September 24, 2019

Stress Headaches

Posted in Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , , , at 8:00 am by kellyfdennis

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One question that I often get asked is “Can stress cause headaches?” Yes! Distress can cause activation of the primitive part of our brains, the one responsible for the flight, fight, freeze response. When this part of the brain is activated, chemicals begin coursing through our bodies, readying us to react. These chemicals have various functions, but one is muscle contraction or tension. The body’s stress response, when chronically activated, can cause insomnia, prolonged muscle tension, tightening or “holding” of the muscles (do you find yourself clenching your jaw when stressed?). All of these reactions can cause headaches.

The good news is that mindfulness meditation can help you to pay more attention to your bodily reactions. If you are aware that you’re tensing, you can actively breathe and relaxing. If you become aware that you are ruminating, you can learn to actively stay in the present moment (rumination is a common cause of insomnia). Check out my website for information about upcoming mindfulness meditation workshops, classes, and retreats! Tension headaches can become a thing of the past!

June 21, 2019

Dealing with Life’s Uncertainties with Mindfulness Meditation

Posted in Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , , at 1:52 pm by kellyfdennis

mountains near body of water panoramic photo*

Saturday, July 20, 2019 9-11am

Counseling office: 304 N. George St., Suite A, Millersville, PA

Whether coping with small annoyances or full-blown catastrophes, this 2-hour workshop leads you through a mindfulness meditation process to strengthen the response flexibility innate in your brain and your being. We will explore how to find calm, clarity and courage in the midst of any adversity.

 In this workshop you will:

-Learn/participate in three practices to return the nervous system to its range of resilience
-Learn practices to cultivate the positive emotions that counteract the brain’s negativity bias
-Participate in guided meditations that create new resources of support in your brain

Facilitator: Kelly F. Dennis MS LPC; Contact Kelly to sign up, space is limited. Kelly@kelyfdennis.com Cost: $75.00

*Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

May 29, 2019

Anxiety

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Mindfulness, Well-being tagged , , , at 10:06 am by kellyfdennis

person people woman hand*

The feeling of anxiety is a part of human nature. Looking for danger and negatives kept our ancestors safe. They had reasons to be hypervigilant. In our modern world, occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision.

Anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The feelings can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school, and relationships.

However, being hyper vigilant 24/7 triggers the fight, flight, freeze response in our brain and body, which cause the fear center of the brain to become more reactive over time, leading to a vicious cycle of fear, anxiety, worry and insomnia. Thinking patterns of individuals with anxiety disorders are based in rumination about the past and/or apprehensive expectation (worry) about the future.

There is good news, though. Mindfulness, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help a person break out of the anxious thinking cycle and actually reverse the damage that anxiety does to the brain. It does this by helping the person focus on the present moment experience, thereby disengaging from the rumination and worry. It also activates parts of the brain that are in charge of relaxing and secreting feel good chemicals. Check out my latest You Tube video to get started on your path to less anxiety!

Be well and have a wonderful day!

*Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

November 28, 2018

Managing Stress With Self Compassion

Posted in Compassion, Mindfulness, Self Image, Well-being tagged , , , , , at 9:55 am by kellyfdennis

cornandcloudssideSaturday, January 19, 2018 9-11am

Counseling office: 304 N. George St., Millersville, PA

In mindfulness meditation, individuals strive to cultivate a greater awareness of the present moment. By increasing their mindfulness, participants in this stress management workshop aim to reduce their overall arousal and emotional reactivity and to gain a deeper sense of calm.

This workshop also adds the component of self compassion in the management of stress. Self compassion is being aware in the present moment when we are experiencing moments of fear, confusion, inadequacy and other similar stressors, and responding to those feelings with kindness and understanding.  This practice helps in letting self-instilled stressors go, and brings you kindly to focus on the present moments. Highly recommended for those that tend to lose self-focus to past and future possible stressors.

In this workshop you will learn/experience:

-How to make stress your ally

-What is lovingkindness and participate in a lovingkindness meditation

-Breathing Space Meditation

-Gratitude, the antidote for stress

-How to cultivate self appreciation

Each session will be a combination of practice, lecture, and group discussion. Each session is taught in a supportive environment with no more than 15 people. The sessions are open to all ages, backgrounds, and religions.

Kelly F. Dennis MS LPC is the Facilitator. Contact Kelly@kellyfdennis.com to reserve your space

Cost: $75.00

 

June 14, 2018

Families are Affected by PTSD, Too.

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Post Traumatic Stress, Well-being tagged , , , , , , , at 8:35 am by kellyfdennis

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Family members of a person with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) may experience the following:

Sympathy

You may feel sorry for your loved one’s suffering. This may help your loved one know that you sympathize with him or her. However, be careful that you are not treating him or her like a permanently disabled person. With help, he or she can feel better.

