The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection: Unexpected Ways to Help Heal Anxiety & Depression

by Cameron Butler Wooten, LPC, LMFT

Most people have heard that the best treatment for mental health disorders includes counseling/psychiatric treatment and medication. While this is true, there are other aids to help in healing those who suffer from mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression. As humans, we are not only made up of our mind, but also our body and spirit. It is important to consider the whole person when treating the mind.

According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illness in te U.S., affecting 40 million adults, or 18.1% of the population every year. Nearly one half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

The good news is, we know these mood disorders are highly treatable. Along with counseling/medication/psychiatric treatment, people can aid in healing their minds by taking care of their bodies. There is most certainly a Mind-Body Connection.

One helpful & less known way to heal depression/anxiety is food intake. There is a strong connection between the brain and “gut”. Research shows that approximately 95% of serotonin is produced within the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps in regulating mood and behavior. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that relay messages between nerves, and the neurotransmitters in your gut are almost identical to those in your brain (Dana Korn, “Living Gluten Free for Dummies”). Due to this gut-brain connection, it makes sense that the type food we eat will help nourish our gastrointestinal tract…thus impacting our brain. Adopting a healthy diet promotes the health of the gastrointestinal tract, and according to Jessica Black, author of “The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book,”a better-functioning gastrointestinal tract improves serotonin secretion, which improves sleep and mood.

So what does a healthy diet look like? There are all kinds of popular diets these days, so it can be confusing to know which diet is best. The answer is that everyone is different, but some of the rules apply to everyone. Eating a balanced diet of meat, poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, veggies, fruit, and healthy fats is a great start. Limiting foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol, and caffeine, can help alleviate stress on the body.

Another way to aid in the treatment of anxiety and depression is getting enough sleep and exercise. Sleep is the body’s way of rejuvenating itself. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended sleep for adults 26-64 years of age is 7-9 hours. Our bodies require long periods of sleep to restore and repair tissues, process memories, synthesize hormones, etc (www.sleepfoundation.org). Poor sleep is directly related to anxiety and depression. Sleep aid techniques can include shutting off technology 1 hour before bed, sleeping in a completely dark room, meditation, & deep breathing. Daily exercise is also a great way to aid in sleep and take care of one’s body. Exercise relieves stress, improves memory & mood, and reduces symptoms of mood disorders.

With the high levels of anxiety and depression in our culture, it is encouraging to hear that there are some natural approaches to aid in healing (along with counseling and potentially medication), as simple as eating, sleeping, and exercising. After all, the mind, body, and spirit are all connected. Remember the mind-body connection and take care of yours.

___

Cameron is a Licensed Professional Counselor who enjoys working with individuals, teens, and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

Advertisements

Making Space for Grief

by Lydia Minear, LPC

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

Everyone will know seasons of loss and grief. Some of these endings we can see approaching months or years ahead of time. A person we love receives a frightening diagnosis. A beloved family member or friend ages into their late years. With time we try to brace ourselves for such a death, riding the roller coaster of emotions as we attempt to gradually accept. Yet, nothing can completely prepare us for the hole this person will leave.

Other times, death is a shock. Unexpected and devastating, we could never imagine having to say goodbye so soon to someone we hold dear. Desperately, we try to keep our heads above the waters as confusion, anger, and sadness take hold.

Grieving the loss of someone we love is a process with no clear map. Just as each relationship is unique, each loss is unique. Our hearts, minds, and bodies need space to grieve. Often, individuals fear getting close to these deep places in oneself. Many people come from families where tears were uncommon and emotions were rarely shared. Death is not a topic openly discussed in our current culture either. For instance, most work places offer a mere three bereavement days for employees. This is quite different from previous times in history when mourning traditions involved weeks of grieving as a community together in and around the deceased’s family’s home. In reality, grieving continues long past the time when the calls, texts, casseroles, and cards stop coming. It is therefore common to feel alone in your experience.

Honoring the multitude of feelings we may experience often means resisting the message to “pull myself together”. Making space for tears means listening to our hearts and bodies carefully and giving ourselves what we need.   Needing coffee and a hug with a friend, tears in the shower, walks with your dog, time in nature, journaling, music, time alone, time with others, a funny movie, and even diving into work or something creative are all examples of needs you may have. You may also need to reach out for support from a grief group or therapist to process the pain. The needs change from day to day and moment to moment. Rather than compare your grief experience to that of others, it is important to be compassionate to yourself and hold respect for your own journey. It will not look exactly like anyone else’s.

