Anxiety is a tool each human being has been given. It is an instinctual energy that we use to guide us, to keep us safe, and help us make decisions that are for our best interest in our lives. When I begin to tell my new clients this information, they usually gasp in disbelief and resist this concept at first. It is the "disordered anxiety" also known in the mental health field, as an anxiety disorder, that causes us excess distress and trouble. The key to managing anxiety, along with many learned tools in therapy, is to switch gears. Turn the problem inside out, and learn to work with your instinctual anxiety and not against it. We call this in my office, turn yourself inside out, and outside in...Changing the internal belief system that this chronic stress is a threat itself.
Today I am noting ten years since I found my way in terms of treating my own stressful patterns and anxiety differently. I use the nerves, stress, and internal guidance for my greater good. As a small child, I remember being fearful of most everything, bugs, tornadoes, and especially wolfs, (not sure where that came from) but it was a huge fear!
In my 20's and 30's, I worked hard to rid myself of my anxiety, denying it's power, it seemed to overtake me at times. Then the shift happened, around the time I was studying psychology, and clinical counseling, through Cognitive Behavioral Practice, and Mindfulness, I learned that shifting and listening to myself instead of telling myself there was something wrong with the way I was feeling, I felt relief almost immediately. It is a practice, not a one time fix, to accept and listen the fears we experience as human beings. It is okay to be nervous, scared sometimes, and have anxiety around certain things. Humans are born with this instinct, to keep us safe. I tell my clients, anxiety is one of the most adaptable traits, and we are now going to practice learning how to love every part of you, and take care of every part of you, even the anxious part of you! When we listen, with mindfulness, and self compassion, to ourselves and value our needs and emotions, it takes our anxiety from a disordered level, to a manageable level. We learn to set boundaries with unhealthy behaviors and relationships, make self care a priority, and practice self compassion when we are feeling overwhelmed.
I typically will use animals as a reference to this model of anxiety and mindfulness for stress reduction. The eagle is my favorite animal to use, so beautiful, wise, and protective. The eagle does not apologize for its nerves, it owns the energy, and soars high above the ground honoring the safety of their nest and their young. There is nothing wrong with instinctual anxiety, it is our gift to honor and to take care of. With the assistance of a trained counselor, disordered anxiety can be treated and shifting into a life of mindful, intentional living.
Jaclyn Fortier, LCMHC
Carolina Counseling Wellness Associates PLLC
This is the first post in a while...for good reason. We have been BUSY! This year, I vowed to slow down, restore, and re-focus. It is interesting that in the third month of my "slow down with intention" we get a global pandemic on our hands to deal with. I am ready to help. I am here with a clear mind and (very clean hands) to assist others with their anxiety and mental health during this time of uncertainty.
I have been serving the mental health population for over a decade, with years as a certified crisis worker, and currently a clinical supervisor and practicing licensed mental health counselor in the RTP area of North Carolina. This pandemic is a mental health issue just as much as it is physical health issue. People are scattered right now emotionally, the uncertainty seems to be the common thread. Will things be cancelled, will I be able to work, will someone in my family get sick?
Yesterday, I took a long walk around my favorite lake nearby, and noticed the energy shift in the air. People were smiling as I passed them like they usually do. Some were clearly connecting with me more intently, almost as to say, "it is all going to be okay"..with our eyes...
I am a preparer. I am a planner. I am also a health care provider who treats anxiety and crisis management. I believe in preparing for my family and myself, so I may serve others...
This week, I have been reminded that being mindful and practicing mindfulness is key for managing our chronic stress and crisis mindset. Some of the core components of mindfulness are:
Identify what is in your circle of control- prepare mindfully, wisely, and enough for you to feel comfortable. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and identify ways that you can release what is out of your control with grace.
Self compassion- (it is okay to be a little worried, anxiety can be a good energy source if harnessed correctly). Be kind to yourself with your thoughts.
Pay attention- (to the right information) keep up with the positive and action focused news not the scarcity mindset followers. Energy is more contagious than viral infections! Negative group think will affect you if you are overexposed. Limit the information you get to the experts.
Practice distraction and self care- Be aware of yourself and your mood and if you are overwhelmed take a break. Hey, we are not supposed to be in large crowds..what a great excuse to stay off the grid, take a hike, go camping, or an extra long walk in the park...
We have been teaching mindful hand washing as a portable self care anxiety relief option for years. In our Dialectical Behavior groups we would do self soothing hand washing examples of how to regulate our emotions using our five senses. What a great excuse for self soothing bubbles and scrubbing those bad feelings away with a nice lemon scented soap.
