Goats, Stress, and Mental Health

          Wow!!! Its been a while since I have posted on this blog. Winter has come and gone and now in my “part of the woods”, it is officially spring! Spring is a time of renewal and growth. The spring flowers are beginning to show signs of growth and blossoms for another season. The property I live on is surrounded by woods that continue to be overgrown with “brush and briers”, meaning all sorts of wild growing vines such as raspberries, wild rose, honeysuckle, poison ivy, etc. Once they start their new growth most of our woods become unusable. For the past several years, my husband and I have talked about this dilemma and have done some research into some alternatives for clearing out the woods. In our research we came across the idea of using some type of livestock animals to help. In narrowing the search down even further we decided that goats would be the best and most efficient alternative in helping to clear them out. 

     There are many different species of goats but all require about the same type of care and shelter. We then decided that pygmy goats were the type of goats that we wanted to best suit our situation. They remain smaller so the fencing requirements were different than other types of “full size” goats. They also seemed easier to manage and for many people they become another pet in their family. So after much preparation in getting the area ready for our goats (fencing, housing, feeding supplies, etc) we were finally ready to acquire the goats themselves. Late winter and early spring is a time when many goats give birth to their kids. We purchased two male  baby goats in early March, however, they will not be ready to bring to their forever home until late April or early May due to their ages. In the meantime since we thought we were prepared we also purchased 2 young female goats from another place in which the conditions were horrible and were trying to give them a much better and healthier environment.

      So – our goat adventure had begun. Well as it turns out goats are very sensitive to any change in their diet, environment, and any other stress. The most common ways that goats react to any stress is by developing scours (diarrhea). From the time we brought them to their new house, the one had started to show much major distress. She was coughing on the way home (not good) and had the scours. In all our attempts to help her she ended up dying several days later. The other young doe, who had no scours for the first several days then developed them as well. In doing more and more research about how to stop this awful condition it became more and more apparent how serious this condition in a goat can be. Dehydration is the culprit for many young goat deaths. You see when goats become stressed, they stop eating and drinking fluids. Due to their very small size they quickly become dehydrated and it becomes life threatening. The stress and changes that our new “kid” has been under is tremendous. She was bought from a place that raised large amount of livestock to sell and profit from, her living conditions were very crowded and she had never been outside. There was no socialization with humans, she was never held or handled in a gentle way. We bring her to a new home in which she is picked up and held by humans, is now alone without other goats, her diet had been completely changed,and the weather outside has been colder and more wet than normal for this time of year. Is she stressed? Yes, in many different ways so the onset of the diarrhea is completely understandable.

      We now have her stabilized and her scours are improving every day as is her demeanor. She loves being held and cuddled. She is receiving a healthy diet and very clean living conditions. She has room to roam and play. So what does this goat have to do with a mental health blog? You see people respond in very similar ways to stress and changes but don’t recognize it as such.

     Many people are feeling the effects of stress on their lives. Stress is the result of changes that we can’t control such as a loss of job, financial difficulties, family problems, change in living conditions, grief and loss issues, the list goes on and on. As a result of the stress people react in many different ways. A change in eating habits (some eating more and some eating less or none at all), using and abusing alcohol or other drugs, change in sleep patterns, changes in their moods, and changes in their digestive systems. Most people under stress will give a history of irritable bowel syndrome, in women it can be changes in their menstrual cycles, as well as many other physical symptoms such as aches and pains. 

      Just as the first step in helping to get our new little kid adjusted to her new environment was to recognize the signs for what they were. There had been an enormous amount of changes in her life in a very short period of time. We needed to stop and take those all into account. So when you are feeling the effects of stress in your life by any of the above mentioned symptoms – STOP and evaluate what all has been going on in your life. Is this something that you have control over or is it completely out of your control? If it out of your control there are things that you can do to help yourself better deal with the pressure and stress. 

      Check your diet and try to eat regular healthy meals. Stop eating junk food and if you don’t have an appetite, try to eat small servings of healthy soups or meal replacement supplements. 

      Get regular exercise. Study after study has shown that any type of exercise helps to reduce the “bad” hormones such as coritsol and increase the good ones, dopimine.

      Take a daily vitaman.

      Practice some type of meditation, such as reading the Bible and prayer, listening to soothing meditative music, or doing yoga. 

      Be more gentle with yourself. Realize the stressors in your life and do the best you can. Some days are going to be better than others but give yourself daily praise and work on getting your life in balance so that external stressors don’t have quite the impact on your internal organs as they once did.

     If you continue to struggle, make an appointment with a mental health professional. Talk therapy is very effective in helping you to learn to cope. 

