say that death might be easier.  I believe it was Alice Cooper that said he felt like  “the man with no skin” after a breakup. This is echoed by my clients over and over. One client stated that she felt like someone had poured gasoline on her and lit her on fire. This is no small pain.

Anxiety prevails alongside the pain as the major emotion that is reported to me. What will I do now? Will she come back? Is it really over? Will I ever really heal? Having to rebuild a life that you thought would be different is a monumental task when you are in pain and twisted in knots with anxiety. Doubting your ability to make decisions and lack of confidence in yourself comes with the blow to the self esteem. Learning who you are all over again seems impossible, since it feels like half of your identity walked out the door.

I have been told that the feeling of grief of losing someone is the same feeling of loving someone. The difference is the story that the brain is telling about the sensation. Since you are already in that energetic space in your body, you can leverage the energy by focusing on something that you love and dwelling on that instead of the lost partner. Learning to shift out of the energy of grief and into the energy of love is very helpful in transforming the pain. Transform the focus from the lost partner to your dog, or your child, or even your wounded self can help change the story your mind is telling your body.

Allowing the pain and anxiety to flow through your body without resistance is so important. If you resist the waves of pain and anxiety they will set up residence in your body and will be unremitting. If you can focus on your body, visualize the pain there as transitory and actually visualize it passing through you you will find some comfort.

Common advice like the “no contact rule” is hard to follow, but I promise if you block their number, unfriend them on Facebook, and give yourself a chance to breathe, you will feel a small surge in anxiety at first, but you will notice a feeling almost like a buffer between you and the energetic tie to the partner. There may be times that feel almost like panic when you realize that those ties of communication are cut, but if you breathe through the panic, and get really grounded (notice the sensations in your body, be aware of what is going on in the moment, feel your feet on the floor) the panic will pass.

Actually determine what your emotional needs are. Do you need to socialize? Friends are a life line during this time. Lean on them and let them meet some of your social needs. Do you need to spend some time in the cave? Stock up on comfort food and Kleenex and give yourself time alone to lick your wounds. Do you need to keep busy? Make some plans to start a project, finish one, or pitch in to help someone else with theirs. Really knowing what you need during this time will help you process the grief.

 When you love someone, what you are really loving is how YOU feel when you think about that person. Given this, know that you can feel that way again about someone else because the feeling comes from within you. During a breakup it is hard to look for the gift. You will know that you are beginning to heal when you notice that you can look at the things you brought out of the relationship that made you stronger, helped you learn to love deeper, or that made you a better communicator.
In some people the discomfort passes quickly, in others it feels that it will never go away. Learning to function with the pain and anxiety is key to moving on and thriving after a breakup. Look for small things that bring you joy, notice the change of the seasons, really tune in to others, looking for things you have in common. Making deep connections with others is an activity that stimulates oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and can help ease the pain for awhile.

You will get better. One day you will wake up and notice that it does not hurt to breathe, or that you are looking forward to your day. When you can tell your story without wanting to cry you will know that healing is taking place. Until then, be very gentle with yourself. You deserve your love!

The anxiety of what your life is going to be like after a breakup is very uncomfortable, but there are a few things you can do to help you to understand the healing process and to ease the discomfort. If you find that the grief if not passing and that you are not able to move on, maybe counseling or life coaching are an option that could help you. TRU Integrative Health and Wellness had psychotherapists and other healers that can help you. See www.growhealchange.com or feel free to call me directly at 770-789-0847 or see my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Anxiety….What If I am Not as Happy With My Baby as I Expected?

New mother anxiety can be overwhelming. Not only do you wake up with a body you don’t recognize, a life that is nothing like the one glamorously portrayed in commercials, but you wake up with this tiny human in your home whom you may or may not connect with. Moms who do not feel immediately connected with their new bundles of joy report high levels of anxiety.
Inability to share these feelings is isolating. There may be reluctance to share with friends lest they be judged, families who minimize the feelings and spouses who may feel helpless or get their feelings hurt by the revelation. No matter what the reason, the new mom feels alone and guilty, and anxious that she is a “bad mother” or that she will never feel connected to this little person for whom she has total responsibility.
In therapy I attempt to normalize these feelings for the new mother. We all experience things differently. I do a screening for post partum mood disorders as well. This is frequently overlooked, and is a simple assessment to identify areas where the mother needs support. Medication is not always recommended. Many mothers want to continue nursing, and medication may compromise this. Nutritional support for the mother can be just as effective as prescription medication and allow the mother to continue nursing, which will enhance the bonding experience, and experience less side effects as well.
Working with the mother to develop bonding by encouraging the mother to notice the baby’s body language, vocalization cues and eye gaze is helpful. Once you start breaking down the baby’s attempts to communicate on a primal level sometimes a mom can step right into her role and be the mirror her baby needs.  Skin to skin contact and staring into the baby’s eyes helps stimulate oxytocin, the bonding hormone.
An exhausted mom is no help to anyone. A good schedule of self care activities is a must. Someone to hold the baby while mom takes an extended bubble bath or long hot shower can make her feel like she has won the lottery. Activities that stimulate the mother’s creative potential are helpful. Taking pictures of the baby can help her feel more connected. Scrapbooking while the baby is sleeping can stimulate those feelings of attachment as well. A mom must be engaged in activities that bring her joy. If she is feeling anxious about the baby usurping her life, then the opportunity to get out for a while during the baby’s nap may help her feel a little more like herself so that when she comes home she is better able to bond with her baby.
There are many reasons that a mom may not feel bonded to her baby in the beginning, some normal, some needing attention. The key is being aware of your feelings and being able to reach out to someone who will not judge you and will be able to ascertain whether you need additional support or not. Know that there are counselors available that can help you get on your feet and that can work with you to develop that relationship with your baby you desire.
In my practice, TRU Integrative Health and Wellness we have a program called TRUbaby, designed to meet the needs of the pregnant or new mom. Clinicians educated on interventions and modalities specific to moms and babies are available to help you navigate this exciting time.  We offer psychotherapy, chiropractic, nutrition, massage, reiki, hypnosis, acupuncture and acupressure, and yoga, as well as several other energy healing modalities that are helpful in getting the new mom on her feet. Please see www.growhealchange.com for more information or call me directly at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or see my personal website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com for more information.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How to Build a Quality Life Despite Anxiety and Depression

When you suffer the symptoms of anxiety or depression nothing seems quite right. It is like the picture on the wall is slightly crooked, and your perceptions of everything are slightly skewed. Thoughts and feelings can feel muted. It may have been a very long time since you remember feeling good or being happy. To get back to that happy place requires a bit of discipline.

