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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Debriefing Retreat

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 @ 2:48 PM

Have you ever planned a trip for business or ministry and then said, “While I’m there, I may as well take a few extra days and visit some sites in the area?” Combining vacation time with business travel is common. But what about combining vacation time with reflection time and personal growth?
One solution might be a vacation for self care. Engaging in down-time activity to give your body rest is one thing, but evaluating and discovering new ways of improving your mental, emotional, and spiritual status can take vacation to a higher level. Especially if your job or ministry is in people helping business, the everyday wear and tear and built up stressors can be weighing much more heavily than you, or even people in closest relationship to you, can recognize.
A number of years ago I discovered a model of personal debriefing for Christian missionaries that has helped thousands find new vitality and meaning for their work. The Le Rucher model of debriefing is a guided 5 day rest, for personal reflection, sharing your story, and finding new perspectives from God. Not only for missionaries, this is a proven method for all leaders to assess events of life and ministry in a safe, confidential, and supportive environment. It is a structured progression through stressors, associated losses, adjustments, and recovery of hopes and dreams. The result is fresh vision and energy for re-engagement.
My wife and I benefited as participants in this model ourselves. I also trained and became a certified debriefer in the model. I now offer the debriefing as a package with a stay at our Blue Rock Bed and Breakfast. More is described at . I encourage all Christian pastors, missionaries, ministry or business leaders to consider this for making the most of your next vacation or rest time. These five days of debriefing is a perfect way to begin a several month sabbatical or scheduled down time.
Call us or email to schedule a time for debriefing in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Habits and Anxiety

Tuesday, December 28, 2021 @ 12:03 PM

Can the simple act of thinking about a new project coming up or preparing for a holiday dinner lead to shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or panic attacks? Habits, whether good or bad play a huge role in our mental and physical health, success, and quality of our relationships. Our habits affect every area of our lives. Acts of anxiety can be embedded in your habits. Avoiding or pretending that you aren’t having these experiences doesn’t help. In fact, it only makes things worse. Physical signs of anxiety in everyday life can look like you are sweating, shaking, experiencing nausea, having to use the restroom more frequently, exhaustion, muscle weakness, dizziness, or irregular body temperature. Is this you?

In our society, we have learned how to cope with adversity and uncertainty. We take on risks in an overly apprehensive manner instead of processing what is happening and dealing with the anxiety of what has come before us. After a while, these apprehensive feelings begin to feel natural and normal. Therefore, unhealthy coping mechanisms become a habit resulting in unconscious behaviors. These behaviors can be embedded in our personalities. These habits can look like nail-biting, skin picking, hair pulling, cleaning too much or too little, hand washing, or substance addiction. This shows insecurity within the anxiety you are experiencing. Is this you?

This can be overcome by learning to cope with risk, uncertainty, and adversity in healthy ways. Recovering involves identifying and exchanging coping behaviors with healthy coping behaviors. Anxiety exists inside your habits that make up your everyday life. Habits are sticky. They don’t just go away. Depression and anxiety can show in our habits within our interactions. Anxiety habits can be prevalent in smoking, eating disorders, financial mismanagement, and much more. Many find as they overcome these bad habits and replace them with good habits, their lives change. How can you make healthy changes?

Pay attention to how you are responding to different scenarios and recognize potential triggers. While also paying attention to different scenarios, also pay attention to how your body is responding to the situations where you are feeling anxiety. The following are some potential examples:

· Perhaps you are unmotivated to do a task, you review your social media, you feel more anxious

· Perhaps you have an upcoming assignment or deadline coming up at work, you grab a snack to eat to distract the anxiety you feel.

· When you experience anxiety, you become more worried about it, then you feel more anxious

Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. Keeping an account of triggers helps to recognize potential triggers and will help to enable you to live a more peaceful life.

Learn about and create new coping mechanisms so that you have a catalog of additional coping behaviors to replace the unhealthy ones. Exercising mindfulness can be a healthy way to overcome the worry and anxiety you are feeling. Have patience with yourself and repeat the healthy behaviors until it becomes normal. Healthy habits can look like cooking, learning to cook healthy meals, spending time outside, reading, prayer, devotions, meditating, cleaning, and journaling. It may feel different but it will feel more normal over time.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “So as a man thinketh, so is he.” Life and death are in the power of the tongue. Therefore, while being organic about your situation, it is also important to speak life into what you desire to change. Affirmations are a powerful tool in assisting with changing the narrative.

Don’t look at the end goal but reward the milestones that you make along the way. Reward yourself as you become more self-aware

If you or someone you know needs a safe place to develop healthy habits and form strategies to remove bad anxiety-filled habits in your life and live a healthier lifestyle, counseling support is available. Call 443-860-6870 to schedule an appointment today.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Moving Forward Part 2 - Ways to Cope

Monday, October 11, 2021 @ 6:30 PM

In the previous article, we discussed the stages of grief and how we are all grieving losses from the pandemic. But once we have processed through our grief, how do we move forward? With summer now in full swing and Covid restrictions virtually gone, there are so many great opportunities to gather with the friends and family members we may not have been able to see this past year. Summer is a wonderful time to be outdoors and go on adventures with the people we love–and it doesn’t have to cost much (or anything) at all! Here are some ideas to bond with your people this summer:

Plan a Picnic
Why not enjoy a good old-fashioned picnic at the park or on the beach? This timeless and classic outdoor activity is perfect for the warm months and a great way to spend time (and enjoy delicious food!) together. Prepare a homemade meal and dessert beforehand, or run to the grocery store for some yummy deli sandwiches. Then invite your friends, pack the basket and blanket and be on your way! There are great spots to picnic pretty much everywhere, so find a convenient and quiet place near where you live and make the arrangements. Everyone will be glad you did!

Find a Walking/Jogging Buddy
Summer is a great time to be active, and what better way to stay consistent than finding a buddy to exercise with? Whatever you’re into–swimming, biking, jogging, or plain old walking–grab a friend or family member who also enjoys that activity and schedule a regular time to do it together! You will be so much more likely to stick with it if you have a partner (or a few!) to hold you accountable. It’s also so much more fun and can help distract you from the discomfort of burning those calories!

Host a Barbecue or Dinner Party
Whether or not you have a barbecue, having friends and family over for an evening meal is a wonderful summer pastime. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know how to cook or don’t feel like you have the best hosting skills–enlist help! You can always do a potluck-style dinner and have everyone bring a dish so all you have to do is clean your house and prepare a table. The important thing is bringing people together around food and fellowship. Nobody will judge your decorum; rather they will appreciate the effort you went to to get everyone together. Sharing a meal together is one of the best ways to grow intimacy with others.

Join a Bible Study or New Serving Opportunity at Your Church
Most of us feel a little more adventurous during the summer months, so why not channel that energy into joining a new ministry at your church? It is likely that small groups and serving opportunities are back to meeting in person, so this may be a great time to get to know some new members of your congregation. Or, this may be the time to join a new church! Many people are trying to reconnect and connect with new people after being isolated for so long, so take advantage of this ripe time for new relationships. It can be scary to step out and try something new, but usually it is well worth it if the motivation is meaning and connection. You will find that most people are very receptive and welcoming to newcomers, especially in the church!

Just relax
It’s been a long year. Covid has taken a real toll on each of us, and self-care is crucial right now. Whether you find being with or without people relaxing, do what is most restorative to your soul at this time. Don’t feel pressure to be constantly social just because you can now, but rather ease into it. There will be plenty of time to gather together going forward, and your people will still love you and be there for you even if you don’t feel quite ready to jump back in full force. Take the time you need to readjust to everything opening back up and be kind to yourself in the process. None of us came out of this pandemic unscarred, and it’s unreasonable to expect things to go right back to “normal.” Have grace with yourself, and whenever you feel ready, go out into the world and enjoy being with your people again.

Moving Forward After Covid-19 - Part 1 - Grief and Stages of Grief

Monday, October 11, 2021 @ 6:28 PM

As we transition out of lockdown and into a new normal, many of us may feel bittersweet. We are grateful for the opportunity to gather once again together and do the things we have been restricted from doing for so long, but we also may carry with us deep grief over what has happened this past year and a half. Whether we personally know people who have died or gotten very sick from Covid or just felt the trauma of a year of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety, it seems wrong to move forward without acknowledging the different losses we have all experienced. But to acknowledge our grief, we first have to understand what it is.

Many may want to choose to skip the mourning and run from the pain or numb their feelings of this past year with work, substances, alcohol, food, shopping, or engage in risky or destructive behaviors. Grieving is necessary because it helps you validate, understand, and acknowledge what or who you lost, but you don’t need to do it alone. Seek the support of safe friends and family members now that is possible. Also, seek professional support if you notice you are struggling on addressing it. We’ve all experienced loss to some degree this past year, so we all need the tools to understand our grief so we can move forward.

What is Grief?

Grief is defined in the dictionary as “deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death.” There are different stages of grief, which we will discuss next, but it is essentially that heavy feeling of sadness due to a loss that doesn’t seem to lift over time unless you process through it. People typically think it only has to do with someone they love dying, but you can be grieved over many different types of losses.

Types of Losses

While many people are grieving the loss of loved ones due to Covid, some are grieving the loss of friendships due to a lack of in-person connection, a marriage due to stress, missing celebrating special occasions like weddings, a new baby, graduations that were not possible to celebrate with family and friends, the loss of the sense of safety, loss of jobs, financial stability, the loss of time and not be able to work on goals, the impact of online school on students and parents, the loss of their mental stability trying to cope with everything going on in the country and world.

