What is Anxiety?

What is Anxiety?

What is anxiety? Does everyone have it? Will it ever go away?

This blog will cover some of these questions about anxiety, what it is and how it works.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests over 40 million Americans have an anxiety disorder– which is likely a gross underestimation. There are many who have struggled with anxiety and have presumed everyone goes through it, have never been formally diagnosed, or have no idea there is a name for what they are feeling. If you’re not sure if you worry is anxiety or just plain stress, here’s a blog to learn more. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or Anxiety as it is commonly called, is a mental health disorder. While it originates in the brain, the body often feels it too. Anxiety is a fear the mind creates that doesn’t seem to slow down or let up. It can be related to one topic or many and is based in something bad that could happen now or in the future. Here are some common symptoms of anxiety:

  • Constant worrisome thoughts that won’t seem to stop
  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep
  • Irregular breathing like your heart is beating way too fast
  • Sweating
  • Shaky hands or legs
  • Fear of something bad happening
  • Hard time controlling feelings (ex: lashing out on others, uncontrollable sobbing)
  • Don’t feel like yourself.

While we may feel these symptoms at different times of our life- for example when feeling stressed out or going through something difficult- anxiety is different. It is known to effect people for weeks, months, or even years and can be difficult to control despite our best efforts.

If you or someone you love is experiencing anxious symptoms, talk about it. Clinical anxiety will not ever truly go away, rather it can be controlled and minimized depending on different factors. Not everyone with anxiety will require medication although many times this can help. Counseling can be a great resource to help you feel like you’re not in it alone.

Don’t wait for things to get worse, start by contacting us today.

 

Why Counseling Kinda Sucks Pt. 3

Why Counseling Kinda Sucks Pt. 3

Counseling is difficult. It’s like an intense exercise of the brain, very similar to an intense physical workout- think Iron Man or Triathlon. It’s not easy; it pushes beyond your own mental limits and makes you question things that have always been your truth. It can be intense, heavy, and sometimes overwhelming- but worth it.

Let’s pretend you and I decide to get into the best shape of our entire lives. We decide to get a trainer and we push ourselves in and out of the gym. On day one, you and I are running further than we have in a long time and naturally start to feel uncomfortable. Our hearts are beating faster and our legs start burning and soon feel like giving up. But our trainer says “Push it! Push it! You can do it.” So we knock it out- tired but accomplished.

Now let’s consider the same scenario, we’re running more than we have in a long time and start to feel a pain scorching through our knees and into the hamstring area. Our trainer then tells us to “Stop.” Pain is a signal for the body to stop. Discomfort, on the other hand, is a different kind of signal- it says you could be on the verge of growth.

Knowing your body is the most important thing when working out. It’s important to know when to pull back and when to push further because your body is on the verge of growth– even though it’s uncomfortable.

Counseling is a lot like this. It will never be intended to cause you pain. That’s not the point. If counseling is causing you pain, something is not right. This isn’t to say that you won’t feel tough emotions, or taken to the point of discomfort. Feeling emotionally uncomfortable can happen in counseling- you may start feelings you’ve been pushing down for awhile or maybe have feelings you didn’t think you had in you.

Honestly, counseling can be quite difficult, especially in the beginning. It’s not easy to push beyond your own mental limits and then wait to see results that seem to take forever. But rest assured dear friend, when things in counseling get a bit uncomfortable, you’re on the verge of growth.

One of the hardest parts of counseling is endurance. Counseling is a marathon race not a sprint. As a result of pushing yourself and trusting your “trainer”/counselor, you can begin to feel different, create an outlook that’s different, and live a life that’s different.  

Why Grief Sucks So Bad

Why Grief Sucks So Bad

By Laura Kotlowski, LPC

Loss and the grief that comes with it, are among the most difficult situations humans have to face.  Hands down.  I tell people close to me, “I don’t do grief well.”  It is my truth, and I have learned over time, that it is the truth of many other people as well. However, I have ALSO learned that what I choose to face I grow stronger in…grief doesn’t have to suck so bad – let’s take a deeper look.

