October is a month filled with many things. It is the conclusion of Hispanic Heritage Month. It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is the month where Fall usually feels like Fall and Halloween is anticipated by many children. It is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This particular topic is one that can be especially difficult to talk about. There are no words to describe the feeling of losing a baby and no words to ease the grief and pain that comes with this kind of loss. No one ever prepares you to lose a child, and usually, it is a loss that one does not see coming. I could sit here and give you statistics, but let’s be real, that’s not very comforting or helpful for most of us. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate statistics, but that is not going to change the situation or how I feel about what happened.
Grieving the loss of a pregnancy and the loss of a baby are very difficult and can be a complicated process. Grief in and of itself is a complicated and painful process because grief is not linear. In general, I think we as humans tend to like things to go in order and step by step. Unfortunately, that is not how grief works. Sure, we may feel the anger and depression and anxiety that comes with it, and we might even get to a point of acceptance, but sooner or later, familiar feelings come back. I tend to think of grief in “waves”. Some days, the waves are shorter in height and more manageable. Other days, the waves are ginormous and strong and knocks the breath out of you. And then there are days where the waves come out of nowhere and knocks you off your feet, disorienting you and making you question whether or not this is really happening or has really happened.
While there is no “one size fits all” approach to grieving your baby and the hopes and dreams you had for them, there are a few ways to cope with the wide range of emotions that may come up:
Journaling- Journaling can be a helpful tool to just get out what you’re thinking and feeling without any judgment. Sometimes, we just need to process our thoughts without necessarily talking them out loud. To just get them out in the moment and that’s it.
Talking to someone- This can be a friend, a therapist, a church member, or any support you can think of. While journaling can be very beneficial, it can also be helpful to share what you’re thinking and feeling to someone else. For me personally, this was difficult in that it made everything 100 times more real, but it has been helpful talking it out and verbalizing my own experience and feelings.
Making a memory box or scrapbook- I am honestly thankful that I took pictures and that I have memories that I can look back on. Making a memory box or scrapbook can be helpful in the healing process, as it can be helpful to reflect back to this important moment in time.
Joining a support group- Sometimes, it helps to be around those who have gone through similar situations as you, especially as a grieving parent. It’s almost comforting to relate to someone else who has been through this and knows what you might be feeling. It can also be helpful to talk about and process things when you know that others around you have gone through a similar situation.
Reading- This is another way one can connect to someone who has gone through a similar situation and/or to your spiritual life. This can be a book or devotional or another person’s story.
Praying/Meditating- Whatever this looks like for you, praying and/or meditation can be helpful in reflection and in connecting to your spiritual life. Personally, prayer has been a lifeline for me and a way for me to connect my experience to my beliefs.
Grieving a pregnancy and baby can feel overwhelming and so can the emotions that come with this tragic situation. Again, there is no “one size fits all” to healing, but I hope that by reading this, you know that you are not alone and that there are others with you who have gone through this, too. While each person’s journey is their own and different from another’s journey, we can hold space for one another and remember the babies we have lost. Day by day, step by step, moment by moment.
We are all experiencing stress! No matter if you are a student, stay at home mom, working outside the home, or retired, stress seems to follow us everywhere. I remember in college thinking how stressed I was and now realizing that I only had class 2 hours every day. Remember those days?
Unhealthy Coping Skills
We all know unhealthy ways to deal with stress such as addictions, over-working, over-eating, anger outbursts, etc. Did you know that stress has lasting physical effects on our bodies? Stress can cause headaches, insomnia, a weakened immune system, problems with fertility, heart and blood pressure problems, and even sexual dysfunction.
Healthy Coping Skills
So, what are some ways to deal with stress in a healthy way? Like most things, not every strategy works for every person but something will. I always tell my clients “I’ll throw out a lot of ideas and let’s see what sticks”.
- Do a deep breathing, guided meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation exercise to help you “wind down”
- Read a book or take a bath to help your body physically calm down
- Appeal to your 5 senses, what are things you can see, smell, taste, feel, or hear that make you smile?
- Talk to a friend, spouse, or therapist who is supportive of you and always “has your back”.
