Lake Norman Counselors

Hope for Tomorrow

In times of chaos and crisis, there’s a wide variety of reactions. Anxiety, grief, fear, denial – these reactions are all normal, especially in abnormal circumstances. I want to discuss each of these reactions and how therapy can help you cope if this is where you find yourself, but I also want to discuss the most important reaction and motivator: hope. And how to get there.

Anxiety. I love working with anxious clients. There’s an energy that comes with anxiety, and it’s rewarding teaching clients how to harness that energy, utilize it, and make it productive. Channeling that anxious energy into positive outlets and learning the necessary distress tolerance and emotional regulation skills takes work, but it’s very possible with the right therapist!

Grief, on the other hand, is a different beast. Grief work is exhausting. There is unfortunately no quick fix for grief. It takes time. And can feel like a slow process. But it is rewarding sitting with someone in their despair and being there for them, completely. Most of the time the most appropriate therapeutic response is a moment of silence… the moment is incredibly heavy and drenched with emotion. But it’s our job, as therapists, to help alleviate the burden of grief. To help you carry it. To remind you that you aren’t alone.

Grief manifests differently outside of the office though. It takes so many different shapes and forms. It hides behind anger, fear, sarcasm, humor, and denial. The ways in which we watch our loved ones cope with grief can be unsettling; they start to make jokes and hide behind humor, keep busy, intellectualize, or emotionally breakdown and cease to function. These reactions can be confusing and disjointing, especially if our own grief manifests differently. This is common, but it often makes the grieving process more complex and confusing. It also usually leaves us feeling alone at times as we sit sobbing while we watch our husband (or brother, cousin, Uncle Steve, etc) across the room – now the life of the funeral – cracking jokes doing his own stand up routine. This disconnect with our loved ones is difficult, especially when we want and need support the most, and adds to the burden of grief, so having your therapist validate and normalize your experience can be incredibly reassuring.

Fear is one of life’s most powerful motivators, which is particularly concerning as fear often makes us act irrationally. Fear makes us stockpile two years worth of toilet paper and all of the cleaning supplies in a five mile radius (which essential businesses like your local mental health private practice desperately need to keep their staff & clients healthy). Fear makes us over react and panic. It makes us lash out and act impulsively. For all of these reasons, and many more, fear is not the driving force or motivator we want behind our decision making, especially in life-and-death decisions or during a crisis. Fortunately, you can combat these irrational thoughts with a good CBT (Cognitive Behavioral) therapist and eliminate your fear(s).

And last, but certainly not least, denial… as scary as it is to be operating from a place of fear, I’m more concerned about those in denial, who don’t seem to fully grasp the seriousness and longevity of what we’re facing. The family and friends who are in denial, who are not willing to accept the physical, economic, and mental health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, are dangerous. They will likely spread this disease if they aren’t strictly abiding by social distancing and quarantine protocols, which will result in unnecessary death and the delayed opening of businesses, which will continue to hurt our economy. The longer we have to be in isolation, and the longer our economy and small businesses suffer, the worse the mental health ramifications will be for everyone. We’ll see increased substance abuse, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, child abuse, overdoses, and suicides. This is a big pill to swallow. Which is why those struggling with this reality need therapeutic intervention and support the most. They need professional, compassionate help to face their fears, understand the impact of their actions on others, and ultimately come to a place of radical acceptance.

X marks the spot Katrina left on our psyches

I keep calling this time period “Katrina 2.0” but this is worse than Katrina in so many ways. Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. There was a date of impact. There was physical damage. You could see it. Lord – you could smell it. I’ll never forget that smell. I refuse to freeze meat to this day because of that smell. My point is, Katrina was tangible. COVID-19 hasn’t been tangible for many people… yet. Which makes it so much easier to live in denial, fear of the unknown, anxiety as we wait for an invisible enemy to attack, and/or mourning for the normalcy of our lives. Again, all of these reactions are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances. I completely understand these reactions and responses. But without acceptance and understanding, there is a short-sightedness that is causing more harm than good. I hope and pray to God every day that I never see another Katrina X on my home. I am dreading the day we get to the point that the National Guard is doing welfare checks and putting a body count on everyone’s homes – not just from COVID, but from overdose, suicide, domestic violence spiraling out of control, etc. I’m hopeful it won’t get that bad, especially if we can all band together, follow the CDC guidelines, and take the proper precautions…

Hope.

If anything is going to guide your decision making or be a motivator at this time – let it be hope. Hope requires acceptance first. You need to understand and accept the reality of the world we’re living in and hope that we’ll come out of this stronger as individuals and a community. I hope we can flatten the curve. I hope that my staff stays healthy, so we can continue serving our community. I hope all of our healthcare workers stay safe! This is a time to put our positive intentions into the world and take action to make those hopes a reality.

