Blog

Valuable resources to help you learn more.

Men and Stress, Please Don't Fix Me

Men and Stress, Please Don't Fix Me

by Peter Rivkees

Stress that is not dealt with is a real issue affecting just about every living creature on earth and can be managed successfully with a little bit of self-awareness and effort.

We all stress over money, work, and family relationships (yes your pets count), personal and family health, world events and everything that we hold as important to us. Research shows that almost 70% of us feel that stress has a negative impact on our physical health and mental health. Symptoms of stress that we can experience include anger, general irritability, fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, addiction, passive aggressive behavior, depression and sexual dysfunction are but a few. We all experience stress in our own unique way based on our past experiences over our lives. When we were younger we may have dealt with stress by acting out with slamming doors, refusing to listen to our parents or eating an entire bag of Doritos and some of us in our adult years may do exactly the same things. How do you act when you are under a lot of stress?

My therapy practice focuses on the men so I'll share with you how stress directly impacts the lives of men and potentially every interaction in their lives. For most men we have been brought up to hide our emotions, do anything in our power not to appear weak and live life as if it were a continuous competition. We are the perfect candidate for physical and psychological issues directly related to stress. Most men are programmed not to ask for help when help is needed most, to keep up the bravado that makes us "real men". We are more apt to hire a golf coach to improve our swing than hire a therapist to work on our family, our marriage, our relationships with our children our career, our siblings, our boss or our coworkers. My wish for all men is not to be remembered for our golf handicap, but for the impact we make on those that are most important to us in our lives.

We would rather suffer in silence, saying "I've got it under control ", or take out our stress on those in our lives at home and at work. We have been conditioned, some will say brainwashed by our parents, media and any other sources from our earliest memories that "real men" get over it, don't cry or just don't get emotional. The truth is that every man, woman and child is born with the same set of emotions. We pretend not be afraid of anything, have an "I can conquer anything attitude", but in reality we are most afraid of discovering who we are and how we got to be who we are.

Discovering our inner self requires courage. The same courage that we have or pretend to have when facing the challenges of everyday life. Being a man in today's world is scary, frustrating and full of uncertainty. Changing our attitudes towards self-help and awareness will be an evolutionary versus revolutionary process and only you can start your journey of self-discovery. Dealing with stress through regular exercise, listening to music, reading, seeking professional help with a therapist are the leading activities to help relieve the symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, many men turn to negative harmful behaviors including alcohol/substance abuse, behavioral addictions like gambling, exercise and pornography that only lead to self-destructive behaviors and damaging relationships that sometimes cannot be healed. The unfortunate result of not dealing with or ignoring stress will often lead to feelings of shame, fear and loneliness.

I often use the phrase "hiding in plain sight" to describe how we often wear masks that hide how our inner self is truly feeling in contrast to the mask that we project to others. We may appear "fine" to all that we are connected to in our personal and work lives, but inside if asked "if you really knew me, you would know that I am really __________ " afraid, scared, lonely, suicidal, sad, angry, confused, depressed, an addict, a failure, in debt or whatever you chose to fill in the blank. If we could only recognize and be comfortable in knowing that we are not perfect and that all men could truly benefit from exploring ourselves without the self-judgment or external judgment that "men do not go to counseling unless they are broken" what a better life we could have. We would open up our hearts to others and demonstrate true compassion; we would be vulnerable with ourselves and with those that we love. We would be better men, better husbands, better fathers, better in life.

Learning and growth does not often come from a place of comfort. True learning and growth comes from a place of discomfort when we push through the uncertainty of not knowing the answers to life's questions or being able to fix any problem with our tool kit. Men want to fix any and all problems that are presented to us as soon as possible and we practically know the perfect fix before the other person has fully described what the problem is. Most people aren't looking for someone to fix them; most people would prefer someone to listen to, a shoulder to cry on, a hug or gentle reassurance that you are in their corner or just someone to sit next to in silence.

