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Routine and  Intention for the New School Year by Amber Cox

Let me paint you a picture:

It’s morning, I’m running frantically around throwing any spiral/homework paper/anything I can see my daughter may need into her backpack while screaming “We are going to be late!”  I’ve grabbed a bowl of Chex, a cup of OJ with a lid, and my daughter’s vitamins.  All of which she eats in the car on the way to school. Of course, my breakfast consists of black coffee.  I’m distracted as I’m driving her to school.  How many tardies is this now? What else did I forget? When am I going to make it to the bank? Insert another million questions.  I frantically rush her into school where she walks in and everyone else is already sitting and prepared for class.  And then I dart 5 minutes late into work where I hurl the whirlwind of chaos that I am upon my coworkers.  You can imagine how the rest of the day goes.

Let me clarify this was not every day.  There were a few days where just a few parts of this were true.  As school is upon is, I start to fret and question “Have I set my child up for success this year?”

         The answer easily is NO. While we’ve been running around trying to squeeze in every last ounce of fun possible, we have had zero conversations about what she is hoping to accomplish this year.  What are her goals? We haven’t prepared space or time for homework, morning routines, sleeping, and a million others.

When I think of my job as a parent to teach my child to be a successful grownup, part of this includes “how to” set yourself up to be successful.  Routines are the answer.  Many of us as parents live here because of all the opportunities, but these can make for jam-packed schedules. By the end of the school year, we are running an exhaustive marathon just trying to finish.  

As a result, I’ve made a list of questions to help prepare my daughter and I for organization and success this year.  I’ve created five mini sections with questions to ask yourself take one on each day with your children, so this is not another overwhelming task.  Then, the first weekend after school, you and your children can work together to maximize and create your routines for a successful start to the school year.  Some of these ideas will be second nature to many, but maybe not all.   

 Morning Routine – Create a chart they can put stickers on

1) Is it an expectation they will get themselves up?

2) How long does it take your child to get ready in the morning?  

3) Are they showering in the morning or at night?

4) What can they do the night before to make it easier to get out the door?

5) How long does it take you to get ready? 

6) Can you get ready while they get ready, or do you need to be ready before they wake up?

7) What breakfast is acceptable? 

8)  Vitamins/medications? 

Homework

1) Is there built in homework time? 

2) Where is the best spot for them to do homework?

3) Do they have all supplies easily accessible?

4) How are they going to remember their homework?

5) Would they benefit from a day planner?

6) When is the best time for them to do homework?

7) What is the teacher’s expectation of how long homework should take?

8) What happens with the free time after homework?

9) Is it a free fall, must they have something else done before screen time, is screen time allowed after school (if so how much?)

10) What snacks are acceptable and at what times?

11) Do they have chores? 

12) If they need a computer for their homework? Whose will they use? Where will it be? What are they allowed to look at? Should it be in a public area?

 Bedtime 

1) What time should my child go to bed?

2) There are great resources WebMD talks about how much sleep they need at a certain age

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/sleep-children#1

3) Good Housekeeping has a great chart for ages 5-12 based on what time you want your child to wake up

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/a34333/viral-bedtime-chart/

4) Should they pick out their clothes the night before?

5) Is their backpack packed?

6) Do they have all their sports, band, etc. packed for the next day?

If they are taking their lunch to school, can they pack it the night before?

 After School – Activities, Friends, Chores, Etc.

1) Chores- When are they doing them, what are they doing, and how much time are they spending on these chores? 

2) When will my child/I know that after school activities are taking over and their academics are suffering?  How will I know when this is happening?

3) How will we go about remedying this?

4) You might be asking why is this important the first week of school. And I will tell you, having a conversation about this sets everyone up for success.  There is nothing worse then being mid season in anything a sport, theatre, band and realize my kid’s grades are slipping.  These results in the thoughts of do we need to stop? Do I ground my child? Do I take away the extra curricular?  This creates awful anxiety producing conversations for the parent and child.  If it’s a discussion upfront, it’s still disappointing if we have to stop an extracurricular but at least this way it doesn’t come up out of nowhere, and we have a chance to be proactive.

5) Is your child responsible for doing their own laundry?

When is the machine free? Are we waiting till we have gone through every piece of clothes or is it every Wednesday or Sunday evening that works best.  

6) Is screen time allowed (TV, Video Games, IPAD)?  How much?