      Until Next Time,    Lory

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is a professional counselor in private practice in Shippensburg, PA. She provides counseling in her office as well as by distance means such as Skype, telephone, and email. To contact Lory for an appointment please call (717) 729-3895. She is here to help you lead a happy and healthy life.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The holiday season is now behind us and in the Northeast part of the United States we are in the middle of the winter season. The days are shorter, its cold outside, and sometimes the sun doesn’t shine for days on end. For many this is a season that brings with it many unwanted symptoms: sleeping longer, feeling tired, anxiety or sadness, losing interest in activities you usually enjoy, craving carbohydrates and weight gain.

These symptoms are not imaginary, they are real and what you are suffering from is a mental health diagnosis termed: Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Approximately 4-6% of Americans suffer from this each winter and as many as 20% of the population present with some symptoms but fall outside a strict diagnosis. 

SAD is generally defined as a set of symptoms which are related to sunlight levels and the seasonal variation of that light. These symptoms may be present to a greater or lesser degree in people who have the condition. A diagnosis of SAD is usually based on 3 consecutive winters of the same symptoms. The symptoms include:

  • depression
  • sleep problems (too much or too little)
  • lethargy
  • overeating
  • loss of concentration
  • social problems
  • anxiety
  • loss of libido
  • mood problems

Short of moving south or to the tropics there are several ways to reduce your symptoms that have proven to be effective.

Light Therapy:

I always say to my friends that I run on solar energy. When the sun is out bright for several days, my moods are more positive and I have energy to do so many things. That is because our skin and eyes both respond to light. Skin makes vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet rays in sunlight.  The retinas, the tissue in the back of our eyes, have receptors that process not only how much light we see, but also what wavelength (or color) the light is. These receptors affect hormones that help our brain set a sleeping and waking cycle.

There are many full-spectrum lights that you can currently purchase through the internet. Some are in the form of a single light that you “expose” your face to for a set peiod of time each day. Others are in the form of a bulb that you can use instead of a standard light bulb in a light fixture. Personally, I have several of these bulbs in my kitchen. Since the kitchen is the area where I spend a good bit of time in early mornings, I can benefit from the light exposure and help to get my day started off right. It has been proven that 15 to 30 minutes daily of full-spectrum lighting can have a significant improvement on your symptoms.

Vitamin Supplements:

Specifically Vitamin D is also recommended. Daily winter dosages can range from 2,000 IU to 4,000 IU depending on the person.From the reports I’ve been reading, people who take Vitamin D are saying that they have an increased sense of well-being, improved sleep patterns and even weight loss. These are all things I find are disrupted when you have SAD so if taking Vitamin D can help resolve these issues, I think that’s awesome.

Regular Exercise:

It has been proven that regular exercise, especially in bright light can help lessen the symptoms of SAD. Whether you get this exercise from joining a gym, walking in a mall,or exercising at home, when it is too cold outside make sure you are in a well lite area. Most gyms and stores use bright lights, they understand the benefit to their customers. If you are exercising at home turn on the overhead lights in the room or exercise near a window that lets in plenty of sunlight.

There are still some shorter days left, but the hours of sunlight are slowly increasing again. If you or someone you know has symptoms of SAD, treating it can make these days seem brighter and may even make it possible to enjoy the rest of winter.

Until Next Time,

Lory

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC maintains a private practice counseling office in Shippensburg, PA. She specializes in depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mood disorders in children through adults. She offers counseling in her office and by distance means such as secure email, chat and Skype. Please visit the rest of the web site for more information.

HOLIDAY STRESS AND DEPRESSION-TIPS TO HELP PREVENT BOTH

     It’s hard to believe but the holiday season is once again upon us. It is to be “The Most Happiest Time of the Year”, but for many if not most people it can be the most stressful time of the year! If the past holiday seasons have taken their emotional toll on you here are some tips to help stop or reduce those feelings this year.

      ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS- If someone close to you has recently died or can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.

      REACH OUT- If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

      BE REALISTIC- The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold onto, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as using social media to share pictures, chat, and even Skype each other during the holiday season. 

     SET ASIDE DIFFERENCES- Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.

     STICK TO A BUDGET- Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget! Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, or gifts from second hand stores or start a family gift exchange. My girlfriend and I started this several years ago giving a certain amount of money (that we usually spent on each other) to a specific cause over the holiday season. One was a family that had just lost their mother and needed help paying for the funeral expenses. 

     PLAN AHEAD- Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.

     LEARN TO SAY NO- Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.

     DON’T ABANDON HEALTHY HABITS- Don’t let the holidays become a free for all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

     TAKE A BREATHER- Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

     SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU NEED IT – Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. 

