Words of Wisdom

 

 

A Place at the Table - Part 1

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

Dinner time, especially with children, can sometimes be interesting and a place to learn and grow. When our oldest was about eight years old, she went through a phase. Here is her story In her own words: "I went through a stretch of time where I dropped my fork every night at dinner. Sometimes I would go through three forks in a single sitting! Of course, catching the fork on its way down never once occurred to me. I preferred to sit there, stupified, watching the fork bounce from lap to chair to rung to floor. Out of desperation to keep the silverware somewhat intact, my father stepped in to help and we had "Reflex Bootcamp". Forks, spoons, and dinner knives were lined up in a row on the table. A single utensil was flicked off, and he demonstrated how to catch it. My turn. We practiced the basics: The Grab, The Leg Press, The Arm Clutch, The Big Squeeze, and The Pluck. Eventually, through intensive reflex training, parental patience, and four drawers worth of silverware, I learned to catch (and not drop!) my utensils." When loved ones are going through tough times, we can do our best to equip them with skills and resources. Struggles can isolate us from the very people who can best help and encourage. But like a fork dropping to the hardwood floor, our struggles are rarely completely secret from those who love us. There is no shame in reaching out for support and guidance. Oftentimes by learning new skills and knowledge, we can be properly equipped to face our problems--and our silverware--and be wiser afterwards. Even now, at the drop of a fork, my oldest can perfectly execute The Big Squeeze.

Messy

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

If appropriate and called upon, figure out how to bring grace and truth to a messy situation. However, watch your boundaries.

Masks

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

One of the best memories from my favorite childhood vacation place is hanging over the edge of a dock staring into the water. Our faces were reflected perfectly in calm water and distorted in rough water. The same is true of our heart. If our heart is in a storm, it is reflected in our countenance. If we experience a calm heart, our face reveals the same. Remember, whatever is in our heart will be reflected on our face. Honesty involves allowing our internal experience to match our outward expression. Masks may be appropriate at times but not often or always. Healing comes in a setting of those we have come to know we can be honest with…storm or calm.

Relief

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed and burdened--like the whole world rests on our shoulders. What a relief to realize that we are not responsible for everyone and everything. We are only responsible for what is ours to be responsible for - no more and no less.

Seasonal Moods

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

With the season and weather change often comes a change of mood or outlook. Some people enjoy the fall change, some people don't, but regardless, we're all affected by it. Anyone that lives above 73 degrees latitude will likely experience some mood lowering during these next few months. This is a documented occurrence and isn't something we just need to "grin and bear." Consider talking to your doctor about taking a supplement or using a vitamin D lamp for yourself and family. Your body, mind, and everyone around you will thank you for it!

Forgiveness

Cheryl Welch, BSN, RN, M.S., LPC-T

Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness does not mean we forget the experience or the wrong that was done. Forgiveness does not mean that we must trust that person to do the right thing in the future. It does mean that we have processed the alternatives of being angry and holding grudges, and decide to let go of the anger, which in turn limits the expended energy we waste on the topic of the wrongdoing. When you are holding a grudge against a loved one, a close friend, a relative, etc., try to process why it is important for you to hold on to your anger and unforgiveness, and figure out how to forgive. Life is short and we do not know when that person we are angry at may die, or when we will take our last breath, then it is too late, leaving the survivors to think about how they should have worked through the issue with the deceased. Figure out how to let go of your anger. Learn how to forgive. You might find your shoulders aren’t so tense, your thoughts are not constantly spinning around about the wrongdoing, and you are not triggered so easily toward anger. Forgiving is your choice.

Listen and Learn

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Want to know about someone’s character? Listen to how they talk about people they disagree with.

Getting Even

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

If we harbor thoughts of getting even with people, those targeted in our minds gain control over us.

Patient Improvement

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Having had ancestors who were farmers, it taught me a lot to listen to them talk about growth patterns. Much of the growth begins underground where it is not initially seen. Farmers wait patiently for seeds to sprout, then for improvement in the size of the plant, and the harvest to ripen. Our internal grow is much the same - not initially noted. Yet seeds planted over time sprout new patterns of thinking, leading to healthier behaviors. The harvest is rich. Focus on patiently improving rather than immediate change.

A Rigged Game

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

Unless we are careful, we can fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. Someone else’s accomplishments, regardless of how they compare to your own, do not take anything away from you. Dr. Jordan Peterson, renowned psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, explains why comparing yourself to others is not beneficial. No one has the exact same strengths, weaknesses, experiences, or circumstances other than you. Comparing yourself to someone else is playing a rigged game. The only person you can properly compare yourself to is you.

