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20 Mar

Relief from Panic Attacks

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treatment of panic disorder at pmtcounseling.com

Photo by Michael Gil of flickr.com

Roughly 2.7% of the adult population in the US during any given year meets diagnostic criteria for “Panic disorder”.  Many more individuals do not have panic disorder, but have panic attacks.  A panic attack is extreme fear, far beyond normal anxiety.

Panic Attack Symptoms

  • Fear of imminent death or severe medical event
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Feeling of confinement or inability to escape

Many individuals who have a panic attack present to the emergency room.  A panic attack does not generally last more than 20-30 minutes, although the after effects and anxiety that another panic attack may come can persist.

If you have had a similar experience, you should first be checked medically to ensure that you do not in fact have a medical problem that could explain your symptoms.  If you have had a medical workup and your medical professional has judged that you are physically healthy, you should consider the possibility that your symptoms are explained by a panic attack.

Panic attacks occur when the brain and body misperceive physical cues of distress and the brain responds by initiating a fear response in the body.  Panic disorder generally responds very well to psychotherapy.  Some studies estimate that better than 80% of individuals with panic disorder who seek treatment no longer have routine panic attacks.  Medication may be quicker treatment for panic attacks, but medication has side effects and when the patient stops taking the medication, the panic attacks generally return.

Helpful Psychotherapy Techniques

  • Education about the body’s response to stress and perceived threat
  • Relaxation training
  • Learning to change negative thoughts
  • Gradually exposure to cues that in the past created panic

These techniques are often referred to as “cognitive behavioral therapy” and research predicts that these methods will be most successful in treating panic disorder and preventing panic attacks.

Although treatment for panic is very successful, unfortunately, many people with this disorder do not seek treatment.  They are embarrassed by their problem and don’t realize that psychotherapy can help.

If you or someone you know has problems with panic attacks, consider contacting a mental health professional who is skilled in cognitive behavioral therapy.  While no treatment is guaranteed to work, the success rate for cognitive behavioral therapy of panic is high.

 

About the Author

pmtcounseling.com

Psychologist Dr. Dave Spriggs

Dr. Dave Spriggs is a psychologist licensed in North Carolina.  He owns a private practice located in Kernersville, NC.  People seek Dr. Spriggs’ services for a variety of reasons, but he specializes in relationship issues, treatment of mood problems, and serving people who wish to integrate their Christian Faith into the counseling process.  Panic is a common symptom, but many individuals who have this symptom believe they are “crazy” or the only one who has this struggle.  Dr. Spriggs’ patients consistently report improvement in panic symptoms.

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20 Mar

How To Stop Any Marriage Fight

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pmtcounseling.com

photo by Sharon Mollerus of flickr.com

One of the first fights my wife and I had as a married couple was on my birthday in 1996, which is nearly 20 years prior to the date I published this blog post.  We had recently married, moved across the country, and started a new life together.  I was looking forward to my wife pampering me on my birthday.  She wished me a happy birthday and gave me a hairdryer for a gift (which I needed).  I had expected a fun night out and something a little more exciting than a hairdryer for a birthday gift. I wasn’t very grateful. My wife’s feelings were hurt.  We had a fight.

If you are married or in an intimate relationship, you have had conflict.  Have you felt like the conflict was too frequent and too intense?  Have you felt like you were having the same fight over and over again?  Are you tired of marriage fights?

You will have conflict in your marriage.  The only people who have conflict free marriages are separated and never talk with each other.  While you will have conflict in your marriage, you can learn how to stop fighting and work towards a solution. Here are some strategies that will help you stop any fight in a marriage.

A Place of Safety

If you want to stop fighting, you must make a commitment to yourself that you will create a place of safety for your spouse.  Abuse of any kind, whether verbal or physical is so destructive that you will not have a healthy relationship under such conditions.  Likewise, violations of trust, such as sexual infidelity will prevent you and your spouse from having a healthy relationship that will enable you to successfully resolve conflict.

If you want to stop fighting, you and your spouse must commit to each other that there will not be abuse or betrayals in your relationship.  You are committing that together, you will create a place of safety.  Without these commitments, it will not be possible to establish a healthy relationship and to stop fighting.

Self-Soothing

If you want to stop fighting, you will need to take responsibility for your wellbeing. You will need to learn how to personally cope with negative emotions.  Your spouse can’t do this for you.  Ultimately, you must learn to soothe yourself.

Why is self-soothing necessary?  When we experience stress, and become emotionally aroused, our bodies and minds go through a series of changes.  The higher the level of arousal, the more physically active we become.  We become physically stronger and faster.  The higher the level of arousal, the more we lose our ability to think abstractly, to think logically, and to see things from another’s point of view.

This stress response helps us survive if we are in a dangerous situation.  If a car were about to hit me, I wouldn’t want to be concerned with my finances, or what my friends think of me.  I want to jump out of the way as fast as possible, and that is the purpose of the stress response.

We experience the same stress response whether or not we are in actual physical danger. Our bodies and minds don’t know the difference.  So, how can we lower our level of arousal?

