By: Nicole Ayers Thaxton, PHD, APC, NCC
Teens and students have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 stress. One of the most challenging parts of the current pandemic is the uncertainty of what’s to come. Online school, college transition, SAT/ACT testing, athletics, extracurriculars, and so much more have been altered and impacted. Most universities have shifted their plans as well. Stress and anxiety are likely to proceed and follow life transition; however, with the great deal of uncertainty and multiple kinds of uncertainty at this time, major stress reactions are likely to follow. Stress is to be expected.
With many of my clients, I’m witnessing a reaction to the pandemic similar to that of loss and grief. I have spoken with parents and families about the complex nature of loss and grief during the pandemic. The loss of everyday interactions with peers and teachers as schools move online. The loss of structure with school and extracurriculars. The loss of rites of passage like homecoming, prom, graduation, moving to college, etc. Not being able to experience these things is very painful. It’s important for parents and adults to not downplay the loss of these experiences.
As with other losses, mindfulness and self-care play a large role in stress reduction.
Mindfulness includes staying in the present moment. It’s impossible to know how long the pandemic will be a part of our lives. The best antidote to uncertainty and loss is to shift our focus to what information we have currently. Mindfulness includes:
Self-care is also hugely important to stress reduction. Self-care can include:
Finally, it’s important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic impacts students and teens very differently than adults. Teens will experience fear, sadness, grief, anger, and other difficult emotions during this time, and they will express these feelings in different ways. Helping your teen cope with stress will involve validating their stress rather than minimizing it. It will involve having conversations about loss and self-care. Telling them to “get over it” or “it is the way it is” is unlikely to help them cope with the major stress they are experiencing. A great way to validate your teen’s new normal could include, “I hear how devastated/angry/sad you are about your new normal. Truly I’m so sorry. Is there anything we can do to help?”
Nicole works with teens, young adults, and families experiencing stress and anxiety related to COVID, school, transitions, and more. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
By: Ariadne Crane, MA, APC, AMFT
If we were to compare deities from various religions, we would notice that the God from the Christian Bible is the only God that left his throne and met his people face to face. He literally came down from the high mountain to meet us and interact with us. We were created to be in relationships with others, modeled by God. Not only is it important to Him to relate to us, He also desires for us to relate to Him. He came to live among His people to model how to relate to one another.
One of the most significant versus in the Bible is in Matthew 22:37-40: "Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment.
The second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
The word love has been used and abused throughout the centuries and thousands of books have been published interpreting the significance of love, so let's introduce a few questions that help identify the love demonstrations between a couple.
Often Marriage and Family Therapists begin a session with a focus on how the couple interacts and shows affection. Is there a friendship between them or a connection at all and if so is it purely physical? Do they trust each other? It is important to know how they connect or bond with one another. Do they feel protected as well as respected and do they feel they can count on each other no matter what. How the couple communicates is vital. How they solve conflict is also important. In most relationships there will be disagreements, but how they are worked through is critical.
What God models best is that being in relationships can be difficult because it often means having to give up our wants and needs. Being in a relationship takes sacrificial love to forgo one's own goals and dreams. This goes beyond being united or part of the team. It is the selfless act of wanting the other to succeed, to be part of the same team fighting and defending for the same objectives. This sacrificial love is not an obligation, but a desire to serve one another due to the commitment to the relationship, even if there is no benefit to the giver.
We can rely on His Word for guidance, though not everything is spelled out for us in the Bible. Jesus Christ demonstrated the ultimate sacrifice when He laid His life down for all of us. I believe that there is only one God; He is also known through Jesus Christ (our Advocate) and the Holy Spirit. No verse in the New Testament describes sacrificial love better than John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
In order to put the relationship ahead of the individual one must put his or her needs and desires aside and follow Christ's example of sacrificial love. This is love in its truest manifestation.
Photo Credit: Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash
Tray Tankersley, Th.M, Counseling Intern
In the counseling industry, I've discovered a key ingredient to marriages that “succeed” in therapy and those that don’t. You may venture your own guess- Is it improved communication techniques, great conflict resolution skills, proficiency in identifying feelings? I love all of those…and they are ALL important to building marital satisfaction.
What about discovering my spouse’s love language? Becoming more attuned to the other? Yep, those are good, too!
Praying together, attending church, joining a small group? Fabulous choices!
However, what stands out to me in counseling as a key factor for working towards greater fulfillment in marriage is HUMILITY.
I wish I had a nickel for every moment in couple’s therapy when I thought to myself – “if one of you, just one of you, would self-administer one small dosage of humility, the entire tone of this conversation and marriage would change.” I call it a Neil Armstrong moment – “One small step for spouse…one giant leap for marriage.”
Here’s the catch- Easy to say…hard to do! It's easy to talk about humility and the need for its presence in all relationships. But inviting humility into the counseling room and into every corner of the marriage relationship? Well, therein lies the challenge. We all know, however, that we must build our marriage on more than words.
An ancient hymn provides the Christian with a well-lit path to developing a heart of humility. Before referencing the hymn’s words, the author instructs his readers, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
In other words, have the same mindset as Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!”
The thing is, we cannot manufacture humility in our life. Humility flows only from a heart that is consistently reminded that God made himself nothing so that we might have everything. Our God left the security and comforts of heaven to come to this broken world and experience its brokenness and injustice so that we might avoid the justice of God for our multiple wrong doings. Instead of walking around demanding that people recognize him, bow down to him, serve at his beck and call, our God used his divinity to pay our debt.
