The way you tell your life story determines how you feel.

This is a time of year where we think a lot about stories – holiday stories, family stories, the story of our traditions during this season. We also tend to think more about our personal stories, what has happened in our lives.

Each one of us has had positive and negative things happen to us. No exceptions. The balance is clearly different from person to person, but I’d like to propose that you have a say in the way you remember your story. I’m not talking about being unrealistic, or “writing out” the painful parts.

You made it this far.  What I’m suggesting is that, even during the difficult or out-of-control times, look back and remember how you got through it. You are reading this blog which proves that you somehow found a way to tap into a reserve of strength to survive.

By purposely remembering your strength in the past (think stubbornness, persistence, ability to let things roll off…), you can decrease the power of those negative events to influence your present. Perhaps you didn’t come through unscathed, but you did come through. Celebrate that you overcame!

Practicing thankfulness.  Another way to write a happier story in the present is to be grateful for what you currently have. A fun way to do this is with the Post-It Note Gratitude Project. Keep a pack of Post-It notes handy at all times, and jot down any little thing that comes to mind that you like, enjoy, or are grateful for. Then post these on your bathroom mirror, a door in your house or office, or on the refrigerator for a visual reminder of the good in your life. It’s encouraging to watch them collect over a few weeks and to realize just how much good there is. Try it between now and the end of the year!

These techniques won’t sweep away the “bad” or render it non-existent. However, like a camera lens, you can choose to focus on the bad or on the good, and that choice has an impact on how you feel day-to-day.

Katie Walker Waypoint Counseling Washington MOIf you’d like help with reframing your life story or any other issue that you may be struggling with, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!

Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

 

 

Caring for Yourself When Someone Else is Struggling

For many of us, self-care is difficult. I read a very helpful article in The Guardian a couple weeks ago. It was written by Poorna Bell, a woman whose husband battled depression. Her opening quote really struck me:

“There is no lightning-bolt moment when you realise you are losing your sense of self; just an absence. When you are caring for someone you love, your wants and needs are supplanted by theirs, because what you want, more than anything, is for them to be well.”

This can be true if your loved one is struggling with depression/anxiety/bipolar disorder, a chronic physical illness, or is simply a young, needy child. It can be very difficult to remember to “put on your oxygen mask first, before assisting those traveling with you” as flight attendants instruct us.

Emotional Fuel Tank To use a different analogy, each of us has an emotional tank that fuels our daily interactions. Just like the gas tank on your car, you put fuel in and you use it up. If there’s a crisis across town that you need to drive to, and you’re on empty, you MUST stop at the gas station first if you’re going to make it there. It’s the same with your emotional tank: if it’s empty, you have nothing to give, no matter how dire the need of your loved one.

That being said, it’s important to regularly fuel your emotional tank, so you’re ready for whatever life throws your way. Sometimes you can afford to fill up. Other times, fuel is expensive and you can only put $10 in the tank. Fill-ups of your emotional tank might include a vacation, or an evening laughing with friends. Things that add a little fuel to your tank could be a short walk on your lunch break, spending 30 minutes reading at the end of a busy day, or mindfully enjoying your morning coffee. Being mindful of the positive things all throughout the day puts a bit of fuel in your tank many times.

So start to consider–what refreshes you? What provides a sense of enjoyment or wonder? Then begin to build these things into your daily life and take time to enjoy and be grateful for them as they are happening. When you can, plan something a little more involved. There’s some evidence that even planning an event like a vacation can give a bit of refreshment, your mind taking a break while it dreams about this special time away.

Katie Walker Waypoint Counseling Washington MOIf you’d like to talk about your grief or any other issue that you may be struggling with, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!

Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

 

 

 

Grief – It’s Not Just About Death

grief counseling in Washington Missouri 63090I’ve been working with a lot of clients lately who are grieving. The interesting part is, many of them have not had a loved one pass away, but instead are grieving some other type of loss. This might be a job, expectations of family life or how a friendship might progress, or it might be the loss of someone who is still living. This last type can happen when a relationship ends or people become impaired to the degree that “they’re not themselves” anymore.

The following article specifically addresses grief over someone who is still alive, but the principles can apply to other types of loss as well.

http://thebereavementacademy.com/unconventional-grief-grieving-someone-alive/

It’s important to note that the basic stages of grief apply to all types of loss, including those that are developmentally normal (such as graduation). There is loss at the end of a phase of life, and when mixed with the excitement of an upcoming phase, the emotions produced can be quite confusing.