  • Slow and deep breathing. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow.  Relaxed creating is slow and deep, nearly 10 seconds from the time breath is inhaled to the time it is exhaled.
  • Relaxed muscles. When we are stressed, our muscles become tight.  During relaxation, our muscles have a loose heavy feeling.
  • Healthy thinking. When we are stressed, we often have negative thoughts.  If we become aware of our thinking and avoid jumping to conclusions or assuming a negative event will occur, we are more likely able to soothe ourselves.

Enacting the above steps is not easy, but it can be done with practice.  Meditation is a helpful exercise (a topic for another blog post), and I recommend you learn this practice.  Please see my blog post “mindfulness” for more details on self-soothing.

Improve Your Timing

It will be important for you to be select the appropriate time to have a discussion with your spouse.  We often look for quick solutions to our problems and react to situations.  This behavior will not help us resolve conflict in marriage.

If you and your spouse are having significant conflict, it can be very helpful to select a specific time to talk on which both of you agree.  If either of you are struggling with physical pain, fatigue, or distraction from work, you should look for another time to talk.

You would also benefit from setting a time limit for your discussion.  You may find that after a stressful conversation has gone past a period of time, you are becoming more angry and if you are in that emotional state, it is not as likely your conflict will be successfully resolved.  You may need to agree to take a break from the discussion and return to it a later time.

Understand Your Spouse

Once you have created a safe place for dialog, if you want to be successful in ending marital discord, understand your spouse.  Does your spouse have needs that aren’t being fulfilled?  What is your spouse’s motivations during the disagreement?  Is it merely about the issue at hand, or are there other unspoken motivations?

For example, a disagreement may be about finances on the surface, but the root cause may be control (your spouse wants to know that his or her voice matters to you).  Or, perhaps an argument is not so much about what friends come over to the home, but more about knowing that your spouse is your top priority.

What does your spouse want more of from you?  Your time?  Your help in a task?  How can you best affirm your spouse?  Through words?  Through non-sexual touch? More frequent sex?  Each person has different expectations and needs.

Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse “Help me understand.”  Give your spouse time to express what he or she really wants and what would help him or her feel more loved by you.  If you think you know, ask a specific question.  “Do you want me to spend more time with you?  Would that help?”

Deepen Your Friendship With Your Spouse

Assuming your home is a safe place for you and your spouse, the single most important thing you can do to stop any fight in your marriage is to deepen your friendship with your spouse.  Research in the mental health field has demonstrated that while all marriages have conflict and negative emotions (anger, sadness, anxiety), all successful marriages have a greater proportion of positive emotion (happiness, pleasure, peace) than negative emotion.

Practically speaking, what this means is that you and your spouse need to make positive memories together on a regular basis.  You need to spend time together in mutually satisfying conversation, sharing your hopes and dreams.  You need to engage in recreation and romance together.

Humans have a natural tendency to avoid pain and seek pleasure.  If the majority of your interactions together are negative, you and your spouse will avoid each other and began leading separate lives.  If on the other hand, you are experiencing love and fulfillment together, this positive emotion will help counteract the negative emotion you experience when you have conflict and it will be more likely that you will be successful in stopping fights in your marriage.

At the beginning of this blog post, I shared an example from my marriage, when my wife and I fought on my birthday.  We hadn’t had enough time to build a strong friendship, yet, and didn’t understand each other well.  Needless to say, a fight over a mundane issue lasted longer and had more negative emotion than necessary.  After 20 years of marriage and working to build a deeper friendship with my wife, I find that I am not as defensive and don’t need to be right as much as when I was first married.  I also find that while my wife and I continue to have conflict, it does not last as long and we are more successful in finding a solution.

The steps for ending conflict that I have outline in this blog post are not complicated, but they are not easy to implement.  If you practice these steps, you will succeed in finding resolution to marital conflict.  Sometimes, implementing these steps can be very difficult.  If you continue to have difficulty stopping fights in your marriage, consider marriage counseling.

About the Author

pmtcounseling.com

Psychologist Dr. Dave Spriggs

Psychologist, Dr. Dave Spriggs has worked in the counseling field since 1994 and been married since 1996.  He has a private practice (Piedmont Counseling Center), located in Kernersville, North Carolina.  People seek Dr. Spriggs’ services from the greeter Piedmont Triad area, including Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, and surrounding towns.  Dr. Spriggs helps people with a variety of issues, but marital counseling is a primary focus of his work as a clinical psychologist.

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20 Mar

6 Forgiveness Facts That May Change Your Life

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6 forgiveness facts at pmtcounseling.com

photo by Iqbal Osman of flickr.com

 Why Forgiveness?

Several years ago, a friend gave me a plant. The plant was special to me because it was a beautiful gardenia, but more importantly, the plant was gifted to me out of gratitude. The giver passed away about 6 months later.