Limiting our views of “loss” sucks.

Let’s define “loss.”  Sometimes we have a hard time handling grief because we only give ourselves permission to feel it if someone close to us dies.  Death is a major type of loss, though it isn’t the only one.  Loss can also be the ending of a relationship, not accomplishing a goal, moving, getting married, getting divorced, having a child, a medical diagnosis, the death of a pet, graduating, starting a new job, etc.  Essentially any experience that brings about change to “life as we know it” can be a loss.  For instance, grief can really suck when your best friend has a child and you feel bad that you feel sad – even while feeling happy for them.  Your relationship with that person will be forever changed because of life circumstances – it isn’t bad or good – it just is.  Can we feel joy and grief at the same time?  Yes.  And when we let ourselves do so, well, that doesn’t suck.

Expectations suck.

How many of you have experienced a loss and then expected yourselves to handle it in a way that was different than what came naturally to you?  Were you angry and felt bad for that?  Were you questioning the details of the loss and others told you to stop?  Were you sad for “too long” or “too short” a time-period?  Here’s the secret:  there is no “right” way to grieve.  You can let yourself off the hook.  We will never experience two losses in the exact same way, nor will two different people handle the same loss in the exact same way.  You know what doesn’t suck?  Grace.  When we give ourselves and others permission to experience grief naturally, with compassion, understanding, and patience – that’s a gift to ourselves in an already difficult time. 

Grief sucks, yes.  Grief is also meaningful. 

Grief is a form of love.  We feel it because our connection to who (or what) we have lost means something to us.  A mantra that brought me great comfort when my dad died, and I have repeated to myself since is “The pain is so great because the love was so grand.”  Meaning, I was hurting so badly because our relationship and love for one another was so special.  The only way it could possibly hurt less, is if the connection between us was not as special.  This logic brought me comfort, and I began to honor the grief as meaningful instead of fighting it.

Grief is good.

The most common theme I have found is that people want to avoid grief altogether.  Who wants to be in pain?  However, the only way to avoid loss is to never put our heart and souls into other people, projects, goals, pets, etc.  We would not be hurt by losses, because we would never allow ourselves to “care” that much.  The world would lack intimacy, vulnerability, and love.  The only constant in life is change…so in order to protect ourselves from pain, we would have to guard our hearts at all times.  The downside of that is when we guard ourselves to keep pain out, we are also guarding ourselves to keep all the good things out as well.

Grief is painful, yes.  Grief is difficult, yes.  Grief is ALSO purposeful, and meaningful, and GOOD.  Facing grief alone can most definitely suck, but the good news is – we don’t have to.  We have one another to get through the difficult times and to share in the joyous times. 

You might read other material that tells you “time heals the pain.”  I find that to be untrue.  Grief sucks now, and it will suck later.  It just looks & feels a little different as time passes.

Keep on loving one another and don’t forget to dabble in self-love too.  Love doesn’t suck.

Why Counseling Kinda Sucks Pt. 2

Why Counseling Kinda Sucks Pt. 2

Ever had that feeling when everyone else is eating donuts for breakfast but you’re drinking your protein shake? How about that moment when you’re called lame for skipping the late-night outing with friends so you can be home before midnight?

This is also one of the reasons why counseling kind of sucks. There comes a moment in time when you take a look around, and realize you’re the one who’s doing the most work and receiving the most pushback.

This article will go over some of the challenges faced in counseling and why it kinda sucks.

You’re the only one doing work

Here’s the scenario: You’ve come to a point when you’ve decided you want an improved version of you. You start counseling and begin seeing results. You’re seeing the world in a different way and want so badly for your loved ones to drink the cool-aid too. But they don’t, and the more you push them, the more it seems they never will.