Negative feelings

PTSD can make someone seem like a different person. If you believe your family member no longer has the traits you loved, it may be hard to feel good about them. The best way to avoid negative feelings is to educate yourself about PTSD. Even if your loved one refuses treatment, you will probably benefit from some support.

Avoidance

Avoidance is one of the symptoms of PTSD. Those with PTSD avoid situations and reminders of their trauma. As a family member, you may be avoiding the same things as your loved one. Or, you may be afraid of his or her reaction to certain cues. One possible solution is to do some social activities, but let your family member stay home if he or she wishes. However, he or she might be so afraid for your safety that you also can’t go out. If so, seek professional help.

Depression

This is common among family members when the person with PTSD causes feelings of pain or loss. When PTSD lasts for a long time, you may begin to lose hope that your family will ever “get back to normal.”

Anger and guilt

If you feel responsible for your family member’s happiness, you might feel guilty when you can’t make a difference. You could also be angry if he or she can’t keep a job or drinks too much, or because he or she is angry or irritable. You and your loved one must get past this anger and guilt by understanding that the feelings are no one’s fault.

Health problems

Everyone’s bad habits, such as drinking, smoking, and not exercising, can get worse when trying to cope with their family member’s PTSD symptoms. You may also develop other health problems when you’re constantly worried, angry, or depressed.

Summary

Family members may feel hurt, alienated, or discouraged because your loved one has not been able to overcome the effects of the trauma. Family members frequently devote themselves totally to those they care for and, in the process, neglect their own needs.

Social support is extremely important for preventing and helping with PTSD. It is important for family members to take care of themselves; both for their own good and to help the person dealing with PTSD. (posts.va.gov)

June 12, 2018

Coping with the Symptoms of PTSD

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Post Traumatic Stress, Well-being tagged , , , , , , at 8:15 am by kellyfdennis

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Here are some direct ways to cope with these specific PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) symptoms, your doctor or therapist will help you with these:(ptsd.va.gov)

Unwanted distressing memories, images, or thoughts

  • Remind yourself that they are just that, memories.
  • Remind yourself that it’s natural to have some memories of the trauma(s).
  • Talk about them to someone you trust.
  • Remember that, although reminders of trauma can feel overwhelming, they often lessen with time.

Sudden feelings of anxiety or panic

Traumatic stress reactions often include feeling your heart pounding and feeling lightheaded or spacey. This is usually caused by rapid breathing. If this happens, remember that:

  • These reactions are not dangerous. If you had them while exercising, they most likely would not worry you.
  • These feelings often come with scary thoughts that are not true. For example, you may think, “I’m going to die,” “I’m having a heart attack,” or “I will lose control.” It is the scary thoughts that make these reactions so upsetting.
  • Slowing down your breathing may help.
  • The sensations will pass soon and then you can go on with what you were doing.

Each time you respond in these positive ways to your anxiety or panic, you will be working toward making it happen less often. Practice will make it easier to cope.

Feeling like the trauma is happening again (flashbacks)

  • Keep your eyes open. Look around you and notice where you are.
  • Talk to yourself. Remind yourself where you are, what year you’re in, and that you are safe. The trauma happened in the past, and you are in the present.
  • Get up and move around. Have a drink of water and wash your hands.
  • Call someone you trust and tell them what is happening.
  • Remind yourself that this is a common response after trauma.
  • Tell your counselor or doctor about the flashback(s).

Dreams and nightmares related to the trauma

  • If you wake up from a nightmare in a panic, remind yourself that you are reacting to a dream. Having the dream is why you are in a panic, not because there is real danger now.
  • You may want to get up out of bed, regroup, and orient yourself to the here and now.
  • Engage in a pleasant, calming activity. For example, listen to some soothing music.
  • Talk to someone if possible.
  • Talk to your doctor about your nightmares. Certain medicines can be helpful.

Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Keep to a regular bedtime schedule.
  • Avoid heavy exercise for the few hours just before going to bed.
  • Avoid using your sleeping area for anything other than sleeping or sex.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. These harm your ability to sleep.
  • Do not lie in bed thinking or worrying. Get up and enjoy something soothing or pleasant. Read a calming book, drink a glass of warm milk or herbal tea, or do a quiet hobby.

Irritability, anger, and rage

  • Take a time out to cool off or think things over. Walk away from the situation.
  • Get in the habit of exercise daily. Exercise reduces body tension and relieves stress.
  • Remember that staying angry doesn’t work. It actually increases your stress and can cause health problems.
  • Talk to your counselor or doctor about your anger. Take classes in how to manage anger.
  • If you blow up at family members or friends, find time as soon as you can to talk to them about it. Let them know how you feel and what you are doing to cope with your reactions.

