Escape to the Present- Mindfulness and Nature

There is something that draws us into the beauty of nature. I like to think of it as surrender to the elements we can’t control- and in the lack of control, there is beauty and peace. It is wild and unpredictable and we are just in it. I think of being in the ocean with water so deep, waves high, and animals swimming beneath our feet. It’s thrilling and yet, it can be the most relaxing and refreshing experience. We spend our time and money getting to these places so we can experience this escape. What if we didn’t have to fly away on vacation to experience this kind of escape and relaxation?

This is where I believe nature can come in to provide rest from our busy lives.  If we can routinely (key word) let ourselves experience something purely present, we can calm those physiological symptoms (heart rate, breathing, other stress responses), and we can settle the emotional and mental noise.  

Photo by Drew Dau on Unsplash

There is new research in the mental health community about the healing affects of nature. There are scientists right now testing the affects of soil bacteria in healing allergies and now even depression (article here). We are increasingly drawn away to other worlds through our phones, social media, netflix, etc. None of these are unhealthy in themselves, but they can send us back into that mental loop that we get stuck in sometimes. I call it rumination. It can be a thought pattern of fear, discouragement, overwhelm, or stress. By contrast nature is present. It’s the beautiful now.

Photo by Tom Byrom on Unsplash

I discovered how true this is a years ago when my first daughter was born. I struggled with post pardum depression. I had dark days where my thoughts spiraled into despair and despondency. One day I decided to get outside and work on my backyard. I started digging and planted a small vegetable garden. Since then I have come back again and again to my garden as a respite from my internal world.

My garden is seasonal- it teaches me things change. It has a mind of its own and teaches me patience and peace in what I can’t control. It’s beautiful, which pulls be back into the present every time I see a seed sprout or a flower emerge.

There are so many benefits to my garden, it’s difficult to determine what really helps the most: the exercise, the vitamin D, the distraction, the soil, or the beauty? It was so healing for me in a time in my life when I felt under water.  Douglas LaBier Ph.D. wrote an article about this very thing. In nature “…you’re simply present. Conscious in the moment. Observing the flow of your mental and emotional activity; but not being pulled into it. That conscious “now” allows for greater inner calm, clearer judgment, and it enables more focused, creative responses to everyday life.” Dr. LaBier talks about broadening our view by seeing ourselves as connected to the world right around us. Where you can move from self-focused thoughts and feelings to seeing yourself as part of a community of people and within the natural world. To try this practice out, try a mindfulness mediation (click here) then take a walk or try one of these ideas.

Some ideas for engaging with the present world around us:

  • Plant some seeds
  • Take a walk (leave your phone at home)
  • sketch something you see outside
  • smell the flowers and the freshly cut grass!
  • Take a drive with the windows down
  • Try this mindfulness meditation

Morgan Myers, LPC-intern
Supervised by Jessica Taylor, LPC-S

Morgan is a therapist at East Dallas Psychotherapy specializing in mothers with young kids overwhelmed by life, figuring out relationships, and dealing with depression and anxiety. For more about her click here.

More articles about the benefits of Nature and Mindfulness

Read about the “relaxation response” (as opposed to a stress response) by Dr. Herbert Benson

Perfectionism in unusual places

by Morgan Myers, LPC-intern

I wondered today, as I was making my lunch, if most of us deep down inside have some perfectionistic tendencies. I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist in the classic sense, because I don’t care much about living up to other people’s view of me. But I’m noticing I have very high expectations for myself. While I was making a mediocre chicken salad for lunch today I was thinking, this just isn’t good enough. It’s not creative, I don’t have the ingredients I need, or the energy to make it better. Then I thought, no one is here telling me this isn’t good enough. It was coming from my own desire to do more. It’s a silly example, but I think it illustrates my point. We all want to live up to the vision in our heads. We want to achieve our goals. Or we want to live up to other’s goals for us, and the potential others see in us. I think that’s human nature to want to improve. We want to show ourselves as perfect to others and ourselves. We probably don’t say it so bluntly, but you can find the message of perfectionism in the always and never statements we tell ourselves. I want to ALWAYS be professional, I want to ALWAYS be on time, I NEVER want to make a mistake like this again. 

