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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

S-T-R-E-S-S

By Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing

Do you have a SICK feeling? Are you TENSE? RESTLESS? EDGY? Far too STRETCHED? STRUGGLING to make it through the day? Okay, I admit I’m attempting to be clever. If you take the first letter of each capitalized word and string them together, they spell STRESS. Everyone experiences stress to varying degrees. It is an inevitable part of our daily lives—and not all stress is necessarily bad.

However, when chronic and/or large doses of stress become unmanageable in your life, you are likely to become sick. In this post, I want to focus on recognizing when stress is making you sick and what you can do about it.

It’s important to know the symptoms of stress. Symptoms of stress are manifested emotionally, physically, cognitively and behaviorally. In short, a person who is getting sick from stress may experience aches and pains, depression, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and other serious health concerns, including turning to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.

Let me emphasize serious. Clinical depression is a serious mental illness that can lead to suicidal thoughts—and attempts. Self-medicating often leads to addiction. Constant high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can cause many critical illnesses such as heart disease, low immune functioning, high cholesterol and blood pressure, to name a few.

I am not a physican, psychologist or therapist, but I am someone who has experienced many of the above-named health concerns resulting from chronic, debilitating stress. I had reached a point when I knew I could not go on living that way. Finally, I had recognized that stress was making me sick—and I got help.

If you are reading this blog and clicking on the links, is it because you suspect that stress is making you or someone you know sick? If so, please continue reading.

If chronic stress is damaging your health, get professional help. No excuses. It’s true, a therapist or doctor cannot eliminate the stress in your life nor solve your problems for you, but a professional will be able to diagnose what is wrong and help you to restore health, hope and stability in your life. Once you gain some relief from your ongoing fight or flight response, you will be able to function better mentally, emotionally and physically. When hope and clarity return, you can work on taking the next steps toward getting yourself out of that terrible job, relationship or other circumstance that is the source of your stress. A trained professional will help you to see your way through.

Is STRESS making you sick? Call Samaritan Counseling Center at 412-741-7430.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Church Alive: Coping with Suicidal Desperation

By Matthew Williams
According to Mentalhealth.org:
·       112 Americans die from suicide each day on average
      112 x 365 (days in a year) = 40,880
      40,880 people die each year from suicide
·       Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of deaths between the ages of 15-24 years of age.
·       More than 6.4 million people have thought about suicide as an option
As we get started, think about that number, 40,880. That is 40,880 souls that knew no other release from their pain other than ending their own lives. That is over 40,000 individuals that believed their pain outweighed the resources available to them to get help. As we go through this post we all need to know two major things. One, suicidal thoughts or tendencies should never be kept a secret. They need to be talked about! Two, suicide is preventable; we just need to learn to reach out. As faith based communities, we are called to love one another, to reach out and help those in need.
Suicidal desperation has been a source of turmoil in our faith-based communities as leaders struggle with how to cope with their members who suffer from it. Many people still fear that talking about suicide will plant the idea into someone’s head. For starters, someone will not commit suicide because you gave him/her the idea. That idea has already manifested itself over time. In order to reach out properly and diminish that fear we have, we need to learn how to talk to and approach someone who is suffering from suicidal tendencies. Church is the perfect place for this talk to happen.
The Church is the living, breathing embodiment of God’s love for us. It is the source of hope, healing, forgiveness, and charity. These tenants help lend us the tools that a faith-based community should use to help its struggling members find hope and help. Often times the way we approach an individual struggling with deep seated problems, crises or mental illness sets the tone for how that person is going to receive the information we provide them. For example, if you tell someone, “don’t worry, everything will be fine,” it can come across that you are being dismissive of what they are feeling. It is crucial to truly listen and understand what they are relaying to you when you speak to them.
Active listening helps provide the individual in need the comfort of knowing that you are truly listening, understanding and can recall all that they are telling you. This helps build trust and ultimately the feeling of connectedness. Connectedness is one of the ways to help prevent a suicide. It promotes emotional wellbeing that includes belonging to something greater than ones’ self. This can include a community, family friends, and loved ones. Connectedness helps build relationships that has a value that some may not want to let go of.
Active listening can also help identify people in a parish that may truly be suffering from suicidal thoughts. The earlier you can get them help the better the outcome can be. The cost of suicide or even the desperation that comes along with it is often strenuous on a parish or congregation. Being able to navigate through the tumultuous times that suicide often brings can truly help save a life. However, to do this one needs the proper tools. Fortunately, there are programs out there like SOUL SHOP which is designed specifically for educating ministers, church leaders and anyone interested in how to approach and integrate the tools needed to save a life from the desperation of suicide.
Soul Shop is unique as it was designed to help people get through that “dark hour” and live to see another day, or as the founder Fe Anam Avis calls it, “A Second Day.” Soul Shop was built upon seven Key Ideas or Philosophy that help aid in suicide prevention. From, “Suicidal desperation can begin for anyone given an accumulation of losses combined with a reduction in resources to deal with those losses,” to, “As a faith community begins to adjust to the reality of suicidal desperation among its members, it must fundamentally alter the way members deal with one another.”
Soul Shop helps provide the tools necessary to make the greatest impact on those afflicted with suicidal desperation. More importantly, it helps educate the masses so they too can help save the 40,880 souls who lose the battle with their inner struggle annually. REGISTER today for Soul Shop on May 3, 2017.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When Words Will Bolster or Break