Kindness and Patience in Transition

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

We are in a season of transition. Right now it's back to school time and the weather is changing. Whether you're experiencing changes you consider positive or negative, change always takes energy. If your kids have gone back to school, it's normal for them to have trouble regulating their emotions when they get home. So be kind and patient. If your kids have gone back to school it's normal for you to feel out of sorts. So be kind and patient. If you don't have the kids thing going on it's still fall. And fall brings all sorts of changes. There's less light. People have a different kind of busy. It's normal to feel different and even tired as you adjust to the changes. So be kind and patient. Bottom line: However you and others are feeling is normal and kindness and patience is the way to go.

Anger

Cheryl Welch, BSN, RN, M.S., LPC-T

Anger is an emotion that each of us have experienced in our lifetime. It seems to be the first emotion grabbed out of the emotional toolbox. Many of us may tend to blame another person or the situation as being the cause of our anger. Would it surprise you to know that you have a choice what emotion you will use, and others can’t make you feel the way you do? You choose your emotion! No one else or thing can make you angry. I am not saying that a person should not ever be angry. I am saying each of us needs to own our emotions and manage our feelings of anger more effectively. If you are an individual who believes they thrive on being angry, please reconsider your stance. Constant feelings of anger increase stress, negatively affect relationships, cause health issues (high blood pressure, headaches, stomach issues, etc.), affect critical thinking skills, and quite frankly can exhaust a person. Take some deep breaths, become mindful of the situation you are in, and determine if you really need to be angry or just be present in the experience. If you want to be present in the experience, take some deep breaths and count your teeth, then choose patience or kindness. If you cannot let go of being angry, I would encourage you to reach out for support and counseling to address past hurts that may keep you stuck in your anger.

What Has a Hold on You?

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Is there something you are holding on to that actually is holding on to you? What is it? Look at it. Is it doing any good to hold on to it? Is it truly protecting you, or keeping you safe in some way? Or is it putting part of you in a dark place? If you are holding on to something that no longer applies to you living a healthy life, let go. Let the light in. Open your hands and heart for healing. It’s time. God loves you.

Quiet Time

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

One of my favorite times of the day is early morning. The house is quiet. Coffee is in the cup. The only things alive and moving are the birds. This time is restorative, reflective, and renews me for the day ahead. Some of you know what I am talking about. Others may like to do this later at night after others in the house have gone to bed. No matter when or how, time to restore, reflect, and renew are necessary for our sense of well-being. Enjoy some quiet time today!

Stay Aware & Be Adventurous

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., CAPSW

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting an adventurist. She traveled throughout the world hiking through desert canyons, climbing mountains, and cycling across continents. She shared with me some of the challenges she faced and how she overcame obstacles. She enjoys the challenge of pushing her body to the extreme. However, she ignores her physical pain - the body’s signal that something is wrong and needs attention. The ability to ignore pain can be helpful in extreme situations. Left unchecked, our ability to ignore pain can become dangerously automatic. This can escalate to ignoring intense emotional pain. When ignoring acute or chronic pain becomes the norm, individuals can find themselves in toxic relationships and/or toxic situations.

Learning to Relax

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

There's a part of our brain that we can liken to a fire alarm. This part of us is always scanning our environment for danger. This is also the part that gets us stressed out. And when this part is triggered the muscles of our body tense. It might be different muscles for different people but there is always some sort of tension. An exercise that we can do to reduce our own anxiety and stress levels is to notice where the tension is in our body - and then to intentionally relax those muscles. If you're struggling to do this, constrict those muscles for 5 seconds and then let go and they should relax. Then, take a few good deep breaths, tell yourself some good, true things, and feel the stress leave your body.

How Can I Communicate Effectively

Cheryl Welch, BSN, RN, M.S., LPC-T

Have you ever wondered why you at times feel like you are not being heard or understood? Do you ever find yourself getting angry in conversations or feeling attacked? Take a moment to think about how a topic is approached. Are there swear words used to get one’s thoughts and opinions across to the other person? Do you start with accusations and saying “you”? I would encourage you to USE YOUR WORDS and OWN what you are saying! Approach a difficult topic owning your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, wants, needs, etc. Begin the discussion with “I” statements. I would encourage you to eliminate the swear words as they really don’t provide insight into the discussion, except that you are angry or have a limited vocabulary. Never MINDREAD! Always allow the other person opportunity to share their perspective on the topic and own what they feel, think, need want, etc. Gaining understanding and agreeing to disagree (when appropriate) is more effective in relationship building than always having to be right.

