Community First Therapy


06.09.22 12:36 AM By Charell McFarland

I need a time out...

I really do need a time out! There is so much going on in the world around us from covid to natural disasters, violence, racism, and more that it can all feel like just a little bit too much. If you are glued to the news or social media, it can feel like it's happening all the time and everywhere. Then on top of all of that is regular life "stuff" that keeps on happening! Can we catch a break or what?! It can be easy for anxiety to plant a nice little home inside our minds and bodies, and try to establish permanent residence! I don't know about you, but it feels like time for a reset.

While we can't necessarily change life around us or our past experiences, we can have some impact over our responses. This is in no way to belittle anxiety that just wont go away no matter what we try... and we try EVERYTHING it seems! Sometimes, therapy works alone, and other times it works in conjunction with medication. While I can't give you medication through this blog, I can talk about non-pharmacological approaches to anxiety! I can also encourage you to work with your provider to find the right and best treatment options for you!

Let's talk about what everyone knows---mindfulness! Do you know that mindfulness was being taught in most schools during covid? How awesome would it have been for those that are about 30 and older to be taught these techniques at younger ages. I almost envy younger generations who talk about mental health as casually as one might talk about a tooth ache. That is the goal. Mental health is about of the body and wellness in the same way that controlling blood sugars are. Back to mindfulness though, the more and the longer we practice it, the more it becomes almost second nature. Fortunately, in this area, I do not have to reinvent the wheel. Psychology today, and other places, have great articles on understanding mindfulness, practicing mindfulness and the benefits of mindfulness. Now you may be thinking, "but I just have soooo much to do! When will I have time to do mindfulness?" Or you may be thinking, "I've tried meditation before and it made me more anxious!" Listen, I hear you! It is not easy, and sometimes the stressors are not things we can easily remove or change. But mindfulness doesn't have to be a huge production. It can be five min micro practices throughout the day. Someone shared with me that they started doing stretches while watching tv. So instead of sitting on the couch being idle for hours, they would stretch. I personally take time every morning before my feet hit the floor to take some deep breaths and center myself for the day. I don't look at my phone right away. I don't watch the news. I just sort of "be". When driving, I put on music I like and sing along to wind down before I get home after a busy day. Little things. Those are micro-practices.

Now let's also talk about gratitude. Gratitude is not ignoring whats happening in front of us. It's not blinding stating positive thoughts in hopes that they become true. Instead think of it as acknowledging that in the midst of bad, there may also be some good..or, depending on where we are, less bad. Sometimes we have those days where the only thing we can think of is I'm safe and I have a place to live. Everything else is terrible. And while that may feel true, those first two things are huge! Not everyone has that. I don't know your situation and so my hope is that you aren't reading this thinking I don't even have those things. I hope that you can get connected to a social services agency that can provide you with tangible resources that offer you the basic securities we should all have in life. For those of us not in that situation, gratitude can shift our perspective from the mundane, everyday things we take for granted, and help us recognize the blessings in the small things that actually aren't that small at all.

I could literally go on and on, but I wont. Instead I'll end with focusing on anxious thoughts. This is a topic we will definitely continue later on, but, if I may briefly address this, sometimes out thoughts get the best of us. Earlier I said "everything else is terrible". While that may feel true, it likely isn't true. In psychology, there are concepts of maladaptive (or unhelpful) thought patterns called cognitive distortions. Now I absolutely HATE that phrase (and I don't like the word hate so know that I mean it when I use it!). It sounds so negative and blaming for something that is so natural for most people to do! The truth is, at some point, on a lesser scale, that way of thinking may have served us. However, overtime, these thought patterns are less than helpful. In fact, they can be hurtful not only to ourselves but to our relationships with friends, at work, with family, and with significant others. Sometimes, grounding or calming ourselves, practicing self-care, and practicing mindfulness is wonderful, but it's the thoughts that get us and can make it hard for those helpful things to actually be helpful. 

Plus-- sometimes its hard to quiet our minds, or, often times even more difficult, to be alone with our thoughts! For many people that can feel worse than sitting with the anxiety. But it doesn't have to be that way. Fret not! While this is a therapy blog, I'm not necessarily advertising our company for therapy. Having said that, therapy can help. It doesn't have to be with us (though I hope you have read or found something helpful here and want to know more about us). More importantly though, find someone you feel comfortable with, understands you, is licensed or under the supervision of someone licensed, and is helpful. Work with them on re-framing any "negative" or anxious thoughts. There are also some really good CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) books and worksheets out there. Google is your friend. Some of them are even free. Key words to search for are cognitive re-framing worksheets or exercises, challenging negative thoughts, challenging anxious thoughts, etc. There are also online retailers and brick and mortar stores that sell self-help books for anxiety and that focus on CBT.

It's ok to experience anxiety. It doesn't mean something is wrong with us. Biologically, we need that feeling as it can also warn us of danger. However, we don't have to stay in that triggered state day in and out. It's ok to cut back from the news, social media, or whatever it is that may be worsening symptoms. Sometimes it comes from having a difficult time setting boundaries. That too is a whole other blog, but taking care of yourself can be a priority and it is not selfish to do so. Getting help is not a sign that you couldn't do it yourself. It's a sign of strength and it signals that you found someone who had a skill set to help you. We don't give ourselves root canals (hopefully) because going to the dentist means we couldn't handle the pain! We don't have to experience a mental health concern alone using the same logic. It's ok to take that 45 mins to 1 hr to take care of you. This helps you keep going and taking care of others!

Wow. I hope that you take five mins post reading this to just be. Center yourself. Take a deep breath. Put on a good song. Get up and dance. Go for a walk. Phone a friend. Journal. Video journal. Gratitude journal. Whatever it is that you need to do. If you are open to it, try getting support from a professional. And... Be Well!

Charell McFarland