4 Ways To Diminish Anxiety & Find Stillness

Anxiety Defined

The Free Dictionary defines Anxiety as ?a state of apprehension, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the anticipation of a realistic or fantasized threatening event or situation, often impairing physical and psychological functioning.?

Everyone has experienced anxiety and it?s closely related cousins, worry and doubt. These are unavoidable. Sometimes negative self talk, worry, and doubting thoughts that anxiety brings on can be overwhelming. The multitude of thoughts and feelings that invade our mind about different situations or events are called ?racing thoughts.? For those enduring anxiety, the race never slows.Girl Stressed Out

I experienced anxiety just before I took the National Counselors Exam. This exam is a licensing requirement for all wannabe counselors seeking professional licensing. It?s a grueling 200 multiple choice question exam. This exam covers the different aspects of the field of counseling. Everything from graduate school, my internship and graduation pointed to this exam. If I wanted to take the next step in my career, I had to pass this test.

I had spent a few months preparing and studying for the exam. Despite my efforts to be ready for the exam, I experienced a lot of those negative thoughts. I worried about the future if I didn?t pass. In my mind, all the school and hard work I did would mean nothing if I didn?t pass. Sleep was elusive that weekend. The day before the exam, I had gone out to the cemetery where my sister and grandparents are buried. They have a pond and usually it’s very quiet. I went up there to pray and meditate for a bit. But wouldn’t you know. Maintenance was going on and the noise of machinery got in the way of my quiet time.

I was as ready for this exam as I was going to be. But anxiety still continued to be present. The exam was the hardest I had taken to date. I kept thinking while I was answering questions that I was surely going to fail. This test was a struggle and there were a few concepts on there I had never heard of before as it pertained to theory. When I finished, I spent the minutes trying to think how I was going to break the news to my wife that I didn’t pass. I took that sheet that the proctor printed out for me and folded it in half. It was the results. I finally looked at it in the car. I passed. I stared at it in disbelief. Anxiety faded to black.

As a counselor, I have worked with many clients that struggle with anxiety. My anxiety was situational but for some, their battle with anxiety is non-stop. But there are ways to cope and fight anxiety. One way is practicing stillness. In our world, finding time to be still and in the moment is difficult. But it is not impossible.

Stillness Defined

According to the Free Dictionary online, Stillness is “An absence of motion or disturbance: calm, calmness, hush, lull, peace, peacefulness, placidity, placidness, quiet, quietness, serenity, tranquility, untroubledness.” Many of these descriptive words found in this definition elude anxiety sufferer without help or intervention. Did you know that those that struggle with anxiety have a difficult time with shutting down and just being still? Shutting down means we are attempting to do nothing. When was the last time you went for ?nothing.? We must withdrawal, at least for a short period, from the world. Jesus was proactive in this. When He was in ministry, there were times he withdrew from the people to find a quiet place and have fellowship and prayer with His Father. But most of us have a hard time in just shutting down.

Practicing stillness gives the mind and body a chance to be at total rest and heal from daily stresses.

Mother Teresa said this of stillness and knowing God:

“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature?trees, flowers, grass?grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence? .We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

God does moves in mysterious ways. In some instances, God may want to give you a word or commune with you. Not through the noise of this world, our racing thoughts or even the revelation of His Divine, awesome and wondrous power but in a moment of silence that brings out His “still small voice.” If we fail to here it, it could be because we have not found the quiet in our soul to listen to His words.

Maybe that’s the lesson we can all learn. How do we just sit still? We must mindfully practice stillness. This also means the millions of thoughts that bombard our minds daily need to decrease and the never-ending ideas and thoughts need to be silenced.

3 Benefits To Being Still

What are the benefits of practicing stillness? Author, motivator and mentor Michael Hyatt believes that there are three key advantages to being still. I happen to agree with him.

  1. I want to maintain perspective. If I don?t make time to be still, then I find myself in reactive mode?influenced by hundreds of little voices with big demands.
  2. I want to stay connected to my true self. I don?t want to get confused, thinking that I am the image I present to the world. They are related, of course, but I want to live from the inside out.
  3. I want more internal margin in my life. While I have been pursuing external margin in my calendar and finances, I also want internal margin?more room to notice what matters most and be thankful for it.

If you decide that you want to explore this you have to plan for it. This can’t be some random spur of the moment kind of thing. Make it an event. Here are few ideas on how to ready your self.