- Journal, Blog, or Vlog your feelings even if no one will ever read it
- Join a virtual support group
- Exercise. Move your body for at least 30 minutes and watch the stress burn off
- Do something you enjoy like a hobby, craft, or mindless activity
Things to Avoid
Just as important as it is to cultivate healthy coping skills, it’s just as important to identify and replace unhealthy or problematic behaviors.
Watch Out For
- Social Media- research shows that even 30 minutes of social media contributes to higher rates of depression and anxiety
- Alcohol, drugs, disordered eating
- Unhealthy relationships that have a pattern of boundary violations, gossip/backstabbing, or victim mentalities.
If you try some of these strategies and find that you are still struggling, first of all know that it is okay! You are not alone! Feel free to reach out to one of our licensed therapists as we help support you to reach your goals!
Happy 1 year anniversary of the “two week shut down”! We have made it a year since the initial shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember the mad rush for toilet paper? Who still has their stock pile of toilet paper a year later? It is safe to say that 2020-2021 has brought a lot of depressive and anxious thinking to people who both know the feeling and those who are experiencing it for the first time. The COVID pandemic has brought a range of emotions from slight delight (introvert here!) to grief, sadness, anger, and exasperation. Now, one year later, we are still here and, if we’re honest, probably tired!
COVID fatigue is a real thing that many people in our therapy rooms are experiencing every day. Therapists are seeing record numbers of mental health concerns across the board as clinicians. We believe mental illness is the unspoken pandemic that many are experiencing. We hope these 9 tips can help bring joy and peace to a weary heart.
There are a few strategies you can try when you are experiencing distressing depressive or anxious thoughts. We want to give you free tips that can be used at home to prevent you needing professional mental health services or support what you are already receiving in your mental health service journey. Try this to start.
Coping and Relaxation Skills
Take a deep breath in through your nose for about 5 seconds, hold it in for about 2 seconds and slowly release through your mouth for 8-10 seconds. The release should be slow and controlled. Think like blowing bubbles or blowing up a balloon. The goal is to aim for no more than 5 breaths a minute. Try and get as much air as possible in your stomach all the way up through your diaphragm.
Use this technique when you are feeling anxious/panicky. Look around you and find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel/touch, 2 things you can taste and 1 thing you are grateful for. Anxious thinking is forward thinking and depressive thinking is backward thinking. We want to use grounding to bring us to the present moment.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
As you are doing deep breathing, find a comfortable spot either sitting up or lying down and start tensing each individual muscle group in your body one at a time. Squeeze those muscles as hard as you can for 5 seconds and release. Work your way through all your major muscle groups.
- Is what I’m thinking really true? Is there evidence that goes against what I’m thinking?
- Will this matter in a week/month/year?
- What would I tell a friend who thought the same thing OR what would a friend tell me if they heard what I was thinking/saying to myself?
- Schedule 1 thing every day you are looking forward to.
- Drink at least half your body weight (in oz) in water each day and eat 3 balanced meals a day.
- Engage in an activity that is challenging but that you know is “good for you” at least once a week.
We know that not every technique will work for every person. Even with these changes or improvements, you may find you are still struggling. If your mental health is not where you would like it to be, please reach out to one of our licensed therapists. We are here for you both online and in person.
How parents can help teens “Filter through the Filters”
We are living in a media saturated world. Media tells us what is “normal” and in some ways, shapes who we “want to be”. The greater our media exposure, the greater the impact. Problems can come when people forget that social media is filtered. What we see is not reality. No where is this more apparent than social media filters.
How Filters Change Us
Filters are designed only show what we want, how we want, while keeping the rest hidden. Usually what is being filtered out is what the user considers “messy” or “unwanted” or “imperfect” in another’s eyes. We forget that what we see is a “highlight reel”. Be careful not to compare someone else’s “highlight reel” to your “behind the scenes”. We are often quick to portray ourselves through filters to fit a mold and be what other people want. This means that we are less likely to show the variety that makes up life. Mass and social media will never give us or our teens the validation we crave.
Focus on Teens
Teens are especially susceptible to falling for the filter trap. Why? For one thing, brain development. Teen brain development shifts focus outward towards peer groups as a way of establishing independence. Parental validation is often replaced by peer validation. Teens are also more susceptible due to the world they have grown up in. Many teenagers have always had exposure to media, screens, and social media comparison their whole lives. Social media is always present. Without parent support, teens can spiral and end up in an unhealthy place.
