Happy New Year!

Reflections & Goals on NYE

2018. Man, what a year. As I woke up this morning, I found myself doing some reflecting as is common practice on New Year’s Eve. I’m not a big “new year’s resolution” type person, however, I am a person who does better when I have goals and ideas to work toward. It helps me take the millions of things that run through my mind, sift out the most important pieces, and get some focus and direction.

Last year at this time, my family and I had traveled up to Boston to see family then to Rhode Island to see friends. On NYE, we went around in a circle and shared what we were thankful for in the year prior and what we hoped for in 2018. Some were silly, some were serious. I remember feeling unprepared when it was my turn but went with the thing that had been nagging at me for quite some time. It started some time around 2014, and got louder and louder and louder in my mind: it was to find more balance and to be more present. Well, doesn’t that just sound like a therapist’s response? But something happened when I said it out loud for myself and others to hear: shit got real.

I remember going through that night chewing on those words, my mind trying to operationalize what that meant. It sounded great, but what the hell did it mean? We’ve probably all heard about SMART goals, right? A goal that is Simple, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-bound. Well, mine was none of those things. We had a 12 to 13-hour drive home for me to keep thinking. Between changing movies for the kids, gas-station stops, and answering “how much longer til we’re home, mama?” 1000 times, this hope for the upcoming year started to take shape.

It took some digging into exactly what was preventing me from feeling balanced and present, and also what “balanced and present” would actually look like. As much as I had been fighting it, I had to look at my job. My work was killing me. I wasn’t happy there anymore. I dreaded Mondays. Hell, I dreaded every day. I was depressed. I talked to my husband and told him I think I needed to go back to school and totally switch my career because I couldn’t imagine anything in my field besides where I was. I knew I couldn’t find a more stable, predictable, well-paying job than what I had. Plus, I was 12 years into my career, so starting over somewhere else seemed like a major step backwards. I was so focused on the scary parts of change I missed the obvious question my husband hit me with: “what parts of your job do you still like?” I still liked, no LOVED, working with trauma survivors and PTSD. Seeing people live lives they wanted to live without letting the trauma drive. Meeting new patients. Understanding where they are vs. where they want to be. How excited I still felt every time a patient said they felt “hope” for the first time in decades or were able to go do something they never thought they’d be able to do. It’s my heart work, it’s what I’m good at and what I love doing. Jumping into the scary stuff that most people want to ignore or run from somehow became normal, and joining with that person to face their fears and come out on the other side stronger, empowered, and hopeful was the most fulfilling thing I could imagine.

So thanks to my husband for helping me to see through the fear and anxiety and shift my focus back to what I love.

Ok, so my job was fucking up my balance and ability to be present. And i realized I still am in love with what I do. Now what?

I looked for jobs. I interviewed for jobs. I got job offers. None quite fit. I met some of the most inspirational women along this path though, and it got me thinking: I could own my own practice. I could start a business. I can do the work I love to do, help people who need my help, and still be a wife and mom (and maybe find some time to take care of myself?).

Well let’s just say this idea went from just an idea to owning a business just a few short weeks later, then I just had to jump. I took trainings. I took classes. I learned all the boring business stuff I had to learn. Forced myself to learn to build a website (there were a lot of tears). I did all of those things again because, while I wanted to do it, I’m also a person who has taken the safe route in every major decision I’ve ever made. Slow. Calculated. Deliberate. Sure, I had ideas for where I wanted my practice to be, but now I had to put my faith in MYSELF to DO THE DAMN THING and, holy shit, was that scary! For a couple of months I still kept my job and started seeing folks in my practice as well. Then I decided I’m quitting my job. I’m focusing on growing my practice 100%. There is a need for my skills in my community. People who’ve found me and have worked with me told me how refreshing it was to have found someone in the community who “gets” it. So I quit. I had about 6 weeks until I left for good. I waited for the panic to set in. It didn’t. Then my last week came. Still no panic. Last day. I left feeling 100% confident that after 11 awesome years in the position I held, I had made the right decision. I had a fantastic boss, the best colleagues I could have asked for, access to the most cutting-edge trainings and experience, and the opportunity to treat hundreds of awesome patients, who trusted me with their care.