As Irving says in the quote above, tears are sacred. Your grief is sacred as well. It is a reflection of the deep meaning this person had in your life and you in theirs. If you believe that counseling is a route you would like to consider in your own process, please feel free to contact any of the therapists here at Foundation Counseling.  We wish those in the midst of such a loss, strength and courage along the way.

__

Lydia is a Licensed Professional Counselor who enjoys working with individuals, teens, and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area.  Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

Wrestling with Honor

by Phil Zaffos, LPC

I love words. Hidden in the words we choose, we find clues that lead us to the depths of the heart and soul, from great desire to heavy grief. Words are the offering of a story, bringing to life one’s experience, building a bridge for connection with the world within and around us.

One word has come to stand out recently for me in the stories I have heard: Honor.

I’m wrestling with honor. No one is perfect. No one had a perfect childhood and we have all been harmed on some level. Many people in the journey of counseling struggle to acknowledge this harm in the name upholding honor.

The sentiments are familiar ones: Honor your mother and father, live honorably, A person’s word is their honor.

The original word in Greek (timao) literally translates as price (n) or to price (v) and more loosely, to consider the cost of. And yet I witness people daily hide behind honor (often unintentionally) as a way to avoid or minimize the cost of life events or relationships. For instance, someone refusing to “say anything bad” about their loved one because they did the best they could. To honor is to hold the tension of acknowledging good intentions and the harm done in spite of these intentions.

Honor moves us toward freedom by inviting us to more truly consider the cost of living. Let us begin to hold with honor the cost of having the parents we have. Let us begin to use our words to acknowledge the weight of the world around us. Let us venture boldly into the harm we have met and begin to feel the immensity of its burden.

To consider the cost does not mean an invitation to gossip or talk in demeaning fashion about another in contempt. Contempt is more about degrading another and less about considering the harm done to your heart. Honor leads to a place of compassion toward yourself and those who have harmed, you bringing healing to your heart and freedom in your life.

__
Phil is a Licensed Professional Counselor and founding director at Foundation Counseling. He enjoys working with groups, individuals and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about him and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

Parental Effects on Relationship Patterns: Finding Security in Connection

by Elizabeth Uhles, LAPC

“Hold on. Hold on to me. ‘Cause I’m a little unsteady. A little unsteady. Mama, come here. Approach, appear. Daddy, I’m alone. Cause this house don’t feel like home. If you love me, don’t let go…” Song Lyrics. Unsteady by X Ambassadors

Several weeks ago, I was on my morning jog when this song shuffled through my playlist. I pictured a toddler between his parents, hands stretched above his head, waddling side-to-side learning to walk. The toddler found his steadiness from his parents. It gave him the security and confidence to propel his body forward on under-developed muscles.

The hands of our parents give us the safety to develop not only physically, but also emotionally and socially. Steady and secure parental relationships in our childhood development, put us on the path towards social and emotional resilience.

So many of our parents did their best, but the safety we experienced as a child may have been intermittent (or for some of us, not at all). One moment our world was steady, the next we were faced with our parents’ distance, defensiveness, or loss of control. To survive the roller coaster, we develop defenses. We may have become anxious, demanding, or built a ten foot wall around our heart. As children, these defenses worked, but then we grew up, started adult relationships and found that our defenses were actually backfiring.
As adults, we may find ourselves confused, picking fights or walking away, even when our heart is really singing, “If you love me, don’t let go.” Even when this happens, it might feel safest to continue to use our same old, tried-and-true defense mechanisms. It takes courage to show vulnerability and communicate our needs. It takes courage to trust someone and learn a new way of relating.

Therapy can help you learn your past story and understand why you relate the way you do. You don’t have to repeat your backfiring childhood patterns; instead it is possible to reshape your relationships to be what you want them to be. A healthy relationship, can give you the confidence to propel forward to a life of care, trust, and resilience.

 

Elizabeth is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor at Foundation Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

Four (More) Things I’ve Learned in Marriage

by Cameron Butler, LPC, LMFT

My husband and I will celebrate our One Year Anniversary this weekend.  This year has gone by so quickly, yet he & I joke about how it feels like we’ve always been married.  As mentioned in a previous post,  just because I am a professional counselor does not mean I am a pro at being married.  It has truly been through trial and error, not book knowledge,  that I have learned the most. To follow up on my Post, 4 Things I’ve Learned in 4 Months of Marriage, I’d like to add four more lessons I’ve learned throughout my first year of marriage.