When I ask my clients with anxiety or depression what they do to take care of themselves, inevitably they answer "nothing." The first step to building a quality of life despite anxiety or depression is radical self care.  Taking time to do the things that make you feel pampered is so important to helping you feel better. Some clients like a bubble bath and a candle with some lovely music playing in the background, eating at the table on good china with cloth napkins, or some may prefer a massage or going for a run. Each person experiences the feeling of nurture differently, so it is important that you choose activities that speak self love to you.

Gratitude is a quick way to tune in to life and to turn around negative feelings. Studies show that focusing on gratitude develops new neural pathways in the brain. Develop gratitude for finding a parking space, or for soft tissues to blow your nose on or for a fluffy comforter on a cool evening. Be grateful for the little things and be vocal about them. I personally note three things that I am grateful for every day on Facebook. It keeps me accountable for noticing the blessings in my life. Since I started the discipline I have many friends that share in the practice. Develop a community of gratitude and it will be difficult to dwell on negativity.

People suffering with anxiety and depression may have lost touch with a sense of joy. Actively searching for things that make your soul sing is a wonderful step towards creating that life you want. I am not talking big things, but little ones, like noticing cloud shapes or the color of the changing leaves or the feel of the fall breeze on your skin. Put a hard candy in your mouth and be carried away by the taste and the sensation on your tongue. If you are constantly scanning your environment for things that bring you joy you will eventually find quality of life strung together like beads on a thread.
Using these simple interventions I have seen clients literally turn their lives around. People who came into my office only a few weeks before looking morose are almost unrecognizable after instituting these practices. Sometimes it is almost difficult to convince people to try them, but the dramatic impact that I see after a few short weeks is well worth the effort. 

If you need guidance instituting these practices or dealing with the symptoms of anxiety or depression, TRU Integrative Health and Wellness has clinicians that are equipped to help you navigate the path. See www.growhealchange.com for all the services our practice has available, or feel free to call me at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or see my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set up an appointment.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anxiety on Crack: Otherwise Known as "My Kid is An Addict. What Now?"

You have just found out that your kid is addicted to drugs or alcohol. This kid could be a young teen or an adult child, it does not matter, finding out that they are owned by addiction is news dreaded by any parent.  You feel confused, terrified, furious and lost. You don't know where to turn. I urge you to take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and slow your thoughts. It is time to make an action plan. There are things you can do to make this experience less traumatic for everyone.

The first and hardest step is to watch your mouth. Frustration, fury, feeling manipulated and lied to can cause you to say things you will regret. It is easy to lash out at your addict and say words that will never be forgotten. These words will color your relationship forever and can affect how your addict sees you and themselves for the rest of their lives. Taking that deep breath and getting centered can give you a moment to think before you speak. At a time when you feel like you are living inside of the fear, this is harder than it sounds.

As a parent you are used to being able to kiss it and make it better, to "fix it". You cannot fix this. There are few situations more terrifying for a parent than having absolutely no ability to help your child. Many parents feel guilty, blaming their kid's drug use on the fact that they missed a soccer game once when the addict was a child, didn't potty train them sensitively enough or had a contentious divorce. Once that toxic guilt kicks in the addiction insidiously manipulates the parent-child relationship. A guilty parent will twist themselves into a pretzel trying to make things right. Co dependence kicks in and the parent becomes more concerned with the needs of the addict than their own needs. People who are codependent often take on the role as a martyr; they constantly put others' needs before their own and in doing so forget to take care of themselves.  When it comes to arguments, codependent people also tend to set themselves up as the "victim". When they do stand up for themselves, they feel guilty. I heard it put one time, "Do you have to take your child's temperature to see how you feel?" If your answer to this is yes, then you need to take action to address the codependence.

The next step is developing some healthy boundaries. Telling your child "I completely trust in your ability to handle this situation" conveys trust that you believe in their competence, states that you know the problem belongs to them, and empowers them to take action instead of sitting helplessly while you jump through hoops that do not belong to you.

If your child lives at home, defining a zero tolerance policy for drug or alcohol use is vital. Unless you are willing for your child to kill themselves under your roof, zero tolerance is an important first step. You can buy urine drug tests or alcohol breath tests from the drug store or online. Get them and use them on a regular basis and at random times as well. Know that addicts learn how to work around drug screens. If you feel like your addict is using, seek outside testing from a family doctor or treatment center. If the test is positive, I urge you to take action immediately and provide the addict the opportunity to go elsewhere to engage in drug or alcohol using activities. There is no reason your family should have to stand by helplessly watching your loved one self destruct. Siblings can be scarred for life at witnessing ongoing family conflict and using behavior. Many parents will draw the line in the sand and when the addict is caught using will forgive and forgive again when faced with promises and tears. Stand firm. The sooner your addict faces consequences for his/her actions the sooner they can begin facing up to their problem and getting help. Loving the child with boundaries is what will help bring them back to you. Do not allow them to abuse your boundaries to the point where you cannot tap into the love anymore.

