With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas fast approaching, some may feel like they have hardly had time to recover from being together with family. Not everyone enjoys gathering with family and the holidays feel anything but joyful. Sometimes family can be hard. Past family trauma can truly cause anxiety when we face having to gather. Today we are going to talk about that.
Is it My Family Causing my Feelings of Anxiety?
Does the thought of attending a family gathering set off stress and anxiety for you? Do you find yourself thinking through who all is going to be there and reeling through thoughts leading up to the gathering? Know that you are not alone. It is a common occurrence to feel anxiety leading up to the expectation that you will spend time with family. When family dynamics are dysfunctional or abusive, it is easy to understand why feelings of dread or anxiety may be present. Do you struggle with the preference of not wanting to spend time with your family? Today I encourage you to be gentle on yourself. There may be valid reasons for those feelings. Below are some circumstances that could point to some early childhood trauma.
- Are you immediately defensive at the sight of someone?
- Do you find yourself physically not feeling well when visiting?
- Are you in a distant place when are with this person, removed?
- Do you struggle with feelings of not being good enough or have critical self-thoughts?
- Are you mentally taking notes of everything wrong with everyone during your visit?
- Do you immediately feel like a child again and that someone is trying to control your decisions?
These are only a few examples that could signify that your family has some dysfunction that is still affecting you today. Recognizing a need for change is a wonderful first step. Below we will talk about why you could feel this way around your family.
Why do I Feel This Way Around My Family?
When we are children and growing physically, mentally and emotionally, we need support to do so in a healthy way. When we don’t receive that support in each area of growth, we have gaps in our ability to handle our thoughts, emotions and decisions in a healthy way. Depending on what circumstances we were raised in, we live out different effects of the trauma we experienced. If we never seek help with dealing with the trauma, we often live out the effects of trauma our whole lives. Unresolved trauma can wreck our minds, our bodies, our relationships and our health. Did you know that over 60% of children experience some sort of childhood trauma? Below are examples of unhealthy environments that could have led to childhood trauma.
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Emotional, verbal or physical abuse
- Name calling, criticism or gaslighting
- Lack of resources for basic needs, moving from place to place
These are not the only circumstances that could have led to dysfunctional family relationships. In households where more than one type of trauma existed, therapy can be a great next step to taking back your life and growing toward what you desire.
How Can I Move Forward?
If you find yourself at a place of being ready to step away from the past and into a future where life doesn’t seem like one long stomachache, read ahead, there is hope and you are not alone. When choosing to change and shape your life into healthier relationships and more joyful environment, change will be necessary. We simply can’t achieve change by doing the same things over and over. Will it be hard? Will it dig up old feelings? Could you be stronger by choosing to face it and make the changes? The answer to all of these is Yes. Below are some suggestions that could help you take one step away from the past and one step closer to the future you envision.
- Identify which of your family members are seeking to become healthy themselves and who isn’t. You can’t have a healthy relationship with someone who isn’t seeking help for themselves.
- Does someone always choose a topic of discussion that makes you uncomfortable? Ask them to stop asking you about the topic. If they refuse, evaluate if you can still spend time with them. A person who respects others, also will respect what their requests.
- Learn to detach from unhealthy situations. Avoid subjects that cause deep emotions. Carry out light and positive conversations.
- Have a planned time for a visit. Know ahead of time your “time to exit topics”. Choose what topics you are willing to discuss and not discuss before arriving. Don’t be afraid to leave, respectfully.
- Decide for yourself what topics in your life are open for discussion and which ones are private.
- Learn to say no, even when it is uncomfortable or unexpected.
- Know that you can not change anyone. They must decide to change themselves.
- It is ok to say no to a family gathering if you are not able to attend knowing that it will be detrimental to your own mental health.
Trying to navigate family gatherings after trauma can be very difficult. Often times, help is needed, and that is ok. If you have tried to take some of the above steps but find that either your relationships are not improving or family continues to not respect your boundaries, it may be time meet with a therapist and let them help you. Understanding boundaries and knowing when to cut ties can be hard. If you would like help in moving forward for you and away from childhood trauma, reach out today. We would love to help you.
Do you find yourself swarming in negative thoughts, wishing you could just stop them from coming? We are going to talk about that today. Negative thought patterns can become frequent when we allow unrealistic self-critical thoughts, when we make incorrect assumptions or when we are in denial of a reality. All of these can become an unhealthy habit that leads to issues coping with normal life.
