Lake Norman Counselors

Working Apart, Together

In today’s reality of Coronavirus, quarantine, and stay-at-home orders, you might find yourself living in a “new normal” that includes working from home with your spouse/partner/roommate/kids. This is probably an enormous shift of how much time you are spending together, which can often lead to some frustration.

First, it’s important to remember that during times of change and unease, tension is extremely normal. I encourage you to acknowledge that you are in a new reality and that there will be some bumps in the road! As a society, we are having to figure out new ways to go about our day to day life and that comes with the growing pains of any transition. Working from home is no different, so here are a few tips to help you feel successful:

  1. Set up a workspace. Even if you don’t have a home office or a desk, you can still create a work-friendly environment. Any small alteration that can make your to space feel different from your regular living room or kitchen can be helpful. For instance, if you are working from the kitchen table, making sure there is no other clutter and possibly adding a desk lamp. If you are working from your couch, making sure that the TV stays off if you are easily distracted, or pulling up a small table so that you have a desk.
  2. Set a schedule. Your schedule might look completely different now than it did a few weeks ago. However, creating a schedule and giving yourself and your loved ones structure will be crucial in getting through this difficult time. Even if you don’t stick to your schedule perfectly everyday, having it as a guide will be helpful. Setup what time you want to start working, when and how many breaks you will have, and what time you want to stop working.
  3. Set boundaries. This is incredibly important!! Setting boundaries helps to establish clear expectations. It is necessary to set boundaries with yourself, your spouse/roommate(s), and even your boss/coworkers. When working from home, there is no physical separation from your workspace and your personal space, so it can be difficult to put work down. Allow yourself permission to stop checking emails or accepting phone calls at a reasonable hour. Do something at the end of your workday that helps simulate a “commute” or that time where you can physically leave your work life and enter your personal life. This can be a walk, changing clothes, calling a friend, or any other small habit you can do at the end of your workday.
  4. Keep the familiar.  When working from home, it can be very enticing to throw out all of day-to-day structure that you once knew. While your life and schedule will look different during this time, it is important to continue engaging in productive and familiar habits. For instance, waking up at your normal time and “getting ready for work.” Maybe you don’t have to put on a full face of makeup or shave, but washing your face and putting on clothes that are not pajamas, can help you get into a work mindset and ready for your day.   
  5. Have realistic expectations. It is important to remember that everyone is being impacted by this new reality.  Recognize when you are feeling frustrated, distracted, or completely overwhelmed. You are allowed to feel that way, and you do not have to perfectly uphold the schedule that you have set for yourself. This is a growing process and it is important to be kind to yourself when it doesn’t seem to be going the “right” way. Create ways to practice self-care and give yourself grace. Taking a break to watch your favorite TV show, call a friend, stretch, take a nap, etc. You have permission to rest!

All of these tips can be helpful when working from home, and it is crucial that you share your boundaries, expectations, and schedule with your significant other/roommate(s). Communicate what you want your workspace to be and ask what they want theirs to be. Discuss clear boundaries about your workday. For instance, let your partner know what that if your door is closed, you don’t want to be disturbed, or if your headphones are on, that means you are in work mode. Talk about the schedules that you have each made and include one another in them. Ask what they need from you and what you need from them while sharing this time and space.

A few questions to ask each other while working from home together:

  1. What do you want your workday to look like?
  2. What expectations/boundaries do you have about your workspace?
  3. What time, if any, will we spend together during the day?
  4. What routines do we want to have together? (For instance, making breakfast or lunch, taking a midday walk, stretch breaks, etc.)
  5. How can I help you be successful?

Remember, there is no perfect way to work from home, especially when in close quarters with loved ones! Take this time to practice new routines, love and take care of one another, and create the workspace that you feel your best in!

Lake Norman Counselors

Human Connection in the Age of Social Distancing

Hello, my name is Jamie, and I am an Extrovert.

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a “big E” Extrovert. Like 98th percentile on the Myers-Briggs, would not do well alone on a desert island, Extrovert. Rather than being alone, I’d probably end up pulling a “Tom Hanks” and making my own Wilson to have someone to talk to…

I was the kid in school that was constantly getting in trouble for talking. Once in middle school, my English teacher separated my best friend and I for talking. She put us at opposite ends of the classroom – as far apart as humanly possible. And we still got in trouble because she was insistent that we were “communicating nonverbally” with each other… we denied it, but we totally were. So I’ve been finding ways to overcome social distancing for more than two decades now.

When I hear words like “social distancing” and “quarantine” – I look at it as a personal challenge. Was I heartbroken about my social limitations at first? Sure. But the good news for my other extroverted friends out there, is that there’s plenty of ways to connect from home!

Human connection, feelings of love and belonging, social support, fun, and community are fundamental human needs.

