Riding The Wave From Crisis To Coping

What would happen if you actually felt your feelings? Sounds awful right? At least it does to many of the clients we work with at Mindful Healing.

What happens, if you are used to  feelings being overwhelming and unmanageable your natural response is to avoid them and push them away. All distressing feelings become “the enemy.”

Creating Crisis

The problem with this is it actually makes things worse. If every time you feel distress you avoid it, you never learn to feel distress.

An important part of learning to tolerate difficult emotions is learning to Ride The Wave.

Here is the distinction:

Crisis Management Skills: When you are experiences overwhelming emotions that create an urge to engage in self-harm, impulsive, or self-destructive behavior it is recommended to use distraction skills to help you manage your feelings.

Emotion Regulation Skill: If you are feeling sad, anxious, lonely, stressed etc, avoiding your feelings will only make them worse. Buried feelings never die.

At Mindful Healing, we teach the DBT skill Riding the Wave to help clients learn how to tolerate distressing feelings without acting on negative impulses. We focus steps to learn and practice riding the wave:

  1. Notice and Observe the emotion
    • Non-judgmentally notice how you are feeling
    • Try to name the emotion if you can
  2. Accept the emotion
    • Don’t try to avoid the emotion
    • Don’t try to change the emotion
    • Don’t judge the emotion
    • Don’t attach yourself or values to the emotion
  3. Sit with the emotion
    • Notice any physical sensations of the emotion
    • Allow yourself to focus, experience, and breathe through the feeling
  4. Allow and Release the emotion
    • Allow yourself to feel the emotion as it rises
    • Know that the feeling has a peak, like a wave and will then fall. Be a witness to this process.
    • All the emotion to pass. Don’t ruminate on it or get caught in a thinking trap

Where is Frodo? Not another blog promising the magic fix once you find Mount Doom

Frodo, Where is Frodo?-Boromir

I let him go-Aragorn

Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the ring from him-Boromir

The ring is beyond our reach now-Aragorn

Fellowship of The Ring, Lord of The Rings- J.R. Tolkien

Even if you are not familiar with the scene (though unfathomable to me), many of you may still be able to relate. An anxious Boromir, wondering where Frodo is after trying to control a situation and take something away from him that he didn’t think he should have. Aragorn was able to accept that it wasn’t his choice to control Frodo’s decision, despite disagreeing and allowed Frodo to leave regardless of the dangers ahead.

Parents and family members of loved ones who have had a recent suicidal crisis or recent addiction crisis often find themselves in the same position; torn between trying to control and trying to accept. I know my family and I did. When faced with watching a loved one’s life hang in the balance, the life-shattering fear that overwhelms you, that incapacitates you, can be unbearable; it is indescribable. What can you possibly do?

When you see a loved one struggling with a chronic and life threatening mental illness, all you want to do is help them. There are many things you can do to help, but in the end you didn’t cause it, you can’t control, and you can’t cure it. I have found that there is nothing more challenging than trying to find that fine line between support and enabling; boundaries and rejection; or accountability and blame.

Each person in your house probably has a different perspective as to the “correct” way to “help” your loved one. This often causes even more tension and blame in the home.  Remember you are all impacted and the path isn’t clear. Don’t underestimate the value of taking care of yourself. Try to devote small amounts of time each week to doing something that rejuvenates you. Try focusing on the present moment and enjoy the good times when they are present.

If you or someone you know have a family member with acute/chronic crises and need support click here to learn more.

My Coping Skills Aren’t Helping

Have you ever been having a great day and then all of the sudden felt sick to stomach? You start feel nauseous. Your heart feels like it is going to pound out of your chest!

There you are just trying to go on with your day and you literally feel like your body is attacking itself. You might if think “I am having a heart attack?”

You are feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and your vision is blurry.

You can’t focus on your thoughts that are cycling through your head on repeat.

You wonder if this is anxiety or a sign or symptom of something much worse. Should you go to the hospital or doctors?

