BEGINNING LIFE IN THE EMPTY NEST IS A MAJOR LIFE TRANSITION

I never thought of August as a transitional month. In September it’s obvious. The days get colder and shorter, we start seeing color changes in the trees, and the kids go back to school. But there’s a strange melancholy to August. Even though it’s still summer we know that fall is just around the corner and there’s a sense of grieving. Parents that are launching a child to college feel that grieving most acutely. For them, August is an all-out transitional month. And the fact that many of us are still enjoying summer makes the pain of the transition even harder.

Many parents know the transition from full-time parenting is going to be hard. Others, like me, are taken by surprise. When my last child left home I was excited. Finally, I was going to have time to myself. But when I returned home after leaving him at college I was surprised by how lonely the house felt. I too, began the grieving process that goes along with the empty nest. This August I have a few clients that are getting a child ready for college, and they too are struggling. It seems like a good time to talk about what to do when one preparing for a major change such as this.

The first thing one can do is simply to notice and accept the way you’re feeling with love and self-compassion. It’s helpful to know that the feelings of depression, loss of purpose, guilt and anxiety are normal and go with the territory. For most people, they will pass with time.

Secondly, this is a good time to take stock of relationships with everyone in the family. These relationships are changing and it’s important to notice where they stand now, and what changes are needed. Married couples notice that their relationship has changed over the years. It’s common for couples to drift apart emotionally during the childrearing years and it’s often not until children leave home that they realize how far apart they’ve drifted. This is an opportunity to get to know each other again. Spend time together and remember the things you love about each other. Talk about the changes you’ve gone through over the years and where you are now.

Your relationship with your launching child is obviously also changing. Consider establishing a set time to catch up with him or her. Before the advent of cell phones parents always did this, because it was the only way to be sure to connect. Now parents can contact their children daily or even hourly to check on them. Such frequent contacts are borne more out of anxiety than a mutual desire to talk. Plan your connection times with your child. Figure out how much frequency is good for both of you so you feel reassured but your child also has space to feel his or her independence.

If you have other children at home, you may want to reevaluate those relationships also. Many parents feel compelled to tighten their grip on children more in order to feel needed. Avoid this temptation. Understand how much support and supervision is needed for younger children and keep the balance aligned so that they can grow in independence also.

Remember, this is also a time when you can reconsider your own needs. If you’ve been at home, maybe it’s time to consider jobs or career prospects that you have set aside. If you’ve been working and juggling roles you may find there’s more time to pursue a hobby or take a class. Treat yourself. Your child isn’t gone forever, and now you have more time for you.

Keep in mind, also, that the empty nest doesn’t always stay empty for long. Nowadays, it’s very common for adult children to return home. Census data from 2008 show that as many as 34% of all 18-34-year old’s live at home with parents. So, enjoy yourself during this time. You never know how long it’s going to last.

Finally, keep paying attention to how you feel. Some people struggle with Empty Nest Syndrome more than others, and some fall into a deeper depression that they need help with. If you would like help during this time or have other emotional concerns that you’re struggling with, consider seeing a professional. At Compatible Counseling Solutions we would be happy to help. For more information:Click Here

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SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER – IT’S NOT JUST FOR WINTERTIME

We’re more than halfway through summer now, and a lot of therapists I know find that they have fewer clients this time of year. That’s to be expected, right? Summer is the season of long sunny days, of fun and relaxation. Historically, I don’t have that same pattern of summer slowing. A lot of people come through that really struggle in the summer with a variety of concerns.

So, I got curious and decided to see what’s being said about summer-specific mental health problems. As it turns out, my experience isn’t all that unusual. The attached article discusses how summer can be especially challenging for many, and can precipitate depression and or anxiety. The article names five specific factors the author sees as related to summertime mental health problems: schedule changes, vacations, psychosocial issues, daylight patterns, and social events. It’s easy to see how the loss of work structure in the summer could cause some to feel untethered. Some of these other factors involve the high cost of having fun, grieving from losses that have taken place, and excess drinking.

I would like to add a couple other factors that I see. One is the pressure to smile and feel good , which is hard on those who are already depressed. For a person who is already in the midst of a depressive episode when summer starts, it can be especially daunting to see people enjoying themselves and not be able to do the same. Other factors I have seen are the need to wear less clothing when one doesn’t feel good about their body, or increased feelings of isolation when one’s family or support system goes away for extended time, or when one notices others having fun but they don’t have strong networks or time off.

