We all experience it, but did you know that it may be affecting your health?

stress

STRESS! We all experience it, but did you know that stress may be affecting your health? Stress symptoms can affect your body, as well as your thoughts and feelings. If left unchecked, stress can lead to many health problems, like high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease.

Effects of stress on mood:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Problems with focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability
  • Sadness or depressionstree2

Effects of stress on your body:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle Tension
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep problems
  • Change in sex drive

Human

Everyone experiences stress every now and then. It is a natural reaction to life experiences. Many different things can trigger stress, such as work, family, or even serious life events such as death or a diagnosis. For short-term situations, stress can be beneficial. Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. Your hypothalamus gets the ball rolling by communicating to your adrenal glands to release stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. These hormone increase your heart rate and send blood to the vital parts of your body, such as muscles, heart, etc. When the perceived threat is gone, the hypothalamus tells all systems to go back to normal. However, if your stress levels are elevated for too long then this can have a negative impact on your health.

THERE ARE SIMPLE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO REDUCE YOUR STRESS ON A DAILY BASIS.

  1. Take a breath
  2. Take a time out
  3. Use positive self-talk
  4. Think of something happy
  5. Express your feelings to someone
  6. Think about someone you love
  7. yogaHum your favorite song
  8. Schedule time for yourself
  9. Visualize your favorite place
  10. Practice yoga

 

jennie-circleBlog written by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S

What You REALLY Need: Toys that Promote Emotional Health in Children

TOYS- Blog

I’ve had many people look at me sideways when I tell them I’m a “play therapist.”

And I get it.  Conceptually, play therapy seems odd at first.  Like, the two words on their own make sense just fine (Play? Okay. Therapy? Sure, no problem), but for whatever reason, when you put the two together, it throws a lot of folks off.

“Play therapy?  So what does that mean?” they’ll say.  “Do you, like, watch kids play or something?” The implications usually being: a) “so you have a college degree in watching kids play?” and; b) “wow, people actually pay you for that?”

Well, yes, I do watch kids play and, respectively, a) yes, I actually do have a college degree in that; and b) yes, people will, from time-to-time, pay me for this.  Of course it is a bit more complicated than simply that, but as a play therapist, observing children at play is indeed an important bit.

The theories underpinning the practice of play therapy are fairly dense, and it’s easy to get out deep into the weeds, but at a foundational level our very first understanding as a play therapist is that a child’s play is important.  Children innately play. Unlike, say, tying their own shoelaces, saying “please” and “thank you,” or using a toilet, you never had to teach your child how to play.  I’m willing to bet you never had to sit your child down and have a talk with them regarding what types of playful activities they ought to fill their free time with.  Humans just seem to be hard-wired for it. What’s more, children play everywhere, across cultures, geography, place, and time; wherever you find children on this globe, you will find them at play.

Not only is play important, but it’s meaningful.  Children’s play is a representation of how they view the world around them; it helps them to process the feelings that occur as a result of day-to-day or even difficult life events.

We conduct play therapy within a controlled play room at our offices — more or less a room full of play things, albeit with a specific layout, design, and types of toys.  I attempt to provide a tidy and consistent environment for the child to come and play how they need to.  It’s simply a thoughtfully designed room full of toys that’s designed to provide the child with feelings of safety, support, freedom, and to play out their life experiences.

As a parent in my own home however I am not always as consistent or thoughtful in how my children’s toys are arranged or displayed.  I have been known, from time-to-time, in a fit of frustration to cram everything into the toy box; slinkies piled on top of wooden blocks piled on top of board games piled on top of some battery-operated talking dog of which I have no memory of how it came to live at my house.

But if play is meaningful and playthings are the tools by which my children express themselves, I owe it to them to do better.  If child’s play matters, so do the toys themselves and their organization.

