Accessing Counseling to Address Stress and Improve Life

By: Tanya Kramer, LPC, LMHC, CADC-I

These days, you can find articles about famous people who have access to a therapist or counselor. The stigma of seeing a therapist or counselor has significantly decreased, and in some places, it’s almost vogue or trendy to have a therapist/counselor (these words will be used interchangeably in this article).

But how does one know if seeking counseling would benefit them? First, you do not need to be suffering from a debilitating mental illness to seek services. You have to want to live the best life you can, and therapy can support you in being your best self and living your best life. Counseling can help people address difficult life challenges and can help people make decisions in their lives that help them live their life to the fullest.

When should I seek counseling?

The American Psychological Association gives recommendations to see a counselor, “if something causes distress and interferes with some part of life”. This association also suggests the following examples when seeking a counselor would be recommended:

  • Thinking about or coping with issues which take up at least a half hour each day
  • The issue causes embarrassment or makes you want to avoid others
  • The issue has caused your quality of life to decrease
  • The issue is negatively affecting school, work, or relationships
  • You’ve made changes in your life or developed habits to cope with the issue

Sometimes, it can be just as simple as feeling like something is missing or not feeling as happy as you think you could be.

Having someone to listen to you process out loud what is happening in your life and to walk alongside you (metaphorically) by providing support, listening, empathy, psychoeducation, or even brainstorming can feel very comforting as we walk this journey of life that sometimes can feel lonely or limiting.

Working with a therapist offers a space to talk about difficult life challenges regardless of whether it’s something that was in your control or was not in your control. It is a space where you can share your thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams along with challenges, worries, and difficult decisions you might be facing.

You might consider going to a therapist if you’re dealing with any of the following issues :

  • Managing stress
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Grief / Pain / Sadness
  • Life transition
  • Identity
  • Trauma
  • Parenting
  • Relationship dynamics
  • Changes in family system (divorce, birth of child, adoption, death, separation, etc.)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood fluctuations
  • COVID impacts
  • Family struggles
  • Disproportionate, rage, anger, or resentment
  • Obsessive thinking or intrusive thoughts
  • Overwhelm
  • Fatigue
  • Apathy
  • Stress
  • Hopelessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Homicidal thinking
  • Self-harm
  • Isolating
  • Negative thinking patterns
  • Eating issues
  • Unhealthy coping skills
  • Loneliness
  • Facing difficult decisions
  • Hurt feelings
  • Losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • This is not an exhaustive list!

When to see a counselor if there is not a mental health concern?

You might work with a therapist or counselor to to help you improve your life by doing one of the following things:

  • Increase self-awareness of behaviors and patterns
  • Improve communication skills
  • Start new good habits
  • Stop old bad habits
  • Learn more about yourself and why you are the way you are
  • Learn more about your family of origin
  • Re-examine what you think and believe about life in the world
  • Identify and reflect on your strengths
  • Identify your passions, interests, and what brings you joy
  • Structure life to incorporate things that are important to you
  • Learn / Practice checking in with your body sensations, emotions, and thought process
  • Increase healthy coping skills
  • To share your journey through life and process difficult moments
  • You want more fulfilling relationships
  • You want to improve your health
  • Support with reaching goals
  • This is not an exhaustive list!

You don’t have to be in crisis to get a counselor. Mental health is a fundamental human right, and according to the World Health Organization, “Everyone whoever and wherever they are, has a deserving and inherent right to the highest attainable standard of mental health.”

Now that I know I want to see a counselor, how do I do it?

  • If you have health insurance, the first step is to contact your health insurance provider and get a list of counselors covered by your insurance. Mental health should be included in your health insurance plan.
  • Other options for counseling include: using an “Employee Assistance Program” through your work, signing up for online therapy, or contacting the behavioral health department in your local county of residence.
  • Filter the list of counselors by gender, schedule, availability, whether they offer telehealth or in-person sessions, and/or what specific therapy modality the therapist uses.
  • Look up possible therapists online to learn more about them. A good resource is “Psychology Today” where you can search lots of different therapists using filters.
  • Decide on a therapist, contact them to see if they accept your insurance and if they are accepting clients. If they are not accepting clients, you might be able to go on their wait list while checking on other options.
  • Some therapists will do a free phone consult to ensure that this therapist and you are a good match.
  • Once you have a therapist, you will be scheduled for an intake session, which might include some paperwork to be filled out before or at the first session.
  • This first session is an opportunity for your therapist to get to know you and for you to get to know your therapist.
  • It is important that you feel safe and comfortable with your therapist. If this is not your experience in the first couple of sessions, then you may want to consider working with a different therapist. There are lots of reasons why one might feel this way, but the most important thing is that you work with a therapist that you feel comfortable with so you can do the kind of work that would best serve you.
  • Scheduling sessions either weekly or every other week at minimum is recommended when first working with a new therapist. After the relationship has a trusting foundation and is dependent on your goals, there might be a time when sessions can be more spread out.
  • Early in therapy, you can expect to discuss goals for your time together. This way, both your therapist and you will be working toward the same goals. 