If you’re feeling especially down in this summer, remember you’re not alone. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious you can always make an appointment to see a counselor or therapist. At Compatible Counseling Solutions we’re here and would be happy to help.

http://mentalhealth.fitness/5-triggers-seasonal-affective-disorder-summer/

TACKLING CHRONIC WORRY WITH COGNITIVE THERAPY AND INTUITIVE LISTENING

For most of my life I’ve been a chronic worrier and perfectionist. I come by it honestly. My mother is the champion of worrying and she taught me well. I learned from a lifetime of being told to BE CAREFUL! that to make a mistake would be a catastrophe, so I over-think every move before I make it. A lot of us are like this, but know how dysfunctional it is and how much it limits our capacity to experience joy and richness in our lives.

The attached article asserts that analytical thinking is the primary tool of chronic worriers. It describes that worriers and perfectionists have a lack of confidence in their decision making, and use systematic processing and analysis to check and double check themselves. I’ve seen this process acted out repeatedly in many of the clients that come to me for help. They want to make changes in their lives but are frozen by fear that others will not approve and keep looking for that perfect moment or that sign of approval that’s missing.

The article poses that by using cognitive-behavioral therapy one can learn another way to manage thoughts without over-analyzing. I agree that cognitive-behavioral strategies are extremely useful. But the article starts out also talking about gut instincts, stating that chronic worriers are people who don’t listen to their gut. I had hoped that the article would say more about intuitive thinking and the value of trusting your gut instincts. Unfortunately, howeverit never got back to talking about intuition after that first statement.

Cognitive Therapy is an excellent option for the worrier. I recommend, however, balancing cognitive work with work on learning to sense and trust intuition. Listening to intuition means listening to the heart and following your internal “knowing”. This is a skill we are all born with but squash out of ourselves as we learn that over-analysis is more highly regarded. If you want to rid yourself of that pesky voice that keeps you from trying out new ways of being I recommend finding a therapist that will help you to trust your intuition as well as challenge your negative thought patterns.

http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/31/chronic-worriers-tend-to-rely-on-analysis-not-gut-feelings/59057.html

CELEBRATING THE QUIET GIFTS OF INTROVERSION

The article that is cited and linked below was originally posted several years ago. I got a lot of positive feedback from the post I wrote to accompany the article, and in re-reading the article see that it’s still very relevant and full of good information and help for the introvert who’s having trouble accepting themselves in a world that values extraversion.

In my own practice, I see a lot of introverts. Most have trouble getting ahead in the workplace, and believe there’s something wrong with them when they’re looked over for promotions and disregarded in meetings. It’s true that extroverts often have an easier time getting ahead. They tend to be more assertive with their ideas and find it easy to build a coalition around what they want.  While introverts are in the background thinking through the pros and cons to their ideas and trying to figure out what factors need to be overcome to make them work, the extroverts are out there promoting the first idea that has come to their mind, whether thought through or not.

The article below reminds us of the quiet strength of the introvert, their natural tendency toward independence, their creativity and their innate leadership potential.  It also gives examples of great practices that remind introverts of their strengths and get them in touch with their most authentic selves.

Our fast-paced world that values assertiveness and crowd pleasing behaviors sometimes sees introverts as too private but really, their thoughtful pensiveness can be amongst their greatest strengths.  If you struggle with being introverted in an extraverted world, please read the article below.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/2012/introverts-and-the-quest-for-quiet/

THE SIMPLICITY AND BENEFITS OF A MEDITATION PRACTICE

Last week I wrote about the importance of incorporating relaxation into your daily routine. I mentioned meditation as one practice that can bring relaxation and renewal into ones’ life, and I thought I’d spend a bit more time on meditation in this post.

Meditation is very helpful to my clients that struggle with a variety of concerns ranging from anxiety, to basic life dissatisfaction, to struggles with relationships. I see meditation as both a life practice, and as a tool to increase therapy’s effectiveness by improving one’s awareness. For example, meditation is useful when one is trying to identify a feeling and locate it in their body, or when one is trying to keep themselves from pushing feelings down and away. It allows people to give their feelings compassionate attention so they can feel better. It also helps them become aware of how they’re feeling throughout the day outside of meditation time.