This is an opportunity for positive change! Even if the change is that you get to sleep more than you used to, wear your pajamas to work, or spend more time with your dog. I’ll call that a win. I know my dogs are certainly considering it a win!

I’m not saying you have to move mountains at this time. I get that depending on where you’re starting and what your mental and emotional state is, that’s not realistic. But this is an opportunity to focus on your self-care and wellbeing in a way that you might not have had before. We all seem to have an abundance of time on our hands.

But if you are in a place that you are safe, healthy, and mentally/emotionally able – there is plenty of opportunities for personal growth, community outreach, and change on systemic level. I would be happy to send a long list of healthcare and/or education initiatives if you’re struggling for ideas. Volunteering is a great way to channel energy into a productive and useful means of helping others that often feels meaningful and hopeful.

I hope that both individually and as communities we can find hope during this pandemic, particularly when it feels like our efforts are wasted – they’re not. I remember the sense of national pride after 9/11 – the unity. I hope we can find that same spirit of hope, unity, and support again. It worked for New Orleans after Katrina. I saw it work for Boston (#bostonstrong) after the marathon. It’s time that we show how resilient our people and communities can be – stronger together. Hope has the power to do this!

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

What to Say When There Are No Words

What to say when you have no words: How to talk to your children about difficult topics

As many of us are reflecting on the tragedy that occurred in our city yesterday, please do not neglect the importance of talking to your kids about what happened.

Children are innately receptive to the well being of their caregivers and can pick up on the grief and nervous energy that will be among us as they return to school.

Give your child age appropriate, factual information so that if they overhear their peers or teachers discussing this tragedy they will feel informed. Remind them of the safety plans that are in place at their school and reassure them that they know the drill.

It brings tears to my eyes to even fathom that we now have active shooter drills in schools. So remember, it is ok to tell your child, “It makes me feel sad to talk about shootings, but I am really glad that we can talk about topics that upset us.”

If your child has questions that you are not quite sure how to answer or that you don’t have an answer for reflect what your child is feeling. For example, your child may ask, “mommy, why would somebody want to shoot other people?” you could say something like, “It is really hard to understand why someone would hurt others.”

Do what you need to in order to get yourself into a calm, controlled state and then initiate this conversation with your child. Stay brief, stay factual, and follow your child’s lead. If you don’t know how to answer your child’s questions you can always say, “I do not have an answer for that, what do you think the answer is?” or “tell me more about what you’re thinking.” Many times children already have the answers to their own questions and it is more important that you are listening as they process the answer than it is to give them your answer.

Some children ask many questions and other children say, “ok” and return to their play. Regardless, what is important is that you’re teaching your child that you are willing to talk about difficult topics. Nothing is more reassuring to a child than knowing their caregivers can handle their thoughts and feelings. 

For more information on this or how to talk with your kids about other difficult topics please reach out to us at LKN Counselors! 

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

The Lost Art of Losing

For Carolina fans, you’ll remember the New Orleans Saints beating your beloved Panthers to advance on to play Minnesota in the playoffs this year. It was a great game – I was even there!

It was a fabulous time at home in the Dome!

And then New Orleans flew to Minnesota, and our hopes for a Black & Gold Super Bowl vanished…

It was a loss – a crushing (some might even say unfair since the refs were a little biased…. 🙄) and devastating playoff loss… but you might be surprised by immediate response.

These were two of my favorites:


This first, immediate response is from former Saints player and daily inspiration – the one & only, Steve Gleason. If you don’t know about Gleason, Team Gleason, or understand why this joke is absolutely hysterical, you’re missing out on a true treasure! Look him up! Gleason has been a beacon of hope -and now humor- for the city of New Orleans for over a decade.

My second favorite response was pulled from Nola.com the next morning…


It’s a new day… dust yourself off… prepare for the world’s biggest party (it’s Mardi Gras season). 💜💚💛

And to the young player who missed the tackle?

It’s okay!

Less than 24 hours and the city has a billboard up telling Marcus Williams we love him! We lost the game in the last ten seconds but do we hold grudges?! No!! Ain’t nobody got time for that. There’s a parade this afternoon!

It may sound silly, but one lesson I learned in New Orleans was to celebrate loss. I mean, we celebrate everything else… so why not? Our funerals are celebrations. (Probably the epitome of celebrating loss.) We celebrate when our team wins. And yes, we celebrate when we lose. Because what’s the alternative? Just going home? Sulking all night?

