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. 

 

 

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, Providers

Work Hard, Play Hard

Melissa gets to have all the fun!

Hi, I’m Melissa, a child and adolescent mental health counselor. I’m also commonly referred to as the counselor with, “the fun office” here at LKN Counselors. I utilize play therapy and other creative experiential approaches in my work with children and adolescents, which means my office is filled with toys and art supplies making it look a little different than a traditional counseling office.

During my training, I learned about an approach to counseling children called play therapy and immediately knew that is what I wanted to offer my clients. Children experience life stressors just like adults; they just don’t always have the words to convey their thoughts and feelings. Play allows children to express themselves in their natural medium of communication and play therapy allows them to do so in a way that promotes healing. This immediate connection led me complete a certificate in play therapy, and I now offer this service to many of our youngest clients.

Being that I am naturally introverted myself, I found myself drawn to these experiential therapy modalities that allow my clients to experience self reflection and practice new ways of being in addition to articulating these feelings and experiences verbally.

Throughout my experience working in the mental health field, I have worked with a variety of ages. My passion truly comes from working with young children and their families. There’s nothing like the genuine personality of a child, which makes working with them tons of fun and definitely keeps me on my toes! Children also possess a natural inclination towards growth, which comes with great sense of hope for the future. Working with children also involves working with their families. I realize how frustrating parenting can be at times but also how rewarding it can be as well! Coming from a relatively big family myself, I love the energy that comes in with every family that walks through my doors, and I am honored to work with families throughout their journeys.

This blog will include activities for families, behavior management skills, resources for parents, and inspirational stories on parenting. My hope is that these articles will promote understanding between parents and children and help parents re-discover the joys of parenting.

Don’t forget to play today!

Melissa