Stages of Grief

There are five generally understood stages of grief. They are:
· Denial
· Anger
· Bargaining
· Depression
· Acceptance

Not everyone goes through the stages in the same order, or even all the stages, but this is the generally recognized pattern of grief. There is also no common pace at which people move through the stages–it is different for everyone.

It is our mind’s natural reaction to feeling so overwhelmed by a loss that it feels it has no choice but to deny it. It is a self-protective mechanism–if we were to feel the pain of a great loss right away we might be completely crushed by it, or so our minds think. It’s easier at first to pretend it didn’t happen than to acknowledge something so precious to us has been lost. At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us (myself included) denied the seriousness of it. We thought it would be over within weeks. None of us could have foreseen just how destructive and all-consuming it would become. It was easier to see it as a small threat or inconvenience than to anticipate the incredible havoc it would wreak on our world. Only as it became apparent that the rates were going up and things were looking more and more grim were we forced to move from denial to anger.

On this stage we realize we can no longer deny the problem or loss and have to confront its existence. Naturally, that makes us angry. It is the second line of defense, the only way our fragile psyches know how to take some kind of action against the pain. Wherever we direct that anger (to God, to our spouse, toward ourselves), it has to be directed somewhere. And unfortunately, that usually causes more harm than good. Nevertheless, it is a step most of us must work through before we can move to the next stage. We’ve seen so much anger and outrage this past year over various political and social issues that have seemed to come to a head during the pandemic, amplified due to the already grieved state of our country. Anger is a natural response to a deep loss, but we must not stay stuck in it or there can be dangerous consequences.

The third stage of grief, bargaining, is when we get desperate. It’s when we’ve moved out of anger and simply are begging for some kind of relief from the pain. It can take on many forms, perhaps most commonly as trying to make a deal with God to relieve the pain. We are searching for any kind of reprieve we can get for our heavy souls, no matter what it takes. It may also look like regret, chastising ourselves for what we could have done differently to avoid the loss. While anger often turns outward, bargaining can become more inward-focused.

The fourth and sometimes longest-lasting stage is depression. This is what many people equate to grief itself, but it is in fact only a stage of grief. Most people are familiar with depression in general, but this kind of depression is specifically related to your loss, which in some ways can make it easier to heal from than general depression that has no seeming “cause.” Please take into consideration that children and youth signs of depression may be demonstrated with anger.

Finally, if you are able to move through the previous four stages, you will eventually come to acceptance. Acceptance is not forgetting or being completely okay with what has happened, but rather acknowledging that the loss impacted you but you are able to move forward with hope. In this stage, emotions have been recognized, accepted, and expressed. In this stage, one can realize the magnitude of the experience and understand that he/she will be fine. As the pandemic seems to come to a close, I pray that we can collectively reach the stage of acceptance and allow the losses that we have experienced to shape us into more compassionate and loving people who don’t take health and community for granted.

Going through the five stages of grief is a painful but necessary process for true growth and healing. Wherever you find yourself in this cycle, know that you are not alone and so many people are in the same stage as you. Reach out for support from your community, family and friends. If you notice that this is not enough, seek the help of a professional counselor to help you work through the stages. There is no loss too small or too great to heal from!

Friday, September 24, 2021


Friday, September 24, 2021 @ 10:49 AM

How does a person heal from the betrayal of a friend, loved one, or a close relationship? I hear this question often in my office. I also have had to struggle with this in my personal life. I have had individuals and even churches talk about me to others instead of coming to me and finding out the truth. I can tell you it hurts. Even as I write this, it is in the middle of the night; I cannot sleep because of the betrayal of someone close to me. The first step of moving on from betrayal is searching yourself to see if the betrayal is because of something you did to the other person and if you need to apologize for something and seek forgiveness. Having a trusted advisor, your spouse, or a pastor work you through this process can be helpful. It is a good idea to have someone look at the situation from their point of view and see if you did anything that could have resulted in the other person betraying you. If you identify something you did, this is not betrayal, it could be retribution, but that is for another blog! If the answer is no, nothing you did was malicious or ill intent; then it is time to start your inside healing from betrayal.
First, we need to know that giving to others, providing our time, money, emotional support, wisdom will in itself open us up for betrayal. Psalms 41:1 King David says, "Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble." This entire chapter of Psalms talks about the person who gives to the poor. That person is rescued from the LORD when they are in trouble. The next verse states that God will provide them with prosperity and rescue them from their enemies. David understood that giving to those who are poorer than himself is a good thing, but he also knew that God would rescue him when it goes sideways (notice I said when it goes sideways, not if). Amid a betrayal, we must remember that the joy of giving to others does not come from the giving; it is directly from God. We gain supernatural joy from God, so we can still find joy and know that God will rescue us in times of trouble and betrayal!
Secondly, in verse 9 of chapter 41, David says, "Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me." You need to understand that it is those closest to us that can hurt us the most. They know the right words to say to cut us to the bone! This is so hard because we believe that those closest to us will never let us down, I am sorry to tell you this, but that is just downright false! Yes, you heard me correctly; those closest can hurt us the most, so what do we do? Do we stop letting others close to us? I would say NO! I have far more friends that have not betrayed me than those who do. So, what do we do? We accept it. We will be let down, but we also will be cared for by our true friends.
Third, remember your position. Verse 11-12, "I know you are pleased with me, for you have not let my enemies triumph over me." Being a follower of Jesus, we can know absolutely that God is pleased with us. We can go into his presence, and in God's eyes, we are innocent, even from the most significant betrayal our enemy can try to throw at us. They will not triumph over you, remember this, pray this and live your life knowing that whatever others say about you, God, the creator of everything, is pleased with you! “You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever."
If you are struggling with the pain of betrayal, pray this prayer, "God help me to see the joy that you give to me and to stop focusing on the pain this person has caused me. Father, open my eyes to the love I receive from you and my friends who genuinely care for me. Bless my enemies Father, and may they find joy and happiness in their life! Would you please help me to focus on you and not the betrayal? I know you are pleased in me, and you will make me prosper. I love you, God, Amen.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Paracletos Counseling Certification training -- October 14-16, 2021

Monday, September 6, 2021 @ 8:50 PM

Dr. Lehome' Bliss

Join us for a dynamic 3-day training leading to certification as a Paracletos Counseling Specialist. Help your clients achieve whole person wellness using our techniques to uncover root causes and identify hidden stressors.

Paracletos Counseling Mind Care can be customized to meet the needs of each client. Care for the mind God's way by combining Biblical prescriptions with evidence-based therapeutic techniques.

Find out more today. Visit our website: or call Dr. Bliss at 678-522-5361.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Let's peer into the beginning of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy & CBT

Monday, August 23, 2021 @ 6:13 PM

Let's take. journey into the realm of The Lord's insight, wisdom, revelation and knowledge. I mean, after all, He is Alpha and Omega, beginning and The End, Author and Finisher of our Faith, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient...well, you get the point.

Genesis 4:3-10, we see Cain and Abel. We can read through this and see the pattern of THOUGHT, EMOTIONS, DECISION, BEHAVIOR. Abel brought his best, Cain did not, and The Lord respected it. See verse 5, Cain was VERY angry AND his countenance fell. The Lord in His mercy gave Cain time, alternative thoughts and a way out in verses 6-7 (DECISION), and Cain let the emotions ride....BEHAVIOR in verse 8.

A thought came, emotions from the thought(s) arose, decision(s) were then made and was at the crossroads of the decision, which gave birth to a maladaptive behavior.

What a privilege it is to administer the love of god, The Word of God and walk in the wisdom of God, with and through, the mind of Christ, to assist people in their journey to health and wholeness!

3 Ways College Students Can Manage and Cope With Anxiety

Monday, August 23, 2021 @ 1:42 PM

Is the pressure of everyday life keeping you up at night?

Are you having emotional outbursts as it feels like the walls are closing in dealing with everyday tasks?

Do your muscles tighten or tense up at the thought of an upcoming paper or project?

What you are experiencing are signs of you feeling overwhelmed. Here are three tips to assist in managing anxiety.


Maintaining a routine of spending time in God’s Word and prayer can center you and allow your perspective in a particular situation to be shifted. Establishing and strengthening your personal relationship with Christ can provide you with courage in times that you need to be brave. You can find support in times where you may feel like the situation is helpless. Hope when you may feel like the situation is hopeless. Increase your faith when situations appear to be impossible to overcome.

Studying God’s love can change how you see yourself and redefine how you view God’s love in your personal life and how you can show God’s love towards others. As you conduct these studies, you can create a vision board reflecting how God sees you. Having a visual picture reflecting images of how God sees you can be a daily encouragement that you can overcome the daily stressors of everyday life.

Meditating on the promises of God and speaking to them over yourself can help to remind you that where you start out at is not where you stay. This can be an encouragement when dealing with difficult challenges and facing stressors head-on.


The way that you breathe inhale and exhale can reflect the level of tension that your body is taking in. Breathing exercises are a form of deep relaxation technique that assists in managing anxiety. Breathing exercises can help to decrease

· Your heart rate

· Your respiration rates

· Your blood pressure

· Your skeletal muscle tensions

· Your metabolic rate

· Your oxygen consumption

· Insomnia and fatigue

· Migraines and headaches

· Asthma

· Headaches

· Self-blame

Studies show that breathing exercises can improve

· Skin resistance

· Increase wave activity in the brain

· Energy level and productivity

· Concentration

· Memory

· Stress builds up over time

· Self-confidence

Tension can show in shallow breathing and rapidly high in the chest. When you are relaxed, you breathe more fully and deeply. Abdominal breathing allows you to breathe more fully, deeply, and become more relaxed. This type of breathing:

· Increases oxygen supply to the brain and muscle

· Stimulates the nervous system

· Encourages greater feelings of connectedness between mind and body.

