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Fighting the Winter Blues

Fighting the Winter Blues

By Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

 

Around the end of winter I hear a lot of people talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  Most people think that the disorder centers around feelings of sadness (much like the acronym suggests) occuring in a particular season, and often the true disorder gets confused with the winter blues.  

 

In truth, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a more severe version of the winter blues.  Clients report feelings of depression or lethargy that occur in a predictable cycle, such as every winter.  Sometimes this pattern is part of another condition, such as Bipolar Disorder (click for more information on Bipolar Disorder), but often these feelings can be a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  This is different from the winter blues, that a great number of people suffer from, in a few ways. For one, SAD doesn’t have to occur only in winter.  An individual can suffer from SAD during any season, but such episodes would be reoccuring during that particular season every year. The winter blues are also less severe than Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Our functioning and emotional range may be lessened, but it is not so depleted that it is causing significant detriment to our usual lifestyle.

 

No, the winter blues are something that creep up on us throughout the season and make us feel down, tired, annoyed, or frustrated.  Our hopefulness can decrease during this time period, and we can even feel low levels of depression as a result. For me, and a great number of my clients, the winter blues strike hardest in the month of February.  I had one client declare February the “armpit of the year,” and I am inclined to agree.

 

First off, let me say this for the shortest month of the year– it is not all bad.  Some of the most cherished people in my life were born in February. I’ve built a fantastically tall snowman on Valentines day, gone skiing for the first time, enjoyed housebound snow days with my kiddos, and celebrated joy with the most wonderful people.  That being said, I have also seen my greatest struggles during this last month of winter.

 

Why is February so ‘meh?’  What about this month pushes a button for so many people?  Well, here is what I have heard and concluded within myself.  January is over, the excitement of a new year and new possibilities has faded, and we are left with the realization that a magical wind did not bring the kind of sweeping changes we foresaw as the ball dropped.  Our resolutions are feeling harder and harder to achieve, and we now see how much work they can be. Or, we aren’t seeing the fruits of our month long labor of change and are disappointed.

 

Perhaps our relationship was in a difficult place pre-holidays and we put off dealing with that until “after” the holiday madness, but now it’s “after” and we must finally face those difficult conversations or painful choices.  

 

Logistically, this is a complicated month as well.  It’s cold, and it’s been cold for what seems like forever. February is often grey, dreary, and wet.  Getting outside and seeing our friends or enjoying ourselves takes a considerable effort. Bonus, in my house if anyone is going to get sick, like really sick, it’s going to happen in February.  Motivation can be elusive, football is over, baseball hasn’t started, interest payments from lavish Christmas gifts are now due and tax returns are still weeks away. Oh, and did I mention Valentine’s Day, with all the baggage that holiday can carry, is gonna fall right smack dab in the middle of all this?  It can all feel like it’s just too much.

 

However difficult this month may seem, especially now that I have painstankely pointed out the possible pitfalls, there is hope.  Here is how I combat the February blues and how I encourage my clients to do so as well.

 

 

  • Be Intentional

 

      • Don’t let dark days and difficulties sneak up on you.  Reactively making choices to difficult situations can distract us from those things that truly bring us joy.  
      • Make a plan.  I plan for February in December.  I look at the calendar for fun holidays (hello Mardi Gras) that I can celebrate with my family.  I put more effort into my evenings by planning enjoyable activities for me and for my family. We do many family game nights (winner gets a scratch off lotto ticket) and we buy more movies in the month of February than any other time of year.  Saturdays are a mix of organizing, baking, and fun outings (even when it’s hard to get out.)
      • I carve out intentional ways to connect with my spouse.  I throw in extra effort during February because I know we both need it, and I know how much happier I feel when I put forth the energy.

