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Help Your Young Person Blossom With Six Steps to Foster Summertime Mental and Emotional Wellness

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Help Your Young Person Blossom With Six Steps to Foster Summertime Mental and Emotional Wellness

Blog

Help Your Young Person Blossom With Six Steps to Foster Summertime Mental and Emotional Wellness

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Counseling Center Clinical Director

School’s out for summer, and now our young sons and daughters may need help to recalibrate their schedules to nurture their mental and emotional wellness. A summer spent on screens or without meaningful activities has the potential to stall their development and waste opportunities for insightful experiences and supportive relationships. Dr. Tracy Siebers, Samaritan Counseling Center Clinical Director, suggests that caring adults help guide the young people in their lives to invest in these summertime activities and routines:

Ensure Healthy Sleep

The phrase “sleep to grow” is indeed accurate. It’s a time when our body rests, rejuvenates, and regulates hormone levels that affect many important systems in our bodies. Young people secrete their growth hormones especially during deep sleep. Serious health problems like anxiety, depression, and obesity can be linked to poor sleep. But this does not mean teens should sleep until noon! Expect a consistent waking time after nine to 11 hours of sleep a night. Try to make sure phones are completely turned off at bedtime and put outside their bedrooms.

Explore Nature

Go for a short nature walk or hike with your young person. Bring tempting snacks and pack a water bottle. Talk as you walk, but plan for short stints where you are silent. This will allow your companion(s) to experience the leaves, birds, and sunshine. Without pressing the issue, you are introducing the calming effects of nature and mindfulness, two valuable skills for dealing with a lifetime of complex experiences and stressors.

Foster Intergenerational Relationships

It can be intimidating or awkward for teens and pre-teens to engage with their elders, especially if grandparents or friends are beginning to experience cognitive decline. However, it’s also an enriching opportunity for them to learn empathy, absorb wisdom, and bring genuine joy to others. Accompany young people on visits and integrate them into your conversations. Start with phrases like, “Look what I found. . . .” Or “I’ve brought something you might like …” and then share an old recipe card, photo, or toy. Listen to the fascinating stories! Older children who play an instrument can perform a short concert—that’s always a hit.

Cook Up a New Tradition

Try for regular trips to the farm market with your family. Walk or bike there if you can. Empower young people to choose their own fruits and vegetables. That night, cut and chop together and create a salad or meal.

Get to Work

Make a conscious choice to encourage a strong age-appropriate work ethic over the summer, whether it’s contributing to household chores, volunteering to re-stack books at the library, helping mow grandma’s lawn, or getting paid at a part-time job. Facilitate project-based-learning like gardening. Choosing seeds, weeding, and watering teach valuable lessons about food, flowers, and project management, all with tangible results. Every day should have purpose and reinforce feelings of resourcefulness and self-esteem, even if it’s just an hour or two a day. Also, these interactions help build relationships and references that will support a young person as he or she grows into writing a résumé or job and college applications.

Make Memories

The stories of a healthy childhood do not require lavish trips to Disney. They are written in the small moments you spend with your young children and friends, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. Reading books, making art, listening and talking, baking, going for walks, picking flowers, playing catch, or reminiscing about the good old days will make for a happy and healthy summer and a lifetime of memories.

In addition to being the clinical director for Samaritan Counseling Center, Dr. Tracy Siebers is a bilingual English and Spanish therapist. She serves children, adolescents, adults, couples and families facing concerns with depression, anxiety, anger management, behavioral problems, cultural adjustment, mindfulness, trauma and borderline personality disorder. She serves clients at Samaritan’s Menasha and Kaukauna locations.


Resilient, Naturally: Skills, Relationships and Faith Help Us Bounce Back, Grow

Posted on by Jill Harp

By Executive Director Rosangela Berbert, Samaritan Counseling Center

Resilience is a word we have started to hear more often in everyday conversation. That’s good, because every person has to build resilience skills to navigate life. But what exactly is resilience, and how do we learn to be resilient?

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, or tragedy. It means “bouncing back” from life’s difficulties—and we all experience them! Family relationships, financial distress, health crises, workplace dysfunction and even good things like a wedding, graduation, or a new job disrupt our well-being and require us to call on our resiliency. Without well-honed resiliency, we can respond poorly to life stressors and develop unhealthy relationships, addictions, or depression and anxiety that only increase our problems. Keep in mind, “bouncing back” doesn’t mean you always return to the same place you were before your adverse experience. It may mean that you gain confidence and insight beyond what you had before.

