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The Beauty of Together

The Beauty of Together: The importance of face-to-face therapy in an era when technology is king.

Recently I saw a commercial which featured famed Olympic athlete Michael Phelps talking about his transformative experience in counseling. It’s truly a remarkable plug for therapy coming from such a prominent figure. He states something to the effect of: his success wasn’t enough. He was unhappy. He needed to get out of his own head and learn to truly connect with those around him. Beautiful. Awesome. I love this message so much!

The commercial was actually for an app-based therapy service where you can pay a flat fee per week and instantly have access to a licensed therapist at your finger tips through messages or video. (And for the record, Mr. Phelps didn’t say whether he used this method of therapy vs. a traditional therapy model.)

You’re never going to hear me discourage anyone from getting the help they need, by whatever form they have access to. I’m sure for some, an app-based therapy service is a wonderful means for therapeutic support. But I think we need to be careful when considering options that further encourage our connection to the outside world to be primarily through our smart phones.

The research is clear that our connection with our smart phones and particularly our connections with each other through social media lead to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s this simple: unfettered access to unlimited people on our electronic devices is not the answer to our deepest needs for connection and closeness. What we all need to feel truly known and connected is to put down our phones and connect with those around us.

Therapy is no different. There is no substitute for a face-to-face connection in therapy.

Here are seven truths worth considering when it comes to face-to-face therapy:

  1. The relationship itself is healing.
    Despite what therapy model a therapist uses (and I have written about my preferred models here) a degree of healing, freedom, and forward progress comes through your connection with your therapist. This is why I always say in intake sessions, “sometimes finding the right therapist for you can feel a bit like test-driving cars. If, after this session, for whatever reason you feel like you’re ready for therapy but you’re not sure if I’m the right fit for you, then I’ll work with you to find someone who would better meet your needs.” The quality of the connection between you and your therapist goes a long way to foster health and healing in the therapy process.
  2. When you’re really upset, you are probably going to want someone in the room.
    One thing that’s unusual about being a therapist is that people cry with me…a lot. Having someone stay present with you in your pain can be really validating. Someone else is seeing first hand the hurt you’ve experienced. It’s remarkable what healing a silent presence can bring to deep sorrow. And I’m not talking about the silence of your phone between text alerts.
  3. Many issues aren’t safe to handle over the phone. For therapists, the safety of the people we work with is priority. The reality is that safety issues regarding mental health and physical health may need to be addressed with some clients. There are certain safety precautions that simply can not be provided when you’re not in the same room as someone.
  4. A therapist models healthy interaction with others. A common reason people present for counseling is anxiety, specifically social anxiety. While doing the work of therapy, a good therapist will be demonstrating first hand what healthy and proper connection with others looks like: listening skills, attunement cues, body language, proper question asking, and more. To experience a reduction in anxiety while in the presence of another live human goes a long way in overcoming social anxiety. The same can be said for depression. The therapy room functions as a safe place to try new things socially which can result in a boost of confidence as well as a reduction of symptoms.
  5. There is value in actually getting dressed and having some place to be.
    While having a therapy session in your pj’s may sound inviting to some, for those struggling with depression for instance, there is intrinsic value in having something to do that will get you outside of our isolation, even if just for an hour.
  6. A lot goes on in the therapy room that can be missed on the screen.
    Body language, quick glances to others, etc. as well as physical signs of health or lifestyle. If you’re a hundred pounds over weight, this is an important thing for your therapist to know and see. Does a client appear bored in session? Is the client subtly laughing at something they said to the therapist? Turning red? Breathing quickly like they’re starting to get nervous? I need to observe that and respond accordingly. You can’t always trust people to report that accurately or even to know that type of physiological or non-verbal sign needs to be reported to a therapist.
  7. Your story deserves to be experienced, not just read or heard through a medium.
    Our wounds occur in relationships. Our healing comes through relationships as well. And our deep hurts and negative experiences deserve more than a technology-based therapy process. They deserve face to face, eyeball to eyeball, soul to soul care and connection.

As stated above, my intention is never to discourage anyone from getting the help that they have access to. If you live in a remote location or have some sort of extenuating circumstance, a media-based therapy relationship may best fit your needs. But for the rest of us, there is no substitute for face-to-face connection. We don’t need more media based relationships through our phones. We are all desiring and deserving to be known in person!