Making distinction between the child you love and the addiction is so important. Addiction is a beast that takes up residence inside of your child. It is a beast that will steal drugs from your medicine cabinet, money from your wallet, will lie to you without a blink and will "use" you to the extent that you will allow the using behavior. When the beast rears its head it is helpful to see it as an illness and not as an infraction against yourself and your family. It really has very little to do with you and everything to do with your addict and their illness. Making the distinction allows you to love the child and hate the beast. This is still the same person you rocked as a baby, whose boo boos you kissed and whom you tucked in at night. Do not lose sight of this.

Mindfulness can be so helpful in allowing you to keep peace during this process. Mindfulness is the process of paying attention, without judgment to the present moment. So often when we are feeling fearful or anxious we are actually making up scenarios in our imagination and believing in them. We are living in the future. Radical focus on the present moment, the breath, the physical sensations of the cool air in the room, the feel of your feet on the floor, the sounds coming from the stereo, the smells from the kitchen, bring you into the here and now and allow you to become grounded. Noticing the anxious energy vibrating in your body without resistant is important. That energy becomes trapped when we resist it, and we are stuck with an uncomfortable knot in our stomach or chest. Just noticing that the energy is there and visualizing it flowing through your body instead of resisting it goes a long way towards helping us become more comfortable.

If your child is willing to pursue treatment then your role will be a little easier. If you have insurance, easier still. There are many competent treatment centers in Atlanta that are structured in intensity according to the stage of treatment your child needs. Does your kid need to medically detox? Inpatient medical services may be appropriate for a few days or a week to safely address his/her issues. If not then a few days at an inpatient facility to get your addict stabilized might be in order. There are facilities that have Intensive Outpatient programs that last 4-5 hours a day that consist of individual counseling, family therapy, group therapy and psychoeducation. There are many different philosophies of treatment as well. 12-Step programs are probably the most well known, but there are readiness for change, relapse prevention, enthusiastic sobriety to name a few. You could completely overwhelmed at all of the choices. The job of the treatment center is to help you to navigate the myriad of choices and to educate you on the philosophy of treatment used by the facility and what that will look like for your child. The one thing to remember is that the most important factor in what type of treatment will work for you addict is his commitment to sobriety.

Until your addict agrees to seek help it is important for you and your family to engage in radical self care. This consists of creating an atmosphere of love and understanding that you are all going through stress, and that you are all still learning. Going beyond what you normally need to do to recharge your batteries and to encourage each other is warranted now. If it is a little extra exercise, a nap in the afternoon or an evening in front of the fire just sharing your heart with others who are aware of your family struggle, I urge you to create a gentle, supportive home that allows you to begin to heal.
With every difficult situation in life comes a gift. Look for the gift that addiction will bring to your family. Whether it is better communication, a more honest look at who you all are or eventually having a desire to give back, it always comes with a gift. Never give up believing in your child. Never lose sight of the future you held when you rocked them as a baby. Never give up hope. Keep the porch lights on...

If you need support in navigating the emotions surrounding your loved one's addiction feel free to contact me at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or see our practice website www.growhealchange.com or my personal website www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Anxiety and the Missing Boundary

Some of us have poor boundaries. Let’s admit it. When we were growing up we were shamed or ridiculed or bullied for asking for our needs to be met. We might have been made to feel “less than” when we stated what we wanted. This left us with a sense that we are not worthy to protect ourselves, that we are selfish or ridiculous to ask others not to trample us with their words or actions.

This lack of boundaries can cause serious anxiety in us and our relationships, causing us to “over-give” “over commit” or “over accommodate” in an attempt to earn the behavior from the other that we desire, or to put up with bad behavior because we are afraid of having the negative feelings of childhood triggered when the other responds to our boundaries. Couple this with the fact that we tend to be attracted to people whose issues and needs are the opposite of ours and we have a scenario that is bound to keep us in knots.

Developing loving, firm boundaries is essential to maintaining self esteem and a sense of safety in a relationship. Without these boundaries we set ourselves up for mistreatment and resentment whether active or passive. People with poor boundaries have trouble getting in touch with a sense of righteous anger when they have been wronged. They internalize the anger and feel shame that they were not “worth” being treated well or respected.

Learning good communication skills goes a long way towards being able to assertively state your needs. I frequently have my clients practice taking a deep breath to get centered and saying in a very neutral tone  “I feel hurt when you ______, what can you do to help me with that?” in an attempt to get the partner on their “team” and to express their needs without anger. I also like for clients to confront bad behavior in a neutral tone and to move on afterwards so that everything doesn’t have to be about conflict and confrontation “It is not ok for you to speak to me in that tone of voice. What would you like to have for dinner?”  allows you to confront the behavior and to move to a less emotionally charged subject. If the partner does not respond to this gentle confrontation then there are more direct ways of addressing the issues. However since people with poor boundaries tend to be highly anxious I like to start with gently addressing the behavior in a way that feels less aggressive.

Boundaries define who we are. They establish ‘what is me’ and ‘what isn’t me.’ Personal Boundaries help us create ownership and protection of ourselves. Boundaries are our personal security. Limits are really about having preferences. It is deciding who you are; who you aren’t, what is a part of your reality and what isn’t a part of your reality. It’s no different from saying I don’t like Chinese food therefore I won’t eat it, and I like Thai food and therefore I do eat it. Preferences and limits establish a strong sense of ‘who you are,’ which means that only certain aspects of life and others can enter your ‘field of reality’. Life is an unlimited and assorted mix, and we have always filled our personal world with whatever frequency we are vibrating at. Saying “Yes” to certain aspects and “No” to others shapes and creates this vibration – thereby shaping the truth of our life.

Honoring who we are and what we desire and will and will not accept protects the other person in the relationship also. If you internalize your negative feelings about an interaction then they do not have the opportunity to self correct and to be who you need in the relationship. They may actually end up losing you due to your refusal to give feedback that would allow them to meet your needs. You are really doing a kindness when you offer them this opportunity, and you are nurturing your relationship.