Emotional Intelligence

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

One definition: The ability to recognize emotion in yourself and others. It is something some have naturally and others genuinely do not. Emotional intelligence can be used for good or not so good just like other forms of insight and understanding. Studies indicate it can be learned to a degree. However, not everyone has it as in not every person is skilled in math. If you have it, use EI responsibly. If you don’t have it, look to learn it and use it well.

The Call of Wisdom

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Did you know wisdom calls to you? Yup...her voice is continuous and unending. She asks you for a listening ear, challenges you to nurture understanding, and remain willing to receive correction. You have three choices: You can ignore her, turn on her in contempt, or turn toward her to receive what she has to offer. It’s your choice.

Without Regret

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

Once a year, my family and I go to a remote place to where my aunt lives. Although the drive is much longer than the actual time we spend with her, those visits are precious and always memorable. We are enjoying her while we can. There are no regrets. Whenever any of us takes the time to visit with a loved one, it is time well spent and there are no regrets.

Breathe - Yes Breathe!

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

Are you breathing? That may seem like a funny question but I think many of us would be surprised by how often we hold our breath. And then, if you take time to notice when you are breathing, how shallow are your breaths? The majority of us breathe very shallowly most of the time. This communicates to our nervous system that we should be stressed out. And we probably are stressed out, and that's why we're breathing short. The thoughts and the breathing reinforce each other. We can stop the stressed-out cycle by taking a moment and breathing deeply. So, go ahead and care for yourself today by remembering to simply breathe.

The Benefits of Laughter

Cheryl Welch, BSN, RN, M.S., LPC-T

We all experience stress in our lives. When you are feeling stressed, don’t reach for a medication or pill, but take time to just laugh. A good old belly laugh will release your own endorphins while stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) decrease. The problems may not disappear, but you will find a different way of seeing them and may create solutions. Use laughter to interrupt the cycle(s) of stress.

Grumbling

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

There is a grumbling that some do for fun or for an attempt to vacate bad feelings: usually when the subject isn't present and others are. It doesn’t work for you to express personal disgust with something or someone that “hits you wrong.” Grumbling and bad mouthing simply magnifies negativity back to you and to anyone who hears it.

Finding Courage

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., CAPSW

On a recent trip out west, my daughter asked if she could ride a bull. Thinking it was a mechanical bull in which there was padding all around and plenty of safety precautions, Dad said yes. It was not until we were in the stands waiting for her in which we realized it was not a mechanical bull. We watched breathlessly as she climbed on the real bull and waited as more experienced riders tied her rope. The bull had an unusually large hump, so it ended up taking three other riders to tie the rope correctly. All the while, my anxiety was rising; she appeared to be calm. Although the ride only lasted three seconds before she was thrown off, it was long enough for me. Afterward, I asked her if she was afraid at all when she was on the bull. She answered, “yeah, I was afraid but I just decided to find the courage to overcome my fear.” Seems like good advice - to focus on increasing courage to overcome obstacles instead of trying to decrease the fear of an obstacle.

Stewardship

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Hearing the word stewardship brings to mind appropriate principles in the obtaining and maintaining of healthy finances. However, relationships need the same care, planning, and wise decisions to keep them healthy. Flourishing relationships involve appreciation, thoughtful planning along with a growing awareness of needs, values, and negotiation of stressors along the way. How are you doing?

Stop and Breathe

Cheryl Welch, BSN, RN, M.S., LPC-T

When you have those moments you feel stressed and anxious, take a few seconds and breathe. Then count your teeth with your tongue. This process can bring focus and decrease the anxiety. Try it!!

We Need Sleep

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

How's your sleep? Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to be physically and mentally healthy. (Kids and teens need more.) If you're going through a stressful period or are female, you likely need closer to nine hours. The best way to figure out how much sleep you need is to go to sleep at the same time for a couple nights in a row and then see what time you naturally wake up. When we don't get enough sleep we don't just feel tired the next day but our brains aren't able to function at full capacity. Sleep helps us keep whatever new information we learned the day before and it helps us be emotionally regulated. These are just two of the benefits of getting enough sleep. Find out how much sleep you need to be fully rested and enjoy the benefits!