Eventually, things get better, but you still fell unsettled. You don’t know exactly why this happened and you feel like you are walking on eggshells just waiting for it to happen again. The fear of having a panic attack becomes its own constant anxiety.

The problem with panic is the level of intensity. No amount of journaling, thinking of something positive, or listening to music is going to bring you out of your panic attack.

Let’s be real here! These coping skill just don’t work for panic. The reality is that coping skills don’t mean that we don’t feel our difficult or distressing feelings. Coping skills teach us to cope with them…how to feel them without going into crisis. They can help decrease the frequency and intensity of distressing feelings.

So how do you cope with panic you ask?

Great question? A huge part is accepting your anxiety. The more we avoid something the bigger it gets. Buried feelings never die. So acknowledging your anxiety and panic is the step. Then creating some space from it by being the observer.

Acknowledge your anxiety and panic. Focus on what’s happening and acknowledge that physical sensations and try to shift out of the thoughts. Similar to going for a jog, your heart-rate is high, breathing deeply, muscles might be sore (especially me). Your body will need time to return to status quo.

Shift your mind to the physical aspects of your panic and remember that your body needs some time to return to status quo.

When you learn to identify your anxiety, accept it, focus on it as an observer you will feel better able to cope. If you or someone you know needs help developing coping skills for anxiety and/or panic we are here to help.

What is EMDR and Can It Really Help?

To be fully transparent, I thought Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) was a load of crap for a really long time. I mean, just look at the name, Eye Movement Desensitization, what the heck does that even mean? How is moving my eye’s around going to heal my panic or trauma? Let’s get real here! Sounded like another fast fix promise meant to prey on people in pain.

BUT…One year, close to my birthday (that’s when all our yearly training requirements are due) I realized I still needed to take more training courses to meet my annual requirements. The only course that fit my schedule was an introduction to Mindfulness and EMDR. “Ugh,” I thought.

Turns out, everything is always as it should be. I got to experience first-hand the fast and immediate benefits of EMDR. We did a simple practice exercise in the training. Going through the protocol on an insignificant frustration allowed me to let go of a frustration and wound I didn’t even know existed, least of all how significantly it was impacting my daily life! Each day after that was brighter, easier, and more peaceful for me. I literally felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders (and for those of you who know me, know I not the rainbows and optimistic type). This was truly an amazing experience.

So, naturally I sought out my own EMDR therapist to see if it really worked or if it was a fluke. I needed to know I didn’t drink the EMDR Kool-Aid. “Had to be a fluke, right?” “Eyes moving, still sounded silly to me.” But low and behold, it was not. Next thing I did, was sign up to become an EMDR therapist. Extensive training later, I can officially say I drank the Kool-Aid and am honored to be part of the club.

So you are still probably wondering…

WHAT THE HECK IS EMDR?

EMDR is a form of therapy that allows you to deeply heal from symptoms of emotional distress. This type of deep healing is often believed to take years of processing and talk therapy. Repeated studies have shown that by using EMDR therapy you can have the same benefits as years of other forms of treatment.

EMDR was originally used to treat clients suffering from trauma and has proven to be the most effective method of treating PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It has since been proven to be an effective treatment for anyone with anxiety, eating disorders, phobias, relationship issues, depression, grief, addiction, and more.

During EMDR sessions, the therapist uses bilateral stimulation (right/left eye movement) to stimulate both sides of the brain. The theory is that this continual movement releases traumatic or emotional experiences that reside in the nervous system. This then taps into the mind/body connection, allowing you to heal both emotional and physical symptoms simultaneously.

Many people like EMDR because they can begin to process experiences or feelings they aren’t able to easily talk about.

WHAT ABOUT SKILLS? DON’T I STILL NEED THEM?

Absolutely! EMDR is a therapy that allows clients to heal from past negative experiences and core belief systems that are holding them back, similar to CBT. However, it often is combined with other forms of therapy to meet your individual needs as the client. For example, EMDR can be combined with CBT or DBT. Many times panic, depression, anxiety, or PTSD can prevent you from learning the day to day coping skills and interpersonal skills that are needed to be effective in your daily life.