By Beth Healey
Director of Development and Marketing
You have all heard the expression, “the elephant in the room.” At the Samaritan Counseling Center, no elephant goes unnoticed—they are all talked about. After all, therapy involves a lot of talking. In fact, not talking about the elephant perpetuates what is unhealthy and problematic.
  
One of society’s most popular elephants in the room is the subject of suicide. Chances are very good that everyone reading this blog has in some way been affected by it. One in 17 adults and one in six teens are considering suicide at this very moment.
  
When I was in high school, I knew two girls who attempted suicide. Later in my life, my husband’s nephew—27 years old—unfortunately, succeeded at it. At the age of 89, my grandfather died by his own hand. Too ashamed to speak the truth, my distraught grandma told others that he had had a heart attack and that “he was a good man.” As though suicide made him a “bad man.”
 
Here’s another misunderstanding I’d like to put to rest. It’s been said that someone who takes his own life is selfish because he’s only thinking of himself and not about how the act will affect others who love and care about him.
 
Trust me—that is not the case. Pain is a powerful motivator
 
A person may or may not have a high tolerance for pain. Regardless of one’s tolerance level, both physical and mental pain often rise to the point of unbearable, rendering the person suffering incapable of focusing on anything else except ending the pain.
 
One type of pain is the pain of hopelessness. You may argue, “If a person has faith, he knows there is always hope!” But you are assuming he is capable of reasoning and understanding. Those capabilities do not exist when the pain of hopelessness is a monster with its teeth clamped into you. 
 
As I think about it, it becomes clearer to me why most people are uncomfortable talking about suicide, or especially, to someone who is suicidal. When you are capable of reasoning and understanding, it’s nearly impossible to imagine why anyone would want to end his life. The words, “It will get better; this too shall pass,” want to escape from our lips. Or worse yet, “It’s not that bad. Snap out of it.”
 
Let’s circle back to hopelessness. Based on my own experience, hopelessness is a complex and scary state of being. It is something that continues to expand and become stronger with each reinforcement. It reminds me of that old science fiction movie— “The Blob”. The Blob kept growing and growing until it was uncontrollable, till it wrapped itself around someone and swallowed him up.
 
These reinforcements are often born out of a deep sense of failure and worthlessness (which, by the way, are often unfounded). Some of you will call it sickness; others will call it an attack from Satan. Whatever you call it, just keep in mind that snapping out of it is akin to snapping out of the pain of any progressing disease.
  