Distress Comes First

Being resilient does not mean a person has no difficulty or sadness in life. In fact, the path to resilience is likely to involve significant emotional distress, not a lack of it. Think of it this way: when someone is courageous in battle, he or she still experiences fear, yet reacts in a brave manner in the face of that fear. In the same way, resilience is having courage in the face of significant emotional distress. It involves learned behaviors, thoughts, and actions to help you react to life’s struggles in a way that will grow your self-confidence and wisdom. And being able to engage your spiritual beliefs or faith in this process can be a great added resource.

Practice Your Skills

People commonly demonstrate resilience; it is an ordinary human ability, not an unattainable super power. You can learn from and adapt to adversity in healthy ways. Throughout your life, work to develop specific skills and relationships so you can turn to them in times of stress and tap into your resilient nature:

  • Nurture caring and supportive family and non-family relationships
  • Befriend healthy role models who offer encouragement and reassurance
  • Develop or expand the capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses
  • Affirm a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • Make realistic plans and take steps to complete them
  • Practice spiritual disciplines that give you a sense of inner peace and connection with something that is greater than yourself
  • Adopt a belief system that allows you to make meaning out of stressful circumstances

Choose Your Balance

The key to healthy resilient behavior is maintaining flexibility and balance in your life as you deal with trauma and upset. This is an intentional act of engaging with the emotions and changes you must acknowledge in order to move forward, but also consciously choosing to disengage or back away when you have to deal with the demands of daily living or recharge your mind and body. For example:

  • Let yourself experience strong emotions, and realize when you need to avoid them to continue functioning.
  • Take action to deal with your problems and meet the demands of daily living, and step back to disengage, rest, and reenergize yourself.
  • Spend time with loved ones to gain support and encouragement, and nurture yourself with mindfulness, exercise, hobbies, and good nutrition.
  • Rely on others to listen and help you, and rely on yourself to discover your inner strength.
  • Seek the sacred within yourself and with others to find a personal sense of belonging and purpose.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we have made much progress over the last several years to normalize mental health care. The success of our work in breaking the stigma of mental illness presents Samaritan with the exciting challenge to properly welcome and meet the needs of our ever-growing and changing clientele. More than ever, we are called to be nimble and innovative to meet the mental health needs of our communities. We are increasing our staff, reevaluating our space, and expanding our capacity to offer the services that will make our communities mentally healthier. As we approach a half century of successful service to the community, Samaritan Counseling Center remains flexible, balanced—and resilient!

Blog by Rosangela Berbert, MSE, NCC, LPC

Rosangela (pronounced hoe-SAN-gel-ah) Berbert is the executive director of Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley. She is a licensed professional counselor. She has been on staff at Samaritan since 2005.


If I Had a Hammer

Posted on by Jill Harp
If I Had a Hammer: Reflections of a Board Retreat

It’s a bit of a pun to have a board retreat and one result is this creation, an intricately arranged set of silver and gold nails installed on–you guessed it–a board. But stay with me! Our recent exercise in bringing together the board of directors and the executive leadership team of Samaritan Counseling Center went far beyond tabletop games. In fact, this sculpture, and the exercise of building it, is interpreted in a very meaningful way: One vertical nail stands tall in the center, representative of our mission, to help connect mind and spirit so individuals, families, organizations, and communities thrive. There are two gold board-of-director nails that are horizontally oriented to support multiple interlocking silver nails, all of which represent our leadership and operations staff. The arrangement would collapse if any one role is abandoned.

This keynote presentation was given by Bob Johnson, the president and CEO of Solihten Institute (formerly known as The Samaritan Institute). He was invited to our retreat to help us address the significant growth in our Center since the last 5-year strategic plan was developed in 2015, including:

  • In 2015, our Center had 1,000 clients and 7,419 completed counseling sessions; in 2018, that number had grown to 1,470 clients and 9,947 sessions.
  • During the 2015/16 school year, 1,010 students were screened as part of Connected Community Wellness Screen and 227 were referred to services; in the 2017/18 school year, 6,460 were screened and 642 were referred.

During this same period of time, a new leadership team formed and fresh talent came to our board of directors. Together, our group began to thoughtfully consider our individual roles in the context of the Samaritan Counseling Center of the next 50 years.

