Yoga Teacher Training begins!

It’s 7am and I’m flustered. My mind is frazzled and all I can think about is the journey I’m about to begin at 9am. I’m about to begin a 5 month Yoga Teacher Training!

For the past several years, Yoga has become a vital part of my self care. Not just as a way to work out my body but also a way to settle my busy and anxious mind. In the last few years, I have been reading how effective yoga can be as an adjunct treatment for anxiety, depression, and trauma. As a mental health counselor, I knew that I wanted to be someone to share this knowledge and important work with others. My love for my yoga practice would be a way to help others heal and this was so exciting for me. 

While I love the work I do in my private office space, sometimes it’s nice to have a change of pace and environment so incorporating yoga into my practice seems like a great way to expand my skills.   The craziest thing about this journey is that I have no idea how this will manifest in the coming months. I don’t have a planned space to teach yoga, I don’t have a particular class planned out, but I trust that along the way I will find the connections, the space, and the focus to figure all of this out! 

 I look forward to writing more about this in the coming weeks!  

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Obviously this is not me! Just a little free stock photo! (from Pexels.com)

Hi! Hello!

Welcome! I don’t think I have ever formally introduced myself on the blog and with a few minutes on my hands, I thought it would be a nice break from paperwork to check in. I don’t blog often and I am not sure if anyone actually reads these, anyway!

I grew up in a small town in Georgia (near Atlanta!) and loved moving to a bigger town for college, Athens, GA. Athens was eccentric and a great change from the small southern town I grew up in. After graduating with a degree in Psychology, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up with an internship at a treatment facility for young males and learned a ton. This experience segued me into a job in Chattanooga working in the homes of at risk kids. It was a super enriching experience but I often felt like I did not have enough skills to be effective so off I went to graduate school.

Graduate school was great because it was a small and intimate program and I really got to know my professors and colleagues. After interning at a community mental health center, I joined Parkridge Valley Hospital as direct care staff and then as a therapist. There, I worked with the most at risk population of kids in DCS custody.

After getting engaged and moving to Knoxville, I spent time working at a foster care agency and was able to really delve into learning about trauma and its affects on our brains and our bodies.

Now that I am in private practice, I get to meet and know the most amazing group of people. I am grateful that people feel comfortable sharing their story with me and feel safe enough to express themselves so deeply. I absolutely do not take my job lightly and work hard to build deep and meaningful relationships with all of my clients.

Seeing clients and watching them grow, through college or marriages or parenthood, is an absolute joy and I feel so honored to be a part of their healing journey.

One thing I am very excited about this next year, is that I will be starting a Yoga Teacher Training. I am stoked to being to incorporate Yoga and concepts of Yoga into my daily practice. My big dream is to teach Yoga classes that focus on our minds just as much as our bodies.

My family is very special to me and I enjoy sharing about them as well. I have a 5 year old son and an almost one year old daughter. I am so proud to be their Mom. My husband is pretty awesome, too. He is an ultra marathoner and is training for his first 100K!

I hope to meet you soon and be a part of your journey to healing. I look forward to hearing from you!

Lindsey

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Series: What is self harm?

Self harm can be a confusing topic and I am here to explain some of the details about what self harm is and what it isn’t. Self harm is defined as an intentional action that induces pain and/or breaks the skin. There can be two types of self harm - direct and indirect. Indirect can be risky behaviors, substance abuse or generally long term repeated behaviors that cause harm. Direct self harm is cutting, scratching, burning, hitting self, etc.

I think it is important to note that self harm is not about wanting to die - it is often a way to manage the pain and sadness one is feeling. There is often a root or catalyst to why the self harm is occurring and that is why therapy can be helpful. Therapy can get to that root and help the client to learn why the self harm is happening and find other ways to cope with the distress.

Self harm can create shame within an individual which is why it is often done in places that can be covered with clothing. When asking your friend, child, or partner about their self harm, it is extremely important to be mindful of not shaming them about their actions. Allowing them a safe space to discuss what is going on is much more helpful. Ask them about what is going on in their lives that is causing this desire to cut can be the key to understanding their behavior.

Harming the body serves a purpose; it often relieves the feeling of experiencing too much emotion, it can ground oneself into their body, it can be a distraction from emotional pain, and sometimes it helps to get needs met that may be neglected.

