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Holly Jolly Stress

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Right? For some, the holiday season is a time to be anticipated. It’s a time for family, friends, celebrations, and thankfulness. Christmas carols boast of joy, love, cheer, family traditions and light hearts. This, however, is not the reality for some. The holiday season can be a time of extreme stress, exacerbated loneliness, depression, anxiety, and even grief. To make matters worse and the burden heavier, the holidays are also a time during which people tend to compare their lives to those around them, magnifying and compounding those negative feelings. Here are some important tips and reminders for those who struggle during the holiday season:

1. Consider creating new traditions for yourself if the old ones aren’t working.

2. Surround yourself with people who may be in a similar mindset during the holidays and need like-minded friendship and support. Focus on connecting with others even if it is not by conventional means. Avoid isolation and disconnection.

3. Recognize and accept your feelings without judgement. You are absolutely not alone. Be gentle with yourself and go out of your way to avoid potential triggers even if that means declining certain invitations.

4. Prioritize your self-care. Remember, the holiday season is just that: a season. If this time of year is particularly difficult for you, remember it will pass.

Written by Nicole Geddie – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Restore Your Relationship

“The first step to problem solving in a relationship is to simply take the rope and set it down.”
When working with couple’s in conflict resolution. The first question I ask them is: “what is one step you can take to work towards a solution?” Being able to work towards healing and restoration in a relationship means creating a mental shift from focusing on all the areas the other partner is lacking, and begin to focus on what steps are needed to take to make your partner comfortable in working together as a team. It is easy to fall into a “tug of war” battle where each partner refuses to let go of their own personal perceptions, opinions, and truths. While it is important to acknowledge your own thoughts and feelings, it is also important to show empathy and understanding towards the other partner. Taking accountability of your own actions and coming together to fight against the problem versus each other creates a sense of “partnership”. Partnership means you are no longer on opposite sides of the playing field but working together as a team.
Written by Jessica Sagastume, MH# 16756 – Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Bilingual and Immigration Counselor

🌊🌊FLOODED🌊🌊

by Ria Ruane, M.A., LMHC

I’ve always been attracted to and captivated by the sea. The therapeutic, lulling sounds of the waves, the glistening sunshine as it kisses the surf and the incredible, fascinating life within, such a gift, an absolute pleasure to behold!

For as long as I can remember, I found peace and serenity in, on or under the water. Swimming, beachcombing, boating, snorkeling, you name it, I’m in.

     When I was 5 years old, I crossed three beaches collecting colorful seashells. When my mom called her seven children in for lunch, she realized her youngest was gone and thought for sure I had been swallowed by the sea. In fact, I was in the police station, eating ice cream and waiting for her to pick me up with my new, shiny treasures.

     Over half a century has passed and I am fortunate enough to own an awesome condo on the sand in SWFL’s lovely Bonita Beach. So perfectly named as the word  ‘Bonita’ translates to beautiful in Spanish and Portuguese. They say, “If you’re lucky enough to have a place by the sea, you’re lucky enough.” On September 28, 2022, meteorologist and Hurricane Ian said differently. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel incredibly blessed. I now have the loss of a home to add to my life experiences. At least, it will help me build empathy for clients and after all, things can be rebuilt and replaced.

     September 27, 2022 and Mandatory Evacuation meant take very little and leave. I took a few photos, secured Hurricane shutters and headed inland for hours and hours of 150 mph wind, water and wait. The salty, snappy sea swelled and surged, tore out my shutters, blew out six sliders and took out every inch of my happy place. All that was left was covered in glass, sand and muck.

     After the storm, our community took a huge hit with catastrophic damage and destruction. Despite our best efforts to prepare, protect and defend, we flooded. Our homes and the days of our precious lives were overwhelmed and placed on hold by the same sea water that also provided everlasting moments of joy, serenity and peace. Now, like beach sand through an hourglass, we must move on to recover. In fact, we are a resilient community that will overcome and grow stronger because of this experience.

