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
By: M. Diane Pearce, MFT, Legacy Strategy Clinical Director
It appears that we are all in a position to fortify our "shelter in place!" After COVID-19 cases begin to subside in our nation, perhaps we can all move forward with a renewed appreciation for our family. Perhaps, even in spite of the likelihood of COVID-19 intensifying the risks for divorce, abuse and domestic violence reports. We have all broken from our learned ‘normal’ rhythm of living together. The stress of more time with our families, more anticipated responsibilities and financial tension can cause the strongest to feel overwhelmed.
How do we survive these unprecedented circumstances with our Families intact?
How do we keep intact the family and what family was created to be in the midst of our uncertainty?
Perhaps the following eight strategies can assist you in protecting the Family safety of your "shelter in place" in the midst of any pandemic.
8 SURVIVAL TIPS ON RELATIONAL STRATEGIES IN A PANDEMIC:
View Part 2 for Tips 5-8.
M. Diane Pearce, Phd
Finding myself having an intense reaction to others, because I feel slighted, discarded, overlooked or without value warrants a renewal of practicing meditations on truth. This calls for an adjustment of my auto-pilot or muscle memory reactions.
When someone says or does things that hurts me, it is time to consider and think on what I know to be true. Meditating on truth is a necessity!
Help me, Father, to remember and rest in the awareness that…
I know that Abba Father values me as His own, because He made me.
I know that Abba Father calls me by name, because He rescues me from myself.
I know that Abba Father calls me to do for others, because He equips me.
I pray - Help me to remember and rest in the awareness of these truths, especially when I am hurt by the unavailability, abandonment, forgetfulness or unkindness of others.
Help me when I am hurting to admit it to you, my heavenly Father, and to the other person when appropriate. Help me to do this without blaming, accusing, or labeling them or their actions. After all, I do not answer for their actions, I answer only for my own. Have mercy on them, as they do not know the effects of what they have done.
Give me courage and strength to change my reactions to others.
Give me serenity to accept where they are at and that I do not know their circumstances in full.
Give me discernment to know the difference between what I can change and what I cannot change.
Give me wisdom to only invest my thoughts and energy in changing what I am in control of, nothing more and nothing less.
If I am granted the right amount of courage, serenity, and discernment, I will be equipped to invest with those who are receptive, and I will also be able to ‘shake it off’ with those who are not receptive.
Help me to listen to the voice of truth and reason while never underestimating the power of my emotions.
To ignore my emotion sets me up to have a spillover reaction towards others. To place too much value on emotion will lead me to isolate in hopes of avoiding discomfort. So, there is a delicate balance that I am incapable of managing on my own. This is the reason for me to be conscious of the ever-present help of my creator, my heavenly Father.
To be conscious of His presence, I choose to be mindful and fully tuned into His words more than any other words spoken by others.
For further study: Scripture adapted from NIV Holy Bible, Hosea 6:8, Zephaniah 3:17, Matthew 10, 12 & 13.
Warmly, ~dr P
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
Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.