Stating boundaries can feel scary at first, especially after a lifetime of not expressing your needs, but getting clear on what is and isn’t you will assure that you maintain your truth in a relationship. If certain situations and people aren’t matching your truth, they will either adjust their behavior or depart from your reality. Boundaries can be a gift to others as well as protection for your time and resources. Telling someone no can be a sign of trust and respect. Setting boundaries with others gives them permission to do the same.

 Learning communication skills to help you assertively state your truth is vital to a healthy relationship. If you do not have good skills I urge you to seek out a qualified psychotherapist or life coach to assist you in expanding your communication tool box. TRU Integrative Health and Wellness has therapists available to help you develop good boundaries see www.growhealchange.com or feel free to contact me directly for further information on setting boundaries  at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or see my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to set an appointment to discuss your needs.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Social Anxiety Over the Rainbow

According to  Alan Downs in his book The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World. Gay men learn anxiety and anger early in their development. He refers to this development as velvet rage. “Velvet rage is the deep and abiding anger and anxiety that result from growing up in an environment when I learn that who I am as a gay person is unacceptable, perhaps even unlovable,” he explains. “This anger and anxiety push me at times to overcompensate and try to earn love and acceptance by being more, better, beautiful, more sexy – in short, to become something I believe will make me more acceptable and loved.”
“We have created a gay culture that is, in most senses, unlivable. The expectation is that you have the beautiful body, that you have lots of money, that you have a beautiful boyfriend with whom you have wonderful, toe-curling sex every night… none of us have that. To try to achieve that really makes us miserable. The next phase of gay history, I believe, is for us to come to terms with creating a culture that is livable and comfortable.”
There is a significant correlation between gay identity and social anxiety in research. Social anxiety is the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it. People with symptoms of social anxiety often….
 fear doing or saying something embarrassing in front of other people
 worry about making a mistake or being judged by others
 avoid speaking to others
 fear meeting new people
 blush, sweat, tremble, or feel nauseous when self-conscious
 avoid social situations and giving speeches
 may drink or use drugs to try to relieve their social fears
Researchers at the State University of New York investigated the occurrence of social anxiety in a sample of undergraduate gay and heterosexual men. Gay men reported greater social interaction anxiety, greater fear of negative evaluation, and lower self-esteem than their heterosexual counterparts. Gay men who were less comfortable and less open about their sexual orientation were more likely to experience anxiety in social interactions.
Is it any wonder that individuals who felt the primal fear of rejection, vilification and being ostracized as children and adolescents should develop a fear of social situations? I find that with my clients as we normalize the sexual orientation and work on developing a positive sexual identity and developing a positive, supportive social network that symptoms of social anxiety tend to diminish.
In my experience with my gay clients who suffer from anxiety, we always end up back in the childhood or adolescence. Rejection by parents of their own children, by peers, teachers or church because of their sexual orientation seems to produce a severe emotional impact. Having to lead an inauthentic life for fear of rejection or ridicule can produce a severe sense of core shame. Fear of being found out or judged creates a constant sense of tension or anxiety.
Being able to live an authentic life is key to reducing anxiety for persons of any sexual orientation, but especially for gay individuals who have felt forced to “wear a mask” hiding who they truly are. The mask forces an individual to expend huge amounts of anxiety causing energy projecting an image and worrying what will happen if they are found out. I find that with my gay clients, that getting support and only allowing people into their personal social network who are loving, nurturing and accepting is so helpful in mediating symptoms of anxiety. Taking small risks with safe people goes a long way towards increasing social esteem and diminishing social anxiety.
I have found the most powerful tool to helping my gay clients deal with their social anxiety is to have them talk about it, not only to me, their therapist, but to be open and transparent with their friends and family members about how they feel. Many clients report feeling ashamed of their shame. The most effective way to address shame is to expose it.
Social anxiety sufferers have negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their anxiety. If you have social anxiety, you may find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts like:
  • “I know I’ll end up looking like a fool.”
  • “My voice will start shaking and I’ll humiliate myself.”
  • “People will think I’m stupid.”
  • “I won’t have anything to say. I’ll seem boring.”
Challenging these negative thoughts, either through therapy or on your own, is one effective way to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety.The first step is to identify the automatic negative thoughts that underlie your fear of social situations. For example, if you‘re worried about an upcoming work presentation, the underlying negative thought might be: “I’m going to blow it. Everyone will think I’m completely incompetent.” The next step is to analyze and challenge the thoughts. It helps to ask yourself questions about the negative thoughts: “Do I know for sure that I’m going to be judged?” or “Even if I’m nervous, will people necessarily judge me?” Through this logical evaluation of your negative thoughts, you can gradually replace them with more realistic and positive ways of looking at social situations that trigger your anxiety.
Learning to become grounded and centered and addressing the symptoms in the body is very helpful. Identifying the anxious energy and allowing it to flow through the body instead of resisting it and allowing it to become trapped and persist is key. Visualizing the emotion as energy flowing into the body and allowing it to flow out of the body while breathing and staying present can bring quick relief.
Social anxiety is an issue that can be treated. Many have viewed it as something that must be tolerated, but with information, support, the proper interventions and occasionally medication, this condition can be addressed and mediated effectively allowing you to function more effectively and authentically, and to live the life you were born to live!

If you would like to explore the interventions that are available to help you conquer your social anxiety, there are several  gay friendly therapists at TRU Integrative Health and Wellness www.growhealchange.com or at please call me at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or make an appointment via my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Anxiety and the Really Big Bad News

I have talked in past blogs about how to handle your anxiety when things get chaotic and interrupt your routine. Today I would like to discuss what happens when you get the really “big bad news”. A family member has cancer, the baby you are carrying has something wrong with it, you are getting a divorce. How do you cope? When anxiety goes from zero to warp speed and threatens never to leave, it feels like it may become a way of life. That terror that resides in your chest or the knot and nausea that come to dwell in your stomach are a constant reminder that your life may never be “normal” again.

