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Managing Your Stress Response

In Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski’s book, Burnout, they talk about how understanding the difference between a stressor and a stress response is crucial in helping us respond to both in healthy ways.  A stressor is anything in our lives which causes strain or tension.  A stress response refers to the physical changes in our bodies which occur in response to the stressor.

 
A deadline at work, an argument with our partner, a child who is struggling at school, or a to-do list that is longer than we have time for are all common examples of stressors.  Your response and your neighbor’s response to any of these stressors may look very different. Sometimes resolving the stressor is fairly simple.  We can work overtime to meet the deadline.  We can resolve arguments with our partner.  We can seek additional support for a child who is struggling in school.  We can complete the to do list eventually.  Some of these stressors will take longer than others to resolve, but whether by completion or the passage of time, the stressor will fade.  What is left behind is the accumulation of the stress response.  


Often we feel that the resolution of the stressor is sufficient, but Nagoski and Nagoski assert that it is not.  We must also address the physical response to the stressor, and if we do not, the stress response will accumulate in our bodies to the point where it impacts our physical health.  They suggest 12 methods for addressing stress response build up:

  1. Exercise
  2. Sleep
  3. Mindful breathing
  4. Creative self expression
  5. Using your imagination
  6. Mindful crying
  7. Superficial social connection
  8. Intimate social connection
  9. Connection with nature, landscape, or animals
  10. Spiritual connection
  11. Laughter
  12. Mindful self compassion.


The next time you feel stressed, take a minute to increase your awareness of your stress response.  What changes do you notice in your body?  What happens to those changes when you participate with intention, in one of the above methods?


If you find yourself overwhelmed with stress in your life and aren’t sure how to manage your stress response, give these suggestions a try, or for one-on-one support call 801-944-4555 to schedule a session with Alice today.

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Notice That

Bessel A. van der Kolk, a leading trauma expert, said, “As I often tell my students, the two most important phrases in therapy, as in yoga, are “Notice that” and “What happens next?” Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts.”

Through my clinical work over the past 10 years, I have found the body to be one of the greatest teachers in helping clients to connect with, and heal from, trauma that is stored in the body. Stored trauma often manifests itself physically, such as with anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, fear, and other “uncomfortable” emotions. Consequently, our bodies are often feared, rather than embraced as the wise teacher it is.

I have found one of the most powerful tools in helping myself, and my clients, stay in a state of curiosity, rather than fear, of these bodily sensations is the breath. When triggered by these bodily sensations mentioned above the body typically moves into the sympathetic, or fight or flight nervous system. Often, clients with trauma have learned to operate in this nervous system more often than is useful. The breath is a powerful bridge between the sympathetic and parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nervous systems.

Next time you find yourself filled with anxiety, I challenge you to take four deep “box” breaths, where you breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out of four counts, and hold for four counts. After which, maintain the deep breathing pattern and notice what is happening in your body physically, and breathe into any tension you find. Then, remain curious and ask yourself what is needed to help you feel safe and secure in the present moment. At that point you may ask, “what happens next?” Take note of what inner child wounds or beliefs may be surfacing, and allow yourself to sit with that wound to find truth. Learning to become curious about thoughts that once seemed overwhelming, scary, or insurmountable can be an empowering exercise when you start unwinding unhelpful past conditioning.

Sometimes with trauma, clients may find themselves feeling stuck at certain points of traditional talk therapy. If that has been the case, it is helpful to explore other modalities to help release trauma on a cellular level, such as EMDR. Other movement based interventions such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and dancing have also been found to be helpful in healing trauma. If you have found yourself stuck in processing past trauma, please feel free to reach out to see if we can explore some additional healing modalities. You can schedule by calling 801.944.4555.

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Be Present: Enjoy the Silence

The world is full of noise and escaping that noise in important. Whether that is getting out running, hiking, walking, or enjoying any of your favorite activities. What is important in taking in the silences is that we are present. Taking the time to enjoy the silence is an act of mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shown to benefit us by:

·         Physical benefits including lowered blood pressure and improved sleep. 

·         Gaining more control of our thoughts.

·         Reduction of stress.