My family did not realize that this little gardenia had taken root in my heart. A family member thought it might be a good idea to see if my gardenia would do better outside (or perhaps to make more room in the kitchen). We had an unusually cold winter in Kernersville, North Carolina that year and although I brought the gardenia back inside later that evening, the plant died from the cold.

The plant was special to me. I loved the person who killed the plant. This was a recipe for painful, mixed emotions. I wanted to lash out at the loved one who had made a mistake, but also knew that lashing out would make things worse. I needed to offer forgiveness, not only to prevent me from saying something hurtful, but for my wellbeing.

If you have relationships with others, you will eventually be hurt by them. Many times, the pain will be a minor sting, but there will be occasions in which the hurt seems unbearable. Ironically, the more you care for the person who hurt you, the more painful the hurt.

When we are hurt, we experience negative emotions. These emotions are not innately bad. In fact, the purpose of these emotions are to protect us from being hurt again. Such negative emotions help us to stay away from potential threats. When these emotions fester inside of us, we begin to have significant emotional and physical problems.

Yes, you read what I wrote correctly, not only emotional problems, but physical problems as well. When we experience negative emotions, particularly over a period of time, stress hormones impact us, causing interruption in sleep and impairing the healing mechanisms of our bodies.

A presenting problem I often encounter as a psychologist is to help people recover from hurts someone else has caused. There is a process we experience as we heal from such pain. While the process is different, there are commonalities as we heal from the hurt another person has caused. The process of forgiveness is a powerful and effective antidote to the negative emotions inside of us. The following are 6 important facts about forgiveness that may change your life.

Forgiveness Is Not Forgetting

We only need to forgive someone else when they have hurt us. If the injury is painful enough to forgive, we will not heal by trying to forget. Such wounds are painful and we can’t simply force ourselves to forget. If we did not recall what occurred, we may open ourselves to be injured in the same way. While we can’t forget, we can work towards healing of the emotional hurt.

Forgiveness Is Not Excusing

Excusing an offense is not the same as forgiveness either. There are times when excusing an offense is the appropriate response. For example, if you had a 3-year-old child and that child accidentally broke a vase in your living room, excusing the offense may be an appropriate response (along with chastising yourself for not providing appropriate supervision and for placing breakable items in the child’s reach). When the offending party unintentionally injures us, or we have no connection with the offending party, there are times when excusing what occurred is appropriate.

However, if the offending party commits a significant injury (for example, the “other man/woman)” in an affair with your spouse), even if you don’t know that person, forgiveness would be a more appropriate path towards healing than excusing the offense. Or, if the party is someone with whom you are connected, and they did something to hurt you that they should have known was wrong, excusing what occurred would generally not be the most healthy response.

Forgiving others does not mean that they are not confronted with the damage that they have done.

Forgiveness Happens Slowly

We live in a fast food society. We want satisfaction now. That won’t work in the context of forgiveness. While the time period is different for each person and each offense, forgiveness is not measured in minutes and hours. Forgiveness happens slowly.

Forgiveness Is A Process

We often like to think that when our intentions are good and we have done our homework, that the problem is solved and we can move on. Forgiveness is achievable, but it is a process. We often need to wake up each day and chose to forgive the offending party for a significant period of time until we have healing from the pain that has been caused. In many instances, we will continue to have scars and need to be grateful for the healing that has been experienced, and chose not to open old wounds through focusing on negative thoughts of the offending party.

This isn’t quick or easy. It is a slow process, but it is achievable and it will make an enormous difference in your mental and physical wellbeing.

Forgiveness Is Possible, Even Under Difficult Circumstances.

What about forgiveness in difficulty circumstances? What if the offending party is deceased? What if they offending party inflicted a wound that has lifelong consequences?

In such cases, forgiveness will be harder. However, your need to forgive is also significantly greater. The more intense your internal pain, the more you will benefit from forgiveness. This process is not doing the offending party a favor. It is not excusing their bad behavior. It is healing you.

Yes, forgiveness is possible in such cases, but often the process will be different. In such excruciating circumstances, there will often be no reconciliation between the injured and offending parties. Forgiveness will be an internal process that the injured party will practice.

What Is Forgiveness, And How Is Forgiveness Achieved?

Forgiveness Is Best Understood As Letting Go Of A Debt. Consider a person who owes a bank too much money to repay. That person has no assets and no income and will not acquire them in the future. For the sake of illustration, we’ll suppose this is an individual who put into a coma in a car accident and the person has no estate from which to recover funds. The bank’s only option is to discharge (forgive) this debt.

In most of life’s situations, there are no do-overs. When we hurt someone, we can’t take it back, and in many instances we can’t adequately repay them.

The options are often either negative feelings, such as anger, sadness, and hatred, or forgiveness. Negative emotions are the initial and natural response to injury. They help to keep us from being hurt again. In many respects. it is easier to hate than to forgive.

When we forgive, we let go of our right to get even. We stop viewing the offending party as a monster, a deceiver, a betrayer, or whatever negative, one dimensional box we may have place them in. We begin to see them a person who has positive and negative character traits. A person who has wronged us, perhaps on purpose or perhaps out of ignorance. We consider times when we may have hurt others and we remember the connection we share with each person we encounter. The process of forgiveness often happens best in the context of trusting relationships who can support us in the process.