· Releases the body’s toxic substances in a holistic manner

Here is an exercise you can try:

· Put your hand on your abdomen and beneath your rib cage

· Inhale through your nose. Your hand should rise as you do this.

· Do a full breath. Pause. Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth

Studies show that regular practice of deep relaxation for 20-30 minutes a day can produce a more relaxed response.


A trigger of anxiety is a fear of the unknown and feeling as if you are out of control. You may be constantly asking yourself what-if questions and playing different scenarios in your mind reflecting failure. This can lead to depression and muscle tension in your back, shoulders, chest, or stomach.

Creating a schedule where you include leisure activities can help you feel like you have control. The feeling of control and reduce stress and help you to have a more positive outlook in how you approach everyday activities. Having someone to talk to and develop a plan on how to manage your stress can help.

You’ll have a safe place to explore your feeling and discover an anxiety treatment plan that will meet your unique needs. Counseling can provide a place where you will know that you are understood and validated. Call 443-860-6870 and make an appointment for your no-cost initial consultation.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

What is the Relationship Between Imposter Syndrome and Depression?

Wednesday, August 18, 2021 @ 5:43 PM

You’ve worked hard to be in your current position. Finally, you made it. But perhaps:

• You feel like a fraud.
• You feel like you are underserving of everything you have worked for.
• You may feel like you aren’t smart enough
• You may feel like you aren’t good enough
• You think success is difficult to achieve
• You think you are incompetent despite showing otherwise in your performance
• You are afraid of not meeting other people’s expectations and letting them down
• You feel like you are your past successes and hard work was due to luck
• You feel uncomfortable receiving praise or congratulations
• You are disappointed over your current accomplishments. You feel like you could have done
better despite your accomplishment and doubt your success.
• You put yourself in constant pressure to achieve better than you did before.

You may feel this way at your place of employment, but it can also affect other areas of life. It can affect anyone from athletes, scientists, or office workers. Those who are high achievers are more commonly known to experience Imposter Syndrome. These feelings of inadequacy can bring you to a place of feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed.

How Does Someone Experience Depression When Dealing with Imposter Syndrome?

Psychologists coined this term in the 1970s as there appeared to be more professional women struggling with self-doubt, feeling incompetent, and expressed fears of not performing well. No matter how hard you try, you are never good enough nor worthy of the good that you are receiving from others. As a result, you may feel:

• Helplessness
• Worried all the time
• Racing thoughts
• Having the strong desire to isolate yourself from others because you don’t want them to see
the real you

Depression comes as you recognize that you can never reach the level of competence that you think you should have. Therefore, nothing you do is ever good enough. As a result, you may decide to give up as the situation appears to be something you can never resolve.

How Does Someone Who Struggles with Imposter Syndrome Display This Type of Behavior?

You can display yourself as someone who is dealing with Imposter Syndrome in different types of ways:

• Perfectionist – You are perfect and show yourself to be perfect, despite your physical and mental health. You are constantly wearing a mask, and no one sees the real you.
• Superwoman/ Superman – You are constantly saving the day. You are a work addict and constantly pushing yourself. You work all the time and have no balance nor time for a social life nor self-care.
• Natural Genius – You have big dreams and lofty goals. Instead of scaling, you will set up a goal to do the big things on the first try.
• Expert – You never feel like you are good enough, despite the time you’ve spent in learning your craft, gaining your degrees, and certifications.

As you can see, it is easy to feel frustrated, stressed, and anxious because no one can meet the expectations that you set for yourself. There are no set causes for someone who deals with imposter syndrome as it can be a variety of factors such as upbringing, personality, temperament, and genetic make-up.

What Can You Do to Overcome Depression and Imposter Syndrome?

There are five things you can do to overcome Imposter Syndrome:

1. Prayer and Spending time in God’s Word – Take time out of your day to pray and read the Bible. Focus on Scriptures that reference how God sees you and how much He loves you.
2. Acknowledge – Before overcoming any challenge is to admit the challenge exists. From there, you can develop a strategy to begin to change your mindset.
3. Take Steps to Have a Balanced Lifestyle – Rediscover what you like about yourself and what makes you happy. Have fun with it and do those activities. Get out of your comfort zone and try doing new things.
4. Pay Attention to Your Health – Make your health a priority. Pay attention to your diet and exercise routine. Studies have shown that having a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy exercise routine can alter our perspective in a positive way.
5. Talk to someone - Talking to a good friend or counselor regarding how you are feeling can help you in your healing journey.

Get Help Today

You don’t have to continue feeling like you are struggling with Imposter Syndrome and Depression. You will not be alone in your healing journey. It is a journey that I will walk along with you. As you receive counseling and support, you will find joy again.

Call 443-860-6870 for your no-cost initial consultation today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

10 Ways to Manage Social Anxiety as Restrictions Lift

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 @ 9:12 PM

How have you been navigating through post-pandemic social gatherings? I was in a meeting the other day where we discussed this very topic. While restrictions are being lifted, many people are not comfortable with going out and resuming the life they had before the pandemic. From the conversations I have had with several colleagues, you are not alone if you are currently feeling this way. It may even feel particularly worse for you if suffer from social anxiety.

Levels of anxiety can increase when you feel like something is beyond your realm of control, and this may be one reason why you are feeling reluctant to resume your former life post-pandemic. One remedy for this is to plan. Having a plan or strategy will help you feel more comfortable you head back out into the world.

What you include in your plan or strategy for gathering in groups may vary to the outing or the group of people that you are going to be around. It is okay for your plan to look different and not be the same every time.

1. Bring a Friend. One thing to consider when going to social gatherings is bringing a friend. It always helps to have someone with you. Having a good friend to lean on can help you build your confidence when going into uncomfortable spaces.

2. Limit Time. There is not a rule book that states that you must stay the entire time at an engagement. If attending an event is overwhelming, then limit the time you spend there. Having control of your time can help to lessen the anxiety you may be feeling when attending the event.

3. Exercise. Taking time to exercise and work out increases endorphins that help relieve stress. Regular exercise helps to make you feel more comfortable in stressful situations. You are setting yourself up for success by exercising regularly.

4. Do a Practice Run. Taking a drive a few days before the event and visualizing what the experience may be like or what it could be a way to make you feel calmer about attending the event.

5. Socialize in Other Ways. Many events have become hybrid with an option to choose whether to meet at a location or virtually. You can continue to meet others online and socialize if you are uncomfortable meeting people in person.

6. Visualization. Visualize yourself at the event. Seeing yourself at the event and imagining different scenarios can help calm any fears of what may or may not occur at the event.

7. Deep Breathing. Deep breathing helps to regulate digestive issues, heartbeat, rapid breathing, and blood flow. It also helps to avoid the response of fight or flight when facing scary situations.

8. Gratitude. Living a life in a place of gratefulness helps to lessen anxiety. Focusing on the good things and the positive people in your life instead of what is missing or what you don’t have can help change the perspective of upcoming stressful events.

9. Compassion. Show yourself and others compassion. People are at different places when it comes to deciding how to navigate through life as restrictions start to lift. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Do what makes you feel comfortable while respecting others’ choices in the process.

10. Prayer and Meditation. Prayer and meditation of Scriptures can also help with getting relief from anxiety.

Do you need help figuring out what plan will work for you? Getting the support of counseling can help you with the anxiety you may be feeling. Call 443-860-6870 to schedule a no-charge initial counseling session today.

3 Ways Depression Affects the Brain

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 @ 9:07 PM

Have you had a bad mood that you cannot shake?

Are you constantly feeling sad and hopeless?

Are you having difficulty sleeping or are you sleeping too much?

Are you always tired?

Have you experienced weight gain or loss?

Are you experiencing restlessness?

Is your sadness stemming from feelings of shame or guilt?

Are you having difficulty concentrating?

Do you have the desire to escape and run away from your problems?

You are not alone. Depression is a common mental illness affecting many people. It can be debilitating and cause serious complications. Sadness can impact the body by increasing fatigue, cause digestive issues, and produce chronic pain. Untreated depression has the capacity of altering the brain, making the episodes worse.


The hippocampus releases the hormone cortisol. When there are stressors, it floods the hippocampus thereby stunting the growth of neurons. When the hippocampus shrinks in size, there can be memory loss. The problems of memory can show through forgetfulness or bouts of confusion that you may have when in conversation with someone. As a result, studies have shown that there is a tie between short-term memory loss and depression.


When you are depressed, the amygdala in your brain can be enlarged. When the amygdala is enlarged, it becomes more active. This can lead to deep disturbances, changes in how you handle anxiety, as well as other hormones. It is not uncommon for people who have depression to also experience anxiety. Side effects include:

· Memory problems

· Difficulty thinking clearly

· Guilty feelings or feelings of hopelessness

· No motivation

· Sleep or appetite problems

· Anxiety

As a result of the amygdala being enlarged, you may experience more intensity within the emotions you have. For instance, if you’re remembering a painful memory, then the pain of that experience will be more intense than it would be for someone who isn’t depressed.


Studies have shown that there is a link between inflammation and the brain. The more depressed you may be, the more problems you may have with depression. Reduced oxygen is linked to depression in the body. An inadequate amount of oxygen can lead to inflammation within the brain. The death of brain cells has an impact on memory and mood. It can also speed up aging within the brain.

The correlation between depression and how it affects the brain is yin and yang. This connection between depression and how it affects the brain can be deep and widespread. Unfortunately, it can worsen over time. But there is hope. Studies show that brain circuitry is affected by joy, healthy pleasures, and positive emotions. What do you enjoy doing? Doing things we like focusing on things we can control, helping someone, enjoying a good meal, or taking a walk are ways to activate brain circuitry and reverse depression. Depression, when treated, can be life-changing and you can experience better health in your physical body.