If you’re ready for a face-to-face therapeutic relationship, contact me today! Offices in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge.

What You Should Know About Teens and Counseling

What You Should Know About Teens and Counseling

During the school year, my caseload includes a steady stream of teenage girls. (On average, I see around 20 clients a week: 1/3 individual adults, 1/3 couples and 1/3 teenage girls.) I didn’t used to like working with this population but in recent years, they’ve become some of my favorite clients!

Adolescent girls are a mystery to most everyone (including themselves) and I’m not saying I’m the teen girl whisperer, but for a variety of reasons, we often seem to be a great therapeutic match.

If you have an adolescent living under your roof, you really should consider getting her established with a therapist. You may be one of the few households that never experiences a “crisis of teen girl proportions,” but if/when it does, it’s great to already have a relationship with a therapist so you don’t have to start at ground zero in the therapy process. Perhaps even more importantly, a lot of situations that don’t necessarily meet the criteria for “crisis” arise weekly in the teenage world, and it’s beneficial to have another adult to be able to connect with your teen in the midst of these tumultuous years.

This is 2018. Counseling stigmas are a thing of the past. Gone are the days when only “troubled teens” needed therapy. “Great kids” benefit from therapy, too! Even well-adjusted, high-preforming, friendly teens could benefit from therapeutic support. (You’d be surprised at the level of stress being a “great kid” can bring on an adolescent!) The bottom line is: you’re never going to regret providing your teenager with another healthy adult point of connection.

Topics that I regularly address in counseling with my teenage clients:

  • Social Anxiety
  • School Stress/Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Communication Skills (communicating with peers and/or parents)
  • Managing a Bipolar diagnosis
  • Coping with ADHD and learning disabilities
  • Gender Identity Issues
  • Bullying
  • Sexuality topics…many and varied!
  • Suicidal thoughts and cutting
  • Strained family relationships
  • Sexual trauma
  • Stress associated with divorce and blended family issues

Here are a few other reasons you may have not considered as to why it’s good to get your teen in therapy…particularly with yours truly!

  1. I don’t know your family. I don’t have any loyalties to anyone. I offer a fresh pair of eyes to question long-term patterns of communication, secrets, expectations, etc. And your teen can speak to me freely about her family without fear of offending me or hurting my feelings, or concern that her disdain for MawMaw’s cookies will ever make its way around the family rumor mill. (Also…bring me MawMaw’s cookies! I’ll eat them!)
  2. I’m relatable. The window may be closing, but currently I still seem to pass for what the kids refer to as “cool.” Even yesterday, I had a new high-school aged client guess that I am 27 years old. (Which is to say, I now have a new favorite client.) It’s a great gift to your adolescent to provide a healthy adult voice (that still seems relevant) to help them navigate tough choices, discuss school stress and friendship drama, and begin to figure out who they want to be in the future.
  3. I don’t have an agenda. What should your student major in at college? I don’t care. Should your budding adult attend senior skip day? I don’t care. Should your 7th grader go to the dance with Person A or Person B? I DON’T CARE! 🙂
    What I DO care very much about is that your teenager is developing the skills necessary to connect with the part of herself that is her own compass, and make decisions that feel solid and good to her, all the way through her being. It’s not that I’m disinterested in what’s going on. I am simultaneously highly interested in my clients’ lives while maintaining a lack of worry or responsibility for their decisions. This is what (most) parents are generally unable to do, but it’s a stance that is really helpful for teenagers.
    Since I don’t have an agenda, you’d really be surprised with what all I’ll hear from your teenager. Giving your teen a relationship with another healthy adult will never be a bad thing. They may not open up to you at this point, but it’s definitely preferable if they can open up to someone. And, what is more, a person who is bound by confidentiality and a code of ethics and principles which will guide responses in a healthy and careful way.
  4. I’ve heard it all before. You can’t shock me. Many have tried. Few have succeeded. I won’t give examples here, because there are two distinct types of people reading this post: people who don’t need examples and people who don’t need their minds blown. 🙂 But suffice it to say, I’ve been counseling for over a decade and it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees when it comes to shocking disclosures, but there’s always a bigger picture that needs to be addressed carefully. I often help families navigate what just seems and feels like a big deal and what is actually a big deal needing extra attention.

I have offices in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’d love to set up a time after school to discuss how counseling could benefit a teenager that you love! Contact me here to schedule an appointment!