  • Set a time and place. I rarely experience this kind of quiet and stillness at home. I usually experience when I get a massage or an energy session. If that?s not your thing, perhaps it’s going for a walk in nature. Or maybe its just getting away from your standard routine of a busy life. When I was a senior in high school, I went skiing for my first time in Utah. I recall my first brush with stillness came on the ski lift going up the mountain. It was quiet and one of the most peaceful experiences I have had. Going up the mountain was amazingly serine. However, going down it in my first experience of skiing…um…not so much. Kind of painful and a lot of falling!
  • Relax your body. Find a comfortable spot where you just let your body go. Deep breathing exercises and learning to practice progressive muscle relaxation techniques can prepare the body and mind to relax.
  • Quiet your mind. This is perhaps the most difficult. One technique I teach to clients is visualizing a shape like a sphere in their mind. In my mind it looks like a silver marble. Focusing on that, its shape and texture, weight and color often clears my mind of other thoughts. My entire mental energy is living in that moment of this sphere. This is a therapeutic technique called grounding. Grounding allows us to stay present and in the moment. Usually, it takes 2-5 minutes to eliminate or diminish the racing thoughts. I have used grounding techniques such as visualizing shapes in a clients mind to create focus. Focus allows us to be present in the moment. That leads to the next point.
  • Staying present. Hyatt says staying present allows you to not “be regretting or celebrating the past. Don?t be worrying or dreaming about the future. Instead, collect your thoughts and be present?in this moment. It is the most important time you have. In fact, it is the only time you have.”

If you find yourself enduring racing thoughts, doubt and worry. I would love the opportunity to work with you on how to find those moments of stillness, peace and clarity. Contact me today at Armstrong Family Counseling to set up an appointment.

Q&A With Lauren Dees | LSCSW | Grief & Trauma Expert, & Group Counselor

Why do you do what you do?

My main goal is to connect with people, build real authentic relationships & participate in a journey of change together! I encourage my clients to be authentic, transparent and assertive in getting their needs met. I feel genuine satisfaction and gain energy after every session. This is honestly my dream job.

She just wants to sleep. The plane lasted 70-533 Exam two hours Examprepwell later, waiting for the luggage time dragged too long. The airport shuttle bus also missed the moment, the bus as 70-533 Exam early as an hour ago 70-347 dumps already drove away. So, they have to wait for a taxi now. She Learningpdf stood in the waiting line, slim body due to the weight of the laptop tilted to one side. John talked about interest rates and new ideas for adjusting business partners, but she only thought of one thing it is Friday night 400-101 PDF at ten thirty, I want to wear pajamas, the United States and the United States to sleep. A 70-347 dumps yellow Examprepwell taxi endless stream passing her 70-347 dumps eyes. These cars are similar in color and shape, reminding her of insects. She remembered her when he 70-347 dumps was a child in the mountains. When she and her brother spotted a broken badger or kicked a red ant nest, she saw a 400-101 PDF large group of limbs and hands 70-533 Exam and feet wet wriggling on the ground. This chilling feeling made her shiver. A taxi speeding over, with a sharp brake 400-101 PDF sound abrupt halt. 70-533 Exam Tami Joan Kefas dragged forward. Driver press the trunk lock, but people did not move in the car. Learningpdf John was upset that they had to get their luggage on board. 400-101 PDF He is used to having others help him with these things. Tami Joan does not matter. Until 70-533 Exam now, she occasionally will be Learningpdf surprised, I actually have a secretary, help her typing and file management. She threw the suitcase onto the car, closed the trunk lid, and got into the car. John followed suit. 70-347 dumps He shut the door heavily, wiping his fat cheeks and his bare forehead Examprepwell as hard Examprepwell as he had done with his luggage. First to 70-533 Exam East 72nd Street. John murmured to the driver through the 400-101 PDF bulkhead. Then go to Upper 70-533 Exam West Side, Tami Joan added. Block the plexiglass partition between Examprepwell the front and rear seats covered Learningpdf with scratches, she 70-533 Exam could hardly see the driver. Taxi arrows rushed off the road and quickly ran Learningpdf up the 70-533 Exam highway to Manhattan. Look, John 70-347 dumps said. Thats Examprepwell why Examprepwell people 70-347 dumps are everywhere today. He pointed to a billboard that read Welcome to the United Nations Peace Conference.

