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10 Sober Ideas For Creating Meaningful Traditions

10 Sober Ideas For Creating Meaningful Traditions

While the holidays are a source of joy and excitement for many, for those in recovery, it can feel quite the opposite. So, how do I manage the holidays in recovery? Here’s 10 sober ideas for creating meaningful traditions.

With the holiday season approaching, you may feel more unsettled than usual as you think about potential triggers, mental health struggles, and the overindulgence that comes with the season.

For years the holidays were centered around drugs or alcohol, so it can feel overwhelming to know how or where to begin.

Take heart in knowing that you now have the opportunity to start from scratch. Being in recovery means you have a clean slate to start new, meaningful traditions with family or friends. 

So, let’s talk about how to navigate the holiday season as an individual in recovery, and a few ideas to help spark your inspiration. 

Taking Care of Yourself During The Holidays:

If you’re in active recovery, you’re already well aware of the challenges that can be thrown your way. Most holidays involve alcohol in one way or another, so taking care of yourself during this season is vital. 

Here are a few ways you can make this holiday season a little easier:

Be Proactive:

If you’re new to sobriety, it may not be in your best interest to simply “wing it”. Ask yourself a few proactive questions to ensure you’re not caught off guard:

  • What is my desired outcome for this holiday season?
  • How am I going to handle my triggers?
  • Who can I trust at a social gathering to hold me accountable?

If you have a sponsor, now is a great time to connect with them about your worries. Every person in sobriety struggles around the holidays to some extent. Lean on those who have walked in your shoes so you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. 

Identify Your Triggers:

No, alcohol or drugs may not be the only trigger you come across during the holidays. For example, your emotional and mental state during the holidays can make you feel weaker than normal. 

A few common triggers include:

  • Interactions with certain family members (people)
  • Unexpected schedule changes 
  • Financial pressures 
  • Traveling
  • Certain locations (places)
  • Other objects such as: syringes, tinfoil, or bottle openers (things)

Keep in mind, you may not always know exactly what triggers you have until you’re confronted with them. If you have a therapist or close friend or family member, talk with them – they may be able to pinpoint something you aren’t able to see. 

Make a Plan To Say ‘No’:

Create a boundary, and stick to it. Bring a non-alcoholic beverage to sip on so others won’t offer you a drink. While some people choose to hide their reasons, it’s always better to maintain honesty. 

A few ways to respond may be:

  • “I don’t drink”. 
  • “I’m not drinking anymore”.
  • “I’m in recovery”.

Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation if they attempt to push you further. Alcohol is often the only substance people feel so compelled to have to explain not using. Set your boundaries as you feel comfortable.

Starting New, Meaningful Holiday Traditions In Recovery:

Recovery can be a rocky road and the holiday seasons are sure to bring about old memories of substance use in the past. While you might not feel as cheery and bright as in previous years, your holidays are by no means doomed for gloom!

Making the choice to create fun, wholesome, new holiday traditions can help you cultivate the healthy life you are striving to build. Establishing traditions can not only give you something to look forward to, but it can also serve as a positive experience among feelings of stress and worry. 

So, let’s go over a few sober holiday traditions to try this year:
  • Host a Movie Marathon: When was the last time you let yourself enjoy movies you once loved as a kid? Host a Christmas movie marathon with your closest friends or family members. Have each person write down their favorite childhood movie and draw from a hat! You could even make this a weekly event leading up to the holidays. 
  • Schedule a Game Night: Board games are incredibly underrated. Who doesn’t love a good competitive game of Clue? Or get ruthless with UNO. You can invite family and friends, or make it a night specifically for companions in recovery. Each person can bring their own favorite game to share!
  • Start Baking: Baking cookies, granola bars, pies, and other holiday treats have been around for ages. It’s a fun, holiday-centered tradition that doesn’t require any substances to enjoy. The plus side? Baking can be done as an individual activity for days you don’t feel like socializing, or as a group effort. 

  • Hit The Rink: When’s the last time you laced your skates up and took to the rink? Probably childhood. Whether it’s a community ice rink or wooden floored skate park, skating is a wonderful way to not only get your body moving but enjoy active time. 
  • Decorate Gingerbread Houses: Dedicate an afternoon (or evening) to icing those windows, and plopping gumdrops on your front lawn. Gingerbread house decorating is the equivalent of pumpkin carving during Halloween. You may just be surprised at what architectural skills you have! Entice some sober friends to decorate along with you with peppermint lattes or a new coffee
    1. Try something new. Ever made Turkish Coffee on the stove top? Ever made your own handmade pasta (its not hard) or peppermint bark? Or maybe learn to roll your own spring rolls?
    2. Not a foodie? No, problem – go different. The US Olympian, Tom  Daley has a new book out on knitting – something he learned to do to handle boredom and it became a sort of meditation. Go to a pottery house and paint your own. Drop an language app onto your phone and spend 30 minutes a day on it or YouTube how to play the uke or guitar.
    3. Attend a Light Tour: Many cities around the country have Holiday walk-through light tours. If yours doesn’t, make it a tradition to walk or drive through the neighborhoods that go all out. From string lights to Santa Claus, to the Grinch, the decorations are endless! It’s a fun way to enjoy the spirit of Christmas. 
    4. Caroling is a waning tradition but singing with friends is a great booster for mood and gets the mirth pumping. Print off some easy sing-along sheets from online, grab your coffee and a few of friends.
    5. If you’re stuck – go early to a meeting. Open the door for people as they arrive. Smile, shake hands and greet them – tell them you are glad they came and you hope they keep coming. Not feeling social? Set up chairs, make coffee or bring some cookies to put out. When in doubt – simple acts of service are a good tradition any time of the year.