If this sounds like something that would benefit you or you want to learn more contact us today to schedule your free consultation!

Does Therapy Really Need To Be Weekly?

Wouldn’t less therapy be just as good? After all, I’d have more time to work on things between sessions, right?

One of the problems with going to therapy is that it’s a weekly commitment. Which, let’s be honest, can be a real pain. This is a large time commitment. Not to mention a considerable cost.

Yet, why do the majority of therapists and counselors recommend weekly sessions? Why not every two weeks?

Why Have Weekly Therapy Sessions?

Attachment and Emotional Safety

One of the main reasons that, I, and many other therapists recommend weekly therapy is that it helps make that work deeper. Weekly sessions allow for you to build the healing relationship necessary for trust, emotional safety, and vulnerability deep clinical work.

Reinforcement for Learning

One week is just enough time to review skills or try out a homework assignment if you use one.

“Use it or Lose It”

Long gaps in therapy can mean forgetting important themes, trends, and what you were working on. It can allow for defense mechanisms to take hold and lead to longer term therapy.

Builds Trust and Openness

It takes a lot to start therapy and open up. Having too much time between sessions can make your inner self less accessible for change.

Less to Catch Up On

Having longer gaps between session can keep the focus on catching up rather than diving into the deeper work.

Slippery Slop

Two-week sessions can easily become monthly or less, if you are sick or away and miss an appointment. If you miss another now it becomes weeks before you are in session.

Practice and Repeat

Making changes involves repetition and in the moment feedback. Weekly sessions allow clients to practice what they are learning and insights they are gaining and process them soon after.

Avoiding Relapses

Change is hard. We naturally like consistency. When things get stressful, old behaviors arise. Longer gaps between sessions make it easier to fall into old habits and behaviors.

Provides a Sense of Consistency

Between sessions is when a lot of therapy work is done. Thoughts, feelings, and insights can arise. This can be overwhelming. Knowing your next session is right around the corner and on a consistent basis can provide a sense of security.

Therapy is a commitment and if “you work it works.” When you or your teen is feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious weekly therapy is fastest most effective way to develop long-lasting coping skills and heal underlying triggers so you can live a life you love!

If you want to learn more about therapy options that might be right for you contact us today!

Break The Negative Thought Cycle For Good!

Have you ever noticed yourself stuck in a negative loop of thinking similar to a hamster running on a wheel? Your thoughts just keep spinning and spinning, yet, you’re going nowhere. Well, this may be due to “Thinking Traps.” Don’t worry, we all have them.

“Think Traps” can impact more than just our thoughts, but our mood and actions. When we get stuck in a negative thought our mood starts to go downhill, and this impacts our actions. What makes this even more dangerous is that if we don’t break the cycle our “Thinking Traps” can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Let me show you how it works:

Teen’s thought: No one likes me…Which Leads to..

Teen’s Mood: Feeling Depressed…Which Leads to…

Teen’s Action…Isolation…Which Leads to…Teen’s friends not reaching out as much which reinforces the belief that “no one likes me…” which leads to

Teen’s new thought: I’m unlovable…So forth and So on…

What To Do? Tips To Break The Thinking Traps Cycle:

Let me be real with you for a minute. One of the most common suggestions for this is to “challenge the distorted thinking.” This is all fine and well, BUT, when your thoughts are betraying you how are you going to believe your new more positive thought?

I find breaking the thought cycle first is the most effective way to deal with a Thinking Trap. This can be accomplished by reestablishing your mind/body connection. In Teen DBT Group this week we learn how to use mindfulness to observe and describe the physical sensations of our feelings to help break our thought cycles. This allows us to experience our feelings as mindful observers without the being on our judgmental hamster wheel.

Once you have reestablished your mind/body connection and your thoughts are no longer going round and round then you can gently challenge the thought. For example, asking yourself, “How do I know if this is accurate?” “Is this thought effective for me?” “Am I making assumptions?” or “Is there another explanation?”