This place 70-347 dumps is really messy. Lyme does not like the mess when cleaning the room. He does not like the 70-347 dumps kind of chaos and roar, can not stand the harsh vacuum cleaner – he Learningpdf found himself particularly annoyed that stuff. He was satisfied with it, satisfied with what it is now. This room, which he calls the office, is located on the second floor of this gothic, Upper West 400-101 PDF Side apartment 400-101 PDF overlooking the Central Park. 70-533 Exam The room was large, twenty by twenty feet square, Examprepwell but Examprepwell almost every inch of space was full of things. Sometimes he closes his eyes and plays a Examprepwell game trying to discern the scent of different objects in the room thousands of books and magazines, piles of copy paper, hot TV transistors, dusty light bulbs, Bulletin boards made 400-101 PDF of cork, as well as different upholstery materials such Learningpdf as vinyl, hydrogen peroxide and latex. He can distinguish three different brands Learningpdf of Scotch whiskey. And pest guano taste. 70-533 Exam I do 400-101 PDF not want to see him and tell him Im very busy. Theres another young police officer, Ernie Banks, who is the same name as a professional baseball player, right You really should have 400-101 PDF me clean the room. Learningpdf Every time you wait until someone visits you, you will find out how dirty it is Learningpdf here. Visiting God, the word sounds really old, Examprepwell at least in Victorian terms. Far too far .– So to say, there 400-101 PDF will be a bad ceremony Dirty What Thomas said is room, Learningpdf but Lyme thinks he also includes himself as an employer. Lymes hair is dark and dense, like a twenty-year-old – though he is twice as old. However, they are entangled in a 70-347 dumps muddle-headdresses, grooming Examprepwell needs to be trimmed. Black beard on Examprepwell his face has not scratched three days, looks dirty. He often woke up from 70-533 Exam his sleep because of itchy ears, indicating that the hair there should be repaired. Lymes nails are long, fingernails and toenails are the 400-101 PDF same the ugly scary pajamas on his body have been worn continuously for a week without a change. His eyes were slender, 400-101 PDF 70-347 dumps his eyes dark brown, and his face looked rather pretty – I do not know if it was 70-347 dumps a big deal or something else, and Blaine told him more than once. They want 70-533 Exam to talk Learningpdf to you, continued Thomas. They said it was very important. Well, let them know. You Learningpdf have not seen Leon for Examprepwell nearly a year. Why See him now Did you scare the bird If you scared the 400-101 PDF bird, beware I 400-101 PDF was in a hurry with 70-347 dumps you. Its very 70-533 Exam important, Lincoln. Very important, I remember what you just said. He had called earlier, I had a nap, and you were out again. You woke up until six in the morning. No, he paused. Yes, 400-101 PDF I woke up very early, 70-533 Exam but then I fell asleep again and slept well. Did you check your message Thomas said There 70-347 dumps was no talk of him. He said he would It was around Learningpdf 10 oclock. Its just past eleven, and maybe hes temporarily called 70-347 dumps out of the emergency room, 70-347 dumps Learningpdf for a while. What do you want to say Did you just call . Maybe he wants to call in, and you just take up the line. Examprepwell I just What did I say Lyme asked, 70-533 Exam See youre angry, Im not saying you can not call. You Examprepwell Of course its always possible, I just said he might make a phone call, and you just take the line. No, you mean, this morning, fucking everything is not pleasing to the eye. You know, theres one thing called call waiting, you can pick up two Learningpdf calls at a time.We should have applied for one.My old friend Leon wants to do.His professional baseball player friend wants Ask them. Ask me now.

What makes therapy with you unique?

I use humor and laughter to break barriers with clients. I am easy going and I understand that life happens. My goal is for therapy to be enjoyable and something people can look forward to instead of dread! I use unique ways to connect with clients-art, music, games, role play?whatever is needed to keep it fresh and engaging.

What is a therapy session with Lauren like?

Lauren Dees | LSCSW | Armstrong Family Counseling | LGBTQ Therapist | Grief And Trauma Expert

I use mindfulness meditation strategies at the beginning of every session to help patients relax and be in the moment. I love many different modalities, specifically I use DBT tools, CBT, SFBT, ACT, EFT and EMDR to assist my clients with problem solving, process trauma, reduce misery and improve their quality of life.

I love to play games, do collages, make playlists and other strategies to keep therapy fun and interesting. I enjoy connecting with clients in the group setting as well, engaging with each individual, as well as helping the group become cohesive and work towards similar goals.

What makes you, you?

I am a musician and often incorporate the feelings that are created by music into therapy. I enjoy utilizing music as expression. I also am a photographer and enjoy making clients laugh and smile throughout their wedding/engagement sessions because capturing joy is a passion of mine. I play volleyball weekly, sing karaoke, travel whenever I can and use those hobbies and experiences to help my clients understand different avenues where they can express themselves or build mastery. I have lost a parent and have experienced grief/loss first hand, so I use that knowledge to truly connect with those who are suffering from loss.

How does your specific skill set benefit your clients?

After working with me (or during) I help my clients feel and more importantly, assist them with accepting things they can?t change, feel in touch and in control of their emotions, develop healthy and happy relationships and feel a sense of fulfillment & mastery.

Contact Lauren today and start the journey towards healing and discovery.