 

When organizing, consider:

  • Less is more. Children can become overwhelmed by the excess that we provide them.  They really don’t need 5 types of dolls or 3 different sets of blocks.  If you feel the need to keep the surplus, perhaps consider storing some toys and rotating them out every couple of months.block organizer
  • Out of sight out of mind. It truly benefits children to see the toys. Children will forget about a toy if they don’t see it.  And if they don’t see it, it will not be a go-to toy when they need to express a certain feeling or process their day.  Consider block shelving with canvas style bins to display toys in an organized way.
  • Allow for creativity. Not every toy has to be electronic.  The play room has few toys that are battery operated, and that is by design.  This encourages the child to create the sound effects and use imagination.

When purchasing toys, consider:

  • Reality/Nurturing Toys. This includes toys like a baby doll, medical kit with bandages, dollhouse with a family, puppets, animal family, kitchen food. These toys puppetsprovide opportunities for the child to process real life experiences, relational dynamics, and their needs in a symbolic way, and the feelings associated with each. Additionally, toys like these benefit children’s social and emotional development, and give them a positive outlet for how they view the world around them.
  • Aggression/Release ToysThis includes toys like dollar store punching/bop bag, aggressive animals or puppets (shark, dinosaur, dragon, crocodile, tiger), handcuffs, toy soldiers. These toys provide opportunities for expression of difficult experiences or emotions. These toys also provide the child with a safe and appropriate alternative to aggression that would harm them, a friend, or belongings.  Your child bop bagcan be redirected toward these toys given a safe outlet for aggressive or angry feelings — “Your brother is not for hitting, but you may go and punch your bop bag”.  These toys help to decrease the stigma that some feelings are “bad or wrong”.  It is not the feeling that is “bad”, but the ways we choose to process or cope with our feelings can be a poor choice.
  • Art SuppliesCreative ToysToys like Playdoh/clay, pipe cleaners, paper, crayons, markers, and dress up clothes.  These types of toys encourage creativity and imagination, and provide your child a positive outlet for negative emotions. Creative toys also help your child develop motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, spatial skills, and innovation

 

Bailey CircleWritten by Bailey McAdams, M.Ed., LPC

 

Please Place the Oxygen Mask on Yourself First

OxygenMask

You hear it every time you fly somewhere.  If the cabin loses pressure, place the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then assist those around you.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you pass out, how can you help anyone else?  Are you even a little surprised to be reminded that the same is true for parenthood?

We hear plenty about taking care of ourselves.  As a parent, that sounds great!  Let’s take time to relax and do something that fills the soul and refreshes us to take on the next unprompted meltdown! (I fondly recall the last meltdown I dealt with was because I put juice in the green cup and NOT the pink one. My bad.)  So here’s the big question:  How in the world do we take this mythical “Me Time” without guilt, or if we are seriously swamped and don’t have the help we need?  There are times when I have been sure that parental “Me Time” was as likely as finding a unicorn being ridden by a leprechaun handing out hundred dollar bills.  We hear a lot about how a hot bath helps, or taking time to read a book, or getting our nails done may help us feel refreshed and back to our happy selves again.  What if those just aren’t options for one reason or another, or they just don’t do the trick?  Don’t give up!  I’m here to offer a few more ideas…take them and tweak them if you need.

