by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 28, 2019 gratitude, gratitude challenge, reframing cognitive distortions, thanksgiving0 comments
The Real Gratitude Challenge
It’s Thanksgiving and everyone wants to talk about turkey and gratitude. Newsfeeds and flyers encourage us to take the ‘gratitude challenge’ by sharing how happy we are for our kids, our marriage, families, our job, our house. Nowonder, according to the National Institute of Health, gratitude can help us increase our life satisfaction and mental health! Oh, how nice that is! Things really are so well and good through the lens of this gratitude, but isn’t it almost too easy when we simply share what is great? I want to talk about a different kind of gratitude, the dark side of gratitude if you will, this is what I call a gratitude challenge. It is not the shiny happiness and gloating we feel when everything works out just the way we want it, but instead, this gratitude challenge, is the kind of gratitude that we can choose to cultivate when we are sitting on a big tall mountain of suck. In this vast beautiful adventure of life, reality more often than not smacks us in the face, universal are the experiences of hurt, loss, and grief. Yet, even more important than making a mental note of gratitude for all of the ways that we are blessed, our mindset truly evolves when we deliberately choose to frame our losses in one beset by gratitude.
Of course on the day that you get the job, and then again when you land the promotion, you are elated, but can you be grateful for those years of success and comradery even when you get the news that company is downsizing and you are handed your severance? Of course, you are beaming at the altar on the day that you say “I do” to the love of your life, but can you still find gratitude when you are headed to marriage counseling because you’re in conflict and bickering about who is doing more cleaning around hte house? Of course, you will be joyful on the day when you learn that you have finally conceived the child you have been yearning for but can you still be grateful that it has happened when their little heart stops beating in utero? Of course, you are thrilled when you finish the marathon in 2nd place, but what can you choose to be grateful for when you have knee replacement surgery from all of that running?
Choosing gratitude amidst the sucky moments of life doesn’t mean that we pretend it’s all ok. Instead, we do not try to block the hurt of our losses, we feel the devastation and despair deeply because let’s be honest here, we have no choice! Some things in life will rip the wind right out of our lungs and bring such agonizing hurt that we will fall to our knees in the pain of it. Yet, the difference is that we choose to live in the memory of the joy that they brought us, we choose to be grateful that the wonders in life have happened no-matter how long or short they stay with us. Cognitive behavioral therapy instructs us to reframe the despair of our cognitive distortions, we do not allow misery or grief to frame the pictures of our memories or the loss in our life. The gratitude challenge is to be penetrated by the suffering of a life well lived but then to hunt like a little scavenger for every little bit of joy, peace, and hope that our experiences have shown to us. Some days that might mean that we are grateful to know that they pain won’t last forever and allow ourselves to contemplate the gratitude for that. When you get here and can nurture this sort of perspective, you take a little bit of power and direction back to your life. On Thanksgiving and every day, the decision to live a life peppered in gratitude is yours. So go ahead, take the challenge, how grateful can you be, what about your pile of suck can you be grateful for?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 18, 2019 family estrangement, family loss, holiday traditions0 comments
1o Ways to Enjoy The Holidays if You Experience Family Estrangement or Loss
Holidays are extremely triggering and difficult for those who have suffered family loss/grief or estrangement, there are reasons that mental health related hospital admisssions and therapy visits for anxiety and depression increase during this time of year. Most people who are in therapy to deal with family conflict or estrangement will spend some time forming a plan for how they will manage the holidays in anticipation of the challenges that they present. There is a hallmark sentiment that everyone else has it all together and is rejoicing in love with their near and dear and for those who do not have healthy or connected relationships with their families, they may notice the added burden of shame for this reality. The truth is family conflict and tension is very common and family estrangement is too, according to research published by Psychology Today, as many as 7-27% of parents and children report not having contact with each other. That means that 1 in 10 or 20 people you know can relate to the feeling of family estrangement. Additionally, if you reason suffered a loss or divorce, the mourning will likely increase this time of the year. Toxic relationships are a common reason for family estrangement, if your family members, have tried family counseling and still can not relate to you in a healthy way then there may be no choice but to limit contact or go no contact. Things like a history of abuse, lying, deception, emotional or physical attacking are healthy reasons to put safe distance and plenty of boundaries between yourself and family members.