Remember yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called present. – Mastery Oogway Kung Fu Panda 

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Having Courage to Slow Down

I, like many of you, spend a lot of time in my car. I always feel like I’m rushing from one thing to the next and I never have enough time for anything. As I was driving to work the other day there was a car that I ended up behind in the turning lane that didn’t increase its speed once it turned. At first, I found myself annoyed and thought “Are you kidding me? Come on, GO!!” I was looking in my side and rear-view mirrors to try to change lanes but there was a steady stream of cars in the lane next to me. I, then, realized that I didn’t need to rush, I was going to have half an hour in the office before my client’s appointment and I calmed down.

I thought to myself as I paid more attention to the car in front of me that it was probably someone old driving the car because I couldn’t see the driver’s head above the head rest. When I was finally able to change lanes and go around this car, I looked over at the driver as I passed. Sure enough, it was a little old lady, hunched over and barely seeing over the steering wheel. A smile came to my face as I thought of this woman who likely had slowed down in many aspects of her life, only one of which was driving, and how I am always in such a rush. It made me wonder how often I missed things from not paying attention and always rushing from one thing to the next.

We live in such a fast-paced world with so many things demanding our attention at once. I find myself getting lost in the mundane routine that is my life as crazy and busy as it is right now. But when I can slow down and just be present in the moment, I find that while there are parts of my life that are mundane, there are also pretty amazing things that happen around me and inside of me every single day. If we are constantly chasing the next thing, we can never truly just be with ourselves. But maybe that is part of why we don’t slow down.

Slowing down can be vulnerable. When we allow ourselves to be still, things can surface that we’ve been avoiding. We constantly measure ourselves by what we do and what we accomplish, so who are we when we slow down? Maybe we aren’t enough, maybe we are too much, maybe our emotions are too overwhelming, maybe it will be too vulnerable. Brené Brown has dedicated her life to studying vulnerability, authenticity, and courage. It takes courage to be still, to allow vulnerability, and to show up authentically. She says, “authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” Slowing down, embracing who we really are, and being still with whoever we are right now can be scary but can also be powerful.

So how are you going to demonstrate your courage to slow down, be still, and embrace that you are enough?

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My Kids Are All in School….Now What?

It’s a story I hear about all of the time in my personal and professional life. “My last child is going to kindergarten, or first grade. Yay!! I’m going to have so much more time for other things!” And inevitably, a month later, I hear a very different story. “I don’t quite know who I am anymore. Or what I want to do with my time.” A lot of these women have been stay at home mothers, or work part time, while they have young children. Once the children are in school, their life changes quite drastically. They have more time to focus on themselves and their own interests. While this sounds like a time of liberation, a lot of women find it to be a time of high anxiety. 

For years, society has taught women that their primary, and sometimes only, role is to be a mother. Whether you subscribe to this mentality or not, it is very present in our society. Therefore, a lot of women take that role on as their only sense of self. As a mother, sometimes I find myself getting lost in child rearing. I have to remind myself that while I love being a mother and it is important to me, I can still have interests and passions outside of that realm.  This realization comes to light quickly when all of your children are attending school full time. So, to all of the mothers who are sending their youngest off to kindergarten/first grade, or to the mothers of young children that need to revisit who they are I challenge you to answer the following five questions.

  1. What do I like to do for fun?
  2. What do I do for self care that reenergizes me?
  3. What relationships would I like to strengthen?
  4. Do I want to go back to work, or work more?
  5. Other than being a mom what do I want to be known for in my life?

These questions can help guide you to some career choices, as well as just things you can do for yourself when you have the time. If you are having a difficult time defining who you are, and who you want to become in the future come into therapy. Working with women to find their inner strength is something I love to do! Good luck as your kiddos head off to school.  I’ll be at Wasatch Family Therapy with lots of congratulations and the tissues. 

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On Going Kids Social Skills Group

Wasatch Family Therapy is excited to announce this school year’s social skills group. This group is opened ended allowing kids to come into the group throughout the school year. There is a six session commitment, but children can stay longer, if needed. Groups are $50 per session, due at the time of the group. Please contact us at 801-944-4555 to register for the group.

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50 Wise Ways To De-Stress Your Life

People have many reasons for why their life is so stressful. Why they can’t de-stress. 
Why they feel so out-of-control. Why they believe it will just never change.

While many reasons exist, my experience is that people have three key reasons why they can’t seem
to de-stress their lives. Here are a few to think about.

1) My life is too complicated to change!
 
I’ve heard this reason or derivations of this excuse many times. Whether it’s multi-tasking a crazy schedule
or simply feeling there is nothing I can change, this line of reasoning hamstrings us.

