Not every woman loves pink

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The past couple of weeks have been rough. I lost someone in my personal circle to breast cancer, another in my professional circle, and learned a dear friend was recently diagnosed. As a woman and as a psychotherapist who works in Alpharetta with women affected by breast cancer, I am certainly familiar with October - Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM).  Walks for breast cancer research, pink ribbons for survivors, flyers, handouts, and articles encouraging women to pay attention to breast health and get mammograms.  All of which are positive, helpful and encouraging.  Many survivors find strength in pink ribbons and becoming part of the cause can be a way to help process and make sense of their experience.

 For others who have had breast cancer, are currently in treatment, or who have been diagnosed with metastatic disease (stage IV/advanced), October and pink ribbons can trigger a waterfall of emotions including tears, frustration and even anger.  The emotional cost of breast cancer can weigh heavily on survivors and BCAM can be a painful reminder of the trauma they’ve experienced and all they’ve lost, bringing attention to a time of their lives they’re trying desperately to forget.

And then there are the women with advanced cancer.  Some had cancer that was detected early and over the years, after holding tight to the label “survivor,” discovered their cancer returned.  Others, who even after yearly mammograms and good health, had the shattering diagnosis of stage IV cancer without warning.

For me, this is a month of humility, as I am reminded of the friends, family, clients and group members who have passed away or who are thriving in spite of this disease.  I am in awe of their grace and vulnerability as they desire to have just one day, one hour or even one moment of the innocence of ‘just needing a routine mammogram’ or not having the “cancer” label. Many feel and look well, maintaining a treatment course that keeps everything stable while keeping the secret of their diagnosis and side effects for years from all but a close few.

So this month, as you think about pink ribbons, self-exams, and routine mammograms for prevention, be sensitive that not all women affected by breast cancer embrace pink.  That doesn’t mean they are against BCAM, are “Negative Nellies,” or aren’t grateful for all that awareness has brought to the cause. They are immensely grateful and hope that the pink cause helps even one person to avoid what they have been through. It may just be they’d like to feel normal for a minute and forget that pink applies to them. Whatever their feelings, I feel honored to be part of their journey.

Karen Whitehead is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Clinical Hypnotherapist helping women, their families and caregivers sleep better, reduce anxiety and be more than their diagnosis.

Caregivers: Top 10 Quick Ways to Slow Down and Take Care of Yourself

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You’ve heard it before, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else. 

What does that mean exactly?  If you tend to put others’ needs before your own and you’re running around for everyone else feeling overwhelmed and anxious, who is taking care of you? If the answer is no one,  you’re at risk for burning out. 

While most caregivers will likely have periods when it really is necessary to put yourself on the back burner for a minute, weaving in some quick self-care throughout the day or taking advantage of the occasional hour for yourself can help you sustain your caregiving role without feeling resentful. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune taking a spa day.

Here are 10 ways to nurture yourself in a hurry - each takes only a few minutes.

  1. Make yourself a healthy snack and leave it in the fridge or your bag for when you need to grab something on the run.
  2. Put on something in the morning that makes you feel good about yourself – a favorite pair of shoes, a cute top or maybe a little makeup. Wearing yoga pants or looking sloppy has an impact on your mood.
  3. Be mindful when you’re driving by taking a new route and paying attention to your surroundings.  Look for 5 new things you haven’t noticed before.
  4. In Alpharetta and the rest of the state of Georgia we have a new hands free law.  Instead of trying to figure out how to voice text or call while you’re in and out of your car running errands, put on some music you like, crank it up and sing (Yes! Out loud!)
  5. Pick up a trial size new hand lotion, face mask or scrub while you’re running through Walmart or Target, then try it before bed or in the middle of the day if you’re feeling indulgent!
  6. Light a candle in your favorite scent and breathe deeply for 1 minute.
  7. Hug your favorite _______ (spouse, partner, child, dog, etc.)  Take a minute to really give a good hug and them and show them you’re happy to see them.
  8. If you’re having to make a lot of calls and find yourself on hold a lot, keep a mindful coloring book near you and some colored pencils.  Instead of being irritated that you’re on hold again, spend a few minutes coloring, it’ll make the time go by more quickly. (If coloring isn’t your thing, substitute a puzzle, doodling – you get the point)
  9. Every time you get a drink of water or use the bathroom, take 5 seconds to check in with yourself. Do you need to breathe deeply, eat, drink, or pee?  If so, tend to that!
  10. Put something on the calendar to look forward to – it can be personal, professional, spiritual, or social as long as it is something that gets you excited when you think about it.