Another example is a client I had a while ago who wanted to be successful as a mother so bad. She spent all her time with her kids, and couldn’t give herself a break. Then she got completely frustrated and exhausted and had to leave for the weekend to recharge. It was all or nothing. She was either a successful mom at home day and night, exhausted or had to feel guilty if she took some time away. She couldn’t see that she could care about her family and herself. She could be a good mom and do things she enjoyed that recharged her.

Photo by Todd Diemer from Unsplash

The ALWAYS and NEVER framework (perfectionism) has a rigid view of self. That rigidity can be crippling. It’s like a bowling alley where the edges of the lane move closer and closer. If you roll the ball in a very straight line, you win! If it falls in the gutter, you lose. It’s a trap. 

Maybe it’s time to consider widening the lane. Health comes in a FLEXIBLE view of self. Peace and rest come with it too.

In counseling I like to say people are a constellation of themselves. They aren’t strictly one thing. We can be any one of the stars in the constellation, depending on the day, the mood, the fact that you’re hungry or tired. It can vary depending on the life stage. All of it is you. If we can view ourselves as a constellation, we can loosen the grip on who we think we should be, and just be.  

Photo by Eidy Bambang-Sunaryo on Unsplash

If you’d like to explore this more for yourself, begin to notice when you feel those lanes closing in. It might be an ALWAYS or NEVER statement. It might be an area where you keep criticizing yourself.

Slow down.

You can be more than one thing. You can make mistakes. Your constellation will have some contradictions. (For example, fun and serious, prompt but sometimes forgetful, mom

If you have time, draw a constellation. Put at least 20 stars. Label each one with qualities you possess- good and not-so-good. Allow for contradictions. You might begin to notice some themes about who you are. Practice self-compassion and reflection.

Morgan Myers, LPC-intern
Supervised by Jessica Taylor, LPC-S

Morgan is a therapist at East Dallas Psychotherapy specializing in mothers with young kids overwhelmed by life, figuring out relationships, and dealing with depression and anxiety. For more about her click here.

Soul-searching for Soul-care

My background in working as a therapist for college students at the Texas A&M University Student Counseling Service, as well as my work in college student ministry has given me an appreciation for the journey from adolescence to adulthood. This season in every person’s life often comes with a unique set of challenges. Emerging adulthood is ripe with opportunity, possibility, and potential. The hard work in this phase of life is discovering your unique identity while not molding yourself into an imitation of someone else. Emerging adulthood provides an opportunity to thoughtfully examine our lived experiences, growth edges, and symptoms with wonder and curiosity, discovering the potential that is latent within us.

One book that has influenced my work as a therapist is Thomas Moore’s, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. In it, he writes about approaching each day with mindfulness, learning how to gain greater depth and meaning from our experiences in the world through reflection. Rather than medicating pain, smoothing out abnormalities, or alleviating discomforts, he recommends approaching adversity with acceptance and stillness that he believes leads to greater insight. Moore states, “Our symptoms allow us to ask questions about what our soul needs.”

 

In practice, care of the soul is about the ongoing process and work of learning what we need to function and thrive, seeking to meet those needs in adaptive ways. Moore believes that our symptoms, if explored and reflected upon, could enlighten us to aspects of our lives where growth can occur. In my experience working with young adults, I’ve noticed that their primary focus is external, of goal attainment, skill acquisition, and self-improvement.  Moore’s book, on the other hand, suggests an inward focus for realizing our own gifts and abilities and allowing space for them to emerge.

I genuinely hope that, wherever you are on your journey, you would graciously accept the person you are today and thoughtfully and courageously examine your dreams and desires for what your soul truly needs.

What is sand tray therapy??

One of my favorite activities as a therapist is to use sand tray with my clients- typically I use this once my clients are really comfortable in counseling and have gotten to know me well. Sometimes people can’t really identify what it is that’s going on- they might be overwhelmed, confused, or uncertain. Sand tray can be a way to get those emotions out without having to say a word. We use the metaphor of the figures instead. We often use verbal metaphors to describe our emotional situations. You’ve probably heard this before: I feel like I’m under water and I can’t seem to get my head above water, my life has lost it’s color, I feel like I won the jackpot, I feel like I live on an island and no one understands… etc. These are all ways we use metaphor to describe something that’s difficult to say.

Sometimes my clients can expand the metaphor through creative activities like sand tray. We use figures and sand- these are all symbols of what is going on inside. Clients are often fascinated by what they’re drawn to as they choose a figure to represent their situation. I have all kinds of figures: people, objects, animals, props, sets (like bridges, fences, ladders, trees, etc). These have incredible meaning, and seeing them in a tray all together usually creates a powerful moment of perspective. I like to think of it as a mental or emotional diorama. 

