Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

August 5, 2007

Is It Sadness or Depression?

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Depression,Former Karuna therapist — karunacounseling @ 4:44 pm
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Andrea J Schrage, MA, LPC, CMT

Why is it that most people feel familiar with Depression? Why is it that if you start talking about taking anti-depressants that people come out of the woodwork to tell you about their experience on meds? One of the pieces in the puzzle is that people do not know how to distinguish sadness from “feeling depressed”

To give you a generalized idea of the succession from sadness to depression, it can often look like this:

  1. You have an emotion
  2. You do not know how to attend to it or choose to not attend to it
  3. The feelings get stuffed down via ignoring it or covering it in a addictive pattern
  4. You feel depressed

This is a simplification to help you see all the steps that happen before the depression sets in. Often what happens in this process is that there is a lot of grief that is not getting tended to. When this happens the world can feel unsafe and people tend to start protecting by shutting down their emotions. The blessing and curse in how our bodies work is that when you shut down one emotion, they all tend to get shut down. The curse is that if you don’t want to feel sad then you limit your ability to feel joy. The blessing is that if you don’t feel joy, it may cause you to look for the problem and then heal it.

To help clarify more we can look at “symptoms” of sadness and of depression.

Sadness can come in the form of:

  • Tears
  • A feeling in the throat, heart, or chest
  • It may come in waves that peak and then lessen
  • It is temporary
  • It is usually related to an event, even if it is an old event

Depression can come in the form of:

  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Not finding joy in things that you used to find joy in
  • A negative outlook on most things
  • On-going sadness without an obvious cause
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Disconnecting from others
  • Difficulty getting up and going in the morning
  • A lack of emotions
  • A change in sleep patterns
  • Hopelessness

Most of us did not learn to properly attend to emotions, we are taught to analyze, ignore, and cover up any emotions that we have. What is surprising for most of us is that we are just as scared to feel real joy and success as we are of feeling sadness and pain. This fact is usually left unnoticed, but it anchors in our system of wanting to avoid emotions. If you can start separating your feelings out, you can tend to them, which will allow you more power and consciousness about the choices that you make in your life.

Ways to start dealing with emotions are through writing, mindfulness, releasing them through the physical body, or through therapy. As you do this practice over time, you retrain your system to not fall into habitual depressive patterns. You will also learn to tolerate feelings and you will begin to pick up on the early cues that you are heading towards a depressive episode. If feelings are overwhelming for you or if you have a history of trauma, then please seek support through professional help.

For more questions about this process you can reach me at: 404-818-6114 or email me at AndreaSchrage@KarunaCounseling.com

http://www.KarunaCounseling.com

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February 3, 2006

A Guide To Mindful Living

This section will be dedicated to an ongoing look at simple ways to incorporate mindfulness in your everyday life. Over the course of several newsletters you will have a set of tools to pull out to create a healthier environment within you. One way to facilitate use of the exercises will be to focus on one for the next 2 months and really become fluent in it. Then you can move on in the succession of exercises that can build on each other.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness in simplified terms is learning to be present in the current moment. Why would one want to do this? The list of benefits is very long but here are a few:

  • Decreasing Anxiety
  • Ability to make conscious choices
  • Helps to reduce addictive patterns
  • Changes your relationship with negative thoughts
  • Allows you tune into answers from within
  • Increases your sense of peace in the world

If you missed the first exercise on the 3 minute breathe, please feel free to go back and look at http://www.karunacounseling.com/mindfulness1.html

Exercise Two:

Mindful Eating

Benefits may include:

  • Becoming more conscious of what you eat.
  • More enjoyment of your food.
  • Increased concentration.
  • Increased ability to stay in the present moment.
  • Better ability to monitor food intake.

Suggested Use:

  • During meals.
  • Deciding if you are hungry.
  • Letting your body inform you of what it is craving (verses your mind or habit dictating).

Any combination of the above will teach your system that mindfulness is readily available. John Kabat-Zinn teaches that if you were jumping out of an airplane, you wouldn’t sew the parachute on the way down. You would instead, sew it ahead of time so that it would be in good shape when you need it. The best way to have mindfulness be something that you automatically reach for is to practice it as much as possible. You may want to leave reminders for yourself to do the exercise, such as, post its or putting it in your calendar.

Part one and two below may be used together or separate depending on your goal.