What Causes Negative Thought Patterns?
While it is normal to each of us to experience negative thoughts, it is unhealthy when our viewpoint of existing defaults to a negative thought. Life will bring positive experiences as well as negative experiences and learning ways to cope with our circumstances goes a long way toward our perception of them. So many factors can affect why we tend to have negative thought patterns and those of us who experienced multiple life situations that promoted negative feelings and thoughts can truly struggle to not think the way we do. Below are a few examples that could have affected the way you process what you see and experience.
- Trauma During your Childhood or Life
- Untreated Anxiety, Depression or Mental Illness
- Influences in Your Life that Spoke Harshly or Critical
All of these examples deeply affect our wellbeing and can create lifelong issues in our wellbeing and in our relationships. Recognizing when you focus on negative outcomes more than actual or positive outcomes is important. There is help and ways to stop them. Have you been told that see the bad in everything and you want to be able to see the good? Hopefully this can help.
Examples of Negative Thought Patterns
It is completely normal for us to have thoughts that are negative. Or to expect that an outcome may not work well. However, when our thoughts automatically start with reasons something will not work, or begin to process worst possible outcome, we may suffer with negative thought patterns. The good thing is that there is help to change your thoughts. We don’t have to be riddled with constant nagging of failure in our minds. Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?
- “I am always alone and never with friends.”
- “It’s impossible for me to do this.”
- “Today was an ok day, but the evening will probably be horrible.”
- “She said I did a good job, she probably didn’t even read it.”
- “They probably look at me and think I am a loser.”
- “He seems mad. I must have done something.”
- “We are not allowed to do that. I must have messed something up.”
Seeing just the bad, jumping to conclusions, assuming you are at fault or making everything bad that happened to you about one single event in your life are a few ways we can recognize negative thought patterns. Do you find your thoughts to be similar with the above examples? Know that you are not alone. Recognizing an issue is always the first step in learning to manage or heal.
How Can I Stop Negative Thoughts?
While there is no quick fix to stop the thoughts we have, there are steps that we can take to, over time, change the way we think. It has taken your whole life of experiences to form this way of thinking and it will take time and effort to make lasting changes. Change is possible if you desire change and are willing to put intentional effort into it. Adding the suggestions below to your day-to-day life can help change the patterns of your thoughts.
- Practice Mindfulness. Be present in what you are doing right now in this moment. Do not think ahead or backwards. Just feel what you are doing right now. If you are washing dishes, feel the water and the warmth. Smell the dish soap. Feel the texture of the sponge or cloth. Be present.
- Journal. Begin to journal your thoughts. When you read them back, you may begin to see where the negative thoughts enter into your mind. Be sure to include and write thoughts about how you would like your thoughts to change. How would positive thoughts impact you and your relationships?
- Meditate. Add space in your life to meditate. The quiet and space of meditation provides breaks in our “normal” thoughts and open our minds to receive more positive.
- Gratitude. Create a habit of writing about the things you are grateful for. What things in your life do you appreciate? What do you appreciate about them?
- Give yourself some grace. Decide to accept who you are today. Keep the vision of healthier happier you in mind and take one step at a time to achieve that. We can’t make positive steps forward if we keep beating ourselves up where we are.
- Talk. Share your struggle with someone you trust. Confiding our thoughts to someone we trust and listening to what they see in us and love about us can be healing.
- Get out and get moving! Physical activity and being outdoors are so good for us. Our bodies were made to move and use its muscles. The outdoors with its abundance of beauty and oxygen is the perfect setup.
You can’t add all of these in your life at once, but you can add one then move to the next. Our lives progress one day at a time and so does our healing. You won’t see overnight success, but you can see glimpses of hope and change bit by bit. If you have struggled with your thoughts and tried to help yourself, but feel it is too big a task for you, we are not alone. Upstate Restorative Counseling helps people just like you every day to grow beyond today and closer to what you desire for yourself. Reach out to learn how we can help you.
Written by: Ashlee Cantrell
Congratulations, parents! You’ve just welcomed a beautiful baby into the world. There are so many exciting things that come with childbirth; getting to hold your baby for the first time, hearing that first cry, and changing their first diaper. Although you may be feeling grateful you may also find yourself feeling exhausted and stressed at the same time. There are so many new emotions and responsibilities that come with having a baby that might start to affect your mental health and you may find yourself thinking “I just need a break!” You are not alone. Let’s talk about what to expect, some ways to cope with how you may be feeling, and when to seek help.