Perhaps you have been sad for so long you do not remember what brings your joy. You want to get better but do not know-how. Working with a counselor can help you rediscover what makes you happy and what brings you joy. While you may no remember what made you happy, through counseling, you can discover yourself again.

You will not be alone in your healing journey. It is a journey that I will walk along with you. With counseling and support, you will find joy again.

Call 443-860-6870 for your no-cost initial consultation today.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Managing Work Stress

Monday, July 19, 2021 @ 6:59 PM


Most experts define stress as a response to life situations
like the following:

• Having too many responsibilities
• Having vague or confusing expectations
• Having to do unpleasant tasks
• Facing too many distractions
• Doing work one is not trained for
• Working with difficult people
• Being bored
• Being sick
• Experiencing too many changes
• Being in physical danger
• Living or working in a crowded space
• Getting insufficient exercise
• Getting poor nutrition
• Getting insufficient sleep
• Getting insufficient time to relax
• Being dissatisfied with one’s physical appearance
• Abusing drugs or alcohol


Stress has become a factor in our culture in the last 20 years because of things that were originally designed to make life less stressful. Conveniences such as ATM machines, microwave ovens, and fax machines have made life easier in many ways, but they also have woven an expectation of instant gratification into our culture. And this causes stress. Here are a few other examples of products and services that were invented to make life more efficient and productive, but which sometimes seem instead to add to stress:

• 24-hour stores and restaurants
• 1-hour photo developing
• Drive-thru fast food
• 10-minute oil changes
• The Internet
• Catalog and online shopping
• Personal computers
• E-mail
• Headline news
• 30-minute pizza delivery


King Solomon indicates in Ecclesiastes that dissatisfaction causes stress at work. Almost everyone complains of stress at work these days. It often results from one of the following:

• Having too much or too little work to do
• Having to do work that is very complicated and
• Having to do work that is boring and repetitive
• Having unclear goals and expectations
• Having to follow changing or confusing procedures
• Being at a career dead end
• Working in a company with an impersonal management philosophy


Stress affects people in every type of work setting. People at the top of organizations suffer from stress because of excessive workloads, unrealistic expectations, and isolation. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” has some truth to it.

Middle managers often experience stress because they have responsibility for the people who report to them but lack the control to execute what is expected. With the recent epidemic of corporate downsizing, middle managers have also been given greater and greater workloads. Managers who manage to keep their jobs often feel as if they are living in the shadow of termination. Professionals suffer from their own brand of stress, caused by monotony. Doctors, lawyers, and other professionals often perform the same kind of work for many years, resulting in boredom and desperation. Workers at the lower levels of today’s organizations often feel stress caused by boredom and the frustration of dealing with the public. They also may feel less successful than their coworkers in higher-level jobs and may feel stressed by their lack of status.


The nature of work has changed. The fight-or-flight response to stress is ineffective in response to the stresses of life today.

The workplace has become decentralized. In many places, people no longer work together in one place, but may be scattered around the world or be working from home, connected by technology.

People change with each generation. Baby Boomers differ from Generation Xers in terms of their values, their work ethic, and their definitions of success. These generational differences contribute
to stress at work.


Both genders experience stress. It affects women in some
unique ways, however. Here are a few of them:

• Overall, women are still paid less than men for the
same work.
• Women still face a “glass ceiling” as they climb the
corporate ladder. A recent report stated that only 2 percent of the members of top management of North American corporations are women.
• Women who choose to have children are usually
responsible for the logistics of childcare.
• Women with children often do more housework
when they get home than their husbands do.
• Compared to men, women with children also tend to
experience more guilt feelings about leaving their
children to go to work.


The subject of how to build strong relationships fills many books. In the limited space of this handout, let’s look at the key components of this stress-reducing strategy.

Identify the sources of stress in your relationships. Write about them in a journal. Make a list of people who cause you stress and explore what the issues are.

Resolve the underlying issues. For each of the situations identified in the preceding step, assess what needs to happen to resolve it. Make a list and design a plan to improve the situation.

Learn skills to improve relationships. Relationship skills are learned. We are not born knowing how to get along well with others, and most of us learned only limited skills from our parents. Identify the skills you need to develop and make a plan for yourself. You can learn these skills by reading books, taking classes, or working with a therapist.

Avoid toxic people and situations. ( See Boundaries In Leadership by Henry Cloud) Some people have a toxic effect on you. If you can, limit the amount of time you spend in these situations. Look for opportunities to decline their invitations. When these people are family members, remind yourself that you don’t have to feel guilty about avoiding anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. In work situations, look for ways to rearrange your schedule or your workspace to avoid interacting with such people.

Seek out positive people and situations. This step is the reverse of the previous step. Look for opportunities to spend more time with people and in situations that make you feel good. Think about people who make you feel good about yourself and look for ways to increase time with them.

Watch what you eat. Some foods amplify the stress response. These include:

• Caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones. This increases heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen
flow to the heart. Ongoing exposure to caffeine can
harm the tissue of the heart.

• Refined sugar and processed flour are depleted of
needed vitamins. In times of stress, certain vitamins
help the body maintain the nervous and endocrine

• Too much salt can lead to excessive fluid retention.
This can lead to nervous tension and higher blood
pressure. Stress often adds to the problem by causing
increased blood pressure.
• Smoking not only causes disease and shortens life, it
leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and

• Alcohol robs the body of nutrients that it might
otherwise use for cell growth and repair. Alcohol also
harms the liver and adds empty calories to the body.

• Eat more complex carbohydrates. (Examples
include fruits, vegetables, whole breads, cereals, and
beans.) This is especially important during times of
high stress.

• Get moving. The human body was designed to be
physically active. However, in most jobs today, people
sit most of the time. They hardly move at all, except
when it is time for coffee breaks or lunch. When faced
with stressors, we respond with our minds, not our
bodies. It is no wonder that many of us have a difficult
time responding to stressful events.
Exercise is one of the simplest and most effective
ways to respond to stress. Activity provides a natural
release for the body during its fight-or-flight state of
arousal. After exercising, the body returns to its normal
state of equilibrium, and one feels relaxed and

• Look for ways to let go of tension and anxiety.
Meditation and progressive relaxation are two valuable
ways to regenerate and refresh yourself. You can purchase meditation and relaxation audiotapes or record your own. This is especially important because your health and long life depend on minimizing stress
and achieving a sense of balance and well-being.


Cunningham, J. Barton. The Stress Management Sourcebook. Los Angeles, CA: Lowell House, 1997.

Hanson, Peter G. The Joy of Stress. Kansas City, MO:
Andrews & McMeel, 1985.

Hanson, Peter G. Stress for Success. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Cloud. Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality – How Six Essential Qualities Determine Your Success in Business. New York: Harper Collins, 2006

Johnson, Spencer, Blanchard, Ken. One Minute Manager. New York: William Morrow, 2000.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What is Spiritual Depression and How Do You Recognize the Signs?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 @ 10:38 PM

Have you lost touch with your faith?
Have you forgotten or do not see how God is with you during the struggle?
Have you been unhappy and do not find hope or optimism in everyday life?
Do you have regrets for mistakes you have made and are not looking forward to the future?

Spiritual depression has to do with you losing your excitement or zeal over the things of God. When you experience spiritual depression, you sense that you are losing your connection with God and with His people. It is the belief that you are alone, and that God is not with you. It can be brief or for a short season.

Psalms 42 lets you know that you are not alone in feeling this way. It says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted in me? Hope though in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of his countenance.”

Many will also encourage you to find refuge in prayer or in reading the Bible. I would also like to suggest that you can find solace, coping strategies, hope, and encouragement when working with a counselor.

Signs to Pay Attention To

You may experience any one of the following:
● Feeling disconnected from God
● Feeling cut off from God.
● Struggling to find joy in worship.
● Withdrawing from your church or religious community
● Avoiding members of your church
● Losing interest in regular church activities or performing from a sense of duty
● Negative or pessimistic thinking about God and religion
● Sense of spiritual hopelessness or discouragement
● Physically tired due to not having balance in your spiritual life.
● Your trials and sufferings have greater significance than your relationship with God.
● You are too busy to make time for devotion and prayer.
● Your inward perspective has greater authority than what God says about you.
● You believe that you committed a sin that God cannot redeem you from
● You are lukewarm. You are double-minded and living a lifestyle that is worldly in some circles and righteous in others.

Spiritual depression can feel worse if you are already experiencing emotions tied to sadness in general. This can include feeling worthless which shows up in negative self-talk. Loss of energy to do everyday tasks. Your desire to not be around other people. For no reason, you find yourself bursting in tears. This can be at home eating a meal or you are taking a walk in the neighborhood. You can also be experiencing insomnia along with chronic aches and pains while feeling spiritually disconnected. It is possible for you to experience spiritual and clinical depression simultaneously.
There are many reasons why you may get depressed. It can be because of a breakup within a relationship. It can be because of the death of a loved one or because of a loss of a job. You can be depressed because of your financial status or because you are not happy with the community where you live. Depression can also show as being subtle with the beginning of negative thoughts or early childhood trauma.

There Is Hope

Isaiah 41:10-13 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Sometimes those words are easier to read than to believe. You know it is true in your mind, but not always in your heart. Dealing with spiritual depression can be difficult. Working with a counselor can help strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ and assist in helping you see yourself as Christ sees you. Not only can you experience healing but a strengthening in your relationship with God.

Schedule an appointment for a no-cost initial counseling session today.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Could There Be a Relationship Between the Inflammation In My Body And the Depression That I Am Experiencing?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021 @ 9:04 AM

Does it hurt to move and are you feeling sad at the same time?