Holidays are steeped in traditions that are centered around the family. During the rest of the year, it may be easier to cope with the reality of no or low contact, but the social implication that other people are connecting with family spending days and weeks off of work to gather around the table and reconnect, may make a person who is excluded from such family gatherings melancholy or wishful for something else that doesn’t exist. Here are expert verified ways to help;
- Ramp up your self care, practice more meditation, mindfulness, get appointments scheduled with your therapist.
- There is a stigma attached to being isolated and cast out from your family, that makes it less likely that those who are not in touch with relatives will talk about it and seek the support that they will need. Help starts when we break that stigma and open up to some close friends or coworkers about what you are experiencing.
- It is likely that there are people who will be excited to share this time of year with you, reach out to them and share your thoughts about feeling alone.
- Look at what traditions you can create for yourself?
- Can you organize a toy drive, or a food drive?
- Can you volunteer to visit a long-term care home?
- Can you volunteer at a soup kitchen?
- Can you mentor children?
- Can you organize a baking party with friends?
- Have you thought of taking a trip like a tropical vacation?
You will notice that many of these suggestions highlight being of service to others, this really is one of the best ways to lift yourself up. No matter what you decide, the holidays become a blank canvas for you to create whatever you might envision upon it. Only you can decide what is the best direction for you to maintain peace, mental wellness, and happiness during the holidays and the rest of the year and it is your sole job to protect your peace and wellbeing.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 11, 2019 panic disorder, signs of panic attack0 comments
According to the Amercian Psychological Association, 1 out of 75 people will experience a panic attack at some point in their life. Yet the term is used very commonly in pop culture. There are major differences between a panic attack and anxiety or stress. The most common signs of a panic attack are a racing heart, sweating, pupil dilation, chest pain, dizziness or faintness, tingling in the arms, hands, or fingers, a feeling of dread, feeling like you’re dying, difficulty breathing, and feeling a loss of control. Of course everyone experiences these symptoms differently, it is common for a person experiencing a panic attack to go to the hospital thinking that they are having a heart attack or other cardiac event.
According to the Association for Depression and Anxiety, triggers for a panic attack are varied but often a panic attack has no known trigger or precipitating event which makes it even more confusing for the person experiencing the panic attack. A person can have one single panic attack without having a panic disorder or anxiety disorder. Other times, the panic disorder which is hallmarked by frequent panic attacks and particularly a pattern of avoiding situations to prevent the possibility of a future panic attack, this could be an indicator that the panic attack is evolving into a mental health disorder. Stress, medication withdrawal, caffeine, loss/grief, major life events like a wedding or divorce can also be triggers for a panic attack. There is also an important relationship between mitro-valve prolapse and panic attacks and anxiety disorders, those with mitro valve prolapse do experience higher than normal rates of panic disorder.
If a person is experiencing a full panic attack it may be difficult to resist the urge to run to the hospital, if a person who is sure that it is a panic attack, they can label the sensation as panic, and remember that it lasts for 10 minutes to 30 minutes. A person with panic disorder should be working with a mental health counselor on developing a plan for when their panic attack comes on, some people write that plan down and carry it with them everywhere to remind themselves of how to work through their crises management steps. Some people do deep breathing, take a walk, use grounding techniques, trace the outline of the room with their eyes, stretch, yet a mental health counselor is the best person to help a person come up with an individualized plan based on their strengths, needs, and overall context.
A panic attack is very different from anxiety or stress, although the term panic attack has made its way into popular language most of what people call a panic attack is really stress, worry, or panics little sister- anxiety. A full panic attack can sometimes be described as life changing because it has startling intensity. Anxiety is a state of worry or fear that can generally be managed or serve as pesky background noise in the sound reel of our minds. Panic is all consuming with spikes of heart rate and a feeling of total loss of control. If you are experiencing more than one panic attack, you should seek medical and mental health support immediately to rule out underlying conditions and prevent the panic attack from evolving into a full panic disorder.
This is not intended to treat or diagnose a mental health disorder, if you suspect that you are suffering from a mental health disorder seek a medical or mental health professional.