I mention 50 years because our founders established what has become Samaritan Counseling Center in the Fox Cities in 1970. The year 2020 is meaningful to us and the people we serve because we will not only mark this half-century milestone, but choose and place new stones into our future path. As we’ve expanded our geographic footprint, community collaborations, youth wellness screenings, Spanish-language counseling services, and staff, we know big decisions will be studied and built into the next strategic plan. It’s a good thing we are handy with a hammer and nails.

Blog by Rosangela Berbert, MSE, NCC, LPC

Executive director Rosangela (pronounced hoe-SAN-gel-ah) Berbert is a licensed professional counselor. She has been on staff at Samaritan since 2005.


Reclaim Your Life in the Midst of Depression, Anxiety

Recently my outlook on life has been great—but it doesn’t always feel that way. Since my diagnosis of major depression and anxiety at age 18, not every day is the same, and I’m not the same every day. Early in my mental health counseling nearly 15 years ago, I was also contending with an unsupportive family. When I explained to my mother what I was learning about myself; she didn’t receive it well, nor did she offer help or affirmation. As a result, I was forced to rely on myself to find solutions and make more progress. I became my own advocate.

If you are currently struggling with your mental wellness, it may feel as if you’ve lost control over your ability to speak up for what you need. Giving yourself permission and reclaiming your control will give you back the hope you need to be whole again. You can get better—and you deserve to get better.

Each time I find myself down at the bottom, I bring myself up through counseling, medication, yoga, running, light therapy, adult coloring books, books, movies, music and my very supportive husband and select friends. It took time, persistence, and practice to become a strong advocate for myself, but doing so has made it possible for me to have a rich and rewarding life.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

Blog by Melissa Laughlin Holtz, BS, SW-IT

Melissa Laughlin Holtz is a case manager with the Connected Community Wellness Screen Program and the Hortonville Areas School District (E3).

 

 

 


When You Have the Winter Blues

In the midst of our long cold slog toward spring, you may be experiencing the winter blues. The winter blues, a term that can mean seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is defined by clinical psychologists and medical doctors in different ways. Some experts see the condition as purely psychological, while others believe depression is linked to inflammation in the body. The brain is complex and there’s a lot we don’t know, but there are some things we can infer based on available research:

  • SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons; it begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
  • If you have one bad winter and bounce back, you’re probably feeling the normal ups and downs of life. However, if you experience more severe symptoms of depression during the fall and winter months for two or more years in a row, you may want to ask your doctor about SAD.
  • SAD symptoms to watch for are carbohydrate and sugar cravings, digestive problems, changes in appetite or weight, weight gain, trouble focusing, noticeable drop in energy, tendency to sleep a lot, sleep disturbances, social withdrawal, persistent sadness, irritability, feelings of worthlessness, thoughts or attempts to harm yourself, lack of motivation, drop in energy, noticeable fatigue, and physical pains, including headaches and joint pains.
  • Specific causes of SAD remain unknown, yet several factors may come into play, including your biological clock (circadian rhythm), serotonin levels, melatonin levels, family history, having major depression or bipolar disorder, and living far from the equator.
  • If this sounds like you, please know it’s not your fault. People who don’t live with depression often think you can just decide to be happy. However, behind the scenes, there are brain chemicals and hormones that make you feel this way.

Help for SAD Sufferers

There are many ways to help you cope with SAD, like natural light therapy; artificial light therapy; cognitive behavioral therapy (AKA talk therapy); exercise; and supplements for brain support including vitamin D, SAM-e, 5-HTP, L-tryptophan, and St. John’s Wort.*

If the winter blues have got you down, reach out and ask for help from your health care provider, counselor, or therapist. There is light at the end of the tunnel—and you don’t have to wait until April to put the spring back in your step!

*If you are taking an anti-depressant, vitamins for depression, or other natural supplements for anxiety and depression, talk with your health care provider about what you are taking to avoid harmful drug interactions.

Blog by Melissa Laughlin Holtz, BS, SW-IT

Melissa Laughlin Holtz is a case manager with the Connected Community Wellness Screen Program and the Hortonville Areas School District (E3).

 

 

 


How to Help Teens with Holiday Pressures

Teenage people have a lot on their plates during the winter holiday season. School is in full swing, exams are looming, and there are extra activities and work obligations. Teens also live with one foot in childhood and the other in adulthood—they may still feel an attachment to youthful holiday magic while realizing the stress it can cause for their family’s financial and emotional health. Also, big family reunions can add an element of drama. That’s a lot to schedule, and an even bigger challenge to manage in a healthy, life-giving way.