The language of humility is simple – “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I did not intend to do that, but I clearly see how you experienced my words like that. Will you forgive me?” Good words! My hope is that those words come from a heart transformed by the Good News that our Creator humbled himself, valued us above his own interests and died so we could live!
Laura Lee Baker, MA, LPC, NCC
Have you ever found yourself dreading the holidays because you are still trying to recover from last year? Over spending, unmet expectations, exhaustion, and weight gain are just a few repercussions from holiday burn out. I can remember past holiday seasons being over booked, stressed out, always trying to make people happy, that I did not even have a chance to really enjoy friends and family. My focus was on “the task,” not connecting to others and celebrating “The Reason for the Season.”
How can you celebrate what is really important to you this holiday season instead of trying to meet unrealistic expectations? What are you trying to teach your children? How do you enjoy family and friends while setting limits and saying "No" during this time of year? Understanding your boundaries and the why behind the things you do is vital to avoid potential stress overload.
Below are a few things to consider:
1.Know your why and what you really want to be celebrating over the holiday season. What do you want to remember when the holidays are over? Make sure that activities you plan or participate in reflect your “why.” For my family, it's celebrating the birth of Jesus. What does that look like for us and how do we want to do that?
2. Why am I spending this?
Set a budget and make a list of gifts you need to buy so that you are not over spending. Be creative. Draw names. Don’t buy for people out of guilt, or because you “have to.”
Make cookies or spend time with loved ones instead of gift giving. Give gifts to those less fortunate instead of only to each other. These are just a few ideas.
3. Why am I saying yes?
Look ahead at your calendar and don’t over book. Learn to say no to parties or activities that you truly don’t have time for. Don’t say yes to things like volunteering, etc. out of guilt. Make sure it fits in with your “why.” Pause before saying yes to activities. And please remember, it's okay if you don’t win the “best decorated house.”
4.Why do we do this?
In regard to blended and extended families, be creative. You don’t have to schedule Thanksgiving or Christmas gatherings on the same day. Instead of going to 20 family members homes and eating 20 thanksgiving meals, consider alternating holidays every other year. Gather on or before Thanksgiving or Christmas. Consider a progressive dinner. Set a time limit at the homes you visit. These are a few creative examples to prevent burn out.
5. Why am I eating this?
For those of you who don’t want to gain weight from all the sugar cookies and pie overload, plan what you'll be eating ahead of time and stick to it. Just because Granny wants you to try her pecan pie doesn't mean you have to. Stick to your game plan and try not to eat out of guilt or stress. If you are bringing a dish, make one that you know fits your balanced eating plan.
6. Why do I set limits?
Alcohol, sugar, and sleep deprivation can increase stress levels. Tempers flare and conversations can become heated without personal limits. Be intentional with self-care even when traveling or having visitors. It's okay to take some time for yourself to recharge.
7. Last but not least: Enjoy your family and friends. Don’t forget those who are less fortunate or who are alone and missing their loved ones.
Know your WHY and be thankful for all that God has blessed you with this holiday season.
Photo taken from: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1505537/images/o-HOLIDAY-STRESS-facebook.jpg
M. Diane Pearce, Ph.D., LMFT
When doubts creep in or we grow tired and weary, God has some advice for us. Abba Father knows best the ‘what’ and the ‘when’ of my needs more than I. Whether I am in want of recognition, comfort, or guidance, He tells me what to do, in no uncertain terms and with no candy coating. He is ‘to the point,’ time and time again! In Deuteronomy 10:20, He says “HOLD FAST”! We will be at peace if we can listen to His advice to us as His children.
H - Humility In the Soul
Humility puts into perspective how very little power I have & how much power He has. (Deut. 9:5-6)
O – OBEY GOD’S WAYS
Observing & Obeying His ways gives us strength to do what He has called us to do. (Deut. 11:8-13)
L – LAY CLAIM TO WHAT HE GIVES
Laying claim and holding onto what He calls us to do (and where He provides for us to do it), no matter how small the territory or how big, is an act of obedience. (Deut. 11:24-31)
D – DEFENDING and LOVING THOSE IN NEED
Because we all have been or will become weak, poor, aged or alone, He asks us to defend and love those who are in need, following His example and command. (Deut. 10:17-20)
F – FEAR GOD ALONE
Having a fear of God that outweighs our fear of a circumstance or a person is the path to ensuring that I will not lose my way. (Deut. 6:13 and 11:12)
A – ASSURANCE COMES FROM GOD
Being assured by God requires that I see that my strength comes from His mighty power and outstretched arm. My confidence does not come from my own skills or integrity. (Deut. 9:3-4)
S – SERVE GOD’S AGENDA ONLY
Serving God’s agenda and being careful, lest I get distracted by what may even appear to be good, will ensure that the responsibilities and territory that God wants me to manage will be given to me by His strength. (Deut. 11:16-24)
T –TRUSTING IN HIS WAYS
Trusting in God’s redemption of myself and those I care for, more than I trust in my own logic, requires that I believe in His plan and in His Great Power. (Deut. 9:23-29)
Love the Lord your God, walk in His ways and Hold Fast to Him!
Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.