A Parent’s Role
Parents are essential to helping teens navigate a potentially unlimited world of access and exposure.
Limit setting is an important part of parenting. Parents who help teens set their own limits will help set them up for success as they grow into young adults. One of a parent’s primary responsibility is not to be a friend to their child but help shape them as a person. Limits are an important part of creating a secure, healthy connection. We often think about boundaries as a restraint on a roller coaster. The restraints on the roller coaster hold us down but when we are upside down, we are grateful! Many things in a teens’ life feel “upside down” and your limits help them stay safe and healthy. As much as a teen may push against a boundary, it is a test and they need and crave boundaries.
Providing a Secure Base
Another essential parenting role is to help provide a secure base for teens. What is a secure base? This just means your child knows knows you are always present, love them unconditionally and are predictable. A teen should know their parent is always there for them and their love is not conditional. The boundaries remain steady and love is not dependent on performance. So how do we do this with media?
Offering Safe Space
Everyone is bombarded with confusing and critical messages that can create insecurity instead of inspiring confidence. Instead, provide a safe space where media messages can be discussed and challenged.
Low self-esteem develops when external messages become internalized. Talking about comparative thoughts can help keep them from turning into unhealthy beliefs. This means adults need to examine their relationship with these comparative messages as well. We may have internalized some of the same messages. It is best to praise and point out your teens’s strengths rather than surface level praise. This can help encourage them and give them validation they are craving through media.
A Need for Boundaries
Children need boundaries to protect self-esteem and promote healthy self and body image. Setting boundaries is a way to say “no” in order to say “yes” to what we care about the most. Here are a few signs boundaries need to be increased with media:
- Often feeling significantly pressured to be what other people want you to be, not who you were made to be?
- Give too much time to media?
- Do you or your teen follow people, images, organizations that perpetuate self-comparison?
- Can you and your teen take time to see past the surface of media?
- Do you or your teen accept media as standard?
Boundaries Continued – Supporting Holistic Awareness
Media is not necessarily all bad, but how we use media matters. What do we do? Here are some ways to create healthy boundaries with media:
“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt. First, instead of comparing, encourage your teen to look inward towards gratitude. Gratitude invites us to notice and enjoy the here and now, instead of saying “not enough.”
Give them permission to be different. Do not assume different is “bad.” In fact, our differences and diversity are very much needed to support life. “Be who you are meant to be, and you will set the world on fire” – St. Catherine of Siena
Say “no” to what is unhealthy
Helping your teen learn to limit mass and social media will help them become healthy, confident individuals.
Support When you Need it
Navigating media with your teen can feel overwhelming and uncertain. Many times, media itself cannot be fully controlled. There is control over how we can help ourselves and teens respond in healthy ways. If you feel you and/or your teen need more support with “filtering the filters” and increasing self-esteem, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health counselor!
Adolescence can be a time filled with change, curiosity, and never-ending drama. Teens are experiencing the pressures of grades, friendships, first loves, and heartbreaks. Unfortunately, it is easy for that once exciting independence to transform into loneliness. Often, in these difficult emotions, teens turn to unhealthy coping skills like self-harm that may need the support of teen counseling to address.
Identifying Self Harm Triggers
Identifying triggers for your teen’s mental health can be a first step in helping them reduce distress. This could include stressful situations, pressure at school, and social media. Or, bullying and difficulty with friends.
Creating a Plan to Help
Secondly, support your child in making a safety plan to use healthy coping skills. Approach the teen with a calm and non-judgmental approach. Reiterate that you are here to support them through this difficult time. Listen and learn about what has been most challenging for them.
Strategies for Reducing Self Harm
It can be scary to think about self-harm. But, there are many strategies available that can reduce these urges. Try these strategies to reduce self-harm tendencies with adolescents.
“T” – temperature
Grab ice cubes and squeeze them with a closed fist for one minute. Or, apply an ice pack to your face and cheeks. These methods can soon decrease the intensity of the emotion and stimulate pain receptors in a healthy way. But, please do not attempt this skill if you have a cardiac or body temperature regulation issue.
