Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Be the Tortoise

by Ted Crawford, LMFT
Employee Assistance Program, Pine Grove’s Outpatient Services

Many people welcome January with a full-body hug, as it means they’ve gotten through yet another holiday of drama and craziness. For others, the holidays are time for a little self-indulgence, and January gives notice that play time is over. Many will therefore start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. There’s something about the clean slate at the first of the year that compels us to attempt change. But someone said that resolutions are like babies…fun to make, but a struggle to maintain. Of course you know the rest of the story; what starts off as a genuine plan to improve your life falls flat before you can say, “I’ll have a salad.” Here’s an idea: forget the whole first-of-the-year kick to upgrade your life. Your body doesn’t keep track of the date anyway, it just knows that its arteries are hosting a bit more goo, its gut, thighs and caboose seem to be taking up more space, and its muscles have gotten used to doing anything but running in your running shoes. And by the way, it’s not all about looking good (yes, I just said that). Our mental, emotional and spiritual lives could use some attention too. And the mind, heart and soul are like the body; they couldn’t care less what time of year it is, they just want some healthy stimulation.

But just as a vehicle has to be in the slower first gear in order to transition into the faster second gear, the different parts of our being need the process of working their way up the scale of intensity. If you try to force them into abrupt change, don’t expect their full cooperation. Despite what we want to believe, decades of research (and our own personal experiences) show that this isn’t how most human beings operate. Several factors determine whether or not we can incorporate lasting change, so unless you’re The King or Queen of Transformation (which you are not, because neither of those guys read this article), read on as we address a few of these factors with the following tips.

1. Identify one change that you want to make. ONE. Trust me on this (you can always add more later).

2. Be specific. We have to know what reaching the goal looks like, and the more specific it is, the easier it is to envision. “Connecting more with loved ones” could mean a lot of things, but “Giving a weekly shout to my sister and nephews in Birmingham” means just that. Likewise, “reducing debt” is a great goal, but first pare it down to “paying off the credit card that carries the stupidest balance,” etc.

3. Start slooowly! It’s better to be the tortoise and not the hare. There is less stumbling this way. An hour of circuit training at the YMCA five times a week? It’s probably not going to happen right now. Try something like walking for 15 minutes, three times a week.

4. Expect some struggles/setbacks. So in a moment of weakness you smoke that cigarette, or maybe you’re in the kitchen late one night minding your own business and a gigantic brownie leaps into your mouth! It’s okay! These “relapses” are a normal part of any endeavor to improve, and if you freak out or beat up on yourself, it won’t help. Matter of fact, it’ll just cause a bigger, more complicated battle.

5. Try not to do it alone. I don’t mean that you have to get someone to adopt the same goal and do it with you (although that helps immensely), just that you should share your goals with someone else and get their support. Talk to them about your progress and struggles.

Recap: Unrealistic expectations will sabotage the most well-intentioned plan, so scale them down. As I said, you can always strengthen the demands on yourself later, after the initial ones have become habit. It’s not a race. Please take your time!

Have a great year (or start off with a “decent” year and work your way up).

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Pine Grove Treatment

Monday, December 14, 2015

Taming the Christmas Crazy

by Ted Crawford, LMFT
Employee Assistance Program, Pine Grove’s Outpatient Services

Well, it’s that time of the year folks. The money won’t spend itself, you know. Time to jingle-bell around jacking up your debt! Time to obsess over finding gifts that impress, stir up gratitude and make people like you! Also, time to procrastinate shopping for said gifts until it becomes a frantic chore. This could be the year that you, after a long day of Christmas errands, will spontaneously combust when the teenager at the service desk, who’s in absolutely no hurry, gives you the eye roll. Or maybe you’ll flame up while enjoying the efficiently smooth flow of Hardy Street/98 shopping traffic! OK, a little Grinchy… my point is that no one wants any part of the above this year. Most would like a Christmas in which they not only save a few bucks, but enjoy a more meaningful season also.