I kept waiting to freak out and run out and get the first “safe” job I could find. But i didn’t. I kept focusing on my practice, and creating a “job” that fit more beautifully into a life of a mother of four kids, one fur-kid, and a wonderful husband.

I don’t have everything figured out. In fact, most days I realize I have very little figured out at all. I’ve learned that sometimes that “balance” doesn’t feel figured out. My practice has not even been open for a year and I’ve got plenty of time to fall flat on my face. But, I also have more time to breathe. I’m excited to go into my office every day. I feel fulfilled when I close up for the night. I am more present for my patients. I’m more present for my family and for myself. I get to eat dinners with my family, I get to spend more time doing the things I wasn’t getting to do. I’m slowly learning to be more present.

This was a very long-winded post. I guess what I’m hoping to say is that while New Year’s Resolutions are often blown off, don’t be afraid to look at what seems scary to look at because it’s too ambiguous, big, or overwhelming. Write it down, talk it out with someone, hammer down what you want to focus on. For me, this year it was a career shift. For next year? I’m still thinking through it, but I’ll let you know.

I wish you the best in 2019, whatever that is for you.

Take care,
Jenn

Self-Care Sunday: Surviving the Holidays

No matter if you look forward to or dread Christmas Day, it can be a source of stress. It seems as everyone loses their damn minds by this time of year. I personally love Christmas time, but also find it easy get sucked into the holiday chaos. Below are some survival tips to make sure you get through 12/25 in one piece.

Self-Care Sunday: Breathe

Today we are going to focus on the breath. So simple, so basic, but so important. There are a bazillion breathing exercises to find online, in a yoga class, or in a book, but today we’re going to keep it simple. We are just going to focus on two things: breath and sensation. You need no special tools, just yourself and your lungs. Don’t forget your lungs.

Trauma Therapy: Best Treatments for PTSD

I offer the two most widely researched and most widely utilized PTSD therapies to date. Not only do research studies say they work, but I've had 11 years of seeing them work. I've seen people smile again and reconnect with others. I've seen people start living again. Read here to learn a little more about Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE).

Today's Focus: Combat Veterans & PTSD

Some of the traumatic things you were exposed to probably got better over time, however sometimes there can be events you don't recover from as expected. Instead, you may feel stuck. You may even go on to develop PTSD. Being a combat vet you were trained to be ready for the unexpected. When the unexpected happened, your training kicked in and you did your job to the best of your ability often without even thinking. But what do you do when the unexpected injured you or one of your brothers? Or took their life? There's not really any good place to process this stuff while in combat- it's onto the next mission. While this makes sense to keep you focused, it takes it's toll over time. You stuff it down, and keep going because that is what you have to do. 

Today's Focus: First Responders & PTSD

Yes, you- the one who has trained hard and works tirelessly in a job most could never do. There is no question that you serve your community with everything you can. But where do you go after a tough run or shift? What happens then? First responders have a higher likelihood of developing PTSD. Don’t suffer alone, effective treatments are available. Read here about PTSD, first responders, and how you can take care of yourself so that you can keep helping others.

Today's Focus: Sexual Assault Survivors & PTSD

Here’s the thing: surviving a sexual assault, maybe a rape, or attempted rape, or other means of sexual violence increases your likelihood of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. What this means is those past experiences are negatively impacting your day-to-day life and preventing you from being able to live how you’d like to.  

The good news? PTSD is treatable. Yes, you heard me right. No, we can’t delete the bad things that have happened. However, what we can do is control how much those past events impact your life now and your life in the future. There are effective treatments available for you to help you to find hope and get back to living life instead of avoiding it.

Self-Care Sunday: Yoga

Happy holiday weekend! I hope you get some extra time to recharge and take care of yourself.

Today I challenge you to take a yoga class or even do yoga in the comfort of your own home. 