Why should they one stop self harming? There are many reasons, but here are a few from Bess Child, LICSW who specializes in self harm: 1) Eventually self harm stops working as well and one may have to continually increase the intensity and frequency of it 2) repeated self harm can increase suicidality in the future 3) Do you want your partner to know about this? Can you have a life worth living with this in the shadows? 4) If you become intimate with a partner how will that be for you with scars or abrasions on your body?

While self harm serves a purpose, at the end of the day it is a scary and unsafe coping mechanism. Helping others begin to talk about can absolutely release the stigma and shame around it which may eventually encourage others to find healthier and safer long term healing and coping mechanisms.

Series: What is it?

I am excited to start a new series over on the blog called "What is it?" This series will focus on different areas/topics of mental health, life changing events, symptoms, etc. that can help us understand our own and others' daily struggles. 

Let's start with a topic that has been in the news frequently and will inevitably pop up for some as we begin a new school year: sexual assault. Here is the definition of sexual assault as proposed by the Centers for Disease Control: The use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her own will, whether or not the act is completed; an attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act (e.g. because of illness, disability, or the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or due to intimidation or pressure); and/or abusive sexual contact." 
 

Culturally, we are often misguided about what sexual assault actually is. On college campuses, assault often happens within the context of drinking. Due to this, I believe that many victims feel intense shame because they were engaging in a risky behavior, creating the idea that they got themselves in this mess. We are often told or others imply that the victim could have done something to prevent what happened (i.e. dressed differently or not been wasted) and it is their fault. I think the above definition is helpful because it points out that the person/victim is unable to understand the nature of the act and that they may be unable to communicate their unwillingness because they were drunk or high. Such a depth of shame is created when the victims are told that that it is their fault. 

Shame keeps us silent so when we are told that we could have prevented it, we put our heads down and push through the day. Carrying around this burden and this shame causes us to experience an increase in anxiety, depression, and wrecks our ability to feel safe and connected to others. 

According to RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Only 6/1000 perpetrators actually end up going to prison for what they have done. Only 310/1000 assaults are actually reported, that's 2/3 of women that do not report that something horrifying has happened to them.

Healing from a trauma such as sexual assault takes time. There is no timetable for healing and getting help is the best step in making that healing happen. The local sexual assault center has fantastic resources that are confidential and understanding. If you are scared to reach out to a professional, find a safe person to talk to about what has happened to you. Sharing with someone what has happened can decrease the shame and set you on the path to healing.

How to be with Stressful Moments

Not all stress is bad, right? Yes, not all of it is bad. Culturally, we are told that stress is bad and we should avoid it all costs. Of course chronic stress is whole other issue but let's talk about daily minor stresses. We often want to turn away from this stress and feel more at ease. Maybe you take some deep breaths and distract yourself from the stressor or go into a mediation practice to focus on gratitude. While these acts are positive and well intentioned, what if you sat with the stress and listened for what it was saying to you? 

We can use stress to find our way back to the present moment - to simply Notice. Notice the change in your heart beat, the tension in your muscles, or the feelings in your tummy. Let the stress bring you back to your present internal experience. Practice shifting into that non judgmental awareness.

A great article from Mindful.org reminds us to Notice the state we are in (notice what are you are trying avoid), Shift by reminding yourself that "stress is not bad" and then Rewire by facing the stressors head on, by staying with whatever arises. 

The more that we turn away from stress and and avoid it, the more we lessen our ability to effectively navigate it. Practice makes perfect, right? Can you imagine a world in which you are good at managing your stress? It's possible. Just NOTICE, SHIFT, and REWIRE. (And don't forget to breath)

https://www.mindful.org/being-with-stressful-moments/

 

Being a resilient parent

Day in and day out it's the same monotonous routine and stream of craziness. Fill the milk cup. Daycare drop off. Snuggles. Wasted food. Angry tantrums. Healing hugs and kisses. Frustrating notes from the teacher. 