  1. Marriage as An Emotional Bank Account: There will be times in marriage when one person feels like they are putting in all of the work, or making all the deposits, and the other partner is making all the withdrawals. This can feel unfair. While I don’t agree with one partner always carrying all the weight of the responsibilities, there will be times when the workload may be uneven.  For example, if one spouse is injured, sick, or slammed with work.  This is where you need to think of your marriage like an emotional bank account. The more deposits one partner puts into his/her Marital Bank Account (i.e. the more you give & serve your partner), the more there will be to withdrawal when you need your partner to step up and carry more of the load.  While we try to maintain a balanced load of responsibility, there are times when life throws curve balls and we need to adjust. This does not mean having one partner carrying most of the household responsibilities all of the time, because this will cause other problems….but it is helpful to see your marriage like a bank account. When you are continually depositing into it….there will be more for you to withdraw from later.
  2. Use Your Manners: As simple as this sounds, it can be difficult to always follow through with. We can become comfortable with our spouse, knowing that they are committed to us forever, and it can be easy to take advantage of this in how we speak to them. Its amazing how far “please” and “thank you” can go in marriage.  While it is nice to be able to be completely yourself with your partner, this does not mean it is okay to be rude.  It is not okay to take out your stress on your partner.  It is not your spouse’s fault you had a tough day at work or your back hurts.  Use your manners, take a hot shower or fix a cup of tea to relax, but don’t be rude to your spouse. Being rude will only create a problem that was never there.  And if you do mess up, “I’m sorry can also go along way. Use your manners!
  3. Listen to One Another: My husband is a problem solver. He is very good at coming up with solutions to a wide variety of problems. Sometimes I am so focused on my point of view that I’m not hearing what he has to say about a situation. I typically later realize that he had a really good point/idea all along! We need to really listen to one another in the moment. So many of the couples I work with don’t ever “hear” one another – when in discussion they are only thinking of how they will defend their ideas/feelings rather than truly listening to their spouse. Feeling heard can and does equate with feeling loved.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff: There is a lot that happens in life that is difficult, but leaving the dishes out on rare occasion is not one of them. My husband and I have both been reminded of the fragility of life this past year through various circumstances. We have learned that we have a choice on whether or not to make something a big deal….and perspective is important. Living with another person will inevitably cause disagreements at times, but there are too many “big” things in life to let something small becoming big. If your spouse leaves his or her (let’s be honest – his) clothes in the floor, don’t let it ruin your day!

I look forward to continuing on this journey of marriage, learning a lot along the way. There are so many more ways to learn and grow, but for now we plan to sit back in thankfulness & celebration over the past year of joy.

Cameron is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist  at Foundation Counseling.  She enjoys working with teens, adults, and families in the Marietta and Kennesaw area. Find out more about her and other therapists here.

Choosing Kindness

by Adair Swayze, LAPC, LAMFT

“This morning at six when I awoke, loneliness was sitting on my chest like a dental x-ray apron, even though I was covered in hairy dog love. I prayed, ‘Help. I am sad and lonely, and already it looks from here like today is going to be too long.’ So I did a kindness to myself, as I would have if a troubled friend had confided her loneliness to me: I heated up the milk for my coffee and took the dogs for a short hike in the hills.”

Choosing Kindness

I love this scene from Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. She wakes up one morning, as we all do sometimes, anxious and lonely. She fears what the next few hours will hold. She cannot deny the heaviness of her loneliness nor the restless and deep longing that comes with it. And then she wrestles with what to do about it.

Anne chooses to engage with what she refers to as “radical self-care.” She imagines she is caring gently for a friend. She offers herself something cozy and comforting to drink. She seeks goodness for herself: beauty and adventure and play. Nothing she chooses is extravagant or expensive or complicated, but there is a simple kind of goodness and nurture.

And before any of these simple things are possible, she does something very important. She allows herself to feel the pain her heart holds. She allows herself to name how heavy and scary the loneliness feels and she engages her heart with such precious words. “Help. I am sad and lonely, and already it looks from here like today is going to be too long.”

Most of our unkindness comes from refusing to engage this place in our own hearts. We shove the feelings away and avoid letting them speak because we are deeply afraid of what comes next. Instead of kindness and gentleness, we choose to be uncaring and even cruel. We numb and silence our needs. We try to satiate our appetite with mindless eating, Instagram, Netflix. We get busy. And when we do engage the pain, we speak harshly to our tenderly aching hearts. We say:

“You shouldn’t be lonely. You’re so needy.”
Shame.