It can be discouraging to apply coping skills you’re learning in counseling, then see those around you stay the same. Because then they think, you’re the one changing so you must be the problem. Maybe you take a look at your parents and know that if they just communicated better, they’d be so much happier. Or if your husband could just learn about the 5 love languages, he would know how to love and be loved.

But you have to remember, counseling was never about them to begin with. This is your time, your journey, your work, for you to feel the benefits of. If they see it, great, and if not, that’s ok too.

Which brings us to point number 2…

People may not want you to change

You’re the one who’s doing the most work and you’re the one receiving the most pushback. Why? People don’t like change, even good change. One of the harder parts of counseling is trying so hard to apply strategies you’ve talked about with your counselor, only to see people around you are resistant, doubtful, and outright unsupportive.

You have to remember, people have known you to be one way for a long time. And now you’re changing, so by default they now have to change their expectations of you. Maybe you were always the “yes” person, but now are using “no” for the first time. People may not like that. Just like you’ve grown comfortable with some bad habits, so have they.

Counseling can be exhausting

Don’t get us wrong, counseling can be a beautiful thing…but… it’s can also be very difficult, scary and downright exhausting at times. Let’s be real, no one wakes up in the morning and says to themselves “I can’t wait to see my counselor and ball my eyes out!” Neither do you say “I can’t wait to talk about the most intimate and vulnerable things that have ever happened in my life. Again.”

Let’s put it into perspective: You start counseling to talk about things in your life that happened a long time ago. A couple years ago, maybe childhood, or perhaps since your first marriage? We’re usually talking months ago, if not years these things changed you. And you only want to spend a few weeks in counseling before things change? Doesn’t work that way although we wish it did- check this out.

Counseling truly is an individual experience. It’s a wonderful thing when you start seeing results and positive outcomes in areas you’ve work so hard in. But there may be a flipside. At times, people see you growing and rather than being supportive, may feel offended. Rather than also feeling motivated to change, they may fault you for being “different.”

But remember, continue with the mission you set out to do, regardless of what happens around you. One day you will see how contagious you truly were.

4 Things to Expect When Starting Counseling

4 Things to Expect When Starting Counseling

What is counseling all about?

Written by: Laura Kotlowski, MA, LPC, LCDC, NCC, CCTP, EMDR Trained

Counseling is a journey of healing, gaining insights, and learning healthy ways to get along with life in general. We understand that starting counseling is a major decision, but remember you deserve to feel connected to your self-worth, to make sense of unhealthy patterns, and to learn positive coping skills.

Lots of people don’t know what to expect when starting counseling so here’s an article that can help with that. Let’s just say, it’s worth checking out. YOU are worth checking it out.

Here are 4 things to expect when starting the counseling process:

  1. Counseling is a gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

Counseling is one of the best investments you can make with self-care and your growth. It’s a “gift that keeps on giving” where you notice positive changes in your reactions to tough situations and emotions become easier to navigate.  Counseling doesn’t CHANGE YOU, however, it can help you learn your strengths and live in the world as your best self.

  1. You are the “expert” and the counselor is a supportive guide.

Good counselors know the client is the expert of their life experience and their counseling goals. You may be surprised to learn that all you need to be the happiest and most peaceful version of yourself already lies within you.  A counselor’s job is to help you navigate the unclear road that leads there…and sometimes to help you dig around until you find your deepest truths. Ultimately, you’re the one steering it all.

  1. Starting AND continuing the journey of counseling can feel overwhelming.

Counseling is a lot like exercising.  Often times, starting a healthy physical journey requires you to think about it, research it, talk about it, and talk sometimes yourself out of it – loads of times before actually starting. We all know the benefits of exercising and would love those benefits – though a lot of times the idea of starting the journey can feel daunting and anxiety-provoking. If you’re anything like us, we’ve wished many times to have the benefits of working out or going to counseling without actually having to do it. We’re even writing a blog about it- read more about “Why Counseling Kinda Sucks.”