Basic Instruction for Mindful Eating

Part One:

  1. Begin by sitting in an upright position with your feet on the ground and your spine straight.
  2. Take 2-3 breaths and relax into your body.
  3. Bring your attention to your belly and check in to see if you are physically hungry. You may find the urge to eat, but it could be an emotional hunger.
  4. Ask your body internally or out loud, “What am I hungry for.” You may get a response from the mind, so check it out by imagining your self eating that food. You may try a few foods to see what feels like the best fit. You will find that the more you do this, the more your body will truly guide you to eating what it needs verses what you want.

Part Two:

Follow 1 and 2 above if you are just doing part two and then continue below.

  1. Start by looking at your food like you have never seen it before. Look at the colors, texture, proportions, where it is on the plate and notice the smell.
  2. Notice any judgments that the mind makes and let them go without attaching to them as true. Almost like a child who is being introduced to it for the first time.
  3. Slowly take it to your mouth and stop right before it goes into your mouth. Notice the anticipation of the food.
  4. Now place it in your mouth and chew very slowly, holding an air of curiosity. Notice the texture and the tastes.
  5. Notice how you know when it is time to swallow and then swallow the food.
  6. Put your utensil back down and notice what it is like to be one bite fuller.
  7. Continue on through the meal at a slow and conscious state noticing what feelings, sensations, and judgments come up.

Alive With Color © SuperStock, Inc.

That is it!

Food and eating can stir up a lot of emotions, so you may want to journal about them, or if they get to intense, call your therapist for guidance. Enjoy a new way to look at food and allow a newfound choice about your eating.

If you have more questions feel free to contact me at

404-818-6114 or at

andreaschrage@karunacounseling.com

Keep your eyes out for a 4 series class after the New Year to learn how to use mindfulness to prevent the recurrence of depression.

January 2, 2006

The Parts Inside

Andrea J Schrage, MA, LPC, CMT

adapted from Dr. Richard Schwartz

Have you ever thought of yourself as a person with many different parts, or aspects of yourself? Thinking of yourself that can be a little anxiety provoking. You may even remember the movie “Sybil” and feel a desire to back away from the topic.

However, I am asking you to bear with me and trust that this has nothing to do with the type of personality disintegration that was happening for that character. So, for the brave souls left, this is an introduction to a way of looking at different aspects of yourself that will allow you to take better care of you.

I have been practicing as a counselor for almost 15 years. My experience includes studying different modalities that include psychology, body-centered psychotherapy, and spiritual practices. The most profound teachings on my journey have been my personal experience with healing modalities and the art of mindfulness. What feels consistent in all of these modalities is that we all have different parts of us inside, almost like personalities. These parts have been given different names, such as, the Id, Ego, and Superego and the Inner Child. I have also found that when clients identify them, they find that they have a clearer understanding of themselves and their behavior.

Have you ever seen someone who gets angry and starts to act like a kid? One example of this is when they are being told that they did something to hurt someone and they quickly retort with, “Well, you….” That’s what kids do

Another example is the part of you that jumps in and tells you all the ways that you are bad.

The parts vary and most have benefits if used properly. At different times, the parts may function as the self, child, teenager, perfectionist, overachiever, depressed part, worrier, focused only on happy, other focused, withdrawer, addict, playful, artistic, manager, parent, critical, voice, dreamer, or arrogant part/ego.

When you are not aware of these parts, it is easier for one of them to take over so that you are acting from that perspective only. You can imagine that when only one aspect of you is making decisions, you may be seeing a small portion of what is really happening. This becomes the crux of all communication problems.

A way to start understanding your parts is by looking at the categories that they may fall into. This will help you get an idea of the job that they are doing and help you to distinguish when is appropriate for them to display their talents. This will also help you reduce the habitual nature of parts that originated as a defense.

Exiles

These are often our most sensitive, innocent, open, and intimacy-seeking parts that contain qualities like liveliness, playfulness, spontaneity, creativity, and joi de vivre. They are the parts that were most sensitive and therefore most impacted by the painful events.

These parts could arise from trauma, but they may also be parts that embarrassed your parents, parts that held unspoken family rules or peer group norms, and parts that learned how to not feel.

Managers

These are the productive parts that are responsible for our day-to-day safety — often the voices that we hear most often. They are the aspects of us that want to control everything and are sure that they know best. They come from a place that will “never again” be hurt like before. They are the authors and enforcers of your stories and are created for protective reasons. They create your reality. They serve to block things from touching or hurting the exiles. They are the parts of us to try to make sure we are being externally seen in a positive way so that we can get that approval we did not receive in childhood.