Doing at least one of these things each day can help ground and balance you, lower your stress, and help you think more clearly. 

Then when you get a free hour (or day) you’re not in self-rescue mode and can really slow down and spend the time doing something you enjoy! Not sure if you need to slow down?  Check out my blog post Caregivers: Do you need to slow down?

For more ways to care for the caregiver, contact me for a free 15 min consultation at 678-827-2111.

 

 

Karen Whitehead, MS. LCSW

Karen Whitehead, MS, LCSW specializes in helping overwhelmed and anxious adults and caregivers with stress, cancer or chronic illness reduce anxiety, sleep better, and enjoy life. Serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Cumming, Dunwoody and greater Atlanta.

Caregivers: Do You Need to Slow Down?

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Do you ever have a day off that you think is going to be well-balanced and manageable only to get to the afternoon and realize you haven’t eaten, you’re having a hard time holding back tears, and you just want the day to end?

Bad days happen, especially for caregivers. 

When you’re caregiving for an aging parent or an ill partner or child, or you’re just spread too thin with all of your responsibilities, your expectations can be painfully out of whack when you get some open time in your schedule. 

If a free day (or hour!) presents itself, the tendency can be to overschedule to catch up on a bunch of tasks or appointments that you never get to on your to do list. 

Unfortunately, this often backfires leaving you exhausted, unfocused, hangry, and anxious

What is it like to think about getting off the hamster wheel for a minute?

Does your guilt start to creep in and get louder and louder until you give in to what you think you SHOULD do for everyone else?  Do you even remember what it’s like to slow down?

Slowing down can be challenging, scary, and filled with self-criticism.

For women who are overwhelmed with responsibilities, taking even an hour to slow down and do something you enjoy can be challenging.  Lunch with a friend, a walk, or a mani/pedi can feel rushed and guilt ridden if you don’t buy into the idea that you need it. Slowing down can be scary if you focus on what happens if all the balls you’re juggling begin to fall. 

And what about that voice in your head that tells you you’re needy or selfish for taking time to yourself? 

In the moment, we convince ourselves these are all good reasons to avoid paying attention to our own needs.  The problem is, it’s not sustainable.  The balls start to fall, your own emotional and physical health may suffer, or you’ll continue doing 1000 things, but none of them well.

How do you know if you need to set aside time to slow down?

  • Your to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer and everything on it is for someone else
  • You’re exhausted and not sleeping well because of everything you have to do
  • You’re irritable and cranky and never seem to sit down and relax
  • You miss out on spending time with people you love and enjoy because you’re too busy
  • You’re afraid if you slow down everything will fall apart
  • You think you should be able to do it all

Need some ideas for self-care when you're in a hurry, watch for my next blog, Caregivers: Top 10 Quick Ways to Slow Down and Take Care of Yourself.  If you ready to get off the hamster wheel and figure out how to take care of yourself AND everything you have on your plate, contact me for a free phone consultation, 678-827-2111.

Karen Whitehead, MS. LCSW

Karen Whitehead, MS, LCSW specializes in helping overwhelmed and anxious adults and caregivers with stress, cancer or chronic illness reduce anxiety, sleep better, and enjoy life. Serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Cumming, Dunwoody and greater Atlanta.

Top questions to ask a new therapist or counselor in Alpharetta

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It's the middle of the night and you've decided what you're doing to cope with feeling overwhelmed and anxious isn't working. You know it's time to find a therapist or counselor in Alpharetta and you've taken steps to look for possible therapists in your area, now what?