      My work as a realtor, leaves me scrambling to help the many displaced residents of SWFL find a place to stay, a place to call home.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sums up our situation quite nicely. As humans, we need to have our basic physiological needs met in order to survive. Think about it, how can we survive, never mind thrive, if we don’t have a place to stay, to be, to eat, to sleep, to live? It is also a basic human need to feel safe…safe from the storm. These needs are the baseline. Warm soup and a cozy blanket will always trump talk therapy. Safety, security, shelter, food, water, clothing, warmth, even sex rate high on our human needs check list. During this and other difficult life cycles, please remember self care. It is nonproductive to pour from an empty cup. Fill your cup and schedule time in your days (post-IAN daze) for activities that make your spirit soar.

     As a mental health counselor, specializing in grief and loss, I clearly recognize  the stages and cycle of grief that people are presently experiencing. Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, it’s all right here in our community. Many think the stages of loss are linear. In fact, the stages are cyclical and like a child’s water spray park, we can’t determine or plan for if, when or where any will pop up. One thing is for sure, it is virtually impossible to avoid emotional flooding when dealing with experiences that involve catastrophic loss.

     In addition to the stages of grief, I acknowledge the very real connection between storm flooding and emotional flooding that coexist with this type of trauma. In both instances, there are precautions we could and should take.

     An analogy I often use with clients is applicable here. During times of increased physical, emotional and mental stress, imagine a traffic light. The norm is green (Go) as we attend to our daily lives with manageable anxiety. As the storm gates open and the water begins to pour in (a.k.a. emotional arousal), we are signaled to pause. We need to be cognizant of the impending destruction that may occur if we continue without taking a ‘time out’ to consider calming, next best steps. Self soothing is an important part of the amber (Proceed with Caution) stage. Finally, as we near the red (Stop) zone, emotional relaxation becomes a matter of survival. This stage is where flooding is bound to occur. It is very difficult to make good decisions, communicate effectively or make healthy choices when flooded. Senses may shut down to a point where it is difficult to see, hear or even think as you would normally.  In the red zone, it is common for people to feel dissociated, fuzzy, extreme anger or fear, etc. Working with couples in crisis, we often see this during our Vacation Counseling Retreats. One person might feel as if they are moving in slow motion. Others might react with Flight, Fight, Freeze or Fawn during these difficult moments. Oftentimes, this is simply our minds’ way of dealing with red zone situations and/or trauma.

     When exposed to an overwhelming, high-anxiety situation, we must tend to basic physical survival. It is also imperative to incorporate evidence-based practices to prevent emotional damage and protect our mental health. These calming techniques include deep breathing exercises, guided visual imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, prayer, mindfulness, music, art, positive thinking, etc. Solution Focused Therapy suggests we create an imaginary tool box in which we store helpful techniques that elicit the relaxation response. When one doesn’t work, we search for another until we find one that fits just right for each unique, stressful situation. Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) works best when we simply utilize positive, helpful strategies that have worked in the past and reduce or eliminate techniques that haven’t worked. Which works best for you? My absolute favorite relaxation “tool” is gratitude.

     I try to begin my day with a big stretch and count my blessings on the fingers of both of my hands. An example of some of the ten things I am grateful for might include the sunshine, my ability to get out of bed, my health and awesome music. Heck, I might include my toothbrush, toothpaste and flossers! Gratitude is a great way to start a great day even in the midst of storms that life might send our way.

     I’d like to end by thanking you for allowing me to share my story. First and foremost, I thank God for all of my blessings. I am grateful to all those that assisted others during this difficult time. I consider them angels on earth. I thank my mom for finding me when I am lost and always being there for me. I thank my siblings, my friends and my children for caring. I am grateful for my clients, for trusting me with their stories. I appreciate being in a position where I can help others who are experiencing grief and loss. It is an honor and a privilege to walk with them even for a little while on their journeys.

     If you are in need of emotional support after Hurricane Ian, please take advantage of Cape Coral Therapist Free Drop-In Support Groups for the Community. It helps to know that others may be struggling to get back on their feet and experiencing similar issues. Here at Cape Coral Therapists, you matter! We care and are here for you. We are all in this together as we discover how resilient we really are and move towards Recovery.