FOOTNOTES/REFERRALS:
If you are reading this and you have a teenage boy under your roof, you may be thinking to yourself, “Wow…Allison sounds perfect for my teenage son! Does she see teenage boys or only girls?”
To you I say: Maybe. I see adult males all the time. But there’s something about teenage male sexuality that I find to be best addressed with a male professional counselor. My FAVORITE referral for male teenagers (and lots of others…he’s a great therapist): Joel Gilbert. Joel is an excellent therapist, very easily relatable and very wise.

For the record, I do see adult males for individual work. What a difference a frontal lobe makes!

If you’re reading this and you wonder if I see kids younger than 13, the answer is, “no way!” For kids, I gladly refer to an awesome therapist named Christine Varnado. She does amazing work and kids are obsessed with her!

Transitioning from Work to Home: How to set your night up for success.

Transitioning from Work to Home: How to set your night up for success.

The Question

How do you transition from work to home each day? Do you have a particular routine you use to help you go from employer/employee to spouse mode?

The Problem

Like we discussed last post, the transition moment is either seamless or it’s very rocky. If it’s rocky, it might be because you’re having trouble “shaking off” work as you enter into your home environment. The transition from work to home is rough for a lot of people. Maybe your job is very stressful, very labor intensive or very people driven. If you live alone, you may not think much about the transition from work to home, but I’d suggest that it’s chiefly important for you to not blur the line between the two, and consider your home life entirely separate from your work life. If you have a spouse and/or family, walking in to a house full of people who need things from you can feel pretty overwhelming after a tough day at work! It’s so important that everyone in the house is getting their needs met. It’s possible. It just takes some honest reflection and a strategy.

The Plan

If you struggle with decompressing after a stressful work day, here are a few ideas:

  1. Pick a transition point. On your commute home, give yourself time to process the work day mentally, but at a certain landmark of your choosing, switch trains of thought and start thinking about home. Anything. Stuff on the agenda for the night. Things you like about your spouse and kids. Whatever. Just transition at a planned point so that you can be prepared when you walk in the door.
  2. Write down important things from work. Something you need to do tomorrow? Particularly frustrating conversation with your boss? Write it down. And leave it in your vehicle. You’ll get it out of your system just enough to be able to turn your attention to other things.
  3. Ask for/Give space. Sometimes I distract our toddler so my husband can sneak in without being noticed and take a quick power nap in our bed. (When he comes out later: Surprise! Daddy’s home already!) This way, he’s a little more refreshed and ready to engage. Some people like to take a shower to help them transition from work mode to home mode. Others like to watch the news in relative peace and quiet. Whatever you need, figure it out and make it known.
    • This is particularly important if you’re especially introverted or extroverted. You have needs for either connection or an intentional alone time. These are both legit needs and you shouldn’t minimize them. This need has to be met in order for you to be able to give what your family needs. But, you shouldn’t take all night for this need to be met. Do what you’ve gotta do to decompress the necessary amount, but then be available and presentphysically and emotionally.

In conclusion, consider what you need to really be “off the clock.”

If you live alone…don’t blur the line between “work” and “home” just because you can and no one will complain about it. You’ll burn out eventually and plus, it’s just no fun. You owe it to yourself to maintain/create an identity separate from your work, and this transition point of your day goes a long way to support that part of who you are.

If you’re married, don’t let the transition home moment each day pass you by without considering how you’re approaching it and how you can redeem it for better connection and relational satisfaction! It’s an easy moment to enter into and make a big impact on your relationship. You can do this!

As always, I’d love to set up a time to discuss this issue or anything else for which you’d like to receive counseling support. To learn more about the counseling process, check out this article.

Offices in Livingston Parish and EBR.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

Reunited And It Feels So Good: 5 Tips for Making Coming Home the Best Moment of the Day

The Question

How do you and your mate greet each other after returning from work?

Is it like a scene from a Nicholas Sparks movie? Or more like a series of grunts and side glances? Somewhere in between? What if this moment of your day had the power to set a tone of positive connection for the rest of your evening…if only you knew how to tap into its potential.

The Problem

The transition/reunion moment following the work day is one of those linchpin moments where things will either go one of two ways: 1) you’ll feel very connected, safe, and welcomed, or 2) you’ll be frustrated and feel isolated, with your guard up.

