Back to School

As summer comes to a close, many students, teachers, and parents are faced with the hassle of the new school year. Here at the Clarity Psychological Group, we realize how especially stressful the return to school can be for all students, but especially those in high school and college. Below are a few tips for easing common school-related worries.

• Lighter but consistent exercise: While the beginning of the school year isn’t the best time to switch up your entire workout routine, you should still reserve time for exercise in your schedule. By lessening the intensity of your regime, you can maintain physical health and naturally relieve stress without exhausting yourself.
• Setting goals and rewarding yourself: Establishing and striving toward reasonable goals is vital for motivation, determination, and ultimately, success. Equally important is the ability to reward oneself for efforts and accomplishments—so treat yourself to a well-deserved indulgence!
• Outlining a schedule: Creating a schedule does wonders for quelling anxiety regarding the future. Having a basic, flexible plan for the upcoming week (or even day) can help you stay on track with minimal worry for things to come.
• Building relationships: One of the most beneficial decisions a student can make is to develop relationships with his or her professors and classmates. While your professor can answer your questions and offer guidance, the friends you make in class can act as study buddies and most importantly, reassure you—after all, you’re not going through this alone!

Again, returning to school can present a wealth of worries to almost all of us, but taking the time to plan ahead and engage actively in self-care can greatly reduce stress. To everyone returning to school this fall, we wish you success in your academic endeavors!

By Kadi Hinley (GSU Intern)

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Did you know July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month?

What is Mental Health? Mental Health affects how we think, act, and feel. Mental Health includes our emotional, social well-being, and psychological-being. It is important at every stage in life from childhood and adolescence through adulthood (menatalhealth.gov).

Mental Health can be divided into a large spectrum of disorders. The disorders that affect minorities the most are anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (healthyplace.com). At Clarity Psychological Group, we frequently see clients who experience depression, anxiety, and stress. Not all people diagnosed with depression or anxiety take medication. There are various strategies we employ to help a client who deals with depression or anxiety.

The best way to get help with a mental health disorder is to be able to talk to a therapist about your troubles. Therapists help clients adjust their lifestyle and modify the stressors in life that impact their overall well-being. Clients are often surprised by how they feel after just talking through some of their issues.

The role of mental health professionals is diverse. They deal with many mental health disorders, but also help clients who need guidance in their life choices. In order to learn more about mental health and illness there will be Twitter chats this month on the topic. You can subscribe by following @Minority Health.

Clarity Psychological Group has four therapists that are experienced with various mental health issues. Allow one of our therapists to answer your questions about counseling with a free brief phone consultation. You can call or email our office at 404-699-3170 or admin@claritypsychologicalgroup.com to schedule an appointment or your free phone consultation.

Written by Eileen Pelaez, (GSU Intern)

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Suicide Awareness

“Depression is about surviving…surviving the moment and surviving the next twelve hours that you are awake; that’s if you’re lucky enough to sleep. You become so focused on the small things, trying to make it through the moment—that the big things tend to slip away: relationship, family, work, food…it’s the people who don’t understand who are the most hazardous to you when you’re suicidal.” -Anonymous

If you were not aware, the month of September is Suicide Awareness month. Some of you will read the quote about and squirm in your chair. For many, this is a taboo topic that isn’t often discussed in a public forum. For others, it’s part of a daily struggle. Suicide, particularly among the African American culture, is highly stigmatized as the “unforgivable sin” (American Association of Suicidology: http://211bigbend.net/PDFs/AfricanAmericanFactSheet.pdf ). This highly tabooed topic re-entered our consciousness when young actor Jett Jackson self-inflicted a gun-shot wound. Even then, many failed to name it what it was: suicide (Ebony Magazine, August, 2013) http://www.ebony.com/wellness-empowerment/black-suicide-when-prayer-is-not-enough-405#axzz3DPLHtEZr

Because mental health is still highly stigmatized by this and other cultural communities, suicidal ideation is often met with suggestions and comments such as, “Why don’t you pray more?” or “Just think of the blessings.” Women of most ethnicities tend to attempt suicide at a higher rate than men; however, black women are the least likely of all ethnic groups to commit suicide (Ebony Magazine, August, 2013).