I have been trained in this technique and would be happy to answer any questions. If you’re interested in learning more about this, please email me at: morgan@eastdallastherapy.com or book an appointment online.

For parents of teens…

The counseling process depends on your goals and your teens goals (which can sometimes be different from each other). Many of my teen clients come in with teen depression or anxiety, social anxiety, or grief from losing someone close to them. Sometimes they’re processing the future like what career path to choose. I bet you have questions about this process- I’m happy to answer any questions before we book our first appointment. I want you to be involved as much as you would like. You can call me at 469-203-1533 to ask questions or click to book.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just I am, then I can change” -Carl Rogers

Common Teen Clients:

  • teen depression
  • teen anxiety
  • fear
  • withdrawal
  • problems in relationships like bullying, assertiveness, social media
  • test anxiety
  • grief from recent death
  • insecurity/self-confidence

A letter to the teens reading this…

You’re probably reading this because you are totally overwhelmed with life (or your parents want you to get unstuck in some way). In my office, counseling is for you. Whatever you come in with, I want to hear it and carry it with you. I’m not shocked or overwhelmed by much. I’m not thrown off by awkwardness either. I get that gaining your trust takes time and I’m willing to wait. I want to meet you right where you are. It might feel more comfortable to have your hands busy with sand, paint, drawing, or games. Or if you want to sit and talk we could do that too. I let you choose. Whatever you come in with, I’m honored you’re willing to trust me enough to show up.

Teens often come see me because they’re depressed, anxious, fearful, or someone has died and they’re grieving. You might relate to those things or you might need more self-confidence or assertiveness or want to learn how to have good relationships. Or maybe you don’t know what you want to do when high school is over and want some help to figure that out. You might identify with this or it might be totally different. I want to walk with you through whatever is going on.

“What’s comin’ will come, and we’ll meet it when it does.” -Hagrid

The Firsts and the Foreign

Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be a kid experiencing the world for the first time? If you’ve ever been in a foreign country you remember the feeling of looking out the window and there are signs with symbols you’ve never seen and letters that seem to be pushed together to form some word that has meaning to everyone else but you. Then you see that everyone seems to be behaving in similar ways but you can’t seem to fall in line. Maybe you don’t want to fall in line. Maybe you want to rebel! Or you wish they drove on the right side of the rode and followed the appropriate amount of personal space, and didn’t talk so loudly or so quietly. You wish they were like the people in your own country.

I’ve been thinking about how a kid might encounter our world and its unspoken rules at each developmental stage with newfound awareness/confusion. We assume they will fall in line with our mini-culture in our family. We try to speed through the “learning” then “modeling” process that is our job as parents. When they learn to talk we are surprised, sometimes irritated when they speak too loudly. They scream their new words happily in the car, but then they do it in the middle of church. We forget they don’t know the difference between the car and a nice restaurant.

When they begin to have an opinion, they get to have choices. They choose their shirt for the day, they choose what drink to order. But then they think they can choose to paint on the wall too! Right? We forget they don’t know there’s a difference between those choices.

Oh lordy, what about puberty? When they begin to open their eyes to romantic relationships. This has to be like visiting the Italian Riviera for the first time, having never stepped foot out of the monotonous suburbs! They see everything in brilliant emotional color. We forget they’ve never experienced this kind of admiration, love, infatuation- even if it’s just with their own reflection! The newness of all the hormonal firsts is all consuming.

We forget that at the beginning of each of those developmental stages they get saturated by the newness. They don’t know the rules and boundaries. It’s our job to show them without judgement. Give grace. And Model! Maybe we can relive some of those moments with them. The firsts. The firsts that cause all the conflict in a family and cause us to set new limits as parents. But the firsts are where they stretch their legs and grow into the humans we hope they will be. And isn’t it exciting!?


Morgan Myers, LPC-intern is a family therapist specializing in adolescent counseling and adult counseling. Issues include depression, anxiety post partum depression and parenting concerns. She currently seeing clients in North Dallas at Hope Child & Family Center of Texas. Beginning Fall 2018 she will also be seeing clients in East Dallas. For a consultation and to setup an appointment for you or your child, call 469-203-1533 or email morganmyers@therapyemail.com.

