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What is Going Through Your Mind?

How am I going to pay the bills this month?

Am I spending enough time with my family?

What do I really want to do with my life?

Sometimes our daily routine can gradually appear redundant, unpleasant, and lacking excitement. But we’re in the real world, aren’t we? We have to go to work to make ends meet. We’re supposed to get along with others, build relationships, reproduce and have offspring. Right?

At times, we make choices that, at other times, we think are not what we really wanted to do. We may later think we went to college to please our parents or we did. We might attain a “good standing” job so that we don’t have to feel embarrassed when people ask us what we’re up to. We could possibly even fill our wallets and office walls with photos of a “picture-perfect” family fostering the appearance we have it all together? Are we genuine? Are we “for real”?

Is this what we worry about? Why do questions like those above flood our minds day in and day out? Should we not be happy with the choices we’ve made? How is it that after making decisions of the heart we can so readily abandon them?

What if those questions causing doubt are nothing more than thoughts floating around in our minds… like data on a computer hard drive? Increased focus on negative thinking quickly leads to more negative emotional and behavioural experiences. Of course, many of us will choose to just ignore these negatives, pushing them to the back of our minds, and go on with our daily routine. This can, however, leave us with little to moderate satisfaction.

Others may dwell on these negative thoughts, fueling feelings of dissatisfaction, disappointment and doubt. Eventually these feelings can seem to consume hope and joy, at which point many push away and leave behind the lives and people previously chosen. Still, there are other people who chose ways to manage their thoughts in a mindful and intentional way, finding information to help them develop a positive action plan. Taking the first step acknowledges the desire to change. Finding ways to improve our mental health by changing our thoughts goes a long way to boost confidence, integrity and authenticity.

Steps forward often require us to go back, waaaaaaay back, to discover what led us to make certain decisions and historical strategies that can help prevent problems. Unsure how far back to go? Counselling gives us that safe, confidential space to sort through our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Trained counselors ask questions to help guide us through both historical and current events, related thoughts and experiences in order to develop behaviours, relationships and goals fitting with our innermost desires.

Rather than harboring thoughts that lead to giving up on our families and our responsibilities, we can become agents of healthier change by making positive cognitive adjustments. Healthier constructs, precepts and schemata can then become foremost in our minds, fostering improved mental health and improving relationships with everyone in our lives. Counselling helps coach skills to think, feel and behave in a more satisfying and happy way. Call us today !

Travelling to a foreign country can be rather exciting and stressful at the same time. You don’t know the customs, the people, the geographic area etc.. Even going to the USA from Canada, when you don’t travel much, can elevate stress levels. Thoughts that lean toward negativity, whether they are about airport check-in, customs and security, the type of plane, people or otherwise, can disrupt, worsen and even ruin a perfectly fine holiday away.

It is important to plan ahead, not just with practical things like packing, cars and sights to see, with who you are going to meet, but also planning how we are going to handle changes in plans, monkey wrenches and even attitudes about spending money.  Keeping positive, despite the normal unexpected challenges, is not an easy skill. We are, therefore, prudent to set some internal guidelines to keep our spirits up and to have a fun time. Discovering new ways to interpret the actions and motivations of others can help us stay in a positive frame of mind. Training our mind means shifting thoughts that fuel negative emotions and actions toward the intentional selection of  thoughts that fuel positive emotional and behavioural states.

Viewing all people as generally good, kind and caring can go a long way as can the thought; “I am to be polite, kind and courteous no matter the situation”. On our trip this past weekend, to Washington DC and the Baltimore area, we had plenty of opportunity to get flustered or “out-of-sorts” and that negative voice in the back of my head offered numerous reasons to do so.  Some of the situations that could easily have turned into awful experiences, based upon my potential handling of the moment, actually turned out quite well because I did not listen to my “stinkin thinkin” … for very long anyway.  “Take a few really deep breaths” was the message to myself as the girl at the check-in counter became… well let’s just say… a little disconcerting and a whole lot unfriendly!

For some time now, I have repeatedly discovered that being gracious begets a similar response. Being good, kind, understanding, patient etc. mostly leads to receiving similar responses from others. This may not be right at the moment, yet it seems to be a very consistent phenomenon provided we wait for it. In a hurried and rushed world we may often want results right away, expecting people to be nice immediately just because we have been. Is there a time limit or expiry date on goodness and graciousness? Can we ever really give too much of this.

Make any trip, experience or journey out of your comfort zone more positive by being mindful of your own thought selection. We can increasingly search for, reach for and develop more thoughts that portray a “goodness to gracious” view, thereby improving our journey along this road of life.

