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Can you catch a worry?

Let's have a chat about anxiety.


Why on earth do we get anxious? Let’s start with the facts and what we know to be true so far. Anxiety like lots of other illnesses and disorders tend to run in our genes. Yes, that’s right. Most people are genetically predisposition to be more anxious than others.

Think about people in your family, those you have grown up around. Do some seem high strung, overwhelmed easily, or even labeled as the “worrywart?” That could be their anxiety manifesting.

The tricky thing about these family members or people close to us is that they may have taught us so much; how to walk, brush our teeth, how to make friends. But they may have also taught us to be anxious. Simply watching someone else struggle with situations can teach us to be cautious, but it can also teach us to be anxious, depending on the circumstances. Many of us move on from those feelings and it doesn’t stick with us, but there are many of us who those feelings do stick and become a way of navigating life.

So I would say the answer is yes, you can catch a worry. I have battled with severe anxiety throughout my life, and I am still working on reducing my symptoms daily. It has taken over 20 years for me to really have a better understanding of my own brain and how my anxiety works. That doesn’t mean it will or has to take you that long. Each journey is unique to the person.

Be gentle with yourself and know that you are not alone and there are ways to start helping you move through the ups and downs of having anxiety.

Here are a few things that could help jumpstart your journey if you are ready.

1) Start with self-awareness. Do you know what your anxiety triggers are?

There are some common daily situations that elevate anxiety in individuals. Anxiety can be more difficult to navigate or manage when you aren’t sure where it is coming from. You may get anxious because you are anxious but don’t know why you are anxious (a haunting loop).

Sometimes knowing in advance that certain situations could potentially trigger your anxiety could assist you with managing the overwhelming feelings.

Take some time and rate your anxiety triggers. It may really help to record your triggers throughout a few weeks. Note, when you feel anxious and rate how high or low it was on a scale of 0-5.

2) Does your anxiety have other names or labels that you aren’t realizing are anxiety? Let’s talk about a few of those. Being afraid, uneasy, scared, hesitant, nervous, alarmed, racing thoughts. All of words can also be linked to and apply to anxiety. Do you notice any of these within yourself? Part of being able to move away from anxiety is realizing what is happening to you. Take note of these feelings you may experience and how often they may be happening.


3) Now that you have given some thought to other labels your anxiety may have, rating your triggers and becoming more aware of the triggers you have, it is time to make a list for yourself of ways you have tried to cope that actually work. Take some time and check in with times that you have been able to successfully calm yourself down. What were you doing, what did you say to yourself? Take note of the strategies that you have already used.

Guess what, if you are feeling stuck and need additional ideas for your mental health toolkit, therapy could help you with some new coping strategies. Anxiety doesn’t have to be in control, you can catch a worry, but you don’t have to keep it.

Written by: Kenitres Wiley, M.S., LPC

June 2022

Sunshine and Hurricane Counseling




Coping with Life Transitions


Life transitions are periods of time in one’s life involving upheaval and lifestyle change, often as a result of events that cause us to pause and evaluate our lives. Life transitions cause us to question our values and examine who we are. Often, we look back and reflect on our past decisions and consider adjusting our trajectory. The pandemic caused a huge upheaval in our lifestyles. Many of us looked at our careers, our marriages, our families, and decided to change. Those long commutes took away from our happiness and what we valued most. We decided that careers that didn’t support our wellbeing were over, and sought new employment. Some of us even relocated, opting for a new environment in which to raise our children.


As the pandemic taught us, big life transitions can happen unexpectedly at any moment such as an illness or a death, and some are expected: kids leaving home, parenting an infant, then a child, a teenager, and then young adult (yes, young adults often still need their parents!), a marriage. Then, of course, some transitions are a long-time coming, perhaps something we’ve put off or feel frozen to begin. Caring for an elderly parent, and, now they have passed, figuring out how to move forward. A dream job in a new city that involves leaving your roots. Transition - change - is scary, with wonderful opportunities for growth and happiness.


Transition, whether joyous or painful, is just a fancy word for change. Change is overwhelming. Most of us like the predictability of our lives. When we want to ‘shake things up’ we get a new haircut, plan a date night or go on vacation. Then we settle back into our familiar routine. When in transition, we often feel untethered. The unknown is stressful! However, Without transition, there is no growth. We have to shake things up a bit in order to learn new skills, increase confidence, and discover what we truly value. When in transition, you might feel depressed or anxious. You might experience trouble sleeping, over or under eating, excessive gaming or you might even find yourself taking your feelings out on others.