 Brainstorm with your kids:

1) Do they have a goal set for themselves for the year?

2) What is it?

3) How will they know when they’ve reached it?

4) How will you know if you’re starting to be overwhelmed?

5) What are some solutions before going to the extreme of cutting out extra curricular (ex: cut down screen time, extra 15 minutes of homework, should we talk to the teacher, do we need a tutor)?

6) As a parent, I have found the 45 minutes my daughter was in theatre as a great time to run errands (go to the bank, dry cleaners, grocery shopping) 

Success is not an overnight achievement; it is created through ongoing conversations exploring what works for your child.  It is a trial and error process. We are aiming to create language for them to empower themselves and learn the “how to” of problem solving to go on to be independent amazing adults.

Special Thanks to Kate Niles, Tay McNeely, and my Mom (Charly Tella) for your feedback and editing!

what is TRE? by Kate Niles

TRE stands for Tension, or Trauma, Releasing Exercises. Animals, unless they are in captivity and cannot escape, are really good at shaking off disaster. They may “go to ground” and look dead, with their breathing almost completely stopped. But as often happens in the wild, the predator is run off or distracted and the “dead” animal comes to life. It moves from near paralysis to deeper breathing to standing up and shaking their whole body (like a dog does) and running away. (There are oodles of You Tube videos of this phenomenon.)

When humans are similarly exposed to a situation that is perceived as life or death we tend instead to lock up and hold that trauma in our bodies for a long time. We don’t know how to shake it off. TRE was developed by Dr. David Barceli, who spent years in war torn countries doing humanitarian work. In a bomb shelter in Lebanon, he noticed how everyone crouched over in a universal wince when a bomb landed overhead. The kids cried and shook; the adults stayed stoic, perhaps to “look strong” for the kids. Unfortunately we pay a price for this locking up.

Our autonomic nervous system is responsible for our response to traumatic events. We go into fight or flight, or when that is impossible, some kind of freeze or limpness (remember the prey gone to ground). We can’t help this. Often victims of trauma blame themselves relentlessly for these responses but in fact their nervous systems are just doing what they should be – playing dead in hopes of later escape or resuscitation.

TRE exercises access autonomic responses to unlock long held trauma in muscles, fascia, and other tissue. Over time, a person does not even need the exercises to start shaking, and with practice their body returns to a pre-traumatized state. One can be watching TV and shake; in fact, turning the mind off from analysis while shaking is a good idea. However, in my experience, as we release long held stuff, we also sometimes release the emotional part of this. That is why, in my practice, I hope to combine TRE with my EMDR and other trauma protocols to effect more thorough and lasting change.

I came to TRE after 26 years of my own trauma work. I’d done everything and still had a “right side/left side” split in terms of feeling, and recurrent bouts of numbness, anger, and pain. TRE has radically altered this stuckness, and I have been able to move past deeper and deeper trauma into a place of peace.

I am currently finishing my training to get fully certified in TRE. I hope in the next 6 months or so to thoroughly integrate it into my practice. I am already using tidbits as I witness people go through EMDR (they almost inevitably re-enact the crouch position and when they start to sit up is usually when the relief starts to come in and re-integration of stuck parts takes place). Please let me know if this interests you!

~The Power of Community~

 I was invited to take at trip to Africa this past December with a mentor of mine, specifically to Kenya, which has been a childhood dream. My mentor advised that I would make lifelong friends while there and I dismissed his words and “thought I will only be there for a few weeks—I have enough friends here in Durango.”  

It turns out my wise mentor was right and once I opened to the connection with the people (not just the majestic wildlife) around me I learned life changing wisdom from them.

 I was sitting in the back of the bus having a conversation with two of these wise women who I will hold close to my heart forever. I believe the conversation was after we had visited Kibera while in Nairobi—that experience alone was life changing. People with very little, relative to what our standard of living is here in the states, invited us into their homes with welcome arms. Children without shoes had some of the most genuine, sweet smiles I have ever seen.

 I shared these observations with my (soon to be) “life-long-friends” and reflected on what that kind of openness and happiness looks like back home, in Durango.  As we talked they shared that when people make a meal—they make enough for, not just their families, but for their neighbors and anyone who may walk down the street hungry, because you never know when the last time they may have had one was.

They prepare enough for others even if that means they may not eat the following day.