 

  • Make Self-Care a Priority

 

      • What things really help you feel like YOU?  Is it yoga?  Is it reading?  Swimming, chatting with friends, running, bingeing your favorite movies with a cup of hot chocolate?  Whatever you do that helps you reconnect with the joyful and authentic pieces of yourself, write it down.  Make a list of the things that fill you up and energize you.
      • Once you know what those things are, make them non-negotiable.  Your kids may have to wait 15 minutes for you to finish your morning workout before you make them breakfast, and they will survive.  You may ditch the laundry on Saturdays in favor of brunch with friends– it can wait. Remember self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity  

 

  • Cut Yourself Some Slack

 

    • When we foresee a difficult period approaching, it is imperative we be kind to ourselves.  Be generous with your inner praise and quiet the critical voice when it pipes up. Forgive your lack of energy or motivation quickly and offer compassion in the place of reprimand.  This is a hard month, more so than others, and it is okay to feel this struggle.
    • Like the guilt free self-care, allow your personal indulgences this month to happen with gratitude rather than judgement.  If you are going to splurge on a trip (maybe someplace warmer??), February is a great month to do so. Reward yourself for your efforts in a big way this month.  Remember these little celebrations and moments of joyful anticipation are the things that will carry you through to brighter days.

 

Lastly, remember you are not alone in your struggle.  As I mentioned earlier, many of my clients tell a similar tale of woe during February.  On the other hand, maybe February is awesome for you. Winter weather and hockey season may be your thing, and you are thinking this entire article isn’t for you at all.  Actually, these tips of preparation, self-care, and compassion work for any situation where you know it’s going to be a rough time. Maybe it’s just a few days you are dreading and you need a way to ease the hardship.  

 

Perhaps you don’t foresee any complicated time period coming up.  These ways of viewing the world can help you elevate the everyday rhythm of life as well.  Each and every person can benefit from prioritizing enjoyment and minimizing self criticism.  If a hard February turns into a harder March, and a painful April, reach out to us at Noyau.  We have been helping clients heal from hurt and cultivate more fulfilling lives for over a decade, and we can help you too.

 

Valentine’s Day: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

 

Valentine’s Day:  What’s Love Got to Do with It?

By Angela S. Taylor MA, LPC-S

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and the mixed emotions that people experience range from pure happiness and joy to utter disappointment and sadness.  It’s a day that the world tells us should be filled with outward displays of love for our partners, and we should definitely be partnered up. Being single is supposedly unacceptable and deeply saddening.  Even if you’re in a partnership, it’s difficult to measure up to the expectations of the perfect night, perfect gift, and perfect show of affection.

But…what if we made this day just about love?  What if it was a day that we dedicated to loving ourselves better? What if it was a day that we told and showed our friends and family how much we love and appreciate them?  What if we used the day to love on our community and our world? Now, that’s something maybe we can all get on board with.

Here are some fresh ideas on how to spend your Valentine’s Day:

  1.        Focus on self love and do some good self care today.  

-Take a bubble bath, get a massage, read that book you’ve been wanting to read, take a yoga class, etc.  Do things today that nurture your soul and help you remember you deserve to be taken care of by you (and maybe make a commitment to integrating this into your everyday life).

  1.       Celebrate your friendships!

-Let your friends know how special they are to you, and schedule time with them.  Go to dinner, do a potluck at someone’s house, grab a coffee, etc. Set aside your phone and truly focus on good conversation and connecting with the important people in your life.  And don’t forget to reach out and call those that live far away – a quick call or text can be truly meaningful and let someone know how much you really value having them in your life.

  1.       Love on your family.  

-We often forget to tell our parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews how much they add to our lives and how grateful we are for them.  This is a great time to take the opportunity to do this. Dig into old memories and maybe share with them one of the times that made you smile or a day they lifted your spirits when you needed them.  Share some laughs from growing up or simply just remind them that they matter in your life.

  1.       Community service.  

-Have you been thinking about finding a place to give back?  Today is a great time to look into what opportunities are around you and where you feel the most need.  Do you have a special skill you can offer or a population you feel passionate about right now? There are always places and events that need you, and this is a good time to get the process started.

 

These are just a few of the different ways you can celebrate Valentine’s Day whether you’re in a partnership or not.  When we lean into gratitude over the people in our lives, express love, and give back with kindness, it’s hard to not be filled with joy.  So make this Valentine’s Day your own. Don’t be swayed by what society tells you that you should be or should be doing and experiencing. You get to design your day (and your life) to fill you up with the love and joy you deserve!

How to a Counselor by Charity Hagains

Thinking of starting Counseling in this New Year?  