Parents around the world experience the daily stress of the daily grind. While parenting has its overwhelming joys and full hearts, there is also room for frustration and nostalgia. I remember when my first born arrived and even now with my second, I longed for days without having to worry about who was picking up from daycare, if I could sneak away for a few minutes with some friends for a weekend, or even if I would have to cancel that meeting because a child was sick at school. Gone are the days of impromptu brunches and lunches. And you know what? That is okay. It is also okay to yearn for those free moments. 

Being a resilient parent that gets through the daily grind and remains focused and fresh takes alot. ALOT! After reading an article from Mindful.Org, I was inspired to take a moment to note what I do (sometimes) to hang on through the tough days.

1) Wake up early. Yes, you don't want to hear that but it's true. Those few moments in the morning when you can gaze at your sleeping little one and also have some moments to breath can make all the difference in the world. I never liked being startled awake by my son. I enjoy deciding when I wake up as opposed to him.

2) Meal Plan and meal prep every Sunday (or whatever day works for you). This is super ideal if you want some control and less chaos come later afternoon when we all get hungry and are tired of deciding what's for dinner.

3) Ask for HELP. It's okay not to be a martyr. We all know it takes a village to raise our kiddos. Ask for a babysitter, communicate with your husband about what you need, and don't feel guilty about sending them to daycare even if you have a day off. Use that time to catch up on self care or even just cleaning the house! 

4) Check in with your thoughts to make sure the they are helpful and accurate. Our thoughts are EVERYTHING and if we are not aware of them then they could be contributing to our exhaustion. Try this quick check in acronym STOP: Stop what you are doing, Take a deep breathe, Observe your thoughts/feelings, and Proceed with compassion (or whatever you need in that moment - patience, humor, new perspective). 

5) Move your body. Even if you just have a moment to stretch and touch your toes or simply raise your arms in the air, moving your body can be important and letting go of some of the stress you are holding within your body. You can search the internet for quick stretches or a yoga flow or series of poses for stress relief. 

The load that you carry is unending and overwhelming. While you may never balance all of the above, taking a few deep breaths each day to recognize the load you are carrying can be the difference between burn out and patience. We take care of others almost every moment of our day so don't forget the importance of taking care of yourself. 

College. Not all it cracked up to be.

Talking about depression and anxiety has less of a negative stigma attached to it than it did when I was in college. Despite the decrease in stigma, students still struggle with finding the right help and prioritizing getting better amongst their busy schedules. In my work with college students, I have realized how much pressure there is to be prepared not just for today but for the rest of their lives.

I feel like the most vulnerable group of students I work with is the first year students. The expectations they are given are absolutely overwhelming. Not only are many of them transitioning out of their family’s home and learning to live on their own (think cooking their own meals, balancing a job with schoolwork, deciding when to leave the party because there’s no curfew, making a whole new social group) but they are also expected to pick a major or degree. I remember being 18; I really did not know what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” I just knew that I did not want to be a doctor, teacher, or lawyer. There were all of these majors out there but I did not know what half of them meant! What is risk management? What is logistics or supply chain management? Did I want to work in the business or publishing world? What is marketing? I am not sure how I missed the boat on learning about what jobs and degrees are out there, but the point is that at age 18 I had no business deciding what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Heck, I could not even manage my new checking account without over drafting and I could  only cook a baked potato in the microwave. 

Mental health centers on campus are quickly filling up with students who are finding themselves depressed and anxious. Some of them are suicidal, experiencing first time psychosis, and are so overwhelmed with balancing life that they are about to throw in the towel and drop out. While it is great that the stigma of seeking help has lessened, campus counseling centers are finding that they don’t have the resources, particularly long term, to help these students. I have had students tell me that because their problems are not at a crisis level, they are often referred to groups to help manage their anxiety and depression. Luckily, our local university realizes that they cannot meet the needs of all students so they are using outpatient therapy resources, like me!, to refer students.

My work with college ages kids is really enjoyable! They are at such a neat age where they are still so optimistic about life but also seeking some true meaning about what life is about and how to be happy. They are beginning to really think for themselves and have such unique educational experiences along the way.

Here are some quick facts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness regarding college students: One in four have a diagnosable illness, 40% do not seek help, 80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and 50% have become so anxious that they are struggling in school. Another fact that I found, although outdated (from the New York State Office of Mental Health) was that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students. The American Psychological Association also reported in a report from 2014 that they found an increase in sexual assault as well as self injury. These facts are scary. So what are college students’ options? 