Teens often show their stress with the onset of headaches or stomachaches; trouble sleeping; unusual moodiness, including tears for seemingly minor reasons; and withdrawal from friends, family, or school. As a caring adult in a teen’s life, when you see stress taking a toll, try to limit or adjust your teen’s commitments and create opportunities to relax and rediscover joy. Here are some things to try:

  • Emphasize routines and structure. Make structured holiday plans and communicate them to your young person. Have your teen help you bake, wrap presents, participate in family outings, or complete chores.
  • Prioritize healthy food and movement.  Plan at least one healthy meal for the family every day. Be sure your teen stays hydrated—sometimes bad moods or fatigue are simply caused by “wilting.” Invite your young person out for a short walk. Fresh air engenders conversation and a fresh perspective.
  • Schedule downtime. Allow enough time for your young person to decompress between holiday activities and obligations with a long shower, a good book, or their favorite Netflix series. Everyone needs time to recharge.
  • Get creative. Help your teen discover a creative outlet, whether it’s adult coloring books, building a bird house, cake decorating, or henna art. When humans create, they are naturally calmed and achieve a sense of mastery.
  • Check your attitude. Youth can subconsciously respond to the stress levels around them. Therefore, it is important that we be aware of and manage our own stress during the holiday season.

Courtney Pohlman, MA, LMFT, CSOTP, T4C is a therapist with Samaritan Counseling Center with special interest and expertise in marriage and family dynamics. She serves clients in New London and Menasha.


How to Help Teens with Hurt Feelings

Teens’ hurt feelings can spiral to extremes when they internalize the opinions of others. We can help them put the comments of other people in perspective, so they don’t take them personally and allow comments or remarks to weigh on their hearts and minds.

 

It helps to explain:

No matter how nice a person is or how they may keep to themselves, no one can control other people’s behaviors. What we can control is how we respond to the things other people say or do to us.

•It is better to thoughtfully respond to a comment instead of reacting to it. A response considers what responsibility we may have in the situation, whereas an in-the-moment reaction does not and can cause a vicious cycle of hurt feelings.

Teens and adults have a tendency to take things on as if it’s “our fault”. If another person has an issue (even if they direct it towards us), it’s not ours to take on even if they’re trying to tell us it is.

•Avoid getting drawn into an argument with a person who hurts your feelings; rather, consider whether he or she is trying to assign blame to someone else, or if the person lacks the skills to communicate constructively about what’s really going on.

The goal is to teach young people how to thoughtfully consider their part in the matter at hand. However, they don’t need to internalize the situation, carry it with them throughout the day, and let it bring down their mood.

Blog by Karen Aspenson

Karen Aspenson is a former clinician with the E3 program at Hortonville Area School District, where she provides youth mental health screening and referrals via Samaritan’s Connected Community Wellness Screen Program.

 

This blog references material first published by Sam Miller of Parenting Teenagers Academy.

 


Will You Give Up the “C” Word?

“Crazy Hair Day” at school.  “Crazy Daze Sale” at the mall.  “Crazy fast cars” on the Avenue.  “Crazy people” living at the homeless shelter.  “That’s crazy!”  If you pay attention, you’ll be amazed at how frequently you hear these comments.  Perhaps you’ll even catch yourself saying it.  So what?

According to my Google search (www.google.com) of the word “crazy,” it is used as an adjective: “mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.”  It is used as an adverb: “extremely enthusiastic.” And it is used as a noun: “a mentally deranged person.”

The deinstitutionalization movement of the 1960’s failed to live up to its promise of moving individuals living with mental illnesses out of institutions and into community-based, supported residential environments.  Instead, the community-based residences never materialized, and people were left with nowhere to go.  They ended up in jails, prisons, hospitals, city parks and dumpsters.  “Mentally deranged” people became more visible to the general public and referring to them as “crazy” was common.

So what?  The answer is STIGMA.  Continuing my Google search, “stigma” is a noun: “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”  A mark of disgrace.  Associated with a person.  It’s easy to see how a person who can be stained by a mark of disgrace is not likely to openly speak about the source of that mark, and this is especially true of individuals who experience symptoms of mental illness.  It’s a secret people learn to keep.  Like any secret, it’s a dangerous (and deadly) one.