Since the beginning of the "don't touch your face" recommendation..I can't tell you how many times I have had an itch or wanted to touch my face! MINDFULLY I have said to myself..sit with the urge, notice it, don't react to it...and it passed...This is such a powerful way to practice something that is already so good for us! Mindful awareness of the present moment (and good hygiene).
Check in with your health care providers for support. Many of us in Wake County NC, my counseling practice included, and even the Veterans Administration here in Durham, are offering TELE-HEALTH during this time for those who feel overly anxious and need medical attention.
This is a mental and physical health care opportunity to be centered, wise minded, and refocus on what really matters. Compassion and human kindness.
For us, this weekend will be full of hiking at the nature park, visiting local "small" businesses to help ease our pending financial economy crisis, and enjoying a little "introverted" off the grid time to rest and recover.
Jaclyn Fortier, LCMHC
In searching for meaning in life, most seem to do this in attaining loving relationships, which are sometimes successful... and sometimes not. About a 50% gamble based on most statistics.
I do not personally or professionally believe in failures, I believe, and have witnessed in my practice, that it is all a building process of learning experiences, that lead to greater knowledge of self and others. Yet, to be in a loving relationship, one has to be vulnerable.
The word "vulnerability" can evoke, as I have seen in my clients faces, a squirmy uncomfortable feeling..."what is that"...what is vulnerability anyways, and why is it needed in love and relationships?
A very wise and dear friend of mine told me a while back, and I started to ponder it personally, and discuss with my clients as well,... To have a successful, full, meaningful relationship, two people have to be mutually vulnerable...sharing secrets, trust, all in...for better or worse, ego aside.
If this is so, why is it so hard to be vulnerable? Because being vulnerable is scary! Rejection, or judgment, or loss is right on the other side...what if...
It is like jumping into a lake that looks beautiful on the surface, yet you have no idea what is under the water.
It is like jumping out of a plane, wondering if the chute will open, or trusting your tandem partner will pull the cord at the right time...
But love, true love, the kind that lasts a lifetime...which seems to be what so many want...takes a leap, takes trust before it is earned... it takes vulnerability and being OPEN...in a way that they see the real you, and you see the real them, and then the magic happens...so we must not fear vulnerability, because in reality, it is the only way we can get, and keep, what we all seem to want so much...
It is a leap, a blind jump, faith in trusting one another to understand, and catch each other. It is facing the fear of judgement and being your full and true self with one another...that is vulnerability, and it is the only way love is going to work.
Jaclyn Fortier, LPC
Has anyone else noticed we are on earth, which is rapidly spinning in space each day? With the hustle and bustle of daily life, garbage trucks at the curb making the dog bark while you busily get ready for the day. Kids or cats needing food, work obligations, resolutions to yet again make everything better this year...It is no wonder why so may people are stressed and seeking more in their lives.
What we are seeking so furiously, may just be with us already.
One day not long ago, I was driving down a back road after an appointment, setting an intention to be mindful.
A big red pick-up truck came up behind me as I cruised at the speed limit...he got really close. So close I could feel his anger and hurried energy breathing down my mindfulness moment.
As we curved an winded down the road, I stayed my course, noticing the beautiful broken down barn in the pasture, the horses lazily eating their way through the fields... then with a loud muffler exhale...the truck ZOOMED passed me and darted out of sight. I could slowly feel his hurried anger leave my mindful moment and I took a breath...
A few miles down the road, I stopped for the red light, and to my delight and insight, the big red angry pick-up truck was in FRONT of me at the red light...we were at the same point in time...this was inspiring as I can relate, most can, to being in that kind of hurry. Maybe he was late picking up his children from school, maybe he forgot the milk on the way home...But...his hurrying did ABSOLUTELY nothing to change this.
AHHHH I wish I would have known this when I was younger...this bit of wisdom I have learned, and now passionately share with others...
WE ARE ALL GOING TO END UP IN THE SAME PLACE SO WHAT'S YOUR HURRY...
Mindfulness is practice of slowing down, paying attention, and being in the moment. It is a practice, it is hard to do in this world of hustle and bustle, although it can be life-changing. It is not mediation, you do not have to wear a Buddha robe to master it. You can even drive a big pick-up truck and still be mindful.
It is a practice and a tool. It does not mean you have to be in a mindful state all the time, although it is a tool used to come back to when you need it, whenever you can.
What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment — without interpretation or judgment or trying to change it.
Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be exhausting. It can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression.
Practicing mindfulness exercises, on the other hand, can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you. There are online mindful courses, guided mindfulness work, and many counselors, including myself, have training on how to implement mindfulness into your daily life.