· Are you experiencing fatigue, depression, and swelling while wondering if there is a connection between the three ailments?

The Bible gives examples of people who experienced extreme challenges of sadness and how they handled it. Job experienced excruciating pain and suffered great loss. He was a godly man who suffered great loss. He was a man of great stature that God bragged about in heaven. Even yet, in the story of Job, we learn that extreme sadness can affect the state of our physical body.

The short answer to these questions is yes, there could be a connection. Depression has become one of the most highly diagnosed disorders and disabilities in our country today. With that said, depression is not an inflammatory disorder. Instead, it can be a potential tie that can affect inflammation within the body. This tie is just beginning to be understood.

In addition, the problem of people experiencing depression is on the rise. There are many different variances and fluctuations of feeling sad, disappointed, or frustrated. Depression expressly affects the quality of life for those who are affected by chronic illnesses.

Inflammation pathways that interact with the brain interact with the multiple systems within the body. Depression can also trigger responses to stressors within the body which can lead to a prolonged inflammatory response.

Like many mental health disorders, depression was once thought to only affect what occurs in the mind. We know that this is no longer true as studies have shown that there is a relationship between depression and inflammation within the body. In addition, depression can also affect normal body functions. Sadly, most people do not get help for depression as they think that it is not something that can be treated.


There can be several variables as to how a person can experience inflammation in their body while navigating through the dark cloud of depression. Childhood trauma, someone who is experiencing depression occurring historically within the family, people who have a sensitive immune system, or a person’s status in society are all factors that can affect the severity of inflammation within the body.

In addition to experiencing inflammation within your body in conjunction with depression, it is also common to experience fatigue. This further shows that there is a connection between fatigue, depression, and how it affects the immune system.

Inflammation within the body would include those suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, or even rheumatoid arthritis. In other words, if you are experiencing arthritis or other chronic symptoms in your body and are also extremely sad, do not ignore what is happening. Infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and sepsis, have been linked to inflammatory response and has been found to increase the risk of depression. Even those who are pregnant moms, who are happening to experience inflammation from the pregnancy, also experience depression during this time.

Just as there is a connection between depression and inflammation, doing holistic treatments also can bring a positive result in the reverse direction as well. As take care of your physical health so you can function from day to day, taking care of your mental health can provide a lessening of physical ailments as a result of living a more holistic lifestyle.

In addition to seeking counseling, improvements in the reversal of inflammation and depression within the body are also evident with physical exercise. Having a regular exercise routine helps to improve depression and decrease inflammation.

An additional tie of experiencing a reversal of inflammation and depression is a change in diet. Reports have shown that those who have adopted a Mediterranean style diet or implementing a lifestyle of short-term fasting, have seen a reversal in depression and inflammation.

In addition to working through the challenges involved with improving physical health, navigating through those same challenges during a counseling session can bring improvement as well. Schedule an appointment for a no-cost initial counseling session today.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The New Life-Cloud & Townsend Books and Videos On Leadership And Life

Friday, May 21, 2021 @ 4:43 PM

Boundaries for Leaders
by Henry Cloud, Ph.D

“Why some people get results and others don’t”

Leadership Beyond Reason
by John Townsend, Ph.D

“How great leaders succeed by harnessing the power of their values, feelings, and intuition"

9 Things a Leader Must Do
by Henry Cloud, Ph D

“How to go to the next level – and take others with

Making Small Groups Work: What Every Small Group Leader Needs To Know
by Henry Cloud, Ph.D. & John Townsend Ph.D.
“How to support growth in small groups”

Necessary Endings
by Henry Cloud Ph.D.

“Relationships that we all have to give up to move forward"

The Power Of The Other
by John Townsend Ph.D.

“The startling effect that other people have on you and what to do about it”

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Having a Marriage Perfect for You Is Easier Than You Think

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 @ 9:29 PM

It took me 33 years as a marriage counselor to discover how easy it is to help couples have a marriage perfect for them. When a couple comes for counseling, they are nervous and want to talk about the issues and their feelings. During those first two sessions I can discover what their issues are and can explain how we will overcome them. From that point my job is to get the couple talking together so that we can infuse the Eight Skills I discovered. These are skills most of us did not learn growing up. During this counseling process we will replace the less effective skills practiced all of their lives with the eight more effective ones. So far results have been phenomenal with the couples using this approach.

Because couples have not learned these eight skills, Christian and non-christian couples alike spend too much time absorbed in trying to make their marriages work. They act as though the marriage relationship is the most important. No, one's relationship with Christ is the most important, our following Jesus in serving others. But until they learn these eight skills they continue to be bogged down trying to solve problems for which they have no training. My method of counseling frees the couple from conflicts to serve Jesus and others. We know as Christians that it is more blessed to give than receive. When a couple's purpose is to serve others more than self and selfish interests, they lose much of the anxiety and depression that prevents success in marriage. Why struggle so hard when having a wonderful marriage can be much easier? Contact us at and learn more about this new method of marriage counseling.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

12 Ways Of Helping To Reduce Anxiety In Your Staff As A Leader.

Thursday, April 8, 2021 @ 8:29 PM

1. Listen, listen, and then listen. Listen to feelings, thoughts desires, hopes, dreams, vision and expectations. A staff member that feels heard is a staff member that feels validated. And validation tends to reduce anxiety. (‘Be quick to listen…..-James 1:19)

2. Make sure your expectations are reasonable and clear as well as appropriate for the developmental level of your staff member

3. Be careful of judging a staff member or their motives or attitudes. Evaluating them is fine and important but really understanding them is a part of that. (“Judge not, lest you be judged…” - Matthew 7:1-2)

4. Share some of your organizations financial picture. Studies have shown that staff that understand the financial picture are more motivated to work.

5. Help create belonging and comradery so that staff feel like their part of something bigger than themselves.

6. Practice walking in grace and truth with your staff members. This way they have grace around mistakes and the truth of expectations and responsibility combined. (“Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” – Proverbs 3:3)

7. Create opportunities for influence and input by all staff. This gives them a sense of ownership around the workplace and empowers them to contribute in important ways.

8. Make sure you celebrate and have fun. This was one the most important findings from research I did on leadership in my doctorate program. (“Rejoice with those rejoice…” – Romans 12:15)

9. Develop them and develop yourself. Training and coaching can go far to help staff feel better about the job, increase performance and reduce their anxiety.

10. Catch them doing something right. Before you give a critique make sure you also have a compliment to give.

11. Remember the difference between latent and manifest learning. Some staff, when learning a new task, may not perform at your level of expectation at first even though their learning but not manifesting the new behavior.

12. Work to resolve communication problems and conflict as soon as you can. Conflict left unresolved can really create a lot of anxiety in the workplace. (“Do not the sun set on your anger…” – Ephesians 4:26 )

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Trauma Therapy and the Parable of the Sower

Thursday, April 1, 2021 @ 11:30 PM

Willow Counseling

When we think of trauma, we often think of catastrophic events - rape, sexual abuse, war, natural disasters, crime, car wrecks, domestic violence. But trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. For instance, a trauma may also include a medical emergency, experiences of loss and grief, living in chaotic environments, getting fired, infidelity, divorce, bullying, neglect, childbirth, or a humiliating event, to name a few. Even vicarious traumas, such as watching natural disaster coverage on the news or listening to friends recount their own traumatic and painful experiences, can take a toll.

Did you know that trauma harms our mind, body, and spirit? It can distort our thoughts, inflame and weaken our bodies, and lead to despair in our spirits. Willow Counseling views trauma therapy as emotional recovery that is just as necessary as physical recovery from a medical emergency. In addition, as mental health therapists who value our faith, we also view trauma therapy as a God-given tool to help remove the thorns of trauma that crowd and choke the seeds of faith (Matthew 13:7) in a Christian's life. Trauma therapy has come a long way in healing the injury to our brains and nervous systems, and you don't have to keep suffering. Help is available.

Have you been through a recent trauma? Are you burdened by chronic stress? Do you have an old wound that continues to re-open? Let Willow Counseling help you discover emotional health and restoration from trauma. Learn more at our website.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Women should be Submissive to their Husbands - Ephesians 5:22-23 - REVISITED

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 @ 12:43 AM

Husbands Love Your Wives As Christ Loved the Church

Both Husbands and Wives are to be Submissive to One Another

Ephesians 5:22-33 – revisited

(v22)Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

In some traditions, this passage is read on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s. It is known as elbow Sunday – some husbands like to elbow their wives jokingly to pay attention to these words.

Yet, the misinterpretation of this passage and its foundation to the history of Christian marriage theology over the centuries is nothing to joke about, nor is it something of which the Christian church should be proud. I put this on my list of one of the most egregious sins of the church which has paved the road to much depravity insofar as it has pervaded whole cultures and societies with pseudo-Christian values.

In the second of my five years of seminary, I was required to begin learning Spanish since I was studying to minister in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles which is largely Hispanic. Rather than have solely classroom instruction, I sought permission to travel to the heart of Mexico for an immersion experience in the beautiful state of Michoacán where one of my classmates’ family lived in a small village of about four thousand people. For six weeks, I had a memorable experience of reveling in the culture, cuisine, music, festivities, and infectious friendly spirit of the people. Since they didn’t speak a word of English, I was compelled to use my Spanish. I’m grateful that my ability to give intelligible sermons in Spanish when I was ordained a few years later was because of this educational opportunity.

