New Year’s Resolutions vs. Intentions + S.M.A.R.T. Goals

New Year’s Resolutions vs. Intentions + S.M.A.R.T. Goals

At the beginning of every year, we are bombarded with “New Year New Me,” and big goals such as

be healthier, run a 5K quit smoking
make/ save more money / spend less read 50 books, learn to play an instrument
find a new job,

travel the world, find inner piece
give up soda or sugar forever date people who are better for me / better relationships with family and friends, go to the gym every single day,
Just to name a few.

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New Years Reflections From Therapists

New Years Reflections From Therapists
Written by The Olive Branch Therapy Group Therapists

As therapists, we reflect on life often. This New Year, we asked our team, “What did you learn in 2019, that you will be bringing into 2020?”

In 2019 I continued my efforts of working on better understanding my relationships with family members and being more of a self with others in my life. Through this journey of awareness of my own emotional process I am able to be more present with neutrality and authenticity for my clients as I move into 2020.- Suzanne Devoti

To be honest with myself in order to honestly communicate with family, friends and professional relationships to advocate for my needs and also allow for my healthy relationships to flourish. Secondly, I’m also going to continue to push myself to learn how to listen better to all those around me so I can continue to be a healthy family member, friend, and professional! Lastly-continue to bring in gratitude and enthusiasm to everything I do! – Faith Ulsh
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Is it time to Break Up with your Dating App(s)?

Is it time to Break Up with your Dating App(s)?

Dating apps have increasingly become more and more popular. For many people, they are a convenient, quick, and casual way to date. But how can you tell that it’s time to take a break aka. delete the app(s) from your phone?

  1. It’s no longer fun. If you are beggining to have feelings of frustration, stress, loneliness, boredom or decreased feelings of self-esteem/self-worth. Social media, in general, can increase feelings of loneliness and depression. One study found that people who spent more time passively on social media – scrolling through their feed- experienced higher levels of depressed mood, loneliness, hopelessness, and feeling inferior. Are you feeling emotionally exhausted, instead of the excitement many people first experience when trying out dating apps for the first time? Check-in with yourself.
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Grief- Tending a Broken Heart

Grief- Tending a Broken Heart

Grief- Tending a Broken Heart

We are human beings. We are in a constant state of flux and change, and with that, we may experience a tremendous amount of loss. Death loss is the one that is most validated. However, death loss, is not the only loss one can experience in this lifetime. In fact, according to the Holmes-Rahe Inventory, there are over 40 plus events in life that can produce feelings of grief and loss. Some of those being: Major Health Changes, Financial Changes (a decrease and even an increase in wealth), Getting Married, Getting Divorced, Loss of a Friendship, Death of a Pet, Starting or Ending of School, Empty Nest, Retirement, and when working with grief clients, I find many losses start off in the home…..Loss of Trust, Loss of Sense of Safety.
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11 Self Care Tips for College Students on a Budget

11 Self Care Tips for College Students on a Budget

It goes without saying that college can be stressful. Test anxiety, full course loads, financial worries, relationships, and much more can overwhelm anyone. It’s no surprise that nearly 39% of college students report struggling with at least one mental illness. So what’s a college student to do to help mitigate all this stress and anxiety, without worrying about spending too much money?

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What is Perfectionism:

What is Perfectionism

It’s actually hurting you instead of helping you succeed & what you can do.

Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly we can avoid pain that comes from blame, judgment, and shame.

It’s about approval, not self-improvement, and it seems that there is never an end point or a sense of relief when we’re stuck in perfectionism.

Research shows that perfectionism, despite what we possibly feel hampers achievement, is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction and missed opportunities (Brené Brown).

We learn the habit of perfectionism through messages we receive from school, family, friends, social media, and society.

It can prevent us from being present and actually enjoying the hard work we’ve done. At times when we are really stuck in it, perfectionism is the little voice that tells you not to try because you’ll never be good enough and people will criticize you or you’ll embarrass yourself.

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Sand Tray Therapy: Play Therapy or Just Play?

Sand Tray Therapy: Play Therapy or Just Play?

Often, when those of us outside of the therapy world think of play therapy, we think of children, toys, brightly colored rooms and observant therapists. It’s rare that we picture ourselves as adults using “play time” to work through our problems. It’s even harder to picture ourselves in front of a sand box, “playing” with miniatures, tracing patterns and shapes into sand. Sandboxes are just for children, right?

Perhaps not.

Zen Gardens and Sandboxes

Early in the history of Japan, small gardens of miniature rocks, trees, sand and pebbles were designed to imitate the essence of nature. Often placed before zen temples, these zen gardens were designed to encourage meditation, quiet concentration and awareness of self.