And for my introvert friends that think this is a godsend – let me reason with you for one second. Please hear me out. I totally understand that you recharge alone. And I’m really glad that you’re ahead of the game on this whole “work from home,” “the back porch is now considered eating out,” “pajamas are acceptable day time wear” world we now live in. If anything, please take the lead on teaching your extrovert friends about indoor hobbies – we have very few of those!

But as much as you might resist, introvert friends, connecting with the outside world is still important for your mental and emotional health. Maybe more now than before. Let’s take a look at our fundamental and basic needs as human beings:

In case you missed my last article, we’re supposed to be considering this quarantine and stay-at-home order the new normal. And if you haven’t been to the grocery store lately, we can’t provide for our basic needs at the moment. So Physiological and Safety needs have a couple strikes against them at the moment… there’s only so much we can do about that at the moment. I can’t control when the next shipment of toilet paper or Lysol wipes is coming in. I can’t control the spread of this disease.

However, I can completely work on the Love & Belonging category!

So there’s two important factors to consider here: personality and love language(s). Both are crucial to understand about yourself and those closest to you to form deep and meaningful connections. First, make a list of the people who are most important to you: your significant other, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, pets, Starbucks baristas, etc. Do you know if each of these individuals is an introvert or extrovert?

An important note: This does NOT have any correlation to how outgoing or shy someone is. That’s a bad stereotype. Extroverts energize by being around other people and tend to externally process information (they make lists, they “think out loud” to themselves, they like to have a sounding board and talk through a decision). Introverts tend to charge by themselves and internally process information (if you ask them a question – they just give you an answer… not their entire thought process on how they got there).

If you’re really unsure, take the 16 personalities quiz which is a FREE assessment that will tell you! We all have the time… what else are you doing? Now, each of the scores is rated on a spectrum. Some people might be 50/50. So you’re a little bit of both. If you’re close to that 50% mark, it might be worth looking at two profiles (say ESFJ and ISFJ).

Now that you’ve figured out the personality portion of the equation. It’s time to discuss the Love Languages. Time for another quiz!! (Yes. Another Quiz. Seriously, Karen, what else are you doing?) Take the Love Language Quiz to see what your primary and secondary languages are and then ask your significant other and closest friends to take it as well. It’s important that you not only know your language, but theirs as well. Because here’s the interesting thing about the love languages, we often give the love that we most want to receive. It’s only natural, it is our native language after all.

What does that mean? As an example, one of my top languages is verbal affirmations (compliments or nice words). So the assumption is that because I like compliments, everyone else must like compliments too, right? So I often give the love that I most want to receive. I tend to be very complimentary.

Well, just because I speak French (verbal affirmations) doesn’t mean everyone else does. My best friend is a gift giver. She’s speaking Spanish. We’re obviously not speaking the same language. One of my favorite stories to tell is when I asked her to be my Maid of Honor, and I wrote her this beautiful card about how she’s like a sister to me, and having her next to me at my wedding will be so meaningful, blah blah blah. Now, I’m verbal affirmations – I save shit like that forever. I have a whole drawer full of every card and note and nice email I’ve ever received. But I come over to her house the next day, literally the day after I’ve given her this beautiful and meaningful card – and IT. IS. IN. THE. TRASH. Can you believe that?

I take it out out of the trash, dust off the coffee grounds – completely appalled. She literally looks at me, reaches in the trash slowly, and asks, “do I need to keep the envelope too?” I stormed out of there so fast… the nerve!

See, for her, the envelope with her name on it, meant as much as the card with all of my beautiful and kind words. Zero. That’s because it’s not her love language. It’s mine. Now I’ll be damned if that card isn’t sitting on her dresser to this day (mostly because I think she’s scared to throw it away due to my last reaction). But you can see the miscommunication that can so easily happen when two people are speaking two different languages.

So as a general rule – COVID-19 or not – in order to connect and truly understand the people in your life, and to avoid hurt feelings, you need to know if you’re dealing with an introvert or extrovert, what love languages you speak, and what languages you need to be speaking to the important people in your life.

The Five Love Languages:

  1. Verbal Affirmations
  2. Gift Giving
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

Once you know what your love languages are, it’s important to define what your language means to you and give your partner/family/friends examples rather than have them guess or assume (that tends to end badly). For some, quality time is watching TV together, for others that is definitely not classified as quality time – so it’s important to be clear about your expectations and needs.

Good news: If your love languages are verbal affirmations or gift giving, these are easily done over long distances! There’s many ways that these needs can be met while still maintaining social distancing guidelines. Express your needs for communication, preferred methods of contact, and what is most meaningful to you for the most fulfilling connection with your loved ones.