The first thing to do when you get uncomfortable news is to focus on the felt sense of whatever emotion is evoked in your body. It could be that your muscles tense, you get a knot in your stomach, a tightness in your chest, or your breathing becomes short and rapid. Notice those symptoms, and actually do of the opposite of what your body wants to do. If you notice that it wants to tense up, then purposefully let your muscles go limp. If you tighten in your stomach, release the muscles and breathe relaxation into that area. If your breaths become short and rapid, make a point of taking slow deep breaths. This will help to stop that hormonal cascade that begins with a shot of adrenaline when you get upsetting news. If you intervene immediately it can prevent may unpleasant symptoms from taking root in your body.

Seeing emotions as literally being energy in motion in your body that want to be expressed (or actually squeezed out,) allows you to visualize allowing the energy to exist without resistance and to assist that energy in moving through the body in a way that minimizes the effect of those negative emotions. The key is not resisting the negative feeling. When a negative feeling is present we tend to tighten around it because we are afraid that if we allow it, it will get worse and become more unpleasant. Actually the opposite is true. When we allow the sensation to pass through like the lines passing across the screen of an EKG machine then we free our bodies up from become a home to that trapped energy.

Breathing properly is vital in this process. Slow deep nourishing breaths are in order. When “bad” things happen we forget to breathe. Slow deep nourishing breaths allow the energy to pass, and keep our bodies pH balanced.  A good balance of the in-and-out breath keeps the pH stable in the body.  Breathing in more increases acidity;  breathing out more creates alkalinity, as it gets rid of carbonic acid through the carbon dioxide we breathe out.  “Hyperventilating” means a lot of breathing out, so making us too alkaline, which has its problems like any imbalance (it may cause numbness or tingling in the extremities, lightheadedness, fainting); then one has to “breathe into a paper bag,” that is, breathe back in some of the acids we got rid of, to regain the proper balance of acids and bases in the blood. Paying attention to the body helps us balance the breathing.

Instead of receiving information as “good” or  “bad,” become curious about what you hear. It is easy to jump to conclusions based on what you have experienced in the past or by facts that you know or by stories that you have heard from others in your situation. Be curious about whether this situation HAS to play out like you would assume, with you “freaking out” and adopting a tragic story based on your negative feelings. Be curious if you have to freak out at all. Just because it is expected that you freak out, doesn’t mean that is the response that you have to have.  Instead, adopt a sense of wonder. “I wonder how this will change my life?” “I wonder what skill I will learn thorough this?” “I wonder what the gift will be in this for me?”

 I am not advocating denial of your circumstances, or a Pollyanna attitude, I am just stating that it seems many of us respond to unexpected news in ways that are reflexive, knee jerk reactions, in ways that we believe we are “supposed to” react. I wonder if we get centered and grounded by taking some deep breaths and focusing on feeling our bodily sensations for a moment (“I feel my feel on the floor, I feel the chair to my back, I feel the cool air in the room”) if we might buy ourselves the time to choose a different response? I wonder if choosing that different response might put us in that “road less traveled” place, a place that is more peaceful and honoring of the experience, and instead of bringing us a sure tragedy, might bring us a gift instead?

If you need help dealing with unexpected news feel free to call me at 770-789-0847 or visit my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com. TRU Integrative Health and Wellness has a plethora of modalities to assist you with anxiety. Visit www.growhealchange.com so see how we can help you!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Never Ending Challange of Finding Balance.

I believe that everyone struggles to create balance in their lives every day. Even those that seem to have mastered this, still work hard on a daily basis to keep the scales even.

 I recently gave birth to my daughter,  and have fallen in love with her. I have spent the past two months catering to all of her needs and finding myself in the cycle of eat, slept, change a diaper, and do it again. I am still amazed at how busy a person can stay doing  mainly those three things. My days blend and I am more than a little tired. As the days and weeks seem to fly by, I realize that I am quickly approaching my return to seeing clients. I am struck by the realization that I will have to leave my daughter, while I resume various aspects of my life. Up until now I have been able to do things for myself and have her with me at the same time (she tends to nap while I am at the gym and running errands). She has even accompanied me to a massage.

Part of me is tempted to give up  everything  I enjoyed before she was born just to stay with her 24-7, but I know myself. I know that I need balance in my life and that this consists of more than just my daughter. I need to nurture my friendships and relationships. I need to get back to get back to my career that I love. Having worked with children and families for over 9 years, I also know that I have to take care of myself in order to be the best caretaker I can be for her. The reality is that if I am not happy, it is going to be hard for my daughter to be happy. I need to be the best me I can be for her.
This balance is different for everyone. I have friends who stay at home full time with their children and I have friends that work full time. Some of them need more "me time", some less. It is important to find what works best for you.  Knowing what works best doesn't mean that you will magically have a balanced life. It is work to keep those scales even, and having a great support system makes it so much easier. So reach out for support if you need it, and remember that you need to nurture yourself to be able to nurture others.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Anxiety and Coming Out For The Lesbian

