April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Date: April 15th, 2018

Filed under: Trauma

It’s April, which means it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It can feel weird to talk about such a sensitive subject – a subject that affects countless lives. By opening the conversation, we hope to erase the uneasy feeling surrounding the discussion and to open avenues of healing for the people who have been affected. For some, telling their story is therapeutic. For others, hearing those stories reduces the feeling of alienation that comes from experiencing assault. No matter how you heal, remember that others are surviving and healing too. If you need to help or guidance, resources are posted at the bottom of this post. If you are feeling motivated to speak up or otherwise support survivors, we have a few suggestions to get active this April.

Share your story

This is only applicable if you have a story to share and you want to share it. There is no deadline. There is no requirement to share at all. If part of your healing process involves sharing in the hopes of helping others, please do. If you do not wish to share publicly, do not let anyone pressure you into it.

Be supportive

Survivors and allies alike, listening empathetically and validating the emotions of a survivor are some of the best ways to help. Listen without judgment. Help when needed. Be respectful of privacy and do not push for more information than they are willing to share.

Normalize healthy discussions

Discussing sexual assault is difficult! It can be uncomfortable, vulnerable, emotional, challenging… but it can be talked about in healthy ways. The more open you are to having this conversation, the more normal it will feel. To clarify, we aren’t asking you to normalize sexual assault. We are asking you to reduce the stigmas surrounding it by having open conversations, stopping accusative or degrading narratives, and supporting those who are healing.

Share resources

Hotlines. Therapists. Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS). There are many professionals and volunteers who are available and will join your support system towards healing.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Confidential and free. Sexual Assault Support Services: 541-343-7277. Local, confidential, and free.

Coping with Change

Date: March 19th, 2018

Filed under: Mental Health

Written by Emily Reich.

Bob Dylan once said that “there is nothing so stable as change". Yet it is something that many people struggle with, in spite of its ubiquity. This challenge is understandable. It is natural to be wary of the unknown and to find comfort in routine. However, some changes are inevitable and change can be a source of opportunity and growth. There are many different kinds of changes—some are exciting, such as a new job or moving to a new home, some are difficult, such as adjusting to loss or a relationship ending, and some can be bittersweet, like graduating college. Regardless of the kind of change you are adjusting to, it is good to be prepared.

Here are a few helpful tips for dealing with change:

1. Do not deny that the change is coming.

Unfortunately, the impending change is unlikely able to be willed away. An important step toward coping with change is accepting that it is happening. Observe and acknowledge the differences you are experiencing. Being aware of the circumstances will help you start the path toward coping with change.

2. Develop a plan.

After coming face to face with the change, it is time to come up with a strategy. It can be easy to slip into a passive role where things simply happen to you, especially when the change is difficult or outside your original expectations. There are ways to have agency and take an active role in any situation. Try making a list of the things you have influence over, identify priorities, and take action. You may begin to feel some comfort once you see yourself as a part of the process.

3. Take care of yourself.

Even positive changes can take extra energy and emotions out of us. Maintaining a consistent self-care practice will help keep your battery charged and helps you to deal with challenges with more ease. Identify activities that give you energy or peace or that bring you joy. Try to find ways to work them into your routine. Additionally, make sure you are getting some of your basic needs met, like getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and nourishing yourself.

4. Begin a reflective process.

Find ways to check in with yourself so that you can be in touch with your feelings, as well as your progress. Try to find time to identify and process your feelings—activities like journaling and meditation can help. You may surprise yourself with your own changes in perspective, adjustment, and/or healing.

If you have tried your best and still find yourself struggling with managing the impact of change in your life, contact our Intake Therapists at 541-868-2004 Ext 1 to discuss making an appointment.

Men and Emotions Series (Part 3)

Date: February 26th, 2018

Filed under: Mental Health

In my previous post, I discussed how learning to identify emotions is something that happens over time. This process can be particularly difficult due to messages about suppressing emotions. I also talked about the benefit of using handouts and different journaling methods in identifying underlying feelings. Now that you may be able to recognize some of those underlying feelings, I want to share a bit what you can do with them. In this post, I will share a few strategies that may be helpful after recognizing emotions.

As men, we can be socialized to be “problem-solvers,” meaning that we may be inclined to want to “fix” whatever we define as a problem. There are times when we identify our unwanted emotions as problems and want to “fix” them. Attempting to rush through or suppress feelings can actually cause them to last a lot longer than we want. Sometimes recognizing the emotions, and allowing ourselves to feel them can go a long way. Resisting the temptation of trying to “fix” the emotions and working to limit the judgments that we assign to emotions can be very helpful in actually managing the emotions. Emotions are not negative or positive, they just are.

Another way to approach emotion management is to create what I like to call “moments of pause.” During these moments, the goal is shift attention away from whatever may be causing the particular emotions in order to provide yourself with the opportunity to develop a different perspective. Examples of helpful strategies include grounding exercises and deep breathing. When we experience particular emotions, there is often a rush of thoughts that enter our minds that accompany the emotions. These thoughts can be difficult to slow down. Grounding exercises can be used to shift our thoughts and help us to become aware of things occurring outside of our body and mind. A grounding exercise is described below:

Focusing on the Present

Another approach to this exercise is select one item around you and describe it using each of your senses. What it does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like? What does it sound like? You don’t necessary need to actually pick up the item. Challenge yourself to really describe the item in detail. There is often more than one response for each question.

Give these exercises, as well taking slow deep breaths, a try. Be mindful that it may take some practice to feel comfortable to doing them and that is totally okay. In the next post, I will explain the connections between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and they are related to emotion management.