      Holidays In Recovery Are a Time To Start New:

      Holidays aren’t exactly avoidable. They come and go no matter what. If you’re in recovery, holidays can be particularly triggering. Be proactive about your approach, create a plan and identify your triggers so you feel both empowered, and safe

      Sobriety means creating a new life for yourself. The holidays make look different this year, but creating new, healthy traditions can become an anchor in your journey.

      Recovery gives you an opportunity to make the holiday season what you’ve always wanted it to be.

      Whatever you do, I wish you a healthy and happy holidays –

      Buon Natale’ !

      Resources:

      https://www.victorybayrecovery.com/resources/blog/10-ideas-for-making-sober-holiday-traditions/
       
      https://www.talkspace.com/blog/why-the-holidays-are-difficult-for-people-with-addictions/#:~:text=The%20holidays%20are%20often%20associated%20with%20indulgence%20and%20extravagance.,(and%20even%20those%20without).
       
      https://www.bannerhealth.com/healthcareblog/teach-me/recovery-during-the-holidays
      https://westcoastrecoverycenters.com/creating-new-and-healthy-holiday-traditions-in-recovery/
      Categories
      Anxiety & Stress Grief Life Transitions Uncategorized

      How Can I Support a Grieving Friend Through The Holidays?

      How Can I Support a Grieving Friend Through The Holidays?

      The holidays are laced with majestic lights, flavorful treats, and smells of cinnamon and evergreen no matter where you go. For some, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. However, for someone grieving, the holidays can pack a punch with such force they may struggle to keep their head above water. 

      When someone special dies, it can make those still living feel like there’s nothing left to celebrate anymore. Combine this with the financial pressures of gift-giving, overthrown schedules, and routines, and the overwhelming message to spend the holidays with loved ones, the perfect storm is created. 

      So, as someone on the outside how can you support those close to you that are grieving? 

      Let’s talk about what grief is, and how to both connect and encourage a grief-stricken friend through the holiday season.

      What Is Grief?

      Grief is the internal pain and sorrow we experience after a significant loss. While we can describe grief in words on paper, it’s a unique feeling only understood by those who have personally endured it. 

      Unlike sadness that disappears over time, many people describe grief as a “lurking” monster right below the surface. While time goes on and people move past the initial state of shock, the deep emptiness of loss still remains. 

      This is why the holidays can be excruciating for someone grieving. It often serves as a painful and stark reminder that their loved one is no longer with them. 

      Another useful analogy is that of the red ball example. Picture a closed square – this represents your life. Inside this box is a red bouncing ball, representing grief, and a small button representing pain. 

      When the loss first happened, the ball was enormous, and hit the pain button multiple times a day. As time wanes on, the bouncing ball of grief gets smaller. It doesn’t hit this button as often, however, when it does, it still hurts just the same. 

      This description is an excellent way to explain how grief may change over time but can be triggered at moments (such as holidays). 

      Ways To Support Your Grieving Friend During The Holiday Season:

      Now that we understand more about grief, let’s talk about what you can do to make the holiday season a little less painful for those you care about. 

      Reach Out:

      First and foremost, make an effort to reach out! It may be uncomfortable if you’re unsure of how they’ll react but holidays can be incredibly lonely for people that have lost a loved one. Reach out whether it’s via text message, phone call, or social media message. Ask them how they’re doing this time of year. 

      It’s a common misconception to believe that you’re magnifying their pain by talking about their loss, but it’s often the opposite. Many grieving individuals want their loved ones to be remembered. 

      Listen:

      Listen more than you talk. It’s much better to admit, “I’m not exactly sure what to say, but I want you to know I’m here for you” rather than attempt to give advice that could potentially be hurtful or judgmental. Sometimes grieving individuals just need a listening ear while they talk about their loss. 

      Be sure to practice active listening:

      • Asking questions 
      • Nodding your head
      • Making eye contact
      • Putting away any distractions (ie turn off your cell phone, etc)
      • Repeating back what the other person said (reflective listening)

      Offer Practical Help:

      Even basic tasks can feel overwhelming around the holidays for a grieving friend. Offer down-to-earth assistance such as wrapping gifts, baking cookies, or helping pick up gifts. 

      For example, your friend may struggle to holiday shop if that was a long-running tradition with their loved one. By helping them out, you relieve them of some of the anxiety and stress involved with facing a trigger. It may be different next year, but for now, support them in the ways they need support. 

      Extend Invitations:

      When someone is struggling through grief they may feel isolated, lonely, or burdensome to others. Extend a welcome if you’re planning on going to a Christmas event. 

      They may not always say yes, but they’ll always appreciate the thought. If they do turn down your offer, don’t push. Don’t try to beg or negotiate them into joining. They likely have a reason for saying no, and it’s best to respect their boundaries. The sincere invitation from you is important all on it’s own – whether they accept or not.

      Including your grieving friend can help take their mind off of the way they’re feeling while you’re right there to support them. 

      Ask Questions:

      We can often become so obsessed with making sure we support a loved one in the right way, we forget to take their own needs into account. 

      Ask your friend something like this:

      • “How can I help you get through the holidays?”
      • “What kinds of things help? What doesn’t?”
      • “Is there anything practical I can help you with?”

      Taking the time to ask not only shows you care but shows you respect their personal needs. No matter what the response may be it’s important to accept it and avoid pushing. You’re not there to “fix them” you’re there to support them. 

      Grief Has No Timeline:

      When heading into the holiday season it’s important to remember that grief is ongoing. It doesn’t heal after the first holiday, or the second, or the third! After time has passed, some individuals are expected to just “get over it”. Keep in mind, this isn’t how grief works. 

      As Oliver Canovas, an artist from the United Kingdom once said, “If you simply cannot understand why someone is grieving so much, for so long, then consider yourself fortunate you do not understand.

      Shower your grieving friend with kindness, support, and patience. It could make a world of a difference this holiday season. 

