A Calm Culture

A Calm Culture

This is the first post in a series about anxiety. Taking solution focused mindset, it will focus on the positive: being calm instead on the negative: being anxious. 

There is a notable rise in the mental health field of people seeking treatment for anxiety and anxiety related disorders. So much so that I believe it is fair to say that we are becoming an anxious culture. Think about words related to anxiety: keyed up, up tight, worried, stressed, tense, high pressure, constant. Are these not words that could describe an 21st century lifestyle? 

We are bombarded with things seeking our attention, things to decide to do or not do, things to learn about or ignore. There is always something to do, see, read, or watch. All of this noise has takes it toll. For many people, the constant nature of our culture, along with other factors, results in anxiety issues.

So lets flip the coin and focus on the goal. The opposite of anxious is calm: relaxed, mellow, peaceful, at ease. We need a grassroots effort to reclaim ourselves and our families for an anxious culture by creating places of calm and rest. We have to make effort to calm and relaxed because the natural flow of life is toward tension and stress. 

What does it look like practically? When was the last time you did this or what would it be like if you:
 — Sat in your car for 2 minutes before you get out – no radio, no phone, just sat.
 — Went outside and listened to every noise you hear. Its astounding what we tune out.
 — Stayed seated when you hear your text alert go off.
 — Reserved some time on your weekend to have no plans, nothing particular to do.
 — Visited someone you love just to hang out.

If as individuals we can start pushing back on our anxious culture, then we will start to see a bigger shift. More to come on how to create calm for yourself and your house. 


Texting: A Modern Pitfall for Relationships

“what are you up to?”


“how was your day?”


“what are you doing later?”

    “no plans” 

“are you mad at me?”…

As we become a more technology based society, our relationships are scrambling to catch up with “how to” rules and norms. We haven’t gotten it all figured out yet. I frequently see examples of where texting makes relationships more confusing. 

There is a new phase of a relationships. Before dating or talking, there is texting. You and your new interest begin a texting relationship where you have a continuous dialogue throughout the day. Supposedly, this is a low-key way to get to know someone. However, think about what you do: you only send the your best thoughts, you carefully edit yourself, you think about your response received before hitting send, you time your reply to seem interested but not too available. We present a carefully choreographed version of ourselves. Its safe to assume that the other person is doing the same thing. Then after a few dates, you might start to get the added curve ball that the text and real life version of your new interest don’t line up.

The solution: Texting as a primary means of communication earlier in a relationship isn’t inherently a bad thing. You just have to know the game. Know that texting doesn’t substitute for getting to know someone in person. If you do detect a difference between texting and in-person, likely the in-person is most accurate.  Know that by texting throughout the day, you are letting someone in your life. Be sure that you want to invest yourself in this way.  

New Relationships. 
Likely through the texting phase, you have developed expectations that you or your partner should respond to a text in a certain amount of time. Maybe 5 minutes, within the hour, whatever has become your norm. However, the truth is that we make ourselves very available at the start of a relationship and for most people this level isn’t sustainable indefinitely. Later when someone doesn’t text back in their normal time, its interpreted as a problem: she is losing interest, he is mad at me, she didn’t like what I just said. 

The solution: Consider more than one explanation. The above options might be true or it might be much more benign. Don’t come to a conclusion about the other person’s intentions based on few texts. 

Established Relationship. 
Now enters the dreaded texting fights. The main problem with texting to address an issue is that you have eliminated 80% of your information. (Communication is 80% non-verbal and 20% verbal).  Over text, we do a LOT more interpreting than we do in person and we are less likely to question our interpretation because you don’t get that in-person feedback. Also, we are often a little braver when we don’t have to deal with people’s reaction face to face. So you might not restrain yourself via text in the way you would in person. Add to all that, when the fight is over you have a digital copy of all the regrettable things that each other said to pull back up at a later date. 

The solution: (for lack of better words) DON’T DO IT. If find yourself fighting over text, stop and call or plan to talk face to face. Many people are more comfortable addressing problems over text and not face-to-face but for a relationship to work long-term, you have to be able to deal with conflict in person. 

I don’t want to give the impression that texting is completely negative for relationships. Because of texting, you can share the little parts of your day that you wouldn’t normally call to share or can still communicate when both of you aren’t available at the same time. The main point is know the boundaries and potential pitfalls of this type of communication. 


Finding the Right Therapist for You

Finding the Right Therapist for You

You decided its time to talk to someone and now you have to find that person. You might start with googling “therapist okc”, asking some friends, or getting names from you insurance company. But how do you choose? 

In my first phone conversation with people, they often say that they don’t know what to do or what to ask. If I were looking for a therapist or helping someone find a therapist, here are some things that I would do.