A path toward healing exists. It is paved with the right words, a supportive environment, love, prayers and clinical treatment. One last nugget of wisdom: suicidal desperation doesn’t develop overnight and cannot be healed overnight. But it can be healed!
  
Learn more by SIGNING UP for Soul Shop™ on Wednesday, May 3 from 9a.m.-3p.m. at Crossroads: A Campus of First United Methodist Church, Butler. Early Bird Fee: $40 includes lunch; Counselors: Add $10 for 5 CEUs


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Precious and Essential to Life, Though Often Taken for Granted

By Lori Cangilla, PhD

Think of something you use every day that makes it possible to communicate with other people, get information about the world, and make an impact on the people and things around us. This thing is very precious, difficult to upgrade, and without it, life as we know it would cease.

No, I’m actually not talking about our smartphones. I’m referring to our bodies. These invaluable physical selves allow us to experience all of the things that make us human. When we are healthy, it’s easy to take our bodies for granted. If we get injured or sick, we are quickly reminded of just how much our physical well-being means to us. When we care for a sick person or feed and clothe a baby, we recognize how fragile these human bodies can be.

But how many of us struggle to treat our physical selves as well as we might treat another person, or even as well as we take care of an important possession like a phone? Do we set ourselves up for future problems by taking our bodies for granted, ignoring their needs, or trying to endlessly modify them?

Perhaps we are called to learn ways to show respect for and honor these physical selves. What if we took the time to radically change our attitudes toward our bodies? We might begin to:

·       Notice what we are experiencing in our bodies, instead of numbing out, distracting ourselves, or ignoring sensations that don’t seem convenient

·       Respect the wisdom that our bodies contain, designed to be self-regulating systems that are balanced and signal our minds as to our needs for nutrition, movement, sleep, and play.

·       Accept that there is no such thing as a perfect body, and begin to develop compassion for the so-called imperfections each of us have.

·       Cultivate a sense of wonder at what our bodies enable us to do—laugh, love, play, work, and change our worlds.

For some people, the challenge of caring for one’s body can develop into distorted thinking about the body or patterns of disordered eating. If you or someone you care about is struggling to develop or maintain a healthy, respectful relationship to the body, please consider taking a screening as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. This screening can help you or the person you care about learn whether an in-person appointment for further assessment of eating and body image could be helpful. Samaritan’s clinical team is waiting to help people on the journey to a more balanced, self-compassionate relationship with food and the body.

To complete the screening, visit:


For more information on National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, visit:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


A Super Bowl of Emotions
By Matthew Williams

Regardless which side you were rooting for, one thing is for certain
when it comes to this past weekend’s super bowl—it was a game for the ages. If you are a Falcons fan, I am sorry. If you are a Patriots fan, congratulations! Regardless of which team you rooted for, you may still be experiencing the after effects of such a spectacular event—the extreme highs and lows of your emotions.
Like most of the nation, I was a Falcons fan for a night. (Sorry Patriots, just cannot root for you.) I experienced great joy, anger, and ultimately sadness during the course of a four hour span—a lot of emotion and very drastic. Multiply that by 112 million, which was the viewership for Super Bowl 50. Why do we experience all of this emotion and how can we cope with it?

The world of sports is an interesting one. If you don’t believe me, look at Pittsburgh on a Monday morning after a Steelers loss. You would think everyone needed a counselor! (Which Samaritan can provide—I know, shameless plug) Or, look at some of the huge sporting events that happen across the world. It is guaranteed that at least one couch and maybe a car may be set ablaze by the losing team’s fans—not to mention the countless brawls between fan bases.

BUT WHY!? Why do we get so caught up in this world? According to an article by Dr. Ryan Martin in Psychology Today titled, “The Inciting Word of Sports,” there are basic psychological factors that explain this crazy phenomenon. One of these factors is reflected glory, which was coined by Robert Cialdini that described an individual’s ability “share” in the glory that resulted in someone else’s doing. This is best seen in sports when fans refer to a team’s win by saying “We won” or “We are going to the Super Bowl” when in reality that fan had no realistic impact on that team.