      Don’t let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that can descend during the season. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you may find that you enjoy the holidays this year more than you thought you could. 

Wishing you a stress free and fun holiday season!!

Lory

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is in private practice in Shippensburg, PA. She provides counseling in her office and by distance methods such as secure email, chat, and by Skype. Lory specializes in Anxiety, Depression, ADHD, Adjustment Disorders, and Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Dependency.

ADULT ADHD/ADD

      A few months ago, I wrote a blog, Does My Child Have ADHD?,  helping to answer parent’s questions and listing the guidelines to better help parents make the most informed decisions regarding their child. Since the posting of that blog in April of 2010, I have become aware of the fact that if diagnosed with childhood ADHD/ADD, chances are, you’ve carried at least some of the symptoms into adulthood. But for those that were never diagnosed with ADHD/ADD as a child, that doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by it as an adult. For some people, adult ADHD causes significant problems that improve with treatment. For some adults, you may have been able to compensate for the symptoms of ADHD/ADD when you were young, only to run into problems as your responsibilities increase. The more things you are putting on your plate-getting a college education, working, raising a family, running a household-the greater the demand on your abilities to organize, focus and remain calm. It can be stressful for anyone but if you have ADHD/ADD, it can feel downright impossible and everyday tasks can be a real challenge. 

     In adults, attention deficit discorder often looks quite different than it does in children- and its symptoms are unique for each person. Adult ADHD/ADD symptoms can include:

  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started
  • Restlessness
  • Impulsivity
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in work or other activities
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Short, often explosive, temper
  • Trouble coping with stress
  • Frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
  • Constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills)
  • Underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks
  • Unstable relationships 
  • Craving for excitement
  • Racing thoughts
  • Doing a million things at once

     If you can identify with most of the symptoms listed above, chances are you’ve suffered over the years for the undiagnosed problem. People may have labeled you “lazy”,”stupid”,”messy”or “trouble maker” among many others. You may have begun to think of yourself in these negative terms as well. The wide-reaching effects of ADHD/ADD can lead to many negative feelings such as frustration,embarrassment,disappointment, and loss of confidence. You may feel like you’ll never be able to get you life under control. That’s why a diagnosis can be an enormous source of relief and hope. As stated in my article blog in April 2010, ADHD/ADD is not an intelligent defect but is a performance deficit. You want to get your life organized and your work done but have great difficulty in maintaining the standard. 

     If you recognize yourself in this article there are several things that you can do to help manage your symptoms. First off you may want to take one of the several self administered test for ADHD/ADD. One site that I feel has some excellent tests is psychcentral.com. You should also seek out the advise of a Professional Health Care provider such as your Primary Care Physician or a Professional Counselor. A qualified person can administer some standardized test to help confirm the results. Treatment for ADHD/ADD typically involve medication, counseling or both. A combination of therapy and medication is often the most effective treatment. A trained professional can help you: control impulsive behaviors, manage your time and money, get and stay organized, boost productivity at home and school/work, manage stress and anger, and help you to learn to communicate more clearly.  If you want to try to manage your symptoms on your own without medication, there is a lot you can do to help yourself and get your symptoms under control. These include the following:

  • Exercise and eat right- Exercise vigorously and regularly, it helps work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way and soothes and calms the body. Eat a wide variety of healthy foods and limit sugary foods in order to even out mood swings. 
  • Make a list of tasks- This list should include things to be accomplished each day. Make sure you’re not trying to do too much.
  • Use sticky notes-to write notes and reminders to yourself. Put them on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, in the car or in other places where you will benefit from having a reminder or information. 
  • Break down tasks- into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Meditate- Helping to calm your mind and lower your stress level. Regular meditation help you to calm your mind and regain your focus. 
  • Practice better time management- Set deadlines for everything, even for small tasks. Use timers and alarms to stay on track. Take breaks at regular intervals. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks and write down every assignment, message, or important thought. 
  • Work on your relationships- Schedule activities with friends and keep your engagements. Listen when others are speaking and try not to speak too quickly yourself. 
  • Vitamin or herbal supplements-  Certain vitamins and minerals are necessary for good health and some people have claimed that taking certain herbal supplements such as hypericum, ginseng, or ginkgo have helped with their symptoms. 

     Knowledge is power. Once you are able to manage your ADHD/ADD you should feel much more in control of your life.

      Until Next Time,

      Lory

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC, is in private practice in Shippensburg, PA. She provides counseling to children through adults for many mental health disorders including ADHD/ADD. She offers counseling in her office and by distance means such as secure email and chat, phone counseling, and by computer assisted Skype.