The stages of grief originally identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross remain helpful today for understanding what’s happening in your emotions. They don’t happen in any certain order, you won’t necessarily feel all of them to the same degree, and they are likely to recur in response to an anniversary of the loss. You can even experience multiple stages at once, relating to the same loss or to different ones.

  • Denial–A more understandable name for this stage is “shock.” You’re not denying that the loss happened. It’s just not possible for your mind to process all the emotion that goes with it, so you might feel a little numb or detached or practical, wondering why you’re not more emotional.
  • Anger–It is very common to have anger directed toward people and circumstances that are associated with the loss, and even toward those that are unrelated. People will often feel angry at God as well.
  • Bargaining–This is the stage where the “what ifs” and “if onlys” come into play. Some things you might have legitimately done differently, while others are simply your mind’s attempt to make some sense of and take a bit of control in a situation that is beyond your control. If it’s the end of a relationship you’re grieving, you might try to “just be friends.” (This rarely works, by the way.)
  • Depression–This is the stage most often associated with grief, where you feel sad and have a sense of emptiness because of the loss. As with all the stages, this can range from mild to severe. It can be difficult to do daily tasks, think clearly, or have interest in much of anything at this stage.
  • Acceptance–Remember that this never means you “like” the situation. Acceptance is wrapping your head around the fact that this is the new reality, sort of the opposite of the shocked stage. Adjusting tends to happen in small pieces. You may find that you’ve accepted the loss in one sense, and yet you feel sadness and anger toward other parts of the loss.

If you find you are experiencing grief, give yourself a break. It takes a lot of emotional energy to deal with loss, and thus you can easily feel drained. Let yourself feel, distract yourself when necessary, and find ways to refuel your emotional tank. Click here for some tips on how to do that…

Katie Walker Waypoint Counseling Washington MOIf you’d like to talk about your grief or any other issue that you may be struggling with, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!

Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

 

 

 

Forgiveness is a Gift – For You.

Washington MO counsellingFebruary is marketed as the month of love, but what if I’ve been deeply hurt by someone who was supposed to love me?  They say it’s important to forgive (which is true), but how do I go about that?  Isn’t that just letting the person “off the hook”?

It’s important to remember that often the person who wronged you doesn’t care if you forgive them or not.  The person you’re actually releasing is yourself–from being handcuffed to the person or event(s) that hurt you.

Also, remember that it is a process that takes time.  You can’t just flip a switch and forgive such deep hurt.  You’re not required to forget, but hopefully the pain can fade into the background instead of being in your face all the time.

I want to show you a helpful video.  Dr. Stephen Marmer, a psychiatrist at UCLA, describes three types of forgiveness.  It’s only 5 minutes long, but I think you’ll find it’s worth watching.

Click here to watch.

If you find that this gets you thinking, and you’d like to talk to someone about it, give me a call.

I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

How to Create an “Inner Calm” During the Holidays.

holiday stress washington mo counseling

It’s the most wonderful (and busy!) time of the year! Maybe so busy that you’re beginning to panic about whether everything will get done on time. This can easily lead to your “inner critic” working overtime as well.

Want to learn how to relax?  Today I’d like to help you quiet that inner critic by creating an “inner calm”.

Because things in my life are busy, too, I’ll simply share some advice from a great article about this issue. The author interviewed Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD, the University of Pennsylvania psychology professor most known for his theories on “learned optimism.” She shares the tips he uses to calm his own inner critic. I hope you find them helpful, too.

How to Create Your Inner Calm.  To summarize, we need to counteract the “catastophic thoughts” that cause us great anxiety but in reality have little chance of ever actually happening.

  • First, recognize that the thought is there.
  • Second, treat that thought as if it came from someone else, a person who is trying to make your life miserable.
  • Third, dispute that thought and offer evidence against it.

With a little practice, you will find yourself automatically using this technique whenever you start feeling overwhelmed.  If you would like to read the full article, you may do so by clicking here.

Enjoy your holidays! I’m looking forward to some family time this Christmas and the opportunity for a fresh start in the New Year!

If I can be of help, please contact me at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

 

Celebrating Work

washington mo counselorsDid you know that work is important to your mental health? The recent celebration of Labor Day got me thinking about the value of work. I’m not only referring to a paid job.  What I mean is that each of us needs to have a purpose (or more than one purpose) that we work toward, as this provides meaning in our lives.

Sometimes these purposes are referred to as vocations, and they can include the profession for which you are paid, keeping house, parenting, volunteering, caregiving…the list goes on and on.

This brings to mind the current buzzword “work-life balance.”  This is actually a vitally important concept, especially if you consider the many parts of your life that include work.  The thing to remember is that balance is dynamic.