This transition/reunion moment sets the tone for the rest of the evening. And it’s easily missed by couples because it seems fairly inconsequential. How you handle this opportunity every day reveals quite a lot, and for whatever reason, it seems to be a missed opportunity for a lot of couples.

One reason why the transition time is rough is due to job stress that you have trouble “shaking off” just because you’re in your home environment. We will discuss this part next post! (Be on the lookout for Part 2 and feel free to sign up to receive posts sent straight to your inbox.)

The other reason why the transition moment might be rocky for you is because things are tense at home. Maybe you feel like a rockstar at work but you tend to feel like a failure or constant disappointment at home. If you are generally having trouble connecting well with our spouse, this moment is where the negative cycle starts each night. Additionally, communication styles that are effective (and even help you excel) at your job do NOT typically work at home. If you talk to your spouse like you’re his/her manager…just go ahead and call me now. 😉

Whatever the reason this transition/reunion isn’t working to your advantage, there are a couple of things that you can do to redeem this moment.

Every day, you have this opportunity to build up intimacy or build up defenses. Why not do all you can to not let that moment pass idly by you?!

You may be thinking, “Allison…I have no idea what you’re talking about. We love “coming home time!” Then congrats…you’re doing it right. For everyone else, when you walk in the door, if you’re met with grunts, demands, criticisms, or even not acknowledged at all…we’ve got some work to do!

The good news is that this little moment of the day is the perfect, routine opportunity to really insert some positive connection in your relationship. Most people are blind to the importance of this time, so it’s not a “high stakes” risk for improvement. It’s a great place to start!

The Plan

Just like fake smiles are shown to eventually make you feel a little happier, even a somewhat forced, intentional greeting leads to more warmth and connection between the two of you.

Here are some great (and even silly) options for making coming home a special event that helps your defenses go down and increases your relational satisfaction.

This is definitely an area where I have to practice what I preach. At our house, we have the challenge (as do a lot of you, particularly shift workers) where every week day goes a little differently. Sometimes I’m home when my husband gets home and we are both staying put for the night. Sometimes we have about 5 minutes together before I leave to go see clients. Others, he’ll come home after work and do all the household stuff alone, and I don’t see him until almost 9pm. So some days, he is greeting me, and others I am greeting him. So most of these we swap.

  1. Physical contact. Stop what you’re doing when he/she walks in. Stand up. Put down the spatula. Smile. And give a big hug and/or a kiss. This is either second nature to people when their spouse/partner returns home or it’s a TOTAL stretch and seems so forced and foreign. Stretch yourself here! A good hug really brings down the defenses. It sends the message: you’re home….you made it…it’s safe here. Pro-tip: Use BOTH ARMS. 20 seconds is actually ideal, based on lots of research. (Sounds long…just go with it; you might end up loving it!) Count in your head if you need to! And if you can possibly manage, give a nice kiss, too. It does NOT MATTER if you feel like it’s forced. It’s like faking a smile. It always leads to a better mood. Tricking your brain by doing something positive with your body.
    • There is actually a lot of interesting research on hugging. Check out this article on the physiological and emotional benefits. You’ll be surprised!
  2. Cheering. Now, I admit that this is kind of silly. But at our house, we chant: Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! with fists pumping in the air. Most often we try to do this in the driveway, for maximum impact on our returning conquering hero. 🙂 The point here is not necessarily cheering, but feel free to make it a special event anyway you can think of!
  3. Play time.
    • Hiding. Sometimes we play hide and go seek, and start right before Daddy walks in the door. If he doesn’t see us when he walks in the door…that’s his cue. It’s play time. Play = joy and connection. Just go for it!
    • Dance party. Actually…Brené Brown has a whole theory on how healthy families with low shame regularly engage in dancing together. Don’t roll your eyes at me! Save it for Brené.
  4. Consider your partner’s love language.
    • Some days…if the stars align…I’ll have dinner ready. It’s just a way of taking good care of my family that I occasionally pull off successfully. When I get home late from work, sometimes I’ll have planned dinner for my husband to finish off after he gets home, or sometimes he has made his own thing, or it’s leftover city, baby. But if he’s home for a while and I come home late, I can always guarantee that he’s thought of what I can eat when I get home. It’s the best and makes me feel taken care of and supported!
    • What makes your spouse feel loved and supported? You should try to do that when he/she gets home.
  5. Ask questions. Not too many. Not too fast. But here are some choices:
    • Rate it: How was your day on a 1-10?
    • High/low: what was the best/worst part of your day? Then here’s the pro-tip: EMPATHIZE when you respond. “Wow! That sounds awesome!” “Oh man…I hate that you have to deal with that.”
    • Do you need anything from me tonight?
    • What’s something we can do together as a family this weekend/next time we’re both off?
    • If kids- Did anything happen with the kids today I need to know about?
    • Whatever else comes to mind….the sky’s the limit! But not too many…not too fast.

