Letting Go of the Struggle

Letting Go of the Struggle

We learn patterns of coping from a young age and often these same ways of coping that helped us survive in childhood become cumbersome later in life.

Life can be hard.

The ways we learn to cope with life’s pain can be learned in childhood or during a tough season of adulthood. We learn patterns of coping from a young age and often these same ways of coping that helped us survive in childhood become cumbersome later in life.

Sometimes, after a season of hardship or struggle, we can forget what it feels like to be in a healthy cycle of rest, times with a healthy amount of stress that is followed by another time of rest. Some common coping behaviors are drinking, worrying when there’s no clear benefit, getting used to chaos and struggling to enjoy good times when things get easier.  

A good example of this is the usefulness of snow chains on a tire when it’s snowing outside. When the weather is bad, those snow chains are essential, you couldn’t get anywhere without them!

But what about when it’s summer and the roads are dry and dusty? I am not a mechanic, but I do know that in that scenario, snow chains would be harmful, not helpful.

We can think of our own learned coping mechanisms in the same way. When we were in childhood or going through a hard time following a death in the family as an adult for example, we needed those coping mechanisms to keep us afloat. When the sun comes back out and life is good again, how do we take off the snow chains from our proverbial tires? Well, one way to start examining those things that have helped us cope in the past, but may not be as helpful now, is to just start observing when you do that behavior.

An article on the Good Therapy website describes this struggle in these words:

“Oddly enough, painful feelings can be comfortable, especially if they’re all you know. Some people have trouble letting go of their pain or other unpleasant emotions about their past because they think those feelings are part of their identity. In some ways, they may not know who they are without their pain.”   

So, who would you be without your pain and negative coping mechanisms?

Some good ways to start learning this about yourself is through these three options:

  1. Beginning therapy
  2. Finding your trigger points. When do you feel a spike in those anxious and painful feelings?
  3. Observe them, but don’t judge. Simply start becoming aware when and how often you engage in that behavior.

If you’d like to begin therapy and explore these topics, give us a call at 615-591-5262.

Cohen, I. S. (2017, Aug 7). Important Tips on How to Let Go and Free Yourself.

Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/coping-mechanisms

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-emotional-meter/201708/important-tips-how-let-go-and-free-yourself

Written by Refuge Center Masters Level Counseling Intern Tiffany Miller.

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Five Tips for Relieving Stress

Five Tips for Relieving Stress

Before we find the solution to the problems we experience, we can carry a lot of stress. Here are a few tips to help manage the stress before the solution is found.

Life can be unpredictable and painful, and sometimes even when things are good, day to day life can feel overwhelming and stressful. Learning what you need to help release that negative stress can go a long way in gaining energy and health. In a 2018 Time magazine article, stress is described as “an imbalance between a challenge and the resources they have to deal with it…” Before we find the solution to the problems we experience, we can carry a lot of stress. Here are a few tips to help manage the stress before the solution is found.

  1. Stop and acknowledge: When you feel pressure mounting at work, or home, a good first step is to stop and acknowledge to yourself that you are feeling stress. Simply stating that you are stressed out loud to yourself or someone else can help take the edge off.
  2. Body Scan: Try and identify what that stress feels like in your body. A simple way to do this is to close your eyes, start at your toes and scan your body for where you feel any tightness, shortness of breath, tingling or warmth. You may feel something that isn’t listed here, and if you notice that, that’s great! You are making great strides in getting to know your own body and how you experience stress. Once you identify where your body most feels your stress, try to soften it and send some love to it.
  3. Deep breaths: Calm, deep breaths can help send the signal to your physical body that everything is ok. Try to make the exhale twice as long as your inhale breath to help your body kick back into a resting state.
  4. Remind: Remind yourself that all stress is not negative, and that it can be incredibly useful! In small amounts on a daily basis, it can help you be a better problem-solver and gain new skill sets which then boosts self-confidence. The key is to view it as a friend, not an enemy.
  5. Assess: Assess the activities and obligations in your life to see if anything could be reduced, cut out or altered in any way. Don’t do this step until you are in a calm state as it will be difficult to problem solve when in an anxious state.

If you’d like to explore how stress is impacting your life and daily activities and relationships, counseling is a great way to make that step. Give us a call at 615-591-5262.

Selna, E. (2018, November). How some stress can actually be good for you. Time. Retrieved from https://time.com/5434826/stress-good-health/.

Written by Refuge Center Masters Level Counseling Intern Tiffany Miller.

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A Thought for Fellow Travelers

A Thought for Fellow Travelers

For me, even when I can’t travel far, I still need to stay curious, to be inspired, and for my life to stay fresh and feel new.

