Written by Brittany Male MSW, LCSW, CADC
I can’t count how many times I have said, “Give yourself permission…”, to a client during a session recently.
Give yourself permission to be angry.
Give yourself permission to be sad.
Give yourself permission to be disappointed, frustrated, annoyed, fearful, resistant, confused, or even UNPRODUCTIVE.
I’m noticing that a lot of us are having difficulty making the adjustments necessary due to the changes in our world. A lot of us didn’t want to skip a beat when the stay-home-orders were initially put in place.
Things are not as they were. At least not for now.
We must adapt to this change instead of trying to force the previous routines, schedules, and expectations on ourselves and others. Follow the steps below to better identify what your needs are and give yourself permission to meet those needs.
Be mindful of the emotions you're experiencing that are causing distress.
Mindfulness is a buzzword right now - and rightfully so. That said, it is also not as complicated as it may seem so don’t be intimidated. Simply identify the emotion you’re experiencing and explore how it is influencing you in this moment. Could I be called a therapist if I didn’t include an emotions list for you to utilize? Next, think about where you are physically feeling this emotion, if anywhere. If you visually were to represent this emotion, what would it look like in color, size, texture. These are all questions that can help you more mindfully define your emotions.
Explore what is contributing to that feeling.
Ask yourself questions like: Have I felt this way in the past? Are there any other emotions that I’m experiencing underneath or alongside this emotion? Oftentimes we can experience multiple emotions at the same time and it can be helpful to figure out what we need when we identify them. Are other people’s behaviors contributing to this feeling or is it self-imposed?
Explore your needs in the moment.
If you don’t already have a list of coping or self-care techniques/activities/tools that you utilize, take time now to reflect on what those things could be. It is helpful to have this list already prepared ahead of time so that when you are feeling overwhelmed with a distressing emotion you do not have to think of what may help and can instead simply look at the list. For me, some examples of things on my list include lighting a candle, opening a window or curtain, putting on some music, and doing something that brings me joy.
Another important thing is that what may have been on your list previously may not be on your list currently due to the restrictions or because your needs have changed along with the times. While previously I would have included “getting out of the house” and “spending time with friends or family” as on my list, currently there are limitations to that. Additionally, I have identified that I have adjusted the shows and movies that I am interested in watching. Instead of movies filled with deep meaning and drama, I prefer light hearted and feel good movies and shows. There is enough intensity in real life right now.
Give yourself permission to make the adjustment and take care of your needs.
Although it may seem strange, I encourage clients to actually say the words, “I give myself permission to...” as a means of accountability to follow through.
After you’ve identified how you’re feeling and exploring what your needs are in the moment, it’s action time to give yourself the permission to give yourself what you need. Now more than ever, we need to continue to take care of ourselves, to say no when we need to, to adjust our expectations, to make changes in our routines and schedules, and to rest.
If you find that you’re needing more help trying to navigate through the current changes in our world, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Our therapists are currently accepting intakes via Telehealth. You can find out more information by visiting our website www.OakHeartCenter.com or calling (630) 570-0500.
Written by Brittany Male MSW, LCSW, CADC
As a therapist, I often find myself talking with clients during sessions about similar concepts or issues. Not too long ago, the theme was “overwhelm” and although the circumstances may be different a few weeks ago, I think anyone would agree that there are plenty of things that we may find ourselves overwhelmed with. Despite not always living through a pandemic, it is likely that you, the reader, have felt overwhelmed. Here’s the truth: all of us experience times of complete overwhelm, and while there may be a variety of contributing factors to this, most of the time, the activity that I’m about to share with you can be applied, no matter the trigger.
The activity is called “Brain Dumping” and although I didn’t coin the name, I love using it in my life and sharing the idea with clients.
First, write down in a notebook all of the contributing factors that are driving your overwhelming feelings.
These may be thoughts, feelings, tasks, chores, responsibilities, etc. During this process, it is important not to filter yourself. In other words, don’t try to edit the list before you’ve gone through the whole process because otherwise it is likely that the thing you’ve edited out comes back into play, therefore creating the feeling of overwhelm again. This needs to be an unedited list.
There are a few functions of this task:
After you’ve made your list, start grouping them together into different categories.
Oftentimes when you review the list, you’ll find there are tasks to complete that all go together. This is called “batching”. If I have three things I need to do around my house, I would categorize all those things together so I can better plan for when I may do those things. Our ability to be productive usually increases when we “batch” similar tasks together instead of jumping around. That said, if you are someone who needs to switch it up, by all means go ahead and jump around from task to task. An example of this would be if I had work to do on my computer but after 30 minutes I know that I start getting antsy, I may plan to do some house work after those 30 minutes and then return to the rest of the work on my computer.