If you want to discus this topic or any other related to individual, marital, or family counseling, just contact me here! Appointments available in Baton Rouge, LA and Walker, LA.

When God Gives You Crumbs

A belief that is inextricably part of who I am is how, with God, nothing is wasted. This doesn’t mean that everything is intentional or planned, but that nothing will be without purpose to one degree or another.

I think we can go a little overboard on the meanings we ascribe to things, but just hang with me here: God is not random. Nothing is wasted.Sometimes in my life, and I bet I’m not the only one, God will plant a seed of an idea…it will have the hallmarks of the Father…but it goes untouched for years, often forgotten, until the moment that God resurrects it.

I had one such experience when my husband proposed marriage to me. Something quietly spoken over my heart when I was 13 and had just started getting to know God on my own, that I never told to anyone, was lived out right before me in the certain way he asked me to marry him. To me, it was this message of, “it’s always been me and you, and it’ll always be me and you, but I’m bringing you two together to follow me side by side.”

Another instance that’s happened to me lately was when I was asked to teach a class at a women’s prison. As random as this is, the little seed for this idea was planted in me nearly 20 years ago. I was in high school and we spent a whole semester writing an in-depth research paper. The topic was of our choosing. I couldn’t really decide on a topic but kept coming back to the issue of the importance of providing educational opportunities to people in the penal system to reduce recidivism rates. No one…and I mean No. One. saw this idea as a natural fit for me. My friends questioned me about it. My teacher questioned me about it. Even I questioned myself about it. Was there Any other topic I wanted to write on? Was this something I was passionate about and just hadn’t mentioned to anyone yet? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to pick the topic other than to say that it was very clear to me that that’s what I was to write on. So I spent a whole semester researching the role education plays in keeping people from returning to crime and ending up back in prison. Random.

Flash forward all these years later and a friend asked me to teach a psychology and counseling college level class at a women’s prison. I honestly didn’t feel like I had the time to give to it. I went back and forth about what my answer should be. But ultimately I just felt the sense from the Lord that it was something to say “yes” to.

I agreed to do it and taught the class this summer. I poured out my best for the women and enjoyed my time doing so. I can’t say it changed my life or opened up this new calling of my life…nor was I expecting it to do so. It was obedience. I felt like God was glorified in my obedience, that I was used by God to facilitate growth and healing, and I happened to enjoy it, which is always a bonus.

It wasn’t until after I said “yes” to that opportunity did I remember that random paper from years ago.

I felt like the whole point of this little exercise in obedience was this sweet message of the Lord again to my soul:

“You’ve always heard me and followed me for a long time until now. This is another breadcrumb. Keep walking with me.”

What about you? Has God spoken something to you that you’re still waiting to see why or how it will come to fulfillment? Pray today for God to give you eyes to see His activity in your life. I challenge you to write down the things you feel like God has spoken so that you won’t miss the blessing of noticing God’s subtle leading over time.

As always…for further discussion on this or any counseling topic, I’m reachable here!

What Chip and Joanna Gaines Can Teach Us About Our Calling in Life

It’s May again and we all know what that means. ‘Tis the season of graduation. A time for stressing out and searching for God’s will for your life. (Jokes…kinda.)