You are not alone in this. Transitions can be - or feel - messy, and you will come out on the other side. Breathe. Change is an uncomfortable, inevitable part of life. Discomfort is ok. You will not be uncomfortable forever. Allow yourself time to slow down and consider the hidden blessings of upheavals: you now have a reason to reflect on and identify your values and choices. Ask yourself: Does the way I am living reflect my values? What do I currently like about my life? What pieces am I dissatisfied with? When this transitional period ends, what will my life look like? Be sure to reach out to your support system, especially on particularly rough days. Take it day by day, focusing on expected rewards. Focusing on the positive changes that will emerge, changes our focus from the negative to the positive, directly impacting our attitude and how we view transition.


Written by: Megan Daniel, LPC, NCC

June 2022

Sunshine & Hurricane Counseling

Change Change Change

I recently read Chris Guillebeau’s recent blog post: 36 Ways to Live Differently, which got me thinking about change, and how and why we choose to change - or avoid it. Change means living differently. It’s easy to dream about, and challenging to achieve. It’s the motivation to actually do that’s hard. Sometimes, it’s even difficult to figure out what needs to change and how that change fits within my life.


Why should I change?

Maybe people you care about are telling you change is necessary, as people might when addictions or other self-destructive behaviors become the norm. Often, though, we experience rumbling discontentment and general dissatisfaction. Maybe we feel stuck in a rut. Maybe everything is fine, but we want something more, though we may not be sure what something more means. Take time to reflect. Ask yourself: when did I last feel satisfied? What was my life like then? Where in my life do I feel discontentment most acutely? Reflecting and asking the hard questions enables us to identify where these feelings are coming from, so that we can then consider our next steps. At the end of the day, don’t try to change for other people or expect other people to change for you.


Maybe I do have a problem that requires change.

As mentioned before, problems like addictions and other self-destructive behaviors are serious and require motivation and intensive help. Most often, though, our problems are only problems because we want something different for our life than others want for theirs (or, than others want for us). It isn’t actually a problem in the traditional sense; it’s simply a problem because we’re dissatisfied; because we want something different.


Ok. I want to change. How do I do it?

Once we’ve taken the time to pinpoint the problem and recognize that it’s time to do something about it, we have to consider how. The how can be daunting - especially if it’s a big change we’re after like a new job or moving to a new city. Even simply making a local change - like adding in healthy movement, getting that scuba certification we’ve always dreamed about but maybe never thought possible, or becoming vegetarian - takes courage and discipline. Take the risk. Sometimes, the most dangerous thing you can do is play it safe.


First and foremost, make it easy. What can you make routine and remove the decision making process from? Examples include creating a ‘work uniform,’ so that you don’t have to spend time and money thinking about what to wear, setting your clothes out the night before - or even setting out your clothes for the week, eating the same thing for breakfast, prepping the coffee the night before, etc. Decision fatigue is real, y’all. Each of these ideas automates things, making days/mornings/habits, etc. smoother, which in turn increases our capacity and frees up time for growing new habits and maintaining the changes that are so important to us.


I’m making small, effective changes

Action! You’ve identified the changes that you want and created your roadmap. Now, you start recognizing the power in the small habit changes you created and how they support your overarching goal. You notice how the new habits you’ve created and the changes you’ve implemented make you feel. You’re proud of your efforts and enjoying your new life. Way to go!


The changes I’ve made feel good.

Challenges still happen, but you have an overall feeling of contentment and growth. You’re seeing a change in how people respond to you and you them. Maybe you have more energy. Maybe you feel more at peace and less general disgruntlement.


I fell back into an old pattern.

Oops. It’s so frustrating when we stumble! We like the changes we made and the new habits we developed, and wonder why we fell back into old patterns and old habits. Why do I find myself in the fast food line when I know that it doesn’t align with my goals, aspirations, or how I want to physically feel? Why did I oversleep four days in a row? Why did I quit traveling? Don’t quit. This is normal. Reflect on your choices. Ask yourself the hard questions to identify what caused you to slip. Adjust. Adapt. Restart. Remember, YOU GOT THIS!