      Resources:

       
       
      Categories
      Addiction Recovery Anxiety & Stress Critical Incidents First Responders Uncategorized

      The Human Brain: Frontal Lobe and Mid Brain

      The Human Brain: Frontal Lobe and Mid Brain

      The human brain is made up of many different parts, each with its own unique function. The frontal lobe and mid-brain are two of the most important regions of the brain, responsible for various critical functions. Though they are both parts of the human brain; frontal lobe and mid brain have some very different functions.

      The frontal lobe is the larger of the two regions and is located at the front of the brain. This region is responsible for higher-level thinking, such as decision-making and problem-solving. Conversely, the mid-brain is located in the center of the brain and is responsible for more basic functions, such as movement and vision.

      In recent years, scientists have made great strides in understanding how the brain works. We now know more about the different parts of the brain and their functions than ever before. And as our understanding of the brain grows, so too does our ability to treat different types of brain disorders.

      What Is The Frontal Lobe?

      The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that is responsible for many of our higher-level functions, such as planning, decision-making, and self-control. This area of the brain is particularly important in children, as it is still developing during the teenage years.

      Functions Of The Frontal Lobe

      The frontal lobe is one of the four major and most important lobe of the brain. It is located at the front of the brain and is responsible for a variety of tasks, including motor function, problem-solving, memory, emotions, and language. The frontal lobe is the largest of the four lobes and is divided into two sections: the left and right frontal lobes.

      The frontal lobe is responsible for many of the body’s functions, including:
      • Motor function: The frontal lobe is responsible for controlling the body’s movement.
      • Problem-solving: The frontal lobe is responsible for processing information and making decisions.
      • Memory: The frontal lobe is responsible for storing memories.
      • Emotions: The frontal lobe is responsible for regulating emotions.
      • Language: The frontal lobe is responsible for producing and understanding language.
      • The personality function is responsible for our emotions and social interactions. This is the part of the brain that allows us to interact with others and experience the world around us.

      Effects Of Damage To The Frontal Lobe

      One of the most common effects of frontal lobe damage is problems with executive function. This can include difficulties with planning, organization, and decision-making. People with frontal lobe damage may also have trouble with short-term memory, and they may have difficulty understanding and using language. Additionally, some psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, are thought to be associated with abnormalities in the frontal lobe.

      Physical effects of frontal lobe damage can include weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, as well as problems with balance and coordination. In some cases, people with frontal lobe damage may also experience changes in their personalities and mood.

      What Is Mid-Brain?

      The mid-brain is a region of the brain that is located between the fore-brain and the hind-brain. The mid-brain is also responsible for many of the body’s automatic functions, such as regulating blood pressure and heart rate.

      Function Of Mid-Brain

      The mid-brain is responsible for a variety of important functions, including the regulation of sleep, body temperature, and blood pressure. It also plays a role in the processing of information from the senses and the control of movement. Additionally, the mid-brain is involved in the formation of memories and the generation of emotions.

      Effects Of Damage To The Mid-Brain

      Damage to the mid-brain can have a variety of effects depending on the location and severity of the injury. Damage to the mid-brain can result in a number of different symptoms, including problems with movement, balance, and coordination. This can make everyday activities difficult or even impossible. In severe cases, damage to the mid-brain can cause coma or death. Damage to the mid-brain can also cause paralysis and blindness.

      Difference Between Forebrain And Mid-Brain

      The human brain is the most fascinating organ. It is divided into three main parts – the hindbrain, the midbrain, and the forebrain – each of which serves a different purpose. The hindbrain is responsible for primitive functions like respiration and heart rate, while the midbrain controls more complex functions like movement and vision. The forebrain, which is the largest and most complex part of the brain, is responsible for higher functions like thought, emotion, and memory.

      While all three parts of the brain are important, the frontal lobe and the midbrain are particularly interesting when compared to each other. The mid-brain is responsible for processing information from the senses, while the frontal lobe is responsible for higher-level cognitive functions such as decision-making, planning, and problem-solving. 

      The forebrain is located at the front of the brain, while the midbrain is located in the middle of the brain. The frontal lobe is larger and more complex than the mid-brain, and it contains more convolutions (or folds). The mid-brain, on the other hand, is smaller and simpler in structure.

      While there are many differences between the mid-brain and the frontal lobe, they are both essential for normal brain function. Without either one of these structures, the brain would not be able to properly process information or perform complex tasks.

      Summary

      As it has been mentioned before, the forebrain and mid-brain have many key differences, but none of them can be overestimated. Both of them have their own importance and essential part of the brain. The forebrain is responsible for the higher cognitive functions, while the mid-brain is in charge of the more basic functions. In conclusion, both the forebrain and mid-brain are essential for the proper functioning of the brain.

      Learn more about how addiction impacts the brain

      Categories
      Anxiety & Stress Children & Grief Critical Incidents Death in Workplace First Responders Grief Loss Uncategorized

      Everything You Need To Know About Mass Shootings and What You May Experience Afterward

      Everything You Need To Know About Mass Shootings and What You May Experience Afterward

      With a steady increase in mass shootings and violence in the United States, more and more people are left as primary or secondary victims  to these heinous crimes. 

      Shootings aren’t anything new to the US, sadly. The rate at which they’re occurring has drastically increased over the years leaving a gaping hole in resources and education for those struggling in the aftermath. 

      What exactly is “normal” to feel in the days, weeks, and months after being witness to a shooting event?

      Is the way we cope with this trauma different for kids vs. adults?

      Let’s talk about it. 

      What You Need To Know About The Increase In Mass Shootings:

      Why is there such a spike in mass shootings all of the sudden?

      Is there a common underlying problem, or is the media just choosing to cover more of these stories than ever before?