Suicide Among College Students

     Suicide has once again been getting a lot of media attention after the suicide of the Rutgers University college student. It must be especially hard for his friends and family at this difficult time to hear the incident replayed over and over again. My heart goes out to them.

     I feel addressing this issue again is important. If all the media attention in regards to this subject can spare another person’s life then there is meaning behind it. I previously have writtten about suicide and the elderly and I feel that I now need to address the subject of suicide among college students. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among college students than all medical illnesses combined. As a semester continues along, students are under a lot of pressure.

     Gregg Easterbrook presents some interesting statistics in his latest blog.  He states that in 2007, there were about 42 million Americans aged 15-24. The self-inflicted death rate for this group was about one in 10,300. That is  roughly 4,000 suicides that year by those of teens to college age. As you can see this is an issue that needs to continue to be addressed.

     It is essential to understand that each student’s reactions and feelings are very important and to try to provide each of them the support that is needed. If you are a teenager or college student and have any friends that are having difficulties, please guide that person to someone who can help them, such as a school counselor, a counselor on campus in the counseling department, a mental health therapist in your area, or a trusted adult. It is important to understand that suicide can be impulsive and difficult to predict, however, there are things that can be done to prevent tragedies from occurring. It is important to have a dialogue and allow those having difficulty express their feelings openly. It is helpful to reach out to others. Listed below are some signs and symptoms of suicide. If you recognize these signs and symptoms in others or in yourself, please seek help immediately.

Signs:

  • Morbid or depressing themes in written assignments
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Stating that life is not worth living
  • Abrupt changes in behavior, mood, or appearance
  • Sudden distancing from other students, friends, or adults
  • Excessive absences in school or in classes
  • Loss of initiative
  • Has a plan or the means to hurt themselves

Symptoms:

  • Low Energy
  • Drug or Alcohol problems
  • Flat affect or absence of feeling expression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Severe depression
  • Crying spells
  • Hopelessness or helplessness
  • Increase in life stressors (e.g., loss of a loved one or job, moving)
  • Sense of immobilization
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of guilt or remorse
  • Isolation or withdrawal from others
  • Giving away possessions or making amends in relationships
  • Overt talk of death or suicide
  • Pursuit of dangerous activities

If someone does talk about feeling suicidal or seems to be thinking about it, take him or her seriously. Do whatever it takes to get them the help they need- You may be saving a life!

Until Next Time,

Lory

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC  offers Professional Counseling in her office and online. She specializes in anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, grief and loss, drug and alcohol treatment, and PTSD.

Marriage: The Stages and How to Cope

    My husband and I have an anniversary coming up soon. It will be our 27th! My parent’s celebrated their 61st anniversary this year, wow. In our local newspaper they list anniversaries under the celebrations category including those couples who have celebrated 25th, 50th, 60th and more. It is a time of celebration to mark those milestones in ones relationship with their partner. Many couples married this year for the 1st time. It is a very exciting event for the couple. All the planning and expectations of sharing their lives together. Although all marital unions are not created equal-they all go through some predictable stages. According to, Rita DeMaria, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and author of The 7 Stages of Marriage, the timing may differ, and the way a couple manages the phase they’re in varies widely but understanding the stages gives you the tools you need to move through with your loving union intact. Below are the list of the stages and some of the challenges that go with that stage:

  • HONEYMOON STAGE:   The first year or two is a passion-filled period that all about the two of you and your intense focus on the excitement and romance of the relationship. Differences seem relatively unimportant as the focus is on discovering each other and sharing life together. Usually you cannot get enough of each other sexually. At this stage, we love the way our partner makes us feel as much as we love him or her. 
  •  Challenges At This Stage: Learning to live as a couple and share decision making together. Many times this is the first time that decisions affect  someone other than yourself. Should you invest in a home, car, or travel? What are the expectations concerning your careers or educations? How will you handle financial matters? What about extended family (parents and in-laws)? Many couples feel that their love for each other will automatically determine the answers to these questions and many are “caught” off guard when discussions turn into arguments in hearing the other’s viewpoint. 

