Do Valentines' Differently

Every year people in relationship celebrate their love with flowers, cards, candy, and dinners. But, what about celebrating in a way that would help strengthen your relationship as well as celebrate it? Generally, we try to show each other our love with presents, dates, or saying “I love you”, but not everyone feels loved in those ways. This Valentines’ Day why not plan some time with your significant other growing your relationship by getting to know each other better? Most people think they know everything about their significant other’s thoughts, feelings, and stories; but even people who have been together for years can always learn something new about each other.

You can do this in a fun way like a 20 Questions game, sharing childhood and teenage memories, discussing the things you like most about the events in your relationship, or even discussing the things that each of you are interested in as hobbies.

You can also use Valentines’ Day to make goals for your relationship together for the upcoming year. Make a few short-term goals and a few goals that are a few years out. What milestones would you like to reach as a couple? This helps foster a more positive bond by making achievements together throughout the year to reach your goals. Then when this time of year comes up again you will be able to discuss your progress and achievements together.

You can also improve your emotional bond as a couple by discussing openly and honestly with your partner what you do that makes them feel truly loved on a regular basis. Evaluate what to this point has gone well and what has not gone so well for each of you in your relationship to date. Together you can make a plan to improve the things that need improving for the upcoming year. This can provide new insight into their emotional needs that you may not have considered before.

Whatever your celebration decisions are, make sure to be with your significant other without distractions like the television and cell phones if possible as this will make each of you feel like you are together in the moment celebrating.

If you find that things are not going as well in your relationship this year make a plan to have this be the year you change it. You can do this on your own as a couple or by attending a relationship enhancement workshop, marriage retreat, or simply attending some couples’ counseling sessions. Improving your relationship will only improve your lives on a regular basis and help you strive to work better together to be able to celebrate many more Valentines’ Days in the future.

The Importance of Children's Mental Health upon the New School Year

It’s that time of year again. Summer break is coming to an end and its back to reality of the school year hustle and bustle. The school year can be a challenging time for children as they struggle with fitting in with their peers, pressure of getting good grades and learning to balance extracurricular activities. Florida ranks one of the lowest states in the country for mental health funding and with the last report a couple years ago, Florida ranked #49 out of 50 states. What does this mean for our youth? In Charlotte County there is a lack of mental health professionals within the school system. High schools may each have a social worker assigned to their school but elementary schools often have one social worker to cover two to three schools each. Therefore, when your child is at school and going through something significantly stressful; domestic violence, the loss of a best friend, a bad breakup, bullying, etc. They are often limited as to where they are able to reach out for help, and they often turn to their friends who don’t have the healthiest of advice at times. Children from the beginning of their development have difficulty expressing their needs and just because as they get older they master language, sometimes it is difficult for a child to identify their feelings. Being aware of changes in your child’s behavior may help you to prompt a conversation or seek professional guidance from a therapist. 

Things to look out for; 

Missing school due to somatic complaints; stomach aches, headaches, nausea, with no other symptoms of illness. 

Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Isolating themselves from the family and/or their friends.

Significant changes in their eating habits, sudden weight loss or weight gain. 

Frequent crying spells and inability to express what they are upset about.

Engaging in self-harm behaviors; make sure to notice upper thighs, stomach or areas often covered.    

We are often busy and disconnected despite being more connected technologically than ever before, but the continuous access to technology can at times, separate us from the ones we love. Have open and honest conversations with your children. Let them know that they can come with you to talk about their feelings or to have a sounding board to help them figure them out.  And if you need professional help, don’t be hesitant to reach out. 