We can’t change the outcome, but we can celebrate the experience! I had my friends over for the MN game. I made delicious apps. We had an adorable puppy to play with and entertain us during commercial breaks. It was a great game! I had a fabulous night with great people & great food watching a great game. What is there to mourn?

Now, I get that it’s easy to minimize the outcome of a football game (although two weeks shy of the Super Bowl – I wouldn’t say that to any Eagles fans!). But what if your loss is more substantial?

This is when we go back to that key word experience. You played the game so to speak. There is value in that alone. Maybe you didn’t come out on top, but you now have more information than you did before about what you can do to be better, stronger, wiser, or more tactful in the future. That’s not really a loss… it might not be a win either, but at least you’re gaining valuable insight you wouldn’t have otherwise.

You might not be able to change your situation or an outcome, but you can always change your perception. Again, Steve Gleason is a great role model… refer to joke above.

In the end, the difference between a winner and a loser isn’t what is on the scoreboard. It’s about attitude and perception. If you can learn to celebrate when you win and lose – you never really lose…

WHO DAT. ⚜️

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Thanks-dreading?

There’s an empty seat at the table this year. You can’t make it back home. Your parents are divorcing after decades of marriage. The tension from the 2016 election still lingers.

Happy Thanksgiving?

If you are experiencing apprehension, sadness, resentment, stress, or anger this holiday season, you’re not alone. I know, I know! It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” and a time to “count our blessings” and “be grateful.” If you want to punch the next person who tells you that in the face, I promise you aren’t crazy or alone. Although, you should probably book a session & talk to a professional counselor about that because violence is only going to make an already shitty situation worse…

Despite the media’s best intentions to skip Thanksgiving altogether (pretty sure it’s been Christmas since October?), we’re days away the Big Parade & it’s coming whether we’re ready or not.

So what can you do to make it through this Thanksgiving without posting bail?

1. Be intentional in creating/finding times in the day that you’re actually looking forward to – it could be your morning run to Starbucks (most Starbucks are open on Thanksgiving! Trust me, I know these things), spending time talking with a friend, a moment alone listening to your favorite song, a hot bath, or cuddling with your pets at the end of the day. Be intentional in creating a time (or times) during the day doing something that will bring you joy or contentment.

2. Have an escape plan. Setting boundaries with family directly and calling it quits when you’ve reached your limits is always best for your mental & emotional health. But if you aren’t a fan of confrontation, it’s okay! I have great news for y’all – it’s 2017! For better or for worse, technology has advanced to a point where you have endless options to escape from a conversation or situation causing distress. The best route is to go in with a plan: distract that annoying relative with pictures so they stop asking inappropriate questions, have a code word to text your siblings when you get cornered, make plans for dessert with friends so you need to leave at a set time. Simple arrangements made ahead of time go a long way in making your day go smoothly!

3. Utilize healthy coping skills. At Thanksgiving especially, it’s easy to eat and drink our pain or discomfort away. While that might work in the moment, it’s not effective coping long term. So again, intention is key! What are the healthy coping skills you generally utilize when you’re upset, overwhelmed, or stressed? Make sure you’re intentional in how you cope, so it doesn’t lead to more feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

Remember, it’s only one day.

The commercials with the happy, TV families can be really invalidating when you’re in pain. The holiday season can be a very isolating time for that very reason. So please reach out to someone! A counselor, a friend, a coworker, a neighbor, a family member you trust. I promise you’re not alone!

Counseling, Lake Norman Counselors

Welcome!

Welcome to the Lake Norman Counselors Blog! We are all so excited to have another platform to advocate, educate, and connect with our community.

So, first things, first… introductions! We are Lake Norman Counselors. Technically, our legal name is LKN Counselors, PLLC but we also go by Lake Norman Counselors or LKNC for short.

At Lake Norman Counselors, we enjoy working collaboratively with our clients to help them lead lives of passion and purpose. We offer luxury, convenience, comfort, and only the best evidence based therapeutic services to the Lake Norman community.

We offer play therapy for children as young as two, individual counseling to teens and adults, premarital, couples, and family counseling.

The well-being of our clients and staff as always been our top priority at Lake Norman Counselors. We’ve always gone above & beyond to create a welcoming, safe, & inviting space for everyone that walks through our doors & that mission remains the same!

We have been monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely & remain laser focused on our operation as the situation evolves. We are adhering to the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & the World Health Organization (WHO). As an essential business, we are remaining open with increased sanitary measures, particularly in our play room, in place. Even with the stay-at-home order in place, you can leave your home for your therapy appointments!

We are also offering Telehealth (phone or virtual sessions) to any client who does not feel safe or comfortable leaving their home. We are also extending our day time and evening (5-9pm) hours & will leave time in between sessions so clients don’t over lap to promote social distancing.