First, about your money; do the following and keep more of it:

1) Figure out what Christmas costs (in addition to the shopping, you have bigger utility bills, food/entertainment expenses, etc.) and plan ahead. Also, decide who’s been naughty or nice and set a reasonable limit on what you’ll spend on each person. Though difficult, make every effort to stay in budget! This really works best if it’s not a one-person project, by the way. So unless you’re single, do yourself and your relationship a favor and haggle this out with your spouse or partner (it may be a pain, but it’s cheaper to invest this energy up front, if you know what I mean).

2) Keep a running total of what you’ve spent. Awareness of this total can “sober” you into better decisions. Avoid buying on impulse, and don’t buy non-Christmas stuff that can wait until January.

3) Shop online first. At home in your underwear, click, click click… done! Can’t find what you need online? Before you venture out, call stores to check the item’s availability and cost. Depending on the size and busyness of the store, this could go either way on the stress meter, but retail clerks often think a ringing phone is some kind of emergency compared to the person in front of them who put clothes on and drove to the store. And, of course, phone calls can be made in your underwear too. Finding who has what you want at a decent price first, saves money, gas and time.

4) Choose gifts for kids/teens based on the value of how much they’ll actually be used. Play the movie forward in your head. Examples: That cute little Kung Fu Panda chair? C’mon, you know lil’ Boo-Boo can’t sit down for more than 3 seconds… move on! Closet Organizer for 15 y/o son? Think about it. Bedazzled pajama jeans? Really, Mom? Snap the rubber band on your wrist and back away slowly.

Now, about increasing the meaning of the holiday (and saving money):

1) Home-make your gifts (food/candy, knitting, woodworking, etc), i.e. make your internal gifts, into a gift and give them a piece of you.

2) Give coupons for services like foot-rubs, yard work, cleaning, making a favorite meal, etc (once, my wife gave me a coupon allowing me to win an argument… how sweet!). These are gifts of “experience”.

3) Give of yourself. Fulfillment is about letting go of our natural desire to receive things, so adopt a needy child or family and be Santa, or volunteer at a service organization.

4) Make it real. Decide what’s fulfilling to you compared to society’s expectations and spend time w/ loved ones being true to it. ‘Dollars spent’ isn’t the measure of a person’s love.

Here’s to having the Christmas you need!

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Pine Grove Treatment

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Stress Free Holiday

Stress and the holidays usually go hand in hand, so it is normal to feel a mild sense of stress or even anxiety as the holiday season approaches. However, for some individuals, the pressure to have the ‘perfect’ holiday can be overwhelming. Stress can lead to deeper issues like depression, so it is important to keep a realistic outlook and end the year on a high note!

It is estimated that nearly three-quarters of Americans say they experience stress levels that exceed what they define as healthy. As the holidays approach, those numbers increase. Are YOU a part of that statistic? Stress, depression and anxiety can seriously affect your health and put a damper on holiday celebrations. It is important to put things in perspective. Prioritize what is really important. Revisit your definition and your expectations of the holiday season.

Tips for dealing with stress:

1) Take time for yourself – often people interpret this as being selfish but if we don’t take care of ourselves (mind, body and spirit), we have less to give to others. Remember that you are only one person and can only accomplish so much. Go for a walk through your neighborhood and look at light displays, listen to your favorite music or make time to just sit and drink hot cider. A simple 15-minute “breather” without distractions may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. All of us need time to recharge our batteries – slow down, take care of yourself and you’ll find you have more energy to give.

2) Be realistic – The holidays do not have to be perfect. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals change, too. If wish lists are outside of what is in your budget, it is okay to discuss financial challenges and remind children and others what really makes a great celebration. When we overextend ourselves financially, this only paves the way for more stress down the road. We may fret about a burned turkey, tasteless casserole or lopsided tree, but look at these things as memory-makers and a chance to laugh.

3) Reach out to others – If you tend to feel lonely or isolated during the holidays, seek out social, community or church-related activities and events. Volunteering your time can lift your spirits, broaden your sense of giving and offer the opportunity to make new friends. 4) Remember what’s important – examine what means the most to you during the holiday season – your definition of a great holiday celebration.

5) Reach out for support – it is okay to acknowledge and take time to express your feelings. Talk about your anxieties with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate through your thoughts and feelings and work towards a solution for your stress. If you are persistently sad, anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless or unable to face daily routines, you may need to reach out for professional help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Despite our best intentions, sometimes the holidays do catch up with us. If you or someone you know needs help dealing with the emotions that often surface during the holidays, there is help and hope available.