Those who take care of these gardens today, or own their own zen gardens, find a sense of relaxation and mindfulness in raking the sand into patterns, careful placement of rocks and care for vegetation. The act of caring for or simply observing these gardens requires a quiet concentration, that allows a person to form connections and emotions about the objects in the garden and themselves.

Now think of a sandbox. While it may not seem very “zen,” even sandboxes found in playgrounds and backyards sometimes have a meditative effect on those playing in it. Children can often be found with a look of concentration on their faces as they build sand castles, tall hills or deep ditches. With an easily manipulated material before them, they can create their own worlds easily, playing out scenarios both made up and mimicked from their own experiences.

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The Importance of College Students’ Mental Health

The Importance of College Students’ Mental Health

We’re often told that our college years are “some of the best years of your life.” That it’s a time of endless opportunities, a time to meet friends that last a lifetime and a time for us to truly grow as an individual. While many of us experience this, we’ve also experienced the “darker” side of college, the side can lead to some of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden periods in our lives. Tests, heavy workloads, financial burdens, relationship issues and much more can plague many of us during our university years, making us all wonder: “Are these really the best years of my life?”

In 2017, more than 60% of students reported feeling anxious, depressed or stressed during their time in college., While many students struggle with mental illnesses, many universities have reported an upswing in students taking advantage of mental health resources on campus, seeking help from others and breaking the stigma of mental illness. Today, students recognise the importance of mental health and seek the tools they need to truly make the most out of their college career.

“But I can handle my own stress.”

“I’m just in a funk.”

“I don’t have the time or money.”

Many of us try to convince ourselves that whatever problems we are facing are things we can handle on our own, or perhaps problems that will pass. While as a society we are breaking the negativities around mental illness, many of us still hesitate when seeking help. Sometimes, it helps to see the types of mental illness, and recognize that it takes many forms, some seemingly insignificant.

As a college student faced with multiple stressors, it may be hard to discern what is “normal” stress and what isn’t. Below are some symptoms of the most prevalent mental illness and why it’s important to seek help.

Depression

Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness and helplessness
  • Thoughts of dying
  • Loss of motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in social life

Why is it important to seek help?

Depression can often interfere with your life, making it hard to concentrate academically and socially, leading to poor grades and lost friendships. Even basic necessities such as sleeping and eating can become affected, leaving you despondent and fatigued. If left untreated, depression can lead to suicide ideation and even suicide.

Anxiety

Symptoms include:

  • Fear about everyday things
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Stomach aches or muscle pains
  • Frequent headaches

Why is it important to seek help?

While anxiety every once in awhile is normal, constant anxiety is not. Anxiety can interfere with your school work, often leaving students sick before tests, or too anxious to even attempt to take an exam. Anxiety can also lead to damaged relationships, especially if the thought of social activities leave you constantly worried.

Suicide

Symptoms include:

  • Thoughts or talk of suicide
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden drop in academic performance
  • Poor eating habits

Why is it important to seek help?

If you have experienced any of the symptoms above, we urge you to seek help right away. Depression and anxiety can often lead to suicide, especially when a student feels alone and at a loss. Suicide is devestating for those who love you (even if you may feel as if you would be less of a burden.) Please reach out to friends and family, to us or to the National Suicde Prevention Lifeline.

Eating Disorders

Symptoms include:

  • Fear of eating
  • Distorted body image
  • Over exercise
  • Poor eating habits
  • Irregular heartbeat

Why is it important to seek help?

Eating disorders can often lead to serious medical issues, such as heart problems, organ failure, stunted growth, loss of female menstruation and reproductive system issues. While it’s often hard to ignore the impossible beauty standards in this day and age, it’s important to recognize that a negative body image and eating disorder can impact your day to day life.

Addiction

Symptoms include:

  • A pattern of use
  • Inability to stop using
  • Dropping hobbies or activities
  • Use of substance to avoid problems
  • Denial

Why is it important to seek help?

Addiction, whether to illegal substances, alcohol or other substances, can damage you physically, mentally and socially. Your family, finances and friends may even become involved, and ultimately, the law. Signs of addiction depend on the substance and amount, but if you suspect any level of addiction, it’s best to seek help sooner rather than later.

So How Can Olive Branch Help College Students?

Here at Olive Branch Therapy Group we recognize the importance of mental health, especially for those in college or university. We want to help you learn the tools you need to truly succeed academically, socially and personally during your academic career. Ultimately, we want college to really, truly be the best years of your life!

Fight the stigma of mental illness and live your best life by learning more about our highly qualified therapists and contacting us today.