Every Voyage Needs a Captain’s Log

Do you ever get swept up in the momentum of a day, week, or month, then pause and try to make sense of the blur? Does tunnel vision ever make things blend and get jumbled for you? Life often takes us on voyages, grand journeys toward big picture goals. But without taking notes along the way, things can get disorienting. That’s why every voyage needs a captain’s log. And the good news is that these days we all carry one in the form of our smartphones.

Journaling is well-documented as having tremendous benefits on our mental health and can help us notice patterns, connections, and opportunities that we may otherwise miss. Like many good habits though, it can be challenging to get started and stay consistent with it. Recently, many people are finding success in journaling by linking it with a smartphone use many of us know all too well: checking social media.

So, you get the urge to lift your phone and check your favorite app. But now that you remember every voyage needs a captain’s log, you go first to your notes app or a journaling app of choice. You jot down things like what time you woke up, how you’re feeling today, what things you want to get done before bed, and even some things you’re grateful for. Now, feeling grounded and mindful, you can click over to social media or move on with your day. Either way, taking brief moments to jot down where you’re at can be a great way to turn your smartphone use into something restorative and beneficial.

When journaling becomes a daily habit, it can be a fantastic resource for growth and direction. Ever get into a slump? Look back on your notes and find a time when you were feeling well. What were you eating then? How were you spending free time? Who was fostering your positive mindset? Let your past self remind you of the things that bring you joy and fulfillment, as well as some things you may want to steer clear of. Start building your captain’s log today and see where the voyage takes you.

Written by Louis Nicholas – Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Feminist Theory and Self-Care in the Modern Age

Rebranding the “Bimbo”

In 2022, young people have abandoned traditional theories of feminism and equality. Instead, they’re concentrating on something far more optimistic and unexpected: “bimboism.” But what exactly is a bimbo? Isn’t “bimbo” a derogatory term? And what does this have to do with mental health? The answer is, shockingly, quite a lot.

Traditionally, “bimbo” was defined as an attractive but insipid or “dumb” woman. Nowadays, young people are looking to reclaim the word. Feminist Theory has been prevalent in mental health counseling for decades; The work of Karen Horney comes to mind. But Millenials and Generation Z have a new take on feminism. Shot into the zeitgeist by Tiktok and Generation Z, the modern “bimbo” is the lovechild of social media and third-wave feminism. She stands for equality for all and, surprisingly, self-care & mental health. Syrena, a Tiktok creator known as @fauxrich, defined a bimbo as a traditionally or hyper-feminine woman often villainized for her love of traditionally feminine things, including self-care, caring for one’s physical appearance, and being in touch with one’s emotions. Griffin Maxwell Brooks, a Tiktok content creator, expanded on “the study of bimbology” in a video, saying, “nobody can tell you how to be a bimbo, since it isn’t about how people see you.” They continued, “There is no gender, class, color, or ability in the bimbo. The only prerequisite for bimbofication is embracing and reclaiming your body in the name of independence.”

For years, psychologists, therapists, and other mental health workers have worked for equal rights for both men and women. Unfortunately, in modern media and Western culture, traditionally feminine interests (such as watching romantic comedies, enjoying a spa day, or participating in any form of feminine activities as self-care) were seen as superficial, shallow, and for the unintelligent. Even in medical and mental health fields, the deep disdain for female emotions can be seen. For example, the verbiage of Histrionic Personality Disorder, with “histrionic,” originating from the Greek prefix hystera, meaning “womb” or “uterus.” Extreme emotions, attention-seeking behavior, and even being excessively consumed with grooming are all female-coded symptoms of HPD.

While the sub-culture of the new-age bimbo is relatively new on social media, what she represents is clear: a new, radical acceptance of all things traditionally feminine, including the full spectrum of her emotions, interests, and preferred self-care.