Difficulty concentrating or staying focused

  • Slow down. Give yourself time to focus on what it is you need to learn or do.
  • Write things down. Making “to do” lists may be helpful.
  • Break tasks down into small do-able chunks.
  • Plan a realistic number of events or tasks for each day.
  • You may be depressed. Many people who are depressed have trouble concentrating. Again, this is something you can discuss with your counselor, doctor, or someone close to you.

Trouble feeling or expressing positive emotions

  • Remember that this is a common reaction to trauma. You are not doing this on purpose. You should not feel guilty for something you do not want to happen and cannot control.
  • Make sure to keep taking part in activities that you enjoy or used to enjoy. Even if you don’t think you will enjoy something, once you get into it, you may well start having feelings of pleasure.
  • Take steps to let your loved ones know that you care. You can express your caring in little ways: write a card, leave a small gift, or phone someone and say hello.

June 10, 2018

Managing PTSD Symptoms

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Mindfulness, Post Traumatic Stress, Well-being tagged , , , , , at 8:05 am by kellyfdennis

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Practice relaxation methods

Try some different ways to relax, including:

  • Muscle relaxation exercises
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Swimming, stretching, yoga
  • Prayer
  • Listening to quiet music
  • Spending time in nature

While relaxation techniques can be helpful, in a few people they can sometimes increase distress at first. This can happen when you focus attention on disturbing physical sensations and you reduce contact with the outside world. Most often, continuing with relaxation in small amounts that you can handle will help reduce negative reactions. You may want to try mixing relaxation in with music, walking, or other activities.

Distract yourself with positive activities

Pleasant recreational or work activities help distract a person from his or her memories and reactions. For example, art has been a way for many trauma survivors to express their feelings in a positive, creative way. Pleasant activities can improve your mood, limit the harm caused by PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and help you rebuild your life.

Talking to your doctor or a counselor about trauma and PTSD

Part of taking care of yourself means using the helping resources around you. If efforts at coping don’t seem to work, you may become fearful or depressed. If your PTSD symptoms don’t begin to go away or get worse over time, it is important to reach out and call a counselor who can help turn things around. Your family doctor can also refer you to a specialist who can treat PTSD. Talk to your doctor about your trauma and your PTSD symptoms. That way, he or she can take care of your health better.

Many with PTSD have found treatment with medicines to be helpful for some symptoms. By taking medicines, some survivors of trauma are able to improve their sleep, anxiety, irritability, and anger. It can also reduce urges to drink or use drugs. However, benzodiazepines are not recommended. (ptsd.va.gov)

June 8, 2018

Self Screen for PTSD

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Post Traumatic Stress, Well-being tagged , , , , at 8:18 am by kellyfdennis

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A screen is a brief set of questions to tell you if it is likely you might have PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Below is the Primary Care PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, or the PC-PTSD-5 screen.

Sometimes things happen to people that are unusually or especially frightening, horrible, or traumatic. For example:

  • a serious accident or fire
  • a physical or sexual assault or abuse
  • an earthquake or flood
  • a war
  • seeing someone be killed or seriously injured
  • having a loved one die through homicide or suicide

Have you ever experienced this kind of event? YES / NO
If no, screen total = 0. Please stop here.

If yes, please answer the questions below:
In the past month, have you …

  • had nightmares about the event(s) or thought about the event(s) when you did not want to? YES / NO
  • tried hard not to think about the event(s) or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event(s)? YES / NO
  • been constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled? YES / NO
  • felt numb or detached from people, activities, or your surroundings? YES / NO
  • felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the event(s) or any problems the event(s) may have caused? YES / NO

If you answer “yes” to any three items (items 1 to 5 above), you should talk to a mental health care provider to learn more about PTSD and PTSD treatment.

Answering “yes” to 3 or more questions on the PC-PTSD-5 does not mean you have PTSD. Only a mental health care provider can tell you for sure. And, if you do not answer “yes” to 3 or more questions, you may still want to talk to a mental health care provider. If you have symptoms that last following a trauma, treatment can help – whether or not you have PTSD. (ptsd.va.gov)

June 6, 2018

Symptoms of PTSD

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Post Traumatic Stress, Well-being tagged , , , , at 8:14 am by kellyfdennis

 

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  • Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  • Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
  • Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.) (ptsd.va.gov)

 

June 4, 2018

Development of PTSD

Posted in cognitive behavioral therapy, Post Traumatic Stress, Well-being tagged , , , , , at 8:12 am by kellyfdennis

What factors affect who develops PTSD? (ptsd.va.gov)

PTSD can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of weakness. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.

Personal factors, like previous traumatic exposure, age, and gender, can affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event is also important. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD. If this is happening for you, it is important that you seek out help. Professional counseling is available and recovery is possible!

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