Laughter as Medicine

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Studies suggest that humor and laughing have good things in store for us mentally and physically. These two things can relieve pain, strengthen the immune system, help with stress, and make people contact very pleasant. Let’s seek humor and laughter every day. It’s good for us.

Diligent

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

A “diligent” person...to be “diligent” means we take painstaking effort at something or with someone. Diligence relationally means we make great effort to learn about or be with another as the relationship develops. Not knowing the future while remaining diligent is the foundation of our growth toward and with our loved one. It is our conscious choice to focus forward toward what this unique partnership can be.

No Texting!

Cheryl Welch, BSN, RN, M.S., LPC-T

Texting has become a way of life, but can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, anger, judgments, and the list goes on. When there is a serious topic you want to cover with someone, get on the phone and call them or talk to them in person. Texting leaves interpretation of the message by the receiver and not the intent of the sender. Personal contact provides opportunity to actually hear the words spoken, to clarify meaning, and to come to an understanding of intent.

Perfectionism Is Not A Strength

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., CAPSW

Over the years, I have had the privilege of counseling many talented and gifted men, women and children. An all too-common concern is perfectionism. Perfectionism chokes off dreams and aspirations. It comes with the unrealistic idea that we have to get everything right the first time. Learning, growing, and changing is all a process. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and not get things right the first time.

Hold the Line

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

We all have situations in our life that are just difficult. And sometimes we get so tired and we just want to give up, give in, or go back to the old way of doing things. We wonder whether it's worth the fight or not. But it is. It always is. We can never forget this. In most situations it only takes one person to be a catalyst for change in our own lives and the lives of others. If you're tired, that's okay but don't lose the ground for which you fought so hard. Hold the line!

I Just Had a Fender Bender

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Truly, three hours ago. My fault entirely. I realize in this that I’ve grown. I’m analyzing but not overly so. I’m not obsessing about what’s next. I’m letting go and looking at what God has for all concerned. I’m looking forward to a nice day. Phew. That took a lot of years! Thanks God!

Relational Adventure

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

People go to great lengths in relationship to maintain what they believe to be true about their perspective and experience. Natural as it is to preserve what we believe to be true, it can also deny the very experience and perspective of someone we love. Acknowledging what is valid about another experience does not negate your own. What it does provide an open door to learn additional perspectives and options for resolutions. Look at it as an adventure! One in which both are validated and may receive some of which is desired.

Honesty a

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., CAPSW

I think we have all learned about the importance of honesty. The most important person to be honest with is yourself. Honesty is closely related to being open to constructive criticism. Without being honest with yourself, it is difficult to grow and change.

If Only...a

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

If only he would get his act together. If only she would knock it off. If only I had a different job. At any point in our lives we can probably come up with some sort of "if only" statement that we feel would make our lives better. However, as we all know, we rarely have all that we want. So, instead of hanging all our hopes on these if's we can be proactive in caring for our self and bringing ourselves a sense of stability. This involves learning how to walk in our integrity. This means focusing on ourselves and how we want to be and act regardless of the situation... This way, at the end of the day, we can look in the mirror and be proud of how we've handled things.

Shame and Shutdown

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

“Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused. In fact, abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing.” (Kaufman) This is especially true with nasty group or individual opinions (bullying) and so-called minor sexual violations. The feelings of being defiled, while simultaneously experiencing the indignity of being at the mercy of another person, are enough for many to shut down standing up for one’s self for a very long time.

Long Life

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Remaining positive in our dog-eat-dog kind of world is no easy task. Studies in the field of neuroscience tell us that giving to others increases our ability to live longer, think happier thoughts, increases our self-esteem and physically improves our health. Focusing on your blessings and ways we can give to others takes on many forms. Verbal blessings, monetary gifts, practical provisions, spiritually extending mercy and grace. All of these help our brains function at an optimal level. We all have days of anxious thoughts and concerns. This is normal and understandable. True contentment focuses on what we have that is good, acknowledging what we don’t have and freely giving what we can.

Emotions

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

Current culture emphasizes a logical, rational way of thinking and being, and with good reason. Hotheads can get us into a lot of trouble. However, this has translated into a devaluing of emotion. Emotions are important though. We are all fueled by emotion, even the most rational person. Emotion is what brings vibrancy and depth to life. When we cut off or deny our emotions we lose out on the joy and the reality of living. No, it's not okay to let our emotions run us and it's not even important that we express them all the time. But what's important is that we notice them, care for them, and honor them. They are good information that tells us where we stand with ourselves and with other people and can help us make informed decisions about how to better our lives. When logic and emotion are paired together then we are fully alive.