 Again I reflected on back home— “Wow! The first thing I did when moving into our house was finish the one section of privacy fence that allowed us to walk out in the mornings and say hello to our neighbors.” This is really a common standard in our society, whether metaphorical or literal “How soon can I get my fence or wall built up high enough to separate and individuate?”

 As I look back on this conversation and my intention of not making “lifelong-friends,” this was my way of separating and individuating. And the moment I engaged in this conversation and shared my vulnerability, risked sounding like a stupid over privileged-American, my mentors warning of making “lifelong-friendships” began. This conversation will stick with me for the rest of my life.

 Since then I have taken heart to what the since of community was over in Kenya and what it is here in Durango. Our community members have experienced an alarmingly high rate of tragedy. Family members and friends loosing loved ones to death by suicide and the number is showing a trend to increase by the end of 2017 compared to last year. The Center For Disease Control lists La Plata County at number one in Colorado for deaths by suicide and Colorado is number four in the Nation.

 Many of my colleague’s, as well as family and friend have theorized the “whys” and one common theme I have heard,  and find to be true, is our general standard of community that perpetuates individuation. Of course there are many reasons for each individual’s wellbeing and breakdown of thriving. It was evident in the recent fire our community has an amazing ability to support and be compassionate for others after experiencing a tragedy. The remaining question is what is missing in preventative action—Community Action when looking at the high prevalence in our community such as suicide, substance use, the un-noticed or unreported feelings of depression, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, etc.? The resources in our community are outstanding, in quantity and quality, compared to other communities—so the question remains, “Why?”

 When I returned from Africa my view had shifted in many ways to a place of noticing how I participate in community and what I learned from my Kenyan friends and what I want to bring into my daily life to foster the cultural way of life I was enlightened to. As I read Besel Van Der Kolk’s book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” I was reminded of the philosophy of Ubuntu—a cultural value in Africa that sums up why people make meals for others at the the risk of not being able to eat the next day. Van Der Kolk asserts that Ubuntu means healing for one cannot happen without honoring commonalities with one another at the deep level of humanness.  

 The difficulty, and where people build “fences” is talking about the more difficult things in life. For example when at social settings and someone asks “how are you?” The expected response is “I am well, and you?” Commonly, conversations consist of success and achievement oriented discussion. Such as “What are your plans for the weekend?” Response “I’m hoping to get at least 30 miles in on my road bike!” These goals are commendable; however, often our achievements and success, our doing  can become our fence and prevent being with one another—prevent Ubuntu.

 When we are being with one another and not doing wellbeing is fostered. I have noticed when I or others practice being rather than doing, Ubuntu comes to fruition. When we can take down our “fences” and share struggles with those close to us and receive validation that grows the relationship. Often it is scary to share vulnerable things beyond our out-door adrenaline avid achievements—that’s one of the best parts of living in Durango right? And, the question is “does this act as a fence to block out what’s going on deeper?”

Whether starting deeper conversations with friends or having park bench conversations with a stranger this is a starting place. It is amazing to me to hear of people taking that first step of vulnerability and talk about something that is troubling them and often surprisingly come-to-find, whom they trusted enough to share with has a similar experience or has been through difficulties and can offer empathy—you really never know what is going on for the people around you until you go to that deeper level. This is the power of community—a way to assert your power in community action.  

If you or someone you know are in need of immediate assistance you can call 911 and request a CIT officer or below are 24-hour resources: 

Axis Health System:

970.247.5245

http://www.axishealthsystem.org

Crisis Text Line: Text 741-741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis. http://www.crisistextline.org

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/index.html

Lifeline Crisis Chat: Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention services

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Related Article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/a-river-of-lost-souls-runs-through-western-colorado/2016/11/03/154fd1a0-8651-11e6-a3ef-f35afb41797f_story.html?utm_term=.33e7284aec79

HAPPINESS for 2017?!

As 2017 rings in the new year, many are setting their new year affirmations and resolutions. Plenty of gym memberships, budgeting apps and activity planners are being tended to with vigor. Goals are being laid out to change what we want to improve, or perhaps to attend to work we’ve already done and want to maintain our results. 

Some goals to consider are mindful practices and social engagement in happiness. 

Yes, planned social engagements of happiness!