  • Let your friends and family know you are struggling. They can offer great support and can be aware of warning signs to ensure you can keep yourself safe during the hardest struggles.
  • Don’t feel ashamed that you may not be able to meet every social obligation or can’t pull off 16 hours of coursework every semester. Slow. Down. 
  • Seek counseling and possible medication management. Sometimes talking about what you are struggling with can do more than you know! Medication may also be a short term solution for some symptoms. 
  • Call a suicide hotline if you are in immediate crisis (locally - 865-539-2409). 
  • Speak with your professors about your struggles - I would hope that they would understand the stress or their class or college in general and offer some study tips or helpful ideas for managing their class. 
  • Perfection is not possible. They say college is about finding yourself and this is true. Through our screw ups and bad choices, those are the places when we can really see who we are and what we are about. 
  • Know that reaching out for help, whatever means that is, is the best thing you can do for yourself. It is not weak or weird, it is jus what we need to do when we are overwhelmed.
  • Create a self-care routine. Most colleges offer free workout facilities, pools, treadmills, and even workout classes. Take advantage of these. PRIORITIZE them and put them on your schedule. You are making time for studying and clubs so make time for you. It’s not just working out that is important but also eating mindfully, adding in some self reflection (meditation) and time for low key time with friends. 
  • Put the beer (and other drinks and drugs) down. I get that drinking is pretty rampant in college and I am not naive in thinking that most college students will not try alcohol but if you decide to drink, do so in moderation. Getting wasted every night puts you at greater risk for sexual assault, mental health issues, legal problems, and definitely not wanting to get up for class the next morning because you are hungover. 

 

 

Do your childhood experiences affect you later in life?

Dr. Vincent Felitti could not pinpoint why so many of his clients who participated in his weight loss study could not keep their weight off. Felitti and his medical team had failed to include any questions relating to childhood that could help them to understand why weight loss and sustained weight loss was such an issue. It was not until a particular client, who had dropped almost 200 lbs revealed a history of sexual abuse during a follow up in which she had gained back all of her weight. After getting the go ahead from the Center for Disease Control and collaborating with other physicians did the monumental investigation of Adverse Childhood Experiences begin.

Of the 25,000 Kaiser Permanente patients that go through Department of Preventive Medicine annually, 17,421 agreed to provide information about their childhood experiences. Those answers would then be compared to their medical records that Kaiser kept on hand. After comparing the results, the ACE study found that traumatic childhood experiences are far more common than anyone originally thought. What’s interesting to note, is that those who responded were mostly white, middle class, well-educated, and financially secure adults. In the end, only 1/3 of the respondents did NOT report any adverse childhood experiences.

(Note: The ACE questionnaire is based on 10 questions of potential adverse experiences from childhood including an alcoholic caregiver, abuse of any type, domestic violence, divorce, etc.)

The importance of the study is squarely focused on the fact that childhood trauma can correlate with work absenteeism, financial problems, and lower lifetime income. If you have a high ACE score, then there is a correlation between high risk behaviors like smoking, obesity, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases. Those with an ACE score of 6 or above had a 15 percent or greater chance than those with an ACE score of zero of suffering from any of the ten leading causes of death in the US such as heart disease, liver disease, emphysema, and cancer.

What’s scary is that only now, in 2017 (the study was held from 1995-1997), has the ACE study gained some traction in the mental health world. I had never heard of the study until 2011 and I am now beginning to hear more presentations about it within the counseling field. Why has this study not alarmed people? Why is it not on the news every single day? This study could help us find more proactive ways to help prevent some of these experiences that our children suffer through daily. Furthermore, it could be the research needed to gain more funding for foster care, treatment interventions for families who are struggling, and ways to make reporting of abuse and follow up more effective.

The most costly public health issue, child abuse and the ways in which we respond have remained the same despite this reliable and valid study letting us know the grave impact that these awful experiences have on our children for years to come.