What are the benefits of mindfulness exercises? Practicing mindfulness exercises can have many possible benefits, including:
Jaclyn Fortier, LPC
Psychotherapist, Practice Owner, Writer, and Empowerment guru!
Hugh Willard, LPC, writes an interesting piece on needs.
Abraham Maslow was a seminal figure in psychology. He created his Hierarchy of Needs, which details the upward movement for individuals from the most basic requisite need of the essentials for survival, through safety and security, to emotional connection, esteem and respect, and finally the pinnacle of self-actualization. One will always default to the lowest level of unmet need, Maslow posits. With great respect for Dr. Maslow, while I agree with his idea that we will orient to the most primary unmet needs first, I disagree with his order.
Time and again, we see the behavior of others, or ourselves, being driven by the need for true connection. We may even settle for tenuous or superficial belonging and work really hard to make ourselves believe it to be authentic. We will forgo the more traditional basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter if it entails a relationship for which we assign the value of real connection. The starkest demonstration of this I have witnessed personally is a terminally ill person moving through the process of dying. Subjectively, there is a distinct difference for the dying person who feels truly connected to others. There is greater peace and acceptance. Because of the mercurial nature of humankind, we often make choices in the pursuit of securing or maintaining a bond, that produce disastrous results. Co-dependency is the oft cited word used to describe such behaviors.
If it is true that belonging is more essential than safety, then realistically, we are all somewhere on the continuum of co-dependency. It’s when we tilt over in the direction of being too defined by forces outside of us that we get into trouble. We would do well to be vigilant in our relationships to ensure we are nurturing healthy connections. We cannot live well without them.
Hugh Willard LPC
Here is a post by Hugh Willard, LPC, on anger...
Many, many of us in our society today have an anger problem. Our problem is that we have absolutely no idea of how to use and work with it. Healthy anger gives us proportionate energy to communicate our boundaries, usually when these boundaries have been violated. We tend to be over shooters (too much) and under shooters (too little) with our anger. Regrettably, many of us did not have healthy models in our families growing up; nor have we had enough healthy models in our local communities (ever go to a child’s sporting event and listen to the shouts from the stands?), or on the national stage (pick any number of TV programs, fictitious or reality).
Anger, in any form, is a secondary emotion. The primary emotion that always under girds and fuels our anger, is fear. While we won’t turn off years of mental programming overnight, it is never too late to start learning how to become allies and partners with our anger, so that it will ultimately serve us in the pursuit of health and healthier relationships. As we pay greater attention to our anger responses across experiences, through the dispassionate lens of hindsight, hopefully we can begin to critically judge our reactions.
We can ask ourselves, “what am/was I afraid of?” Exploring the underlying drivers can help us to better use and manage our anger. Where we chronically undershoot, we can work with techniques toward becoming more assertive and active in making choices. Where we overshoot, we can employ strategies to help us relax and slough off excess anger and stress not fitting for the experience at hand.
Read more about Hugh at willowwaycounseling.org
Hugh Willard, LPC shared a great post this week. Let's get to it...insightful.
“Sometimes my masks are insufficient and light breaks in” When I hear someone exclaim “boundaries!”, it is without exception in the context of saying that another person’s boundaries are too loose, or non-existent. That is, the other individual shares too much personal information and/or requests the same from others.
These unsafe dynamics are usually quite easy to spot. But what about the other end of this relational continuum? What happens when a person’s boundaries are too impenetrable? In the world of psychology, one of the more widely accepted basic tenets is that of defenses.
Defenses include such experiences as denial, repression, and rationalization, among many others. Defenses serve a very important and protective role in our emotional health. All too often, however, our defenses outlast the specific circumstances for which they were originally employed.
When this occurs, the protection becomes the poison, cutting us off from the life giving sources of connection with other people and experiences. It can be an act of courage to open ourselves up after painful experiences. Of course, we need to proceed with care, but proceed we must, if we are to heal and grow.
See more of Hugh's work at www.willowwaycounseling.org
This post is by Hugh Willard, LPC. Hugh is now practicing at Carolina Counseling Wellness Associates, and we are excited to have his expertise and knowledge on hand. This post came at such an appropriate time, as so much courage is needed for many of us as changes unfold. Check back soon for more!!
"Choose to see me as I choose to see you” Marianne Williamson penned an often cited phrase, “Our greatest fear is not the fear of failure. Rather, it is the fear of success”. It is an act of courage to expose ourselves to the scrutiny of our peers, or to the larger society. Standards can be unrealistic and often only elevate with early success.