Another factor is tension. This goes hand in hand with sharing in the glory of a team. If the stakes rise during a game, it can lead to higher levels of anxiety. As a result, one may experience the feeling of being on edge or even violent, especially when the event is not going the way he/she thought it would. For some fans, their team losing a game can have catastrophic consequences, leading them to do things (like setting fires, inciting fights and destroying property) that may be out of their norm.

Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to avoid developing a frenzied state of mind. 

One of the most important things you can do is keep everything in perspective. It is nothing more than a game, something that should be enjoyed, not a source of anger, hostility, or depression. Think realistically about what the win or loss means for you, the fan. Knowing what makes you upset or angry during a sporting event (or any event) is the first step in awareness and relaxation. Recognizing what triggers the anxiety and anger can help you cope through different relaxation techniques.

One of my personal favorites is called the Limp Noodle which is a Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique. This technique was shared with me by one of our counselors, Lynda Bradley and is commonly used to help relieve stress, anxiety, and feelings of physical discomfort. To do this is very simple:

1.     Sit on edge of chair

2.     Back straight and feet planted firmly on ground.

3.     Bend over at the waist allowing your arms to dangle to the floor.

4.     Take deep slow breaths, allowing the muscles in your body relax.

5.     Calm the mind by clearing it and focusing on a spot on the floor.

6.     Do all of this for a few moments; your body will tell you when it’s time to rise.

7.     Slowly bring yourself back up, taking slow and deep breaths.

8.     Bring your hands in front of you, interlock your fingers and place them on the back of your head.

9.     Lean back with your hands behind you head and breathe deeply and slowly.

A perfect posture for watching the game in peace (or as close to peaceful as possible)!

Dr. Martin also recommends limiting the banter with friends and family. Stress does not only come from the game, but also from those around you. While it may start out as friendly teasing between friends and family, it can quickly erupt into a source of anger and more stress.
Finally, there is simple avoidance. If you know something is going to cause unwanted stress, there is no shame in avoiding the conflict. Recognizing the stressors in your life and avoiding them while you learn how to cope is a healthy way to keep your mind on point. (That doesn’t mean avoiding everything altogether.) Watching sports is a choice, going to the in-laws is not!

You can be passionate about the game, but not when it comes with a price that adversely affects not only you, but those around you, it’s time for a reality check. Sooner or later, you are going to have to sit and listen to your friends and family rave on about how great the Patriots are and how Tom Brady is “Greatest of all time…”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


The Hunt for Happiness
By Matthew Williams

Before we get started…Good Luck! I say this not as a nuance that you are never going to find happiness, but as a notion that this is a life long journey—one that does not end when you think you have found it. But once you’ve found it, working to keep it will probably show how elusive it can be. With that said, I am going to share something so you can truly grasp the idea of what I mean when I say a life long journey.

I sought some spiritual guidance from someone of prominence in my church. After our conversation, he looked at me and said, “You want eternal happiness? Then say, ‘Jesus, I trust in you’ and say it until you mean it. Until you truly believe it and live it.” I believed, so I thought—no big deal. It was not until after leaving that meeting when the dread fell over me like an avalanche of guilt and sorrow.

People have died in pursuit of the very thing I was told to do. Talk about a reality check! Religious or not, one can appreciate the magnitude of my grief when this hit me: I will never achieve happiness. Simply put! That was until I realized my source of happiness, which we can save for later. However, know this: everyone’s source of happiness is different. It can be your faith, your children or grandchildren, family, friends, artistic abilities…the point is that it changes for everyone and at different stages of your life, both physically and emotionally.

