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

Human Connection in The Age of Social Distancing: Part II

In the first part of this article, I discussed the importance of finding meaningful connection by understanding the personality differences and love languages of those closest to you. In this article, I want to discuss some practical steps to putting that into action.

Every family or friend group is likely comprised of some combination of introverts and extroverts, with a wide variety of love languages. Again, Part I discusses how and why it’s crucial to figure out where everyone stands. Once you know the defining characteristics of the key players in “your circle,” you can move on with a better understanding of what might work best for your group dynamics.

Before I offer my exciting and creative suggestions, I want to make a comment on technology. As a counselor, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. As a couples counselor, especially, I can’t tell you how many times the words “texting is not communicating” have come out of my mouth. While I stand by this statement 110%, here we are, in the Age of Social Distancing. Which means that we’re all going to have to go the extra mile to connect with one another. Because, again, texting is not communicating. Just wanted to put that in writing so we’re all on the same page moving forward.

In stressful and unfamiliar times, it can be both reassuring and comforting to focus on the familiar and the positive. So my three suggestions are playing largely on nostalgia. Now these are three special and meaningful activities to me, but these suggestions are all easily adaptable! The entire city of New Orleans eats red beans and rice on Monday’s – I’m not sure why it’s a thing, but it’s comfort food. Now, that’s not the example I used (I did Taco Tuesday) because I figured tacos were a little bit more universal than red beans & rice. But my point is, it’s important to utilize the traditions in your culture, your family, and your friend group to come up with ideas of your own! While I’m a huge fan of tacos, my New Orleans friends and I could easily adapt these suggestions to a Monday red beans dinner. Getting creative to come up with something engaging is part of the fun.

  • Taco Tuesday’s:
    • Dinner with family and friends is such a great way to connect! So whether you’re supporting a local restaurant, or cooking at home, this is a wonderful way to connect as a group.
    • Introverts: Enjoy cooking or grilling outside in the beautiful weather; look up different salsa recipes to try each week as an appetizer; play your favorite music while you cook or relax with a glass of sangria. Our introvert friends can also be helpful in organizing and planning the shopping for the evening. If you’re planning on dining out, make a list of local restaurants and pick a new restaurant each week.
    • Extroverts: Arrange the date/time everyone will eat together; encourage your friends to Facetime during dinner so you feel like you’re at a dinner party; organize “themes” of the evening and see if your friends will dress up; have everyone make the same salsa/sangria/dips/etc and then vote on your favorite.
    • Verbal Affirmations: Thank them for their contributions to the evening; offer compliments on the dish they made and the hard work they put into making the meal; ask for advice; send a thank you card after the evening.
    • Acts of Service: Purchase the groceries you’ll need for the evening; help with meal prep or the dishes after dinner; put the kids to bed while they’re cooking dinner; make them their favorite cocktail without being asked; help with a task they hate doing (like chopping onions or taking out the trash).
    • Physical Touch: Within families or couples, a thank you hug or kiss for making dinner is appropriate; putting on lively salsa music and dancing together can be another fun way to physically connect with a partner or friends within your immunity community.
    • Quality Time: Spend time connecting during dinner with no distractions – no phones, no TV, etc; Ask open ended questions that illicit more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response; express gratitude for the time that you have together; express genuine interest and excitement in what is being said; actively listen.
    • Gift Giving: If you’re gathering with your ‘immunity community’ for this event, bring an appetizer or dessert that aligns with the theme you’ve picked; send everyone home with a funny “gag” gift; take a picture during the night and text it to everyone.
  • Christmas in… July?
    • The nostalgia and joy of Christmas can never come too soon in my opinion. We could all use a dose of Christmas cheer, so why wait until December (or July?). Let’s break out the decorations, sugar cookies, and our Christmas spirit right now!
    • Introverts: There’s so many introvert activities associated with Christmas. Our introvert friends can make our address lists for Christmas cards, assign everyone a different type of cookie for a cookie swap, or organize a “Friendsgiving” type of potluck. (Any one else getting hungry thinking about this? Just me?) Listening to your favorite Christmas music also has been shown to elevate your mood – so it’s never too soon to start the Christmas Spotify playlist!
    • Extroverts: While the introverts are doing the behind the scenes work, our extrovert friends are ultimately the friends throwing the party. Organize an Ugly Sweater party for your family or friends – virtually or in person, as appropriate given your circumstances. Have everyone dress up and create “Christmas cards” to share online to boosts everyone’s spirits. Get a small group together and go caroling in your neighborhood.
    • Verbal Affirmations: Send homemade Christmas cards to your loved ones with handwritten notes in each one.
    • Acts of Service: In the Christmas spirit, try to do a random act of kindness for a stranger. Make a donation to a local organization or support a local, family run business that could use your support!
    • Physical Touch: Cuddle with a mug of frozen hot chocolate while watching your favorite Christmas movie; sing your favorite Christmas carols in the shower.
    • Quality Time: Plan a “Friendsgiving” pot luck or White Elephant Gift Exchange with Quarantine Essentials (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, board games, etc).
    • Gift Giving: Organize a cookie exchange with your friends & family; send a friend who is struggling a small token of love to let them know you’re thinking of them!
  • Welcome to the Magical World of Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter not only has great messages about battling isolation, coming together as a community during tough times, and the power of human connection, it is also just an incredible story! I recommend having all of your friends take the Pottermore quiz, or another Sorting Hat Quiz, to establish which House you’re in. Depending on the size of your family or friend group, and how many people are in each house, you can create your own series of physical and academic challenges and score points towards “The House Cup.”
    • Introverts: Establishing a set of rules, especially if your family or friend group wants to have a House Cup challenge, is your time to shine! Make a list of suggestions for activities and challenges for the House Cup game and keep track of the house points. You can also make a House Scoreboard – which would be a fun craft. Re-reading the series and watching the movies will also give you plenty of time to recharge alone.
    • Extroverts: Connecting with your family and friends during House Cup challenges will help give you the connection you crave! Set up consistent times and expectations for scheduling around these events. Encourage your friends to dress up in their House colors. Post your pictures and videos on your social media pages and tag all of your friends. Read the books as well and then schedule “coffee dates” to discuss the latest in the series. You can also schedule virtual movie nights, make popcorn, and then have everyone discuss the movies afterwards.
    • Verbal Affirmations: Send your favorite Harry Potter memes or quotes from the books; send texts about funny parts in the books or movies that you thought they’d enjoy; call to discuss what you’re reading; compliment them on their extraordinary performance in the House Cup challenges!
    • Acts of Service: Offer to help with preparations for the House Challenges; make recipes from the book (like Butterbeer!).
    • Physical Touch: Cuddle on the couch with your partner and some popcorn while you enjoy the Harry Potter movies; the Harry Potter movies are a time commitment, so it’s important to take breaks… in the bedroom preferably.
    • Quality Time: Engage with each other during the House Cup challenges; schedule movie nights or coffee dates.
    • Gift Giving: Send an item in their house colors; put together a snack basket for movie night.

These are just a few ideas that can go in so many different directions! Taco Tuesday could be Spaghetti Wednesday; If you grew up in the Twilight generation instead of the Harry Potter Generation, then go read the Harry Potter books… I’m kidding (kind of...) No, but my point is that you can alter these suggestions to use a different book or different holiday.

Like I said, coming up with the idea is half the fun! Extroverts, poll your friends. Offer suggestions based on your own inside jokes, the TV shows and movies you like, your favorite foods, and holidays. This quarantine is offering us all a chance to be creative and connect in new and exciting ways. I hope we all take advantage of that opportunity. I’m looking forward to hearing about what you do to connect!

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!

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.