  • Meditation apps: I can hear it now.  “Isn’t that kind of weird and New Age-y?”  “I can’t shut off my brain long enough to meditate.”  “I can’t meditate over the voice inMeditation my head begging for ice cream.”  (Okay, that last one was me.  Don’t judge.)  So what do you do if you’re new to meditation?  There’s an app for that!  And there are lots of good ones that don’t cost you a dime.  One of my new favorites is called “Calm”.
    It guides you, so you can just work on focusing on the voice of the app helping you to calm your mind.  The beauty is that you can set it for the amount of time you have available, so it doesn’t require a 30 minute commitment.  Got 2 minutes?  Give it a shot!
  • Take your little one for a walk: But isn’t “Me Time” supposed to be time for yourself?  Sure!  But if you don’t have help close by, improvise!  If your precious pumpkin likes being outdoors, try going for a walk.  Fresh air will do you both some good!  Even just in the back yard if that’s your best option.  You could even make a scavenger hunt list and try to find leaves and other assorted nature things  (Feathers, smooth rocks, snail shell, dandelion, etc).  Getting out and being silly and having fun together can refresh you, too!
  • Get to know some other daycare parents and expand your mom network: AsMomNetwork you get to know other moms, you can make play dates, and even take turns babysitting for each other.  No one knows the struggle better than another mom!  If you are a Work-at-Home-Mom (WAHM), find meetup groups with other WAHMs and network with them.  There are a lot of groups out there if you start looking.  It may take a little time, but keep looking!

It’s hard to slow down and take time for ourselves.  Burnout happens FAST!  But in order for us to be the best for our kiddos, we need to stop for a moment and take time for ourselves.  Mom guilt is real, but we need to learn to let go of it.  Remind yourself daily that you are awesome!  Try out some of the ideas above.  Or Google something creative to try.  The key is to find SOMETHING that helps you refill yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just make sure you are taking time for yourself.  You’ve earned it!

jennifer-circle Written by Jennifer Willis, MA, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S

PTSD: More Common Than You Might Think

PTSD Pic

When people hear PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) many immediately think of soldiers and veterans, but PTSD can affect ANYONE from child to adult! What is PTSD? It’s a disorder that develops in some people after they have experienced or witnessed a traumatic, scary, or dangerous event. These events could include but are not limited to abuse, assault, war, traffic accidents, finding a person who has committed suicide, animal attacks, and even listening to people tell you about their traumatic experiences.

Some of the signs and symptoms of PTSD include recurrent nightmares, flashbacks of the event, sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance, intentional avoidance of feelings and thoughts or discussions about the event, difficulty concentrating, depression, and guilt. The symptoms must be persistent for at least one month before the PTSD diagnosis can be made. When it comes to children with PTSD there are slight differences in that many of their symptoms will show up in their play.

We hear children suffering from abuse, adults witnessing or being a victim in a violent crime, war, and other major events that can cause PTSD but there are other groups that can also suffer because of the type of job they have.  Many of our first responders, PTSD first_respondersfirefighters, police, and EMS personnel see so much trauma on a daily basis it’s not surprising that they can suffer from PTSD. Another part of first responders are the 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers. They sit in a room and take call after call dealing with everything from providing a phone number to talking to a person who is having the absolute worst day of their life. These calls add up over time and there is rarely, if ever, any closure as to what happened or if the person ended up being okay or not. The dispatchers are on the radio and can send help to other ng_9-1-1_call_brand_storyofficers, but when an event such as an officer getting shot or hurt occurs, they cannot physically go and help, they can only listen to the screams for help and deal with the flood of radio traffic that comes in immediately thereafter. These people have ongoing rises in adrenaline with no way to release it. They can’t get up in the middle of a call or radio event until that event is finished and then they are expected to keep working and move on to the next call or dispatch the next officer. The continual fluctuations of adrenaline with no time or place to really release any of it builds up and if left undealt with can turn to PTSD. Other groups could be CPS workers, animal control officers, and crime scene clean-up crews. There are so many other groups that through their work are at risk for developing PTSD that I couldn’t possibly mention them all here.

The word trauma can mean so many things to so many people and each person experiences a traumatic event differently. This is why only some people end up with PTSD.  One of the hardest things a person with PTSD has to do is to realize that they have a problem, as many people cannot accept hearing it from a friend, loved one, or a stranger until they reach such a point that they admit something is wrong. This is the most important first step to the recovery process.

What can you do to help prevent PTSD? Find an outlet, something that you enjoy that help1865328581s you relieve stress such as running, journaling, or playing an instrument. Talk about the things that are bothering you with someone you trust. Eat healthy and exercise. If you or someone you know develops ongoing symptoms and these things are not helping please seek professional help!