What to Expect
Having a baby is a huge adjustment, especially if it is your first. Sometimes your eating habits, sleeping schedule, and friendships may get placed on the back burner. But how do you know what’s normal and what’s concerning? It’s normal to feel emotional, stressed, and frustrated. It makes perfect sense for you to be feeling these things considering that you may no longer be sleeping eight hours a day, you’re probably not eating as well as you were before, and you might be feeling lonely. It is also normal to be concerned about your baby’s well-being. Although this can cause significant stress, it is completely normal to worry about whether you’re doing things correctly and taking care of your child appropriately. It is challenging to learn new skills, new routines, and a baby’s needs all on your own. With that, it is normal to make mistakes. Making simple mistakes is common, which is why you must have a support system and a primary care physician that you always trust handy to ensure that your baby is taken care of and that there is nothing to stress about. Cut yourself a break. You are doing a great job.
For those who have given birth, let’s talk about hormones. It is super common and understood that many people who give birth experience a shift in hormones before, during, and after birth. Hormones can contribute to emotional changes and can help to make someone feel less than normal. For example, estrogen and progesterone decrease after birth, which may contribute to an increase in feeling a low mood. Another example would be an increase in oxytocin, which helps the uterus to contract, helps with mother-child bonding, and is known to decrease stress and anxiety. Finally, prolactin is a hormone that allows for lactation, which increases after childbirth and may produce an increase in low mood and anxiety. Hormones may cause someone to feel as though they are experiencing mood swings, with frequent up and down in mood whether due to mother-child bonding time and then shifting to breastfeeding, or the increase in estrogen and attempting to play with your child. There are so many cases where hormones may have a say in your mood.
Coping Skills for Parents
Feeling stressed about being a good parent is exhausting. One of the biggest pieces of advice you may hear often is to appreciate your baby while they are young, but how can we appreciate it when we’re so stressed all the time? Let’s work through some coping skills together to help you get healthy and stay connected!
- Social time. Maintaining a healthy support system and good friendships are some of the most important things after having a baby. Getting to see other people helps to relieve stress. Not only are you able to engage in actual conversation with another human (who can also engage in actual conversation and not just stare at you), but you’re able to get out of the house! Bonus points if there is some vitamin D!
- Unwind. Whether during nap time or at the end of the day, regardless of how many chores need to be done, make sure that you schedule at least 30-60 minutes of you time. This time can be dedicated to whatever you want it to be; your favorite TV show, reading a book, yoga, tanning, taking a relaxing bath, and so much more!
- Date night. Ensure that you and your partner, if you have one, are spending quality time together alone. Yes, you read that correctly. That means that you and your partner are planning time for just to two of you. This is super important because, although caring for a baby is crucial, your relationship should also be a priority. This can include going out on dates, or just planning movie nights in the house after the baby is asleep.
- Accept help. No matter how hard you try, you cannot do everything yourself. That’s okay. Take a breather and ask for help or accept the help that is being given. You got this.
When to Seek Help
While it is important to understand what is normal, it is even more important to understand what is NOT normal and when you should seek help. Some parents find that their mood does not lift after birth and rather than feeling a “low mood,” they become anxious or depressed. Mental health issues are very important and may become detrimental to you and your baby. Let’s discuss this in detail.
- Depression. Experiencing symptoms of depression 4-6 weeks after childbirth is called postnatal depression (PND). At times, this condition may transfer into postpartum depression (PPD). Symptoms may appear as feeling excessive sadness, mood swings, and crying spells. These symptoms are more likely to occur in parents who have a history of depression. PND and PPD are equally as scary and exhausting, especially if you’re not sure how to cope.
- Anxiety. Feeling anxious about being a new parent is normal, however, this becomes abnormal if that anxiety takes control and becomes overwhelming. These feelings may be difficult to cope with, especially when you have a screaming baby around.
- OCD. Obsessive-compulsive tendencies appear as a type of anxiety where you may have unwelcomed thoughts that must be followed by a specific behavior. These tendencies may be more likely in individuals who have a history of OCD, but maternal OCD and perinatal OCD can occur in anyone. For example, have you ever found yourself consistently bothered by intrusive thoughts such as “What if I drop my baby?” “what if the bottles aren’t clean enough?” followed by compulsive behaviors that cause overwhelming stress. You might relate.