Could be tricky: Depending on the circumstances, if your love languages are acts of service or quality time, these could be a little harder to fulfill. You might need to get creative! Or temporarily rely on a secondary love language to help meet your needs for connection. While virtual connection is better than nothing, it’s definitely not the same as spending time with someone. So if you do feel it’s safe, building your “immunity community” and making an effort to get in that quality time will be crucial to your mental and emotional health. Acts of services also usually rely on some sort of contact, so creativity will be key here as well. This will certainly be easier for those of you living within family units.

Blatant violation of social distancing: It’s a rough time to be a physical touch person. If you have a partner and you are both healthy and being mindful of safety protocols if/when you interact in the community, then hopefully this need will continue to be met. But as our community continues to face increased threat of quarantine, sickness, and social isolation – this will certainly be difficult. Again, relying on a secondary language will be helpful in feeling connected and meeting your emotional needs.

Learning more about your personality and love languages will hopefully lead to more insights about your needs for meaningful and fulfilling connection, which you can then communicate to those closest to you. Likewise, asking friends and family about their preferences will hopefully lead to deeper, more meaningful, and reciprocal relationships.

It is crucial to our mental and emotional health that we find ways to stay connected. Isolation and loneliness feed anxiety and depression. Human connection, feelings of love and belonging, social support, fun, and community are fundamental human needs. It’s important to find ways to stay healthy and safe, but to also stay connected to your support system during this stressful time. Jump over to the second part of this blog entry: Human Connection in the Age of Social Distancing Part II for practical steps and suggestions!

Photo by David Grunfeld • NOLA News
Lake Norman Counselors

Prepared Not Scared

It’s a funny thing, being a Katrina survivor. I always found it amusing that people would ask me so casually, and upon meeting no less, about Katrina. It’s rare that in meeting a stranger you would ask them about their greatest traumas and losses in life so casually… unless you’re a therapist, maybe. But I had my “ready responses” – well rehearsed. “Yes, we flooded.” “About 4-6 feet in the house.” “No, it really wasn’t that bad considering some of my friends had a foot in their attics!” “Yes, my family is still there.” Blah blah blah.

I’ve lived through a disaster before, and I came out of it stronger; I believe it positively shaped my life, and I was a part of a community that was able to come together to support one another and bounce back stronger than ever, so I wanted to lend my personal and professional expertise.

-Jamie L. Cheveralls, MA, NCC, LPC

What was always so hard to impress upon people was the community impact – the daily impact of Hurricane Katrina. There was truly no escape. It’s not like a personal tragedy or loss where you’re affected, but you can go out in the world and forget for a minute. There was no way to forget Katrina. It’s literally how we measure time now in New Orleans: pre- or post-Katrina.

Katrina impacted every person I knew: my family, my friends, my teachers, my neighbors, my hair dresser, the grocers, the mailman. Everything was closed! There was no where to go. Or very limited options. No movies. No malls. Very few restaurants. And it was like that for a long time. Too long.

Until recently, this was the most difficult aspect of describing post-Katrina New Orleans. Suddenly, I have a feeling people will understand or will be able to better empathize. Because I can’t help feeling a certain sense of de ja vu… I can’t help feel like I’ve been living in the days leading up to “the big storm.”

I lived through the worst natural disaster to hit US soil before, and I came out stronger as a result. I believe that it positively shaped my life (and certainly influenced my profession – which I love!), and I was a part of a community that was able to come together to support one another and bounce back stronger than ever, so I wanted to lend my personal and professional expertise. My goal is to help prepare – not scare – in my analogy to Katrina. Because like a Hurricane, there is a lot that we can do to be proactive and stay safe in this storm.

One of my favorite therapeutic skills is radical acceptance. When I teach my clients about this skill, I always use the example of my office being on fire. You see, the longer we sit in the burning building, the more dangerous the situation becomes. If we ignore the alarms, the heat, and the smoke coming in from under the door, there’s only so long before we’re in serious trouble. Denial is dangerous. Which is why the burning building analogy is such a great analogy for radical acceptance. The sooner you come to a place of acceptance, the sooner you’re able to utilize the tools at your disposal. If you sit in the fires of denial, you’re in danger. But the moment you come to accept the situation, you can get up and run, you can call 911. You can save yourself, others, maybe some valuables. You can call your insurance company, etc. Now do you have to be happy about this situation? Hell no. In fact, radical acceptance usually indicates some level or relationship with pain.