The ability to begin to recognize your thinking traps and mindfully break the cycle can improve your mood. It can help shift you out of negative thinking and help you to engage in more positive behaviors!

Want help breaking the cycle? Click here to schedule your Free 15 Phone Consultation!

Tis’ The Season To Be Stressed…Tips To Support Your Teen During The Holidays

The holidays aren’t Merry and Bright for everyone, especially teens with depression, anxiety, or overwhelming feelings. Teens often experience more stress than adults. NO, really they do! The holidays can be a stressful time for teens. Preparing for the end of the school quarter (which means pressure for grades), managing family events, change in schedule, etc.

Many people feel that they are supposed to be happy and smiling during the holidays. This adds an additional pressure for individuals that suffer from depression. Often these teens worry that they will “ruin” the holidays or be a burden to the family so they put on a fake smile which is exhausting for them.

Here are some tips to help you support your teen this holiday season:

1) Focus on only 1 or 2 events rather than trying to make every celebration. Focus on time with your teens and family, celebrating the holiday, rather than having to make it to a specific location. There is always next year!

2) Remember that no holiday is perfect. Try not to worry about making every tradition perfect or having the perfect meal or cleanest house. Enjoy the celebration.

3) Try to be a host to your teens friends. As your teen is getting older it is stressful to spend all of school break doing family events. Try to create time where your teen can just have peers over to the house. Maybe they can have a” friends-giving.” It is nice for them to feel like your house is a place that is safe and has good feelings.

4) Try to focus less on traditions and more on shared activities. It is easy to get caught up in holiday rituals and family traditions. This may take away from actually spending quality time with your teens. Try to focus on having shared time together. Maybe they have traditions they would like to add.

No matter how you celebrate or if you celebrate spending quality time with your teen and giving them time to relax is important.

If your teen needs additional support this holiday season we are here to help. Contact us today for your free 15-min phone consultation.

Life Hack: 3 Ways Teens Can Feel More Positive

Your teen has it hard, harder than I ever did. They are often striving for perfect grades, trying to be the best at sports, and all while navigating social media…whoa though.

As a parent, you want to help, but you don’t know when you are helping or fixing. You worry about having another school year that starts off strong but the stress slowly builds up and by January they are stressed, angry, overwhelmed, and now it feels too late.

GOOD NEWS! One of the most important things your teen can learn to do to help decrease stress and live a balanced life style is to have a schedule and include time for fun!

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), this skill is call “Building Positive Experiences.” This means intentionally engaging in activities that are fun and create a pleasant emotion to help balance out difficult emotions. It will help your teen feel fulfilled and remember that life isn’t always hard!

3 Aspects of Building Positive Experiences

1) Remembering past positive experiences. Notice events that you have already experienced or that are currently going on in your life that are positive. Use your senses to fully absorb them. Reflect back on them frequently and use a gratitude journal to help make this a daily practice.

2) Build new short-term positive experiences. Allow time in your schedule to do new things or things you stopped doing that make you happy.  Start drawing again, go for a walk, meditate, etc. These can be spontaneous or planned.

3) Build long-term positive experiences. Identify activities you like to do that you can add to your schedule that may take some planning. Something that makes your life exciting…start lessons for something, apply for a job, etc. Having something to look forward to is a great way to create positive feelings and motivation!

Want to help your teen build more positive experiences. Click hereto schedule your parent consultation to learn more about the upcoming offerings at Mindful Healing that were designed with your teen in mind!

Saying “I’m Just Impulsive” Is An Excuse

Saying, “I’m just impulsive” to justify acting out is just an excuse. It is a way to not take ownership of your own behaviors.

It’s like saying, “just like to be alone” to justify isolation or “I’m just a messy person” to justify not cleaning or doing chores.

However, there are skills that you can learn and actions that you can take to change your behaviors. You are not powerless!

And at Mindful Healing, while we believe that you’re doing the best you can at any given moment, we also believe that you can improve, be more skillful and make better choices.