Blog Post by: Written by: Megan Daniel, M.Ed, NCC, LPC

May 2022

Sunshine & Hurricane Counseling

Ideas for what to do when your inner critic is loud and pulling you down.

The inner critic, it whispers to us. Sometimes, it yells things too. It can all be very overwhelming and unsettling to feel as if you can’t accomplish things you would like to because your inner critic has taken over the space in your mind. This part of our mind brings on destructive thoughts and a lot of times leaves you spiraling, especially if you are already someone who struggles with anxiety and depression.

The inner critic can impact your self-esteem, your self-confidence, your relationships, and even possibly your performance at work or school. These thoughts give into and cater to self-criticism as well as moving you further and further away from developing strong self-trust.

There is hope, push back against your inner critic being loud. You don’t have to stay in a place where you are feeling stuck. Challenging these negative thoughts with facts, affirmations, and mindful practices.

1) Work towards being aware of your inner critic when it pops up, acknowledge what is going on within your mind.

2) Speak to yourself with kindness and compassion. Speaking to yourself like you would a good friend or someone you care about is allowing grace and understanding.

3) Look for evidence in what your inner critic is saying to you, is there truth there? Or is your inner critic making stuff up? If there is no truth to what it’s saying proceed to 4...

4) Give yourself permission to release the thoughts. Yes, permission to let the thoughts go. Remind yourself, these feelings or thoughts are not facts.

5) Look to move into statements that are more realistic for your personal expectations as well as statements that build for you. Statements like the visual on the left here.

6) Last but certainly not least, practicing mindfulness and meditation. If these are not things you practice regularly, thats ok, you can learn and build on them. There are so many resources that can assist you with getting started. One could be calm.com (app).

Know that your inner critic does not have to be in control, you can take control back. With some very intentional practices, the voice doesn’t have to be as loud and overwhelming. You can overcome your inner critic.

Written by: Kenitres Wiley, M.S., LPC

April 2022

Sunshine and Hurricane Counseling



Who Needs Sleep? Well, You’re Never Gonna Get It And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Do you find yourself Struggling to get out of bed in the morning? Are you regularly popping melatonin or other sleep aids? Melatonin may help you fall asleep, however it doesn’t affect the quality or duration of sleep - needed components for a restful night. By now, we all know that we should get eight hours of sleep each night. When we hear it, many of us roll our eyes or scoff at the notion. How is eight hours even possible, we ask. Impossible, we say, couldn’t do that if we tried. According to sleep expert Matthew Walker, the likelihood we possess the genetic ability to feel well-rested after just four to six hours of sleep is only 1 in 4 million. Read that again. One in four million. Humans are the only mammals that willingly delay sleep. We convince ourselves that we aren’t tired, that binging shows equals rest, or that we have too much to do to waste time sleeping.


When we fine-tune our night time routines, we increase both the quality and duration of our sleep, stepping closer to the eight quality hours we need. When we set ourselves up for sleep success, we not only become healthier individuals, but we also set a good example for our children - especially our teens, who need quality sleep, despite how much they fight it.


Read the tips below, and reflect on your own routine, and that of your family. What areas can you hone? What changes can you make?


Go to Bed Earlier Than You Think You Should

It takes the average person about 30 minutes for our brains and bodies to relax into sleep, time we don’t account for when planning our bedtime. If you wake up at six, instead of crawling into bed at 10 pm, try getting in bed at 9:30, thus planning for that thirty minutes that your body and mind need before sleep occurs.


Monitor Nighttime Eating, Drinking, and Snacking

  • Listen to your body. Notice what food settles you, what food energizes you, and what foods cause you to feel sluggish or cause indigestion. Eat lighter, instead of heavier. Consider limiting liquids, so that you make fewer bathroom trips during the night.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume. When we sleep less, we eat more. Caffeine temporarily alters brain signals essential for sleep. In small doses, the effects are mild. Larger doses affect our sleep patterns. Pay attention to how much caffeine you consume in the forms of drinks, and, less obviously, in the foods you eat - anything with “energy” on the label - including some ice creams and gum.

  • Alcohol inhibits REM and interrupts sleep, meaning that we tend to wake up more frequently during the night.

In any given day, how much caffeine are you consuming? How much were you aware of, and what surprised you?