Written by Victoria Baker, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

Nothing Changes if Nothing Ever Changes

Regardless of our thoughts or intentions for ourselves or others, this phrase reminds us we are experiencing difficulty because doing the same thing over and over isn’t working. We need to change. We need to break a cycle or a way of being.

Change can be very difficult which is the reason cycles repeat. Anyone can fall victim to habit or routine and the excuses that maintain them. We can see these cycles repeating among our families, friends, coworkers, and others. It is also evident when someone chooses to change. To do something different. This breaks the cycle.

Change doesn’t have to be big or even scary. Sometimes it is just the way we think about a certain situation, ourselves, or others. Thinking differently is the beginning of change.

Impactful change can result from changing our vantage point or location. These changes may alter our moods! Skeptical? Give it a try, the next time you feel anxious, depressed, hopeless, or frustrated.

Challenge yourself to stand up and walk to another room, to a window, or outdoors. See how just moving yourself can feel like the beginning of a bigger change. At the very least, you handled your situation in a different way. You chose to think of it differently and to act upon those thoughts which lead to powerful, meaningful changes.

If the small change felt good, challenge yourself to consider the next step in this change. Will you incorporate this change into your routine? Will you add to this step by taking another step toward your goal of changing your self-perception, your situation, or relationships? It can!

It all starts with one small change.

Written by April Daniel, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern #21443

Summer Loving ❤️

Summer… Even the word brings on a sweet smile!

This spectacular time of year comes after spring and before fall. Many agree that it’s the best season of all. A time where we can all use a splash of replenishment as the days grow longer and the soul longs for sunshine and the sea.

Traditionally, this special season suspends the 3 R’s of reading writing and arithmetic and sets the stage for 2 R’s that are far more gratifying and satisfying to our mental health, rest, and relaxation.

Have you put much thought into making this summer sizzle? If not, it may be time to turn up the heat and consider the following FUN and affordable activities:

stargazing
exercising
gardening
pleasure reading
dancing/movement
yoga/pilates/tai chi
visiting a park/ zoo/ museum/ planetarium
building a treehouse
creating/sketching/ drawing/ painting/sidewalk chalk
praying/ meditating
collecting seashells
building a sand castle
hiking
writing/ sharing your story
kissing
playing board games
playing cards
playing hopscotch
playing sports
serving others
volunteering
baking
floating/ splashing in the sea
cycling/skating/roller blading
caking an ice cream sundae
other

Can you think of ten additions to begin your Summer Bucket List?
FUN things to do that lift your spirits and make your eyes sparkle!
If so, add them to create your unique summer bucket list! Check off as you complete and add other activists as you discover all of the pleasures of summer.
Let’s make the most of this awesome season!
Summer… I’m loving it!!

written by: Ria Ruane, MA, RMHCI art work by: Alexa Ruane

FORGIVENESS IS ESSENTIAL FOR HEALING

Forgiveness is a tool that we all possess as humans, but if you choose not to utilize your tool it becomes something that is foreign and many times it leads to something that we feel we no longer possess.
The truth is that forgiveness is a necessary tool to utilize in your daily life because it a tool that kick starts healing in your life both mentally and physically. According to Kirsten Weir, Research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.
In life, energy is something that we definitely utilize everyday, but if the energy you contain is contaminated with a lot of ongoing pain that you choose to not relieve yourself of it leads to various developments of mental and or physical conditions. This is why forgiveness is meant for the survivor rather than the offender that inflicted the pain.
Many may assume that forgiveness means that you are letting someone off the hook, but this is false evidence appearing real because forgiveness really means that a person is choosing to forgive the experience that they had and is choosing to relieve their-self of the negative emotions that has had a hold on them for years because of the choice to hold on to the constant pain and torment that is familiar to them.
When you choose to not forgive it is as if you are drinking a toxic drink and expecting those that hurt you to reap the consequences of it.
Forgiveness is a process and in that process the first step is to be willing to allow yourself to be open to forgiving. Then acknowledge all hurt and pain rather than consuming it as something you can never overcome. Once this is done identify how not forgiving is helping or not helping you. In addition, identify how forgiveness could help you and what your life could be like if you chose to forgive. After going over all of this review everything that you identified and based upon your realizations choose what will serve your life for the better because your life is yours and nobody else can live it but you.