Firefighters

These serve as the 2nd line of defense when the managers don’t work. They are our addictions and distractions, such as TV, eating, relationships, sleeping, alcohol, drugs, denial, rage etc. Over the years the firefighters pick less socially acceptable items because the first line of distractions stop working. Some people use physical distractions, such as illness or sudden pains. Some of the firefighters favor an impulsive retreat; they will leave the room or push the other person away. They are the parts that can make you feel fat, addicted, hostile, sneaky, sick, insensitive, and compulsive.

Managers often hate firefighters, though they have the some goal. Firefighters often rebel against managers by becoming more destructive. This can be seen as a parent (manager)/child (firefighter) relationship.

I hope this will help you begin to look at your parts and get support, as you need it. Feel free to email me with any questions about this process.

February 19, 2005

Dealing with Weddings: When You’re Not Allowed To Have One

by Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC

It seems to be that time of year again when the proposals are increasing as well as more dates are being set for weddings.
At the same time more legislature is being pushed through to stop same sex marriages and to deny these couples the same legal, financial, and health benefits as their heterosexual counterparts. Many are still reeling from the election and the acceptance of amendment 2 and the pain is still fresh. This article is not intended to argue political, religious, or moral viewpoints, but rather to address how people interact with each other and their emotions in a way that feels productive and healthy.

Many feelings are normal upon getting the announcement that friends are getting married; excitement, fear for your friend/family
member, fear of having less time with that person, envy, joy, and what happens if you don’t like the person that they are going to marry? What if you don’t believe in marriage? These are all common feelings, and now add the truth that marriage has become a privilege that is not available to everyone. How do you deal with someone you love getting married and balance the range of emotions felt? This is a very exciting time in the couples life and it is hard for many to acknowledge their personal pain for fear that they will detract
from the good news. This is a lot to juggle, so lets start with a few guidelines, remembering that every situation is different due to the individuals involved.

Venting

Spend some time talking about your emotions with a therapist or friend. It would be best to choose a person that you feel relatively safe with when sharing your feelings. Someone who is not as invested
in the wedding so much that they would have to keep any secretes. It is always wise to be conscious that any advice you get may come with some biases and what is most important is giving your self a chance to be honest about the emotions that have come up for you.

Staying with Emotion

As stronger emotions come up, allow your self room to have them, be with them, and move them. Moving them may be a new concept for some; it simply means expressing them in a way that they don’t end up buried inside of you. This may be something that feels more comfortable to do without others around, either way the following may be some ideas to try.

  • Write down your feelings and emotions without editing the content
  • Transfer the emotions on to paper through drawing. This is a time to let go of creating a masterpiece; the object is to use your intuition to guide your colors and your design.
  • See if you can locate a body sensation that feels related to the emotions and bring your attention to the physical sensation. Watch to see if it shifts when you bring your attention to it. Describe it to your self in detail or simply breathe with it.

Move with the emotion; try using music. See what impulses come with it, this can be done through exercise, yoga, or just by single motions that may range from punching to curling up with a blanket.

February 10, 2005

Preventing The Recurrence of Depression and Anxiety

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Anxiety,Depression,Former Karuna therapist — karunacounseling @ 4:41 pm
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by Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC, CMT

The chronic, recurrent nature of depression and anxiety presents an enormous challenge to sufferers and treatment providers. Combining the use of mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy allows for individuals to learn skills that will work more holistically to include mind and body in their growth. Participants can learn to play an active role in preventing the return of depression and anxiety as they watch other areas of their life positively impacted during the process. Through learning these techniques, one will notice a change in how they are able to participate more fully in their life in a conscious and often more peaceful way.

Conscious Choices is a 4-session class designed to teach its members how to combine these two modalities and to give them skills to help them prevent the spiral into reactive moods.

  • Learning to meditate for those who think they can’t.
  • Learning to identify the ongoing flow of critical voices in our heads.
  • Learning to sit with painful emotions and body pains.
  • Learning how to see anxiety and depression coming and make choices to prevent them.
  • Learning to recognize joy and happiness in everyday life.

Effects of this class may include:

  • Increased relaxation.
  • Reduced fear and anxiety.
  • Discontinuation or lessening of depression cycles.
  • Increased happiness and appreciation of life.
  • Feelings of empowerment.
  • Ability to make clearer choices about life.
  • Increased connection with others and self.

by Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC, CMT

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