If you’ve found a couple of therapists you’re considering, here are some questions to ask to help you narrow it down.

Specialty

  • Does the therapist or counselor specialize in your concern or challenge? All therapists and counselors have had basic training in a broad range of mental health issues, but like most professions, one may have more training or interest in an area more than others.  What if you have significant anxiety about cancer recurrence when you go for your annual oncologist appointment? Or maybe you’re stressed and overwhelmed because you’re part of the sandwich generation caring for an aging parent while you’re still driving your kids everywhere. Would it be helpful to work with someone who gets it?
  • Sharing your situation with a potential therapist or counselor can help you both decide if it’s a good fit.

Location

  • Where is the office? Is it in Alpharetta close to work or home? Or is it further away in Norcross, Brookhaven, Cumming, or Atlanta? 

Availability

  • What appointment times are available?  Do you need mornings or early afternoon before the kids get home from school, or do you need a lunchtime or after work appointment?

Frequency

  • How often does the therapist typically see people and for how long? Weekly therapy often helps clients and therapists connect more quickly and get down to work so you can feel better sooner and not be in therapy forever.  Spacing out sessions every 2-4 weeks might work better for your time and budget, but sessions become more of a check in to catch up, rather than working on the deeper issues that are keeping you from feeling better.  People who see a therapist sporadically are often in therapy longer than people who invest in weekly sessions.

Finances

  • Therapy is an investment.  Are you able to self-pay or do you need someone who takes your insurance?  Would you consider using out of network benefits for the right person? Think about how much you are willing and able to invest in yourself each week and for what period of time to feel better.  

Prioritize

  • How much will you stretch for the right fit?  Is it worth the money and distance to invest in yourself and have a therapist who “gets it” and has helped others with similar issues?

Therapists and counselors want to help you find the right person for you.  Don't be afraid to ask questions and consider multiple options.  This is an investment in yourself and finding the right person is important.  If you need more support, feel free to call me at 678-827-2111 for a free 15 minute consultation.  I’d be happy to listen, answer your questions and help you find the right person.  If you are looking for someone to help you with anxiety, cancer, chronic illness or caregiving, you can read more about me on my website, www.karenwhiteheadcounseling.com.

 

 

 

Karen Whitehead, MS. LCSW

Karen Whitehead, MS, LCSW specializes in helping overwhelmed and anxious adults and caregivers with stress, cancer or chronic illness reduce anxiety, sleep better, and enjoy life. Serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Cumming, Dunwoody and greater Atlanta.

How to find a therapist or counselor in Alpharetta?

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When you decide you’re ready to engage in therapy or counseling, it can be so confusing - In Alpharetta, Cumming, Johns Creek, Norcross, and greater Atlanta there are therapists, social workers, counselors, psychotherapists, marriage and family therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists.

What do all the letters mean (PsyD, MD, LMSW, LCSW, LPC, LMFT)?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD) who evaluate, diagnose and treat mental illness and can prescribe psychiatric medications.  There are some that also provide talk therapy, but because appointments are typically spaced out in weeks or months, it’s a good idea to have a therapist or counselor as well.

Psychologists (PsyD), Licensed Social Workers (LMSW/LCSW), Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) can all evaluate and treat mental illness, provide talk therapy, support and feedback, and teach coping strategies such as mindfulness.  Therapy/therapist, counseling/counselor, and psychotherapy/psychotherapist are general terms used by licensed professionals that may indicate their style or approach.

The biggest difference comes in the approach. 

Therapy may be short or long term, focused on a remedying a particular issue or concern such as anxiety, grief or family challenges, involve past history and relationships with your family or friends, identify patterns of thinking, and/or take into account your environment, relationships, and circumstances.

Generally speaking, many people use counseling/counselor and therapy/therapist interchangeably so it’s important to ask any prospective clinician about his/her practice and approach to determine if it is a good fit.

How do I find someone in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, or Norcross? 
It’s a little like dating!