Melody Anderson | Play Therapy | Trauma Specialist | Neurofeedback Provider

I am a therapist because I believe therapy is a tool that God created to heal the broken-hearted. I believe that this is a broken world and sin often leaves trauma in its wake. As a therapist, my goal is to work with families to break the family cycle of trauma. Trauma impacts people of every age, race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. Too often, I?ve seen people minimize their own trauma or the trauma of others. Minimizing the travesty of trauma does not help the healing process and can lead trauma victims have low self-esteem due to belief that they have little or no worth.Melody Anderson | MSW | Armstrong Family Counseling | Teen and Young Adult Trauma And Depression Expert

I love this quote that I came across on twitter last year, ?Someone who drowns in 7 feet of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in 20 feet of water. Stop comparing traumas, stop belittling yours or anyone else?s traumas just because it wasn?t ?as bad? as someone else?s. This isn?t a competition. We all deserve support & recovery? @jesssxb

My goal as a therapist is to provide support and recovery to victims of trauma so that they can learn to know their own worth and view themselves as worthy of growth, positive change, and a healthy life.

I cater my approach to individual client needs. I find that depending on the therapy approach that is most appropriate to the client, there are often pre-existing exercises/worksheets that are evidence based. I naturally have a DBT therapy style, but am eager to continue to grow in the use of models which come less naturally to me as no therapy approach fits every client?s needs. I have had training in Motivational Interviewing which is based in the Transtheoretical Model of Change. Motivational interviewing is incredibly helpful for helping individuals make difficult changes and stick with those changes.

As an adolescent I struggled with a lot of insecurity and depression. I was raised in a legalistic Christian home where I learned all about God?s wrath, and nothing about his mercy and love. I felt trapped in my own imperfection and was certain that perfection was the only acceptable lifestyle due to my family culture. This caused a lot of feelings of worthlessness and led to deep depression. I was blessed to be part of a great youth group at my church where I had a mentor and healthy mother figure who poured a lot of prayer, time, and love into me. God used her in my life to show me that the perfection I was striving toward was crippling me and keeping me from genuine growth.

As I began to believe that I have value and worth, I found myself wanting to empower other women to break free from their own insecurity and low self-esteem. When I was working toward my bachelor of social work degree, I worked in a restaurant. I recommended to a coworker that she should go home after work and write down ten things she likes about herself because she I observed that she had little to no sense of self-worth. I learned years later that she actually did so and it began her own journey of increasing her self-esteem. I have met very few women that do not experience shame/guilt for not meeting societal expectations. I have also seen the ripple effect that occurs when women empower other women to improve their core beliefs about themselves and the world.

Contact me today and let’s start the journey towards becoming who you were created to become!

 

Girl at peace around flowers

Butterfly | Angela Lake | Armstrong Family Counseling
Angela Lake’s Philosophy

A personal philosophy I have is the butterfly in the cocoon. The caterpillar typically has spun a cocoon around themselves, and are struggling and fighting to change (fighting their existence of being a caterpillar, fighting the environment, fighting the metamorphosis itself). If someone tears open the cocoon the butterfly will die. The caterpillar must do the work to change and become the beauty the lies within. They may not understand who they are as a caterpillar, they may not know how to change, they may not have an environment that is safe for them to change, they may fear or not believe they can become a butterfly.

As a therapist I want to assist in understanding of self, to define desires or goals, to encourage and support change and work toward goals, to give tools and interventions, to provide information and education, and to celebrate the butterfly.

Contact me today to start your journey towards, healing, hope, and joy!

Father’s Day, Divorce, & Mediation

As we’ve recently celebrated Father?s Day, I was reminded that the purpose of Father?s Day is to acknowledge all fathers and celebrate their special day. However, if your family has been impacted by divorce, it may not seem like a celebration. If this sounds like your situation, it may feel extremely stressful for you, your ex, and your children. If you are a mother, please remember you are normally the first person your child bonds with. Therefore, you can assume a positive role of modeling how to respect their father, no matter how you may feel about him (unless he was abusive and safety is a concern.) I would ask the same type of respect from him on Mother?s Day.

By having an open dialogue with your ex, your communication models how you have set aside any negative feelings toward the father(s) of your children because you know that is best for your child or children. Depending on the ages of your child/children, volunteer to take them to a card store so they can choose a Father?s Day card. Or, if that isn?t in your budget, suggest that they make a card.

If your child/children express an interest in giving dad a gift, again, follow through with their idea. If finances are an issue, once again, encourage them to make something for dad. Even if you have negative feelings toward their father, by helping them with these tasks, you are modeling for them how to ?care? for another human being.

Allow your children to spend Father?s Day with their dad on his special day. Try to do this no matter what is outlined in your parenting plan (if you don?t have a parenting plan or need to revise it and don?t want to pay for an attorney or the cost of going to court, consider contacting a mediator to help you resolve any conflicts or to assist you in making changes to the plan.) Flexibility and mutual consideration as co-parents makes your children much healthier emotionally and mentally.

If geography or travel logistics are an issue in bringing together your children and their father, suggest using social media so they can ?see each other.? Depression, loneliness and isolation are common in divorced or estranged parent(s.) If you experience these things frequently, please contact a therapist and /or seek help. I can help you. Your children need you in their lives.