“I” – intense exercise
Engage in intense exercise for 15 to 20 minutes. Doing so will let your body process any adrenaline hormones in a natural way.
“P”s – paced breathing and paired muscle relaxation.
There are many apps or videos for encouraging these techniques. But, the goal is to slow your breathing down to 6 to 8 breaths per minute (or roughly every 10 seconds). This breathwork can be matched with progressive muscle relaxation. This occurs by tensing your muscles as you inhale and then relaxing them as you exhale. For clients with breathing difficulties, please have caution when trying these exercises.
Other Strategies to Try
These displacement strategies help trick our minds into perceiving an injury. But, without inflicting any physical harm. By creating a fake injury with makeup or food coloring, a person can express their emotional distress. All without engaging in self-injurious behavior. Some teens have used body paint or nail polish in places they might usually self-harm.
Alternative Rebellion Acts
These are activities someone might do that might seem crazy, rebellious, or defiant. Some of the suggestions include:
- Shaving your head
- Getting a piercing or tattoo
- Eating a hot chili pepper
- Wearing face paint in public
- Or dancing in the rain
Above all, these suggestions are to reinforce a person’s goals to decrease self-harm behaviors. Examples of this can include making a list like “Why I don’t want any scars or bruises in the summer.” Or, using glow-sticks to snap and waiting for the glow to disappear as a reminder to wait it out.
In conclusion, many times self-harm involves distortions. These may be surrounding their self-image, depression, anxiety, or self-esteem. It is vital to support these youth to develop a positive narrative about themselves.
Furthermore, there are many organizations, support groups, and a crisis line that can help teens struggling with self-harm.
Begin Teen Counseling in Fuquay Varina, NC, Wake Forest, NC, or Raleigh, NC
Are you interested in counseling for yourself or your teen? If so, please reach out to Foundations Family Therapy. Our team currently offers in-person and online therapy in Fuquay Varina, Raleigh and Wake Forest. To start your counseling journey, please follow these simple steps:
- Start coping with challenges in a more positive way!
Other Services Offered at Foundations Family Therapy
Teen counseling isn’t the only service offered from our Wake Forest, Raleigh, and Fuquay Varina offices. We are happy to offer a variety of services for children, families, and couples. Other services include counseling for addictions, anxiety, grief, infertility, depression, and trauma. Feel free to learn more by visiting our FAQ, blog, or team pages today!
In general, parents are concerned about their teen’s mental health. This can be greatly heightened through the COVID pandemic. Isolation, virtual learning, and lack of extracurricular activities have caused mental health challenges to teens. Many parents are thrown off guard when they find out their teen is struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and depression. They are seeing how COVID has impacted their social connections with their friends and even positive adult relationships from school.
Many parents feel lost on how to best support their teenager. The teen years are always a tricky time to navigate in general. To add COVID on top of that, it is no wonder parents are feeling lost! Not only are parents trying to work, run their household, they are also having to figure out how to keep their child engaged in school and healthy physically and mentally.
Connecting with your teen- the best medicine
Believe it or not, connecting with your teen is the most valuable thing parents can do. Many of the teens I’m seeing express a desire to be able to connect with their parents, yet they fear they may be rejected, judged, or criticized when opening themselves up and being vulnerable to their parents.
Tips for Connecting during COVID
Listen with a full open heart
Leave the judgements and criticism to yourself and allow for open dialogue. Be curious and ask questions to learn more about your child, their interests and even engage with them in those interests. If you have concerns, save that conversation for another time. Being present and listening to your child open up and be vulnerable is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
Dedicate a specific day of the week
(i.e., Friday or Saturday) for family movie night or game night. Cooking a meal together.
Show your appreciation
Many teenagers are struggling with their own insecurities, struggling to fit in, feeling like they can’t do anything right. When your child accomplishes something, even if it is emptying the dishwasher, or getting the mail, showing them that you appreciate them and noticing their effort offers encouragement and lets your child know that you noticed them.
Ask your teen how they are doing, what they need from you, and what they feel the greatest impact they feel is from COVID-19. Know that if you or your teen is experiencing self harm, suicidal ideation, or other risky behaviors, this is a major red flag. Please take them to the closest emergency room if the threat is imminent. Please find a licensed therapist for yourself or your child as soon as possible.
