Rest and Relaxation

Rest and Relaxation: Our amazing bodies have multiple systems in place that have allowed us to evolve and respond to almost any situation. Rest and relaxation (parasympathetic nervous system) is actually a biological system we all have and need to be using on a daily basis for optimal mental health and overall functioning. Yes, we are required to relax!

The parasympathetic nervous system works in conjunction with the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze response), triggering the body to secrete hormones to decrease blood pressure and heart rate, digest food, and induce a a state of physical and mental relaxation. So how do we activate this parasympathetic system?

Breathing deeply and mindfully helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to trigger this response. Shallow breathing from your upper chest is reserved for situations where the body needs to be alert and respond quick. Breathing slowly from your belly, in the nose and out the mouth is how we use our bodies to regain a sense of calmness and peace. If this is a new practice for you, writing yourself eye-catching sticky notes or setting alerts on your phone are affective ways to make deep breathing a habit. The great thing about deep breathing is you can practice this anywhere and anytime for free! Simply put, just breathe. 


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How to Develop a Balanced Wellness Wheel

(Photo: https://www.unh.edu/health/well/wellness)

(Photo: https://www.unh.edu/health/well/wellness)

 

 Upon each stage of human development, individuals look for the best ways to achieve ultimate health, happiness, and wellness. For some, this means building a strong social support network. Others may find themselves on a spiritual journey to discover peace and meaning. To many wellness is measured by financial stability and security. It is through genuine self-reflection that we are able to identify what we need in our lives in order to achieve our wellness goals.  

However, we often become caught up with the course of daily life, peer pressures, and external stress. Sometimes things get in the way of this important process of self-reflection. So, take the time right now to read this article and examine your wellness, appreciate your strengths, and identify areas to build upon.

According to the latest research in comprehensive wellness, there are eight dimensions of wellness. Here are some brief examples of each:

Emotional: Your sense of internal regulation of feelings, effectively expressing emotions, managing stress, utilizing healthy coping skills, engaging in positive self-talk, self-acceptance, and authenticity.

Spiritual: Understanding your own moral compass, world view and beliefs, guiding principles and personal values, and sense of peace, meaning, and purpose.

Environmental: Your sense environmental consciousness, where you spend the most time, your community, workplace, home, room, and even the car you drive.

Financial: Your sense of financial health, conscious spending and saving of money and resources, financial planning as well as being an educated consumer today.

Intellectual: Your commitment to life learning, open-mindedness towards new ideas, learning about other cultures, politics, outside perspectives, discovering what interests you, practicing creativity, and engaging in mentally stimulating conversations.

 Occupational: Career development, achieving an education, using your unique skillset to contribute to the greater society, discovering ways to align your values, interests, aptitudes, achievement, and future goals.

 Physical: Your biological health, eating healthy, exercise, movement, regular sleeping pattern, practicing preventative health care, managing dental, vision, sexual, brain and mental health, access to professional care as needed.

Social: Your relationships, effective and assertive communication styles, maintaining healthy boundaries, spending time with friends, family, loved ones, receiving support and being supportive, building authentic connections.

 It is helpful to think of these eight dimensions on a wheel or pie chart. Ideally, ultimate wellness would evenly incorporate each dimension. However, it is more probable that each of these sections will vary in proportion throughout life’s twists and turns. As you self-reflect, some important questions may be:

 

What does my wellness wheel look like?

How do each of these dimensions make up my comprehensive wellness?

What dimensions are my strongest right now?

How does my wheel match my dreams and future goals?

What dimensions do I hope to further develop?

What dimension can I focus on?

Within a specific dimension, what realistic and measurable tasks will I commit to this week?

The Wellness Wheel is a simple tool that helps you to engage in self-reflection, there is no pass or fail to this process. If you find yourself struggling with finding your sense of balance, talk to your supports, seek consultation with a professional, try something new. Maintaining a balanced comprehensive wellness wheel takes your willingness to commit to your wellbeing every single day. With self-compassion, acceptance, and taking action we can all find ways to increase our wellness and find greater balance.

Evolution of a College Student and their Parents

By Courtney A. Faunce, M.A.