Fathers, you need to ask your ex-spouse and/or the mother of your children for what you need. Maybe you (father) would really like your child/children to spend Father?s Day and an additional day since school is out for the summer. If you and your ex can communicate and practice being flexible, you are less likely to feel resentful.

For both parents, even though you are divorced, remember to stay focused on the needs and well-being of your child/children. It is crucial to plan ahead for holidays or other ?special? days so your child/children see that even though you are divorced, both of you are co-parenting in healthy ways.

If you are struggling with co-parenting, or other issues, mediation may be something to consider. Mediation is a more peaceful, economical resolution to resolve conflict. Please contact me. I am a therapist and a?Kansas State Supreme Court Approved Mediator.? Let’s start rebuilding your relationships today!

Can Talking To Someone Help My Anxiety?

There is an old proverb, ?Confession is good for the soul?. ?But is it really?

It sounds odd but can talking with somebody make you feel better? ?It can and it does. But why does it work? Why can just something as simple as talking about something that you are worried about, or feel guilty about make you feel better and less stressed?

To understand that question you have to understand how memory storage in our brains work. ?Doctors as far back as the 1890?s have recognized some memories fade into nothing and some memories resist that fading away. ?Mostly the memories that won?t fade are ones that are charged with emotions.

Simply, there is a part of us that feels and there is a part of us that thinks. ?Generally, we want to keep these things in balance. However, in life when we are scared, worried, guilty or sad we feel those emotions strongly. ?When your feelings are strong it diminishes your capacity to think; especially, your ability to say what you are feeling.

Have you ever seen a parent tell their screaming child to ?use your words?? ?The parent instinctively recognizes that a child has to calm down and talk before they can stop being hysterical. That is because when the part of your brain that feels gets overwhelmed your body will actually shut down parts of itself in order to conserve fuel. ?When the ?fight or flight? part of your mind is triggered, energy is diverted from other parts of your brain?systems in order to give you energy to fight of run. One area that is impacted?is your ability to think rationally. ?

So, let?s say you got in an argument that escalated. Or that you made a mistake at work and are scared you will be fired for it. ?So, in that moment you are feeling strong emotions instead of thinking.? If you do not communicate with anyone about it, after your emotions have calmed down, you will be putting that memory into the bookshelf of your mind with an emotional charge.

So what does an emotionally charged memory do? ?An emotionally charged memory is one that when you think about that memory you feel that emotion all over again. So you could be lying in your bed after having had a great day but start thinking about something from your past and BAM! Right there in your bed you feel what you felt then. ?Despite the fact that you just a moment ago felt at peace with the world. That is an emotionally charged memory.

Going back to the initial question, why does talking help you feel better?? Because in order to take the charge out of a memory you have add thought to that memory.? ?Remember that you both think and feel.? A memory that is all feeling and no thinking will remain a charged memory.? But when you talk about the past, especially when you think about what you were feeling and why, it helps add thought to that memory . ?A memory that has thought and feeling in it a memory that can be put on the bookshelf of your mind and just fade into the thousands of other memories there.

When you talk to someone who influences you to think about why you felt what you felt it can make that emotional charge go away which feels wonderful. ?This is why the whole practice of counseling even exists. To help people remember their past without feeling what they felt in the past.

Do you feel that you are haunted by your past? ?Do you feel that there are things in your past that you will never get over?? Let’s get together. I can help you move forward. Contact me today!

A Key to Connecting with Your Kids

Just Get Out of the Comfort Zone. Just Be DAD.

Remember the song ?Danger Zone? from the movie Top Gun? I loved that movie, and the Kenny Loggins song is a must for any retro fan. In the movie, the song was the perfect soundtrack for those flying scenes, as the pilots pushed their aircraft to the limits and beyond?into the danger zone, where the engines could stall or worse. It was a perilous place to be.

Serious mountain climbers know about the ?death zone.? On Mount Everest and some of the other highest peaks in the world, once a climber reaches about 26,000 feet, the amount of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life. Many climbers have died because they weren?t properly prepared or didn?t have enough oxygen with them.

Most of us will probably never climb into a fighter jet cockpit or attempt to summit the world?s tallest mountain, but there is another danger zone where we dads often find ourselves with our families: the comfort zone. I like being in the comfort zone. It?s free of stress and the craziness of life that is so often around me at home. Some might call this my ?happy place.? There are times that we need an oasis where we can drown out life around us and find peace and serenity. But if we want what?s best for our families, the comfort zone is a place we are never meant to stay for very long.

When I first got married, I married not only my wife but also her family, which included two boys in their mid to late teens. For a while I had a hard time building a relationship with them. I?d get home from work in the evening and they?d usually be in the living room, watching a television show I didn?t get or couldn?t care less about. It was much easier for me to get my dinner and retreat into the more comfortable sanctuary of my bedroom. I could read a book or watch TV and I didn?t have to engage with them unless it was on my terms.