5 Simple Ways to Maintain Balance With Work And School

Date: February 22nd, 2018

Filed under: Tips

Written by Taylor Gjesdal

#1 Keep an updated schedule

Whether utilizing a planner or having your schedule accessible online, continuously updating and tracking it can be one of the most helpful ways to stay organized. By knowing what your schedule looks like ahead of time for each week, you can then spend time planning out when you are wanting to complete certain tasks, and when a break might be helpful. Having a planner or other way to visually map out your schedule can also be a helpful way to plan and coordinate with other’s schedules, especially when needing to attend a work meeting or group project meet-up.

#2 Work ahead (not procrastinating)

Working ahead can feel like a difficult thing to accomplish, especially if you are already feeling overwhelmed day to day with what all needs to get done. By keeping up with your schedule, and identifying blocks of time when you can work on assignments, you can then look ahead at your syllabi and work schedule and identify what assignments to work on each week and continue working on things ahead of time. Working ahead each week keeps the to-do list short and manageable so that whether it is a school assignment or big task to complete at work, both will be getting done ahead of time rather than past the due date.

#3 Prioritize work/assignments

When you prioritize your work and assignments each week, then you are able to identify what things need to get done and when. Prioritizing work and assignments can look like listing things that need to get done in order of importance, closeness of the due date, amount of time it will take or even by level of difficulty. Once you find which type of list is most helpful, maintaining that priority list each week will assist you in staying on track to complete the assignments you have identified as needing to get done first.

#4 Get enough sleep

When you are balancing a hectic and overwhelming schedule of both work and school, sleep is often the first thing that is impacted. On average, people are supposed to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night to be able to be well-rested for what the day brings. Often people will stay up late to work on their school assignments or catch up on their work for the day and will end up only getting half the number of hours of sleep they need. This decrease in sleep can then have a significant impact on how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. In order to maintain enough sleep each night, plan for a time in which you will stop working on things (and also allow for a set time to decompress without screen time). Another way to make sure you are getting enough sleep is not working on your school and work tasks in bed, but rather working somewhere else (i.e. kitchen table), so that you are able to relax and fall asleep more quickly.

#5 Make time for self-care

Often in addition to sleep, we decrease our self-care time in order to spend more time on the tasks we need to complete. Whether it is spending time with family or friends, going for a walk or watching your favorite movie, self-care can function as a way to give your body and mind a break from all of the work you are getting done each day. An easy way to incorporate more self-care time into your schedule, is by blocking out a specific amount of time each day just for that, or taking a certain amount of time after each task you complete as a break to take care of yourself. Understandably though, when we try and increase time for ourselves and take space from the work we have to complete, we can feel even more overwhelmed. When we feel overwhelmed, we can experience negative self-talk which can look like thoughts such as, “by taking this break you are only creating more work for yourself, and you are already struggling with things.” This negative self-talk can often feel like self-doubt. An important thing you can do for yourself during those times is to examine and hold space for the thoughts without judging them or yourself, as well as responding to those thoughts and the stress you are feeling with acceptance and self-compassion. Increasing self-care time is not an easy task when you already have a lot to get done, but by taking an accepting stance with the stress and thoughts you may have when trying to implement more self-care, the easier it will get over time.

Cheers to Healthy Relationships

Date: February 12th, 2018

Filed under: Relationships

February is the month of love. Valentine’s Day marks the middle of the month, bringing social pressures of gifting flowers, chocolates, and meaningful gifts. In turn, another broader social pressure is also present – being in love. Don’t get us wrong, we love love! With one condition. That it is healthy, consensual love.

What does a healthy, consensual love look like? Let us lay out a few key points to a healthy relationship, followed by a few steps forward if your relationship doesn’t live up to your standards.

Communication

Communication is an essential part of all relationships, romantic or not. Clear communication strengthens trust and eliminates doubts. Strong communication involves more than just talking to each other. Partners who are strong communicators allow space for both parties to talk, be listened to intently, and find common ground. Often, talking is easier than listening. In fact, active listening is a skill that many adults have not finely tuned. If this is not your strong suite, there are plenty of techniques to practice.

Respect

Couples don’t have to agree on everything to be healthy, but they do have to be respectful of the other’s thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints. Respecting your partner comes in many forms and will be unique to your relationship. Recognizing and appreciating each other’s differences, communicating well, and showing your genuine care for the other person are great places to start.

Security

When you and your partner trust each other, you will share information that you might not tell someone else. If your partner is your go-to person to talk about life’s ups and downs with, you will be vulnerable with each other from time to time. This vulnerability allows trust to be built. What a wonderful thing to have – trust and security in another person! However, if one person is unwilling to be open or tends to play with power dynamics by withholding their vulnerable side, this is an unhealthy atmosphere.

At this point, we hope that you have concluded your relationship is happy and healthy. If however, your relationship isn’t thriving, you do have options.

Let’s Talk

Does your relationship feel almost perfect but falls short sometimes? Talk to your partner! Placing blame isn’t going to be effective but bringing up parts of your relationship you would like to work on can be all you need to start moving forward. Be clear with your message and your intention. Be open to your partner’s response and work together to make each other happy.

Walk Away

Knowing when to talk away from a relationship that is not bringing you love and happiness is no easy task. This often involves disrupting the comfortable pattern you have established with your partner, but if the effort you are putting into the relationship is more than the happiness you are receiving, it may be time to part ways.

You Have Power

Finally, you are never helpless. Your choices may feel limited, but you are not stuck. If you feel that you need to move on from your current relationship, you can. If you feel unsafe in any way, people will help you. Turn to your friends and loved ones for support, and there will always be a professional a phone call away. Hotlines are available 24/7 to talk to someone if you are concerned for your safety or wellbeing. http://www.thehotline.org/

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