A major point of misinformation is the differences between suicidal ideation and suicidal attempt. Suicidal ideation can occur spontaneously in the midst of extreme pain, or loss. For example, should an individual experience the loss of a child, the pain may be so great that they report the alleviation of that pain in death. The individual may not have contemplated a plan and they may never actually attempt to take their own life, but rather, suffer under the seemingly unmanageable pain that can be accompanied by the death of a child. What most people do not understand is that suicidal ideation can occur within circumstances of pain, but the real concern lies in repetitive and ongoing suicidal ideation. http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

Some common risks that may require further attention are as follows:

  • Previous attempts
  • Increased use of drugs of alcohol
  • Current plans
  • Seeking revenge
  • Frequent suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling trapped
  • Severe psychological distress
  • Giving away possessions
  • Poor impulse control
  • Previous diagnosis with mental illness
  • Family history of suicide

These are just a few of the checkpoint that may be cause for concern. If you or someone you know reflect these characteristics or have expressed in some way that they would like to end their life, please do not take this lightly. If you are in crisis please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

American Association of Suicidology: African American Suicide Fact Sheet. http://www.suicidology.org/

Ebony Magazine (2013). Black Suicide: When Prayer is Not Enough. http://www.ebony.com/wellness-empowerment/black-suicide-when-prayer-is-not-enough-405#axzz3DPLHtEZr

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

 

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Is that….STRESS?

I experienced vertigo some years ago and couldn’t understand why. My children experience abdominal pain or uneasiness when faced with change. A few of my friends experience headaches, break out in a rash, or become increasingly anxious about everything when they feel overwhelmed. Some people experience increased blood pressure, tense shoulders, or negative eating habits when faced with challenges. To what can we attribute these physical manifestations? Stress of course.

What can you do to minimize your stress and the physical or psychological impact? There are four ways to manage your stress:

  1. Recognize the stressors at hand
  2. Manage what is in your control
  3. Embrace the stress
  4. Seek support

First, recognize the stressors in your life. Stressors are the situations or issues that you perceive are greater than your ability to handle at the moment. Sometimes those issues are minor, while at other times they are life changing. Keep in mind, several minor stressors can create one large distress that has a major impact on your life.

Once you recognize which stressors are impacting your life, manage what is within your control. For instance, begin to focus on one stressor at a time. Typically, people become overwhelmed by the volume or complexity of their stressors and begin to avoid them altogether. This is the flight portion of the fight or flight response. For additional information on your reaction to stress, see the Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-management/art-20044289

By focusing on one stressor independently (if possible), your perspective is clearer about that particular issue, the issue is more manageable, and you feel more in control. You respond confidently when you feel you have control. Therefore, manage those things (notice I did not say people) which are within your control. The Mayo Clinic provides additional tools that you may find beneficial. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relievers/art-20047257

Third, embrace the stress you are under and accept the things you cannot change. Based on research, when you think negatively about stress, you have a greater probability of not overcoming the stressor, but also of physical harm occurring. While stress impacts the body in negative ways, oxytocin is also released from your body. (For more information on oxytocin, review the American Psychological Association article, http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb08/oxytocin.aspx, and see Ted Talks video: http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?utm_content=ted-androidapp&utm_medium=on.ted.com-android-share&utm_source=direct-on.ted.com&utm_campaign=&awesm=on.ted.com_f0PIH#t-346314) Oxytocin increases when we hug or kiss and is sometimes referred to as the “feel good” hormone. Hence, your body helps you embrace the stress without avoiding it. You are then able to focus on your plan of action to handle the stress before you.

Additionally, the oxytocin your body releases during stressful circumstances urges you to seek support. Now you have the green light to get that hug or kiss from a loved one so you can “feel good” in that moment and focus on your plan of action for those stressors. Leaning on others is important to boosting your confidence and clarifying your course of action. Remember you can talk to family, friends, and of course trained professionals like mental health counselors whenever you desire or need assistance.

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Cracked

Think about the last time you got on Facebook. You might be on it right now. What was your last post? How were you feeling when you posted it? The last selfie you posted, were you down in the dumps, on top of the world, or somewhere in between? How many likes did it get?