Tips for Finding a Therapist That’s Right for You

Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

 

If this new year has you thinking about better self care, healthier habits, or just letting go of the previous year’s struggles, you may be considering starting counseling.  With that decision made, your next hurdle is to find the “right” counselor for you. It’s this phase which can lead people to feel anxious or stuck and often prevents them from entering counseling.  It can be difficult to know where to find a therapist, how to know if they are any good at counseling, or if you are going to feel comfortable building a relationship with them. While there is no fast way to know for sure if you are going to “click” with your therapist, here are a few tips to help you find your way towards a trusting and beneficial counseling relationship.

 

  • Do your research
    • Before your first session, you will have probably looked through dozens of therapist profiles trying to determine which counselor is right for you.  Some things to look for when you are reading through counselor bios are:
      • Do they talk about how they view the counseling relationship, and do you agree with their vision?
      • Do they have the necessary schooling and license? (LPC, LPC Intern, LPC-S)
      • Does their profile speak to you in some way that gives you confidence?
  • Be open
    • Some people feel like a therapist will only be able to relate to their struggles if they are of the same background or share similar life experiences.  While I understand the desire to see a piece of yourself in your counselor, I urge you to be open to counselors who are different from you. Most people enter counseling looking for new solutions to their problems or new perspectives on how to view their situation.  My clients are smart and thoughtful people who have already ventured down many avenues of problem solving. They have tried everything they know, and are looking for new ways to get them where they want to go. For that reason, a person with a very different background may be the best fit.  They will likely see your issue from a perspective that is foreign to you. Our training as therapists allows us to open ourselves up to view the world through your eyes, while still holding on to our own ways of understanding. Someone who is in a different season of their life, or comes from a different culture or background, may be able to see the answers a counselor who is “just like you” never could.
  • Trust your gut
    • The therapeutic relationship can often feel intimidating at first.  Some see the therapist as an authority figure, or they may worry the counselor will judge them if they are honest about their darkest thoughts.  These feelings are normal when entering counseling. However, if these feelings persist and get in the way of you being able to build trust with your therapist ask yourself a few of these questions:
      • When do I feel the most uneasy about going to counseling?
      • What is my counselor doing or saying that causes me to feel a sense of fear or distrust?
      • Are these feelings coming from within me or are they being sparked by something going on in the counseling room?
      • Do I feel comfortable enough to confront these feelings and talk to my counselor about them?
      • Do I feel that my therapist cares about me?
    • The therapeutic relationship is built on trust and acceptance.  Your therapist should help you feel open and at ease during your time together.  While it can take a few sessions to build rapport, it should come quickly. If it doesn’t it is imperative you discuss this with the therapist.  They should respond with sincerity and work with you on your terms to build a comfortable and beneficial relationship. Should they become defensive, blaming or angry, or if you just can’t form that bond with them, trust your gut and move on to another counselor who may be a better fit.  While counseling is not always comfortable and the therapist has a duty to confront some of your thoughts or behaviors (which may not feel good) it shouldn’t be a harmful or threatening relationship.

 

Whether you are entering counseling for the first time, or returning after a long break, you can expect your counselor to treat you with the utmost respect and care.  Our field is full of therapists who feel empathy and compassion on the deepest levels and we desire to connect with every client who honors us with their story. At Noyau, we focus on the therapeutic relationship and believe it has the capacity to heal, but what makes our work truly gratifying is seeing the relationship grow with our clients’ progress.  We see clients change in profound and meaningful ways before our eyes and we want to spread that feeling to everyone who seeks therapy. If you would like to know more about finding a therapist that is right for you check out our youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1jPPVAredcBmw-WimnOOyQ or give our offices in Dallas or Fort Worth a call to speak to our Counselor Match Specialist.

 

Dallas (214)706-0619 Ft.Worth (628)385-9540

5445 La Sierra Dr. Suite 200 1701 River Run Suite 805

Dallas TX 75231 Ft. Worth TX 76107

 

It’s Not Too Late: Tackling Mid-January Burnout

It’s Not Too Late:  Tackling Mid-January Burnout

by Angela S. Taylor MA, LPC-S

So it’s mid-January, and you set some pretty amazing goals, resolutions, intentions, etc. for this year!  But…you’re feeling completely unmotivated. What happened? Why were you so excited to start fresh and are now just not feeling it?  Why is it so difficult to create a new healthy habit that you know is good for you? You are not alone. People are struggling with this all over, right now.  Luckily, we’re here to help! Here are 5 ways to get yourself back on track.