 

  • REALITY STAGE:  In this stage couples are learning more about themselves and each other in situations they haven’t faced together before. You may learn things that you might not have known about your spouse’s strengths, weaknesses and personal habits. Power struggles can arise as the two of you work towards both shared and separate goals. Working together as a team should be the focus of this stage. In this stage couples may discuss having children. Many couples feel that the “Spark” has left their marriage and interpret this to mean that one of the partners has fallen “out of love”. They may decide that bringing children into the marriage at this time, may help reignite that spark. In actuality, euphoria is replaced by more solid emotions like trust, respect, empathy and admiration. The highs aren’t as high and the lows aren’t as low; the relationship becomes more stable, predictable and dependable.    
  •   Challenges At This Stage:  There may be feelings of disappointment, aloneness along with a “let down” as reality sets in. This is marriage’s                 vulnerable stage. It’s a time when a woman can go from feeling cherished to being taken for granted and when a man can go from feeling admired to     be belittled. Reality and a wide range of roles and responsibilities start to impose upon the lust and love. This is the stage that you need to establish open communication. Set time aside each day, either in the mornings or evenings, where you just check in with each other and talk about your day. If regular open communication is not established during this stage, years later you may wake up lying next to a stranger in bed wondering how you grew so far apart. It is also in this stage that marriage counseling can have the most benefit for the couple instead of trying to ignore the problems and differences until they reach a point that some of the damage is irreversible.

 

  •  FAMILY CENTRAL:  This stage is often referred to as “the meat of marriage”. Most of the years spent in this stage consist of raising their families, buying a home, building and/or changing careers and trying to hold together a crazy, busy, modern life. This period of time is also another danger zone, due to the shifting of demands and responsibilities. The stress level is usually the highest in this stage. It’s very difficult to keep sufficient focus on the marriage relationship with the attention that kids demand and other stressors in the relationship, but it is important to do so. This is also the time period that many couples become disappointed and disillusioned to the “Ground Hog Day” type of routine. Partners may begin having an affair, or worse yet, asking for a divorce due to the lack of focus on the marriage. 
  •  Challenges at This Stage: Not losing sight of your partnership in the swirl of demands on your time and energy. Now is the time to pay close                 attention to your marriage. Give yourselves time to communicate without distractions. Plan a regular date night when just the two of you share regular   time together. Plan a getaway weekend to reconnect without all the stresses of the outside world. Open, honest and sensitive communication is the         key to surviving this stage of the marriage. If the same issues continue to arise and one or both of you are feeling frustrated, couples counseling can be   very helpful in this stage to help you get unstuck.

 

  • STILL IN LOVE;  This is the stage when you now have adult children and there is more time to focus on the two of you. During this stage there is a reconnecting with getting to know each other all over again. There are still disagreements but rather than hold onto the anger, partners choose to forgive and trust. We easily learn to live the lesson of mature and lasting love.
  •  Challenges at This Stage: Focusing on the two of you and having time to spend together may be a struggle for some couples. Focusing their energies  on the children, careers, and other life stressors for so many years may be a huge adjustment for many couples. Without consistent, open                            communication throughout the marriage, your partner may feel like a stranger. It is during this time that couples need to focus their time on doing          things together, such as a new activity or travel, as well as spending time apart, pursuing individual goals and dreams. You can rescue a marriage            that’s been ignored for a long time, but it will take work, so seek out professional counseling. 

 

  • “TILL DEATH DO YOU PART.”:  This stage is also referred to as the completion stage. You have enjoyed the lust, lived the love and come through the chaos of family life- without splitting up in the face of troubles. You still enjoy being together and are committed to each other for the rest of your lives. 
  •  Challenges at This Stage:  Many couples in this stage are totally committed to each other. Health issues may be a primary concern at this stage.           You may have dreamed of the freedom to travel and do what you want, but one or the other partner is unable to do so because of health concerns.               There may be added financial stress due to living on a fixed income and the current recession. Changes in lifestyle such as living arraignments may         be a source of stress and adjustments. 

At any time during you marriage you may experience unexpected life stressors that can interrupt the forward motion of your life together, such as fertility issues, a death in the family, a major illness or the loss of a job that leads to serious financial strains. Seeking support  during those times is very important. You may seek advice from friends, family members, religious counselors or professional therapist.

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is a professional counselor in private practice in Shippensburg, PA. She sees client’s in her office but is also able to provide counseling by distance means such as email, chat, and Skype.

Naugle Counseling: Tips to Lower Back to School Stress

You can feel it all around you. The tv commercials play into it and the flyers received in the mail by large chain stores announce it in bold letters. Yes, its back to school time across the country!

With it brings a feeling of saddness that the summer months are now just memories. Whether you have school aged children, college age children, work in a school or college, or are a student yourself there is a change in the air. For many the start of the school year increases stress and anxiety levels within the household. 

The school year presents an opportunity for a fresh start, getting together with old and new friends, new accomplishments and exciting activities. Its an opportunity for a new beginning, a change in perspective. It can also be a measurement for growth.

Where I live in Pennsylvania, we have a definite change in the seasons. Each season brings with it new vibrations. In the fall the days become shorter and the air becomes “crisp”, the leaves change colors, and fall mums are in full bloom. Routines are changed and adjusted. There are new opportunities to watch fall sports. I live in a college town so the start of the University’s football season is always exciting as well as the high school sports season.