“No wonder you don’t have any friends. You’re such a loser.”
Self-contempt.

“Nobody will think to call you today. Everyone has forgotten about you.”
Despair.

Letting your heart speak, even if only for a moment, is the kindest space you can offer. And once you have listened, you can decide from a place of kindness what to offer yourself. Do you need a walk? Time with a friend? A good meal? Little by little you will teach your heart that it is safe in your gentle care.

 

Adair is a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor and Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist  at Foundation Counseling.  She enjoys working with children, teens, and adults in the Marietta and Kennesaw area. Find out more about her and other therapists here.

13 Reasons Why: A Message to Parents

by Kelly Cave, LPC, LMFT

Have you heard about it? It’s all the hype right now. I have teenage clients coming in right and left telling me they and all their friends are watching it. Yet, I have some, but very few, adults coming in reporting the same.

Is this show okay for our teenagers to watch?

This is a great question. Let’s first start with a little recap of the show. The main character commits suicide and leaves behind a series of tapes detailing why she did it. Each side of the tape is directed toward a different person and what that person did or didn’t do that contributed to her taking her own life. It also shows in detail how each of those individuals is affected by the tapes and how much they, in turn, struggle with that shame and guilt. Many critics say that it glorifies revenge suicide and teaches students that they can get the impact they want by killing themselves and leaving behind tapes, videos, or letters to make those that bullied them pay. However, this isn’t reality and this isn’t the message we are wanting our teens to be hearing, is it?

I’ve read review after review suggesting that if you are going to let your teen watch this, you should at least watch it with them. I am going to take it one step further by saying that you should watch it before them. Why? If you watch it before them, you know what they are about to see. You may not fully know how it will affect them but you can at least be partially ready for how they might relate and react to the story line. And you’ll be prepared to have or to start conversation with them about it.

This show may not be good in terms of communicating a good message to our teenagers but I do think it is somewhere to start for parents who are feeling out of touch with their teens. Is this happening to every single one of them? No. But much of what this program shows is happening in every high school these days. There is physical violence and sexual harassment. The show opens up with a sexual photo being sent all around school, which is something I hear about daily. The things that the show is depicting may not be something you want to hear or see. All the reviews say, is this really what we want our children to be watching? But I want to challenge you to assume that your children are already seeing or experiencing these things at school. No, this show is not the best in terms of uplifting messages. But it does provide a platform of communication for you and your teen if you allow it to. Try not to miss out on this opportunity, even if you’re late to the game like I was. Watch it, anyway, so that you can go back and talk to your teen about it.

Each and every generation is being faced with new challenges. The generation currently in high school has it more difficult than any generation prior to them. In a world of social media and digital images, their most embarrassing moments or poor decisions can be captured on film and blasted around the school in the matter of seconds. They are dealing with the constant pressure of fitting in by sending “nudes” or attending this or that party. They are constantly connected on their phones but not connected at all emotionally. We’ve always had loneliness and depression, and I think that we always will. But this generation seems to be struggling with it much more. There are resources available for you and your children. Here at Foundation Counseling we long to connect with you and your teens and help create understanding for what they are dealing with. My personal goal is to help bridge the gap between the generations to create deeper, more meaningful relationships for the teenagers of today.

Kelly is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marrige and Family Therapist at Foundation Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.

Courage Despite Social Anxiety

by Lydia Minear, LPC

The definition of courage is “strength in the face of pain or grief.”  Often, the words courageous & brave conjure images of powerful characters who appear fearless, with endless confidence.  However, this does not align with the true meaning of courage.

Real courage means not having all the answers, yet proceeding forward anyway.  Courage asks us to accept our emotions such as fear, nervousness, and self-doubt while trying something difficult.  Living with courage involves accepting imperfections as a normal part of growth and a normal part of being human.

For individuals with social anxiety specifically, daily life can present with a need for courage.  Social anxiety is a fear of judgment and rejection.  A person with social anxiety feels in some way inadequate.  Many people have social fears.  To show up and be seen by others is not always easy.  Being excluded from a group and feeling different can instill pain that makes us afraid to be seen.  Hiding, which is a way of protecting oneself from potential judgement, keeps us on the outside looking in.  The consequence is loneliness and missing out.  Working through social anxiety is a process, one which involves exploring and undserstanding feelings and fears while moving towards greater self-acceptance and love for oneself.  Along the way, we can take steps to being seen.  The poem I have written below is inspired by the brave and beautiful journeys of individuals, clients and friends, who experience social anxiety yet live and grow despite their fears.