Forgiveness is slowed, or goes backwards, when we have negative attitudes about ourselves or others, such as “you can’t trust anyone”, “or, I hope he gets what’s coming to him”. We know we are making progress in forgiving when we are able to enjoy life and be engaged in relationships. When we are able to wish the offending party well and have no desire to get even, the process of forgiveness has done its work.

Summary

Forgiveness is best understood as letting go of a debt. We let go of our right to get even. Forgiveness is not a favor we are doing for another person, but an investment we make in our own wellbeing. Forgiveness isn’t fast or easy, but most worthwhile pursuits in life take work and happen slowly. Forgiveness is a process that we often chose daily. Over time, as forgiveness does its work, we are more engaged in our relationships and experience more happiness and peace.

About the Author

pmtcounseling.com

Psychologist Dr. Dave Spriggs

Dr. Dave Spriggs is a psychologist licensed in North Carolina.  He has worked in the mental health field since 1994.  People seek Dr. Spriggs’ services for a variety of reasons, but he specializes in relationship issues, treatment of mood problems, and serving people who wish to integrate their Christian Faith into the counseling process.  Dr. Spriggs finds that forgiveness is often a primary goal for his patients.

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20 Mar

Beat Stress And Negative Emotions Through Mindfulness

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Mindfulness - Piedmont Counseling Center

photo by Heidi Forbes Öste of flickr.com

Are You Overwhelmed?

You have so much to do that you can’t focus. You feel tense so often that it is “normal” for you. You feel like you can’t work any harder, yet you feel like you are spinning your wheels. You focus on painful memories to the detriment of present peace. Does this sound familiar?

I think if we are honest, most of us can relate to feeling overwhelmed, at least occasionally. Some of us, more than occasionally. Why is it that some of us have extremely demanding careers, busy family and social commitments, yet still avoid a constant state of tension?

The reality is that all of us are limited to 24 hours and 7 days to each week. Some of us may be a little stronger, weaker, smarter, slower, or more articulate, but most of us have similar abilities, with some areas of strengths and some areas of weakness. No one goes through life stress-free, and no one escapes painful memories.

Beating stress isn’t easy, but it is possible for all of us to improve our ability to cope. Many people with significant demands have learned to avoid feeling overwhelmed. One practice that will enable you to beat stress and experience more peace in your life is mindfulness.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice in which we are focused on the present, with acceptance of our physical and emotional sensations. This acceptance involves a nonjudgmental and calm attitude. By practicing mindfulness, we narrow our focus from our many demands (finances, health, relationships, work, and countless other responsibilities) to what is going on in the current moment.

This practice may sound mundane, but achieving a state of presentness is profound. As we focus on the here and now, we achieve greater peace. This practice is not easy. Our entire culture draws us to the urgent (cell phones, emails, and social media) and to quick fixes for our problems.

We have it backwards. We have deluded ourselves into believing that a focus on simple everyday activities, such as watching the sun rise, or enjoying a conversation in which we are truly present with another person, is somehow less significant than multitasking and planning for the future.

Mindfulness is a state of being more so than a simple technique or attitude. There are activities and thinking patterns that can help us achieve mindfulness. The more we incorporate these behaviors into our routines, the more likely we are to be mindful.

Being Present

If you want to begin practicing mindfulness, the first step is to focus on your current situation. What are you senses telling you? What do you hear, see, smell, touch, and smell? Does your chair feel hard or soft? What colors do you notice? What emotions are you currently experiencing?

Don’t try to fight these perceptions. Attempt to accept them for what they are. You are not trying to change anything. You are attempting to accept yourself and your experience for what it is.

An Attitude Adjustment

If you want to practice mindfulness, it will be important for you to begin changing your thinking patterns. Rather than focusing on your concerns, attempt to empty your mind. Rather than making judgements about yourself or others, accept without judgment.

We have difficulty emptying our minds. We are so accustomed to to the pull of the news, social media, and our to do lists, that it is rare for our thoughts to be clear. It is often helpful to focus on a peaceful memory to help clear your mind. Perhaps you recall a relaxing day at the beach and can recall the pleasant sensation of the sun falling on you.

There is certainly a time for planning and a time to judge, but not when you are attempting to be present. Balance is key.

Proper Posture And Muscle Tone

Make a fist and flex your bicep. Don’t do this halfheartedly, but really try to put some strength into it. Hold…hold…hold. Eventually, you should feel your arm shake and start to get tired. Let your arm drop onto your knee.

Do you feel the heavy, loose sensation in your muscle. That is the feeling you should have in your muscles when they are relaxed. They should feel heavy and loose.

If you are sitting in your chair, don’t cross your arms or legs. When you cross your arms and legs, there is some constriction that can interfere with breathing. Try to achieve a comfortable posture in which you are not slouching, nor are you sitting firmly at attention, but somewhere in the middle.

