By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
With everything going on in our outside worlds, I thought this month’s focus could be on connecting with one’s self. When I find things are overwhelming for myself or a client; I enlist some “go-to” concepts such as the following to help reconnect to “the authentic self”:
Resilience in Adolescence
By Mikah Solanies, MA, LPC
Resilience is defined as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. The stressors can come from places such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and educational stressors. Just like building materials are tested for their ability to be strong and flexible, the resilience of a person is often judged by their ability to bounce back from a difficult situation.
The importance of resilience lies in its incredible ability to impact a person’s life. Low mental resilience can lead to irritability, social isolation, unhealthy dependence on others, difficulty sleeping, overreaction to daily stressors and increased crying or feelings of sadness. Low resilience can also lead to negative thought patterns that erode away at self-esteem and hope. Helping Teens recognize what are called “Cognitive Distortions” in their thinking can prepare them to combat them and include “All or Nothing Thinking”, “Catastrophizing” and “Jumping to Conclusions”.
Cognitive Distortions are simply ways that the mind convinces us of something that isn't really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions. The Cognitive Distortions sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep them feeling bad about themselves.
Parents can help eliminate the Cognitive Distortions by using their names and then encouraging the Teen to identify them whenever they are heard. Parents can also assist their Teens by encouraging the objective evaluation of an emotion or thought against real life. Parents can help the teen remember times that they overcame difficult situations so that the teen can feel an increased sense of confidence for future tasks.
Low mental resilience requires coaching to redirect negative thought patterns into purpose and productivity. Once small goals are achieved, some of the negative thinking will subside. Hope in their ability to achieve the life that they design begins to appear.
Spend some time with your Teen discussing their perceptions of the following quotes about making life choices:
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” - Nelson Mandela
“When you have a choice and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice” - William James
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
For this once again planned pre-pandemic blog topic, I would like to start with a “Thank You”. I’m thankful for my clients and all of those individuals willing to take a look inside themselves and work toward better understanding of themselves, others, and the world around us. Engaging in therapy is not easy. It certainly isn’t a weakness! Doing the work of internal investigation, confronting traumas, challenging brain patterns, and sharing your most personal thoughts takes incredible strength. I thank my clients for the honor and trust of being a part of their journeys.
To this end, I would like to go a different way than I perhaps normally would with “explore”. While it is often the realm of my work to help clients explore their inner worlds as well as their closest relationships, I have to admit many of us are a bit sick of that concentrated, and lately unrelenting, journey. The possible explorations outward and into the community is a place of mixed messages, mixed opinions, and frankly, mixed levels of restrictions. So then, where to explore?
This question led to my immense gratitude of those who share their stories with me and the world. While this sharing is built into my work as a therapist, it is an available and abundant resource for all of us. Whether you have a large network of friends and/or family or not, we all have unprecedented access to stories of others. Available access points to such journeys can be found in (but not limited to) the following: podcasts, vlogs, blogs, posts, and good old-fashioned memoirs and biographies.
Right now, it’s easy to get lost in the isolation. What month, day, time is it? It’s difficult to navigate our options going out: which stores, counties, states are “open”? Do I feel safe going out?
To me, it is a wonderful feeling of connectedness to our larger humanity to explore the worlds of others. If you happen to feel stir crazy with the staying in and/or if you are unsettled regarding where, when, and how to go out, I encourage you to explore the ways you can connect with others through hearing, reading, listening, or watching their stories.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month! If you, or someone you know, are struggling, please reach out. Tell someone YOUR story. Please know mental health therapists everywhere are here to help! If you are interested in speaking to someone at Sandhill Counseling, please reach out to our intake coordinator at 636-379-1779.
How to Remain Connected to Loved Ones
Living in a Long-Term Care Facility
By Geoffrey Schaefer, MSW, LCSW
During this COVID-19 pandemic, many loved ones are currently isolated from their families. With stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines, most of us are feeling, bored, isolated and disconnected. But for those elderly who reside in Long-Term Care (LTC) Facilities, they are really feeling the pinch of isolation and loneliness.