But there was one experience in my cultural visit that made me uncomfortable. A devout Christian family invited me to their home for dinner because they had heard of a visiting seminarian. It was a family with seven daughters and one son. The head of the house, Salvador, decided to slaughter a goat, un chivo, in my honor. At that time in my life I did eat meat, and I still recall how tasty and tender it was. After dinner, I noticed the daughters were not invited to participate in the living room conversation; they were clearing the plates, sweeping the floor, cleaning the kitchen, and serving drinks and dessert to the men. I jumped up to assist them – some of the daughters were young adults older than I. I was taught it was proper for children (and guests) to at least take your own plate to the kitchen, or optimally grab one or two nearby plates as well – by doing so you show your appreciation for your meal.

Salvador boomed in a loud and intimidating voice, “Pablo, no lo hagas” – don’t do that. Apparently, that was women’s work. Even the youngest child, a boy of 15 years, was not expected to do these domestic chores. I quickly adjusted to the customs of my host family and accepted their gracious hospitality. In coming days, I spoke in the village with some of the muchachas, the young women. I listened to many stories of lost opportunities of education and business, and the struggle to advance, because they needed to imbue the culturally-expected stance of submission, giving the opportunities to the men. They were to enthusiastically accept more menial roles so that the men could flourish.

My friend Salvador, in his zeal for mandating that his daughters clean the dishes while the men conversed in the sala, was simply doing his parental duty to ensure they grow up to make good submissive wives, increasing their appeal to potential mates.

This story of cultural grooming of women to be submissive to men from an early age, could may as well be a story from a family in Eastern Europe, Africa, or the United States – from virtually anywhere.

The above scriptural passage must not be taken out of context – it must be seen together with the next ten verses, especially this one:

(v25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.

There are many cases of identified domestic violence and abuse perpetrated by men that can be traced to cultural grooming which resolutely denies the latter part of this passage, and even greater numbers of marriages where women have been afraid to speak out against abuse due to deference to their husbands. Indeed, the movements of women’s suffrage, women’s liberation, feminism, support for LGBTQ rights, and the dire need for consent education, are all fighting in part against this pseudo-Christian societal conditioning.

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. How deeply did Christ love the church? So deeply, that he died for the church. Husbands thereby are called to live selflessly: to serve, protect, and die for their wives. Husbands and wives, therefore, are called to be submissive to each other. This mutual respect is the foundation of intimacy.

Is the husband still called to be the head of the household? Yes, but it must be done with utmost respect, and a submissive attitude. There is a natural order of some roles which become gender-based. Ultimately, however, all humans have both masculine and feminine qualities. Let’s say that two-thirds of men are masculine insofar as they are decisive, strong, confident, and take the lead. These men may also have underlying feminine qualities, like being sensitive, kind, thoughtful, nurturing, and compassionate. WAIT! Although these are stereotypically feminine qualities, a fully developed definition of masculine should include all of these qualities. A man is most evolved when he can at times be thoughtful, kind, and compassionate. Similarly, the other one-third of men can lead with their best qualities of being sensitive, kind, thoughtful, nurturing, and compassionate.

The men of ancient cultures went out and hunted, while the pregnant women and young children stayed at the hearth. This balance was upset in Jean Auel’s female character Ayla from The Clan of the Cave Bear. She clandestinely learns to hunt, defying the norm that only men hunt. She took the lead with her ability to feed the community when necessary. When found out, she was banished from her community for this offense, and suffered excruciating pain due to that isolation, and even more anguish from being forcibly separated, forever, from her toddler son. She discerned not to submit to her male-dominated clan, but rather to her inner spirit, where God dwells. God had given her the gifts of being able to hunt, to lead, to be courageous, and to provide. By listening to her inner-voice she became a steward of her God-given talents. Thus, her species survived and evolved.

After many months Ayla eventually meets a man who accepts her masculine qualities of hunting, providing, and leadership. They marry their lives and talents, in a bonded relationship where they can both lead and both be nurturing to the extent of their innate talents.

When we are baptized into Christ Jesus, there is not a separate rite for women and men. It is the same rite for male and female – we are baptized into community with God, as children of God. Thereafter, as Christians, we are all called to develop our ability to love, depending on what we have been given.

Jesus gave us two commandments:

Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:37-38).

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you (John 13:34).

How are we to love one another? All of Jesus’ life is instruction for us, but especially his central act – submitting to his Father’s will. Recall his words in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion:

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matt 26:39b).

At the wedding at Cana in John chapter two, the mother of Jesus, Mary, takes a decisive leadership role. It is interesting there is not even a mention of Joseph in this passage, though he likely accompanied his spouse and son. It was Mary who became aware of the need for more wine. She exercised a parental leadership quality by telling her son, they have no more wine. Jesus responds, Woman, why do you involve me? My hour has not yet come. I flashback briefly to my own mother saying, “Take out the trash,” to which I would respond, “Why, it’s not even full”.

Next, we have a female, not in the context of marriage, yet nevertheless exercising leadership in a decisive manner as she says to the servants, Do whatever he tells you. These are the most poignant recorded words of Mary. These words are the core of the early Christian community’s devotion to Jesus’ mother, a devotion which has lasted for millennia. These are words addressed to every disciple of Christ, to “do whatever he tells you”. At this event Jesus submits to the will of his mother. Mary is truly nurturing, yet decisive. The lesson here is that we humans, within and outside the context of marriage or romantic relationships, are most evolved when we exercise our inherent masculine and feminine qualities.

Jesus went so far as teaching his disciples that to be a leader, you must be the servant of all (Matt 23:11). He sealed this lesson at the last supper when he washed their feet, commanding them to go forth and do the same (John 13:14-15). It was at this event, upon receiving the instruction of servant leadership, the disciples were ordained apostles.

It is scripturally and theologically inaccurate for a husband to lord his power over his wife, expecting her to submit to him. For the husband to be the head of his household, in the role of priest of his family, he needs to accept the call to be the servant of his wife.

For the married couple, or anyone in relationship – you are called to each be submissive to one another. This is the way to love, respectfully. This is the way of intimacy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Changes That Lead: Applying the book Changes That Heal to Leadership

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 @ 1:12 AM

Everyone of us comes to work with baggage and a need to grow and develop. We symbolically bring in our family of origin to the workplace. We’re human! Few of us have our act totally together when we start a new job. While work is not therapy and it should not be, it can be a powerful catalyst to help us develop in and out of our roles at the job.

Many have read Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud, Ph.D. Here I look at the book as a leadership tool to help develop ourselves and our people and maybe give them an opportunity to make changes that heal and grow. Dr. Cloud sites many examples about healing and growth from Scripture in the original book that support many of the following ideas.

Time is what you need to wait for people to manifest the behavior of learning the job. An illustration of this is when a scientist teaches a lab animal a trick that they know it should be able to do, it is actually learning but maybe not showing its learning. The next morning they come in and run the experiment and the animal does it like it's known the behavior all its life. This is manifest learning as opposed to what was happening before which was latent learning which you can't see.

Grace is the second part of the equation where you allow people to make mistakes and give them grace as they need it to learn the new job or action. Handling this right helps them make good sense of their learning experiences.

Truth is where we begin to have a little bit more firmness in that we hold them accountable to certain standards that they need to perform the job well. We evaluate their performance (but not judge them as people) after raising expectations.

Next Henry talks about bonding and bonding is important in the workplace because it gives people a sense of belonging and connection as well as meaning. Without good bonding in a workplace people will not feel like they are part of a team or that they belong. Research indicates this bonding for staff is even more important than pay. Although good bonding needs to be established well outside the workplace, it is still important so that people learn to trust their leaders and fellow staff.

After that are boundaries which are very important to establish in leadership so that you can define roles and expectations. Henry has a whole book written about this subject called Boundaries And Leaders. Defining Vision, Mission and Goals are other parts a boundaries in leadership. While boundaries are not walls, they help our staff and ourselves define our responsibilities, what is and is not in our bailiwicks as well as keeping people challenged without overwhelming them.

The next part of the book talks about sorting out the bad and good in ourselves and others. We want to get away from black or white thinking. This is important in leadership because we want to be able discern between a bad action or attitude and the actual person. Judging a person from an all bad-all good perspective is counterproductive. The leader that sees a person as all good will be blind to their problem areas and not hold them accountable. The leader that sees a person as all bad will judge the person and not see their good parts or their talents or assets.
It is also important to be careful of the ideal other or self as well as the despised other or self. These four positions can distort our thinking and lead us to expectations and or judgements that benefit no one.

Further on the book deals with maturing into adulthood. Within the rules and structure of the workplace, both the leaders and the staff must rise to the level of maturity and beyond to be able to be effective in their tasks and relationships. This on one hand requires respect and appropriate working together with leaders. On the other hand, it also means that we must not be in a complete one down one up relationship with our authorities or our staff at work. To put it simply, it means that we are to require respect from others as well as to make sure that we respect them.
Some leaders see themselves as one up and believe they have absolute authority over all things and that they don’t have to respect anybody. It is not uncommon for these leaders to be failing in some way. For other leaders they still feel like they are one down with people, even their own staff. This is where it is important to work on our personal bonding so we can grow up to a role that we are called to.

Bonding gives us a “launching pad” with which we can form our boundaries. As part of this growth and maturity it’s important that we disagree sometimes with the first leaders that we ever met (i.e. our parents) [Also see the story of Jesus as a boy at the temple]. And likewise, it’s important that your staff and peers can appropriately disagree with you. It is also important to recognize and pursue our talents and abilities as well as our creative instincts so as to find the right role in our leadership and help others do the same. Maybe you're a creative boss or perhaps maybe you're a boss that's very good about sticking to facts and figures. So, it's important to expand these gifts while at the same time finding people who can help you with the areas you're not so strong in.

Changes That Heal For Leadership was not a book Henry necessarily intended to write but do understand that the real book originated as part of a project to stop burn out in a campus ministry. With that said it can do much to help us develop us as leaders and help us develop our staff. Reach out if you need help with these stages with yourself and or your team.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Bumpy Road or Joy Ride?