Reflect on the Current Day & Set an Intention for the Next Day

Often, we find our minds racing with all the things that went wrong throughout the day, stressing about to-do lists, and worrying about the next day. Instead of giving in to anxiety, make this a time of reflection and intent. Reflect without guilt; acknowledge and notice. Then, move on to the upcoming day: What is important to you? What goal for the day do you plan to meet?


Rest

Make time for rest: 20 minutes each day, preferably before 3 pm. Short, daily rests can increase our productivity, sharpen our senses, and increase our sense of well-being. Where in your day can you escape to your bedroom or shut the office door and dim the lights?


Lights in the Night

Did you know that cell phone light blocks natural melatonin release? Yet another reason to ensure that cell phones are turned off or kept dark at night. Better yet, keep it in a different room. Have a teenager who believes they need their phone for the alarm? Buy your teen an old-fashioned alarm clock instead of allowing them to keep their phones in their rooms at night. Not only will this give them the social break they so desperately need, it will also increase their sleep quality - another desperate need.


Bedroom Comfort

Design your room for comfort and relaxation. When you enter this space, you want to feel relaxed instead of chaotic or stressed. Keep the temperature low, and ensure that it is very dark at night.


Luxuriate in a Bath

A warm bath is more relaxing than a hot shower. In fact, baths help lower your body temperature, needed for restful sleep.


Vitamin D Intake

Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with poor sleep quality and shorter sleep duration. Get outside - aim for twenty minutes of sunshine a day.


Medications

Some medications can inhibit sleep quality. Take a moment to review your meds and see if changing the time you take them can help. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist if uncertain.


Exercise Regularly

Exercise is energizing, and its benefits on our mental and physical health abound. However, working out too close to bedtime can make it difficult to wind down. Aim to complete your workout approximately three hours before bed, so that your brain and your body have time to unwind.


Create a Breakfast Plan

Did you know that your evening routine could be the greatest predictor of your next day? Mornings can be hectic - some days we oversleep or have a sick or cranky child, experience unexpected weather, forgoed gassing up the car the day before etc. Use your nighttime routine to help even hectic mornings run smoothly. Knowing what you plan to eat the night before and having it mostly ready can save your morning. Having and implementing a plan creates peace, helpful for rest. Consider whipping up a batch of overnight oats or prep muffins or egg cups.


Another sleep challenge is remaining asleep once we’ve fallen asleep. Waking up in the middle of the night is frustrating - especially because we want to be asleep! Instead of laying in bed, tossing and turning and becoming increasingly frustrated, give yourself a short break. Get out of bed and do something relaxing: journal, try a sleep meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, read a book, or listen to music. Then, return to bed and try again.


What small, routine changes will you make to support your health?


Sources:

https://www.active.com/fitness/articles/nighttime-habits-of-the-fittest-people

Matthew Walker: https://www.sleepdiplomat.com/


Written by: Megan Daniel, M.Ed, NCC, LPC

March 13, 2022

Sunshine and Hurricane Counseling


Black History and Black Mental Health


Black History is American History. There is so much to be said about Black Americans and the history of our mental health. Generational trauma is a very real dilemma for a large portion of Black culture. Throughout the history of our country, trauma was taught to be carried around silently and worn with a badge disguised as being strong. For so long the attitude toward mental health in my own family was “you don’t talk about what goes on in this house”, “our business is our business.” There is a study that showed 63% of Black people thought a mental health condition was a sign of weakness. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness and this carries over into so many areas of our lives. Yes, boundaries and privacy are one thing but walking with pain and suffering in the shadows is another.

I recall in graduate school my professors making it very clear that statistically Black people are some of the last people in America to come into therapy. Why is that you ask? Some of the reasons from above paired with lack of access, racial microaggressions that hurt the therapeutic process, and even fear itself. Reaching for care that is culturally competent has been a hard road until recently.

The most eye-opening experience I had going through graduate school was being “forced” to attend therapy while learning to become a therapist. It was a self-discovery journey for sure. There is something very real about being in therapy yourself. Being on the other side, I just wanted to get into my craft even more. To help as many people on their healing journey as I could.

What we know now is that trauma can be passed down, rather it be in loud or subtle ways. We know that former slaves weren’t offered therapy, we know that there wasn’t an abundance of therapist for the Black community during the rise of the KKK and the Jim Crow era, we know there was not much therapy after the civil rights movement as well. Trauma being passed on throughout generations, but there is hope, we have the capacity to heal.