First, know that not all therapists work the same. If you need a doctor for a sinus infection, your treatment should be pretty standard no matter what doctor you chose. If you need a therapist for anxiety, your treatment could be very different depending on whom you chose. 

Generally, your mental health providers include:

  • psychiatrists – medical doctors who prescribe medication and most likely not do talk-therapy
  • psychologists – PhDs who focus on assessment and diagnosis of mental health issues and may provide some direct treatment or more likely will refer you to different treatment options
  • therapists/counselors – master’s level clinicians with differing areas of training and treatment approaches 
    • LMFT – licensed marriage and family therapist
    • LPC – licensed professional counselor
    • LCSW – licensed clinician social worker
    • LADC – licensed drug and alcohol counselor
Now some questions to ask a potential therapist on the phone or in your first session: 
  • Do you have experience treating this issue?
  • What is your typical approach to this problem?
  • How long would you estimate treatment to last?
  • Are you comfortable working with specific issues of my faith, culture, etc.?
  • Ask any question that you think may be important. 
These answers will hopefully help you start to determine if a therapist is a good fit for you. If on the phone or after one or two sessions, you are not feeling comfortable or something isn’t working well, raise the issue with your therapist. A good therapist will be very open to hearing your concerns and work to correct the issue. If the problem isn’t remedied, don’t stop therapy all together but feel free to find another therapist. 

Research on therapy has repeatedly shown that one of the biggest factors to positive change is the client-therapist relationship. How well you fit with your therapist is critical. When it works, you  feel comfortable, you believe that your therapist understands and knows how to help, and you can see positive changes happening or on the horizon. Don’t settle for anything less. 


**Side note for parents**. 
For teenagers: Often parents are in the situation of “dragging” a teenager to counseling. This is fine initially. Talk with your therapist about their approach to this situation. Often teens don’t want to come initially but can buy in after a few sessions. If the struggle continues, you might consider if it is a good fit or if there is more productive work you can do with the therapist to help your teen. 

For children. Therapy with children is very different from working with adults. To ensure that your child has a good experience with therapy choose someone who utilizes play approaches (i.e. child-centered play, story telling, games, puppets, drawing) as the main mode of treatment instead of just sitting and talking.

Tips for Parents on Media Coverage of the Tornadoes

Tips for Parents on Media Coverage of the Tornadoes

(information taken from a handout created by National Child Traumatic Stress Network, www.NCTSN.org.) 

While the media (television, radio, print and the internet) can help inform and educate you and your children during tornadoes, media coverage unfortunately also has the potential to upset and confuse. As parents, you can protect your children by helping them understand media coverage while limiting their exposure to distressing images.

The impact of media coverage will be different depending upon whether you are:

  • A family currently evacuated viewing for the first time your home or neighborhood
  • destroyed
  • A family who have loved ones in the affected area
  •  A family who has been affected by tornadoes in the past
  • A family not directly threatened who is viewing news about the impact that tornadoes are having on others (loss of their home, belongings, pets, school or church buildings)

Children and families who suffer loss in the tornadoes are the most vulnerable to negative effects from excessive media viewing.

Understanding Media Exposure

  • Media coverage can produce increased fears and anxiety in children.
  • The more time children spend watching coverage of the tornadoes, the more likely they are to have negative reactions.
  • Graphic images and news stories of loss may be particularly upsetting to children.
  • Very young children may not understand that the coverage and repetition of images from an earlier or past event is a replay. They may think the event is continuing to happen or is happening again.
  • Excessive exposure to the media coverage may interfere with children’s recovery after an event.

What Parents Can Do to Help

  • Limit Your Children’s Exposure to Media Coverage
    • The younger the child, the less exposure he/she should have.
    • You may choose to eliminate all exposure for very young children.
    • Play DVDs or videotapes of their favorite shows or movies instead.
    • Consider family activities away from television, radio, or internet.
  • Watch and Discuss with Children
    • Watch what they watch.
    • Discuss the news stories with them, asking about their thoughts and feelings about what they saw, read, or heard.
    • Ask older children and teens about what they have seen on the internet, in order to get a better sense of their thoughts, fears, concerns, and point-of-view.
  • Seize Opportunities for Communication
    • Use newsbreaks that interrupt family viewing, or internet or newspaper images as opportunities to open conversation. Be available to talk about their feelings, thoughts, and concerns, and reassure them of their safety and of plans to keep them safe, if needed, such as where to seek shelter during a tornado warning.
  • Clear Up Any Misunderstandings
    • Don’t presume you know what your children are thinking; ask if they are worried and discuss those worries with them, reassuring them as needed.
    • Ask questions to find out if your children are understanding the situation accurately; they may think they are at risk when they are not.
  • Monitor Adult Conversations
    • Watch what you and other adults say about the tornadoes or the media coverage in front of the children; children often listen when adults are unaware and may misconstrue what they hear.
  • Let Your Children Know about Successful Community Efforts
    • You may want to share positive media images, such as reports that families safely sheltered or stories of people or animals brought to safety.
    • Reassure your children that many people and organizations are working together to help the community. This will give them a sense that adults are actively taking steps to protect them, their home, their pets, and their neighborhood.
  • Educate Yourself
    • Learn about children’s common reactions to tornadoes or other natural disasters.
    • Know that many children are resilient and cope well, but some may have continuing difficulties. These reactions vary with age and exposure to the event.