When I work with men, I understand that we are not accustomed to expressing emotions, that it is just really hard to admit to someone else, let alone ourselves that our world is not perfect. I want to create a safe environment built on trust so men can learn to understand what emotions are, how they feel, how to accept them, how to heal, how to communicate effectively, how to be angry, how to be sad and most importantly how to feel real joy and happiness. I choose to believe that our purpose is not to live a life hiding in plain sight; it's your decision to make as to what you can do to become a man that makes a difference in others' lives and to live a life that is full of all the rewards that you deserve.

Continue reading
  4260 Hits
  0 Comments
4260 Hits
0 Comments

Illness and the Family Unit

Illness and the Family Unit

By Keisha Delva

      In terms of serious injury or illness happening to a loved one, I tend to use the metaphor of being in a really bad car accident. Like a car accident we don't necessarily see it coming, and the impact is sharp and sudden. It may throw us into a state of shock or we may become very emotionally reactive. The aftermath can be long-lasting, costly and cause us a great deal of physical and emotional pain. Since certain adjustments have to be made, we are reminded of the incident on an almost daily basis, until we have resolved all resulting issues, which in and of itself is re-traumatizing.

      There are obviously many things to consider when a loved one becomes ill. Some of the common questions are: Will they recover? Are we able to get them the best care? How will we cover the expenses of the recovery process? When my mother had a stroke, I found myself asking all these questions and more; most of which I didn't have the answers to. You may not either. Finances are a major concern for many people and if your family member is no longer able to work or care for themselves, there may be a shift in the roles of many of the members of the family. Understandably, the person who is ill suddenly becomes the focus of the entire family. There doesn't seem to be much time or space left to address how that loved one's illness is impacting the rest of the family unit. Depending on the nature of the illness, our family member may change in ways that causes them to become almost unrecognizable. If it is an illness that has affected their brain, such as stroke, a traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer's disease, we may find them behaving in ways that are strange or foreign to us. The family member is still living, yet we may find ourselves still going through the grieving process, as the person that we once knew them to be, is gone.

      Whether the illness we are speaking of is mental illness or a physical medical condition, it is undeniable that it will take its toll on the affected person's loved ones. We will worry, feel stressed, and feel sad. We may begin to neglect to take care of ourselves by developing unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, as a means of trying to cope with our stress. Concurrently, we may find ourselves wrestling with feelings of guilt or shame for any of the conflicting thoughts or feelings that we may have throughout this time. Feelings of resentment may develop for suddenly becoming our family member's caretaker, yet we may feel that we don't deserve to have a break or to take time to process our emotions, much less have the right to complain.

Here are a few of the tips that I found helpful in the early stages of my mother's recovery:

1.    Ask for help: You do not have to handle everything on your own. If the people in your life have some idea of what you and your family is going through, they will be more understanding and will likely want to do anything they can to assist you. This applies both at work and at home.

2.    Talk to a therapist: Talking to someone who is trained in techniques and interventions to cope with stress in healthy ways can be very helpful. They will listen empathetically, without judging you or trying to tell you what you "should" be thinking or feeling during this time. Our family and friends mean well, but you may find that they cannot relate to what you are going through, or are trying to rush you through the healing process.

3.    Nurture yourself: Making rest a priority and eating nutritious foods goes a long way. Make time to do simple things that you enjoy such as taking a warm bath, going for a run, or reading a good book. It may seem silly, but engaging in small, pleasurable activities is a very effective means of relieving stress and naturally boosting our mood.

      It is crucial that we take time to address our own emotional and physical needs during the distressing time of illness in our family. If we ourselves are not well, we certainly will not be of any use to someone that needs our help or is dependent upon us. Preventative care has been proven to be the single most important means of maintaining good physical and emotional health over an extended period of time. While you are caring for your loved one, remember to care for yourself too.

Continue reading
  4214 Hits
  0 Comments
4214 Hits
0 Comments

Accepting Change

Accepting Change

by Joel Christie

Quick show of hands: how many of you like feeling uncomfortable or being in pain? For most people, change can be painful, scary, or even downright terrifying. Change often pushes us into the unknown, and though it can of course be positive, most of us still tend to resist it because it disrupts routine, moving us into a place of uncertainty where we are forced to adapt and learn anew.