Breathing

When we are relaxed, our breathing slows and becomes deep. When we are breathing deeply, the diaphragm causes our belly to expand. If you are breathing in a relaxed manner, it should take approximately 10 seconds from the time you draw a breath in until you let it out.

This contrasts to times when we are under stress. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow — almost as if the breath were stopped short in our chest without going all the way down into the depths of our lungs.

Proper breathing is a crucial aspect of mindfulness. If you breathe slowly and deeply, your body and mind will begin to relax. Relaxation helps us to be more present and accepting of our current situation.

Summary

Mindfulness is not a set of techniques, but is a way of being that involves calmly being present without judgment. There are a number of techniques that can help us experience mindfulness, such as proper breathing, thinking, and posture. Meditation (or relaxation training) is an attempt to integrate several of these techniques and is a powerful tool for increased emotional stability.

I plan to write a future post that will include more specific instructions for meditation. The aim of this post was to introduce the concept of mindfulness and provide guidance into how principles of mindfulness may be incorporated into your life. Attempt to implement these strategies a little at a time, with the goal of being more present and nonjudgmental in your at least some of your daily life. Practicing mindfulness will help you achieve greater health and peace.

About the Author

pmtcounseling.com

Psychologist Dr. Dave Spriggs

Piedmont Counseling Center
https://pmtcounseling.com
129 Allen Street, Kernersville, NC 27284

 

Dr. Dave Spriggs is a psychologist licensed in North Carolina.  He owns a private practice located in Kernersville, NC.  People seek Dr. Spriggs’ services for a variety of reasons, but he specializes in relationship issues, treatment of mood problems, and serving people who wish to integrate their Christian Faith into the counseling process.  Dr. Spriggs finds that mindfulness practice greatly improves stress coping and emotional stability and often incorporates mindfulness into psychotherapy.

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20 Mar

Recovering From Church Hurt

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Recovering from church hurt Piedmont Counseling Center Christian Counseling

Church Hurt

Many individual seek counseling as they are recovering from church hurt.  “Church hurt” is a relatively new term for me, but as someone who grew up attending church, the concept isn’t new.  Here is an example.

A friend of mine will not attend church. He grew up attending church and was very involved until he was in his twenties. At that point, he had a very negative experience in which someone he trusted deceived him and cheated him out of money. He also learned that this person he trusted had a secret life and pattern of unethical behavior. He hasn’t been back to church for over 10 years and continues to be pained by memories of this experience. I hope you will read this blog post to the end, where I’ll refer to my friend again.

Church hurt is the pain we feel when our experience at church has been negative. This pain is deep for many people, perhaps similar to the betrayal a spouse feels when discovering an unfaithful marriage partner. Why is church hurt so painful? Is recovery possible?

Relationships

Relationships are an enigma. Research tells us that the healthiest and happiest people have quality relationships. Close relationships are the place where we share life’s happiest moments. Close relationships are where we turn for strength when we need support. Yet, relationships are hard. All close relationships eventually involve painful emotions.

People are imperfect beings. At times, we hurt those close to us out of ignorance or out of a mistake. People also do wrong things. Some times we are selfish and put our needs ahead of the needs of our loved ones. The people who can hurt us the most are the people we care for the most. These are difficult truths, but self-evident. If you haven’t been hurt in a close relationship, you haven’t been it long enough.

Organizations

Organizations are simply a larger network of relationships that have gathered to accomplish a purpose. Organizations provide the opportunity for more relationships than we would experience on our own, and the satisfaction of working together in accomplishing a goal. This magnification of relationships can be very positive, but also leads to an increased likelihood of hurt. If you are involved in an organization long enough and deeply enough, you will experience hurt. The church is an organization.

Painful Emotions

We experience painful emotions as a warning system. When someone betrays us, takes advantage of us, or otherwise proves they are not a safe person, we attach emotions such as sadness, envy, angry, or even hatred towards that person. These emotions protect us from being hurt again. In and of themselves, these emotions are a good thing. If we naively stay in a bad relationship, we will be hurt again.

Our bodies and minds don’t cope well when such emotions persist. Stress hormones are released into our bodies when we experience such emotions. These hormones help our bodies better prepare for an emergency in which we would need to fight or run, but they also weaken our bodies’ ability to heal and cope with illness. Our brains are also negatively impacted. Our abilities to be empathetic and to make long term plans are compromised when we under distress.

The Process of Recovery

Recovering from church hurt involves several components. Some aspects of the healing process should be practiced immediately, while others (such as insight into the hurt and forgiveness can take a long time). Although the healing process is unique to each person, there are commonalities.