      Is it because we all have the latest news at our fingertips – making these tragic stories more accessible?

      The term mass shooting refers to any situation in which a gunman shoots 4 or more strangers in a sudden attack. While the attack is unexpected the perpetrator may have been planning their crime for months or years before the incident. 

      In addition,  in order for a shooting to be considered a ‘mass shooting’ it must occur in any public space such as a school, shopping mall, store, or workplace. While there may be a target of the attack (such as an employee targeting his boss) others are wounded or killed in the process. 

      So, why such an increase?

      There hasn’t been a single week in 2022 without some instance of a mass shooting. (look at the data on school shootings in 2022)

      It’s a heartbreaking statistic that shows that each year our community is left with literally hundreds of survivors and witnesses. These people then have to face the mental, emotional, and physical trauma left behind. 

      Many mass shooters are incorrectly labeled as “mentally unstable individuals” who suddenly snap at the drop of the hat. But taking a deeper look shows many of these crimes are either

      1. Hate crimes (such as the shooting that occurred at Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando, Florida) or are
      2. Directed by some agenda and a desire to “send a message” (such as those perpetrated by various extremist groups) 

      Shooters are more likely to be vengeful, angry individuals who are seeking revenge on society for their perceived wrongdoings done against them. 

      What’s ‘Normal’ To Go Through Emotionally After a Shooting?

      While mass shootings should never be considered a ‘normal’ event in society, there are some ‘normal’ emotions and feelings you may be working through after being trapped in one of these terrifying situations. 

      One thing we do know, however, is that everyone processes the aftermath of a shooting differently. People may experience a wide range of emotions that come and go like tidal waves, while others may take much longer to overcome the initial denial of their experience. 

      No matter what you feel, remember that it’s all subjective to your own personal experience. There is no right or wrong way to handle the aftermath of a shooting. 

      Feelings you may experience after a shooting include, but are not limited to:
      • Sorrow 
      • Shock 
      • Fear
      • Numbness
      • Denial 
      • Anger 
      • Grief
      • Disassociation 
      • Depression
      • Anxiety 
      • Paranoia 

      While people are incredibly strong and most often bounce back after difficult times, shootings are events that can greatly alter your entire sense of safety and belonging. 

      For example, some people struggle with feelings of survivors’ guilt or even just to sleep, eat or perform other daily activities. Some no longer feel safe in large or public places. Others find it hard to be around people and begin to pull back and disconnect from their community.

      How Are Children Handling Life After School Shootings?

      Children are some of the most resilient creatures on Earth. Have you ever seen a child completely face plant into the ground and then get up and keep on running?

      However, the traumatic events of a school shooting are likely to disrupt all of their ‘normal’ emotional and behavioral tendencies.

      Emotions and behaviors they may experience:
      • Trouble sleeping 
      • ‘Acting out’
      • Nightmares
      • Anxiety or paranoia
      • Being afraid to sleep alone 
      • Shock 
      • Anger
      • Grief

      It’s likely that after a shooting children are faced with navigating complex emotions they may not fully understand. Trauma is difficult enough without loss of lives. Grief for children amidst the chaos only makes things more difficult. It’s important as caregivers to nurture these wounds and support them in whatever way possible. Keep home a safe space to talk to them about what they’re experiencing in the aftermath of a shooting. While forcing or pressuring them to talk about what they have gone through isn’t helpful, remind them often that you’re here when they’re ready to talk. 

      When To Seek Help After a Shooting:

      There are 2 major interventions needed after a traumatic event like this.

      Critical Incident Stress Debriefing / Management (CISD / CISM)

      The first should ideally happen within a couple of hours and that is a special type of intervention/debriefing called Critical Incident Stress Management. These CISM professionals are highly trained it what to do right after such event to help the victims and first responders begin to process and deal with the emotional aftermath of the traumatic event.

      A Professional Who Specializes in Traumatic Events

      The second is to work with a professional psychotherapist who specializes in helping people who have been through a traumatic event, not just one who works with anxiety or PTSD. The best of these are likely also trained in CISM and have many years of experience as well.

      While some effects of a shooting may dissolve after about 4 to 6 weeks, in some instances you may be suffering from more long-term symptoms, otherwise known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

      The acute stress that can follow after an incident of gun violence is nothing to mess around with. Be mindful of your emotions and behaviors in the months following a shooting. It’s always best to seek help if you:

      • Experience frequent flashbacks or nightmares 
      • Have trouble concentrating on everyday tasks
      • Are having difficulties completing work 
      • Are experiencing intrusive thoughts related to the incident
      • Become easily triggered by things in the environment
      • Feel as though you’re in danger whenever in social settings 
      • Are feeling like you’re constantly on edge or irritable 
      • Have a hard time falling or staying asleep

      PTSD can quickly spiral into self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, self harm, and other harmful methods aimed at easing your distressing symptoms. If you feel as though you’re not returning back to yourself after a few weeks or months have gone by there are many mental health professionals trained and ready to assist you in overcoming this trauma. 

      Remember, while shootings are tragically becoming more common they’re still rare. Focus on your village; your support systems such as close friends or family. While they may not be able to fully understand what you’re going through, you don’t have to walk this journey alone. And if you are live in an area that has suffered such a tragedy – lean in and support your neighbors however you can.

      Cultivate Communitywe heal together.

       

      Sources:

      https://www.counseling.org/knowledge-center/coping-in-the-aftermath-of-a-shooting

      https://www.apa.org/topics/gun-violence-crime/mass-shooting

      https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/processing-grief-after-a-mass-shooting

      Categories
      Anxiety & Stress Children & Grief Critical Incidents First Responders Grief Loss Uncategorized

      The Mental Health Impact of School Shootings

      The Mental Health Impact Of School Shootings In The United States

      In response to the multiple tragic school shooting events in the United States, there has been a great deal of discussion about the emotional and mental health impact that these events have had on the kids, teachers and families involved. School shootings are a very traumatic event for everyone involved, and it can take a long time to recover from the physical and emotional injuries that are inflicted.