Anne Circle

 

– Written by Anne Wiggs, MA, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D., LPC-S

Six Habits of Effective Therapy Clients

Healthy Habits Blog Cover Sheet

I recently watched a video presentation by Andrew Price, on the seven habits of highly effective artists. I like learning about people’s creative processes and this video did not disappoint. The speaker set out to learn a new artistic style and made a bet with his cousin that he could get a 1000 people to like his drawings in the span of six months. During this process he learned several things about himself and the likely steps it takes to learn something new.

The therapy process is a lot like learning a new skill. In fact, in therapy we often ask clients to learn several new skills to cope with unpleasant emotions. As I watched the video, my brain couldn’t help but draw the parallels. So here is my adapted list of habits of highly effective therapy clients

     1. DAILY WORK

As obvious as it may seem, daily work when applying new skills is very important. Many times clients are asked to keep a thought log or practice a specific skill, such as deep Dailey Work Picbreathing. A client may wait until the night before to try to remember situations to add to their thought log or practice deep breathing once
to be able to say that they practiced the skill. But how much more effective would it be to daily practice breathing or record thoughts
in your thought log when they occur each day. Time spent practicing
a new skill is critical to transitioning from learning something to it becoming a part of who you are. Working everyday on changing behavior or acquiring new skills serves to bring us closer to a better version of ourselves.

     2. VOLUME OVER PERFECTION

I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me that they attempted a coping skill once and because it did not go perfectly or like they expected they abandon any further attempts at using it. We are imperfect and rarely are we adept at new things the first time we try them. Therapy skills are no different. It takes repeated practice and failed attempts to be able to benefit from its usefulness. Usually, the more we practice therapy skills the better we get at using them and the more we benefit from them.

     3. CONSCIOUS LEARNING (INTENTIONAL PRACTICE)

In the above mentioned video about the artist, he stated that he realized after looking back at his sketchbook that his drawings were not improving over several weeks of Lap Top Picpractice. He decided to take an online course on figure drawing. He acknowledged in his video that the course was dry and boring BUT exceptionally helpful. He realized that he had not been using crucial principals in figure drawing so no matter how much daily practice he had it was likely not going to improve his sketches. It wasn’t until he applied intentionally the concepts he learning in a very conscious way that his artwork improved. I believe this applies in therapeutic intervention as well. You may complete a therapy worksheet well enough, but are you thoughtfully applying the concepts to your own life?

     4. REST

Rest is such a forgotten skill. In our society today we go in 100 different directions at once. Go to work, pick up groceries, take the kids to sports practice, make dinner, return texts and phone calls, oh and Rest Picpractice the coping skill my therapist asked me to use. We all need rest. Especially when we are frustrated with trying to change. Rest allows for self-reflection and the possibility of increasing insight into what may work better for us. Rest gives us time to recharge our batteries and find the motivation to resume the difficult work of change.

     5. GET FEEDBACK 

Seeking out feedback when we are learning something is scary but invaluable. Someone who has mastered the skills likely has a unique perspective and will be able to discern Advice Picthe areas that may need alteration. Feedback from your therapist is a given, but feedback from significant others may also be valuable. We may not be aware of personality traits or behaviors that are problematic. And when people who know us well begin to notice the changes we are making, it is great validation for our own progress and efforts.

     6. IF IT’S HARD, IT’S WORTH DOING

Rock PicSo many times clients comment on how hard changing is or how difficult applying a specific skill may be for them. Work is defined as an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. Change is hard work but when you reach a goal that increases our experience of pleasant emotions, it is a win-win situation. We feel better, have a sense of mastery and likely increased confidence in ourselves. Our efforts to feel better and relate more effectively with others is well worth the hard work that it takes to get there.

jennie-circle

 

 

Written by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D, LPC-S.

Link to video that inspired this blog:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM39qhXle4g