  1. Self-Care — You will not be able to heal effectively if you are not taking care of yourself. Proper rest, exercise, nutrition, spiritual health, and social activity are all disciplines you will need to practice with the goal of personal growth and healing. Emotional pain can lead to addictive and unhealthy behaviors, such as substance abuse, overeating, and unhealthy relationships. These destructive behaviors will prolong the healing process. Many people benefit from learning to practice mindfulness. I have written a blog post that explains this practice and how it can be used to cope with negative emotions.
  2. Insight — What was your experience and how did it hurt you? Can you name your negative emotions? Was there a person or group of people who wronged you in some way? Was it a situation in which it wasn’t a wrong action, but the church did not provide you with the support you needed? Does the church teach something you don’t agree with? Does the worship style cause you to feel uncomfortable? If you are to heal most efficiently and completely, you will need to gain some insight into these issues.
  3. Forgiveness — Once you have stabilized your health and gotten some insight into what hurt you, it will be important to practice forgiveness. Please see my blog post on forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean “forgetting” or “excusing” a wrong that was committed against you. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean restored relationship. Forgiveness is a process by which you release negative emotions and memories and your right to get even. This is not an easy process, but forgiveness is necessary for healing. So long as you retain the desire to get even and keep negative emotions inside of you, healing will be very slow and incomplete. Forgiveness is not doing a favor for the offending party, but is necessary for self care.

The Journey Home

Recovering from church hurt can be particularly painful because the church should be a safe place. We expect people to be honorable. Yet, because church’s are comprised of imperfect people (like you and me), hurt is inevitable.

As you work through the process of self-care, insight, and forgiveness, you will benefit from support. It is to your benefit to have trusted people in your life who can encourage you to keep making progress. You may be so hurt that you choose not to attend church, much like my friend.

That is not the only path. Some people find a new church, while others are able to continue their healing journey in the place where they experienced hurt. Ultimately, you will need to make that decision for yourself, but difficult decisions are easier when you have people you trust providing support.

If you are actively involved in your church, there will be many opportunities for you to be hurt, but there are also rewards. Being with a community of people who go through life together, experiencing weddings, funerals, and baby dedications doesn’t happen anywhere else the same way as in a church community. You will not experience church hurt if you don’t attend. You may not experience church hurt if don’t allow your fellow church members to get close to you.

However, you also won’t experience authentic community in which strangers become family. Community in which the truth of the Gospel is experienced in forgiving and being forgiven. In all of its imperfections, there is no place like church community. Take care of yourself and heal. In the process, you may be that supportive person someone else needs who is also recovering from church hurt. My friend needs you and you may be the person who helps welcome him home.

About the Author

pmtcounseling.com

Psychologist Dr. Dave Spriggs

Piedmont Counseling Center
https://pmtcounseling.com
129 Allen Street, Kernersville, NC 27284

 

Dr. Dave Spriggs is a psychologist licensed in North Carolina.  He owns a private practice located in Kernersville, NC.  People seek Dr. Spriggs’ services for a variety of reasons, but he specializes in relationship issues, treatment of mood problems, and serving people who wish to integrate their Christian Faith into the counseling process.

Read More

20 Mar

Mood Problems and Activity

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overcome mood problems through pleasant events scheduling

Mental Health And Activity

Activity is critical to overcoming anxiety, depression, and other mood problems. If you are having mood problems, take the time to digest this information and develop a pleasant events schedule for yourself. In this blog post, I will point out some reasons why mental health and activity are closely related and that healthy activity also helps to prevent and promote recovery from mood problems.

A Primary Indicator of Mood Problems

Many mood problems (for example, sadness, anxiety, and irritability) have a common denominator. When we are experiencing emotional pain, we tend to become less active in healthy behaviors. This is particularly true for when people are sad, but is also true when people are nervous.

Negative emotions often serve as a warning system for us. When we feels sad or nervous, our body and mind is telling us we need to slow down and be careful before proceeding. Perhaps we should be cautious of a relationship. Maybe we need to stop spending so much time and energy in a particular activity. These emotions (although unpleasant) are sending us important signals that will help us. Unfortunately, sometimes nervousness and sadness become more severe and turn into clinically significant anxiety or depression. Under such circumstances, these emotions are no longer healthy.

When we experience unhealthy anxiety or depression, these emotions begin to hold us back from healthy activities that will help us experience greater wellness. Most people who are depressed tend to have lower energy and apathy. In contrast, most people who are anxious have increased difficulty focusing and although they often have the desire to be active, become overwhelmed and paralyzed.

While the reasons are different, depending on the emotion, negative emotions often lead to decrease in healthy activity. This lack of healthy activity can lead to unhealthy activities (such as substance abuse). Even if the person does not engage in unhealthy activity, simple inaction is unhealthy, both physically and mentally.

Pleasant Events

Surprisingly, people with emotional problems will not only stop exercising or doing chores, but they will also have little interest in doing pleasant activities, such as talking with friends, watching sports, or playing games. When individuals engage in pleasant events, research has demonstrated that there is often improvement in mood. But, if you don’t feel like doing these activities, how can you break the cycle of inaction?