I’m asking these questions because they need to be asked. We need to see past the images, the words and the presentation, and by now, surely, we must know that there’s more to it. Your friends’ lives are not all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, most people are cracked. Some of them more than others but they are more than pretty pictures. So much more.

You see, this isn’t just about someone pretending to feel things they don’t feel or pretending that they are happier than they are. This is worse than that. This isn’t even about people believing it. It’s about people believing there is nothing more. My point? People feeling that their friends or associates are happier than they look and believing there is nothing more to the story is driving average people to feel crazy. Facebook and other social media outlets have become a deliverance or devastation to most people. How can they be that happy? Everything is coming together for them.

We have to stop forming a life around fiction. We have to stop believing that no one else is anxious, depressed, scared, worried, tired, and lost. We have to start seeing social media for what it is: a place to debut the high points, post pictures of our precious moments, or keep up with old friends. Be fair to yourself and fair to your friends: the image is only an image and most people are cracked beneath the surface. They’re not all they’re cracked up to be; so be caring, seek the truth, be human, be a friend.
Author: Daron Elam

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Resurrection

As we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there are four lessons we can glean to apply to our own life journey. There will be times when we feel a resurrection or reawakening is necessary for us to continue living. During those periods of reawakening, Jesus provided a great example and teachings we can use to enhance our rebirth.

Focus

People will talk about you whether you’ve been an angel or not. Regardless of how perfect you try to be, you will experience trials. One key practice you can learn from Jesus is to remain steadfast in what is true. He consulted God and accepted what his role was even leading up to his death. Upon knowing his purpose, Jesus continued moving forward without excuses, bickering, or insult. Therefore, from Jesus’ example, know your purpose, keep your focus, and remain committed to your purpose.

 Independent Grit

Another lesson you can glean is that some battles or obstacles are meant to be your individual journey. While you have well-intentioned family and friends that desire to assist you, often your obstacles are personal and independent. Therefore, your family and friends cannot provide what you need to successfully overcome the obstacle. Your obstacle requires your physical or psychological strength, submission to the issue, prayers, and courage to overcome.

 Confidence

One lesson that reverberated for me was Jesus’ confidence. Even after knowing what his mission was, Jesus willingly forged ahead with confidence. His confidence was evident as he responded to Pilate before his crucifixion as well as to his mother and disciples after his resurrection from the tomb. Hence, you want to be confident going into your mission and as you face your obstacles.

Newness

Once Jesus was resurrected, he left the old linen behind. When you work on your resurrection (metaphorical rising from whatever is dead within you) or a reawakening of the new way you choose or feel led to live; you will want to leave the old “stuff” behind you. Consider this, when you lose weight and adopt a healthier diet, you will not wear the larger sized clothes you previously wore nor eat the fatty foods that formerly plagued your life. A new way of living requires a new mindset and actions. Hence, accept and walk into your newness!

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What is Love?

When asked what does love mean, I stumbled for a minute. Surely, I know what love means. For crying out loud, I know unequivocally that I love my husband, children, family and friends. If I pause long enough though, I realize the love I have for my family and friends differs from the love I have for mankind. The Bible tells me to love my neighbor, but I do not love my neighbor in the same way I love my husband or my parents.

 

Therefore, I have to research love to adequately answer the question. Typically, we recognize four types of love.

  •          The first type I was introduced to was Agape love. Agape love is an unconditional love in a spiritual sense. Agape love is what we as Christians tend to use to express the unconditional love of God.
  •          A general platonic type of love is Philia love. Philia love is usually expressed in friendships and among family. Philia love refers to how you feel about someone.
  •          Eros love is a more sensual and romantic love. Eros love is the type of love that is shared between a married couple. Meaning, their love engenders a deeper love than Philia.
  •          Storge love is expressed as the love between families and within friendships. It is a natural affection. A parents’ love for their offspring is best expressed by Storge love.

 

Now with that understanding, the different types of love I have for different people makes more sense. Ultimately, though, the definition of love is best summed up in 1 Corinthians 13: 4- 8. While some will say that 1 Corinthians 13 represents an agape love, I contend that all types of love are represented. Do you see all types of love there?