  • Think about the demographics – would you be more comfortable talking to a man or a woman, someone older, younger, or about the same age as you are?  Is it important to have some who shares the same race or ethnicity? Do you want someone who practices from a certain religious perspective?
  • Check with family, friends, and trusted providers in the Alpharetta area to see if there is anyone they recommend.
  • Use Psychology Today, Good Therapy, and Google to search your area and identify possible therapists and counselors who fit your criteria.  
  • Check out clinicians’ websites, pictures, professional Facebook pages, etc.  Do they look friendly, like someone you can talk to?  Do you connect with their website or posts?
  • Many therapists and counselors offer free brief consultations – take advantage of this.  If you have a phone conversation, how does it feel?  Did the person listen and help you to feel at ease?

It’s normal to feel a little anxious and uneasy about calling a therapist for the first time.

Keep in mind, the therapist or counselor wants you to find the help you need whether it is with them or not.  They may ask you some questions such as: what prompted you to call or how long have you had panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or feelings of being overwhelmed.

If it feels like a good fit on the phone, schedule a session.  If you don’t feel a connection, let the therapist know.  He/she can help you find someone to meet your needs.

If you're wondering if you need a therapist or counselor in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, or Norcross check out this blog. In my next blog I’ll share some questions to ask a potential counselor or therapist in the Alpharetta area.

If you’re interested in learning more about whether I might be a good fit for you, please contact me at 678-827-2111 for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

Karen Whitehead, MS. LCSW

Karen Whitehead, MS, LCSW specializes in helping overwhelmed and anxious adults and caregivers with stress, cancer or chronic illness reduce anxiety, sleep better, and enjoy life. Serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Cumming, Dunwoody and greater Atlanta.

How do you know if you need a therapist or counselor in Alpharetta, Johns Creek or Norcross?

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Have you been to downtown Alpharetta lately? 

Wow!  You may be longing for better weather when you can browse the new shops at Avalon, sample some fresh produce at the Alpharetta Farmer’s Market, or enjoy a meal at one of the new restaurants on Main Street. 

Living in this beautiful, upscale area doesn’t mean life is easy. 

In fact, you may find that your struggles are amplified when you see all the “perfect” people around you. 

Or, you may not get out much because:

  • You’re stressed all the time
  • You have too much to do
  • You aren’t sleeping well
  • It seems all you do is drive your kids from one place to another
  • Your aging parents are requiring more attention
  • You’re dealing with cancer or a chronic illness or caregiving for someone who is

Deciding it’s time to start therapy or counseling often starts with trying to find a quick fix.  Maybe you’ve talked to friends, read self-help articles or books, searched online in the middle of the night for ways to cope with being so overwhelmed and tired, or tried one of the many meditation or mindfulness apps because you heard that could help,

BUT…. you’re still not feeling better.

Or maybe you don’t have any idea what to do to get out of your funk or you’re on edge, snarky and irritable, and not sure how you’re going to take care of everything you need to do. 

If you’re at a point where you feel you can’t add another thing to your plate, meeting with a therapist can help. 

In under an hour a week, you can gain some perspective, support, tools, and strategies to lighten your load and cope with the crap life keeps throwing your way. 

Finding the right support can make all the difference.

I hope this is helpful as you think about whether it’s time to find a therapist or counselor in Alpharetta, Johns Creek, or Norcross.  If you’re ready to take the next step, call me at 678-827-2111 for a free 15 minute consultation.  I’d be happy to listen and help you find the right therapist for your needs.  If you are looking for someone to help you with anxiety, cancer, chronic illness or caregiving you can read more about me on my website, www.karenwhiteheadcounseling.com.

Watch for my next blog to learn How to Find a Therapist in Alpharetta.

 

 

Karen Whitehead, MS. LCSW

Karen Whitehead, MS, LCSW specializes in helping overwhelmed and anxious adults and caregivers with stress, cancer or chronic illness reduce anxiety, sleep better, and enjoy life. Serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Cumming, Dunwoody and greater Atlanta.