  1.        Be gentle with yourself.

You are human!  It’s not easy to create a new habit when we’ve already established unhealthy habits for years.  You are trying to disrupt a system, narrative, and pattern that has been established and cemented in your life for a very long time.  This takes time (and a ton of effort) to do. Remind yourself that you are normal, but you’re also valuable and worthy enough to make good changes in your life.

  1.       Start small.

We have a tendency to try to overhaul our entire lives at the beginning of the year.  We’re going to eat healthy, workout every day, be a better partner and parent, go to church weekly, etc.  This feels overwhelming and impossible to maintain. Starting with small goals will help you reach your larger ones in a much more sustainable way, and you won’t feel so defeated when you don’t make it to every workout class this week.  Can you replace your normal lunch with 2 salads this week? Maybe you can fit in 3 30 minute workouts this week?

  1.       Be intentional.

“Hope is not a strategy.”  I think of this phrase often when setting goals with my clients as well as myself.  We consistently say things like, “I hope I can start working out,” “I’m really going to be better about eating this year,” “I’m going to be more active in reaching out to friends,” etc.  While all of these are great goals, there is not plan behind them. What can you actually do? Be very purposeful about when and how you are going to achieve your goals. What days and times will you be working out this week?  Who will you reach out to, and what day of the week can you fit that in? Really focus on your week, and how you plan to achieve these milestones.

  1.       Focus on how achieving your goals will make you feel.

How will you feel when you’re excelling at work, more deeply connected to your friends, calmer with your kids?  A lot of the time we think of reaching goals from the outside in. We focus more on how others will perceive and feel about us rather than how we will actually feel living the life we want to live.  This mentality usually leads to unsustainability. It will never be enough because you can’t please everyone, make everyone happy, and there will always be someone you believe is outperforming you. So really focus inward and think about the joy and energy you will have when you are pursuing and achieving these goals.

  1.        Enjoy the journey!

I know this is a little cliché, but there’s so much truth in these words.  You’re living this life right now! Do not let these moments pass you by waiting for that thing to happen or expecting that when you reach that goal then you get to be happy.  The here and now is so important, and you don’t want to lose this time waiting for the next thing. Be present and lean into gratitude. What are you doing right now that makes you happy?  What can you do today that you know will bring you joy? Who are you connecting with that makes you feel more purposeful? What activity are you engaging in that gives you more energy to live your life to the fullest?

So, it’s not too late to get back on track!  Your new life doesn’t have to start at the beginning of a year or on a Monday.  It can start right now! If you’re struggling with figuring out who you want to be or where you want to go, Noyau counselors and life coaches can help you find a path and plan.  Call us today to get started on your exciting journey!

Last 90 Days: How to Finish 2018 Stronger than You Started

What if you finished the last 90 days of the year stronger than you started?  What if when you start 2019, you feel stronger and more empowered than ever, rather than feeling like you’re starting over?  What if you felt like your best self all through the holidays rather than exhausted and drained? What if you didn’t have to make new promises and resolutions because you’ve already been engaging in healthy habits for at least three months?

I recently heard Rachel Hollis discuss #Last90Days, and I believe it’s such an incredible concept.  Often times, we let everything go in the last several months of the year. We lose sight of eating well, working out, maintaining self care, engaging in gratitude, etc., – anything and everything that helps us feel vibrant and ready to take on life.  We make promises to ourselves that we’ll start fresh in the new year. But…this is a quarter of your year! This is a great time to finish strong and start your new, healthy life. You are worth it and valuable enough to invest in you. There’s so much during this season that will be grabbing for your attention, but you have to take care of you first to truly enjoy all that is around you.

Here are a couple of questions to get you started:

  1.       What do you keep saying you’ll start in the new year?
  2.       What resolutions did you make last year?
  3.       How much time do you devote on you during your day?
  4.       What are the things that make you happy that you’ve already let fall off your agenda with the beginning of Fall?
  5.       What gave you energy over the last year?

After answering these questions, what positive change can you make or pay more attention to today?  Try to maintain that for a week and then add something new next week. For example, can you get a walk in 3-4 times this week?  Maybe next week, you can get those walks in and call 2 friends you’ve been meaning to catch up with for some time now.

Let us help you start your #Last90Days!  Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to get you started on the road to the best and happiest you!

#RachelHollis

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