Foundations Family Therapy is currently offering telehealth and in person visits in our Fuquay and Raleigh offices. We would love to help you connect with your teen and help your teen thrive during this season. Contact us for more details!
This article was taken from an interview between Sara Davison and therapist Allie Cataldi.
2020 is finally behind us! Doesn’t that feel good to say? If you are like most people, you were glad to see 2020 disappear into the rearview mirror and are hopeful about what 2021 will bring. Many of our goals from 2020 were dashed in March but, before we dive head first into 2021 with new goals, it is helpful to stop and reflect on 2020.
If you don’t know where you are going, you will never know when you get there.
For all that 2020 brought us, it is important to look for the good things too. I challenge you to reflect on what went well in 2020. Think through the following categories.
Financial, spiritual, relationship, physical health, mental health, home, and personal development.
What went well in each of these categories? Did you follow a meal plan all year? Did you exercise more due to COVID? Did you stay connected with friends that you couldn’t see?
Next think through what goals you would like to set for yourself using the same categories. Maybe you would like to start meal prepping, moving more, or getting back to church. Make a list and then narrow it down to your top goal for each category.
With each goal you have chosen, write what it would look like if you achieved that goal. For example, stay in budget for groceries each month. So you decide what your budget is each month for groceries and then at the end of the month you can see tangibly if you have achieved that goal. Maybe you break it down even further to “Spend $100 a week on groceries”. That gives you an even shorter term goal to check your progress.
Create Action Steps
Next think of action steps of how you would do this. For the above example, maybe you need to buy groceries online or change to a cheaper grocery store. Create specific steps you can take achieve your short term goal.
Lastly, brainstorm any potential challenges you think could arise. Once you have identified what the challenges might be, you can then create a solution before it happens.
You can also set goals as a family, couple, or your work. Have set times where you review your progress and adjust as needed. And never forget the importance of giving yourself grace!
May 2021 be a joyful, prosperous year!
If you or someone you know wants to work on mental health goals, our caring, licensed therapists are here for you both in person and online.
We also have created a resource that goes through these steps with you on our website. It’s totally free and our gift to you so check it out here!
This year has seen it’s share of ups and downs internationally, nationally and personally. With Christmas approaching, we may find ourselves more stressed out than ever. We could find ourselves grieving this Christmas in different ways. No matter what is going on, most people would describe the Christmas/New Year season as one of busyness and often, stress. Here are 4 ways you can de-stress this holiday season and enjoy it.
One of the easiest ways to reset our brains is to focus them on what is going well in our lives. Often, we spend a lot of time forward thinking which can create anxiety. Or, we might tend to be more backward thinking which can lead to depressive thinking. Instead, try and focus on what is going well right now. Imagine that you woke up tomorrow only with what you were thankful for yesterday. Humbling isn’t it? We have so much and should spend more time in gratitude. Join our December challenge and write down 3 things each day you are thankful for.
Commit to spending more time this holiday season being with those around you. Limit social media and screens. Do something together outside. Make a gingerbread house or Christmas craft. Do some holiday baking. Whatever you choose, be fully present. Living in the moment with those with you can greatly decrease stress because we move away from everything that has happened or needs to happen and lets us just be present.
I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas traditions, decorations, and cooking. They are great things but can also be imperfect. When I “need” everything to be perfect, I rob myself and those around me of the gratitude and presence of the joy of the season. Nothing is perfect! Sometimes there is laughter and joy in the imperfect. We are also modeling for our children that even if something is not perfect, it still has value. You don’t need the perfect gift, perfect meal, perfect decorations, or perfect gathering for the season to be meaningful and beautiful. Evaluate yourself and see if your need for perfection reaches outside of the holiday season. Do you need control and perfection in other areas? Many times, this is an anxiety response. What are you scared is going to happen if you are not in control or everything is not perfect?
Don’t abandon healthy habits
Lastly, don’t abandon those things which you know help you other times in the year feel your best. If you typically get 8 hours of sleep, workout and try and eat healthy, try and keep doing those things. Sometimes routines can be different around the holiday and that is okay but try and find time to do things which you know are beneficial for you spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. If you do “fall off the wagon”, do not despair. Our bodies, minds, and hearts are more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for. Make a commitment to restart some of those healthy habits today.