Written by Bria Young, Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern

Reference

Weir, Kirsten. (2017). Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. American Psychological Association. Vol. 48 (1). Pg. 30

Strategize for Success

We have all had times where our best plans get thrown off course. Things outside of our control – pandemics, inflation, layoffs, you name it – change our outlook from one moment to the next. It can be overwhelming and even disheartening when new hurdles make our dreams seem that much farther away. But when life presents setbacks and challenges multiply, it becomes more important than ever to strategize for success – in health, in relationships, in work, and in life.

Strategizing for success is more than repeating positive affirmations while waiting for a storm to pass. It is a decision we make to acknowledge the storm and plan a way through it. We do it when we sort things out in a journal before bed, examine our problems in therapy sessions, and find shared aspirations in conversations with those close to us. Moments like these are opportunities to step outside of our daily cycles and obtain a broader perspective on where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re going.

Strategizing takes focus, concentration, and brutal honesty. Often it requires that we willingly confront the things troubling us most. Taking stock of where we’re at, courageously envisioning where we desire to be, and charting a course to get there is how we renew our motivation to forge ahead when things get rough. Also, it has been said that a person traveling alone will go fast, but people travelling together will go far. Strategizing for success can solidify plans for personal wellbeing, but it is even more powerful when we include the wellbeing of those around us.

Success is an experience, not a material possession. It is a journey, not a destination. It is an inner change that we pursue in hopes of improving the outer world. It is not about getting one up on someone else. It is about becoming more today than we were yesterday. Whether we are pursuing better health through exercise and food choice, better mental health through therapy and self-care, better relationships through communication and action, or better contributions to the world through skill learning and meaningful work, success comes when we recognize how our intentions and efforts can lead to growth we never imagined possible.

What does success look like in the coming day, week, or year? How can the inevitable challenges ahead be overcome? How can we work alongside others to achieve success beyond ourselves? These are questions that require us to set aside our social media, our news, our work, and our duties for just a moment as we grab a pen and paper, enter a therapy session, or sit down with a close friend, and strategize for success.

Written by Louis Nicholas, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling

When Positivity Becomes Toxic

Have you ever heard the following phrases?

  • “Positive vibes only.”

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

  • “Failure is not an option.”

  • “Why are you so upset? So-and-so has it much worse.”

  • “Look on the bright side.”

 

If these sound familiar, it’s because this type of mindset is glorified in mainstream culture. Toxic positivity is the belief that one should focus on the bright side of things and keep moving forward while ignoring or neglecting the negative aspects of life. While the intention is seemingly optimistic and positive, the impact is nothing short of harmful. Imagine having to be objectively strong, ambitious, successful, level-minded, in control, unaffected, emotionally stable, invincible, and perfect all the time. What an exhausting way to live! Toxic positivity essentially tells us that it’s not okay to be human because being human is messy and difficult. This is why so many people suffer in silence and feel like they’re failing in life. But what if we began looking at these positive attributes through a realistic and empowering lens rather than a dismissive one? What if we acknowledged that part of being “strong” is learning how to grow through moments of weakness? What if we believed that part of remaining “in control” is recognizing that there are things outside of our control and focusing on the things we can help? What if we accepted that part of being “emotionally stable” is becoming familiar with the emotions that hurt and feel uncomfortable and learning how to process these emotions in healthy ways? I believe we can normalize the real human experience and allow others to feel more comfortable and free to admit they aren’t doing well, ask for help, and receive support! No one should have to suffer alone or in silence.

 

Here are some healthier phrases to replace toxic positivity:

  • “I’m here for you.”

  • “I am so sorry that happened to you.”

  • “You have every reason to feel that way.”

  • “Do you want to talk about it?”

  • “How can I support you right now?

Written by Cindy-Joy Rosado, Graduate Student in Mental Health Counseling