 

Self-Care = Selfish?

One of my favorite and most recommended “homework” assignments for clients who recently had a baby is self-care. This is simply taking time to do something that is restorative for yourself. It’s a time for you to listen to that inner voice that makes you, you. This helps you remember yourself in a season of life where you and your needs seem to be pushed to the bottom of the list. Note: to learn more about the particulars of postpartum depression read this post about it. 

Sacrificial Love Does Not Equal Sacrificing Self

The line between sacrificial love and losing ourselves is a narrow divide. New mothers fall in love with their little bundles of joy! Their mothering instincts kick in and they snuggle, protect, and attach to their babies. It’s a roller coaster ride. When I was a new mom I found that just about every part of my body was taken over by the needs of my little one. Every minute of my  day was altered, crunched, and squeezed for every last drop of energy and nurturing I could muster. Our babies get their physical and emotional needs met from us almost exclusively- depending on how much support we get from our significant others. 

Can we all be honest and say, motherhood is not what we see on instagram or in magazines?

With their nowhere-in-sight baby gear and gorgeous white sofas? And there is a faulty assumption in our culture that as soon as we have children we will no longer have needs and we’re totally fine with it!  And when we are faced with the choice of ours or our child’s needs, we will probably choose our child’s needs.

The biggest hurdle on the journey toward self care is quieting that voice inside that says “selfish.” When we fly on an airplane we are all told to put our oxygen masks on first before our children! We have to fill ourselves up so we have something to give. As we care for ourselves we cultivate our inner identity, energy, confidence, and passion. When we listen to our needs we refill what has been drained from us in caring for others. In doing this we model for our families what a fulfilling life looks like, and we also show them that they are separate, but securely attached individuals. Maybe as we refill ourselves it gives us some energy back give to our significant others. This also models for our children healthy relationships and creates a safe and secure environment for our families.

4 tips for self care:

  1. Stop ignoring your needs and start ignoring the “selfish” voice. Advocate for your needs.
  2. Make a plan and schedule it
  3. Don’t apologize for it and ignore the guilt!
  4. Incorporate your support system.

 


For a consultation about self-care in the postpartum season, contact me.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Post Partum depression (PPD) happens either during pregnancy (called peripartum) or in the months after having a baby. PPD can look like a general dark or down feeling. It can feel like you are under water and can’t come out of it. Some common symptoms:

  • You might have trouble sleeping or sleep too much, or
  • might not eat or eat more than usual.
  • You might not feel like doing anything and yet feel trapped at home.
  • It’s a hopeless feeling.
  • Sometimes mothers have anger or rage rise up unexpectedly- where they want to scream or run away from their situation.

It’s a roller coaster ride. Some mothers are nervous to share what thoughts they have had. I am here to tell you, I won’t judge you. I have personal experience with postpartum depression and I have had those dark moments. Seeking help when you have postpartum depression is a process of stepping out of the shame and guilt and choosing to trust someone else- which can be scary, I know.

Each person has a unique set of symptoms. As a therapist, I have seen mothers come out of these symptoms and find tools that they can carry with them in their lives. The next time they experience depression they have new tools and ways of thinking that bring them hope. I like to approach postpartum depression from all sides. I use therapy to talk through those thought patterns and emotions but we also talk about advocating for your needs, changing your lifestyle, helping you communicate with your partner and support system, and we try to add in new activities that can get you out of that rut. If needed, we can talk about getting evaluated for medication as well. 

When a person is depressed it is like their brain is stuck in a chemical rut. The longer their brain is in that state the more difficult it is to recover. There are internal and external causes for post partum depression. According to an article from Harvard Medical School*, these can include, “faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems.”

In the months following having a baby there are so many overlapping factors that create a perfect storm.  If you identify with these symptoms please reach out to me at morgan@eastdallastherapy.com or 469-203-1533.

 *Read more of the above mentioned article here.

Morgan Myers, LPC-intern
Supervised by Jessica Taylor, LPC-S

Morgan is a therapist at East Dallas Psychotherapy specializing in mothers with young kids overwhelmed by life, figuring out relationships, and dealing with depression and anxiety. For more about her click here.

The Importance of Being Present

As a counselor working with kids one of the most important parts of my job is being present with my clients. My mind is swirling with to do lists, my expectations of myself and the client, my hunger, my body language, even my language! I continually push it aside over and over so that I can show my clients: I’m here, I see you, I’m with you.