With COVID-19, the sooner we all accept that this is our new normal, the healthier and happier we’ll be in the short & long term. Please, read that again…

Now, you don’t have to like it. I don’t have to like that my office burned down in my example. But the sooner we all accept we’re in a burning building, the less likely we are to get burned and the sooner we can utilize the tools at our disposal to make the best of this situation! Now remember, radical acceptance usually implies a relationship with pain – this is a grieving process. So please, give yourselves time to grieve. Some of you are grieving major milestones like prom, graduation. Some of you just miss the sense of normalcy, your friends, and coworkers. We miss being able to go outside, to the movies, shopping whenever we want to. Some of us really miss our baristas at Starbucks… but jokes aside, many of us have lost jobs, stability, and financial security. Allow yourself to grieve for these significant losses!

One of my biggest concerns about our community as we face COVID-19, especially having been through Katrina, is not about illness or physical health, it’s about our mental health. It’s about grief and the ways I’ve seen people “handle” (not using the word cope there) with their grief and loss. So utilizing these proactive measures is important, because it wasn’t the Hurricane that flooded the city of New Orleans and it certainly wasn’t the flood waters that was taking lives years later. It was addiction. It was unresolved complex grief and trauma. There were failures on systemic levels. Levees literally broke. So, I would much rather see preventative measures put in place now, than see too little done too late. I’ve already lived through that once & that experience is why I am in the profession that I am in today. It’s why my profession is helping people.

So, you’ve come to a place of accepting this is the new normal. You’re coping with grief and loss in healthy ways. Now what? It’s time to create routine and structure. Routine is your friend. Especially if you have kids. Children thrive and feel safe when there is structure, order, and they know what to expect. That doesn’t mean you need to have every minute planned or color coded. But a general sense of the familiar and routine is helpful – we wake up, make our beds, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, walk the dog, two hours of school work, lunch, hour of play time, two more hours of school work, hour of computer time, dinner, shower, bed. Vague but you still get a general sense of a day.

With all of the transition and change, it can also be helpful to focus on the familiar. What is the same? Even if it’s something as simple as the same scented body wash or perfume that you use. You’re in the same bed. Have the same stuffed animal to sleep with. You love to make tacos on Tuesday. Whatever those little traditions are that feel familiar and safe – now is a good time to practice mindfulness and really relish in those moments!

One of the other big themes around COVID-19 that has been coming up is control. And I am happy to report that there are a lot of precautions that you can take that are well within your control. The most important is setting healthy boundaries. If the news is scary or overwhelming, shut it off. If Karen’s Facebook posts are getting on your last nerve, unfollow her. You can control the amount of social distancing you’re doing, which is helping to stop the spread of disease. You can focus on your self-care and keeping yourself healthy by getting extra sleep, exercise, and sunshine. Sleep, exercise, and sunshine/vitamin D are all helpful in boosting your overall mood and fighting anxiety and depression as well. Which is important because a reduction in stress is correlated with better immunity. So your mental and emotional health are paramount, which is why we’re also focusing on maintaining clients’ appointments and continuity of care at this time at Lake Norman Counselors. So call your therapist and book a therapy appointment. There are plenty of proactive and preventative steps within your control that you can actively take to feel safe right now.

So to recap:

  • come to a place of acceptance
  • allow yourself to grieve
  • cope with loss in a healthy way
  • create routine & structure
  • focus on the familiar & what you can control
  • set healthy boundaries
  • remember that safety comes first but self-care should come a close second!

We realize that any one of these steps, alone, can be overwhelming and challenging and that this is an incredibly stressful time. As an essential business offering mental health services, Lake Norman Counselors will remain open. We are committed, as we have always been, to serving our community and providing extraordinary care and luxurious amenities. We are doing everything in our power to keep our staff and clients healthy and safe. Even with the stay-at-home order, you can leave your home for therapy appointments. But for our existing clients, who it is therapeutically appropriate for, we are offering telehealth services. We are abiding by the recommendations of the CDC & World Health Organization, have implemented a health screening questionnaire for all clients prior to the start of sessions at the office to limit community spread, and have implemented additional sanitary measures, especially in the play room.

We have always prided ourselves on creating a warm and welcoming safe space for everyone who has walked through our doors. Our mission remains the same!

Lake Norman Counselors

The Best of Both Worlds

While play may be one of a child’s first mediums of communication, we all know that technology is a close second.

Have you heard how much kids are loving virtual counseling?

Our children’s counselor, Melissa Switek, LPC, is specially trained in play therapy, a modality that encourages counselors to communicate in a child’s natural language, PLAY! While play may be one of a child’s first mediums of communication, we all know that technology is a close second.

To prepare your child for their virtual counseling sessions provide them with:

  • A private confidential space, free from potential interruptions
  • Paper
  • Pencils or some markers
  • Play dough for creative expression
  • A favorite board game, card game, or toy (like LEGO’s) that that they may like to utilize

Then consult with your child’s counselor to schedule a time that works best for you! You can schedule with Melissa by emailing her today at melissa@lkncounselors.com. Our office is still open, and we are accepting new clients at this time.