Coming out, for the lesbian, can be a time of intense stress and anxiety. Once the decision is made and action taken,  quality of life seems to increase. Several studies point to higher self esteem, higher levels on happiness scales and greater social support than their heterosexuals report. Making the decision to come out is difficult for some, and for others, not so much. The key seems to be plugging into a supportive community where authenticity is supported and valued.
The more widely a woman disclosed her sexual orientation the less anxiety, more positive affectivity, and greater self-esteem was reported in recent research. Degree of disclosure to family, gay and lesbian friends, straight friends, and co-workers was related to overall level of social support in a recent study, with those who more widely disclosed reporting greater levels of support. Participants who more widely disclosed their sexual orientation were less likely to engage in anonymous socializing, had a larger percentage of lesbian friends, and were more involved in the gay and lesbian community.
A study found lesbians reported equally strong levels of mental health as their heterosexual sisters and higher self-esteem. While it’s not clear why lesbians displayed higher self-esteem, the authors speculate it may be that lesbians are more educated and mobile than their heterosexual sisters. As a consequence, the lesbian sisters may be more likely to join supportive communities that allow them to bolster their self-worth, the authors hypothesize.
Another study reported in the January 2001 American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (Vol. 71, No. 1), tested a structural equation model related to “outness” on 2,401 lesbian and bisexual women. In this work, researchers found that the more “out” lesbians and bisexual women were–as measured by self-identification as a gay or lesbian, number of years out and level of involvement in the lesbian or bisexual community–the less psychological distress they reported. These findings held true for a range of racial and ethnic subsamples including African-American, white European, Latina, Asian-American, Native American and Jewish women.The study–conducted by Rothblum, Jessica Morris, PhD, a private practitioner in Northampton, Mass., and Craig R. Waldo, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco Center for AIDS Prevention Studies and AIDS Research Institute–is the largest on lesbian mental health to date and is one of the only to look at the relationship of being out to lesbians’ mental health, Rothblum says.
Getting to “out” can be a time of stress and isolation. Supportive mental health therapy that allows the lesbian to process beforehand what her options are and how coming out will affect her in the long term is healthy and helpful. Such positive findings in research invalidate older assumptions that lesbians and gays experience a higher level of mental health problems than heterosexuals. This research is affirming and encouraging that lesbians who go through the process of coming out authentically can experience a high quality of life, plug into a supportive community and obtain happiness. The findings also support the idea that therapy that facilitates the coming-out process is good for lesbians’ mental health. “Such affirmative psychotherapy, provided during the coming out process, may prevent or buffer against subsequent mental health problems,” the authors write.
If you are struggling with coming out and are in need of the support that would help you live a more self actualized life, seek counseling with a qualified mental health professional. In my practice I provide warmth, support and a vision of the life that could be ahead of you after you take the step to come out. If you need that extra support TRU Integrative Health and Wellness has several Gay and Lesbian friendly clinicians who would be honored to walk the journey with you.  Please see www.growhealchange.com  for TRU Integrative Health and Wellness, or call me directly at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or see my website www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to make an appointment.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

 A Little Success Each Day

I just recently became a licensed massage therapist and joined a wellness practice
in northern Atlanta offering massage and Reiki sessions.  Being new to my
profession and also new to marketing my services, I knew I was taking on a bit
of a challenge.  But when it comes to creating health and wellness in my own life
and assisting other people in creating it in their lives, I am a champion!

I'll share the secret I'm using...see every day as a little success to the path of a
thriving practice.  For example, the very first step I took was to have an open
house and give 10 minute demo massages. I passed out flyers to all the
businesses in the neighborhood and sent out email invitations.  On the day of
my open house, I was blessed with one guest! There was a time in my life when
I would have viewed this as failure BUT if I'm going to walk on the path to
success then EVERY step is taking me there! Every day, every week, I
continue to celebrate each new client I see.  For me, having success come in small
steps has added a richness and depth to my practice that I most likely
would not have experienced if it was coming fast and furious.

Our dreams and goals are meant to be Lived! Take a small step Today!
Celebrate!  Then take another step.  Destination Success...enjoy every step
on the way!

Dawn Goforth-Kelly, LMT
Dawn@growhealchange.com


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Anxiety and the Infertility Roller Coaster

Many people in the Atlanta area are struggling with infertility. Infertility can a silent hell. People do not talk about infertility issues like they would if they had a physical condition or other stressful circumstance in their life. Many times a couple choose to walk the road of infertility alone, discussing it only with their doctor. There are a myriad of feelings that go along with infertility and its treatment that can be hard to manage, and difficult on the couple as a unit. The anxiety of not knowing can be excruciating, and hard to understand for anyone who has not walked the road before.

Frequently there are communication breakdowns in the couple during infertility due to feelings of fear of blame, guilt, and worry of “talking about it too much.” Many times the man becomes overwhelmed because the woman “can’t talk about anything else” and shuts down because he is unable to “fix it”, leaving the woman on her own to navigate the monthly rollercoaster alone. Often the woman will obsess over every body sign and signal and her life becomes a barrage of online tools, thermometers and ovulation predictors. Her quality of life becomes wrapped up in where her body is in its cycle, and what information about the potential of pregnancy she can gather at that point. Constant disappointment can take its toll on the couple, especially if the journey has been a long one. There is a sense of shame that goes along with infertility that many of my clients express. Shame that their bodies have let them down, shame that good things are not happening to them (feelings of not deserving to get pregnant, blame at lifestyle choices made in the past such as abortion or other choices that can be extrapolated to have negative effect on becoming pregnant.).

Well meaning friends and relatives asking “when are you going to have a baby?” and an onslaught of baby pictures on Facebook and shower invitations can cause a couple to isolate and cut off socialization, compounding the pain and loneliness. The biggest toll of infertility, however, is the anxiety. At every turn having to exist with the unknown and the lack of control is exhausting and stressful. Having to work and function in the daily grind seems unthinkable, especially to the woman, who is focused on every twinge in her body.
Getting through infertility and actually thriving takes some special skills. Learning to exist in spite of not knowing if you are pregnant or not is the toughest part. Mindfulness goes a long way towards helping preserve sanity and quality of life. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience. Often our suffering is made more intense by remembering past suffering and worrying about future suffering. If we can stay in the moment and focus on what is happening in the here and now, our suffering will be greatly reduced.
Focusing on bodily sensations instead of thoughts helps get you off of the obsession wheel. “I feel the floor beneath my feet, I feel the sofa against my back, I feel the cool breeze in the room” are ways to center and ground yourself and help remain in the moment. When anxious thoughts arise, acknowledge them without judgment “oh, there is a thought” and allow the thought to float away as a leaf would fall from a tree into a stream.