Stigma is blamed for the reluctance of individuals who experience symptoms of mental illness to tell anyone what they are going through.  A 13-year old begins hearing voices from the lamp—who will they tell?  A 20-year old feels so worthless that ending their life becomes a real solution—who will they tell?  A 75-year old man has lost his partner and his friends, and his children don’t visit; he sees no point in living—who will he tell?

Words matter.  Those who serve individuals who live with biological brain disorders, commonly referred to as mental illnesses, have a duty to advocate for the just and respectful treatment for those they serve.  Consider yourself challenged to pay attention to what you say and what you hear, and challenge others to do the same.  Try using one of the many, many other words that describe what you want to say.  You’ll likely find it a wild and outrageous and unique and silly and irrational and outlandish and ridiculous and peculiar experience!

Karen J. Aspenson, MSW, CAPSW, is a former clinician with the Wellness Screen program. She serves students in the Hortonville Area School District through the E3 program. E3 is a comprehensive school-based mental health services collaborative that combines mental health education, support, screening and treatment.


Five Steps to Manage Anger

Anger has a reputation as a “bad” emotion that people try to avoid. Anger can certainly be uncomfortable to feel and is often accompanied by a strong urge to “do something” about it.

This urge to act, and not the emotion itself, is where anger can get us in trouble. Acting on anger with aggression can be damaging to relationships, finances and our bodies.

Here are some tips to channel that strong emotion into healthier communication and activities.

  1. Take a “time out.” Athletes, for example, take time outs from the game when it’s high pressure to think clearly and make a plan to respond to the stress.
  2. Distract yourself with something calming. You might listen to music while you take a drive to combine the “time out” concept with distraction. A time out is less effective if you spend that time out focusing on what caused your anger, so make time for pleasant distractions until you feel calm enough to analyze the situation.
  3. When you are ready to come back and reflect, separate the event that triggered the anger from the meaning you derive from it. For example, think “I was cut off in traffic” versus “That guy cut me off and disrespected me.”
  4. Anger is a secondary emotion. It often comes after a different, unpleasant emotion. Self-reflect on your hidden emotions. Did you feel disrespected? Scared? Embarrassed? By coping with and resolving these feelings, we often alleviate our anger as well.
  5. Find a trusted person and talk about what you’ve learned during your self-reflection. Start with the words “I feel…” and then insert the feeling you’ve discovered was under your anger. An example: “I felt disrespected when I was cut off in traffic this morning. I felt scared that there would be an accident or that I wouldn’t get to work on time.”

One final tip on anger: When times are tough, we do what we practice! If you typically cope with anger with an aggressive distraction like hitting a punching bag, throwing things, and breaking things, research shows that this is most likely how you’ll deal with struggle –  even when there isn’t a safe or legal place to do so. If you’d like to change the way you handle anger, try practicing these tips during times of low anger so that it will come easier to you during times of high stress and anger.

Courtney Pohlman, MA, LMFT, CSOTP, T4C, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She uses a systematic approach to grow and heal families, couples and individuals recovering from trauma, anger, domestic violence and other struggles.

Courtney enjoys walking with clients on their healing journey, offering new perspectives, support, flexibility, humor, empathy and positivity. She believes passionately that we are always making new bonds and creating families.

Courtney is trained in many therapeutic methods, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). She serves clients age 5 and up in our New London and Menasha locations.


3 Steps to Ongoing Calm and Peace

Posted on by Jill Harp

Photo courtesy of Pat Mahoney.

“Deep breathing is a mental health life hack that any person can use anytime, anywhere. It helps reset our stress response (also known as the sympathetic nervous system) when we feel frightened, angry, or just plain overwhelmed,” says Samaritan Counseling Center therapist Leah Szemborski.

“Deep breathing doesn’t cost anything, it’s easy, and everyone can do it. Give it a try!” Leah says.

Leah’s 3 Steps to Ongoing Calm and Peace

  • Hold breath while you count to four.
  • Slowly breathe out as you completely empty your lungs.
  • Repeat.

“By deep breathing you may find that this little trick will help you stay more calm and peaceful throughout your day. Happy breathing!”

Leah is a new counselor at Samaritan Counseling Center with over 13 years of experience. She has a down-to-earth counseling style that helps people feel at ease. Leah sees clients for a variety of concerns including abuse, trauma, grief and loss, self-esteem, spirituality, parenting, marriage, among many others. Leah works with clients ages 0-99 at the Menasha and Oshkosh offices.

Learn more about Leah on Our Therapist page.