Regardless, this much is certain: change happens. Changes are happening right now while you're reading this and drinking your coffee. Indeed, every second of every day, we are undergoing changes as our cells form and die, while new cells are made, replacing the old ones. These types of changes might not bother us much, because we probably spend little time pondering cellular reconfiguration. Yet this is nevertheless illustrative of the nature of life, pointing towards truths that may make us quite uncomfortable to dwell upon. (Like the fact that all of us are going to die someday. There's a rosy thought.) I don't mean this to sound ominous, but change is inevitable and inescapable. I might imagine I can prevent change, but ultimately I can't. And if I allow myself to believe I can prevent change, my brain may expend considerable mental energy trying to generate ways to stop change from occurring, only to discover again and again that changes happen anyway.

Now, certainly some changes are more within our control than others; changing my career, changing where I live, or changing my hair style. But then again, those same things might not be within my control if, for example, the company I work for downsizes and lays me off, or a hurricane destroys my house, or I lose my hair as a result of cancer treatments. And so often life seems to happen that way, tossing aside our carefully-made plans. How inconsiderate, right?

Here, like this: Our son's due date was September 25th. Well, apparently nobody told him the game plan, because late on the night of August 3rd I rushed wife to the hospital where we learned she would need an emergency C section, rendering the old due date instantly irrelevant. Our son Jack was here, and just like that everything had changed.

I wish I could tell you I handled this situation with zen-like calm, coolly reminding myself that change is a natural and ongoing part of life, and that there is no use yelling at God and the universe that things turned out unfairly, but basically I ran around like my hair was on fire, frantically checking with any doctor in sight to make sure my wife and child were okay, while intermittently crying and pacing around in small circles. You know, that sort of stuff. Because the truth is, I wanted to control the situation. I wanted guarantees that everything was going to be fine. And I didn't want to deal with all this sudden jarring change. The whole situation seemed wrong to me, and I hated the fact that my wife and son were stuck in the hospital, instead of getting ready to come home where they were "supposed to be."

But honestly, that was near the center of the problem: the notion of how things were "supposed to be." I had this cuddly, happy picture in my mind of a glowing new mom and dad heading home with their new baby. That was "supposed to be" us. But it wasn't. People told us over and over "It's not gonna be easy," and "Get used to the idea of never sleeping again. Ever." But nobody said anything about our son staying in the NICU for a month.

Frankly, it wasn't until I accepted that this was how things were that I started to feel a little more grounded. "Supposed to" didn't matter. I could ask my brain a million different ways why things had happened the way they did, but it wouldn't undo anything. On the other hand, accepting the situation would allow me to face what was happening rather than letting my mind spin through endless unanswerable questions about how things were supposed to happen. Don't get me wrong: I think it's okay to look back and ask why questions when we get steamrolled by the unpredictable hardships of life, and I think it's okay to wonder what implications the changes we are going through have for the future. But eventually, our minds also need to return to the present to face the here and now, no matter how scary it might be.

When our focus is on the present, we are able to ask different questions, questions that can ultimately leave us feeling more empowered since we can actually do something about the here and now. What can I do right now to care for my wife and son? I can offer love and support. I can go and bring meals back to the hospital. (As it turns out, hospital food isn't great, just FYI. What flavor is this Jello?) I can pray, or call friends and family, or run errands. And as I begin to see myself not only surviving but actively engaging this present state of life, my fear will gradually diminish. I may still feel sad or hurt or angry, but I can also be comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that I am facing this hardship, not shutting my eyes and wishing this wasn't happening. The change has already happened. And more changes will come. And since this is the reality of the world we live in, I want to move forward with these changes as they happen rather than wasting brain power trying to unmake a situation that cannot be unmade.

Oh, by the way, a month and a half later my wife and son are both home from the hospital, doing well, which is a change that I like very, very much.

Continue reading
  4369 Hits
  0 Comments
4369 Hits
0 Comments

What's New

Meet our new Clinical Interns!
HERE>>

 

WhiteSands logoCP

Get connected

Stay connected with HD Counseling, LLC. It's a great way to stay updated with articles and programs