Saturday, March 13, 2021 @ 2:24 PM

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2

Life’s journey takes you on an obstacle course of twists, turns, bumpy roads, mountains, valleys, tunnels, wastelands, bridges, lovely landscapes, and deep caverns. Each section of the journey impacts every individual differently. For example, Fred works at a high-pressure job in sales. He thrives when he is with people, and he feels alive when the pressure is on. Following the successful completion of a huge deal, Fred’s boss gave him a “bonus” to help him recover and regroup. He set him up with an all-expenses-paid, three-week vacation at a quiet out of the way cabin with a rented fishing boat. Fred’s boss said, “After a high-pressure close, I always need time to rest and regroup.” Unfortunately, to Fred, alone time felt like torture.

The bumpy roads on your journey might be exhilarating mountain top experiences to someone else, and your friend’s wastelands might be your lovely landscapes. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, unique and precious, and when you remember the following, your path becomes a fret-free flight: you journey this life hand-in-hand with the Lord.

Whatever segment of road to which your journey takes you, whether you consider it a trial or a delight, God has promised to be your refuge and your fortress. You can trust that He will rejoice with you when you are happy and He will protect you when you need sanctuary.

Try reminding yourself about it, this way. Inhale while picturing, “God is my refuge and my fortress.” Now exhale while envisioning, “He is my God in whom I trust.” Go ahead and repeat that a few times; inhale, picturing the first part of the verse. Then exhale envisioning the second half of the verse. Feel the strength, the power, the courage of the Lord filling you with each breath.

God did not promise you a trouble-free life. In this broken world, you will face troubles, but when you do, God will always be your fortress, your refuge, and your loving God.

If you’d like to learn more ways to allow the Lord to empower you toward freedom and spiritual health, visit

Thursday, March 4, 2021

"How Your Attachment Style Impacts Your Relationship," by Bernis Riley, Psy.D, LPC-S, Certified EFT Therapist

Thursday, March 4, 2021 @ 9:55 AM

Emotionally Focused Therapy, our therapy model at SoulCare Counseling, is partially based on Attachment Theory (which is actually no longer a theory but a proven science). British psychologist John Bowlby is the father of Attachment Theory going back to his work with separated infants in the 1950’s. He found that a child depends on his or her mother and father or primary caregivers for comfort, soothing, and support. If those needs are met, the child becomes securely attached; if not, the child becomes insecurely attached. Others built on Bowlby’s work, applying it to adult attachment, and found that four attachment styles develop in childhood and most often remain into adulthood.

We know from studies of the brain that we are hard-wired to seek close, supportive, safe, secure, comforting relationships. We need closeness and belonging as much as we need food and water. When our brain perceives that a primary relationship is in danger, it goes into overdrive to save it and triggers the attachment style we learned as children. The problem is that only one attachment style is healthy; the others, ironically, are destructive to the relationship they are employed by the brain to save.

Do You Have An Anxious Attachment Style?
People with an anxious attachment style would say, “You’re good, I’m not good.” They have a negative view of self but a positive view of others, especially their partner. The thought of being alone or separated physically or emotionally from that partner causes great anxiety. They fear abandonment and constantly seek security. As a result, they worry about their partner being as invested in the relationship as they are. They constantly seek their partner’s approval, support, and responsiveness or they experience anxiety. If they perceive that they are not receiving the closeness and support they need, the often become clinging, demanding, or critical, all in subconscious attempts to draw their partner close. In Emotionally Focused Therapy, these are called “pursuers.” The problem with this attachment style is that those who use it experience the very thing the fear, their partner withdraws.

Do You Have An Avoidant Attachment Style?
People with an avoidant attachment style would say, “I’m good, you’re not good.” They have a positive image of self but a low image of others. As a result, they don’t feel that they need a relationship to be happy and fulfilled. They don’t want to depend on others, and they don’t want others to depend on them. They see themselves as strong, independent, self-sufficient types who don’t need the support or approval of others. They identify with the Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, loner-type hero. They tend to be introverts. While they do want physical contact, they don’t feel the need for emotional contact, avoid emotions, and like Spock on “Star Trek” they suppress their emotions. When they are put in a situation with high emotions, they shut down and withdraw or leave. In Emotionally Focused Therapy, they are called “withdrawers.”

Do You Have A Disorganized Attachment Style?
People with a disorganized attachment style say, “I’m good, you’re not good…I’m not good, you’re good.” They shift back and forth in ambiguous, chaotic relationship behaviors. They push people away, then pull them back. They fear getting hurt and therefore avoid strong emotional attachments. They want intimacy and closeness, but at the same time have a hard time trusting and depending on others. They have trouble regulating their emotions. People with this attachment style are usually victims of abuse or trauma.

Do You Have A Secure Attachment Style?
The three attachment styles I just described are all insecure attachment styles. People who have those styles tend to have unhealthy relationships. But people with a secure attachment style are able to have healthy relationships. They say, “I’m good, you’re good.” They have a positive view of themselves and others. So, they have no fears of expressing their emotions. They are glad to depend on their partners, and let their partners depend on them. They are honest, tolerant, and intimate. They thrive in closeness with their partner, but are not anxious when they are separated. They are confident that the relationship is stable and will not be disrupted by the absence. In Emotionally Focused Therapy, we work to help distressed couples move out of insecure attachment styles into a secure attachment style.


Thursday, March 4, 2021 @ 9:52 AM

Having been a pastor since I was 20, when my wife and I founded SoulCare Counseling in 2007, there was no question but that it would be a Christian counseling center. The only question was, what kind of Christian counseling would SoulCare do? That question might surprise you because most people assume that all Christian counseling is the same: the client shares a problem to which the counselor applies some Bible verses and has prayer. That is one kind of Christian counseling but it’s not the only kind. The fact is, all Christian counseling has similarities but also differences.

While all Christian counselors want to help you change, enter into a caring relationship with you, and have a Christian worldview, they use different counseling methods or models based on what they have found to be effective. The Association of Christian Counselors defines Christian counseling as activities that “seek to help people towards constructive change and growth in any or every aspect of their lives, through a caring relationship and within agreed relational boundaries, carried out by a counselor who has a Christian worldview, values and assumptions…Counselors use different methodologies or models for their counseling depending on their training and what they find to be effective.”

There are two basic approaches to Christian counseling:
• Theology Only. This is often called biblical, or nouthetic, counseling. It uses only the Bible and fits the apply-Scripture-and-pray model described earlier. Its biggest advocate is Jay Adams.
• Theology and Psychology. This is called professional Christian counseling. A professional Christian counselor has training and degrees in counseling/psychology and is committed to biblical theology. James Dobson and Larry Crabb are examples. When it comes to integrating psychology and theology, some counselors attempt to separate them, others mix them like a salad, and still others pick and choose only psychological approaches that are consistent with biblical teachings.

SoulCare Counseling falls into the last category. All of our counselors are Bible-believing Christians who have either earned or are working on degrees in counseling/psychology and are licensed by the state of Texas. We don’t believe that there is biblical truth and there is scientific truth; there is just truth, and all truth is God’s. Philippians 4:8 says, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything is worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” So, we take from psychology that which is true, right, etc., and consistent with Scripture and use it while discarding the rest.

We have found Emotionally Focused Therapy to be one of the most effective and biblically consistent counseling models. Though not a Christian, in the 1980’s Dr. Sue Johnson founded a counseling therapy that is consistent with biblical teachings. When she realized this, Sue worked with EFT trainer and former missionary Kenny Sanderfer to adapt her book Hold Me Tight into Created For Connection, The Hold Me Tight Guide For Christian Couples. It is based on Genesis 2:18 that “It is not good that man should be alone.” God created human beings for connection, so when we become disconnected, conflict and dysfunction arise. The key to resolving conflict is to reconnect through understanding our true needs and feelings, communicating them in a way our partner will receive, and giving/receiving forgiveness and reconciliation creating a safe, secure attachment bond. Christian themes run all through that: humbling oneself, considering the other as more important than self, being honest and speaking truth to one another, forgiveness, reconciliation, love as the bond of unity, to name a few.
Since EFT is based on biblical principles, it works! Imagine that. Studies of EFT over decades have shown that 70-75% of couples who complete EFT move from distress to recovery, and 90% show significant improvements. No other counseling model can make that claim. Biblically consistent and effective. That’s why our Christian counseling center does Emotionally Focused Therapy.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Dumped by God

Wednesday, March 3, 2021 @ 10:47 AM

We have all gone through seasons where we feel despondent and wonder if God is even paying close attention to our situation. We start wondering, “Does he even care? Does he even see what is going on? Is he still there or am I just talking to the ceiling?” Rest assure, God is not far. During these seasons, please know that you are simply being dumped by God.

Allow me to explain. Imagine as a new Christian, you are a little cup. You fell in love with Jesus and you are full of his love and spilling over the sides of the cup. You are just oozing with the Holy Spirit and you are on a spiritual high. Suddenly and frequently without our permission, God takes our little cup and dumps it into a bigger cup. All that love and Holy Spirit giddiness seems to dampen, and we go through a season of feeling alone and empty. We do not know what to do and we feel like the Holy Spirit high is only for baby Christians. Many Christians give up the pursuit of God at this point. However, this is the season where you need to dig your heels in, dive into the Word of God, and deepen your faith. You will find that over time, the new cup you were dumped into is filling up again and will be over-flowing once more.

Then, suddenly and frequently without our permission, God takes our bigger cup and dumps us into a bucket. Again, we feel shallow, empty, alone, and are hungry to be filled by God. We can get angry that he dumped us because we were content in our smaller cup. We may not understand why he dumped us, or why he chose this bucket. We can kick and scream and pitch a fit, but it will not fill the bucket. Only pursuing a relationship with God will adequately fill the current bucket we were dumped into.