Yoga has endless benefits for your mind and body. There are many types of yoga, so if you've had a bad experience with it don't rule it out! My first experience with yoga was, well, not great. I swore it off for a while, then was dragged to yoga weekly by a friend who swore by it. I had noticed changes in her such as her physical strength and flexibility, but also in how she felt about herself and how she managed stress. With her forcing me, er, encouraging me I found a class and an instructor who I loved and realized how awesome it is. 

If you deal with anxiety, depression, or PTSD, yoga can be particularly helpful! Research has consistently demonstrated countless benefits for mental health, including stress reduction, improved mood, overall improvement in anxiety, and ability to focus. In addition, physical benefits include reduction in blood pressure, improved balance, strength, flexibility, physical endurance, and reduction in chronic pain conditions. This list can go on and on, but I challenge you to experience it for yourself. 

It's no secret that professional athletes incorporate yoga into their training. Did you know that yoga is growing like crazy within the military and also with first responders?! Yes! Yoga provides a restoration and a resilience necessary for those exposed to high levels of stress. 

For a local yoga studio, I suggest checking out Real Human Performance. If you're a new client, you can even try them out for free! They have a variety of different types of yoga classes as well as other services. 

For online yoga, I love Yoga With Adriene. She has tons of videos uploaded that are easy to follow that cater to new and experienced yogis alike!

Enjoy! Take care-

Jenn

Self-Care Sunday: Positive Self-Talk

Today I want you to try to be nice to yourself. Yes, really. We tend to hold ourselves to higher standards than we do everyone else. We also tend to be less forgiving of our own shortcomings, mistakes, and flaws. Have you ever lost sleep over something that already happened? Ruminating on what you could have said and done differently, where you screwed up, and then continuing to beat yourself up creates a lot of anxiety. Not only does this make us more anxious, but it changes how we think about ourselves. If the dialogue inside your mind is critical and negative, this can greatly impact your self-esteem, willingness to take risks, relationships, and overall quality of life. 

Our thoughts impact how we feel and behave. Our minds are powerful and can be used to encourage or destroy our confidence and growth. But you know what? Thoughts are just that- thoughts. We create them and we have the power to change them, creating new habits of thinking that are self-enhancing instead of self-defeating.  

For today, here are a couple of exercises to consider doing to encourage positive self-talk!

  • Write down your top ten accomplishments. These can be big or small, it does not matter. Don't judge them, just write them. 
  • Review that list. What did it take from you to accomplish these things? Spend some time answering honestly and taking ownership of this. 
  • What are your favorite physical attributes? Write them down, taking time to appreciate yourself. 
  • What are your favorite personality traits about yourself? Why? 
  • Do something nice for yourself daily, without having to earn it. 
  • The next time you make a mistake, practice love and acceptance as you would if a loved one had made the same mistake. Many of my patients find it helpful to write out this narrative to be able to see it in black and white. 
  • Start your day out with a genuine compliment to yourself. 
  • Practice gratitude, see this post for more on that topic. 
  • When someone compliments you, respond by making eye contact and saying "thank you,” instead of dismissing it. 
  • Answer the question, "If I loved myself more, I would ____". And take one small step toward that today. 

Remember above where I said that we can create new, positive habits? A habit is something we do over and over again, eventually not even having to think about it. Positive self-talk can feel weird at first, especially if you are used to tearing yourself down. It can also take effort and work to practice. However, like anything else, the more you practice the easier it gets and these new habits will be created. 

PTSD Screen

If you find yourself struggling or not feeling yourself, it's natural to try to figure out what  is going on. Sometimes these struggles show up after a trauma and you may be questioning if you may have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. I talk about PTSD as a disorder, here, but in this post I thought I'd include a brief self-screener as well. 

The only way to know for sure if you do have PTSD is to meet with a mental health professional, preferably one with training in diagnostic evaluation and some familiarity with trauma-related problems and disorders. In the meantime, however, there are a few questions you can review on the Primary Care PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, or the PC-PTSD-5 screen. Please remember, the PC-PTSD-5 isn't a tool to diagnose PTSD, however a screen to see if PTSD may be likely. 