 

or… Post-Traumatic Stress “Reaction” (PTSR)

“The anger, the rage, the hurt, and the cold loneliness that separates you from your family, friends, and society’s normal daily routine are so powerful that the option of destroying yourself is both real and attractive….It appears, it grows, it invades and it overpowers you….You cannot put these things behind you…And the more people advise you to do so, the more you get mad because you know these things will not disappear. Time does not help,” (from Lt-Gen. Dallaire; Davison, Neale, Blankstein & Flett, 2002, p. 197).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is commonly known to be experienced by those who have fought in wars and experienced combat stress; however, it may also occur to individuals exposed to prolonged abuse, trauma, and victimization at home, school, work and in other social situations. Personal tragedy, natural disasters, or overwhelming life experiences also contribute to suffering and potentially being diagnosed with PTSD. The term “reaction” has been used increasingly over more recent years with symptoms following after trauma.

When we are exposed to difficult situations, it can sometimes feel unbearable to cope with. Excessive memory loss, increased doubt and insecurity, thoughts that bad things are inevitable, trouble sleeping and eating are just a few symptoms of excessive stress. At times, our family and friends may develop unrealistic expectations that we are “strong enough” to overcome life’s challenges. This may inhibit sufferers of PTSD from seeking help and being able to move forward. Living with untreated or under-treated PTSD, people may subsequently, over time, “experience problems with anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, substance abuse (as a means of self-medicating), marital problems, poor physical health, and occupational impairment” (Blankstein, et al.).

Feeling stuck in this dark place, as Lt-Gen. Dallaire describes above, can make us feel like there is no way out. We may be reliving traumatic experiences on a daily basis and not realize that there are ways to overcome the situation differently—ways to cope, ways to feel loved and supported (not shameful or guilty).

One-to-one therapy can help address the specific needs of an individual with PTSD. Group therapy may create a space of support for those also suffering with PTSD; being in the “same boat” with others who are able to relate to similar symptoms and experiences. Together, both individual counselling and support groups can help individuals overcome the symptoms and impact of severe trauma and regain a positive perspective on life. Call us today for an appointment and additional resources to assist you.

What Can I Do?

Heart pumping, worry, fear, palms sweating, knees buckling, inability to carry out daily activities, avoiding social settings, and withdrawing from social interactions; these are just a few of the symptoms that individuals suffering from anxiety experience.

Overwhelming feelings of anxiety frequently prevent people from living the lives they dream of having. At times, “normal living” can seem unattainable or pointless because of the burden of constantly feeling anxious, otherwise referred to as heightened fear and apprehension. After years of suffering from anxiety, some people may have a difficult time remembering what it was like to feel “normal.”  For most sufferers, there was a more calm and relaxed time in their lives.

Anxiety rarely existed from birth or even early childhood. It may best be considered a phenomena that developed over time from a certain point in one’s life. Given the condition developed in concert with a person’s experiences and thought or cognitive development, effective interventions can assist people to uncover the sources and underlying thought patterns contributing to anxious and fearful experiences.

In addition to finding the underlying cause(s) of anxious symptoms, anxiety therapy can help people cope better and learn relaxation strategies to use when symptoms begin to arise. Individuals may learn to change their perceptions of situations, seeing these in less frightening ways and developing coping strategies to reduce the frequency and severity of panic or anxiety attacks.

Our registered and professional counsellors, located in Oshawa, can help individuals with anxiety recover and reclaim the life that was theirs back when anxiety was not a part of their daily living experience. Increased confidence in social situations and more satisfying relationships is the benefit when people struggling with anxiety get the help required to take control over anxiety.

Call us today, to discover the cause of your anxiety and learn how to overcome your symptoms!

“I complained of a decline in vital energy; a weakened ability to enjoy the fulfillment of needs or of aesthetic desire. Even the most reasonable goals had become difficult or impossible to set, and when established, impossible to fulfill…I complained of sleep troubles, eating troubles. I found myself avoiding all but the most urgently necessary contact with other people. The ill feeling that, for some depressives, does not get much worse than a generalized unhappiness would in my case often degenerate into overwhelming self-loathing, climaxing in sudden, surprising relief, or thoughts or suicide,” (Mays, 1996, p. 64).

In Mays’ case, he did find some relief when prescribed Prozac; however this relief was only temporary.

This holiday season is upon us and some of us are listening to the 24-hour holiday playlists on the radio. Some of us have already decorated our homes to be in a constant reminder of the joy that this time brings. We anticipate the family visits and holiday traditions. With young children, we share stories of what this time was like when we were young. To some of us, the holiday season allows us to forget the difficulties we face day to day, and become grateful for the people in our lives; as well as the memories we get to share and create.

Unfortunately the joys, memories, and happiness is not experienced by all of us. Like Mays, people suffering from depression have an extremely difficult time participating in a festive spirit.

What is important to consider over the holidays is that individuals suffering from depression usually do not want to think and feel this way. The happiness and enjoyment seems unattainable.