- Trauma. Depending on what you experience during pregnancy and childbirth, a few traumas may touch your family. You may experience unsettling memories, flashbacks, or nightmares. You may avoid discussing the event with others, or even feeling angry or anxious when others bring it up. If the birth of your child is an unsettling event for you, you are not alone.
Having a baby is a wild and exciting journey, but it may also be overwhelming and stressful. There are so many new things to learn about the baby, about being a parent, and about yourself! Ugh, what do you do? If you find yourself connecting with any of the information above, it may be time to reach out for help. Talking through what you may be feeling is an important first step in getting the help you need. Upstate Restorative Counseling offers help to parents in need. Reach out today!
Written by: Ashlee Cantrell
Through apps and sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, social media allows us to stay connected! Humans are naturally born with a social drive to communicate and connect with others, and this is especially true for young people. Connection is good for your well-being and your mental health, but is there such a thing as too much? With the recent pandemic, it seems that almost everything has become digitized including the social lives of teenagers. Because of this, the more social media a young person participates in, the more likely they are to experience a stimulating effect of addiction to social media. But don’t worry! Let’s look at some effects of social media and tips for avoiding these effects.
Effects of Social Media
Surprisingly enough, social media has quite a large effect on the brain, especially the teen brain. The teen brain is the second-largest period of growth for the brain, which means that it is one of the most important parts for building social skills, intelligence, and other skills. However, that also means that it is very susceptible to addiction during the teen years. What does that mean? It means that overuse of social media can sometimes cause the brain to rewire itself and develop a dependency on feeling like it constantly needs to be on social media or cannot be without it. How else can it affect the brain? Social media provides us with almost instant gratification every time; getting an immediate text back, being able to search for what we want when we want, laughing at TikTok videos all night, etc. Finding enjoyment from social media is a good thing, however, this becomes a problem when the brain becomes used to too much instant gratification for too long. This can sometimes lead to addiction because the brain’s reward system is releasing too many “feel good” chemicals, also known as dopamine. For some social media users, it triggers a rush of dopamine in the brain, causing a need to continue the cycle repeatedly. Can you think of other ways that social media might affect the brain?
Are You Addicted to Social Media?
Being able to appreciate social media is a benefit that you deserve to enjoy. However, once that appreciation goes too far, it may become dangerous. Feeling as though you might be affected by the negative effects of social media can be scary. You might feel anxious or concerned about your risk of being addicted to social media. How do you determine if your brain may be at risk?
- Spending a lot of time thinking about social media.
- Feeling an overwhelming need to be on social media or to pick up your phone almost all the time.
- Using social media or phone to forget about personal issues.
- Often being unable to control or contain the use of social media.
- Becoming restless easily without having social media or a phone.
- Getting in trouble at school or work for being on social media or the phone.
If you find yourself meeting any of these criteria, it’s okay. There are ways to care for oneself and enjoy the benefits and connections that social media allows. Let’s talk about it.
Tips for Avoiding Addiction to Social Media
Social media is everywhere, which means that it is not easy to just give it up altogether. The urge to use social media and be connected to others at the tips of your fingers is there is most of us. There is no harm in this habit, as long as it is not harming us. So, how do we ensure that we keep this habit from harming us in the short and long term? A digital detox! A digital detox is an agreed-upon time when you, your friends, and family members agree to put all devices away to concentrate on your conversations and activities and be present with each other in the moment. How do we do that?
- Turn off social media notifications. I’m sure you’ll still have the urge to check your apps throughout the day, so missing a few notifications won’t hurt.
- Stick to one device at a time. If you’re using your computer, put your phone away and vice versa.
- Use an actual alarm clock. Avoid using your phone as an alarm clock and go back to using a regular alarm clock. It’ll help you stay off your phone before bed!
- Monitor the amount of time you spend on your phone. Most phones have an app that helps to monitor how much time you have spent on your phone. Create a setting to notify you when you have spent more than a reasonable amount of time on your phone. For example, only be on your phone for an hour during lunch.
- DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE WHILE DRIVING. This should be obvious, but just in case it’s not, using your phone while driving has multiple risks from mental to physical risks. To keep your brain and your body safe, it’s best to put the phone away while in the car.