2) Life never gives me a darn break!
 
While this reason sounds similar to number 1, it’s actually quite different. Whether it’s a mom who is
exhausted by their 3 kids or a dad trying to close that important deal to support their family, it’s exhausting.
By the way, these roles can be switched and aren’t gender exclusive. The point is, we need to SEEK a break in
our lives.

3) Stress keeps me young!
 
I’ve spoken with people who have told me that stress is “motivating” or that stress keeps me
“involved in life.” And yes, even that it “keeps me young.” The latter has been spoken with a knowing
chagrinned glance that it actually isn’t helping. Which actually begs the question of “how well is that working for
you?” The reality is, it simply is NOT helping.

Ideas That Work!

Here are 50 wise and proven ways to de-stress your lives (Hint: The hard part is actually making the time, not
in doing them!)
 
Read
Garden
Movies
Hike
Piano
Affection
Backpack
New outfit
Vacation
Work (job) less
Bucket list
Friends
Work out
Increase Intimacy
Get away
Spirituality
Sex
Travel
Education
Walk
Step back
Make Love
Change careers
Re-connect
Healthy Emotions
Trail Run
Date
Flower Garden
Exercise
Religion
Journal
Volunteer
Arts
Ski
Creativity
Crafts
Mountains
Yoga
Rock Climbing
Symphony
The Mighty 5
Bear Lake
Sunset
Opera
Sunrise
Thunder
The Beach
Work smarter
Self-care
Alone time
Switch it up!

There are easily 50 more ideas to add to this list. However, that’s not the point, i.e., to add more stress. The critical
point is that unless we make changes and do more for ourselves, we suffer. We’ll just experience more and more stress
that just simply perpetuates itself. That. Makes. No. Sense!
 
What makes perfect sense is choosing several of the items from my list and just doing them. Hiking is amazing in the
Wasatch. Watching a summer movie rocks. Journaling is helpful. Reading a book energizing!
 
And, I can (almost) guarantee that your stress level will drop. You will want to do more for yourself. Become fiercely loyal
to it!!!

Michael Boman, LCSW has 20 years experience in helping people de-stress and reconnect. Reach out to him at 801.944.4555,
if you feel this blog has moved you to want to take back your life.
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Kitchen Therapy

Soft music playing the background. A chilled bottle of Sparkling juice and a wine glass are set out ever so carefully. Grey sweatpants. Favorite t-shirt. It may sound like the makings of a great date, but it is the usual scene for my favorite form of self-care called Kitchen Therapy. Having grown up in the South, food was often at the center of family gatherings and hold many important memories. A few years ago, I discovered the power of cooking and baking while working with adults in a residential treatment program for substance abuse. As they followed a simple recipe for a cake, I observed noticeable changes in their moods and overall attitudes. I decided to try it in my own life, and I noticed the same impact.

Kitchen therapy does not have to be fancy, and it can range from simple cookies to well decorated cakes. Many people are aware of the concept of emotional eating, but emotional baking may be a healthier way to process difficult feelings, especially when coupled with the service of giving baked goods to those who may also be struggling. There is something satisfying about seeing a cake come together and having the smell fill the house. For me, baking cakes remind me of all of the strong women in my life whose influence have shaped the man that I’ve become. Baking a red velvet cake, for example, connects me to my paternal great-grandmother, whose recipe has been down through three generations. My godmother’s Italian Cream Cake reminds of me summer afternoons sitting in her kitchen hoping to be able to lick the mixing bowl when she was done preparing the batter. My mother’s chocolate cake is the way that I connect to home when I am homesick.

One of the benefits of Kitchen Therapy is that it provides us with an opportunity to be productive and creative and step away from the craziness of our lives. So, I’ve decided to share one of my favorite recipes just in time for Spring—Key Lime Cupcakes! Enjoy!

 

Key Lime Cupcakes

CUPCAKES:

One 3-ounce package lime flavored gelatin

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

3/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

 

GLAZE:

1/2 cup key lime juice (from about 25 small key limes or 4 large regular limes)

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

 

ICING:

1/2 cup (1 stick butter), room temperature

One 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature

One 1-pound box confectioners’ sugar

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

 

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin pan with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, granulated sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the oil, orange juice, lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until well combined. Fill the liners ¾ full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes then sit on cooling racks to cool. The mix will yield about 36 cupcakes.