Here are some tips to help you and your child ease into the new school year:

  • Start now to readjust bedtimes. Children need to get their sleep. The easiest way to adjust bedtime schedules is to have the children go to bed a 1/2 hour earlier each evening until the desired bedtime is reached. Studies have shown that all children need at least 8 hours or more of sleep to perform at their best.
  • Decide on clothing the night before. This time saver helps reduce morning stress.
  • Establish a set time each day to do homework. This should be a quiet time in the household without the distractions of a tv, ipod, or cell phone. I always preferred this time to be 6:30 to 7:30 for my own children.
  • Make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast. Children who eat a healthy breakfast control their weight better and perform better at school. Breakfast does not have to be labor intensive, healthy wholegrain cereals are good options as well as “instant breakfast” drinks for older children. My daughter often had macroni and cheese for breakfast along with milk or apple juice. It was something that she enjoyed eating and was healthy compared to some sugary breakfast cereals.
  • Prepare packed lunches the night before. There is enough going on in the mornings without having to pack lunches for everyone too.
  • Don’t over-schedule your children with extracurricular, or after school activities. This stresses you out as much as them driving them from place to place and they start to feel overwhelmed trying to fit everything into their day. One rule of thumb is to allow each child one activity each season. This should allow for free time to help the child unwind and destress.
  • Try to eat at least 3 dinners a week together as a family. This allows each child a chance to talk about their day and feel a part of the family. Research has shown that bonding over the dinner table is an excellent opportunity for open discussions.
  • Remember live well, love much, and laugh often. Your kids are only young once.

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is in private practice and provides counseling to children through adults in her office in Shippensburg, PA or by Distance Means such as Skype, secure email, and by phone. Please contact her if you or your child are experiencing difficulties in life.

Change and the Three Rs

” The only thing constant is change”, I have heard this statement my whole life. When I was younger change was exciting and new. Graduating from high school, going to college, making new friends, graduating from college, getting my first full time job, getting married, buying a house, having children, and the list goes on and on. Yes, all those changes were scary but somehow the excitement overshadowed the anxiety.

As I have become older, this statement still holds true, but now it seems that I would be more comfortable and less anxious with things not changing for a while. But major work and life changes are common: Laid off from your job, retirement, relocations, divorce, children graduating from high school, increased responsibilities, loss of loved ones, and other numerous events. 

Whether these changes are welcome or unwelcome, all can be extremely stressful unless we learn how to adjust to them. Taking the time to recover, refocus and regenerate following life changes can help us survive and even thrive.

RECOVER - After a life change you need to regain your sense of balance and routine. You situation may be, at least for now, stressful, challenging, or unfamiliar. You may have symptoms such as headaches, backaches, or depression. To begin your recovery, it will help to step back from your new situation. Plan mini breaks like going to the movies, taking a drive to local attractions, planning a weekend away, or just taking time for yourself. These “distractions” can help you get distance and perspective. Exercise and sharing your feelings with others are excellent stress reducers which can help you get back on track.

REFOCUS – If you are able to look at “the big picture”, you will gain greater peace of mind about the change. If you have been recently laid off from your job now may be the time to accomplish some of those things around the house, take some leisure time going fishing and spending extra time with your kids and family. You may also take the time to learn new skills, reconnect with friends, or spend more time networking with others. Take the time to think about what has happened, why, and what it might mean. You will realize that your feelings are mixed. With time, those feelings will change. Talking to trusted friends, family members, clergy, or a professional counselor may speed the process.

REGENERATE – All change is stressful for your body and your body needs time to heal. Get extra rest, avoid alcohol and cigarettes, and eat properly. Try to increase your circle of support, connect with new people or reinforce old friendships. Social media including Facebook is an excellent way to do this.

No one can escape change. Accepting the fact that change has taken place is important. When you take steps to recover, refocus and regenerate, you will find acceptance easier. These steps will help you successfully make the change part of your life. 

Until Next Time,

Lory

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is a Professional Counselor in private practice in Shippensburg, PA. She provides counseling to children through adults for various mental health issues. Lory also provides counseling by distance means such as skype, secure email, telephone, and secure chat rooms.

Worry and Anxiety

Anxiety and worry are part of everyday life. In today’s world there are many things that can cause us to worry or have anxiety such as job security, financial debts, relationships, our health or the health of loved ones. The list could go on and on. Anxiety is a natural part of life. Everyone has it.