Here are a few my thoughts on breaking down the barriers of social isolation in LTC facilities:
During COVID-19 pandemic, we all can be creative with how we can be social. For those living in an LTC, socialization is an important part of their well-being. We all in our community must help each other during this unprecedented time. Through helping and caring for each other, we will get through this!
I will finish with this thought:
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think, with deep gratitude, of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
— Albert Schweitzer
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
One of my colleagues sent this meme my way recently. I’m sure it’s familiar to many.
As I have contemplated this blog topic of “enough” (planned pre-pandemic), I have struggled with the certainty that nothing I can write in a few short paragraphs could ever be enough to address what we are all experiencing. Instead, I’m going to share my own sense of vulnerability and what I’m doing with it.
Frankly, I’m unsure. I’m back and forth. I feel just fine for a while and then sadness strikes. I’m providing support for others while experiencing self-doubt. Guilt comes in. I’m really tired. My thoughts and actions are unorganized. I’m eating so many carbs and chocolate, definitely chocolate. I move from being inspired to thoughts of “why bother?” I want nothing to do with news and then I go down the rabbit hole.
I also find myself laughing. Sometimes because it all starts to feel ridiculous, sometimes because it seems like a way to keep sadness at bay, and sometimes because I’m enjoying myself. That’s okay, right? If I’ve given you the impression I’m a typical human being – imperfect, confused, struggling, coping, and living – I’m glad. Leaning in to my human-ness is basically my “brand”. It’s the thing I’ve realized might be my biggest strength personally and professionally. I truly believe in authentic selves and connection through (appropriate) vulnerability.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so in tune with the kind of counseling I do. I am simultaneously living the experience and feeling the feelings my clients are. I’m also giving myself the same encouragement and support. First—always first—is validation. I encourage you to validate your emotions. Realize there isn’t a right or wrong way to feel. Scared, worried, frustrated, sad, anxious, grieving, they are all valid. I feel those feelings and more, but then I take another step. I remind myself how many difficult situations I’ve survived. I remember what helped me get through. I think of the gratitude I have for my family, friends, and colleagues. I remind myself of times when I was sure I couldn’t possibly have all I needed, and yet, somehow, what I had BECAME enough. I stretched, and feared breaking, but instead I grew.
Don’t get me wrong, this thinking is on the best days at the best moments. It comes and goes, being broken up by those large quantities of chocolate, naps, mindless television, and frankly, some whining and complaining. Today was a better day, less chocolate, more focus on what I can do and less on what I can’t. I wish you all the best in your endeavors, especially in your practice to validate yourself. Whatever you do, it is ENOUGH.
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
Any seeds of a plan I had to write about this month’s word, “Dream” never fully reached a concrete idea. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could come up with something appropriate at all. Like most people right now, my mind has been occupied, working to process all the information on COVID-19, generally, and secondarily, how it has been shaping our day to day lives and experiences.
In discussions and processing with friends, family, co-workers, and also clients, I realized I have much the same feeling as I did during and following 9-11. It feels like an eerie dream, where many things are just like “normal” and yet so many things are not. Opinions may differ, but each of us is being affected in some way, whether directly or indirectly. Even if you may are not personally stockpiling, your run to the store for everyday items might leave you wanting. If you are more concerned about the spread, your interactions with those who are not might leave you angry or frustrated.
There are valid concerns on multiple levels even if for different reasons, and we are all unsure of what is next and what makes sense to focus on right now. We counselors are aware of our role (we are not medical doctors, lawyers, or disease experts) while we also acknowledge the trustworthiness we develop in our therapeutic relationships. Though we may not be able to provide answers, we are available to help our clients navigate through the changing landscape. Remember, emotional health and well-being are significant pieces to overall health.