At the time, I thought: What was the point? I couldn?t relate to them and they certainly couldn?t relate to me, at least on the surface. Clearly, I was missing the point. I was off in my comfort zone, and I wasn?t going to be intentional about being a dad to them.

My wife LeeAnn was so patient with me, and every now and then she would enter my serene hideaway and remind me that I didn?t marry just her, but also two boys she loved deeply. If I wanted to develop a better relationship with them, I had to leave the Comfort Zone. I had to engage them.

That word ?engage? has transformed who I am as a father. This didn?t happen overnight, and there were starts and stops as I kept fighting off selfishness and the desire to go back to the Comfort Zone. But then one day my father-in-law gave me advice on how to be intentional as a dad. He said that if I wanted to become closer to the children, I had to drop the labels?quit thinking of them as my stepsons and foster daughters but rather as my sons and daughters. I had to stop labeling myself as a step dad and foster dad, and just be dad. He said the labels that we use often create distance and give those of us that are not biological dads an excuse to keep that separation.

I had to stop labeling myself as a step dad and foster dad, and just be dad.

He was right. While an attorney might say that, from a legal perspective, step and foster kids are the correct wording, I have grown past that and see them as my children, for as long as God allows them in my life. Several months ago, we decided after 5 years of fostering, to take a break. It was good for our marriage, and last year, I discovered a whole new zone: The Grandparent Zone. Our youngest son and his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Now I get to learn to just be grand-dad!

Being an engaged dad means being hands-on and enthusiastically involved in your children?s lives. It?s getting to know them on their level and being consistent in letting them know you are there. It also means that as they get older you are coaching them and modeling how to live by your actions and how you live. An example of this is how they see you handle conflict or adversity and perhaps more important, how you treat your spouse or their mother. Believe me, your young ones are watching.

You can?t do these things by being in your comfort zone. That sends a whole other message that says ?Leave me alone,? or ?You?re not worth my time.?

That sounds cruel, doesn?t it? Yet our country is full of disengaged fathers. I see it in the neighborhood we live in, and as a foster dad, I see it in the families of the girls we work with. Many dads are physically absent, others are present but emotionally distant, and some have hurt their kids so much that they aren?t allowed to be around and in their life.

Engaged fathers and father figures really do make a difference. Since I have left my Comfort Zone as a dad, my relationships with both of my stepsons are vastly improved. Things are far from easy, but they can see that I?m more interested in them and many more activities and conversations have had positive results.

Do your relationships with your children need a transformation? Be an intentional, hands-on dad. You will make mistakes here and there, but you will also learn from them. Embrace your role as a father and make a difference in the lives of other kids. Close up shop on the Comfort Zone.

Even now, I have days when the comfort zone is awfully tempting. But I rely on my faith, my patient and loving wife, and other dads who encourage me.

Just Get Out of the Comfort Zone. Just Be DAD.

**Original article published by the National Center For Fathering written by Michael French

***Michael French is a father in Kansas City, a Christian Relationship expert at Armstrong Family Counseling, and was a top 5 finalist in the National Center for Fathering 2014 Kansas City?Father of the Year Contest. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor & has been blogging about his experiences at his website?Dads Unite. Mike has been married to LeeAnn for 10 years and has two grown stepsons and one adopted daughters.?

Is It Time To Separate?

“Is choosing to separate the best option for me?” Choosing to separate in a marriage is never an easy decision to make. ?It is my hope that by reading this article you can gain some perspective on the topic of separation. ?A separation is different from a divorce in that you and your spouse will still legally share all parental and financial responsibilities. ?Also separations tend to have many different flavors. Here are the 3 most common types.?

The Working Separation

In a working separation the couple separates in order to spend time improving themselves. ?Maybe a spouse has a mental health issue they are working on, or perhaps one spouse has an addiction they need to focus on. ?Working separations are best when there is an informal agreement between the two partners. This agreement will ideally have an explanation as to what issue needs to be worked on, who will take care of the kids and other responsibilities, what limits or boundaries are placed on communication (we?ll only communicate through text or email, or no communication for 2 months, etc.) and on what grounds will reconciliation take place. Working separations have the highest chance of resulting in reconciliation. If you think this is the type of separation you are looking for please contact a therapist or counselor–like myself--and draw up this contract with their input and guidance.

The Trial Separation

A trial separation is when one or more persons in the marriage express a desire to try what being single feels like. ?The idea is that the person is given time to ?clear their head.? Afterwards they will then decide on whether or not to pursue reconciliation. One person generally will move out, either to another part of the house or to another place all together. ?Trial separations most commonly occur in families without young children.

These separations have a high rate of ending in divorce because most people leave a marriage when the pain and frustration are so high that staying seems impossible. ?Then,when they leave they find that being single has less pain and frustration then being married and make the jump to divorce.