God desires us to grow and that is why he loves us enough to dump us. He continues to dump us into bigger and bigger containers. Every time we are dumped by God and we pursue a relationship with him, in order for him to fill the current container we are poured into, we learn more about his character, his love, and his mercy. Any time we are dumped, it indicates that God desires our faith and trust in him to grow. Being dumped by God means that God loves us too much to leave us where we are at, and he desires for us to grow.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Illness Can Be the Cure!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 @ 2:31 PM

During my medical school and residency trainings, I used to pray about why my patients were suffering from injuries and diseases. I began to hear their souls tell me why. There were always good reasons. In fact, I slowly realized that their souls were guiding their growth in some way. In this workbook, I share what I have learned from this prayerful soul-listening. Readers learn the language of the soul, so they might come to understand the soul communications in whatever symptoms they or their loved are struggling with. Painful afflictions become loving invitations to become more Christ-like when we learn this language of the soul!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

couples communication workshop

Saturday, February 27, 2021 @ 11:45 AM

The Gender Dance: Communication 101
Relationships are can be complicated at times. No matter how much we love our partners, sometimes we may not see eye to eye with one another. Communication can become tense and we can feel distant from our partners. But all hope is not lost. We can learn strategies to strengthen our relationship and learn to draw near to one another. If you and your partner want to learn skills to improve your relationship – this is the right workshop for you both. We will talk about communication styles, impact of early family dynamics on the current relationship, and discuss strategies you and your partner can use to positively talk about areas you need to talk about without tension.

While we will be talking about topics that can be serious at times, we will also talk about how we can implement fun in relationships. We will talk about tips and tricks to healthy communication, use role plays, and hear from couples about what works and doesn’t work-providing each other with support. We hope you’ll join us for this event.

Registration can be done at
We look forward to you joining us.

Friday, February 26, 2021

I’m depressed. Now what?

Friday, February 26, 2021 @ 4:34 PM

If you were recently diagnosed with depression, or you have been feeling unmotivated, down in the dumps, tired, restless, or sad, you might be wondering what are your options to receive help? Many people don’t know where to start in their healing journey and can feel very overwhelmed with what to choose or do. Getting help doesn’t have to be overwhelming!

First, start by finding a licensed counselor. Registered intern counselors or student counselors can be just as good of an option (and cheaper) because they are typically heavily supervised and lean on well-trained clinicians to help guide them through the therapeutic process. Seek a therapist who shares similar value systems. This is especially important if you are religious and want to incorporate your religious beliefs in your counseling. Discover a counselor you feel comfortable being around. If you are a rape victim, being around a person that reminds you of your perpetrator may not be in your best interest.

Ask your therapist if they will assess you for depression and if they will administer The Beck’s Depression Inventory. This inventory assesses your level of depression and allows the counselor to have a deeper understanding of what your depression looks like.

I cannot emphasize this enough; if you are dealing with depression, a consistent exercise routine must be a part of your daily life. The endorphins released by exercise help combat stress and gives your body a dopamine dump. Dopamine is your happy neurotransmitter.

Drink plenty of water and get adequate sleep. Dehydration can cause many problems including depression. Sleep also affects our ability to deal with stress. The more rested we feel, the higher the chances of fighting off depression.

Talk with your doctor and request a full blood panel to make sure a biological origin is not being overlooked. Being low in Vitamin D or B can cause depressive symptoms. Thyroid issues can also cause symptoms of depression. Having the MTHFR mutation can cause depression, anxiety, ADHD and many other problems. Depression can have a biological origin and requesting the proper bloodwork can help.

If an anti-depressant is recommended, then please consider following through with your doctor’s recommendations. These are not drugs that you can start and stop, or skip a day here or there. These are medications that have a great potential to help, but also a great potential to harm, if not taken properly. Think of an anti-depressant like insulin. In diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin. Likewise, when a person is depressed, your body does not “produce enough” or activates the neurotransmitters properly in order to maintain a healthy balance in the brain. Antidepressants help activate your neurotransmitters to work at their fullest potential.

If being on an antidepressant does not feel like the right option for you, then please seek out a homeopathic doctor or a trained herbalist to help balance your body in a more natural way. There are plenty of herbal remedies available that can positively impact depression levels.

Figuring out how to deal with your depression can feel overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Find someone to talk with and get started on your healing journey.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Good Anxiety? Is there such a thing?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 @ 12:20 PM

Anxiety is one of the more frequent presenting problems that graces my office. However, is anxiety really bad? Before I answer that, ask yourself one question, what is the purpose of anxiety? (Que the Jeopardy theme music)!

Take a minute to reminisce back to high school or college testing days. The anxiety before the test was choking and all consuming. This anxiety typically pushes a person to study and prepare. In this instant, anxiety did its job. Anxiety’s job is to trigger us to prepare and to be alert. It must feel awful in order to make sure we are preparing adequately and being cautious in our environment. As long as you are still able to move forward in life and obtain your goals, then healthy amounts of anxiety can be a good thing. Breathe through this type of anxiety and exercise to maintain the stress this anxiety is producing. When the stressful event is finished, then thank your anxiety for doing its job and enjoy the benefits the small panic produced.

Now, if anxiety is shutting you down and preventing you from moving forward, there is a larger problem at hand. I will be daring enough to say that a person dealing with “stop all action and shut me down anxiety” isn’t dealing with anxiety, but with fear. Fear and anxiety can feel very similar. Also, not many people want to admit that they struggle with fear. It feels like our pride gets hit deeper when we admit our fears, so many people feel more comfortable with the word anxiety.

However, if you are one of these people who suffer from all-consuming anxiety and it prevents your from moving forward, I want you to ask yourself one question: what are you truly scared of? Change the word anxiety to fear and start facing what the actual fear is. You will find that just rewording your anxiety to fear will give you a different perspective on what is holding your back and now you can start creating courageous solutions to face your fears.

Anxiety does not have to dampen your life, especially if you differentiate whether the anxiety is good anxiety or whether it is fear. Identifying which type of anxiety you are grappling with can make the moment much easier to handle and also free you up to find active solutions.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Hope, Patience, Joy!

Friday, February 19, 2021 @ 2:29 PM

How can you help your children feel hopeful about the future amid pandemic fears, divisive political hostility, and heart-hammering news reports? Romans 12:12 offers three habits that will help you maintain that hope: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Providing a good example of joy, patience, and faithfulness is the first hope-builder for your children because they take their cue from you.

Also, giving your children something to look forward to keeps them at peace in the moment and looking toward the future. Do this by instituting a weekly “Family-Fun,” time. Despite current restrictions and no matter how old or young your kids might be, try this brainstorm-blast every quarter. Get creative. It works like this:
A. Prior to your “blast,” download a list of fun things permitted, available in your area, in-budget, and post it on the fridge.
B. Meet, and encourage everyone to discuss their favorite things to do for your weekly “Family-Fun” time. Ideas will come from the list, and the children can come up with some on their own.
C. Write all suggestions on dry erase, poster, chart paper, or printer paper.
D. Now, give every child (or every family member…your choice) a different colored marker or let each choose a different method of selecting their favorites (underline, circle, box, squiggles).
E. Each person chooses as many “favorites” as s/he likes by circling (with his/her unique color) or by using his/her unique shape (circle, square, underline, box etc).
F. Together, you will review the completed brainstorm plot. Some activities will have zero or one circle and other activities will be circled by everyone.
G. The “fun things” that everyone likes will be evident because THEY will be circled by everyone – notice all of the colors or shapes surrounding them. These will be the first choices to put on the weekly “Family-Fun” time calendar. Work down from there, adding to the calendar for the whole quarter.

Making a game out of finding enjoyable things to do generates hope for tomorrow.
Patience amid chaos? Children struggle with patience just as you do. Sharing the truth with your children about what irritates you, and offering them a safe space to talk about their fears and frustrations builds patience and trust. You might share with them some relaxation techniques, and practice together. Practicing these techniques ensures that you and your children will be able to relax when you find yourself in a situation where you NEED to relax.

Finally, knowing that God has you in His arms gives you hope that your future is safeguarded. Remain faithful by creating a faith fortress. Pray with your children in the morning, building a foundation to their fortress. Draw near to God in the afternoon, establishing the walls; recall three blessings each evening to top off that fortress.

You can help your children and yourself to feel hopeful about the future through Romans 12:12. Start a habit of joy in hope, patience in affliction, and faithfulness in prayer. It’s a good habit that will not only draw you and your children near to God but also keep all of you hopeful and at peace in troubled times and any time.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Unpacking Religious Trauma

Thursday, February 4, 2021 @ 10:09 AM

Willow Counseling

Religious trauma isn’t a formal diagnosis. Instead, it’s a broad and informal term that can refer to both traumas from a religious institution and trauma within the faith community itself.

Such symptoms can include:

-Negative beliefs about self-esteem and self-worth
-Pervasive depression and anxiety
-Loss of meaning or pleasure in most activities
-Struggles with a social support system and strained family dynamics
-Feeling ‘behind’ on developmental tasks
-A pervasive sense of social awkwardness
-Feeling a lost or missing sense of purpose

Undoubtedly, religion can be a sensitive subject. You may feel ashamed to talk about how you feel. You may blame yourself for not doing something right. Know that these are normal reactions. However, these reactions can lead to unnecessary and extreme suffering- which only perpetuates a cycle of fear, shame, and disappointment.

As therapists, Willow Counseling feels honored to sit and explore the subject of religious trauma with you. Whether you’ve been struggling recently or for many years, we can work together to restore your faith in humanity and hope in life.