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
In a retro move, harking back to my 6th grade Toastmasters days, I will begin with a dictionary definition of our word today: succeed. Succeed means to achieve the desired aim or result. A “success” is a person who achieves the desired aim or result.
Unfortunately, many of us are guided by vague metrics of success framed by everyone but ourselves. Yet, despite the dubious input placed upon us, our self-esteem often hinges on those definitions. Consider the circular nature of this thought process: “To be worthy of esteem I must be successful. Yet I don’t deserve success because I am not worthy.” We are now in a Catch-22.
Luckily there are ways out of this trap. I often utilize a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tool of Defining Terms to challenge unhelpful thinking patterns. Defining Terms aims to remove the vagueness from the automatic thoughts to provide a way forward rather than just around and around again. Thus, asking yourself how you specifically define what success means to you. Admittedly, discovering that personalized definition is also a journey. It can be a difficult one to navigate.
To end much the way I began, I would like to share a quote from one of my colleagues, Robin Switzer, Ed.D., LPC, NCC: “This might not give me answers but it gives me more questions to ask”.
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
For myself, and I think many others, the holiday season and ringing in the new year often turn into great points for reflection. This time of year contains “the best” and “the worst”, leading to an “it’s complicated” overall vibe. With that in mind, I decided to write about “kindness”. I observe that as we all reflect on increasing our kindness, we may also find ourselves tinged with resentments, worries, and many other “not kind” feelings.
Do you find yourself giving kindly but not seeing kindness in return? Do you perhaps feel like others “take my kindness for weakness”? Do you feel taken advantage of or the nice person that always finishes last? If so, then I propose gifting yourself the intention toward improved boundary setting. Setting good boundaries can influence every area of your life. It can be, itself, a resolution, or something that supports all your others.
Consider you would like to set an intention to exercise more. What gets in the way? Time, money, work? Boundaries can help you defeat those barriers. Sound easier said than done? You are absolutely right! My clients are well aware I never pretend doing this work will merely be following a step by step guide. In fact, this WILL be difficult, feelings will come up (especially the ones we don’t like feeling), and pushback IS likely – at first. However, if you can overcome those icky, difficult things, you will find yourself being more in control of your life.
Setting boundaries around kindness, like setting boundaries around most anything, breaks into two contributors. First, the “you” part. Second, the “them” part. I ask you to consider how focusing on “them” changing has worked for you so far. I’m guessing it hasn’t. So, I ask you to consider the “you” part. That’s the part we have control over and can most influence.
If you are feeling up in arms right now, I understand. You may have heard plenty before that you ‘should’, “get over it,” or realize, “that’s just how they are”, or stop “making it a big deal”. That’s not what I propose at all. In fact, the first part of examining your end is to provide validation to yourself for what you feel. It makes sense to feel frustrated if you give a gift and aren’t thanked for it. It makes sense to feel sad that no one remembered your anniversary. It makes sense to be bummed if a friend can’t hang out when you wanted. Those are all valid feelings for such situations. Maybe other people don’t get those same feelings for those same situations, but everyone is different. You aren’t “feeling it wrong”. Neither are they. Your feelings are valid.
After acknowledging and validating your feelings investigate what role you might be playing in the situation. Kindness is tricky. Try to consider what you, personally, find kindness to be. Is it really being “nice” no matter what? Is it giving of yourself to someone only if they ‘deserve’ it? Is it an action or just a way of being? You may realize kindness is not giving just to get, nor is it giving in to what others want/demand from us. Especially during the holidays, we might need to adjust our thoughts away from kindness being what we deem “fair”. Do we really need to spend the exact same amount on every family member to be kind? Do we need to give and give in order to be consider kind people?
Perhaps you can give yourself permission to no longer send a card or a gift to someone who never thanks you. Perhaps you can change your thinking and decide the feeling of giving is enough for you even without a thanks. Perhaps you demonstrate kindness to yourself and remove yourself from obligations you and others don’t actually enjoy. Consider how looking at your rules around kindness either help or hurt you. They are YOUR rules so maybe changing them to feel better is worth the discomfort of making adjustments?