Remember when you used to walk along the curb as a kid?  Were you perfectly still side-to-side?  No, you leaned a little each way to keep your balance. The same is true as we make efforts to balance the areas of health: physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual. We must also consider work time, family time, relaxation time, personal time, fun, financial planning, and so on.  Every one of these areas won’t get equal treatment every day or even every week–that’s an impossible goal.

You will have to lean one way or another, depending on many variables, to achieve a healthy balance at any given time.  

Don’t let this idea stress you out–it’s just a description of the process, and it can actually free you to do things as they need to be done, giving more or less attention to particular areas.

Let’s talk a bit more about having a purpose for our work.  This involves some sort of vision or end game, having a goal in mind. Without such a vision our motivation can die because we lose sight of why we’re putting forth such effort.

Take a minute to think about the various “hats” people wear.  What might be the end goal in each case?  In the workplace, it could be to earn an income and work with excellence.  With parenting, the idea is to raise healthy and relatively well-adjusted children.  Volunteer work can provide a sense of helping others and giving back, while keeping house might create a calming, welcoming atmosphere for those living there.

Now it’s your turn.  What vocations do you have?  Why do you have each of them?  What is your purpose in each case?  Knowing the reason(s) you do what you do contributes to your mental health by keeping you grounded in a larger purpose.

If any of these areas is causing you stress and anxiety, maybe it’s time to take a look at the balance to see if some adjustment might be in order.

If I can be of help in that process, you can contact me at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

What NOT to say to an anxious child.

Washington Missouri Counselor

As parents, we always try to say the right thing. After all, we love our kids and desperately want to help them, right? But sometimes we find ourselves trying to help a child who is dealing with challenging emotional issues. It is at times like these that we are likely to spout out phrases reflexively, or purely based on logic. To a child dealing with anxiety, these phrases don’t help very much at all.

Today, I want to direct you to a blog post by life coach Renee Jain because it is so relevant! The author’s points about changing your perspective to assist anxious children can easily be applied to teens, adults, or even yourself. The phrases are straightforward and can be used immediately. Try one or more of them this week and start taming that anxiety!

5 Phrases to Avoid Saying to An Anxious Child (and 5 Alternatives)

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

-Katie

P.S. If you’d like to talk more about a particular issue, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

Summer: Refreshing or Draining? You Make the Call!

butterflySummer can be a time of refreshment or it can be draining.  Some of this depends on circumstances, and some depends on your viewpoint of those circumstances!  Let’s focus on the part we have the most say over: our view of things.  Remember – how you think and behave affects how you feel, so choosing to focus on the positive aspects can have an impact on your outlook.

If you dread the heat, chaotic work schedules due to co-worker vacations, or having the kids home all day long, focusing on what you dread only enhances it.  Instead, acknowledge the down sides, but don’t allow these to rule your emotions.  How can you do this?

Start by becoming mindful of what’s going on inside you.  Don’t judge how you feel–just notice.  Once aware of these emotions, you can choose to let them be, or do something to have an impact.  Coping skills can involve allowing yourself to feel the emotion for what it is, distracting yourself by engaging in a different behavior, or choosing to focus on positive things in your life.

One great way is to adjust your self-talk.  Instead of only the internal groan, acknowledge the reality of the situation: “Things do change during the summer months, and I sure don’t like it.  But there are other things I enjoy, such as… [list them].”  The truth is that both positive and negative exist in a given situation, and you have control over which you attend to the most.

Many people benefit from keeping a gratitude journal.  The Five Minute Journal is one easy way to do this.  Let’s break it up into morning and evening sessions.

Grab a notebook and pen, and answer these morning reflections: 1) Three things I’m grateful for, 2) What would make today great? and 3) Daily Affirmation: I am….

Later in the day, do some evening reflections: 4) Three amazing things that happened today, and 5) How could I have made today better?

Take advantage of the positive aspects of summer weather.

  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that are in-season.  Maybe even try some new ones!  Buying from a local farm market is a fun way to do this.
  • Get outdoors!  Click to read about How Walking in Nature Changes Your Brain from a NY Times article.  Be sure to take sun precautions that are fitting to your physical condition.
  • Go to the water.  Any type will do: creek, river, lake, ocean, pond, swimming pool, backyard wading pool or sprinkler.  There is something refreshing and calming about water–use it!  Remember your sun precautions here, too.

Enjoy your summer!