*Information gathered from the CDC website as well as the book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van der Kolk

#HALFTHESTORY

I scroll through the beautifully curated pictures on Instagram at least several times a day. Smiling faces, white bright rooms (seriously, does anyone even use colors in their house anymore?), beautifully shot women wearing gorgeous clothing, delicious desserts on display, and the list goes on and on. For a minute I think "I need that!" "Why doesn't my house look like that?" and I go down the spiral of self doubt and yearning for whatever those pictures have in them. Not only do I wish that my house or closet had what they have but I often go down a rabbit hole of "why is their life so beautiful and seemingly perfect?" Over time, I have been able to continue to remind myself that their pictures are only half the story. 

A beautiful and hardworking Vanderbilt student began the #halfthestory movement after realizing how much of a disconnect occurred between what she was actually experiencing in real life versus what she was displaying on her social media accounts. Underneath the glamorous pictures of New York Fashion Week and hip clothing, she found herself exhausted and struggling with anxiety, depression, and feelings of inadequacy. With this realization she began a social media movement using the hashtag #halfthestory and really began addressing real issues that we all struggle with at some point in our lives. 

It's such a breath of fresh air to have someone point this out so that all of us who struggle with self worth or value see that even the most coveted Instagram page has a real person behind it who has real struggles. 

Research around social media has shown that it can be linked to an increase in depression and anxiety. A study completed by the Royal Society for Public Health found Instagram to be the most detrimental social media platform. The author of the study, Matt Keracher, even went on to say that it "encourages young women to compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered, Photoshopped versions of reality." 

When I take on new clients, I almost always check in with them about the extent of their social media use. If it is extensive and they spend hours scrolling, we talk about ways to slowly back off and why. Together, we try and come up with ways that it could be hurting their own core values and beliefs about how they view themselves and the world. 

Psychology Today recently ran a story in their December magazine highlighting how comparison can be harmful to our mental health and self worth. One picture they included was of a woman holding a baby with a mess all around her - laundry, toys scattered, food on her leg, and her wearing slippers. The only part that she includes in her "selfie" is what looks put together - her cute baby with a cute top and her hair and makeup looking perfect. She fails to show the realness of what is outside the picture she puts on display on social media. 

While comparison to others can often be harmful, the story points out that comparison can be positive if we use "upward comparison", meaning we use what we see as motivation to better ourselves or try harder. Being mindful of how these comparisons or perfectly curated social accounts affect you is the first step in ensuring they don't create more issues internally. If we can connect with the person online (comment on their picture or say hello) or spend more time in gratitude for our own blessings then we may find that these social media "Debbie Downers" can have less of a daily impact on our self worth. 

Information for this post drawn from this CNN article  (http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/06/technology/culture/half-the-story-larissa-may/index.html) and the recent Psychology Today December 2017 publication story "Escape the Comparison Trap: How to be Happy Just as you Are" by Rebecca Webber.

Help is all around even on Sesame Street!

I love reading about new resources for families and children who have experienced trauma. NPR recently did an article highlighting a new program that uses the Sesame Street characters to highlight the importance of having a safe place, expressing your feelings, and learning how to relax. The website offers handouts that kids can color on, short YouTube Videos, and lots of good information for parents. I have used it now with several kids and it's a nice change from the typical material I use in session. Seeing the characters act out some of the same struggles my kids deal with is always a nice way to normalize what they are experiencing and remind them that they are not alone in this struggle. 

 Check out Sesame Street in Communities, click on Topics and navigate to Traumatic Experiences. 

 

Mindful Running

For as long as I can remember, running has been a huge part of my life. I was either watching my Dad lace up his Nike tennis shoes for a morning run or I was gearing up for my next cross country race. My first "race" was in my hometown and it was called the "Best Dam Race in Georgia" simply because we ran across the dam in LaGrange. Of course I giggled because of the name and had no idea that this was the beginning of a life long love affair.

Running has been a stress reliever, a way to take care of my body, an avenue to lose baby weight, and most importantly, a spiritual journey. I have not always thought about running mindfully, but the more and more I hone my own mindfulness practice, I have realized that running in itself is a way to slow down and become more mindful of my thoughts.

My husband and I also share a love for running. While we don't often run together (he is very tall and his slow pace is my fast one), we often share an unspoken love for something so rich. He recently completed his 4th ultra trail marathon - but his first 50 miler. I was so proud to see him complete such a physical and mental challenge. He finds his spiritual blessings within his runs and that is what keeps him (and myself) coming back for more and more.