For the glaze: While the cupcakes are still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners’ sugar together well. Pierce the cupcakes with a toothpick to allow the glaze to soak in better and pour it over the cupcakes while still in the pan. Allow cupcakes to cool completely as you prepare the icing.

For the icing: Cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until mixture is smooth and easy to spread. For the teal color, use a combination of neon green and blue at the ratio of 50 drops of green to 4 drops of blue. Fill piping bag with icing and pipe on each cupcake. Top with golden gum ball.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been defined as “the quality of being conscious or aware of something.” Mindful.org refers to mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Practicing mindfulness and incorporating this way of being into your life  can improve one’s physical, social and psychological wellbeing. The benefits are well worth the amount of time it takes and are as follows:

  1. Increase one’s ability to decrease anxiety and depression.
  2. Helps one to pay attention and observe thoughts and feelings without judgement.
  3. Promotes relaxation and calmness.
  4. Reduces negative emotions and stress. Improves memory.
  5. Boosts the immune systems ability to fight off illness.
  6. Encourages one to eat healthy and cope with cravings allowing them to pass.
  7. Alleviates physical pain. Develops a sharp focused mind.
  8. Improves relationships. Increases work satisfaction.
  9. Regulates emotions. Enhances digestion. Improves sleep.
  10. Improves academic achievement/reduces problem behaviors.

Apps and websites that can be used to incorporate Mindfulness into the lives of children, adolescents, adults and seniors include:

happify.com, omvana.com, brain.fm, mindfulness- app.com, joyable.com, calm.com, mindful.org, headspace.com, smilingmind.com, Stop, Breathe & Think, DreamyKid, Breathing Bubbles, Positive Penguins, Calm Counter, Emotionary, Take a chill, Chill Outz, Relax Melodies, Guided Mind, MINDBODY, Buddhify, Insight Timer, 10% Happier, Meditation Studio, Pacifica, Meditation Timer Pro. Sattva Meditations and Mantras, Breethe, Simply Being, Wuf Shanti Yoga Fun Machine, Breathe, think, Do with Sesame, Super Stretch Yoga HD, Mandala Memory, Mindful Powers, Wellbeyond Meditation for kids, Zen Bound 2 Universal, 5 minute escapes, Jinglow, and Virtual Hope Box.

The practice of mindfulness can assist you to be in the moment bringing a sense of peace, joy and happiness into one’s life. Eckhart Tolle stated “Wherever you are be there totally.”

For additional assistance to learn more about living in the present (the here and now) Contact Sue Hodges LCSW at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555

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Smashing the Stigma of Therapy

Though we live in a time where therapy is more widely utilized, and less stigma exists than in years past, I still hear from individuals who are very apprehensive about seeking out psychotherapy. Many of the clients that come in to meet with me, admit they have wrestled for years with the decision to come in before “finally reaching a breaking point.” On the tail end, it is common for me, as a therapist, to hear a client near the end of treatment say, “I wish I had done this years ago!”

I think part of the reason people are apprehensive to come to therapy is that they think if they go to therapy, something must be wrong with them. They must be flawed in some way or they should be able to figure out their problems “on their own.” We give very unreasonable expectations to ourselves regarding mental, emotional, and social health, that we don’t necessarily assign to medical health. This is why, I have developed an analogy I find very useful to squash the stigma of therapy. Here it is…

Everyone needs to go to the dentist. We all get tarter build up on our teeth and lack the tools, ability, or vision to reach and clean all the spots on our own. Most people go to the dentist for just a cleaning now and again, some for minor cavities, and far fewer for an abscessed tooth or root canal. If we avoid the dentist and the cleanings, then we are more likely to get a cavity, and more likely to need that root canal.

Well my friends, therapy is the exact same way. Most people benefit from therapy for the day to day grime that builds up in our personal lives and relationships, the things we all deal with like marital disagreements, parent-child conflict, grief and loss, and major life transitions. Some of us however, do need an extraction at times and therapy is equipped for depression, anxieties, trauma and all other kinds of struggles.

The reason I like this analogy is because I have yet to meet anyone who feels shame for needing to go to the dentist for a cleaning, however people attending therapy are frequently dripping in shame unnecessarily. I reassure them that I am just here to aid in their cleaning with my big lamp and some tools they may not have at home.

If you have been considering therapy as a tool that may help your family, don’t hesitate! Schedule your cleaning today 😉

Kathleen Baxter MS, LMFT

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