Our therapists at Foundations Family Therapy are here to help you find those healthy habits, identify any anxiety responses, ways to practice being present, and practicing gratitude in every day life. This holiday season can be sweet, meaningful and special. We are here to help if you need us!
With the holiday season coming up, many people may be wondering how to foster a grateful and giving heart in themselves and their children. We may inherently know that we “should” give during the holiday season but sometimes our own lives take all our time. However, if we are able to slow down and practice gratitude and giving, we will not only help others but reap mental health benefits as well.
The Science of Gratitude
The Mayo Clinic published an article in which they sought to find the effects of gratitude on the brain. They discovered gratitude lowers stress levels, improves mood, helps you sleep better, boosts your immune system, and lowers pain sensitivity.
Practical Tips for Fostering Gratitude
It is important to start young with your children by creating an environment of gratitude in the home. Home is our children’s main classroom and modeling their teacher (a caregiver in the home) is how children learn.
We can do this through talking to our children about what we are grateful for in every day life. By keeping gratitude journals, practicing “thank you” with all people, and volunteering with vulnerable populations. During your or your child’s bedtime routine, think of, and write down 3 things that you are grateful for in that day. At the end of the year, read everything that went right in that year!
As you practice, you will find it becomes easier and more natural to see the good and practice gratitude.
Why Be Generous?
Generosity is a natural action step when we become more grateful. The science behind generosity is similar. Giving actually boosts the giver’s mood. Having a generous heart does not mean we have to have a lot of money, or any money at all. Instead, think of generosity as financial, interpersonal, and emotional. This could be meeting physical needs such as donating goods or food. It could be using your strengths to help other people without obligation or giving money to a cause that is close to your heart. It could mean emotionally investing in someone outside of your home.
Practical Tips for Fostering Generosity
It is important to bring your children with you when you are giving to others so they can see generosity modeled. When they see that they learn that it is something that is important in their life and the life of your family. Explaining to your children that we are generous because we want to provide for others and love other people well is important. We do not give out of obligation or because we think we are “better than” anyone else but because we love and care for others. We are generous because people have been generous to us.
Practically in my home, this looks like my children picking out the toys they want to donate to others before Christmas. We have a rule that for every new item that comes in the house, something gets donated. Now, my 3 year old will say without prompting “I want to give this to another kid” when she is done with something or her clothes get too small.
We have all benefited from other people’s gratitude and generosity to us and now it is important to practice generosity and gratitude toward others. If you find you are still struggling with anxiety or depression during this holiday season, feel free to reach out to a therapist at Foundations Family Therapy.
If you are anything like me, you feel like you blink and another day is done. No where is this more evident for me than in my marriage. Years fly by and sometimes we can find ourselves married and functioning but lacking good, meaningful emotional intimacy and connection. One of the ways we can build and refresh our marriage is by thinking chronologically. Try communicating with your spouse in the following spheres.
Start by looking back
What drew you to your spouse? What did you like to do when you were dating or early married? What are some of your favorite memories together? What are some times when you laughed together?
Create a timeline of significant events
Go through each year of marriage and write significant things that happened in those years and reflect with each other on how you felt about the marriage and what you were going through. Talk about how those things have gotten you where you are now and have affected your marriage.
Talk with your spouse about what is going well right now in the marriage.
What do you currently love about them? In what ways have you seen positive growth in them? What is something could you do right now to show your love? How can you make time for them in this season?
Commit to spending 15 minutes in conversation this week.
Be truly present with them.
Looking Ahead Together
Dream together even if it will never happen.
What would you love to do one day separately and together? What do you hope to work towards together?
Create a mission statement as a couple
Write what you hope your marriage is “known for” and practical steps to achieve that and reassess once a year.
Commit to spending at least 1 hour together each week to talk through the “deeper” things and connect with one another.
Commit to planning a date night together at least once a month. Take turns planning to make it a surprise or plan together.
Commit to doing at least 1 overnight date a year.
Looking forward, being present, and looking ahead can help give your marriage that refresh that it may need. If you need further help “getting out of the rut” in your marriage, our licensed clinicians can help.