You have spent the past seventeen to eighteen years growing a human. You are a parent living in 2018, aka a completely new world compared to when you were in high school. There were good times and bad, you have been doing your absolute best. No one knows your kid like you do, and no one loves them more. Watching your child graduate from high school is a huge milestone and one of the most proud and happiest moments yet to come. So, what happens when school is out for the last time, prom is over, graduation photos are taken, and you find yourself asking “Where did all the years go?” …

During this transitional time, not only is the student faced with inevitable change, the entire family may need to redefine roles and adapt. This process of transitioning from adolescent years to young adulthood will look different for every student and every family. Over the years as a counselor working with students, families and educators, I have observed a few key features that should be a part of an ongoing conversation with your college student. These include the following:

Empowerment, Confidence, and Self-Identity

Real World Living skills

Independent and Critical Thinking Skills

Character Building: Work Ethic, Professionalism, and Integrity

Self-Advocacy and Personal Accountability

Decision Making Based on Personal Value System

Freedom from Fear of Failure:  Vulnerability

Future Oriented Thought, Optimism, and Hope

Refining Family Roles and Boundaries

Open-mindedness and Adventure

Self -Care “Do what you enjoy, not just what builds a resume!”

 

The development of your child into a young adult is happening right before your eyes in ways you may have never planned or expected. For parents and family, a major cross road arrives when we finally must let go. This may include allowing your student, now emerging adult, to make decisions that are out of your comfort zone. It may mean having to say, in an assertive yet loving tone, “No… Not today… Not anymore….” Our natural instinct as parents and caregivers is to find the solution and fix the issue in the easiest most convenient way possible. However, the total amount due and the cost of over protecting our students may be immeasurable. Here are some general tips for a smooth transition during this critical time:

 

1.     Keep up the effective communication. Be honest with your student in a way that educates and demonstrates a healthy mutually respectful relationship. We wish to facilitate empowerment by demonstrating we believe in our students and we value them as individuals. Remind your student that they are loved and you are proud, after all most likely your approval and unconditional love still means so much to them.

2.     Be there. Time is currency and we need to spend it wisely. No matter if your student is relocating to an out of state campus or local post-secondary school, continue to make time for phone calls, facetimes, and holiday/school breaks.

3.     Be there… when you can. At the same time, know your boundaries. Empty-nesters especially may need to rediscover new or old hobbies, interests, and community activities to reengage with now that your student is off living the college life. Give yourself permission to focus on you. Establish positive healthy boundaries and be willing to accept you student’s new boundaries.

4.     Know when to hold back. Up until this point, parent involvement was encouraged since it is a primary indicator of student academic success and social adjustment. Now that your student has made it to the world of higher education, parents are only welcomed on campus during parent weekends or moving in or out of dorms. And possibly for sporting events. Instead, it is more supportive to suggest to your student to utilize campus resources and the professor’s office hours themselves.

5.     Enjoy the small things. As the research consistently shows, mindfulness has profound positive effects on our wellbeing and sense of peace, joy, and balance. This time of transition, although stressful, is also a major milestone for your student and the family. Going back to basics by practicing gratitude for the simple things and the tiniest moments is crucial.

As a disclaimer, every family going through the transition of their child to young adulthood will have different experiences and needs. It is easier to do all the research and put together a plan, than to put advice into action. Ultimately, you as a parent are in transition as well and change can be scary. When we encourage our students to face their fears, and set forth into a new world, we must also do the same for ourselves. Cherish the growing pains and embrace the journey.

Media Technology and Mental Health

By Courtney A. Faunce, MA 

We all recognize the longstanding controversy on media’s effect on children and teens. Does the content influence our personalities and behaviors? Or are we immune the any negative effect media may possible have over us? 

Maybe the question is not so much what are we gaining from engaging in various forms of media, but what are we losing? What have our phones, televisions, commercials, dare I say Facebook replaced? 

Patience and Solitude 

There is no doubt using Google to fact check has been a savior in desperate times. However, we sometimes see ourselves easily frustrated without having access to our devices. Having internet and free WiFi have seemingly become a basic need for Americans. This allows us to always be connected by posting moments of our lives online in real time. The concept of instant gratification starts to spill over into other areas of our thinking. In terms of our mental health, there is no "quick fix". We have to consciously repel our urges to fix the problem and focus on our feelings, thoughts, and truly process in order to achieve mental wellness. 

Amplification of Negativity   

In The Other Parent by James P. Streyer, he writes that over the past sixty years media has calculatedly become like a stranger in your home. Our children are exposed to these various forms of media for much longer periods of time than ever before. Broadcasting companies no longer produce public interest media content. Rather, content material is precisely chosen to increase ratings and shareholder earnings. It can be easily understood that amplifying tragedies and exploiting the latest scandal is what currently gets our attention and drives up the ratings. The constant replay of negative headlines and consumerism starts to incite the same mindset in us and in our children. 