According to the Society of Happy People there are 31 different types of happiness. YES—31 types! But, what is happiness and what does it look like? Happiness, by definition, is the state of being happy and this can take many forms. Think of something you enjoy. Does it bring a smile to your face, butterflies to your stomach, or maybe just a sense of fulfillment? That is, in reality, happiness! It’s everywhere and highly contagious. It is up to us—you and me—to find it.

In one of our previous blog posts, we discussed how ATTENTION is the Essential Ingredient for success. When we succeed at something, it tends to make us happy. By paying attention to our goals and leaving the distractions at the door, we get that much closer to what makes us happy. However, what do we do when we find it (“It” being happiness)? One of the things that I personally believe in, is to simply nurture it and live in the moment, soaking in all the goodness that it brings in your life. Remember two things: 1) Happiness is what we make of it. We are in charge of our happiness—nobody else—and what we do with it is our own choosing. 2) Happiness is a life long journey. It will ebb and flow, and that is ok.

January 15th-21st is the HUNT FOR HAPPINESS WEEK! Yes, a whole week dedicated to happiness. One way or another, it is my mission this week to help share happiness with all of you. So in the comments of this blog post, I will be sharing some funny moments from my own life and trust me, when you come from a rather large family, there is always a story or two to tell. Along with this, I will be posting links to fun little activities you can do and share with your families. Just remember this—happiness is everywhere. It is all around us, and we need to make the most of what life brings to us. If you can smile just once a day, then you are one step closer to becoming the person who you were made to be!

~Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger~
My Happiness:
I was speaking to a colleague of mine, and asked her what made her happy. Her response mirrored in a way, what makes me happy. I said earlier I would disclose what that was. While I love my family, friends, and my faith, what truly makes me happy is knowing I made a difference in someone else’s life. No matter how big or small, to know that I touched someone’s life for the better. This reminds me that my time here will not be for nothing. At the end of the day, I can say, “Jesus I trust in you, to love people, as you love me!”

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Does Your "Life Balance Wheel" Resemble a Lumpy Tire?

Beth Healey, Director of Development and Marketing


We all do it from time to time—“fall out of balance.” If we don’t consciously take care of our bodies, manage stress nor seek to enrich ourselves spiritually, emotionally and socially, we risk slipping into a state of unhealthiness.

It can be difficult to identify exactly what is causing us to be out of balance. Mind and body are inseparable. It is not possible to experience whole health and wellness if a part or parts of your whole self are out of balance.

We hope and strive for a lot of things in our lives: a loving spouse and family, a successful career, financial stability, etc. In the midst of our journeys, we inevitably encounter rough spots that can make us feel our efforts are in vain. As a result, we begin to experience self-doubt and negative emotions that hinder us, making our dreams and goals seem that much more impossible to attain. Then, the physical maladies set in. These may include fatigue, headaches, insomnia, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, digestive problems and the like.* Enrichment, positivity and self-care are suddenly out the window.

When you reach one of those low, frustrating points in your life—and we all do—try putting aside fretting and ruminating on your troubles for a while and concentrate on finding what is out of balance in your life. The “life balance wheel” is a valuable tool to help you discover the answer.
Check out these resources to find out which one works best for you and give it a try:

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_93.htm

You might be surprised what you learn about yourself. Better yet, you will have the information you need to develop a plan of action to achieve balance, harmony and peace in your life. Being on a balanced course empowers you to achieve the things that are important to you.

However, sometimes the things that are causing great pain and struggling in our lives are things that we cannot change by ourselves. Identifying the areas of imbalance is a good start, but knowing how to go about making the appropriate changes can seem impossible. You may be overwhelmed, anxious or on the verge of exhaustion. These are strong indicators that you may need professional help.

Getting counseling may be the best thing you will ever do for yourself. Even counselors see other counselors when the need presents itself—just like doctors see other doctors! Below is another valuable link to mental health screening tools to help you evaluate feelings you may be experiencing.

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screening-tools

And remember, Samaritan’s caring therapists are only a phone call away at 412-741-7430.
*This is not intended to be medical advice. Please see your physician for your health concerns