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

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!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

New Year, New Me (& You)

Ahhh the new year. A time to buy discounted gym memberships and cute workout clothes. The new year brings about a season of resolutions and change. Typically this change takes the form of fitness goals, meal planning, and exercise classes – at least for a few weeks… 

While most find the need to put the time, energy, and money towards their own physical and mental health during the start of the new year (which as a holistic clinician I find essential to daily functioning), it’s just as important to invest in your relationships too.

As a couples counselor in Davidson, NC, I like to help my community focus and invest in their relationships. It can be very easy to get to a comfortable (complacent?) place with our partner. We often get distracted by other aspects of life and forget to prioritize our relationship, which is the foundation of our family. Most couples wait an average of 7 years from the onset of an issue to come to couples counseling! If your in-laws got on your nerves this past holiday season, do you really want to wait that long before you do anything about it? 

Not only is it a new year, but it’s a new decade as well. Maybe it’s time to take your relationship off the back burner this decade and put it on the forefront of your resolutions list.

Here are 3 ways to do just that: 

  1. Couples Counseling: Maybe I’m a bit bias to this one, but couples counseling is a great way to invest in your relationship. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have an “issue” to come to couples counseling! In fact, we like to focus on your goals (such as increasing intimacy, feeling more connected, communicating better, and feeling like a strong team) rather than problems – this is much easier to do when there aren’t many serious issues. Whether you’ve been in your relationship for one year or 40 years, it’s never too early or late to come in for a session.
  2. New Experiences: Our brain loves novelty. Trying something new and exciting with your partner is a great way to form a stronger bond between the two of you. Anything that changes up your daily routine such as traveling, trying a new restaurant, or cooking classes . Or how about a couples yoga class that you bought all those cute outfits for? 
  3. Get To Know Each Other – In This Decade: Something that sounds logical, but we often forget, is that you’re not the same person now that you were in the beginning of the relationship. Shocking, I know! It’s important to continuously get to know each other through the years, and it’s as simple as asking questions. I always recommend to my couples the app “Gottman Card Decks” which has many questions and topics that can be useful.Typically I don’t encourage cell-phone use when trying to connect with your partner, but I’ll let this one slide. 

These three suggestions are just a few ways to prioritize and invest in your relationship. I hope in this new year (and decade) you choose to find joy, peace, and growth for you and your relationship! 

If you need any more tips, suggestions, or help, my door is always open for individual or couples sessions! Feel free to reach out to me at madison@lkncounselors.com – Happy New Year!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

“I Am Enough.”

The new ideals surrounding body positivity and empowerment are growing on many social media platforms, helping teens and young adults create a stronger sense of self-esteem and confidence.

While the recent trend has been positive, we all still face many problems with daily use of social media and peer pressure. The constant comparison, negativity, and judgment on social media are still present. The nature of Snapchat, Instagram, Tiktok and many other social media platforms make it hard for teens to find validation, empowerment, and confidence within themselves. Instead, these platforms are conditioning us to seek external validation and praise: how many likes, how many followers, how many new comments do I have today? The numbers game is toxic.

When self-esteem is created through likes, comments, and posting what seems to be the “ideal” self or lifestyle (even if Instagram getting rid of likes) the need for external validation seems to follow teens and young adults everywhere. Yes, even in picturesque, Davidson, North Carolina.

Growing up in Davidson might seem like a dream – close to the lake and the hustle and bustle of Charlotte. But too often we hear about nightmare scenarios instead of dreams in our office. The desire to maintain a certain image, both in person and online, leads to anxiety, bullying, and negative self-talk. 

I work closely with my clients to build up their self-esteem and confidence, so that they can be the best version of themselves. I encourage my clients, teens especially, to take pride in their independence and ability to work through challenges, including the challenge of navigating the digital world.

Counseling is beneficial at all life stages, but I truly believe it to be fundamental to the success of today’s teens. With a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence, teens are more likely to engage with their family and community and create a positive network of support. Counseling can help combat the thoughts telling us “I am not good enough,” or “I am not likable,” and reframe them into positive, reassuring thoughts that promote a strong sense of self-esteem. Counseling can provide a lifetime of skills to carry into many phases of life with a happier, healthier self-image. 

 

 

Lake Norman Counselors, Providers

Transforming Tiger

Hi everyone, Victoria here! I am new to the Lake Norman Counselors team, and am excited to start my work counseling teens, adults, and families.

I received my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health right here in the Charlotte area. However, Davidson is an area outside of Charlotte that is new to me, and I am loving the beautiful views and being so close to the water. As my love for Charlotte grows, home to me is in Columbia, South Carolina. Even though I am from Gamecock country, I received my Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Clemson, and I am a huge Tiger fan- hoping for another national championship this year!

I have learned how a little bit of self-reflection, and taking time to take care of myself can be incredibly handy for getting through obstacles life presents us. I would also say, having a dog and a wonderful support system can help too! I come from a big family, and having their support means the world to me, but there is nothing compared to the love and snuggles I receive from my dog, Ollie. Ollie will soon start training to become a therapy dog, so he can join me in my passion for helping others. 