      The impact of school shootings goes beyond the immediate victims and families. These events can have a ripple effect that extends to the entire community. Schools are a place where children should feel safe and secure, and when that feeling of safety is shattered, it can have a lasting impact on the students, teachers, staff and community.

      If you or someone you know has been affected by a school shooting, it is important to seek professional help to deal with the trauma. There are many resources available to help you through this situation.

      Effects on School Shootings Child Development 

      Since the onset of gun violence in schools, there has been a significant amount of research on the effects of this type of violence on child development. Studies have shown that children who are exposed to school shootings are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, grief and post-traumatic stress disorder. They may also have difficulty concentrating and experience changes in their eating and sleeping habits.

      This research highlights the need for more support for children who have been affected by school shootings. Such support can help children to cope with the aftermath of these events and to reduce the long-term effects on their development.

      Students who don’t witness the shooting firsthand can still be negatively affected. They may have trouble concentrating in school and have anxiety about going to school. Keep in mind that everyone impacted is a survivor.

      Effects on Parents

      No definitive answer exists to the question of how school shootings specifically affect the parents of the victims. Each situation is unique and parents will react in their own individual ways. It’s not surprising that most studies generally concluded that parents also experience a wide range of intense emotions in the wake of such a tragedy.

      The most common emotions that parents report feeling are grief, anger, shock, and guilt. Many parents also report feeling a sense of responsibility for their child’s safety and well-being, and this can often lead to feelings of guilt and regret. In some cases, parents may also struggle with anxiety and depression. It is important to remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel after a school shooting, and that all parents are simply trying to cope in the best way they can.

      Effects on Teachers

      As of October 2018, there have been 307 mass shootings in the US, which is an average of almost one mass shooting per day. These shootings have had a profound effect on teachers, who are often the first to respond in these situations.

      Teachers have to be prepared to deal with the physical and emotional trauma that comes with a school shooting. They are often the first people on the scene and have to deal with the aftermath of the violence. This can effect their both mental and physical health. In addition, teachers have to be extra vigilant in their classrooms in order to prevent something like this from happening. But our teachers can’t do this alone – they need help. And there is something that each of can  do to help.

      How to Cope with the Trauma After a School Shooting?

      The trauma of shooting can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. If you or someone you know has experienced a shooting, it is important to get help from a mental health professional to cope with the trauma. 

      There are a few first steps you can take to help cope with the trauma:

      1. Talk to someone

      When people experience a traumatic event, such as a mass shooting, they may feel a range of emotions that can be difficult to cope with. Fear, anxiety, anger, and grief are just some of the emotions that may be present. It can be helpful and encouraging to talk to someone about what you’re going through. This can help you to process the trauma and to start to heal.

      Talking to a therapist or counselor can be helpful. You may also find it helpful to talk to a friend or family member. It’s important to find someone who will understand and who will be there to listen. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, there are also support groups that can help. Whatever you do, do not try to go through all of this alone. 

      2. Write down what happened

      In the aftermath of a mass shooting, it can be difficult to know how to cope with the trauma and grief. For some people, writing can be a helpful way to process these feelings. Writing can provide a space to express what you’re feeling, process your thoughts, and work through your grief.

      If you’re interested in using writing to cope with trauma, there are a few things to keep in mind:

      First, it’s important to find a safe and comfortable place to write. This could be a journal that you keep private, or a blog that you only share with close friends or family.

      Second, don’t feel like you need to write every day. Some days you may feel like writing more than others, and that’s okay.

      Third, there’s no correct way to write about your experiences. Write in whatever way feels most natural and most comfortable.

      3. Find way to release your negative emotions

      A traumatic situation of this is like a forced marathon for your brain’s survival management department. It’s more important than ever to find healthy ways to release your emotions. Events like these can be very difficult to process and can have a lasting and detrimental impact on your mental health. If you witnessed a mass shooting or if you know someone who did, it’s important to find a way to release your emotions in a healthy way.

      4. Stay connected to your loved ones

      The aftermath of shooting can be extremely difficult for both victims and witnesses. It is important to stay connected with loved ones during this time in order to help cope with the trauma. Some of the ways to stay connected with your loved ones include:

      Sending handwritten letters

      Calling or texting regularly

      Spending time together in person

      Sharing photos and memories

      Each person will cope with trauma in their own way, so it is important to be supportive and understanding. Staying connected with loved ones can help the healing process after a difficult event.

      5. Avoid drugs and alcohol

      It is understandable that many people may feel overwhelmed or frightened after witnessing a shooting event. Some may feel the need to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the trauma. However, it is important to avoid drugs and alcohol for several reasons.

      First, drugs and alcohol can make it difficult to process and cope with the event.

      Second, they can make it more difficult to remember what happened, which can be essential for providing information to law enforcement.

      Third, while drinking and drug use, may appear to ease distress at the front end – but they actually make things much worse. They disrupt normal sleep and eating patterns, wreak havoc on frustration tolerance and memory (which directly impacts mood) and can raise the chances of a more serious mental health problem following a trauma. 

      It is important to deal with the aftermath of a shooting in a healthy way. Avoiding drugs and alcohol can really help your efforts to cope with feelings and make it easier to heal the trauma of witnessing a shooting.

      6. Get plenty of rest and exercise

      Studies have shown that taking time to rest and exercise can help people who have witnessed shooting events. Resting helps to allow the body to heal, and exercise helps to release built-up stress and tension. Both of these activities can help people feel better both physically and mentally after a traumatic event.