The biggest obstacle to meditation I’ve seen is a common belief that meditation requires special skills. People are always telling me they’ve tried meditation but can’t do it right. They, like so many others, have a misconception that meditation is only successful when one can silence their mind and rest in emptiness. I envy people who can do that, but if that were the only way to be successful at meditation I would have quit a long time ago. My mind is very active and I find it very difficult to tame. I know, however, that the practice of meditation builds my awareness, and that’s a process. My mind wanders a great deal but I know that the more I practice, the more present I am to my life.

So, here are a few steps to get you started if you’d like to try simple, mindfulness meditation

  1. Sit comfortably, with your back straight and your eyes closed or slightly open and looking down. If you can sit on the floor with a meditation cushion that’s great, but it’s ok to sit in a chair if you need the back support.
  2. Notice your breath entering and leaving through your nose. If you’re congested you can breathe through your mouth but breathing through the nose will feel less forced.
  3. Try to hold your focus on your breath. Your mind will likely wander, but when it does, just notice that and bring your attention back to your breath.
  4. If you notice discomfort, place your attention on the part of your body that is uncomfortable and keep breathing. If you feel emotions rising and falling, just notice them. Attend to any uncomfortable feeling until it passes if you can.
  5. Continue for at least 10-15 minutes and try to go longer with each session.
  6. Don’t give up if your mind wanders a lot. Even with a lot of wandering you’ll begin to notice your thoughts and feelings throughout the day more readily over time.

RELAX! HOW TO TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF IN A HIGH PRESSURED WORLD

Summer’s here, and the pressure is on to RELAX! You can see the irony in that sentence right away. Summer is a time when people expect to be able to kick back, take off their shoes, and just enjoy themselves. Yet how often do we actually do that? We might be lucky enough to get some time off to go out of town on a nice vacation. But even then, a lot of people report that they spend so much time planning and fretting over the vacation, that it almost doesn’t seem worth it once the actual vacation finally comes.

So how do we find the time to relax in this high-pressured world? The attached article contends that the most common excuse for not relaxing is “I don’t have the time”. That sounds exactly right to me. We’re so busy with our to do lists, trying to figure out how to cram all the things we need to do at home or with our families into the few hours we have each week when we’re not at work that we never actually take the time to relax.

I like this article because it gives you ideas on how to relax that almost anyone can find time for.  I especially love the idea that when you can’t take a “real” vacation you can take a mental and emotional vacation where you commit to getting away from negative thinking and stress for a few minutes each day just by taking a walk or a bath, for example. A simple meditation or listening to calming music can also refresh you and take you away from the stresses of everyday life.

Take a look at the article and see what works for you. Then make sure to find a few minutes every day to implement some of these tools. If you’re chronically stressed and/or running around all the time I think you’ll find it’ll make everything else start to feel a little easier to manage.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/2013/relaxation-make-time-and-take-time-for-self-care/

 

 

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO SEEK HELP FROM A COUNSELOR?

The attached article provides a nice framework for those deciding whether to seek help or not.  There are very few articles out there about when it’s the right time to seek help, so it’s a nice addition. The decision to seek counseling or therapy is difficult because one is deciding whether to make themselves vulnerable to a stranger or not.  For this reason, as well as the high cost of therapy and anxiety about what is going to happen in counseling, a lot of people put it off and hope that their problems will resolve themselves.  And sometimes they do, but often they don’t.  Also, many people have had bad experiences with therapy in the past and don’t want to invest their time and money again on a on a risky venture. So, they wait until they’ve run out of options before making that leap of faith again.  I understand all these concerns very well. They’re why I started Compatible Counseling Solutions in the first place.  I hate to see people make themselves vulnerable to someone that’s not going to help them, and I’ve seen it happen time and again.

If you are at the point where you’re wondering if now is the time, I urge you to read the attached article and see if any of the scenarios that are described fit you.  If you’re not sure of exactly what you need I hope you’ll consider contacting me. I can help you sort through whether, and what kind of counseling will be most helpful to you and I can help you find an effective therapist that meets your needs and maintains a focus on your goals without keeping you in services indefinitely.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201301/do-i-need-help

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wholeheartedbadgeExperiencing Brene´Brown’s, The Daring Way™ in an intensive retreat is a powerful way to explore vulnerability and develop an authenticity practice in the safety of a small group setting.  The Daring Way™ will give you the tools you need to move bravely into new territory in relationships, at work, and with yourself. For more information: www.compatiblecounseling.com/daring-way/

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