Becoming a counselor has been a lifelong dream of mine, which is why perseverance is a big attribute that has helped guide me through life. I am a big believer in working through the many challenges life may throw at you. This is where mindfulness comes into play, which is another aspect of my work as a counselor.

I appreciate taking time to “be in the present moment.” When practicing mindfulness, we can realize challenges are only a temporary part of our life, and like so many times in the past, we can get through them! 

I am looking forward to helping others work through their own obstacles and find time for self-care!

 

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Stronger Than Ever: A Wellness Approach

I’d like to think we’ve come a long way as a society in fighting some of the stigma around counseling, but I know we still have a long way to go in the mental health field to de-mystify what happens “on the couch.”

Most of our healthcare industry operates on the “medical model” – what I consider the “What’s broke? Let’s fix it” approach. And that’s fine if we’re talking about a broken arm; which a doctor would assess, diagnose, and then treat appropriately. A broken arm is pretty straightforward.

But mental health issues don’t get treated as neatly, on a perfect timeline, or get processed by x-ray machines. So why would mental health care operate on the same model?! We can’t operate under the same assumptions or on the same model for a number of reasons.

Most importantly, because you and/or your children are not broken!

Counselors practice by utilizing a wellness model rather than the medical model. The best comparison is to say that counseling is just like going to the gym! You don’t go to the gym because your biceps are broken. You go to make them stronger! You go to build muscle, endurance, flexibility, strength. This is the essence of the wellness model: a strength-based and goal-oriented approach.

Counselors (practicing some modalities more than others) offer clients skills and tools to help them navigate through life! Just like everyone would have different goals at the gym (toning vs building muscle vs endurance training, etc) everyone has different goals in counseling.

Ultimately, regardless of who you see, counseling is strength based and goaloriented!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

The Art of Procrastination

You should just read this later…

When you woke up this morning, was the nagging voice in your head the first voice that you heard? The voice that said, “you should’ve gotten up earlier to go to the gym.” Or “you should’ve finished that yesterday.” “You should unload the dishwasher.” “You should get some laundry done today, how many days in a row have you worn those pants now?” “You shouldn’t go out looking like this.” “You should’ve replied to that email/text.” “You really should meal prep & plan better lunches.”

Ugh. I’m exhausted from that internal dialogue already, and the day hasn’t even started. Is it time for bed yet?

If you even had a restful night of sleep in the first place, your energy level is going to quickly be depleted if you stay on that current mental trajectory. And you know what we do when we’re drained and exhausted? Nothing. Or at least nothing productive. We procrastinate!

One of the biggest complaints I hear repeatedly from clients (teens & adults) is around lack of motivation, low energy, not accomplishing goals, and procrastination. Well, I have great news. Working with someone like me – a trained cognitive behavioral therapist – can remedy those complaints. It’s hard work. It’s a constant mental battle to change our thoughts & thus our feelings, but we can train ourselves to think differently.

When it comes to procrastination, there’s one word getting in the way – should. “Shouldn’t” is also as equally toxic for our friends caught on semantics. If you re-read that first paragraph, all those draining, exhausting thoughts are should statements.

Here’s the results of should/shouldn’t statements: obligation, guilt, fear, embarrassment, dread, exhaustion, feeling judged, feeling as if we did something wrong, anxiety, anger, rebellion, being in conflict with what we really want or our values, hostility, irritation, lack of motivation… oh! And procrastination. I could continue, but I think you get the point.

Let’s evaluate two statements:

  • I want to go to the gym this morning.
  • I should go to the gym this morning.

How are those two statements different? How do they elicit different feelings? Is one more motivating than the other as you think or say them out loud?

You might follow through and do something you “should” do, but it’s going to be because there’s a sense of obligation, guilt, fear, embarrassment, dread, etc. if you don’t complete the task at hand. When you evaluate your life choices, are those the feelings you want driving your decisions?

Or would you rather be motivated by hope, energy, passion, drive, & enthusiasm? Because we typically correlate those feelings and motivators with what we want. And as a result, we’re more likely to follow through, accomplish our goals, and feel a sense of success or accomplishment as a result. Are you more likely to do something you want to do? Yes!!

Now my biggest skeptics, who typically have a culture of “should” very deeply ingrained (we can get into that in session), usually retort, “But there are things you have to do, things you should do, that don’t make me feel negatively!” Great! Then you’ve already learned how to reframe those “should statements” into “want statements” – so you’re ahead of the game.

Yes, I realize there is a reason I should look both ways before I cross the street. But guess what – I don’t want to get hit by a car today, so I am happy to do that! I want to look both ways to ensure my safety. So that reframe of the should to the want statement is relatively straightforward. It’s much harder when you’re doing work around issues you don’t want to do or when there’s a values conflict between what society/family/religion/etc tells you that you should do versus what you actually want to do.

So what are the best steps to eliminating procrastination & feeling more motivation? Becoming aware of your “should statements” is the first step! There will be a lot of them – so if that’s the case don’t be alarmed or surprised! We all have them.

If motivation & procrastination are an issue for you, please feel free to reach out. I can’t do therapy over a blog article and this is barely scratching the surface of the complexities of this issue! So please let me know how I can help – jamie@lkncounselors.com.