Doing a body scan and addressing anxiety symptoms there is important. Close your eyes, and starting with toes and moving slowly up your body, ask yourself “Where am I tense?” When you discover a tense area, exaggerate it slightly, so you can become aware of it. Be aware of the muscles in your body that are tense. Then, for example, say to yourself, “I am tensing my neck muscles…I am creating tension in my body.” At this point, be aware of anything that is creating tension in your body and what you might do to change it.

Distress tolerance is another tool that can be very helpful. Learning to distract yourself by engaging in fun or meaningful activity is beneficial. Volunteering to help someone less fortunate goes a long way towards helping develop perspective and keeping your mind occupied. Learning to self-soothe by engaging in comforting activities like a bubble bath or exercise or a massage can engage the senses and lower anxiety.
Using imagery, you can create a situation or a scene that is different from the one that you are now in. In a way, you can leave the situation. Envision in your mind a place that you would like to be – a safe place, a relaxing place, a beautiful place.  Focus on this place.  Relax, and let yourself feel that you are in this place. It usually helps to notice details of the place that you are in. See that safe place, maybe a room, that is fixed up just the way you want it. Or imagine that spot along the ocean, or being with a good, safe friend.
Imagine things going well for you. Imagine that you know how to take care of the situation you are in. If you practice doing this, you will find that it begins to work for you. Things DO go better, and you CAN cope better. You can deal better with the crises in your life, if you practice feeling like you can take care of things.
Create a safe, comfortable place for yourself. It will help if you do this in a quiet room or a quiet spot outdoors. Try to relax, and close your eyes if you feel safe. Settle into this comfortable, safe, beautiful place. Let your hurtful feelings drain or wash out of you, relieving you and making you more comfortable. Breathe slowly and gently as you do this.
Infertility is a virtual minefield of emotions. It is possible to navigate these emotions and to maintain emotional regulation with practice. Good communication as a couple is vital. Sometimes individual or couples counseling can really help process everything that is going on and help turn a stressful situation into a growth and learning opportunity. If you or someone you know is struggling with infertility, please reach out to a qualified mental health professional. You can contact me at 770-789-0847, by email at carolyn@growhealchange.com or through my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com for a free consultation on how I can help you thrive through your infertility journey.
TRU Integrative Health and Wellness has a division called TRUbaby that is equipped with an array of holistic clinicians from chiropractic to nutrition to psychotherapy to help you navigate and thrive. See www.growhealchange.com.

Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Cope With Fear of Infidelity and the Anxiety it Brings

In this age of technology and digital communication, I have seen a growing trend in my practice of serious technology related issues in relationships.  These issues can signal the beginning of the end for relationships as they can propel the couple to try to control each other and to descend deeper and deeper into codependency and mistrust.

Cell phones are wonderful things, they allow us to stay in constant communication in a myriad of ways, but they can be the source of much conflict. Text messages are a prime example. Communication with someone other than the partner can trigger insecurity and suspicion in a relationship and the informal nature of text messages can sometimes allow for communication to veer towards subjects that may be seen as inappropriate or that feel disrespectful to the other partner. Someone already prone to insecurity may be propelled to anger and jealousy by the discovery of messages to another.

Computers can be another source of pain. From Facebook to pornography, there are triggers everywhere that can cause hearts to constrict and fear to rule. Friend requests from former flames can cause more anxiety than a four-alarm fire, and private messages when discovered can damage trust and build walls.  It can seem like there is nowhere in the world that is safe from the potential "threat" to the relationship once the line is crossed.

It seems like the first response to these events is to "control" them. The wounded party may ask to see the offender’s text messages or view their computer history on a regular basis. Monitoring the phone records and promises not to delete anything until inspected become commonplace. It seems like once that first step to "monitor" is taken, the relationship becomes a playground for crazy making.
There are too many ways around being monitored for monitoring to be an effective means of achieving that feeling of safety. There are apps that allow you to receive texts on a server so that they never actually show on a phone, and ways to wipe and encrypt information on a hard drive so that it is never found. The person trying to feel safe because of the feeling of control that comes with being able to check the phone will exhaust himself or herself with having to think of all the ways they could be deceived.

Relationships can become so codependent and enmeshed once they head down this slippery slope that they hold no resemblance to the loving environment that was originally triggered by suspicion. Monitoring someone is futile. If someone wants to cheat they will. There is no surveillance mechanism strong enough to track someone who wants to be underground. This is hard news to hear for someone in love who simply wants to feel safe.

The first step in dealing with an infraction, whether infidelity, flirtation or mere miscommunication is to evaluate your boundaries. What are you willing to do or to put up with to stay in this relationship? Is the relationship worth saving? How much discomfort are you willing to bear? Are you willing to risk being hurt to love this person? For some the answer is no, and for some, staying in the relationship is worth the work it will take to stay there.

So how do you do it? You realize that you are in a relationship with a person who is separate from you who has the ability to make decisions on his or her own. You accept the fact that no matter what you do you cannot prevent yourself from being hurt when you love someone. The risk is always there. Then, you nail your feet to the floor and take a deep breath. This is the hard part.

Distress tolerance skills are useful when we are unable, unwilling, or it would be inappropriate to change a situation. Learning to coexist with discomfort can go a long way in increasing our quality of life. Sometimes learning a few skills can allow us to stay in a relationship and thrive versus intervening and trying to control and pronouncing the beginning of the end for the relationship.
Radical acceptance is the first step in distress tolerance. Acceptance means being willing to experience a situation as it is, rather than how we want it to be , it is a willingness to accept things as they are and to learn to exist with the fact. This doesn’t mean that what happened is ok, it merely means that it happened.
 