      Conclusion

      Trauma can have a lasting psychological impact on those who survive such an event, as well as those that love them. It is important for those affected to seek professional help and support in order to cope with the emotional damage. Schools, parents and the community can also play a role in supporting those affected by trauma.

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      Addiction Recovery Anxiety & Stress Cancer & Medical Grief Life Transitions Loss Survivors of Suicide Terminal Illness Uncategorized

      Simple Buddhist Concepts for Recovery and Personal Growth

      Many years ago a mentor of mine encouraged me to begin to explore simple Buddhist concepts for recovery and personal growth. That started me on a winding path of self discovery through Buddhist, Taoist and other Eastern philosophies that continue today. Below is a brief review of some simple concepts that aren’t typical in Western thought. Even so, they are growing in influence just as practices such as meditation and mindfulness have become more widely accepted.

      Everyone experiences highs and lows throughout their lives. But not everyone’s story, self-image, or actions are a reflection of our hardest moments. As people, we are only defined by the current narrative we speak about ourselves and how we live it. Each and every day, we’re given the opportunity to grow and expand beyond what we always have been, allowing ourselves to unfold, heal, and release. If you’ve struggled at some point in your life or feel as if your past actions or choices have kept you from being the person you want to be in this world, following you will find a few key Buddhist practices that may help you achieve this. 

      Suffering as Inevitable

      All of us will experience pain and suffering, but ongoing suffering is at least partly, our own doing. One concept within Buddhism is that suffering can be overcome. This concept is the key to many intentions behind personal growth, whether you’re wanting to overcome suffering imposed upon you or suffering you impose upon others.

      Suffering is an attachment to what is no longer wanted or wanted but no longer available. These may be negative experiences, thoughts or even emotions. When you allow yourself to continue to be attached to these experiences, you continue to empower them within your life. 

      Learning to let go of this resistance in your life allows you to view these experiences in neutrality. This means not being swayed or affected by them in a hindering or diminishing way.

      Suffering is also about perspective. If you are able to change your perspective of a painful experience, you may be able to dissolve the suffering surrounding it. Learning to find the positive in a situation, or even just the lesson learned, can help you find value in life’s darkest moments. 

      Nothing Is Permanent

      Life is always changing, flowing, and transforming. The same is true for people. As you move through time, you aren’t the same person as you were ten years ago, a year ago, or even an hour ago. Even if you aren’t aware of the subtle changes happening within you, they’re still happening. This concept can help you learn to release the past, which can sometimes dictate who you believe you are in the present moment. Also, viewing everything in life as temporary teaches you to enjoy the present moment for what it is, a gift. 

      Live each moment as if it’s your last. Ask yourself, “what am I willing to let go of in order to embrace this moment?” How would you treat the people in your life? How would you view the world? Being present and allowing life to flow gives you a sense of freedom and empowerment. Stop allowing the past to dictate who you are and letting the fear of the future influence your present actions. 

      Nothing Is Lost in The Universe

      Everyone’s life has a purpose and experiences a variety of polarizing events. Some are wonderful, magically blissful, and others are painful, draining, and restricting. It’s easy to view these negative experiences as ‘wrong,’ but they are a part of your story, your history at this point. You cannot change them, but you can change from them. What you experience in life is just as important as the sun, the stars, and beyond. It doesn’t matter the life you’ve been dealt – why struggle against history? It matters what you do with it now. Your value is not condemned or diminished because of the failures you’ve experienced, how you’ve suffered or how far you’ve fallen. Your life has purpose. 

      Even when you feel lost, some believe that you’re exactly where you need to be in order to awaken to the life lesson that you’ve been guided towards. Growth and expansion can only happen through change. Oftentimes, real change can only happen when you’re pushed out of your comfort zone or stripped from your attachments. (often resulting in suffering or loss.) Learn to look at life and all of the losses or disadvantages you perceive within your life, and recognize how they can motivate you, inspire you, or initiate a desire for positive change.

      Embrace Your Life’s Journey

      There isn’t a rule book for life and often no true guidance other than what other people have learned from their own experiences. Life isn’t meant to be perfected; there is no competition on who’s life is the greatest. Your life is unique, individual, and expansive. The journey you’ve walked may not look glamorous as someone else’s, but you’ll never truly know what they’ve experienced or gained from the life they’ve dealt with. 

      There is meaning beyond the cycle of life and death. The impact and lessons we learn carry through all the lives we touch. That’s the promise if legacy; “plant the seeds even if you never see the trees they become”. Life isn’t perfect, and the lessons our souls crave can only be gained through experience. Learning to let go, accepting your past, and releasing resistance to any suffering you’ve experienced are achievements that few even choose to pursue. Be the exception! Remember that nothing is permanent; life is always changing and transforming. Rather than try to hold onto things that are changing, try instead to fully embrace the moment. Your life has meaning, you have worth! What you’ve experienced is invaluable and could likely have never been gained any other way than it already has.

      Pain is inevitable, but suffering is, to some extent chosen. This doesn’t mean it’s your fault. It means you have the power within yourself to step out from the suffering and really live. We all need help with this from time to time in our lives. If you are suffering, get help; whether it be your physician, a professional counselor or someone else. To evolve and grow, it really does take a village. You don’t have to do it alone.

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      Anxiety & Stress Cancer Resilience Children & Grief First Responders Grief Life Transitions Loss Survivors of Suicide Terminal Illness

      Emotional Support Animals in Texas

      Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas

      Emotional Support Animals, sometimes referred to as ESAs, have special privileges in the State of Texas under federal laws; they are not considered pets.; they are assistance animals for people with mental and emotional health issues

      Housing providers have to accommodate owners of emotional support animals free of charge as a necessity for their health condition. And, unlike typical pets, you don’t have to pay any extra deposits or fees for housing. Emotional Support Animals are also exempt from building policies regarding size or breed. 