Whether you’ve been out of school for a while or you’ve just crossed the finish line, finding your place in this world (yes, that was a Michael W. Smith reference) can be frustrating and confusing to say the least. It’s a crossroads of life that is so easy to over-complicate, over-spiritualize, and over-analyze. What if there was an easier way to get clarity? While some people have callings that maximize our weaknesses (think: Moses, the stutterer, leading a nation…before social media could disseminate a message in milliseconds), most of us will find that our strengths, our gut/instincts and people who care about us are God-given guides to lead us towards the way we can be most engaged in uncovering the Kingdom of God on earth.
Have no fear! Chip and Joanna Gaines are here! 
If you don’t know who this sweet couple is, you’re missing out. They are an uber talented construction/interior design duo with a plethora of other entrepreneurial endeavors, some great kids, a rich faith, and, oh yeah…their own reality TV show on HGTV. And while I honestly think that there’s nothing worse than being a famous Christian, they somehow seem to be handling it all in stride.
What can we learn about “calling” and finding our niche from the incredibly creative and hilarious Gaineses?
Take stock in what makes you come alive and figure out a way to make a living doing that. 
Chip and JoJo have found their lane. They know what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. Taking inventory of your strengths and weaknesses should be one of your first steps in uncovering what your calling in life is.
Questions for reflection: What do you do that seems to be easier to you than most other people? What is it that you consistently get positive feedback on? What did you want to do when you were younger? What do you still like about that? Check out Strengths Finders if you’re still having trouble pin-pointing what you’re good at. (Pro-tip: Don’t buy it used, because there’s an assessment measurement code that can’t be reused.)
Work your tail off. Malcolm Gladwell sites 10,000 hours as the threshold for excellence in fine-tuning your craft. Do the math. That’s a long time! Chip and Joanna didn’t just stumble into their success. They’ve been honing their skills for close to 20 years, full-time, before their business exploded. Never under-estimate the season of life where you learn, learn, learn some more, try, fail, figure out what you don’t know, succeed and repeat. Not only are your skills grown and mastered in this season, your character is grown as well. Good character and hard work will always have a payoff in this life and in the one to come. Check out a post of mine about “How to Give A Rip” if you’re struggling in this area.
Find the spiritual in the mundane. What if the sacred/secular divide is totally made up? Q: If anything (legal) done to the best of your ability is an embodiment of the glory of God, what possibilities does that open up for you? A: Tons.
There are lots of ways to let the kingdom come near. Don’t over-spiritualize so much that you miss the obvious. Jesus did manual labor (carpentry) to the glory of God. That’s how the son of God spent close to 15 years of his life. Why? Because anything done to the best of your ability is an embodiment of the glory of God.
Chip and Joanna don’t do anything particularly spiritual for a living. They build and design to the best of their abilities, taking created elements and revealing their beauty…bringing order out of chaos and revealing the heart of God, the most creative one of all. Even if they didn’t hold a marriage discipleship clinic on the sly in their show (which is so awesome, by the way), they still reveal the heart of God to the world because they unveil beauty, creativity, form, function, design, ingenuity and all these elements that God so deeply loves. (For more thoughts on this topic of work in terms of the kingdom of God, check out John Mark Comer.)
The bottom line about finding your calling is this: don’t stress out about it. God knows how to communicate with you. He made you. He’s just as intentional about what he reveals as what he withholds. God gave you a lot of practical tools to discover what makes you come alive and anything done to the best of your ability brings glory to God and advances the kingdom. Enjoy the ride, as it’s the journey, not only the destination that counts.
I absolutely love talking about career counseling in therapy session! If this is a topic that interests you or someone you love, or it would be helpful for you to talk through the topic with an uninvolved third party, please contact me and let’s set up a time to meet together at my office in Baton Rouge, Walker, or Denham Springs, Louisiana.

How to Be Awesome at Transitions

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I hate to break it to you, but just as soon as you get settled into a rhythm in life, something is probably going to change. Life is full of transition points. In fact, in reflecting on the people in my personal life, I know more people currently undergoing life transitions than those who are not. Receiving a promotion at work, first-time parenting, taking care of elderly parents, dealing with divorce, returning to work after maternity leave, sending kids off to college, transitioning from student to full-time employee, getting laid off from work, being diagnosed with a disease or illness, pursuing a dream, marrying for the first time, dating after divorce, retiring, losing of a spouse, winning it big in the lottery.

All of these are major points of change; some positive, some negative. (Alright…I don’t actually know anyone who won the lottery. But if you do, I’d be happy to help you through your tough time of transition.) We don’t always get to pick these life transitions. Some happen to us yet others are more of our making. One thing is for sure: your ability to handle these transitions well can determine a lot about your happiness in life.