Make a Commitment

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Here’s how you give and receive commitment: 1. Respond to bids to connect. Put down the phone, look and listen. 2. Work through struggles together with a team mentality. Keep a struggle as a thing to overcome together not a “whose to blame for this.” 3. Find a way to have fun occasionally even in the daily grind. These things work in relationships and in the workplace.

What People Need

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Dr. Caroline Leaf makes an amazing comment. “Every cell in our bodies is designed to respond to love.” As a cognitive neuroscientist, she understands the reality of what people need to thrive. Behaviors that help anyone thrive is those which originate in the positive existence of love. It is true we need love yet love is not always a global acceptance of all behavior or thoughts. Love means structure integrated with grace, discipline with patience, mercy with consequences, guidance with values, and much more. If every cell in our bodies is designed to respond to love, then true love involves rules with grace, patient discipline, consequences that encourage, and a value system designed to celebrate and respect differences. We could use more of this.

A Curious Case of Mistaken Identity: Knowing Who You Are

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

A few years ago, our oldest daughter was mistaken for someone else. The following is her recount of the incident in her own words: “During my second semester of college, I arrived at school late. I had my backpack, purse, lunchbox, and thermos firmly in hand as I blended into a crowd of 11-12 year olds who were on a field trip. I made it through the doors and tried to head down the main hallway to my classroom. A very dedicated elementary school teacher stopped me and insisted that I not leave the tour group. We argued back and forth, me wanting to get to my class and her firmly telling me to ‘put my backpack and lunch on the bus’ and ‘join the other kids’. (To be fair to the teacher, it should be understood that when I stand as straight and tall as I can, I barely measure five feet. So many of the young students were much taller.) After several minutes of arguing and her physically blocking my path, I won the argument by asking her if she’d taken attendance that morning (she had) and if she’d ever seen me before in her life (she hadn’t). I promptly stepped around her and headed off to my class.” Although humorous, this vignette demonstrates a few key points: Do not look to others to validate your identity. It is important to know who you are even when strangers are telling you that you are someone else. It is important to know your rightful place and proper path even when someone is trying to steer you wrong.

Be Kind to Yourself!

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

The holidays are over and maybe you feel like you can breathe again. This period brings highs and lows, stresses and joys, and many more things than we are usually carrying. Whether the holidays were mostly positive or negative now is the time to focus on getting balanced again. January is an adjustment period. Be kind to yourself and others as you settle back into the normal routine.

Blame Does Not Heal

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Blame may help your hurting for a short time. It will not heal your unrest in the long run.

Aware

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Healing begins when we admit what we are doing that sets us up for relational pain or plain turmoil in life. I read the following earlier this year. “When you are amazed at the lengths to which you go to cover up your wrong actions, you are witness to your own selfishness in action.” Dear friends, be aware and choose wisely!

Your Best

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

You are worthy. You are significant. You are valuable beyond measure. And you are worth your best effort...in everything you do.

Love Others - Change Yourself

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

If you're up on any healthy relationship psychology at all then you will know that the only person you can change is yourself. We cannot change other people. However, we can have influence. And one of the best ways to have influence is to get out of the way. When we stop taking other people's consequences, they get to experience pain. And pain is a gift and a very powerful motivator for change. So, consider, have you been shielding anyone in your life from the consequences of unhealthy patterns? If you have….consider stopping. Chances are they will catch on very quickly and make healthier choices for the future. This is one of the best ways to love people!

Is Life Confusing?

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

There are times in life when things seem confusing. The way out is not looking for what or who is wrong. If you wait and watch, a new way through is probably at hand.

Undermined

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

The holiday season is in full swing. Being swayed by advertising, what others think or crave seemingly comes much easier. Identify and focus on what your core values are: honest exchanges of appreciation, enjoyable time with those you love, and so much more. This season passes quickly. Aid your ability to love freely, give generously as well as receive with a grateful heart. All the rest is designed to undermine our sense and confidence in what we hold true.

Building Fences...Pruning Hedges - Part 2

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

As with taking care of any plant, removing dead or damaged pieces is important for growing and healing. You are allowed to remove dead or damaging habits from your life. You are allowed to remove dead or damaging patterns from your life. You are allowed to remove dead or damaging relationships from your life. You are allowed to have your “yes” mean yes and your “no” mean no. You are allowed to become strong. You are allowed to become the best you can be. You are allowed to become excellent.

Wisdom