What feelings arise for you when considering setting boundaries? Do you have any tips for others on changing the kindness mindset? I would love to hear your thoughts!
By Jennifer Eulberg, MA, LPC
I am often inspired personally and professionally when I have the honor of partnering with clients on their journeys. Many clients utilize tools available outside their therapy sessions and bring that insight into their work with me. I feel reinvigorated by such insights. They surprise, challenge, or reinforce ideas in a new way.
Many times, people ask me whether or not they are “the only one” who thinks, feels, or acts a certain way. While people’s experiences are unique and particular to them, there are common themes of struggle. One of those common themes relates to “health”.
As mental health professionals, we seek to guide clients on their journeys toward their self-determined goals. Again, there may be common themes, but clients decide on and ultimately own what defines their personal mental ‘health’.
Like many people, I often feel torn between the all or nothing of health. I truly believe in being body positive and finding happiness in all our forms. I fight those inner voices that try to tell me I have to look and act like this or that. My brain often balks at expectations, evoking my contrarian nature. This is useful in noticing and leaving toxic environments. It has also allowed me to engage in perspective taking with others. It has helped me fight the stereotypes which are damaging to my self-esteem.
I can easily empathize with clients struggling with that pendulum experience. Through conversations with clients, I realize that like many others struggling with the ideas of “being healthy” I have set myself up for failure. By telling myself that “healthy” was my goal rather than an outcome of setting and reaching actionable goals, I was never going to get anywhere.
Unfortunately, most of us have practiced the negative automatic thoughts that contribute to us never actually “feeling” we are “healthy”. If we don’t clearly define the goals that dictate a positive feedback loop then it is always looming, undefined and unreachable.
A re-arrangement occurred to me on my way to the office. The more helpful statements would be “I want to feel healthy. This is defined to me by lower cholesterol, an increase in muscle tone, and life activity endurance (aka go up a few flights of stairs and still be breathing). I can achieve those goals by setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed “S.M.A.R.T” goals. With an actionable plan I can outwardly measure my progress. It becomes easier to see challenges to meeting those as problems to be solved instead of failures of my character.”
How many of you notice setting outcomes instead of goals? How are you working on being your version of “healthy”?
Over the last few months, I have encouraged myself to adapt, grow, and be flexible. One of my core copings skills has always been humor. So many people in my life have made an impact on what makes me laugh - though I would have to point to my father as the biggest influence. I never thought of humor as a way to cope as I was growing up; I just enjoyed that it was fun. Now I see how it brought me closer to my dad and helped me feel loved by him. The more I can laugh with someone, the more connected I tend to feel. I see this in myself and my relationship with my fiancé. He makes me laugh and I absolutely love it! I enjoy the funny in others and always hope they enjoy the funny in me. I think it is one of the most amazing compliments to give and receive.
Though the content of my counseling sessions with clients is serious, I find humor is helpful to many. Sometimes humor can be a way to deflect. However, beneath the sarcasm, passive aggressiveness, or self-deprecation is at least an expression of something worth discussing. I suppose I would rather have a client share with an edge of humor than not share at all. In the dreary, dark, and monotonous experience of many mental health issues, humor can create a bit of lightness and space. Very often clients will use humor to mock their illness as a way to more concretely divide themselves from that illness. Moving from using self-deprecation as an expression of negative thoughts of self to negative thoughts about their symptoms allows people to create more separation between who they are and what illness they have.
Our feelings provide guiding information about our experience, helping us navigate through life. Feeling annoyed, angry, or hurt is often an indication we need to set different boundaries. Laughing at “dark” themes is a way to cope with difficult subjects. I challenge the notion that someone is “too emotional”. While there can be inappropriate BEHAVIOR associated with feelings, the feelings themselves are valid and important. I welcome all the emotions into the therapeutic process.
Given this, I love the relatability of therapy memes. Do you have any favorites?
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!