Here are a few things that will keep you grounded in the midst of life transitions:

  1. Stay flexible. In my opinion, flexibility is one of the secret keys to success in life. The more you train your mind to be flexible in how you view your role as a human, the easier points of transition will be. You are first and foremost a human. Over the course of your life, you will wear many different hats. Not allowing your identity to be too wed to any one role, and expecting things to ebb and flow over time are both important components to flexibility in transition. The opposite of flexibility in a transition is rigidity. Hunkering down, digging in your heels, fighting the transition. It’s not good for you, and it’s certainly not good for anyone around you. What do you say we skip that part, take a deep breath and just strive to roll with the changing of the roles
  2. Acknowledge the grief/loss. As mentioned above…whatever you transitioned from had a degree of expertise associated with it. You knew what to expect. You were good at that role. And stepping away from that “safe zone” is a loss. Even if it’s a great transition, like adopting a baby or getting engaged, there is still a sense of loss associated with leaving behind the familiar, especially if you were rocking it. It’s totally normal. Don’t feel bad about having a little twinge of sadness about leaving your old role behind. Take some time to reflect and appreciate the things you loved out of the role that you’re leaving before you jump head-long into the new transition. Doing some journaling in terms of chapters and phases is great for this.
  3. Have reasonable expectations. Most transitions tend to mimic learning to drive a manual transmission. Lots of lurching forward, awkward starts and stops. What I would call “spurty.” Whatever role you transitioned from, you probably enjoyed some degree of expertise. You looked and felt like a pro, but this new role feels weird and unfamiliar. Don’t expect to operate at optimum level right off the bat. Cut yourself some slack. You didn’t start off feeling like an expert in your old role either and nobody transitions like a seasoned professional. Just keep your head down, learn the basics, and you’ll find your rhythm soon. You’ll know where to find the best coffee and secret bathrooms before too long.
  4. Keep the lines of communication open. Regularly check in with yourself to assess how things are going. Then, schedule a meeting for a few months out to check in with someone else. Who you need to have that conversation with depends entirely on your new role. It may be a boss, your spouse, your parent, your doctor or your counselor. This type of check-in proves invaluable when it comes to feeling successful in mastering your new role…and helping you seem like you “give a rip.”
  5. Find a Yoda. You’re going to need someone with the inside scoop that has been in this role for a while. Find a Yoda who is further down the road than you are and just watch. You’ll learn tons! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to ask questions. Most importantly…say “yes” to Yoda. Lunch? Yes. Special event? Yes. Seemingly inconsequential errand? Yes. Yoda will help you become strong in the force…I mean, get established in your new role.

While life transitions are inevitable, your ability to transition well is largely a choice and a skill set. Learning to roll with the punches can really determine your happiness in life. Whether good or bad, changes can throw you off your game for a bit. Transitioning well means less anxiety, frustration, depression, irritability, and isolation. You owe it to yourself and those around you to learn the skills of transitioning well.

Any time you need to process any of these types of life changes, give me a call!

How to Give A Rip: Part 3

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This week we’ve been discussing the whys and how’s of learning to give a rip in the difficult areas of life.

Figure out a way to give a rip about whatever is in front of you.

Today we will look at what genuine interest looks like, even in difficult situations. Yesterday we looked at how you can “figure out a way” to lead yourself to the attitude that you’d like to have. Let’s continue on with the second part of the perspective shift that could bring positive impact across all areas of your life.

…to give a rip…

In order to be a good spouse, parent, employee, friend, etc. you have to be as interested in the task or topic as the person you’re dealing with. Think about it: if your child is really interested in soccer but you could not care less, there’s no way that won’t come across to your child on some level. You’ll either foster resentment and isolation in your child, or you’ll see their interest level fizzle out. And that goes to all roles in your life. Your interest or “ability to give a rip” directly impacts your relationships with others.

People can sense feigned interest and it causes the loss of life-giving and energizing excitement. In marriage this comes across as lack of respect, dismissal, or conditional love and support. In work this reads like lack of commitment to the company.

Love who and what your spouse loves, (obviously this doesn’t apply if your spouse is in an unhealthy place such as addiction) and they will feel understood and supported.

Get excited about what your boss is excited about, and you’ll enjoy your work environment more, and possibly even experience advancement in your career.

Care about what your child cares about, and you’ll see that thing flourish within them.

In your friendships, if you pay attention and follow up about what is on the heart and mind of your friend, you’ll develop the kinds of bonds that last a lifetime.

Don’t let the most important relationships in your life be impacted because you can’t figure out a way to give a rip about what matters to them most. You’ll enjoy the strengthened connection between you when you make what is important to them, important to you!

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series if you’re just now joining us!

And find out more information about our counseling services here.