At the end of the day, running is not about hitting a personal record during a race or running faster each mile, it's simply a way for me to connect to myself, listen to my body, and hear what my mind is telling me. 

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The basics of mindfulness

I keep talking about mindfulness over and over again here on this blog. Recently, I found an excellent article breaking down what this "magical" way of living is. Mindfulness is a practice so it is important to remember that it is something that we must work to achieve everyday. No one can do this mindfulness thing for us - it is something we have to choose to cultivate in our lives every single day. Eventually, our brains learn that this is our first choice in thinking and it can become easier over time. 

Here is a brief overview of how to begin: 

  1. Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
  2. Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as 5 or 10 minutes.
  3. Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
  4. Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
  5. Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
  6. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.

I think it is important to note that mindfulness does not have to be done only sitting - you can practice mindfulness as you walk, run (more on that later!), eat, and even practice yoga. Mindfulness embodies the importance of being present - simply awareness of what is going on around you. The more we are mindful the more we have the ability to curate what thoughts we digest or hang onto throughout our day. Here is a link to the article in its entirety. It's worth a read and it is clear and concise! https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness/

 

11 Ways for Kids to Practice Mindfulness

http://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-for-children-fun-effective-ways-to-strengthen-mind-body-spirit/

Mindfulness continues to blow up the mental health world with new research showing its effectiveness in managing anxiety, overwhelming emotions, and depression, among other things. Teaching kids mindfulness is a great way to not only connect with them but also help them find ways to find calm in the midst of busy lives. We can't always hold our kids' hands during tough times, such as when they are bullied at school, they get embarrassed in class, or they feel guilt about a choice they made. What we can do to help them through these moments is to teach them ways to manage those negative and often overwhelming emotions. My favorite website, Hey Sigmund, continues to be a source of great information, particularly when it comes to mindfulness. Check out their list (above) to find creative ways to help our kids learn about emotion regulation.

Can you decrease the implications of trauma?

Hey Sigmund is one of my go to sites for interventions, ideas, and new research in the mental health field. An article that recently caught my eye was called " How to stop frightening experiences from driving anxiety and phobias." It caught my eye in particular, because often we as humans endure ongoing trauma - whether it be domestic violence, community violence, and even a car accident. 

Research has found that by possibly giving a victim a simple task to do, such as a phone game like Tetris or Candy Crush, after the trauma can disrupt traumatic experiences from causing ongoing distress. How this works is that the distraction after the trauma basically disrupts the memories from being coded from short term to long term. The distraction causes the memories (sights, sounds, and smells) to be encoded as less fearful/dangerous. While the memory of the event will remain, the emotion connected to the event will be less intrusive. 

Alot of our long term fears and phobias are rooted in one single event, so providing a disruption to how that event is encoded could be very helpful in the long term. Of course more research is needed to look at this in a broader sense, but it is relieving to know that something as simple as a game of Candy Crush after a car accident can help us move on from the event with little effect. 

Here is a link to the article: http://www.heysigmund.com/frightening-experiences-anxiety-phobia/

When Mindfulness Doesn't work

When I suggest learning about mindfulness and meditation to my clients, some of them are cautious in regard to some app telling them to "let go" or "non judgmentally push out any thoughts." Doing so is tough and can then create more anxiety than you started with. I found a great article on mindful.org that is honest about those who struggle to get anything out of meditation or find that it increases their anxiety. For those struggling with the self criticism that sets in when you are practicing meditation/mindfulness, here is a nice step by step manual in getting yourself to feel more comfortable during your practice. 

1. Sit upright in as comfortable a position as possible. Eyes can be open or closed—whichever is more comfortable.

2. Silently begin with a recognition of the reality of anxiety. Make the words your own, but quietly say something like: “I’ve suffered a great deal. This pain is real and intense.” Place your attention on the words, and repeat them quietly a few times.

3. Place your attention on a single breath—feel the air coming in, and feel it leave the body.

4. Silently repeat the phrase above and consider adding the following: “In this pain, I’m caring for myself.”

5. Now try placing your attention on two full cycles of the breath, feeling the sensations of the air coming and going.

6. Add the following self-compassion anchor: “This is hard, and right now I’m giving myself permission to understand that.”