Anxiety triggers our brain to produce adrenaline when we feel threatened to confront the real danger or a difficult situation. An alarm system has been activated, this is how it all starts. Our nervous system has been warned that something is wrong, that danger is present or possible. Cortisol is secreted. These stimulants rapidly course through the body. This state prepares our bodies for large physical or mental challenges. It helps us run faster from danger, study harder, and confront other obstacles. This “fight or flight” mode is triggered when anxiety reaches a certain point. The dictionary definition of worry states: anxiety and cause of anxiety. The dictionary definition for anxiety states: uneasiness usually over an expected misfortune. Okay so when does worry and anxiety become a problem?

The point that normal anxiety grows to be a problem varies with each person, depending on their resilience, the way they handle stress, and how they control their anxiety. The simple test is that anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to affect other areas of your life. The worrying can become so excessive, distressing, and intrusive that it interferes with normal functioning. Its difficult or impossible to control the anxiety and focus on something else. There are a host of physical symptoms associated with anxiety disorder. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  1.  strong episodes of anxiousness and panicky feelings
  2. racing heart and chest discomfort
  3. dizziness or lightheadedness
  4. feelings of bewilderment and unreality
  5. inner nervousness
  6. scary, uncontrollable thoughts
  7. nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea
  8. hot and cold flashes
  9. numbness or strange aches and pains, muscle tension
  10. feelings of depression and hopelessness
  11. restless feelings, sleeping too much or insomnia
  12. difficulty in breathing (hyperventilation)
  13. uncontrollable bouts of anger

People that have an anxiety disorder then tend to worry and stress over the physical symptoms internalizing a fear of having a heart attack, going insane, losing control, embarrassment, death, illness, hurting themselves or someone else, fainting, or difficulty in breathing. The irony is that these fears actually create the above symptoms and the above symptoms create these fears. It become a very vicious cycle.

It has been estimated that as many as 10% of the people who repeatedly make visits to health-care providers may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are very treatable. Treatment methods can include medication, and talk therapy with a professional counselor. In therapy you will learn to deal with worry, negative thoughts, and the “what ifs” syndrome not only for a short term but for the rest of your life. 

Until Next Time,

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC

Dealing With Grief and Loss During the Holiday Season

The holiday season has begun for 2013. It is to be a time of joy, happiness, spending time with family and celebration. But for many that have experienced a loss of a loved one or dear friend this past year, it is very difficult to find the joy, happiness and celebration in the season. Most of us have experienced the emptiness, sadness and overwhelming grief that hangs over our heads and in our hearts as we go through the holiday season. It seems the whole world is celebrating and happy but we feel very much alone.  As difficult as it is….the holidays come and go and you can make it through.

I lost my older brother to a suicide on the day of December 24, 2002. It was a devastating to my whole family. You see, he has never dealt with depression or any other mental health issues that would have predicted this act. As we later found out, he was dealing with a very personal issue involving his girlfriend at that time. Later when facts started to emerge, we know that she was greatly involved in his decision. Christmas Eve is the most important event within my family. Growing up in a large family we always attended the candlelight service at our church.What followed was coming back to our house full of relatives and friends. It was the one time of the year that everyone was together! This happening on this date made the reality of the situation even more painful. When each of my family members received the news (we were all at our own homes preparing for the evening to be spent at my parent’s house), we arrived at my parent’s home as soon as possible. Still in shock but remembering what the holiday was about, my father stated that the Christmas celebration must go on. We had presents to exchange and there were many younger children within the family that deserved as much. That Christmas was very difficult and somber. Every year on December 24th we continue to have our family celebration but each member continue to deal with the events of that day in their own way. The pain is not as intense and we are healing, some faster than others.

A past professor of mine shared this quote the other day on Facebook. I feel it speaks some of the feelings that the grief journey is about:

Grief never ends But it changes.It is a passage, NOT a place to stay. Grief is neither a sign of weakness nor lack of faith….IT’S THE PRICE OF LOVE!

When you become a child of God through Jesus Christ our Savior you have a savior that is always by your side! Jesus is the reason for the season! When our loved ones are saved remember they are spending Christmas with Jesus this year! They no longer have any pain or suffering. The holidays are not the same with them not being present (in body) but they are always with you. Here are some guidelines to remember.