 

Mental Health Awareness

May marks Mental Health Awareness month where communities, organizations and other affiliates partner in raising attentiveness to mental health. Usually when the word health is used, most think of only the physical aspects this encompasses. Mental health is just as important as maintaining physical health because it affects all facets of our daily routine. This stresses the importance of seeing the whole person so that we are addressing minds and bodies rather than trying to pinpoint one health to focus on. According to a Harris Poll 89% of people believe that mental health is just as important as physical health. However, the issue lies where many people do not know how to or do not converse about mental health that contributes to stigmas forming. According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, 1 out of 5 people are affected by mental health and when combined with stigma it influences these individuals from seeking help. Therefore, deterrence of treatment usually occurs when the environment may contain shame, fear and silence. This perception of mental illness has the ability to change and you can help by:

  • Identifying and reducing any stigmas you might have
  • Educating yourself and others in the community
  • Finding appropriate ways to help advocate for these individuals 
  • Providing support by volunteering and knowing resources
  • Sharing your experiences
  • Taking care of yourself

Although some might seem small, little changes over time can create huge gains for yours and others overall health and wellbeing. Stigma can be reversed by compassion, empathy and understanding. So remember, sometimes the uncomfortable or unknown topics are what need to be talked about in order to address them. Let’s start learning and talking.

 

Counseling & Awareness

April is Counseling Awareness Month and this year, The American Counseling Association (ACA) is focused on highlighting ways in which professional counselors can help with a variety of everyday issues.  Some of the issues professional counselors can help with are: learning ways to manage stress, anger management, grief, trauma, anxiety and depression, improving family conflict and marital problems by learning effective and positive communication strategies, making healthier lifestyle changes involving career decisions, addictions, parenting, and finding balance between work and life.

Asking for help can be nerve wracking and daunting; however it is the first step to making change in your life. Do you desire to improve your life? Be happier? Worry less? Stop a bad habit?  Communicate better with others? Let go of past hurts? If you answered yes, then maybe counseling is right for you! “But how do I find the right counselor?” 

Well, think of if similar to finding the right hairstylist. No one wants to go to a stylist that is never available, does a sloppy job or is too pricey. So, when looking for a counselor, you want to find one that will meet most of what you are looking for. For example, some things to consider when searching for a counselor are: 

  • Do I want a male or female therapist?
  • Do they take insurance or have a sliding scale?
  • Do they work with children?
  • Do they have any specialties?
  • What types of issues do they work with?
  • Do they have a website?
  • Do they have hours that are convenient to my schedule?
  • What type of counseling approach do they use?
  • Is the counseling practice conveniently located?

Once you have done your research, it’s now time to make the call. Yes, admitting that you need help can be scary and vulnerable; however, it will be one of the best decisions you can make for yourself and/or family. Counselors are trained in a variety of counseling techniques and theories. Most have a minimum of a Master’s degree and are licensed or a registered intern. You can check out Psychology Today to search for counselors in your area; or check out www.swfcc.net for a list of counselors that may meet your needs.  Now is the time to make the change you have always wanted to make! Now is the time to get back to being happier! Now is the time to live a better balanced life! Now is the time to call a counselor! We can help! Call today to schedule an appointment with one our qualified professional counselors. For more information call 941-391-1067 or visit our website at www.swfcc.net.

The Aftermath of Childhood Domestic Violence

If left untreated, the residual effects of domestic violence (DV) persist throughout adulthood. Children who are exposed, not only to violence in their home, but direct child abuse are more inclined to suffer from the following: violent acts, aggression, delinquency, depression, social isolation, anxiety and low self-esteem. Children who witness violence are less likely to regulate strong emotions and can display troublesome behavior, for example lashing out in anger at home. Many stages of a child's development can be effected:

  • visual and auditory processing
  • memory
  • reading
  • learning

 

Some other symptoms linked to DV:

  • being emotionally distant
  • distrusting of others
  • sleep disturbance
  • bed-wetting, and fears of being alone
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • eating disorders, social phobias  
  • Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) have been tied to DV.

 

    The effects of stress from DV during childhood can permanently alter the brain as the violent acts occur during vital stages of development. Also, this stress can be attributed to heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and metabolic disorders.  This is not to say that DV will cause these disorders, yet there seems to be a connection between these disorders and DV.   Many adult women who have been subjected to abuse suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, and/ or Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).   Additionally, men who were abused in childhood can be more likely to abuse their children compared to the men who were not abused.  Often times, individuals who were exposed to or victims of DV end up in abusive relationships, only continuing this abusive cycle.

    If you or your child are experiencing these symptoms or concerns, please contact Southwest Florida Counseling Center where we can assist in the healing process.  Our compassionate and non-judgmental therapists can help you and/or your child can gain inner freedom.