Next, take a look at each “batch” you’ve made and make a plan for each.
It’s difficult to explain this portion without knowing specifically what’s on your list. When I have clients do this in my office, we usually go through each batch and figure out a plan of when the client will work on this. By the time we get to this part of the brain dump, the client is usually feeling less overwhelmed because they realize that although it “feels” like there are a lot of things to do, ultimately after seeing them all on paper, they realize that there are only a few items that they can do in the moment. Creating a plan for when each item can be accomplished also helps instead of thinking that everything has to get done right at this moment.
Finally, focus on one task at a time.
Once you’ve dumped all the tasks out on paper, batched them, and figured out a plan for when each item will be marked off and how long it will take, it is important to focus on one item at a time. This is easier after doing the “brain dump” because you’ve assigned a plan to each task so you’re better able to focus on one task at a time. You cannot do two tasks at a time, this is a proven FACT (Feel free to read more about why in this article https://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask) and you’re more efficient with your time if you focus solely on one.
It’s that simple.
Hopefully taking these additional steps can help reduce feeling overwhelmed and help make you more productive. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed and would like more help, visit our website www.oakheartcenter.com or call us at (630) 570-0050.
Surviving 'Social Distancing'
Written by Brittany P. Male MSW, CADC, LCSW
All of us are adjusting to a new, and hopefully temporary, normal and may need some direction on how to mentally survive. It’s important to have compassion and patience with yourself and others, as we transition our lives to even more of a virtual one then we were just a few weeks ago. We’re all being impacted by this pandemic. Hopefully the following can help as you navigate the next few weeks.
Create a Daily Routine
Whether you are beginning to work at home, you've been temporarily laid off, or you are finding yourself balancing being a ‘Stay at Home Parent’ and ‘teacher’, having a consistent daily routine can help create some normalcy during this time.
Things to Consider:
Be Creative with Socialization
There are so many FREE apps and resources out there that people can access in order to continue socialization despite the 'stay-home-order'. Utilize them to continue Friday Pizza and Movie night with the Grandparents or Friends, workouts, lunch dates, or play-dates.
Filter your News Sources
Practice Continued Self-Care
Being Present in the New Year
Written by Dr. Lindsay Tobin, PsyD
As we find ourselves in month two of 2020 and the winter weather really kicks in we may find ourselves looking back on some of the goals we have resolved to achieve this year. Maybe we want to improve our health and fitness, spend less time on our phones, improve our relationships and deepen our connections. We may even have started out strong in January but find ourselves falling back into old routines and habits. We think to ourselves, “This happens every year. Why can’t I make these changes? What is wrong with me?” From there we spiral down the rabbit hole of self-criticism, reflecting on and reliving all of our perceived failures and short-comings. This year, let’s try something different.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) provides us with tools that allow us to be more fully present in our lives, reducing depressive spirals into our pasts and anxious ruminations about our futures. MBCT is an evidence-based practice developed from Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. MBCT helps individuals develop a different relationship with their thoughts and feelings.
Lessons in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) :
For more information or to start your own mindfulness journey following the MBCT approach, I highly recommend the book MIndfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, by Mark Williams and Danny Penman. Other resources include:
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress, by John Teasdale, Mark Williams, Zindel Segal, and John Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams, and John Teasdale
The Mindful Way THrough Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and John Kabat-Zinn
The Mindful Catholic: Finding God One Moment at a Time, by Dr. Gregory Bottaro
IT’S (NOT ALWAYS) THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR: GRIEVING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS 101
Written by Erin Mitchell MSW, LCSW
To start, let me introduce myself (I promise to make it short). My name is Erin and I am new to OakHeart. I have been doing counseling for 12 years and one of the topics that I am very passionate about is grief. I worked as a hospice bereavement coordinator (a fancy way to say grief counselor/therapist) for 3 of those years. There is just so much that is misunderstood about the grieving process and I would like to share with you some of the ways that people I have worked with have found to survive the holidays.
Many grieving people who are facing down the remainder of December find themselves dreading what the holidays are bringing. We have the cultural expectation that the holidays are a time for unfettered joy and celebration, which creates an enormous amount of added stress when you are grieving. When you feel like getting through everyday forces you to put on a mask to hide your grief, the disparity between what you actually feel and the expectations of “joy” and “cheer” that bombard you during the holiday season makes it feel impossible to get through. You may even feel like you need to hide out and sleep through the next month to emerge once January is upon us.
If this resonates with you, then read on for some suggestions that can help you survive the season.