Courage: A Poem

Standing on the sidelines,

a spectator peering in.

Distant, safe, hidden and tame,

Yet inside an untapped flame.

An option lands before me.

Timid, I look down.

Sensing my heartbeat racing,

the question floats here now.

To remain still, the pull is strong,

tempted to stay warm here in my hole.

Yet, Courage, you nudge me, winking,

whispering desires within my soul.

Two steps forward, I am moving,

fear, uncertainty by my side.

Shaky legs and sweaty fingers,

nervous, in the scope of others’ sight.

Discovering purpose, I reach closer,

making room they let me in.

Blood pumping, I feel bolder.

Richly alive, I am seen.

Retreating – once an option,

now seems further from my mind.

Curiosity and excitement leading,

pushing me past the shy divide.

_

Lydia is a Licensed Professional Counselor who enjoys working with individuals, teens, and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. She has a special passion for helping those suffering from social anxiety and issues with self-esteem.  Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here. Continue reading

What a Bonded Romantic Relationship Looks Like: Bringing Clarity to the Science of Love

by Jim Stockton, LPC

_
What characterizes a bonded romantic relationship? If you asked ten people this question, you may get ten different answers. You may get answers like good communication, the ability to problem solve, the ability to resolve conflict, or a vibrant sex life. Of course, these are all important elements of a healthy, loving romantic relationship. However, I believe these elements of a loving relationship are byproducts of the presence of a secure attachment and a deep bond, which I have come to embrace as the key elements of a loving relationship and which brings clarity when trying to define the science of love.

_
I learned this while on my journey of getting trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT), a model of working with distressed relationships developed by the renowned Canadian psychologist Dr. Sue Johnson. EFT focuses on creating and strengthening the emotional bond between partners by identifying and transforming the key moments that foster an adult loving relationship. In EFT work with couples, I focus on getting the couple to break the negative and hurtful cycle that causes them to lose their emotional balance, by experiencing key moments of relationship that entails being open, attuned, and responsive to each other. This experiential process is what brings lasting change in the relationship and creates the safety and security the relationship lacked before. Once the couple begins to experience their relationship in this new way, they will enhance their ability to communicate, problem solve, resolve conflict, and have a more fulfilling sexual relationship.

_
Looking at romantic relationships through the lens of attachment is paramount to understanding relational distress. Most couple fights are really protests over emotional disconnection and unmet attachment needs. Changing the dynamic of the relationship from disconnection and distress to attunement and emotional responsiveness calms down the frustration and anger reactivity in the couple’s present dynamic and now allows them to relate in a more positive way. This model paves the way for a deeper and longer lasting bonded relationship than merely teaching the partners communication skills. Asking them to remember their communication skills in the heat of their highly escalated cycle is like trying read “how to pull your parachute” manual when you are in free fall.

_
What are the essential elements that create a healthy loving romantic relationship? I truly believe they are partner accessibility and attunement, responsiveness, and emotional engagement. It is these elements that foster securely attached and deeply bonded relationships.

Jim Stockton is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Foundation Counseling. He is trained in EFT (Emotion-Focused Therapy for couples work) and has extensive experience working with distressed marriages in the Marietta & Kennesaw areas. He also works with individuals, both adults and adolescents. Learn more about Jim at Foundation Counseling here.

Facing Our Pain


by Heidi Zaffos, LMFT
 _
“You have to live through your pain gradually and thus deprive it of its power over you. Yes, you must go into the place of your pain. What is your pain? It is the experience of not receiving what you most need. It is a place of emptiness where you feel sharply the absence of the love you most desire. To go back to that place is hard, because you’re confronted there with your wounds as well as with your powerlessness to heal yourself. You have to begin to trust that your experience of emptiness is not the final experience, that beyond it is a place where you are being held in love.” (Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)
 
In his book, The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen intimately describes the rawness and courage required to face our pain. I love how he says “go into the place of your pain”. It’s as if he’s describing a journey. This is how I often see counseling. A  journey of entering a place where we are confronted with our wounds and losses while trusting there is more to come from our experience of emptiness and loneliness. There is an awe-ness and sacredness to this process. I invite you to be curious about this journey. Reach out to a counselor if your curiosity leads you to a place of desire to experience “going into” your personal story.
 __
Heidi is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and co-founder at Foundation Counseling. She enjoys working with individuals, couples, and families in the Marietta & Kennesaw area. Learn more about her and other therapists at Foundation Counseling here.