Pleasant Events Scheduling

  1. Make a list of at least 5 activities you enjoy. A list of 10 or more actives would be better, but a minimum of 5. Make sure these activities are realistic and you can afford to engage in them. If you have difficulty making this list, find a friend or family member who knows you well and can assist you.
  2. Make a weekly schedule for yourself and block out a minimum of one hour on two separate occasions each week. More blocks of time is better, but block out a minimum of two separate days with a minimum of 1 hour for each block.
  3. Assign an item from your list to 2 blocks of time each week and track this for a month.
  4. You must consider these scheduled pleasant events as commitments with equal priority as you would to going to a medical appointment or going to work. You will not “feel like” doing the pleasant events, but do them anyway!
  5. You must make this a habit and continue this practice for at least a month.
  6. Keep track of your mood. You will notice a positive improvement over time. Don’t focus on any one event, but track your mood after you have engaged in several events. Remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint.
  7. Recruit a friend or family member who can help you stay accountable to this plan.

About the Author

pmtcounseling.com

Psychologist Dr. Dave Spriggs

Piedmont Counseling Center
https://pmtcounseling.com
129 Allen Street, Kernersville, NC 27284

Dr. Dave Spriggs is a psychologist licensed in North Carolina.  He owns a private practice located in Kernersville, NC.  People seek Dr. Spriggs’ services for a variety of reasons, but he specializes in relationship issues, treatment of mood problems, and serving people who wish to integrate their Christian Faith into the counseling process.

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20 Mar

Suicide Prevention – Middle Aged Men

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pmtcounseling.com

When we think of suicide, we often imagine a depressed teenager. They are volatile with unpredictable hormone levels and are the face of mental turmoil. However, middle-aged men are actually the rising statistic in death by suicide.

White men, in particular, are rapidly becoming the most at-risk group for suicidal actions. A variety of factors are contributing to this issue, predominantly relating to societal and cultural norms. Regardless of the reasons, it is important that we take action if we feel concern for the mental wellbeing of a loved one. Here are a few ways you can work to prevent suicide in middle-aged men.

Seek Professional Help at First Warning

The common underlying causes for suicide in middle-aged men are connected to societal norms. Men are expected to hold down good jobs, raise a family, and repress emotions that are not anger or carefully displayed happiness.

This means that when something goes wrong, he is essentially a ticking time bomb. If he loses something that contributes to his masculinity, like his job or money, he is very suddenly at high risk for suicidal actions.

When the issue is this complex, there is almost nothing an untrained family member can do. A crisis stemming from societal and cultural failures is often very deeply ingrained in the man’s mind and will need the help of a very well-trained counselor if the crisis is to be resolved.

If your loved one experiences something highly emotional such as loss of a job, loss of a loved one, or any negative life event, immediately seek help. Many emotionally repressed men have not been taught the necessary tools to cope with emotional upheaval.

If you feel you will not be able to convince him to attend counseling sessions, consider calling a suicide hotline for advice. Their 24-hour phone lines can connect you or your loved one anonymously to a trained volunteer. Though this is not a permanent solution, it can prevent immediate crises.

Encourage Emotional Sharing

A large part of preventing suicide in men is re-teaching them to be open with their feelings. Our culture raises boys never to cry, shaming them for emotions and creating volatile, repressed adults. If a man you know is struggling, gently encourage him to talk to you or another trusted loved one. If he can confide in even one person, he is that much farther away from danger.

Always remain calm, collected, and supportive. If you have a negative response to what he shares, you may simply be reinforcing the idea that admitting one’s emotions is a bad or shameful thing. If he divulges something you feel unequipped to handle, seek additional support whether it be professional or from other loved ones. Taking too much of another person’s burden onto yourself helps no one.

Tackle Any Contributing Factors

For many, suicidal thoughts come alongside other external issues such as addiction, alcoholism, or illness. In order to prevent suicide, it is critical that you treat these external factors first. Without first eradicating an addiction, for example, it would be nearly impossible to prevent suicidal thoughts as addiction is often a cause of suicidal thoughts.

One of the most common addictions, particularly in middle-aged men is alcoholism. Yet another facet of our culture dictates that men drink, particularly when socializing. This perpetuated habit then can lead to alcohol being used to cope with emotional problems, then leading into alcoholism. Getting treatment is the first step to a full recovery.

Preventing suicide in a group so negatively affected by societal expectations is difficult. Though white men are more likely to get jobs, be paid well, and receive an education, the mental strain is not diminished. When the culture prescribes repression of emotion, demonstration of aggression, materialism, overworking, and drinking, it’s no wonder the population’s suicide rates are rising. The best thing you can do is listen, get help, and seek treatment. Recovery is a long road but is always possible.

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This blog post was written for pmtcounseling.com with by a guest blogger, Steve Johnson who can be reached at:

s.johnson@publichealthlibrary.org

Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.

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20 Mar

Hobbies to Counteract Mental Illness: Cultivating Healthy Outlets

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pmtcounseling.com

The following post is a guest blog post, written by Jennifer Scott. We are grateful for her contribution!