1. Be gentle with yourself. It is incredibly important to be kind to yourself in your grief. You may feel that you “should” or “shouldn’t” do or experience so many different things. The truth is that grief is a lifelong journey. You don’t “get over it” and there is no time limit. It has the horrible side effect of making it seem like it has been a very long time and just yesterday all at once. If this is your first year of grief or your tenth, grief has a way of leaving its mark.
2. Consider your grief triggers. I’m sure that you probably have some things that you are positively dreading in the upcoming season. Think about what those are and why they seem so painful. Consider if these are things that you absolutely have to do this year and change your plans accordingly.
3. Be flexible. One of the most important things is to follow how you feel. Grief tends to be constantly changing our emotions. Maybe last week it seemed like a great idea to go to that office party, but today it seems like a nightmare. Follow how you feel and be kind to yourself. If you don’t want to go, chances are that you don’t actually have to.
4. Consider changing old traditions. Traditions can be absolutely wonderful. They can be reminders of happier times and a way to connect with the past. However, when traditions become painful there is no reason that you cannot make changes. These don’t have to be permanent changes, but maybe just the next year or two. I have worked with individuals that couldn’t put up a Christmas tree, so they got out a tree they decorated for another holiday and used that instead. Maybe the mashed potatoes that mom always made are just something that cannot happen this year, so just allow those to be skipped this year. Maybe instead of personalizing all of those holiday cards, you can write a general letter letting people know what happened in your life and send that out in all those cards (or just skip them this year). Talk with your loved ones that you celebrate with to let them know that you plan to change things up for this year ahead of time. That way they will know in advance and can possibly help make those changes.
5. Make an escape plan. This is something that is useful during any upcoming events that you are dreading. If you are concerned about having a “breakdown” in front of others or are just worried about what to do in situations where you cannot easily just leave; come up with an escape plan. Have a pre-planned excuse for leaving early. Think of the place that you can be alone if you need to be during that holiday gathering. If you have a planned way to get out of the situation, you will most likely have less anxiety going into that situation about the potential “what ifs”.
6. Create new traditions. Consider ways that you could possibly honor or remember your loved one during the holiday season. Some people volunteer in their loved one’s memory. Some people will write letters to their loved one. Some will attend a memorial. What appeals to you and your family? What new tradition can you think of that would be right for you?
7. Beware of overindulging. Many of our holiday festivities have alcohol readily available and encouraged. While alcohol (and other substances) may seem like the answer to drown out those feelings of grief, it really only delays those feelings until later. If you are going to be drinking, please make sure that you are being safe.
8. Find support. This support can come from any area of your life. If those friends and family members are helpful to you in your time of grief, then try to open up with them about what you are experiencing. No one knows what you are currently experiencing unless you tell them. Something to keep in mind is that we tend to believe that those we are closest to and love the most will be the most supportive, sadly that is not always the case. If your closest loved ones are not able to be supportive to you in your grief, or just don’t understand, there are other avenues of support available. You may find that a grief support group is helpful, or a grief therapist, or an acquaintance that you never knew had been through something similar. There also tend to be remembrances or memorials held around the holidays. Contacting local support groups or hospices can be a good start.
9. There will be “grief bursts”. Even if you have evaluated everything coming up on your schedule, you will still have times where the grief just seems to come out of nowhere or you stumble headfirst into an instant grief trigger. Don’t be shocked if this happens to you. Grief is not always predictable and it does not mean that you are “getting worse” or being unhealthy in any way. It is just that our grief is constantly changing and makes us more sensitive to the world around us at times. That is not bad or wrong, it just is.
10. Take care of you. When you are feeling overwhelmed by grief, it can be very easy to ignore your physical needs. Your emotional needs seem to take center stage and make it very difficult to maintain those necessary functions, like sleep and healthy appetite. For many grieving people, your appetite and sleep habits are the first things to be heavily impacted. Grief is an enormous stressor and tends to make you more susceptible to health issues and general illnesses. Try not to be constantly busy and to make sure that you are checking in with yourself physically. If you find that there are small (or large) things that you can do to make your grief a little more bearable, do them.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful in getting through the holiday season. If you believe that you may want to seek professional help getting through this difficult time, contact OakHeart to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our clinicians at 630 570-0050 or email Contact.OH@OakHeartCenter.com.
Helpful Grief Resources:
Dr. Alan Wolfelt article on getting through the holidays. https://www.centerforloss.com/2016/12/helping-heal-holiday-season/
Hospice Foundation of America’s support group list. https://hospicefoundation.org/Grief-(1)/Support-Groups
Share Miscarriage & Early Infant Loss Support website. http://nationalshare.org/
8 WAYS TO MANAGE SEASONAL DEPRESSION
Written By Dr. Emily Frey, PsyD