Being Thankful For A Mother’s Love

Being Thankful For A Mother’s Love

With Mother’s Day approaching is only makes sense to examine the importance and significance of a positive relationship with our mothers. These relationships are a good part of what shapes us as individuals and our ability to become emotionally functioning healthy adults. When we have loving nurturing mothers, these relationships are often ones we may take for granted or quite simply overlook because for most of us, she, our mother, is always there. That relationship is built into our lives. This relationship is not something we have to think about or question. But that right there may be the most significant part of it; The reasons why we do not have to question it? You see, when you have a nurturing, caring, supportive mother she ensures that her children never do question it, that they know it and can feel it.

When we think of what a mother is, we often think of someone who is gentle, kind, supportive, loving unconditionally and safe. She is someone that will support us, in any endeavor with bells and whistles on. She is our biggest cheerleader that will move mountains in order to sit on the sidelines or attend every recital, pageant, debate, or other event. She will encourage us when we lose faith and hope and doubt ourselves. She will calm us when we are upset, angry or emotionally hurt. She will do everything she can to make all pain, emotional, physical or psychological, go away. She will listen to us vent about all things big or small, trivial or important and listen intently without judgment. She will offer hugs when we need them most or a shoulder to lean on. She is often the strongest person we know that keeps it together while everything or everyone else is falling apart. She is selfless and puts others before herself. And most importantly, she does it seamlessly so that we, her children, never question it. We do not hesitate to seek her love, support, guidance or assurance because we somehow just know she is there for us in any and every capacity.

Having this level of unquestionable, unconditional love, support and healthy attachment gives children the confidence to know that they are secure, capable and worthy humans. This relationship teaches us the importance of empathy and compassion for others, but also teaches us self-love and forgiveness. Her acts of kindness help instill in us healthy coping skills and shapes the pathways of how we respond and react to hardships, differences and chaos; internally and physically. How we navigate the many relationships of our lives. Lastly and maybe most importantly, a positive relationship with our mother helps create, build and maintain our own self-worth and value; two of the most essential parts of being an emotionally healthy adult or person.


About The Author

Sara Bickar, LPC is a therapist at the Olive Branch Therapy Group. Sara works with young adults and adults. Sara’s specialties include depression, anxiety, and women’s issues. If you are interested in working with Sara, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.

3 Ways to Combat Loneliness That Comes With Modern Motherhood

3 Ways to Combat Loneliness That Comes With Modern Motherhood

As therapists, we often hear clients tell us they are experiencing loneliness in their motherhood journey. Whether you are raising an infant and feel isolated all day, don’t have mom friends to vent to about your work load or can’t get threw to your fiesty teenager and it’s making you anxious, motherhood can be so lonely.

Here are 3 ways to  combat loneliness:

  1. Find your tribe. Spend some time and effort truly launching a search for other moms who are your cup of tea. Those moms who will cheer for you, support you, lift you up and help you move forward. Yes, this does exist and it’s a game changer once you’ve found it. Many times we find these connections in our children’s friends moms, neighborhood moms, moms we meet at work, our college friends, or even on Facebook mom groups. Find them, invest in them and deeply support each other. Stick to those who you can be your authentic self with about yourself and your children. This may require you to step out of your comfort zone to find your people, but stepping into bravery to be uncomfortable at something new could be exactly what is needed.
  2. Focus on something that makes you happy. Do you have a hobby that excites you? Get back into it. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill. Now is a great time. Take some time to do things that make you feel like you again. It can be as simple as taking a 20 minute hike in nature or roaming the aisles of Target. If it’s what you need, do it. Ideally, these hobbies or skills shouldn’t involve your child. This is just purely you time. Put the guilt aside and know that we’re all better when we have balance and calm.
  3. Know that you can ask for help. Do you feel weighed down and constantly stressed about your on going to do list or household responsibilities?  Look into outsourcing some of that. A local high school student, a mothers helper, a grocery delivery service and a cleaning service every now and then, can all help. Sign up for those services that increase the quality of your life. Asking for help can also be in the form of tapping into your spiritual self. Praying more, reading spiritual books to uplift you, attending that restorative yoga class to reconnect, can energize you.  Finally, perhaps it’s more than loneliness that you are experiencing and need someone to talk to, reach out to a therapist. One who specializes in motherhood. One who will help you walk your journey of motherhood.

About The Author

Noreen Iqbal, LCSW is the Director and Therapist at the Olive Branch Therapy Group. Noreen works with young adults, adults, and couples. Noreen’s specialties include depression, anxiety, couples, and women’s issues. If you are interested in working with Noreen, contact us via email, phone or chat on our website.