The only way to achieve goals is to take the first step towards them… and then another step… each step is less scary and overwhelming because you will start to see you are stronger and more resilient than you realized.

Back to the exercising analogy: if your goal is to run a marathon, bench-press 300 lbs, or knock out a 5-minute plank with ease – the first step would be to show up at the gym, walk a ½ mile, start with smaller weight, or shoot for a 15 second plank.  In the world of counseling, we need to give ourselves that same grace.  It takes time to increase our insight and awareness, learn new coping skills or choose healthier behaviors.  We don’t have to know how to do it all right away and that’s ok! You can start by making an appointment with a counselor and share where you are today, even if you aren’t sure what your end goal is.

  1. You might surprise yourself and actually enjoy counseling!

Counseling is fun!  Not EVERY minute, but lots of them can be!  Sometimes we don’t love exercising but if we stick with it, we begin to feel the positive benefits. If we stay consistent, we actually start to look forward to the tasks that help us grow and ultimately make us stronger and healthier.

Sometimes people may avoid counseling because they envision lots of uncomfortable and tense emotions.  While this may be true, you can also experience many preferred “positive” emotions.  There is no better feeling than laughing your way to a solution, having the “ah-ha” moment where you almost see a light bulb turn on in your head, or unexpectedly feeling “lighter/at ease/peaceful” after sharing your feelings.

You have all that is needed within you to find peace.  Our purpose, as counselors, is to witness this moment in your life story – as you bravely step out of fear into faith and begin this journey into healing and transformation.  Our intent is to support and encourage your growth, and when needed, offer a compass of guidance towards truth and hope.

You’ve got this!  Even so, counselors would be honored to walk along side you on this leg of your journey. We hope to see some of you out there on the path and wish ALL of you the absolute best.

Why Counseling Kinda Sucks. Pt 1

Why Counseling Kinda Sucks. Pt 1

Written by: Rebecca Flores

If you’re asking yourself, “Do I really need counseling?”, “Why can’t I get it together without counseling?” or “Why does everyone else look so happy and they’re not in counseling?” This article is for you. We get it. Counseling kinda sucks.

This is why counseling could suck: 

  1. We don’t even know where to start
  2. We sometimes think some random stranger will give us advice.
  3. We wonder if the therapist will give us a blank stare and ask us how we feel.
  4. We worry about wasting money.
  5. We worry about having to talk about ALL that stuff in the past.
  6. We wonder if it’s going to take us years.
  7. We think it’s going to be a cure or the answer to it all and if it’s not, THEN WHAT?

Counseling doesn’t have to suck and here’s why:

  1. You don’t have to know where to start.  We will help you with that part.  You just have to come as you are, where you are in your life at this moment.
  2. As therapists, we don’t just dole out advice, we work WITH you and FOR you, so you can get where you need to be to feel better.
  3. Therapists know the dreaded question “How does that make you feel?”  Will we ask this SOMETIMES? Sure- but it will be natural in sessions.
  4. If you don’t feel it in your gut that the therapist across from you is right for you, then you don’t have to continue.  It’s about you, not the therapist!  We want you to feel like you can do your best work with us, and if you don’t feel that way, we won’t take it personally.  Ok, our feelings get just a little bit hurt because we are human.  But we really do just want you to be with the person who you feel a connection to. We will always, at a minimum, point you in the direction of someone else who may be a better fit for you!
  5. It’s true that sometimes the past is creeping up on our present, but there are other ways to work with what’s going on without having to dig up your past if you don’t feel ready.    
  6. There have been so many advances in care, so counseling doesn’t have to take years.
  7. Counseling isn’t a cure or the ANSWER to it all.  Through counseling, you will be able to figure out what needs to be worked through and we help you figure out HOW to get to where you need to be to start feeling better again

Ultimately, we want your glass to be half full again. So if you’re considering starting counseling, take a look at this blog for some extra tips before you get started.