Like many of you out there, I love to travel.  Strolling down a winding street in a strange new city feels like magic to me.  The thrill of new adventures fuels my soul.  I revel in the healing that comes from a change of pace and am inspired by the beauty I find along the way.  At times, travel is my respite from stress and busyness while other times it is the spark that frees me from the monotony of the day-to-day.   Whether it is the beach, mountains, big city, or wilderness, each has a special place in my travel universe.

Unfortunately though, I am not always able to explore the world as much as I would like.  Life circumstances don’t always allow it.  Currently, I am a student, teacher, and counselor, juggling several jobs with little extra time or money.  It is hard to fit travel into this complicated equation of responsibilities and commitments. 

I know, however, that I’m not alone in this.  You too might be somebody who feels the way I do…. or has in the recent past.  Some of you, like me, have probably also wondered what it is you can do about this feeling?  How might it be possible to fulfill this craving for a change of scenery while you wait for the next opportunity to sail the seven seas?

Well, what sometimes helps me is applying two basic principles that are often used in counseling practice: mindfulness and gratitude.  The following is an example of how I sometimes use these concepts to bring myself the relief, inspiration, and healing that would normally come from a great trip (but without the travel) .  You don’t need to do exactly this, but maybe this will trigger some ideas for what would work best for you.

Although I won’t be flying to New Zealand anytime soon, I still try to take time out of my schedule to live like I’m on vacation.  I try to regularly take a morning, afternoon, or evening to explore a part of my community, city, or even my own home like I was visiting it for the first time.  This is no easy task and requires a change in mindset.

For example, I sometimes wake up in the morning and take a walk where I live.  I pay attention to the details that surround me much like I would if I was exploring the mysterious streets of a beautiful Spanish village.  I might stop and smell the flowers, notice the intricacies of a home’s architecture, or the color of the sky at dawn.  The more I am able to be curious and am able to slow down, the more gratifying the experience.  Sometimes inviting others to join me on these little local outings or adding a new restaurant, cafe, meal, park, vista, or museum enhances the journey.

A key to this practice actually feeling restorative is to use keen and attentive mindfulness.  I try to be intentional and specific about what I experience with my five senses.  What do I smell, hear, feel, see, and taste?  With this approach, a cup of coffee or a wonderful meal with friends can be transformed into something more like a trip to an uncharted territory.  Keeping a journal right afterwards or at the end of the day helps too.  I find that listing 3 to 5 things that I was grateful for on my short safari makes it richer and more fulfilling.   

Again, these are just short suggestions that I use to make these experiences come to life.  For me, even when I can’t travel far, I still need to stay curious, to be inspired, and for my life to stay fresh and feel new.  I hope some of you out there might be able to take some of these ideas and transform them in such a way that makes them work for you.

For anyone out there who is searching for additional ways to find balance, rest, inspiration, or support and would like to have somebody walk alongside them on this journey, please feel free to reach out to us here at The Refuge Center at 615-591-5262.           

Written by Refuge Center Masters Level Counseling Intern Paul Jenkins.

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Self-Care Practices to Engage Body, Mind, Emotions

Self-Care Practices to Engage Body, Mind, Emotions

When you hear the phrase “self care”, what comes to mind for you?  Is it a demand of all the trends magazines and social media promote?  Is it a “should” that feels hard to live up to?  Is it a bubble bath with an expensive bath bomb that requires 2 hours of alone time that feels difficult to find in the chaos of life?

Self-care has always had health at the core, first being applied to our physical bodies, like showering, eating properly, and exercising.  As human beings, we are more than physical bodies.  We are also comprised of physical (body), psychological (mind), emotional (emotions) and needs.  How do we care for those areas of self?  

In our world of constant demand, it can be hard to “check off” our self-care box, where there is always a higher demand on the to-do list, or an additional email to answer.  When we neglect self-care, we begin to revert to automatic (and perhaps less helpful) behaviors to soothe ourselves in difficult times.  By engaging in self-care proactively, we can endure the challenges and stresses of life by decreasing the negative emotional states- like stress, anxiety, and tension- that have an impact on our overall being.  Implementing rituals of self-care can help create patterns and lifestyle habits that can help us in difficult times.

So what are ways we can implement tiny rituals of self-care in our lives?  

  1. Listening to our body and writing down the needs as we enter the day (like water, an extra hour of sleep, a hug)
  2. Taking a pause in the day to practice deep breathing
  3. Drinking enough water
  4. Making a gratitude list
  5. Identifying your emotions without judgment
  6. Creating a list of what makes you laugh

While these ideas may differ from person to person, these are beginning ways to help engage in self-care in every part of our self.  

If you would like to explore the ways in which you can start making self-care a priority in your everyday life, please feel free to reach out to us here at The Refuge Center at 615-591-5262.

Written by Hannah Harriman, Master’s Level Counseling Intern at The Refuge Center.

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November Newsletter

November Newsletter

Keep up with what is happening at The Refuge Center for Counseling in our November Newsletter.