An important part of coping with mental illness is choosing positive outlets for the difficult times. Too many people who struggle with mental illness will find themselves addicted to a substance as a result of self-medication. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs is a mark of someone who does not know what else to do to feel better. Cultivating these positive habits for feeling better is critical in avoiding addiction and in learning to live a better life. These healthy habits also work to treat a preexisting addiction in the form of art therapy. We share a few fun hobbies that can work against the symptoms of mental illness here, to help inspire you to find your own healthy outlets.

Crocheting and Knitting

Crocheting and knitting both utilize yarn to make an infinite number of creations such as hats, scarves, blankets, and stuffed animals. The act of knitting or crocheting distracts the mind, helping it to abandon negative thoughts and focus on the task at hand. As an added benefit, many of these crocheted or knitted creations are useful either to the crafter or to others. If feeling useful helps you cope, you might consider donating the hats and scarves you crochet or knit to hospitals or shelters. Providing for people in need can be a great way to feel needed while simultaneously allowing you to spend time relaxing with your hobby.

Coloring and Drawing

Adult coloring books are filling the shelves of practically every store. While the insanely complex designs that could take years to complete may just be a trend, coloring does have a real therapeutic effect. Studies have shown that coloring reduces stress, relieves anxiety, and helps explore emotions. When done in combination with talk therapy, coloring or doodling has proven to be a very effective form of therapy for both addiction and mental illness.

Pet Care and Training

Simply owning a pet gives you a head start on reducing your stress. Studies show that pet owners live healthier, happier lives and typically have lower stress levels than people who do not own pets. Caring for a pet can be therapeutic, as it allows you to feel needed, generous, and loved. If you go the extra mile to care for your pet, perhaps learning to do professional-grade grooming at home, dressing your pet, and making homemade treats, you could certainly classify your pet care as a hobby.

Pet training is another activity that can improve your mood. The focus on training can limit fixation on mental health issues while the reward of successfully teaching your dog a trick will give you feelings of pride and self-worth. You might also go as far as training your dog to be a psychiatric service dog. A professional trainer will be needed for guidance, but once your pet is certified, it can become more than just a pet. It can be your partner with a set of tasks to help you cope with your illness.

Any hobby, including different types of exercise, that makes you feel better and easily can be completed each day serves as a useful coping tool for those with mental illness. When learning to live with mental illness, it is important that you remember to relax, do enjoyable things, and find healthy ways to improve your mental state. Anything from crocheting to training your cat to high-five can work against the symptoms of your illness. The activity does not matter. What does matter is that it makes you feel better and does not place you in danger of addiction.

 

 

About the Author

Jennifer Scott knows how difficult it can be to live with anxiety and depression. She has experienced both since she was in her teens. Today, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org. The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences.

Image via Pixabay by MabelAmber

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20 Mar

Suicide Prevention and Awareness: What You Can Do

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pmtcounseling.com

Photo via Pixabay by RyanMcGuire

Suicide is a prominent issue in the United States, especially among young people; in fact, it’s the third leading cause of death for individuals ages 10-24. Raising awareness of this problem is important because often, there is a stigma surrounding suicide that makes people reluctant to talk about it.

Suicide Prevention: Recognizing Signs

There are often underlying issues with suicide, such as mental or emotional disorders that can lead to depression or violence, so it’s important to know what the signs of suicidal thoughts are and how to interpret them apart from normal behaviors. These signs can include talking or writing about dying, changes in behavior, a sudden decline in health or performance at work/school, or giving away belongings, to name just a few.

If these behaviors begin to manifest themselves in someone you love, don’t be afraid to speak up. Start a conversation about their well-being and let them know you’re concerned, but do not be judgmental. Bringing guilt or shame into the talk will only make things worse, and it’s likely they already feel those things anyway. Simply let them know you’re listening. It’s a good idea to start the conversation one-on-one, but if there are other concerned parties present, make sure everyone knows to let each person have their time to speak.

Suicide Prevention: Conversations

Know that it’s okay to ask your loved one if there’s anything you can do to help them, but keep in mind that you will not have all the answers. It could be that even a trained professional won’t have the answers, either; sometimes there are underlying issues with suicidal thoughts that aren’t visible to others such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or depression, which may require therapy, medication, or both. It might take months or even years to figure out a method of treatment that is helpful, and that’s okay.

There could be other factors involved to take into consideration, as well, such as a family history of depression or suicide, exposure to another individual’s suicide or attempt, or a stressful event or life change such as a death in the family, an accident or injury, or an event that caused PTSD.

If you feel self-harm is imminent, do your best to remove any items from the area that could be used to cause injury and call 911. Do not leave the individual alone under any circumstance.

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This article was a guest post written by Chloe Pearson for pmtcounseling.com.  We are grateful for this submission.

About the Author

Chloe Pearson is a research specialist and freelance writer. She enjoys volunteering for ConsumerHealthLabs.com because she understands that in order for consumers to make the best decisions about their health they need reliable, well-researched information on which to base those decisions. And that’s precisely what everyone at Consumer Health Labs aims to do as they explore and interpret new health-related data and research.

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