When Your Family is Part of the Story

  •  Know Your Limits
    • Decide if it’s a good idea for you or your children to talk to the media. While it’s natural to want to tell your story, the media may not be the best place to do so.
    • Think about what you are willing and not willing to discuss. You have the right to set limits with reporters.
    • Ask the reporter for the purpose of the story and its content.
  • Protect Your Children
    • Make sure the reporter has had experience working with children in the past.
    • Talk it over with your children before they are interviewed. Assure them that there are no wrong answers.
    • Let them know they can say “no” to any question and they can stop the interview at any time.
    • Be present when your children are being interviewed. Stop the interview if they becomes upset or distressed in any way.
    • After the interview, discuss the experience with your children. Praise them for doing a great job and listen carefully to any concerns they have.
    • Prepare your children that the final media story may be very short or may be edited in ways that do not reflect their experience.

Further information about children, families, and tornadoes can be found at the website of the
National Child Traumatic Stress Network, www.NCTSN.org.

Promises from the Bible about Worry

Christians often struggle with the dual reality that the Bible calls on us not to worry yet they still have problems controlling their worry. I think the Bible talks about worry and fears because God knew that this would be a difficult issue. There are many ways to approach dealing with anxiety and one way I think can be helpful for believers to turn to scripture. To make it more helpful, you should expand beyond the verses that just tell us not to worry. I listed some verses (most are NASB translation) below and have a handout. If you would like a copy, email me at jennifer@familysolutionsok.com

You likely know the scriptures about not worrying.

“Don’t let your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Luke 12:22

And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Luke 12:35-26

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day 
has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

But it also helps to remember that God loves you and has promised to care for you.
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all! 2 Thessalonian 3:16

“I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

You drew near when I called on You; You said, “Do not fear!” Lamentations 3:57

…but the Father knows that you need these things. Luke 12: 30b

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:25-26

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Psalm 46:1-2

He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. Psalms 62:6

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

The Bible tells us that God will protect and help us in our times of worry and fear.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12: 9

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

If I should say, “My foot has slipped.” Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious inner thoughts becoming overwhelming, your comfort encourages me. Psalms 94:18 -19

You are promised that you will endure.
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James1:13

The Bible tells us how to cope with your worry. 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalms 34:4

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. Psalms 56:3

Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Hope these can help,

Relationship Triage: Step 3

Step 3: Bandaging Wounds

Now that you have identified a few core issues that have kept your conflicts spinning, the next step is working to resolve or manage these issues. The first step is to come together and talk about the core issues when you are not already upset, when you are both willing and ready and when you have both had time to think through it individually. If you can’t mean these prerequisites, you are most likely not ready to take this step. 

To help this conversation go as best as possible, plan for each of you to voice your side fully (although moderately concisely) but not to discuss what each other said. After you hear each other’s issues, part and give yourself time to think through what was said. Then, have a discussion about what to do about it. Be very intentional to stay on one issue at time. The conversation will get ship wrecked if you start stringing together all your issues and talking about everything at once.

The next step is harder to define. Hopefully, your conversation will help answer these questions: What do we do about these issues? How can I help that not happen anymore? What do I need to feel better about this issue? How do we keep this from happening in the future?

If you can’t get to these questions or you can’t find a good enough answer for it, then it might be time to seek help from a counselor. Having a trained, third party to help you identify and work through these issues will be a different experience that you trying to do it on your own.

Finally, remember that you both have been wounded. Even if your conversations have been more productive, you might not feel totally better or you might still be sensitive about the issue. You will likely need some positive experiences together to replenish your relationship. 


Relationship Triage: Step 2

Step 2: Assess the Damage

Once you can subdue the bleeding, step 2 is to assess the damage. When you are not dodging verbal daggers from one another, you have some space to start identifying the roots of the conflict.  If you are fighting about anything and everything, then you are not talking about the right thing. The task at hand is to get to core issues driving all these fights. Step 2 is only successful as an individual activity.  