We can unwittingly bear the hopes and dreams of others who can remain anonymous while they vicariously rise and fall with our performance. When in this dynamic, we need to remain cognizant that we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. Success, in the eyes of the general public, can be fickle.
Champions are beloved, but not as much as the underdogs, and also-ran . . . well, what have you done for me lately. Envy and resentment can build into the equation. I believe the degree to which we have tolerance for our own successes and failures, will reflect the level of acceptance we also shall have for those around us.
Hugh Willard, LPC
See more of Hugh's work at http://www.willowwaycounseling.org/
Lindsey Pratt, psychotherapist in NYC, has graciously offered to weigh in on a topic I find near and dear, anxiety and fear!
Read the full post here and visit her site for more info www.meetlindsey.com/
If you're one of the estimated 30% of Americans who suffers from anxiety, you know that the accompanied and often uncontrollable fear that goes hand-in-hand with anxiety is what seems to be steering your ship away from shore. And sometimes, it just feels best to hide below deck or try to outrun the fear. But if your body is the ship and your symptoms are the waves, you may know deep down that riding out the storm is the only possible option.
I am here to tell you that to face the fear is to find your lighthouse.
Anxiety is often described as the "fear of fear itself." You may worry, "I'm okay this time, but am I going to feel like this again tomorrow?" "What if my next panic attack is while I'm in class?" "Is the next one going to be even worse?"
These are all questions generated by fear, rather than the initial thought that may be causing the anxiety. And even if you cannot place the initial anxiety-provoking thought, focusing on the fear itself may offer some relief.
Address the storm ahead. As those first sneaking symptoms of anxiety begin to creep into your body, stop and process each and every one. "Okay, I'm starting to get that feeling in my stomach." Turn your attention to it and sit with this thought for a moment, rather than pushing it down deeper. If there's a possibility of someone hiding under the bed, how much better does it feel when you finally get up the courage to flick on the light and check? Sleep only returns when you have addressed the fear head-on, to see that nothing is really there. "I have this feeling in my stomach again, but it will go away...it always does. It's probably a 4 out of 10, and I've survived a 10 out of 10 before."
Learn to tread water. Let's look at the worst-case-scenario: You have a panic attack in public, or someone you're with realizes that you're struggling. Onlookers see you...and then they go about their day. Think of the last time you saw someone crying in public. Can't remember when it was, who they were, or the face they were making while sucking up air? Me either. We are all humans! By immediately going to your own worst-case-scenario, you beat "fear" there. Fear wants to tell you that having a visible panic attack will be the worst thing that could ever happen. Take a minute to tell fear that you know this is not the case.
Find your lifeline. Dealing with symptoms of anxiety often requires a strong inner dialogue, and it may not be the type you are used to. If your inner dialogue typically consists of, "Okay, here we go again...why do I have to feel like this today? Why can't I just be "normal?" Why did I wake up anxious, anyway? I went to bed last night feeling fantastic!" then you are letting the enemy take over. (That enemy? It's fear! In case you were wondering.) Develop a mantra and tell yourself the truth. The truth sounds something like this: "I'm anxious right now, but I might not be later. I'm about to get up, get dressed, and go to work, because I'm capable. This feeling is bad, but it does not define me, and it will not last forever."
Address the anxiety dead-on whenever you can. Be your own lighthouse. You know better than anyone the scope, symptoms, and solutions to your anxiety. Access them, examine them, and keep them close rather than bobbing in the distance. Own your fear, and then dive in.
I promise you'll know how to stay afloat.
Lindsey Pratt, MA
NY Mental Health Counselor
Nationally Certified Counselor
This picture was taken from the window of my new office. I was filled with what I call "Life Energy" that morning, and woke up before dawn, to go over to my new space and get some painting done. We were opening in three weeks. There was a lot of change on the way, which always gives me "Life Energy". Some might call this anxiety, although I take that feeling and shift it into the framework "time is changing". Energy is needed, call the reinforcements! Things are shifting in the air, you can see it in the sky in this picture. It is magically beautiful with sparkles of hope. It is not scary, like some view change. It is perfectly beautiful and peaceful...
When we go with change, with grace, with faith, shift from anxiety into "Life Energy" we find peace and abundance. When we take time to stop and notice each day, we will find calm in the storm.
When we go with change, and view the anxiety against it as "Life Energy" we get strength to be brave and embrace what we are given. When things need to be done, we use this energy to do it in a concise direct way.
Now life is settling in after the shift of change, and in reflection I learn more about the world, myself, the people I meet with everyday. We are all shifting, flowing, fighting it, and learning along the way. When we embrace the beauty that comes with change, we are able to be open to the joy within.