In the U.S., people are affected at a higher rate by anxiety as they are by headache or migraine (13%). In the US 18% of the population is affected by an anxiety related mental health disorder. Anxiety is developed through complex combination of risks in the biology, brain, personality and environment of a person. Anxiety increases doctor visits and increases the likelihood of being hospitalized for mental health issues. Mindful practices with a therapist can help decrease or eliminate these risks and issues. 

We can all agree the increase in mindfulness and mindful practice have become great resources for those experiencing anxiety, trauma, stress, or simply wanting to increase awareness. Mindful practices increase awareness so we can become aware of positive experience opportunities in our lives. Recognizing these positive experiences provide protective factors against the potentially negative effects of the chaos of modern societal pressures. Mindfulness powerfully concentrates our attention toward our focus and aspirations. Mindfulness increases happiness! Mindfulness is an individual self centered practice. While self is paramount important, this might be a great time to expand your practice of self awareness recognizing joy to others. 

So, about those “planned social engagements of happiness” I suggested in your resolutions? Well, happiness for an individual is known to be happiness for many when it is shared! Sharing experiences of joy and happiness exponentially increases positive effects for all those involved.  I’d like to invite you all to increase your happiness and share it! Intentionally share positive feelings with others. Share experiences of joy to increase the overall contentment and calm for your communities. From the community of family, to the community of work, and geographical communities. After 2016, we could all stand to be a part of increasing the overall well-being and contentment of all people with happiness.

**And if you have migraine, please call and let’s talk about EMDR Treatments for Headache and Migraine! Migraines can resolve in a single session!*

Joy to you all in 2017!

Gina MK Kramer

1)https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/

2)https://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

3)http://www.mindful.org/five-steps-to-mindfulness/

What to Expect During Your First Therapy Session

For someone who might not be used to sharing their problems with strangers, the first meeting with a therapist can be quite daunting. I remember my first therapy session was definitely intimidating. I had all sorts of thoughts going through my head about what to expect. I thought the therapist was going to judge me and after months of debilitating panic attacks I thought I was going crazy. My worries were unfounded. During my first session, the therapist and I just spent time getting to know each other. I also walked away with a few tools to help me start getting the anxiety under control.

Here are some things to expect for your first therapy session:

Why are you there?

During your first session, your therapist will ask what brings you to counseling. It’s helpful if you can write down some things beforehand to pinpoint what isn’t working in your life in the current moment. While some people may know exactly what the problem is, for others it’s not so easy. I had no idea what was causing my anxiety and panic attacks when I showed up to my first session. It took several more meetings to discover what had actually triggered me.

What is your background and current life like?

It’s helpful for your therapist to learn a little bit about your background. You don’t have to tell your whole life story during the first session (and there probably won’t be time if you’ve already lived a few decades), but if you come from an alcoholic, abusive background your therapist should know that. Likewise, if you’ve recently gone through a divorce or changed jobs, even if that might not the main reason you are there, it’s helpful for the therapist to know these things.

Are you experiencing any symptoms?

Your therapist will ask you during your first session if you are experiencing any current symptoms. This helps to target things to work on, as well as the possibility of needing medications.

How is your sleep? Are you able to enjoy activities that usually give you pleasure? Are you more fearful than usual?

With a checklist, your therapist can determine if you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or other issues.

Don’t let this scare you. Not everyone has a diagnosis and if there is one, it can be a blessing in disguise. Getting referred to a doctor and starting medications can be life changing.

There doesn’t have to be a crisis to see a therapist

One thing to remember is that your life doesn’t have to be in crisis to see a therapist. You may have a great life, but just need some help dealing with a difficult relationship or a hard challenge at work.

 Ask questions

 Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your therapist is a person just like you.

And, if you don’t like your therapist it’s ok to move on to another. I do encourage giving the therapist a second chance if the first meeting doesn’t go well. When I first met my current therapist, I didn’t care for her at all. However, the more I got to know her, I found out she was a deeply caring individual and very good at what she does.

 A personal confidante

 One great thing about having a therapist is that she is your confidante. Unlike some friends or family members, you don’t have to worry about your therapist telling other people your business. She’s not allowed. Unless what you tell her will endanger your life or the lives of others, you can be assured  what you say will not leave her office.

 It’s a process

The last thing to remember is that therapy is a process. All your life problems will not be solved in one hour. Commit to that process and slowly you will start noticing your life changing for the better.

Paula Bostrom has written for the International Bipolar Association and Tiny Buddha among other websites and publications.

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