Quality Time Together 

Television programs were originally developed to bring families together. Of course, some shows and media continue to bring families together. At the same time, parents must be mindful to balance quality time together and excessive use of media and technology in replace of authentic human interaction. Quality time talking, discussing, debating, learning, teaching, and modeling body language are essential for child and teen development. We must talk and learn to communicate with each other in our own homes so that our kids will have the foundation to be successful communicators outside of the home. No matter how convenient social media or computer-based software may be, we cannot forget the vitality of quality time together. 

Mindfulness and Nature 

Many therapeutic modalities teach mindfulness as a way to restore positivity, regulate emotions, and increase mental wellness. There are so many ways to be mindful and the benefits are endless. The key feature of acquiring mindfulness is to get back to the basics of life. To bring your thoughts to each of your senses as with grounding exercises. Or another is to focus on one deep breath. When we find time in our busy schedules to open a window, take a walk outside, enjoy this beautiful Florida weather we become open to appreciating each moment. 

In 2018, media and technology are pretty much mainstream and here to stay. Realistically, we will probably not all of a sudden throw away all of our electronics, quit our jobs, and relocate our families to live in nature in peace and solitude. In fact, we have so many things to be grateful for with the advancement of media and technology. Adaptive technology have allowed individuals with disabilities access to greater independence. Social media has in fact brought families together and keeps us connected across distances. Technology allows platforms of information to be shared and accessible to anyone at anytime. Our advancements are truly incredible. 

However, as with most things, balance and self-awareness are key. So if any of the above applies to you or your family, what is one simple thing you can agree to do differently today?

Being Resilient: Life After Unavoidable Tragedy

By Courtney A. Faunce, M.A.

We live in a world where we have access to information with a click of a button. Solutions to everyday problems are met with "There is an app for that." Our days are scheduled to the minute, our lives are planned step by step, and time is our greatest currency. With all of this access and freedom to choose, is there possibly an illusion that we are safe from tragedy? In hindsight, is there always something we could have done differently?

There are moments in our lives we simply cannot explain and more so difficult to fully understand. When we experience loss and the overwhelming burden of tragedy, the physical damage can sometimes be a fraction of the pain we feel. After trauma, there is no one size fits all remedy to this pain and no google search that will provide relief. As a mental health counselor, I can tell you sometimes the answers you are looking for are not exactly clear, apparent, or easily prescribed.

So what defines trauma? When we have been affected, hurt, damaged, heinously beaten down, dreams shattered… What happens when we become the victim?

A traumatic event is an occurrence that is deeply distressing and according to the American Psychiatric Association, an event(s) that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others, and which involved fear, helplessness, or horror.

It is important to understand that we individually experience a traumatic event, meaning my experience will be different from the next person. So if there were 5 people who were there at the same exact time, the same event will have created 5 different experiences. Some may walk away unscathed while others will need time for recovery. This is also one of the reasons why being a victim can be extremely isolating and lonely. It can be difficult to receive help when we know no one else experienced what you have experienced.

Sometimes we may even refuse to be labeled as a victim as this word conveys a sense of loss or weakness. We may deny our trauma altogether in fear that to admit being a victim would mean that is who we really are; helpless.

It is my belief that, we as humans cannot avoid tragedy. We cannot control every aspect of our lives no matter how advanced we as a society become. The essence of our being is our ability to adapt to negative change and to find peace after tragedy.

Clinically, the term is Trauma Resiliency. The healing process requires us to choose what we do with our pain and what we make of our lives. This choice is made every day and sometimes one minute to the next. Like a muscle in our bodies, we exercise this choice to regain strength. When we are resilient after trauma, we own our stories and we choose hope over fear.

I am writing to tell you, there is life after loss. There is peace and meaning in this world, you will find purpose, and you will be the author of your narrative. Being a victim is a momentary label used to solidify, "Yes, I have experienced unavoidable tragedy." The moments in your life after "I was a victim" will be your decision.

Written by...

Courtney Faunce is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern IMH16553 maintaining supervision with Reina Lombardi, ATR-BC, ATCS, LMHC-QS, #MH-12643.. Courtney graduated from the CACREP accredited program at Florida Gulf Coast University with a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She completed her undergraduate studies at Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology. Courtney served as a 211 Big Bend crisis counselor as well as the Family Health Line (1-800-451-2229). Among her academic focus, Courtney completed studies in Medical Epidemiology, Social Psychology, and Social Justice. 

Courtney is affiliated with the American Counseling Association and Florida Mental Health Counseling Association.

Courtney has experience providing clinical counseling to adolescents, young adults, and families in individual and group settings. She specializes in working with young adults and students on career development and individuals living with disabilities. Utilizing a person-centered cognitive behavioral approach, Courtney will work with you to identify goals, enhance healthy coping skills, practice effective communication skills and provide a safe space for you to be you.