PC-PTSD-5 screen

Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example:

  • a serious accident or fire
  • a physical or sexual assault or abuse
  • an earthquake or flood
  • a war
  • seeing someone be killed or seriously injured
  • having a loved one die through homicide or suicide

Have you ever experienced this kind of event? YES / NO
If no, screen total = 0. Please stop here.

If yes, please answer the questions below:
In the past month, have you ...

  • had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to? YES / NO
  • tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)? YES / NO
  • been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled? YES / NO
  • felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings? YES / NO
  • felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused? YES / NO

If you answer "yes" to any three items, you should talk to a mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment.

Now what?

If you did answer "yes" to at least three of the items above, it's recommended that you be evaluated for PTSD. Based upon this assessment, you will then be able to discuss appropriate treatment options for you. If you didn't answer "yes" to at least three items, but you are still struggling with things related to past trauma, keep in mind trauma can affect you in many ways. Depression and anxiety are incredibly common (more common than PTSD) and are disruptive as well. A thorough assessment will help to flesh out where your symptoms fall and determine how you'd best be treated. 

Please don't hesitate to reach out to me, here, if you are interested in a free 15-minute consult to see if coming in for further assessment is indicated. You don't have to keep suffering alone, help is available. 

Take care, 

Jenn

 

Self-Care Sunday: Say "No."

I've learned that sometimes some of the best self-care is to protect ourselves by protecting our time, our energy, our schedule, our health, our sanity, is to recognize your own limits and to get ok with saying no. You may just find out you get to say "yes!" to things that are most meaningful to you in your life. 

Self-Care Sunday: Get Outside

Hello and happy Sunday! I hope that this blog post finds you doing well. 

Today I challenge you to get up and get OUT! Literally! Try going for a walk on your street, taking a walk in the woods, or just finding a spot outside to sit and watch what's going on around you. Being outdoors is good for us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It is shown to help with focus and concentration, decrease depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure and tension in the body, improve physical pain, and all-around make us feel better. 

So what are you waiting for? Get outside! And to practice what I preach, my family and I are heading out for a long hike as part of our Self-Care Sunday. Enjoy!

Take care, 

Jenn

 

Trauma Therapy: Common Concerns

One common concern I'm repeatedly hearing is that folks think treatment will somehow make things worse. PTSD is a disorder that worsens over time, and the more that you avoid dealing with it, the worse it becomes and the longer it lasts. With that said, the symptoms of avoidance can be the very symptoms maintaining your PTSD and preventing you from taking the leap into getting help you need.

Self-Care Sunday: Good Deed

Hello and happy Sunday! 

I challenge you to go out and do a good deed today! It can be something for yourself, for another person, for the environment, for your pet, or society as a whole. It can be something big or little. Not only will you create positive change around you, but you'll feel great about yourself. Doing something for yourself or someone else is sure to boost your mood and create a positive ripple effect. Need some ideas? Here's a few: 

for yourself:

  • take a walk
  • meditate
  • do yoga
  • watch a favorite movie
  • treat yourself to your favorite coffee

for another person:

  • smile
  • hold a door
  • let someone merge in front of you in traffic
  • pay for someone’s food behind you in line
  • write a thank-you card (and mail it)
  • sincerely compliment someone
  • make a meal for a neighbor

for the environment:

  • recycle
  • plant a tree
  • pick up litter
  • change light bulbs to more efficient ones
  • bike or take public transportation, even if it's just every once in a while

for your pet:

  • walk your dog
  • buy them a special treat at the pet store
  • spend extra time petting your dog or cat
  • adopt from a local animal rescue

for society as a whole:

  • donate blood
  • donate to a local food pantry or homeless shelter
  • volunteer your time
  • donate school supplies
  • make eye-contact
  • be kind
  • smile

Whatever it is that you choose to do, my hope is that you notice the immediate benefits as you create positive change in your world. I'd love to hear examples of good deeds you've done! 

Take care, 

Jenn