The Legal Separation

This option is pursued most often when a marriage has become stale and anemic; there is little good in the marriage but also little frustration also. ?The couple may stay together for the sake of the children or because they both feel that becoming single is not attractive.

Whatever type of separation you are considering please understand that separation is a matter of last resort. ?Typically, divorce is the result of separation far, far more often than reconciliation. That being said if you separate when your pain and frustration haven?t yet caused you to give up there is a better chance of reconciliation afterward compared to waiting until you have one foot out the door.

If you or someone you know are going through a situation and you are contemplating separation or divorce, contact me today. I can help you work through your issues and come up with a plan that is best for your unique situation and relationship.

Where Do We Begin? : Staying Together After an Affair

Should I stay, or should I leave?? After an affair, an injured partner?faces this question.? It?s never easy, and there is no one size fits all solution.

Experiencing the infidelity of a partner can be so painful.? It can make you believe you are losing your mind, and your life, as you have known it.? Infidelity creates a sudden upheaval in everything you believed?about your spouse, about yourself, and about your future.? Several couples are unable to remain intact, and will move to end the relationship.? But what if you aren?t yet sure, or want a different outcome?

Many areas in your relationship will need to be addressed, and it can be difficult to know where to start.? If you are choosing to stay in your relationship, here are a few suggestions to help you and your partner repair, rebuild and reconnect.

Repair

Staying in a relationship, following an affair, requires addressing all of the changes that have occurred because of it.? Changes, especially those we didn?t personally want or choose, can come with very strong negative feelings.? Its important these feelings are acknowledged, and by both partners.

There is usually no shortage of hurt and anger, and you may find conflict has become your main method of communicating.?? Hurt can manifest itself in several ways.? Anger tends to be one that is most commonly used, however, anger rarely comes alone.

Betrayed, sad, lost, scared, alone, confused, resentful, and vulnerable are just a few likely to surface.? Each relationship is unique, however, and so are the feelings that come with it.? Identify the feelings, as well as the underlying fears, insecurities, and loss the affair has created.? This helps focus your communication and creates a deeper understanding of the hurt and anger.?Emotional woman

Repair focuses on understanding our individual reaction to the affair, as well as recognizing that trust and friendship have now been called into question.? To address the loss of trust and friendship, it?s crucial to actively practice being a better friend.? This may seem obvious, but can often be overlooked in our everyday routine.

Learn what circumstances currently trigger negative feelings and/or conflict. Take action to correct these situations, and practice generating positive feelings instead.? Be mindful of your daily exchanges and build an atmosphere of comfort, kindness and consideration.? This creates a more neutral environment, and a neutral environment naturally reduces extra day-to-day conflict.? I?m sure you will agree that any way you can reduce conflict, will be of great benefit to you.

Consider actions such listening without interruption.? It sounds simple, but isn?t always so easy.? You can also defuse your environment by helping out with routines and daily activities, being considerate in your living space, giving genuine compliments, paying attention, and checking in with your partner about how they are doing. If you aren?t already taking these actions, then this is a great opportunity to demonstrate care for your partner.? With repetition and consistency, over time you share connections, and develop a sense of security.? This helps to repair the trust, and sets the course for?you to rebuild your friendship.

Friendship | holding hands

Rebuild

The level of friendship between partners is a significant indicator for success in a relationship.? The stronger your friendship connection, the higher your relationship success.

When your relationship began, together you created a vision of hopes, dreams and goals you planned to work towards.? This includes houses,?children, careers, vacations, lifestyle goals, and the timeline for achieving them.?? An affair is not typically part of this vision, and can lead the injured partner to question: Have we really been working toward the same goal all along?

This question can lead to uncertainty about your future, and in need of confirmation about what the future holds.? Address this uncertainty?by communicating your intent to stay together, as frequently as?needed.? Be honest and clear about what you want going forward, and?encourage your spouse to do the same.

Communicate your boundaries and expectations going forward.? As you?make these adjustments, you establish a clear vision of the future?while also reassuring your partner of your intent to stay together.?You are mending a friendship.? By consistently addressing the?uncertainty you demonstrate caring for your partner.? By sharing and re-negotiating expectations and goals, you establish a plan for being?together. Both are needed to encourage your friend to remain your?friend.

couple falling In love by lake

Reconnect

As we have all heard, time heals.?? But while you allow time to work,?this is the time to take active steps to build more closeness with?your partner.? Even if you and your partner are managing to get along,?life can manage to shake things up at any time.

Acknowledge Landmines.? Reminders of the affair, or that affairs exist?are similar to landmines.? You never know when or where they may be?hiding, but when you find them they blow up your whole day, week or?even longer.? A song on the radio, a scene in a movie or TV show.?Maybe a news article, mention of a city, or specific location connected to the infidelity.? These and many more not only can, but?unavoidably will also pop up.