Most people would benefit from counseling for one reason or another. You are not alone if you think you would benefit from counseling. The National Alliance on mental health (NAMI) has reported in recent statistics that 1 out of 5 American adults live with a mental health condition, and 1 in 20 adults experience a serious mental health condition each year. NAMI reports that only about 40% of people with mental health issues get help, which can result in issues or symptoms getting worse or resulting in other negative effects.

So if you think you could benefit from counseling, try it. If you don’t feel like your needs are getting met by the first therapist you work with, then it is completely appropriate to transition to a different therapist. You want to find a therapist you feel comfortable and safe with so you can trust and lean into this support.

Welcome to the world of Self Care, Self Acceptance, and Living your Best Life!

For more information on this topic, check out these links:

8 signs it is time to see a therapist.

When it’s time to see a therapist.

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Stress Awareness Month

The month of April is a time for Stress Awareness Month. Stress can play a role in our daily lives. With the stress of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, we may feel stress creep in more than ever.

Stress is a normal reaction that everyone experiences at times. We are built to experience stress as your stress response helps keep you alert and ready to avoid danger. But stress becomes a problem when stressors continue without relief.  This can lead to negative physical and emotional consequences including:

  • Aches and pains.
  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.
  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking.
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach or digestive problems.
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks

Sometimes the stress we experience is outside of our control. There are still some things to try to cope with these challenging situations.

  • Recognize when you do not have control over the situation
  • Work on your reactions to the stressor instead of trying to change it  
  • Try to focus on something that makes you feel calm

Here are some ways you can cope with stress in your everyday life:

  • Carve out time for hobbies.
  • Practice meditation or yoga.
  • Get enough sleep each night.
  • Make time for movement and exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Reach out to your support system.

Having a conversation with those around you about stress can help you or someone you know get the support needed. When we feel overwhelmed and stressed, it’s healthy to have an outlet to let out these emotions. Talking about it not only raises awareness of this topic but can validate the experiences of others. 

Check out the additional resources below:

The American Institute Of Stress

10 Free Resources to Help You Better Manage Stress

Stress Management Tools And Resources

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Reduce Stress with This Breathing Technique

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Reducing Stress and Strengthening the Relaxation Response

By Jen Champion

We have all experienced stress, whether the media is sharing the news or the traffic jam has you late for a job interview. It is important to note our personal experience and how we relate to it, so we can then respond skillfully. We need to be in charge of our responses to stress and our actions around it. 

We need the natural physical reactions stress creates to remain safe from harm and move forward in certain situations. But too much stress can lead to negative responses.  We cannot cope easily and become exhausted and ill. The good news is, when our nervous system is in balance, we can maintain or regain optimum health and well-being.

Our Sympathetic nervous system can be referred to as the gas pedal, and the Parasympathetic is the brake. When the pedal is to the metal, we go too fast, have difficulty navigating obstacles, and we eventually run out of gas. When the brake is on for too long, we cannot move and get stuck; stagnation also causes stress. We want to travel at a speed that allows us to be engaged in the curves and landscapes and not be dizzied by them. When our scenery is constantly blurred by things out of our control, we cannot appreciate the sea’s waves or snow-capped peaks, let alone go with the flow. We write negative self-narratives and push through sensations of fatigue and pain without even recognizing we are doing it.  

We need to have balance in our systems so our bodies can differentiate between good and bad stress to function optimally. We can then identify stress triggers and skillfully approach the situation to balance the gas and brake pedals. An excellent place to start is learning and practicing techniques from yoga traditions that begin with breath training. The yogis believe the breath is the link between the body and mind, where one can cultivate energy to charge or calm areas of the mind, body, and emotions to be in harmony with self and nature.I am here to help us learn how to become more aware of ourselves and take the appropriate action to move in and out of stress with more flexibility and ease. I will share techniques to help us create balance in our lives.  

Breathing Technique

In this breathing practice, we begin to rest and will then move our bodies to help create awareness, release tension, and strengthen the relaxation response.