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

Pine Grove Treatment

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ashley Madison and Sexual Addiction


By Deborah Schiller, LPC, CSAT-S, CMAT
Director of Pine Grove's Gratitude program

Everybody seems to be talking about Ashley Madison, the hook-up site for folks who are intrigued with the idea of having an affair. Some people who visit this site may only be looking for a fantasy affair, while others are hoping for a true illicit affair with another person.

Recently a group of computer hackers obtained personal information about Ashley Madison users which was later published on the internet. This information included names, email and home addresses, amount spent, and other personal information. You may have been personally touched by this release of information. Maybe you have a friend, someone you know at work or in your church who has had their lives upended by finding out their names were one of the approximately 37 million others released that day. Perhaps you yourself are on that list.

Many people turn to Pine Grove for answers when traumatic events crop up in their lives. You probably have questions about how to proceed if your name was one on the list. What if your own partner has now been exposed to the world, and more importantly to you, as a possible cheater? How do you talk to a family member, friend, or colleague who now must move forward with their lives? These are not easy questions to answer.

Last week I got a text message from someone telling me that a friend, whose name had come out on the list, had committed suicide. This morning another person whose name was on the list, a pastor of a church, was reported by CNN as having committed suicide as well. These and other events motivated me to write this blog. First of all, having your name or the name of a loved one listed by Ashley Madison is not the end of the world. This is particularly hard to believe when the action of visiting a site where people are looking for someone with whom to have a affair is so contrary to your own values. Often the shame of exposure seems too much to bear.

Please remember, even if your name is on the list and you may have made some big mistakes, nothing you have done is unforgivable or worth losing your life over. Nothing you have done will prove to be as hard for your family to deal with as losing you would be.

Families, friends and coworkers need to know what to look for when suicide is a possibility. These warning signs may include extremely depressed mood, expressions of humiliation connected with the exposure, and intense anxiety. Things the suicidal individual may talk about could include loss of a reason to live, feeling unbearable emotional pain, and thinking others would be better off with out them. He or she may mention specifically that they are thinking of killing themselves. People who are considering committing suicide may make a point of contacting or visiting those who have been important to them in their lives and may offer to give these people belongings that have held meaning to them. Often they will begin to withdraw from daily life and choose to sleep more than usual. Alternately, you may notice a marked pattern of sleeping less, using alcohol or drugs and other acts of recklessness.

If you are going through exposure due to your name or the name of a loved one having been published on the Ashley Madison list or if you just have questions, visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.

The Gratitude program at Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services offers treatment to men seeking to regain freedom from sexual addiction. The program also simultaneously treats mood disturbance, anxiety, and other addictions. The program is designed to help men regain freedom from compulsive behaviors and develop a sense of healthy sexuality.

Pine Grove Treatment

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What is Sexual Addiction?

Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one's work environment.

Sexual addiction has been called by many names including sexual dependency, sexual compulsivity, problematic sexual behavior or hypersexual disorder. By any name, it is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict's life. Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family, friends, and work. Sex becomes the organizing principle of addict's lives. They are willing to sacrifice what they cherish most in order to preserve and continue their unhealthy behavior.

If you are concerned about your sexual behaviors or attitudes, or even a friend or family members, consider professional help.

Pine Grove’s Gratitude program is for those suffering from sexual addiction, relationship addiction and sexual anorexia. Founded by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., C.A.S., world-renowned speaker, and author on addiction. Dr. Carnes’ 30-task-model serves as the basic curriculum for treatment.

Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services is an extension of Forrest General Hospital, located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Pine Grove’s world renowned programs focus on treating gender specific chemical addiction including a specialized track for co-occurring eating disorders. Additionally, Pine Grove offers a focused substance abuse healing program for adults age 55 and over. Other Pine Grove specialty programs include a dedicated professional’s treatment curriculum and a comprehensive evaluation center. Pine Grove also features a program for patients with sexual and intimacy disorder issues. Pine Grove was established in 1984 and has provided nationally and internationally recognized health care for over 30 years.

Visit www.pinegrovetreatment.com or call 1-888-574-HOPE (4673) for more information.