7. Expand the practice out to mindfulness of three to five cycles of breath.

8. Say to yourself: “Though the pain continues, may my practice and care for myself continue as well.”

9. Continue in this way, allowing self-compassion to anchor your practice of mindfulness. Let it be a scaffold on which to stand in self-acceptance, and let it help you disarm the inner voice of criticism and failure.

Retrieved from: https://www.mindful.org/why-its-difficult-to-meditate-why-anxiety/

More research on mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation apps are becoming increasingly popular as they suggest that they can decrease anxiety and depression. Part of anxiety that some struggle with is rumination or worry over things that happened or are out of their control. When these thoughts are visited over and over, it often can increase those annoying anxious feelings (heart racing, tummy ache). Mindfulness is being researched at a rapid pace and Forbes recently published an article stating that mindfulness can help with mind-wandering, which is often a trait of anxious people. Here is a statement from one of the studies authors: 

“Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals,” said study author Mengran Xu in a statement. “We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand.”

As we work hard to focus on being present, we become less focused on our internal thoughts which are often the ones that are increasing the anxiety to begin with. There are many different apps out there to try if you are interested in jumping into mindfulness practice. Here are a few that I recommend: Calm, Headspace, One Minute Meditation, 10% Happier (the app that led me to this article), Aura, and Smiling Mind. These apps are all free to download and most offer free guided meditations. Insight Timer is one of my favorite that offers meditations focused on everything from loving kindness, chakras, anxiety, empowerment, and sleep. 

If we can ease ourselves into focusing more on the present, we will end up more in tune with others and ourselves and be able to fully live in the NOW. Here is a link to the article:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/05/04/mindfulness-meditation-may-help-reduce-mind-wandering-in-people-with-anxiety/#2215504e6786

 

13 reasons why.

Heated discussion around the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has been all over social media. Everyone has weighed in regarding the series...from teachers to mental health professionals to parents. Suicide, bullying, rape, consent, and substance abuse are all showcased during the series 13 episodes; these are also extremely important topics to discuss with your kids. We can't pretend that these issues don't exist within our kids' friends group or at their school in some capacity. I won't weigh in on my own thoughts (honestly, they are all over the map!), but I will share a few resources for parents who may be searching for ways to start the conversation with your kids regarding this series and the provocative topics that are shown. Regardless of how you feel about the series itself, I do believe it has been the catalyst for parents to begin talking about these issues with their kids instead of hoping they can just autopilot past them and that their kids won't be affected by them.

American Counseling Association Released this statement on their blog with various resources for parents: https://www.counseling.org/news/aca-blogs/aca-pop-culture-connection/aca-pop-culture-connection-blog/2017/05/01/new-series-on-netflix-may-glamorize-suicide-for-a-young-audience

The Jeb Foundation, a suicide prevention network, lists several talking points for parents to use during a discussion about the movie: https://www.jedfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/13RW-Talking-Points-JED-SAVE-Netflix.pdf

And finally, here is a post written by a youth minister and therapist that breaks the episodes down. https://conversationsonthefringe.com/2017/04/17/thirteen-reasons-why-discussion-guide/

Yoga for...anything!

 

I have been using an amazing Yoga YouTube channel for several years now: Yoga With Adriene. Adriene's channel is full of free videos that target anxiety, loneliness, mood swings and even have videos specific to actors, runners, and swimmers. Her tone is supportive, silly, and honest. She makes me laugh but also inspires me to really find the mind-body connection. Her mantra throughout her videos is "Find What Feels Good." Her "classes" are not about perfection or toning or getting a six pack, but about just showing up to practice for yourself each day.

I completed a 31 day Yoga Revolution challenge back in January and found so much focus and peace not just with myself but within my therapy practice as well as my relationships. Yoga allowed me to slow down each during those 31 days to really focus in on my body and how it was feeling. I could reflect on the day as well and see how I was holding anxiety in my body or even pushing down stress and frustrations. 

Knoxville offers a variety of classes in town that can meet your needs but if you feel more comfortable showing up at home then I really hope you will check out Adriene's channel. 

https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

*Image retrieved from YouTube.