Often times emotional teens act without thinking. Teens tend to think about what they want in the moment and don’t always think about all the consequences.

In fact, this happens a lot with teens in general. The pre-frontal cortex the area of the brain that controls reasoning and decision making isn’t fully formed until approximately age twenty-six.

So making effective decisions takes some effort.

Your teen needs to learn and practice skills so they don’t respond in an instant to intense emotions…

and self-harm, or lash out, or refuse to go to school, or cave to peer pressure, etc.

We’ve see teens act impulsively all the time in order to avoid intense emotions.
And we’ve heard the response “I’m just impulsive” many times, as I am sure you have. But this is not an excuse. They CAN improve.

It’s time to stop blaming lacking skills as personality traits and own the responsibility to do the work to improve.

Because we know you can.
Because we believe in you.

Are you ready to believe in you too?

When your teen is ready, we are here!

What The Heck Is DBT and Why Will It Help My Teen?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive treatment model that offers hope for teens who have not seen improvement in other therapies. It is based on actionable skills and focuses on problem solving and acceptance-based strategies. DBT is led by a DBT-Certified therapist who is intensively trained by Behavior Tech.

At Mindful Healing, LLC our DBT program for adolescents involves group skills training. These actionable skills focus on helping teens learn to feel in control of their emotions rather than their emotions being in control of them. To transfer skills to the home and school environment, many teens also participate in individual DBT and parent coaching.

DBT is used to treat teens with anything from school avoidance to suicidality. It is the gold standard of evidence based treatment for emotion regulation in teens.

What Skills Does DBT Teach?

DBT skills group is a co-ed open-enrollment group. It runs for 26 weeks.   Group has a maximum of 8 clients to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to fully engage. We ask that you make the commitment to attend for a minimum of 12-weeks to give your teen ample time to develop skills and begin to see progress.

DBT skills training is very structured and consists of five modules.

Mindfulness skills: Teaches teens how to focus the mind and to observe and describe what they are feeling and thinking in the moment without judgement. These skills can help teens reduce reactivity to painful thoughts and emotions.

Distress Tolerance: Learning how to accept yourself and the situation. More specifically, learning to tolerate a crisis and being able to recognize urges to do things that would be ineffective, such self-harm, without acting on them.

Emotion Regulation: Addresses emotional sensitivity, mood changes such as depression, anxiety, or anger. In addition, recognizing and coping with negative emotions, and reducing one’s emotional vulnerability by increasing positive life experiences.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: It’s often relationships with others that are the triggers for self-destructive behaviors in teens. Interpersonal effectiveness skills teach adolescents how to engage more effectively with others. In addition, it enables them to feel more supported by others.

Middle Path: Teaches teens how to shift perspectives and see more than one viewpoint rather than only extreme thinking and behaviors. These skills involve learning about how to compromise and negotiate, as well as methods of behavior change, validation and acceptance.

Additional DBT Supports Available At Mindful Healing:

Individual DBT psychotherapy: This is the main way of developing and refining the ability to apply skills taught in DBT skills group to daily life. Individual DBT focuses on helping teens identify personal triggers for behaviors and explore skill based solutions.

Parent Tele-Coaching: Many parents feel unsure of how to approach a particular situation, when or how to set limits, if setting limits will make things better or worse, how to encourage skills use, etc. Parents can contact our intake corrdinator to arrange an individual parent coaching session for assistance in developing their own skills!

Commitment Strategies: “Commitment strategies” are a cornerstone of DBT treatment. Not all adolescents choose to come to therapy. Some are encouraged by parents or friends to seek treatment, and may not be “motivated” initially to attend therapy. Special commitment strategies are used to help adolescents gain a better understanding of their behaviors, and how DBT skills will help them meet their own unique individual goals!

In a nutshell, DBT teaches teens actionable skills to help them learn to live a life they can love! DBT targets the issues that cause distress. It teaches teens skills to deal with them without having to resort to self-defeating behaviors.