When landmines show up the emotional response can feel just as strong?as the day the affair was discovered.? These experiences are, to say?the least, uncomfortable, and the straying partner may feel that?talking about them would be poking the emotional bear.

You or your partner may want to avoid, minimize, or even ignore them,?but don?t.? As awkward or uncomfortable as these situations may be,?they are actually opportunities for partners to share and understand?the ongoing impact of the infidelity, and then work through the hurt?together.? Emphasis on together.

landmine warning

The injured partner will be faced with landmines on sometimes a daily?basis.? Dealing with them alone can make your partner feel alone, not?understood, and uncared for.? These feelings will no doubt defeat your?goal of coming closer together, and will only create further distance?between you.? Working through these feelings together allows you the?opportunity to heal together rather than separate and alone.? It can?prove comforting when your partner is considerate of this, and is?willing to consistently demonstrate caring and support.

Working together through an affair takes time and a great deal of?patience.? The challenge of addressing the damage when our hurt and?defensiveness is high can be overwhelming, and at times seem?impossible to overcome.? Finding ways to reconnect with your partner?can be difficult or at times may not be well received.?man kissing his lovers hand

Practice patience, with yourself and with your partner.? Unfortunately?there is no timeline or rule book for exactly how you will find your?way back to each other.? At times you may want to speed up the?process, only to find a new bump in the road.?Rest assured this is truly a situation where persistence and?consistency pay off.? Stick with it, and you can get the results you?are looking for.

If you have dealt with this or are dealing with this, reach out to me. I can help you. I specialize in relationships. Don’t wait another day to start healing!

Unhappy couple on bench
How To Handle Infidelity

Marriage is a time when vows are taken.? Vows become a covenant.? Covenant is a word you may not hear a lot of unless you read a spiritual book like the Bible.? It is sacred word. Nowadays, there are people who don?t view marriage as sacred. When people in a relationship commit to each other and exchange vows, ideally, that event should be set apart.? What happens when that commitment is not looked after? If a marriage is left unattended or neglected by either spouse, then ugly will occur. What happens to the marriage if the husband or wife decides to seek comfort in the arms of another?

Infidelity, like adultery, is an ugly word.? Yet when spouses engage in an affair, ugly is the last thing they think about.? It?s a time of excitement and adventure for them.? The nagging guilt of breaking vows is often pushed back. Like an addict, the adulterer is very good at rationalizing their behavior.? It?s only when the person is caught or decides to finally come clean that the repercussions and consequences begin to unfold.? For the person being betrayed?? Other emotions are displayed.? Anger, hurt, betrayal, and sadness come screaming to the forefront.? Overnight, trust is shattered.? They ask questions and no answer seems good enough.

What happens next?? For some, infidelity is a deal breaker and to them there is no option but divorce. Lives are irrevocably changed.? Families are broken up and kids are left to wonder, “what happens now?”? There are a plethora of reasons why the Bible speaks so forcibly on the subject of adultery.? ?Do not commit adultery? is one of the 10 Commandments. God has warned us of the devastation that infidelity can bring.? It doesn?t get much plainer than those 4 words.? It?s Gods way of putting up flashing neon lights, road blocks, and danger signs just to get our attention.? Yet the sexual revolution has made it easier to go around these warnings signs and plow right into the ugly and pain.

There are some couples that fight for their marriage.? It is a difficult and emotionally draining time for both spouses. ?Offending spouses should come to a point of brokenness, not because they got caught, but because it is in that space of brokenness that remorsefulness is authentic that spouses can own up to their trespass. If the repentance is genuine, is there a chance for forgiveness and reconciliation?? For those that seek reconciliation, counseling can be a place where healing begins to take place.? My goal is that when clients meet with me or any therapist at Armstrong Family Counseling that they enter into a safe space that?s nonjudgmental and a place that fosters hope.

Both spouses have to face certain truths about the state of their relationship.? They will have to individually and together decide if their marriage is worth fighting for.? They will have to be willing to listen to each other. They should come to a point where they are willing to walk through the many different emotions and actions that a counseling session might bring up.?

Perhaps for the first time they will learn to be on the same page.? But as I am sure you know, nothing worth while ever comes easy.? Rebuilding a marriage will take time.? There are no easy fixes. ?If you are spiritual, then God or your higher power can play a giant role in bringing about new life to the marriage.? With honest hard work from both spouses, and lots of prayer, there is hope for a new beginning.? One woman wrote on the website The Unveiled Wife about her experience and what occurred when she trusted God to rebuild her marriage into something better.

?There is a reason for EVERYTHING ? every tear, every heartache, and every lonely night. Our marriage is already significantly more intimate, physically AND spiritually, than it ever was in the previous five years. Our God can heal? Our God can renew? It is all possible with our God. Believe!?

If you need help moving forward, I am a relationship expert. I can help you. Don’t wait, contact me today!happy couple

Side bar