This was never more apparent than when I had to film a play session with my first born. She is 4 years old. She commands a lot of attention. She is constantly saying, mommy? Proclaiming: Mommy! Yelling: MOMMY! SCREAMING: MOMMY! And I snap back to attention. I am constantly fixated on the future- anticipating dinner, cleaning house, planning, worrying, dreaming, self-helping myself mentally. Meanwhile, my 4 year old is eternally in the present, as  is my 5 month old whose immediate physical needs are basically all she knows.

After that play session with my daughter, I have started to think about how we all actually live only in the present moment, we create, feel and experience everything in this moment. Our relationships are built in the present- the current second, minute, hour, and day we spend with our children. In the present is where we all relate to each other. Each moment we spend fixated with the past or future is a moment we are not “with” others.

So, as a quick and simple parenting strategy- try to be aware of where you are mentally. Are you in the room? Are you wishing or hoping or worrying about something else? Turn your attention to the little one (or medium or big one) in front of you and engage. You’ll find the present is full of surprises. There are moments to connect and deepen your relationship with that child that you might miss otherwise. Sometimes you are wrestling with your child’s flaws, they might be throwing a tantrum or complaining. Sometimes your attention sparks a conversation, a hug, or allows them to process an idea. It’s not always heavenly, but your kids will notice even if they don’t let on that they notice.

5 tips for Being Present

  1. Get on eye level with the child.
  2. Put phone on silent- Phones are time machines that take you everywhere BUT the present
  3. Be with the emotion they are feeling. Let them express how they feel without questions or a lesson. (Read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk for more on this!)
  4. Practice mindfulness- Bring your awareness to your body and your breathing. Take a deep breath in 5 seconds. Hold 5 seconds, Out 10 seconds. Click here for free audio guides or open spotify
  5. Take care of yourself first. Just like the flight attendant says, put your oxygen mask first, we have to take care of ourselves so that we have something to draw from. That means meeting your present needs so that you can meet their present needs.

Morgan Myers is an LPC-intern at Hope Child & Family Center of Texas. Morgan Myers got her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health from Texas A&M-Commerce. She has received training in adolescent counseling, play therapy, sandtray and group therapy. She has worked with a wide range of people including the homeless, young adults in a community college, and adolescents. She has worked with moms dealing with postpartum depression and she is passionate about helping people find hope through self discovery and healing. She provides a safe and accepting environment for all her clients.

Parenting class starting soon!

We’re starting a parenting class for east Dallas moms at Bethany Lutheran Church! This class strengthens the foundation of your relationship with your child while still providing practical answers to common questions! There is no cost, but donations are accepted for materials.

Topics include: appropriate discipline and limit-setting, outbursts and anger, helping kids cope with emotion, managing sensory issues, feeling overwhelmed and tired as a parent.

Register here

Monday, June 4 1-2 pm
Wednesday, June 6 1-2 pm
Monday, June 11 1-2 pm
Wednesday, June 13 1-2 pm
Monday, June 18 1-2 pm
(Note: These are During June summer camp at the CDC!)

Readers! Hello!

Hello readers! I’m glad you found me!

I am interested in writing about therapy- the philosophical and the practical. I am a play therapist and adolescent counselor working in North Dallas right now (contrary to my website title). But I am hoping to begin a practice in East Dallas in 2019. My goal is to be a therapist to the community of East Dallas. I am interested in reaching adolescents, and parents with kids in that stage. I also have a particular interest in helping mothers with young children. I want to help women understand themselves better, their mental health, and learn self-care and self-advocacy at a time when life is all about their little ones. There are all kinds of issues my clients face. Below I’ve listed the most common. I hope you enjoy my blog!

5 typical clients in my practice:

  1. Teens with depression and anxiety
  2. Teens interested in self-discovery and coping with life’s challenges
  3. Moms and Dads needing parenting strategies
  4. Mothers (of young children) struggling with depression, anxiety, adjustment to change, or self-care
  5. Kids with behavior issues

5 ways I can help

  1. Individual play therapy for Pre-K and Elementary kids
  2. Art and activity therapy for Tweens and Teens
  3. Parent consultation
  4. Counseling for adults
  5. Group therapy: Topics range from depression groups for adults, social skills camp for kids, and Parenting Skills Groups. Contact me for more information.