Repeatedly 'turning the mind' is useful as well.  To be in the actual situation you are in, rather than the situation you think you're in, or think you should be in is a must.  Your mind is always going to give you other ideas, interpretations, reminding you of old strategies.  Each time your mind wanders and you notice these other thoughts and images, simply bring your attention back to this moment.  Not judging the situation to be good, or bad, or in any way.  Simply bringing your attention back to this moment, this situation, and being effective in this situation. That means accepting that something happened that made you uncomfortable, and resisting the mind's desire to control or fix the situation.
Taking a deep breath and finding things to distract you from the desire to monitor or control can help. Engaging in activities is often helpful. One should focus their undivided attention on the activity alone, and attempt to push away any thoughts that try to come in related to the trigger. Mindless, or tedious activities usually work best for this, such as needlework, washing dishes, filing papers, etc. It is important not to attach any opinions to the activities you are engaged in because doing so opens the door to judgmental thoughts and images related to the triggering event.

Finding meaningful activities outside of your relationship can help you to keep perspective and a healthy sense of your significance. Volunteering or engaging in activities with a purpose helps redirect your attention upon others. There is a tendency to become hyper-focused on your relationship when triggered to anxiety, and developing contributing skills helps move your focus to others.  Examples of contributing skills would be doing someone a favor or making someone a nice card for a "just because" occasion, or writing a letter to a loved one, telling them how much you care. Contributing not only helps distract you from your own painful emotions but it helps you build a sense of self respect and gives back meaning and purpose to your life that may feel diminished due to the current circumstances in your relationship. Doing things for others can be very rewarding, especially when the act is unsolicited. This distress tolerance tactic is very effective.

Self-soothing is a skill that many of us neglect when triggered to anxiety. This is a skill in which one behaves in a comforting, nurturing, kind, and gentle way to oneself. You use it by doing something that is soothing to you such as taking a bubble bath, or spending time in nature. It is used in moments of distress or agitation to great avail when you are feeling afraid and compelled to act.

Committing yourself to a relationship based on mutual respect and refusing to allow yourself to take that first step towards losing self-respect despite your partner's actions is a must. Once you take that first step down the slippery slope you not only lose your self-respect, you give your relationship the seal of doom. What feels like it will save the relationship and make it "safe" for you is actually the guaranteed way to keep you in anxiety and pain. Monitoring also prevents the offender from being able to redeem himself or herself, and takes away their dignity, which ensures that they will never be able to perform up to their highest capabilities in the relationship.

Sometimes outside support is necessary to enable you to thrive in a relationship where your trust has been broken. As a psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, I have seen relationships dissolve due to infidelity and the ensuing mistrust, but I have also seen them heal and grow. Having an advocate to help you navigate the uncharted waters of relationship insecurity can go a long way towards helping you decide whether to stay in a relationship or leave. Psychotherapy can help you keep your dignity and to step into your power and use the situation as an opportunity for growth. If you need assistance in dealing with relationship anxiety call me at 770-789-0847 or email carolyn@growhealchange.com for a free consultation. For more information see my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com.

TRU Integrative Health and Wellness offers many good opportunities for support and self-care. From massage and reiki to meditation groups, psychotherapy  and yoga, there is a supportive community waiting to assist you on your journey. See our website at www.growhealchange.com to see what exciting things are going on at TRU and how we can help you!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Motherhood: The Anxiety Maker

For those who struggled with anxiety before motherhood, becoming a mother may have kicked things into overdrive. Even if you didn't have anxiety before your child was born, after birth the world may seem like it will never be a safe place again. How can it, with your heart walking around outside of your body now? All of a sudden you are surrounded by potential dangers, like accidents waiting to happen, illnesses lurking in the background waiting to pounce and potential calamities everywhere.
Recognizing that you have anxiety and taking steps to intervene are vital to your health and the health of your children. Children pick up on the energy of the anxiety, and may see your anxious energy as the cue that they are unsafe or not capable of coping with what life throws at them. In order not to communicate a message of fear to your child, you must take steps to tame the beast.

Talking back to your anxious thoughts goes a long way towards addressing the problem. Actually logically looking at what you are believing and fearing can help you determine if your fears are unfounded or legitimate. When fears are legitimate you can plan a course of action and take steps to ensure your child's safety and security. Unfounded fears are more nebulous and cannot be planned for or addressed using logical methods. Reassuring yourself when you have an unfounded fear can help you relax.

Having an outlet outside of your children for socialization and support is helpful too. Seeing other mothers who cope with potential situations without fear is a good model to assist you in stepping out into situations that you logically know are safe but still feel uneasy about. Having other women to discuss your fears with who will help you reframe them and support you is invaluable.

Good self care is vital. As mothers we are trained by society to believe that taking care of our children is selfless and that caring for ourselves is indulgent and selfish. This is simply not true. You must fill your own tank to overflowing before you can provide the abundance of love and caring you want to provide for your children. Take a walk, spend time with friends, read a good book, take a bubble bath. Spend time on things that bring you joy. Maintaining your identity outside of your children models what a strong, independent woman looks like, and you want them to grow up with the skills to care for themselves. How can they do this if they have never seen it done?

If anxiety is too much for you to deal with on your own, seek help. A qualified mental health professional is trained to help you address the symptoms. As a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety, I have seen the benefit of therapy to help mothers cope with anxiety and thrive. Please call me at 770-789-0847, email me at Carolyn@growhealchange.com or see my website at www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to contact me for a free consultation.

TRU Integrative Health and Wellness offers many ways to assist with combating anxiety from holistic nutrition that can take the place of prescription medication to reiki, massage and yoga there are many opportunities for good self care. See www.growhealchange.com for more information.