What we do know is that the shift is happening NOW. What does that mean? It means, in the mental health community, we see a surge in Black people coming into therapy and wanting to unpack, heal, and reach for personal authenticity. 2020 did a number on so many and the Black community was not excluded from the trauma. There are so many people that we could give credit for bringing more awareness, for breaking the stigma that has been carried for so long. Now that we have a shift, safe spaces are being created.

Let’s continue the movement. Mental health is health, just like Black History is American History.


Additional Information and resources can be found here through NAMI

Written by: Kenitres Wiley, M.S., LPC

Published: February 1, 2022

Sunshine and Hurricane Counseling


Choose Health: Mental Health Benefits Abound Through Improving Physical Health

The last 3 years basically felt like one really long year: Year One: life as we know it came to a standstill. Roads emptied. Restaurants and schools closed. A simple trip to the grocery store required tactical planning. Year Two: Schools and some businesses reopened. We tentatively began eating in restaurants again. Simple errands became simple again. Vaccines available. And now, Year Three. We began adjusting and planning for what we thought was our new normal, only to throw those plans out the window and stare into the face of uncertainty once again. Will all our children receive vaccines? Will schools close again and what does that look like for my family? How can I keep myself and my family safe? Are we facing another lockdown?


Here we are. Year Three. 2022. New Year's Resolutions created, refused, or already discarded. Hope wavering. In the midst of all this uncertainty, it’s ok to feel out of control, overwhelmed, and untethered. Thankfully, we can take small steps each day to regain a sense of control, to ground ourselves.


The previous blog post focused on the importance of breathwork and the important role deep breathing plays in our emotional health. Using our breath is a wonderful strategy not only because it works, but also because our breath is with us everywhere we go. We do not have to be in a special place or carry a special tool in order to breathe in the moment.


Use your breath. Take a few moments each day to practice mindful breathing so that it is remembered and feels more natural when in a situation where it’s needed. And then consider incorporating other healthy habits that research shows increases our mental and physical wellbeing.


Many of us created new exercise routines during quarantine that we may have discontinued as our jobs and schools reopened. Or perhaps we meant to or started, and didn’t finish. Consider reintroducing (or continuing) movement for overall mental and physical health independent of weight loss. Mentally, exercise improves our thinking, decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety, increases our energy levels and improves our sleep quality, all of which help us regain a sense of control over our lives and feel grounded. Physical health benefits abound.


As we move into the New Year, lean into it choosing to take care of your mental and physical health. School closings? Out of our control. Mask mandates and vaccine age requirements? Also out of our control. Let’s ground ourselves by choosing health. Each day, we control how much movement we gift our bodies and our minds. Each day, we choose whether or not we will increase our habits of health. Each day, we choose how our emotional and physical health impacts our loved ones.


Forget about weight loss. Move your body for your mental and physical health.


Written by: Megan Daniel, M.Ed, NCC, LPC

January 6, 2022

Sunshine and Hurricane Counseling



How Can Breathing Help You Reduce Anxiety, Stress, and Feeling Overwhelmed.

How can breathing help you? Are you anxious? Overwhelmed? Stressed?

We get it, we have been there. Having different levels of anxiety and stress can sometimes stop you right where you are and make it hard to begin or finish many tasks. If and when you are feeling this way, breathing has been proven to calm your mind and help you think more clearly.

Here are 6 benefits from breathing:

  • Reducing anxiety levels

  • Lower cortisol levels

  • Improved mood

  • Increased focus

  • Slower heart rate

  • Better quality of sleep

Research has shown that in different situations, different emotions arise and impact the way we breathe. Changing how we breathe can change the way we feel.

Breathing allows you to recenter and refocus your mind. Not just any old breathing though. Deep mindful breathing. This is a core practice. Taking a moment to pause your day, be present, and breathe. It takes less than a minute for most to cue their brains to focus and be calmer, imagine if you dedicated 5-10 minutes instead of just one minute.


How do you use this exercise?

Breathe in as the circles grow, breathe out as the circles shrink, repeat this pattern. Build your way up to being able to do this for 5-10 minutes a day. Maybe make a commitment to do this 5-10 minutes a day, three times a day.


We want to challenge you to use this during a transition in your day, assign this to a time in your evening routine.


Have you stopped to breathe today?


Written by: Kenitres Wiley, M.S., LPC.

January 4, 2022

Sunshine and Hurricane Counseling