In summary, taking a general break from social media may be a valuable way to identify unhealthy habits, establish healthy connections with friends, and allow for self-reflection. If you find yourself relating to the information shared in today’s post, know that you are not alone. Upstate Restorative Counseling is here for you. Contact us today!
Written by: Ashlee Cantrell
Being a young person is tough. You’ve got the responsibilities of school, potential academic struggles, social and family expectations, physical and emotional changes along with the increasing pressure of “getting your life together” to figure out what you want to do with your future. What happened to just being a teenager? Unfortunately, sometimes too much pressure or stress can lead to feeling “down in the dumps” or depression. Having teen depression can cause many issues, which is why we need to discuss signs to look for and how to reach out for help. So, what does depression even look like and how do you manage it? Let’s get some answers for you.
What Does it Look Like?
First things first; what is depression? Depression is a mental health concern that causes people to feel consistently sad, unhappy, and sometimes hopeless. Depression in teenagers is often expressed in a similar way to adult depression however, the intensity of the emotions and behaviors tend to differ. So, what does teenage depression look like? When a teen’s mood is disrupted by their ability to function on a daily basis, this can be a key sign that they might be depressed. Mental health may also affect physical health. When a person is feeling depressed, their body may feel tired, run-down, and uninterested in their day-to-day life. Is this something that you can relate to? Let’s look at some general physical symptoms that may occur:
- Low energy
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Loss of interest in social interaction
- Changes in sleeping/eating patterns
- Physical changes (posture, lack of eye contact, keeping head down, etc)
- Difficulty concentrating, or paying attention
What Does it Feel Like?
Although depression may be easier to spot if you are experiencing it on the outside of your body, it is important to know what it feels like on the inside of your body. This will help us to catch it and ask for help sooner. It may be difficult to understand what you may be feeling if you are depressed but don’t worry. You are not alone. Let’s talk about it.
- Confusion. Having depression is very confusing. One minute you’re a regular teenager going to school and feeling all right, and the next you might be feeling a rush of intense sadness that feels like it could last forever. Other times, you may feel nothing at all. Your moods may be unpredictable and who knows what caused it or what to do about it.
- Anger. This is a big one. Anger is a lot different than sadness as it might be the only other mood that you can recognize right now because everything and everyone is getting on your nerves. You may be feeling misunderstood and extremely sensitive right now because it may feel like no one seems to understand what you’re going through, and they may be criticizing you too. Why won’t they just leave you alone?
- Worthlessness. With depression often comes a sense of low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness. “I do not deserve to be here.” “I do not want to be here anymore.” Have thoughts such as these or similar popped into your head recently? If so, you may know what I’m talking about.
- Hopelessness. If you look around you, you might see other teenagers having fun, getting ready for their futures, and just enjoying life. Does it make you feel less motivated? Less excited for the future? Someone with depression often has difficulty with motivation for the future and struggles when seeing others doing well.
One of the most crucial parts of this section is that if you find yourself feeling any of these symptoms, it is important that you are willing to discuss how you’re feeling with someone that you trust. It does not have to be a parent, but it must be someone that you trust to support you and get you the help that you need.
How Do I Manage It?
As a teenager, developing a sense of acceptance, safety, and belonging is super important. When adding a depressive mood to the mix, it can cause harm to that development. Now that we have discussed what depression is, what it looks like, and how it feels, let’s talk about how to manage it!
- Making new friends. This is easier said than done, especially when you’re not feeling your best. Try making new social connections in class, or a mutual group at school!
- Participate in sports, and social hobbies, or get a job. Staying busy helps to keep the mind active and occupied with positive activities.
- Self-care. Self-care is important to make sure that your body is getting what it needs on a daily basis. This may include exercising for 30 minutes 3-4 times per week, keeping a healthy balanced food plan, and aiming for eight hours of sleep each night.
- Talk therapy is a great way to talk through how you’re feeling and learn appropriate coping skills that fit you. Therapy provides a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment that will guide you toward the appropriate treatment to help you.
There are many “rites of passage” to growing up, like going to your first football game, getting your first job, or getting your first kiss! However, experiencing depression is not one of them. Depression is not something to be taken lightly. If you find yourself relating to any of the information above or feel afraid that you might be experiencing depression and don’t know where to turn, Upstate Restorative Counseling is here to help you. You deserve to be here, and we are here for you. Please reach out.