      These rights are given under the Fair Housing Act and guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and apply to the State of Texas. 

      Any domesticated animals can be kept as an ESA in the home, including dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and yes…even sugar gliders and turtles! 

      In this article, we’ll explain

      How you can qualify for an emotional support animal in Texas. 

      And, if you qualify,

      How you can apply to receive a valid ESA Letter from a healthcare professional (*licensed in Texas) that you can use to secure accommodation for your emotional support animal.

      Quick Review of Emotional Support Animal Laws in Texas

      Assistance animals have rights under various laws, including the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both are federal laws that apply to every state in the U.S., including Texas

      The ADA governs service animals that have highly specialized training to assist people with both physical or mental disabilities. *Emotional support animals, however, are not the same as psychiatric service dogs. ESAs do not need special training and provide comfort for those experiencing mental or emotional distress just by being present around their owners. 

      Emotional support animal owners have rights under the federal Fair Housing Act, which mandates that landlords reasonably accommodate tenants who require an assistance animal. 

      Texas Emotional Support Animal Housing Laws Allow ESAs to Live with Their Owners Without Additional Fees.

      If you own an emotional support animal, have valid documentation and reside in Texas, you do have certain RIGHTS for housing that protect you from discrimination due to your mental or emotional disability-related need for an assistance animal. 

      1. Housing providers such as landlords, condos, co-ops, and HOAs must reasonably accommodate ESAs, even if the building has an outright ban on pets. 
      2. ESAs are exempt from normal pet policies. That means restrictions on size, weight and breed of pets do not apply to emotional support animals. 
      3. ESA owners also do not have to pay any additional fees (including application fees) or deposits to live with their ESA. 

      However, there are LIMITATIONS to these rights

      1. An emotional support animal must be domesticated and well-behaved. This means that you cannot bring a wild or aggressive animal into an apartment, etc. 
      2. Your ESA also can’t pose any health or safety hazard to other residents. 
      3. Some small housing providers are exempt from having to follow ESA rules, such as owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent. 
      4. In addition, you cannot bring your emotional support animal into your new home unannounced and expect everyone in a no-pet housing complex will comply. You must submit a request for accommodation to your landlord in advance and provide a copy of your ESA letter. 

      It’s important to make sure that you have the right documentation for your emotional support animal. Most landlords in Texas are fully aware of what constitutes a valid proof for an emotional support animal.

      *Landlords have every right to validate if you have a true emotional support animal by requesting an ESA letter from you

      Qualifying for an ESA Letter in Texas

      To have a legally recognized emotional support animal in Texas, you will need an ESA letter from a healthcare professional who is licensed in Texas. 

      1. You can request one from your current healthcare professional who is providing services for your mental health. 

      OR

      1. You can also reach out to this counselor and apply online for an ESA Letter without having to leave your home.

      What Happens Next?

      First, the licensed healthcare professional will determine if you have a mental or emotional health disability that substantially limits a major life activity

      Qualifying conditions include:

      PTSD, anxiety, depression, phobias, autism, and learning disorders. 

      Second, the healthcare professional will assess whether an emotional support animal can help alleviate the symptoms of that particular mental or emotional health disability. 

      Pretty simple, right? (I told you it wouldn’t be as hard as you might think)

      So, How Do I Get Started ?

      Just call our number and leave the following. An application packet will be emailed to you and you will not be charged for the service unless you are approved. If approved, an original copy letter will be mailed to your physical residence.

      Information we need to get started:

      1. your full legal name, 
      2. city in Texas where you live, 
      3. preferred phone number for contact (in case healthcare provider requires) and 
      4. a personal email where the application documents may be sent. 

      (*all info must be that of the owner of the animal/s applied for)

      Just Remember

      If you’re a Texas resident, your ESA rights require that you have a legitimate ESA letter from a healthcare professional that is licensed in Texas.

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      Struggling with Mental/Emotional Health or Addiction in Houston?

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      13 Facts Every ESA Owner in Texas Should Know

      13 Facts Every ESA Owner in Texas Should  Know

      On January 28th, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued new guidance regarding Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) in housing. 

      (*This is a very important development for owners of ESAs and it is the first comprehensive update to ESA housing rules made since 2013.)

      13 Facts Every Current or Potential Owner of Emotional Support Animals (ESA) in Texas Should Know

      1. Dogs, cats, small birds, rabbits, hamsters, other rodents and even turtles can be ESAs.
      1. Landlords are required to engage in interactive dialogue with tenants about ESA requests.
      1. ESA requests can be made orally or in writing (ESA Letter will still be required for approval)
      1. Tenants can make an ESA request before or after acquiring their ESA Letter
      1. HUD confirms that landlords are not allowed to refuse based on breed/weight restrictions.
      1. Landlords are prevented from being able to charge fees and deposits for ESAs.
      1. Landlords are expected to respond to ESA requests promptly, and at least within 10 days.
      1. Landlords cannot require your healthcare professional to use a specific form for their ESA Letter
      1. Landlords cannot request sensitive details about the tenant’s condition (your privacy protected)
      1. HOAs and Co-Ops are also subject to ESA rules
      1. Tenants can use the help of third-parties to care for their ESAs
      1. Registrations and licenses are NOT legitimate ways to qualify an ESA
      1. ESA letters can come from online health professionals (must be licensed in your State)

      All current and prospective owners of ESAs in Texas should become familiar with these new rules which are now in effect and replace the 2013 rules.

       

      Need other Emotional Health or Addiction Recovery services? 

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      Anxiety & Stress Critical Incidents First Responders Uncategorized

      Fight-or-Flight: How to Spot Familiar Trauma Responses

      Fight-or-Flight: How to Spot Familiar Trauma Responses.