Sharing time in such a joyous occasion comes easy when we are in the presence of those with the same joyful intentions. It can be difficult for families who have a member suffering from depression. Some families may feel guilty of feeling so happy around this time of year when they know that another member is suffering. Individuals with depression may withdraw from family traditions so that they do not “ruin” the holiday spirit.

There are ways for all family members to cope during the holiday season. Seeking support as a family increases cohesiveness, enhances your relationships and also provides insight into the impact that depression can have on the family. Call us today so you and your family can enjoy the New Year.

Claire’s Story;

“I wake up, it’s 4am. The thought enters my mind, ‘Oh, it’s today. What am I going to have to face?’ Then I start ticking off all the things I have to face and with each one, I ask myself how I will cope with that. What if I can’t? What if I get anxious? What do I need to do in order to get myself through it? My mind fills with these possibilities and the anxiety starts to rise. I get this sinking nauseous feeling in my stomach and then the feeling of being broken and damaged washes over me again. I feel so vulnerable. I don’t undertstand why I am in this situation again. It feels like I am back at square one. If I can’t control myself, I am failing. All the things I have learned seem to be lost to me now. I feel so powerless,” (Grant, Townend, Mills, & Cockx, 2008, p. 162).

How many of us can identify with “Claire’s” “self”-defeating thoughts? We wake up, consider our responsibilities for the day, and then seem to give up on ourselves before we begin to accomplish anything. And even when we do accomplish our tasks, we may give luck the credit.

Like Claire, doubting thoughts may not be a daily reoccurrence. Some days may seem better than others. However on the not-so-good days, we feel that we are not progressing; one step forward and ten steps back!

“As the anxiety and feeling of being broken washes over me, the familiar image enters my mind. There I am, standing at the sink at 4 o’clock, feeling desperate, helpless, and anxious. I can’t go back to that place, I tell myself. It feels so dark and powerless,” (Grant, et al., 2008, p. 162).

The fear of once having experienced our lowest selves and not wanting to go through this again can have us feeling stuck. It is important to consider what we did to cope and overcome difficult times in the past. Ever wonder that thoughts may not really be ours? This includes the negatives that, along with all the positive thoughts, may just be a combination of thoughts collected over the years, beating up on us much like a virus beats up on a body or computer?

Some of us are able, at times, to talk ourselves out of it, stay focused and move forward. Some seek out their support system, calling upon a family member or friend. Our loved ones are often aware of our situation and, thus, can offer encouragement and even help to get through some of these troubling moments.

Some of us may choose to seek out professional counselling, getting coaching to get rid of “stinkin’ thinkin'” and develop a plan to get out of difficult times. It is important to note that seeking out supportive counselling is a strength, and does not indicate a failing or weakness. Some of us may benefit from monthly or bi-monthly coaching sessions to ensure we stay on track with our goals and receive the level of life coaching to help us improve our lives more efficiently and effectively.

Don’t give it up, “live it up” – call us today!

CBT-  Breakthrough to Reduce Anxiety

Anne’s presenting problem was preoccupation and fear that she had breast cancer. Five days a week, she would spend up to 80 per cent of her day thinking about the possibility that she might have cancer or that she had the symptoms of cancer in her breasts. On the other two days, she would have fleeting ideas that she might have cancer, but was able to dismiss them and continue with her normal activities. She sought reassurance from her husband at least ten times a day and visited her general practitioner, again for reassurance at least once a fortnight. She was unable to look at herself in the mirror as these evoked images of herself with cancer (Grant, Townend, Mills, & Cockx, 2008, p. 182).

Although Anne’s assessment and evaluations do not detect cancer-related symptoms (Grant, et al., 2008), the worry of possibly one day being diagnosed is all she seems to need to live with fear. The anticipation of a diagnosis of a life-threatening health concern can be overwhelming and consume much of our daily thoughts, feelings and routines.

Like Anne, we can have reoccurring thoughts that foster feelings of anxiety, anger, worry, fear, doubt, sadness, and depression. Experiencing these feelings each day may also create excessive and harmful behaviours. In Anne’s case, she avoided all forms of appropriate self-examinations for months at a time, however every three to four months, she would become so overwhelmed with her thoughts of having cancer that she would spend several hours examining her breasts (Grant, et al.). As a result, she would experience tenderness which she interpreted as a sign of cancer.

The cycle of stinkin’ thinkin’, where our overwhelming thoughts create excessive feelings that lead to harmful behaviours can be exhausting. It may have us feeling hopeless, living a life we do not want or enjoy and disrupting relationships with others.

Professional help can help you find the solutions to break this cycle so it will not continue to be debilitating. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy provides tools like cognitive or thought shifting, behavioural strategies and a safe professional place to identify the factors contributing to concerning behaviours. It has been proven to be helpful for re-balancing emotions.

If you are finding thinking cycles and the emotional upheaval unmanageable, call us today!