  • Sit on a chair with your feet on the surface below you. Hands rest on your legs. Close your eyes and become aware that you are breathing. Keep your awareness at the tips of your nostrils and breathe with your lips gently closed. 
  • Begin to connect with the following five qualities of breath. 
    • Deep 
    • Smooth 
    • Even 
    • Quiet 
    • Continuous. 
  • When you breathe in, feel your abdomen expand and follow the awareness in the expansion in your lungs. As you Inhale, feel and hear the word “nourish.”  As you exhale, release breath awareness from your lungs through your abdomen and feel and hear the word “relax.” 
  • Repeat for one minute. (You can grow your practice into longer segments when you feel ready).
  • Mindful Movements can increase circulation throughout the body, improve posture and balance, restore vitality and rejuvenate the body and mind. One way to practice this is to coordinate your breath with your movement.
  • Begin to ground and connect with stability in your core (your muscles that stabilize your trunk and allow for balance and movement) 
  • Relate to our core like this:
    • Stand on your bare feet on a nonslip surface, carpet, or yoga mat.
    • Press your feet firmly into the surface below you. Activate your legs and lower abdominal muscles and maintain a smooth, deep, even breathe
    • Maintain this activation and begin to move.
      • Sun Breath Arms: Inhale and lift your arms overhead. Exhale and lower your arms. The amount of time it takes for your complete inhale is the amount of time it should take you to move your arms overhead or to where you can comfortably get them. Same on the exhale. Sense a warmth and comfort surrounding you.
      • Circle of Joy: Inhale and place your hands together in the center of your chest. Exhale and interlace your fingers and press palms down and straighten your arms. Inhale, lift your interlaced fingers and arms overhead. Exhale and release fingers and arms to sides with a smile and an audible sigh. Repeat 5 times. Invite joy into your life and send it to others.
      • Seated Forward Fold: Sit on a chair with your feet firmly placed on the floor. Activate core muscles and breathe deeply. Inhale and lift your arms overhead. Exhale and hinge forward from the hips, let your arms open beside you and move to rest your forearms and elbows on your thighs. Bring your palms together, dip your chin slightly towards your chest. Breathe and relax. Stay for one minute and then inhale and slowly rise up. Sense a feeling of introversion and respect towards self.


Join our online yoga classes to help you create self-awareness, control stress, and maneuver obstacles with ease. Learn how to fill your tank with vitality, cruise, and enjoy the scenery and your life.

Understanding And Dealing With Stress During Uncertain Times

Learning how to accept and embrace stress can make you more resilient and motivate you to succeed both in business and in life. 

However, too much stress can do much more harm than good. It can prevent us from seeing the bigger picture and come up with realistic solutions to life’s day to day problems. 

There are several tried and tested methods that can help you keep your stress levels at bay. However today, we are going to be talking all about mindfulness. 

Implementing a daily mindfulness practice can help you deal with your current stress as well as prevent it. 

The next time you catch yourself feeling stressed, here are a few practices that can help…

Hit The Pause Button: 

If you can, try and go somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and work on your breathing. When we’re experiencing high levels of stress, every distraction adds up. Even ten minutes of silence can make a huge difference!

 Ask Yourself Questions:

Sometimes when we’re experiencing so many intense emotions at once, it can be hard to understand them. Asking yourself questions about your feelings can help you come to terms with them and move past them. Here are a few great sample questions to help get you started.

1) What am I feeling right now?

2) What would I name this feeling?

3) How can I accept this feeling and let it go?

Release Tension:

Taking long deep breaths can help you gradually release any tension you’ve been holding onto. 

Once you’ve completed your breathing exercise, be sure to check in with yourself and see how you feel.  

Like most things in life, practice makes perfect. If practiced regularly, mindfulness can help you better respond to life’s challenges and bring you greater clarity. You’ve just got to take it one day and one breath at a time. 

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Find Work Holiday Parties Stressful?

You know yourself best. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at a work holiday party, don’t be afraid to leave early, or step out for some air.

Don’t Over Commit

Even if you love parties, attending too many can be stressful.

Remember, the choice is yours. If you ever feel like you have too much on your plate, don’t be afraid to say no to an event or two.

Now, some work parties may be mandatory. This is where you’ll need to pay attention to your instincts.

If an event ever feels like too much, you can always leave a bit early or take a step outside for some fresh air.

Your me-time matters.

Be Mindful

Have you ever spent an entire event glued to your phone?

It’s more common than you think – especially if you tend to feel uncomfortable in social situations.

Here’s a tip. Make a list of ways you can practice mindfulness at every event.

Try your best to appreciate the moment and of course, have fun!

Change Your Thoughts

You know that negative voice in your head that pops up at the worst times?

Well, it’s time to turn that voice off.

This step does require some homework, but it’ll be well worth it in the long run.

Take some time to challenge your thoughts before every party. That way, if any negative thoughts do pop up, you’ll know how to deal with them.

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Feeling overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed? Consider finding relief by letting go of the things in your life that are weighing you down.

It’s no secret that the spaces we live in–our homes, offices and vehicles–need regular maintenance and attention. It should come as no surprise, then, that the non-physical spaces we occupy–our minds, our obligations, our relationships–also need tending to. Learn more about the benefits of lightening up by reading on: Lighten Your Load

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Increase Your Brain’s Resilience

Increase Your Brain’s Resilience By Building ‘Psychological Body Armor’ (PBA)

While anxiety and excessive stress are the two most significant factors that prevent a person from realizing happiness, the good news is that neural pathways in the brain are—and remain—malleable.

This means that while we may feel helpless to the stressors in our lives, a psychological phenomenon known as neuroplasticity allows us to fortify ourselves against the things that threaten to emotionally destabilize us.

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