 

As we celebrate love this month, how will you explain and express love to your family, friends, and humanity? Please share your expressions and definitions of love.

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New Year, New Perspective

As we embrace the newness of the year and all the excitement that goes with any new beginning, many people are contemplating a cadre of decisions. If you really think about it, we are always encountering a decision of some sort. Do I order the chicken or the steak? Do I sleep later or get up and exercise? Do I wear the shirt or the sweater? And the list goes on and on.

Remember your choices impact more than just that one event or purchase. You are the choices you make and there are always consequences, good or bad. As J.K. Rowling, wrote in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  Your choices indicate your character, strengths, weaknesses, and overall illuminate a great deal about who you are.

As you embark upon your next decision, consider the following suggestions before finally deciding:

  •          Pray about the issue
  •          Listen for an answer
  •         Obey the direction provided in your answer

For larger, complex, or expensive decisions, you might need to follow a slightly different path such as:

  •          Consult those who are knowledgeable about the subject matter
  •          Consider all options; prioritize
  •          Analyze the results and consult with your spouse or significant other
  •          Pray about the issue and which solution is best
  •          Listen for an answer
  •         Obey the direction provided in your answer

When making any decision, the right decision for you should provide peace for your mind, body, and Spirit. Learn to seek that peace and recognize when it’s present. Your peace will help guide you in future decision making experiences.

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Good vs. Great

Sunday, my pastor, Rev. Byron Thomas spoke about how we can have what is great rather than settling for the good. His text was taken from Nehemiah 7: 6-66. God promised the Jewish people that they could return to their homeland after 70 years of exile. Once allowed to return, only 2% returned. I wanted to know, why only 2%? The reason is simple and similar to what many of us do today—they had grown comfortable in their exiled land. Often we become so comfortable in our surroundings and  circumstances that we forget to grow or stretch to get to the next level.

I challenge you to push past the comfortable or what you consider good to get to the great! Think about the life of Nelson Mandela. He certainly could have opted for good by taking the deal to get out of prison in 1985 by compromising what he believed and fought for. I’m certain he wanted to be with his wife and children. However, he fought for the great and was later released in 1990 without compromising his beliefs.

Pursuing what is great typically involves being a little uncomfortable for a period of time. But isn’t that what growth and maturity is all about. The definition of growth is a gradual increase in size or significance (adapted from www.dictionary.com). Remember that growth is synonymous with change. Change does not take place until we are uncomfortable. Consider further, “he who is not busy growing, is busy dying.”

I believe moving into your greatness involves three things:

Pray boldly—Instead of praying that your rent/ mortgage is paid this month, pray for financial understanding and growth to meet your financial obligations.

Listen and obey—Once you pray, be willing to listen to what God says about your requests and his plan for your life. Then, obey what He tells you. Here, especially, is where you grow and the loss of comfort begins.

Live confidently—Even though you may not see the greatness, you still want to live obediently and confidently in what God promised you. You typically will not recognize the greatness that you are living, but others around you will in time. You are the choices you make.

 You get to decide. How will you choose to live—good or GREAT?

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Parents: Are you ignoring behaviors in your child?

The holidays can be a very somber time for children and adolescents. Warning signs exist that many parents tend to ignore in their child/adolescent. The CNN article on VA Senator Creigh Deeds’ son provides another example of a missed opportunity to help someone dealing with mental health issues.

Overall, parents should take action when the following signs are noticed:

  • Moodiness
  • Anger (Increased)
  • Depression (sadness, isolation, lack of interest in things, decline in normal functioning like school work, etc.)
  • Weight/physical changes (increases or decreases in weight)
  • Changes in sleep patterns (increased or decreased desire for sleep)
  • Substance Use (initial use and/or increased use)
  • Suicidal thoughts

Seek assistance from a mental health counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist if you recognize any of these symptoms in your child or loved one. Obtaining help from a mental health professional is essential to provide the psychological and/or psychotropic treatment that is best for your family member. Tragedy is not always the outcome when mental illness is present. Mental illness can be managed with proper treatment and support.

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