  • Each individual’s grief journey is unique
  • There is no “right” or “wrong” way to experience your grief
  • Be patient with yourself, sometimes you have a bad day, that is part of the healing process
  • Take care of yourself. Stay on a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, don’t over use alcohol and if on other medications please read the medications label about alcohol use.
  • Grief has NO time table! Some losses are more complicated on the grief journey and take a much longer piece of time to feel as if you are healing.
  • Honor the deceased this time of year by placing a special ornament that reminds you of the person on your tree or a special decoration just for them. Personally, I have a peace dove ornament hanging from my window in my kitchen. The dove has special meaning surrounding my brother’s death.
  • Last and Not least……Grief feels as if your heart has been ripped open…it heals from within and the future holidays will not always be this painful.
 God knows what you are going through and will be with you every step of the way! God has an additional angel watching over you.
God Bless
Until Next Time,
Lory Naugle, MS, LPC, NCC, DCC

 

Parenting your Teen – Tips to Help you Cope Through this Trying Time

Parenting a teenager is one of the most difficult challenges a parent will face. A Yiddish proverb states, Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life. All parents face this time in their children’s life and wonder what has happened to the child they used to know. Volumes of books have been written about the subject. In looking back over my own experience of raising teenagers I feel lucky that I survived. I’m very proud of my young adults and who they are becoming.  My daughter and I clashed a lot. I was her target of blame for almost anything at times. I had to learn to pick my battles carefully and then be firm and follow through with the consequences. I was not her friend I was her mother. Below are some tips to follow as you navigate parenting a teen.

  • Set Limits and Follow Through on the Consequences – Your teenager still needs your guidance and even though they will never admit it at the time, they need you to say no. By setting and enforcing rules, parents give teens predictabiltiy and structure, as well as a way to combat peer pressure. Without your caring oversight, teens are left feeling isolated and alone. One of the most common reaction from teens in regards to this, I need limits. I’m going to yell at you and react to them, but when you don’t give me any, it makes me feel like I’m in charge. I may say that’s what I want, but it really scares me.
  • Always Listen – You may know what it’s like to be a teenager, but your child know what it’s like to be a teenager today. Teens today are dealing with a whole new set of stressors. Your teen may not want to talk about things when you want to talk but letting your teen know that you are available when they want to talk is important. Many  times we would have conversations in our household with our teens at the oddest times. No they weren’t always convient but looking back they were very powerful. Try to find a common interest with them in regards to a movie, sport, or other activity and talk about it without being critical. I love having conversations with my daughter about the Twilight saga. It’s interesting to find out which character they identify with and why. The teens response to this is, Sometimes I actually do want to talk to you. I just don’t know how. Find creative ways to make me talk to you. It’ll take the pressure off. 
  • Keep your Anger focused on Their Actions Not on Them as a Person- Teenagers can become very angry people. They continue to fight for their independence and less control by their parents. Teens can and do get overloaded with stress. They have poor coping skills, and getting angry is the only way they know how to avoid feeling sad, hurt, or afraid. Some of the most common teen responses to this include: I don’t always know why I’m angry, irritable, sad, or worried. Sometimes I may need you to help me figure it out. But sometimes, I may want to figure it out alone. And I’m not as in control as I am trying to look. Sometimes my hormones make me feel crazy. I haven’t learned how to regulate myself yet. One phrase I used quite often with my teens was that I really loved them, I just didn’t like their behavior at the moment. 
  • Give Your Teen Honest Compliments- Yes, I totally understand how hard this can be at times. But as parents it is easy to see all the things that they are doing wrong and not give notice to the things they are doing right. This is extremely important at this age. Teens do care what their parents think! You may give compliments as to how they handled a difficult situation, or in regards to their grades in school, or particular friends they are choosing to hang around with. I remember giving my daughter compliments on how she did her hair and makeup and trying something new (going out for a sports team). Because I was a professional counselor, she often asked advice on how to handle some of her friend’s problems, and I would be amazed as to how she thought she should handle them. Teenagers especially love to hear their parents give positive feedback about them to others. People would often ask me about raising a teenage daughter and I would say, ” I love the person she is becoming”.  Teens want their parents to be proud of them and accept them for who they are. This means resisting the urge to compare your child to others. Teens already spend their days assessing how they measure up and feeling badly about themselves – they are relying on you to be their biggest supporter. 
  • Try to Find a Compromise that Both Parties Can Accept - Teens consistently push their boundaries. When incorporating open communication as best you can, let your teen know that you are willing to trust them more but along with that trust comes more responsibility on their part. Compromises are and will always be a part of any type of relationship. Talk openly so both parties can accept what was agreed upon. 

If you continue to have conflicts with your teen, it is especially helpful to seek counseling with a professional. Not only does this give  your teen a chance to express themselves but also to talk to someone other than a parent or friend. Most professional counselors will also work with the parent on communication and parenting skills along with support for all parties involved.

“I am every emotion times ten, I conform yet I’m rebellious, always obeying but somehow still an outlaw, always talking but never heard, I am a teenager”. Author Unknown

Until Next Time,

Lory

If you like this article, please let me know and share it with family and friends. Thanks and have a great holiday weekend.

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