Think about your recent fights and the things that bother you about your relationship or partner. You can surely make a list of problems and dislikes. These are likely not the core problem but rather a symptom of it. Getting to the core is one of the hardest parts . 

Ask yourself: What is it that continues to hurt me in the relationship? What is it that I react to the most strongly? Why does it bother me so much? What does your partner do that sends you through the roof and why do you believe they do that? What are the feelings or needs that are not getting met? What is it that you miss most about your relationship when it was better? 

These question hopefully will begin to point to a few core issues. You know you are getting close when you can capture most of what is wrong for you in a few phrases (ex:“I don’t feel cared about.” “I can’t ever please her.” “I don’t think you take my problems seriously.”)  If your list still has more than 3 things on it, consider revising. Are these things connected? Do what is the common thing that you think about when these things happen? How do you feel then these things happen? Are the answers similar?

Getting to the core of the issue is more of an art than a science. Your understanding of it will likely be fine-tuned as you go. If both partners can separately start to identify the core issues for them in the relationship, then you can start working on the core instead of fighting about the surface layer. 

A last tip: in thinking about how to phrase these to your partner, figure out a way to say it without starting with you don’t, you aren’t, etc. Start with yourself: I feel, I don’t like, I want.


Relationship Triage: Step 1

Step 1: Stop the Bleeding

The first step in first aid when someone is bleeding is to apply pressure to stop it. The first step when a couple is in continuous conflict is to stop the bleeding as well. Continuous negativity has one of the most toxic effects on relationship quality and satisfaction.  If your arguments leave you feeling like you have been in a boxing match, your relationship can not sustain through this for a long period of time without experiencing some steep consequences.

A first step is to agree as a couple to stop a fight when it starts to enter the point of no return. Establish a line of when an argument is productive and when it is harmful. Some examples of this line might be: shouting, name calling, making threats about leaving, tit-for-tat arguing (you did this…but you did…only because you…), bringing up the past, etc. The key isn’t where the line is drawn but that you both agree to hold the line. You must have this conversation when you are both calm and not in an argument. 

Stopping toxic fights can give your relationship the space and safety to reassess and heal.  Once you stop the bleeding, then you can assess the damage and work to repair it.


Our True Hope

Our True Hope

Whether it is personal struggles or national headlines, I believe we all have been grappling with the hard questions or life. Often, we can speed through life without considering these things but at times these questions can not be ignored. Why do bad things happen? Why did this happen to people who didn’t do anything wrong? Where did things go wrong? What could I have done to prevent it? Why did’n’t I see it coming? How do I make things right? How can I go on? Will it ever be okay again? 

Whatever answer we find, it is almost always feels incomplete. The explanation does not seem to equal the wrong or the hurt or the regret. As I sit with clients who work through these questions, I try to offer them hope. As a human, I can offer support, comfort and reassurance. Yet I am humbled because I know there are problems and questions beyond human understanding or explanation. I remind myself of the promise and answers found in Christmas.  

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold,
 I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people 
for today in the city of David there has been born for you 
a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  –Luke 2:10-11.  
During a season of national sadness, I am thankful we can celebrate the eternal hope of Christmas. Our Hope has already come and our rescue from earthly struggles is certain. We can claim the message the angel proclaimed to the shepherds centuries ago. Do not be afraid, salvation has arrived through the “baby wrapped in cloths and laying in the manager” (Luke 2:12). 

In this life, there will be trouble, heart ache, regret, guilt, loss and pain but the birth of Jesus brought the everlasting salvation from this life. 

Helping Kids Regulate Emotions: Learn through Doing

Helping Kids Regulate Emotions: Learning through Doing

I had a conversation recently with someone who is a childcare provider. She was telling me how she does not believe in making a child say sorry to another child when they have done something wrong.  The reasoning was the child is typically not sorry and the other child knows that so the apology doesn’t do very much for either party. I can’t argue with idea that the child is often not remorseful. Likely, he feels justified in his actions. What I believe was overlooked in this rationale was that children learn through doing.  

We don’t naturally think about other’s feelings, consider how others could feel differently than we do, or how our actions might have hurt others. A majority of empathy is learned. I believe it takes practice to learn to have empathy when we are upset.  Going through the steps helps us learn what we ought to do even when we do not feel like it. 

Saying sorry, accepting an apology, telling someone what you did wrong and how you hurt them are skills that we need to be successful in most relationships – family, friends, romantic partners. Although the forced sorry doesn’t produce results now, the hope is that it plants seeds and patterns that children will build upon as they grow up.