      Most people have heard of the “fight-or-flight” response when it comes to traumatic or frightening situations. Either you stand up and confront your fear, or you run away from it.

      While these are two of the most common trauma responses, they aren’t the only ones. (*even beyond “freeze” and “faun” too)

      Additionally, trauma responses can happen years after the actual trauma occurs. Someone who experienced a traumatic situation may still have the same reactions when triggered in a specific way.

      How can you spot some familiar trauma responses? What should you do about it if you regularly experience them?

      Recognizing the Signs

      Other common responses to trauma include everything from avoidance to vigilance. Because these are such varied responses, it’s only natural to expect different behaviors and reactions to each one.

      Understanding some of the most common signs can make it easier to recognize trauma in yourself or others.. That said, some of the most common responses include:

      • Shock or disbelief
      • Confusion
      • Anger
      • Withdrawl
      • Guilt

      One could argue that all of these behaviors fall within the fight-or-flight category, though some are more extreme than others.

      For example, if your response to trauma is guilt, you might “run away” or avoid reality to escape that guilt. If your response is anger, you may be more inclined to fight. Unfortunately, that may lead to reckless behaviors and unhealthy ways of coping.

      It’s not always easy to spot these familiar signs in yourself. That’s especially true if you’ve been dealing with them for a long time, caused by something like childhood trauma. Understanding the various ways you might feel impacted can help you realize that you might need help working through those experiences.

      Trauma Responses Aren’t Always What They Seem

      It’s crucial to note that trauma responses are often misdiagnosed. That’s because they might “show up” as another type of mental health condition. Most commonly, they cause anxiety.

      Someone who has experienced trauma in their life might struggle with symptoms of anxiety. That includes everything from fear and helplessness to physical signs like rapid breathing.

      As a result, it’s critical to get to the underlying root of every mental health condition, especially anxiety and depression. Working through your responses will help with feelings of anxiety. It can also help you manage your symptoms even when you experience a triggering situation.

      Why Are Trauma Responses So Important?

      Why is it essential to spot familiar trauma responses? Because people respond to trauma in different ways. The more you understand about those various types of responses the easier it can be to recognize them sooner.

      Issues like anxiety don’t often go away on their own. And, if you keep ignoring your trauma responses, likely, they won’t go away on their own either. Maybe you’ve been ignoring them without even realizing it. Whatever the case, if you’re dealing with any of these common responses, you’re not alone. Help is available.

      If you experience any of the responses listed here or you feel like something is “off,” you could be dealing with the effects of trauma. Thankfully, you don’t have to go through those feelings forever.

      Feel free to contact me to learn more about familiar trauma responses or to set up an appointment. Together, we can uncover your responses and what you can do to work through your trauma. That starts with identifying it and figuring out effective ways to manage your symptoms while bringing you into the present and looking toward the future.

      Your trauma doesn’t define who you are, and acknowledging your experience(s) can help you realize that. Please reach out today or visit my page about law enforcement and stress to learn more about how I can help.

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      5 Warning Signs of Depression

      Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. That said, the signs of depression can vary for everyone. Some people might experience more severe symptoms. Others might be “high-functioning” with their depression. Knowing the signs of depression can help you determine when it might be time to get some help.

      Despite some of the differences, there are a few warning signs of depression to be aware of. You may not be experiencing full-fledged symptoms yet, or you might be noticing that you feel a bit “off.”

      Understanding some of these warning signs early on will make it easier to seek out help sooner. As a result, you can take control of your depression and manage your symptoms more effectively.

      Let’s take a look at a few of the most common warning signs of depression.

      1. Your Outlook Has Changed

      One of the most common symptoms of depression is a feeling of hopelessness. If you’ve noticed that you have started to see things in a negative light, or your mood is more “down” than usual, it could be an early sign of depression.

      Keep in mind that everyone feels sad and down from time to time. But, if it’s persistent and those feelings don’t seem to go away, it may be something more.

      2. Physical Signs

      While depression is a mental health condition, there are physical signs to watch for, too.

      Some of the most common symptoms of depression are changes in sleep patterns or eating habits. If you’ve started to notice some of those changes, consider why they might be happening. Are they connected to how you feel?

      3. A Loss of Interest

      Do you find yourself not wanting to do things you usually enjoy? It’s normal to want some alone time or to relax. However, if you’re always backing out of something you typically love, it could be a warning sign of depression. That’s especially true if those things usually bring you happiness.

      4. Pulling Away From Loved Ones

      In addition to losing interest in interests, another potential warning sign is withdrawing from the people in your life.

      Have you said “no” to spending time with family and friends lately? When was the last time you talked to someone you love? Withdrawal is a common sign of depression, often linked with feelings of hopelessness or even fatigue.

      5. Changes in Your Emotions

      It’s not uncommon for emotions to fluctuate throughout the day. But, depression can take those emotions to the extreme. If you feel sad one minute and angry the next, to the point where it causes an irritable outburst, it’s likely more than just your “typical” emotions coming through.

      People with depression also sometimes experience feelings of anxiety. Fear can be overwhelming, and you might feel as though it’s taking over every aspect of your life if you don’t find a way to fight against it.

      If you feel like you are losing control over your emotions, or they’re controlling you, it’s essential to understand why as soon as possible.

      What’s the Next Step?

      Again, the warning signs of depression can be different for everyone. But, the signs listed here are relatively common. If you’re struggling with this condition, you’re likely to display at least one of them.

      Thankfully, depression isn’t only one of the most common mental health conditions; it’s also one of the most manageable. If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, even if you’re not sure why, feel free to contact me to set up an appointment or visit my page about Heart Disease and Depression.

      Together, we can work out the underlying cause(s) of why you might be feeling this way. Once we understand that root cause better, we can work on a management plan to help you control those depressive thoughts and symptoms.