-Katie

P.S. I’m always here to help.  If you are struggling or feel stuck trying to deal with particular emotions or situations, you might need to talk to someone one-on-one.  Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 or fill out the contact form to send me a message.and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

 

Simple Ways to Change How You Feel

SpringSpring has sprung and with it comes a sense of hope–not wishful thinking, but knowing that flowers will bloom, grass will turn green, and changes can happen.  We don’t know exactly what those changes might look like or when they will take place, but there’s a renewed sense that it’s possible.  This is an example of how our thoughts can impact how we feel.

Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors color our experience of everyday life.  It would be nice if we could change our emotions as easily as changing the TV channel, but we can’t.  What we can do is adjust our thoughts and our behaviors, and they in turn change how we feel.  This works in both directions–the negative tends to happen almost automatically, while the positive takes a little more effort.  After first becoming more mindful of our thoughts and behaviors, we can then choose to think or behave differently, thereby changing how we feel.

Changes you can make today. Since it is spring and the weather is improving, I’d like to focus on changing some behaviors to take advantage of the nice days.  The #1 thing you can do for stress and all kinds of negative moods is to go for a walk.

The benefits of walking are endless, but I’ll list a few: getting out of the house/workplace/stressful situation, breathing in fresh air loaded with refreshing oxygen, using large muscle groups to improve circulation and get that oxygen to your brain, which leads to clearer thinking and improved ability to make healthy choices and decisions.  If you add to your walk by mindfully focusing on the things you see in nature, you give your mind an additional break from thinking about your stressors.

Another way to enjoy the outdoors is to simply sit outside, perhaps with a refreshing iced tea or comforting cup of coffee.  Pull up your sleeves to get a little extra benefit from the sun.  More studies are showing that the majority of us (especially those who live in the northern ⅔ of the US) are quite deficient in Vitamin D.  The warmth itself is also refreshing.  Make sure you’re not taking any medications that make you sun-sensitive (instant sunburn!).  Again, mindfully focus on the natural world to enhance mental break.

It can also help to open your windows and let the outdoors in.  This helps sweep away staleness, bacteria, and viruses that gather in closed up spaces during the cold weather.  Again, the theme here is refreshment.

What are some other areas in your life that need to be refreshed?  Stop for a minute to consider ways to do that as well.

If you’d like to talk more about a particular issue, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035

2 Steps to Beating the Winter Blahs

Washington MO Waypoint counseling winter blahsJanuary is a tough time of year for many people. The push of the holidays has faded to a letdown of “nothing much happening.” Whether it was the intense stress of preparation and difficult family relationships, or the rush of fun and excitement, there is a natural letdown when it’s all over. Combine that with cold temps and short hours of daylight, and we just want to hibernate like the wild animals.

Maybe they’re on to something there. While not hibernating completely, we could take the winter months a little more slowly.

Even in the business world, not much is happening. Sure, there is work to be done, but people are not interested in buying and selling much at this time of year. It’s the Winter Blahs.

So what to do about it? I recommend a two-pronged approach:
1) Acceptance first, and THEN
2) Decide if action is needed

Acceptance simply means getting your head around the reality that things are the way they are. This does not mean you like it; you just “get it.” And then you give yourself and others some grace to do things a little more deliberately. Perhaps not as much will get done around the house. Maybe your meals are simpler, but still healthy. (Start with whole, real foods, and then prepare them simply. Minimize processed foods whenever possible, as they put additional stress on your body.) You can keep in touch with your business contacts, yet realistically accept that they might not feel the need for much help or product over the next few weeks.

Action? After you accept the reality of the blahs, you then have the freedom to choose: Do I need to DO something to change my mood, or simply accept the way it is? Maybe it is enough to realize you’re not alone and to live accordingly. If you do choose to take action, I highly recommend some form of movement. Exercise is just about the only way to get more endorphins, those “feel good chemicals” in your brain. Bundle up and take a short walk. Chase your pets. You can even go up and down your stairs a couple times. Just get moving!

Taking action could also look like making a connection with a friend. Go out for coffee, take that walk with a neighbor, or call someone on the phone. Or you could try something new. If you’re interested in learning to knit, get some nice-feeling yarn and a set of needles, and then look on YouTube for a tutorial. Maybe you’ve never done weight training, so you go to a free demo at a local gym. The key is to nudge those feelings of interest and pleasure. Don’t expect a lot of excitement. Just focus on surviving these challenging months, knowing spring is sure to come.

If you’d like to talk more about a particular issue, I would be happy to meet with you personally. Just give me a call at 636-234-0035 and we’ll schedule a time to talk. My office is conveniently located in downtown Washington Missouri across from the Old Dutch Restaurant.

I look forward to helping you feel better!
Katie Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor
636-234-0035