This time of the year can be difficult for many people. Feelings of loneliness are common when happiness and connection appear to be mandatory during the holidays. Add in the shorter days and cooler temperatures and you have a recipe for increased likelihood for depression. This year has an added isolating stressor of a pandemic. So what measures can you take to decrease feelings of sadness and loneliness?


First, try to connect with others as much as possible. When it isn’t possible to do so in person, there are many opportunities to connect through online Bible studies, groups that center around common interests, or even just talking one-on-one with another person through FaceTime, Zoom, or another free platform. During this time of year, you may not feel like reaching out. This can increase the feeling of loneliness and depression. Have you heard the phrase “fake it until you can make it?” This applies here! Reach out even when you don’t feel like it so you can increase connection and decrease feelings of loneliness.


Second, exercise! Now, I’m not saying join your local CrossFit when you haven’t worked out a day in your life. No, start easy. Research has shown even a 10 minute walk can improve those feel-good chemicals in your brain, particularly if you’re able to walk outside and get the added benefit of the sun. If you want to crank up the usefulness of an outside walk, add mindfulness to it. When you walk, pay attention to what you see, what you hear, and what you smell.


Third, and this is one that you may not want to hear, is nutrition. Now I’m not saying ditch all the junk food (although that would be very beneficial). Instead, try to be conscious of what you are eating and drinking. Can you choose to drink a glass of water instead of a soda this time? What about eating fruit instead of the closest candy bar? Little changes can make a big difference.


Finally, if you find that you just can’t get out of your “funk” no matter what you do, it may be time to seek out the help of a licensed professional. There are many available with many options. Take the steps to feel better! You can do it!

It’s time to be honest. There are sometimes that we feel so full of emotion that we know that we just aren’t thinking right. I believe it’s probably happened to all of us! But what happens when those unhealthy thinking styles impact relationships, self-esteem, our work, and quality of life? Or when it becomes more of a pattern than just because of strong emotions? That’s when it’s time to change those unhealthy thinking styles. But first, let’s identify some of them.


The first unhealthy thinking style is overgeneralization. This can often be spotted by “always/never” and “everything/nothing” statements. Challenge that thought – does it always or never happen? Are there exceptions?

  • Example: I never do anything right!
  • Challenge: I do a lot of thing right, I just happened to mess this one up!


Next is jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence about a certain situation. Do you think you know what someone is thinking without asking them? Are you trying to predict the future without reason?

  • Example: I’m not going to ask for a raise. I’m sure my boss thinks I don’t deserve one.
  • Challenge: I do a good job. If he doesn’t give me a raise, there may be other reasons.


Catastrophizing is another common unhealthy thinking style. This is when you see only the worst possible outcome of a situation. Some write it off by saying they are only trying to be a realist, when in reality, they are not looking at the possible positives that could come. This is also seen when someone blows things out of proportion, making a big deal out of something that honestly will not matter five years from now.

  • Example: I can’t believe my spouse washes the dishes on the right side of the sink when I said to do it on the left!
  • Challenge: I’m thankful my spouse cared enough to do the dishes. Now I won’t have to do it.


Somewhat related to that is discounting the positive. That is when you ignore the positive outcomes that have happened in the past in order to fit the narrative that you want.

  • Example: I only got that job because I got lucky. No one else must have applied.
  • Challenge: They looked at my experience and knowledge and knew I was the right person for the job.


Personalization is a very common unhealthy thinking style. That is when you take responsibility for another’s thoughts, actions, or feelings regarding something that is outside of your control. Very often it doesn’t have to do with you, even if it may feel like it does.

  • Example: My friend is in a really bad mood. I must have done something to upset her.
  • Challenge: My friend is in a really bad mood. There must be something going on; I’ll ask her and see how I can help.


The last unhealthy thinking style I’ll discuss is emotional reasoning, the belief that I feel a certain way, so it must be true. Feelings can come from many places including our history, what we think about ourselves, what we think about others, and our situations, among other reasons. However, our feelings do not always tell the truth – they can lie to us!

  • Example: I feel so stupid for making that mistake. I must be an idiot.
  • Challenge: Everyone makes mistakes. It doesn’t define me and that’s not who I am.


The next time you are in a conflict, in a difficult situation, or can feel your anxiety or depression increasing, look through this list. Are any of these unhealthy thinking styles in play? If so, recognize it, challenge it, and see how changing your thoughts can change your feelings and your mood.

A question recently came up asking if there was such a thing as too much emotional support, at what time do you practice “tough love” and teach them to grow up? While there can be many different facets to this due to the various nuances of relationships, I’ll try my best to speak in general terms. First, there is no such thing as too much emotional support…if proper, realistic boundaries are kept in place. It is so important that a child (including an adolescent) feels unconditional love; that the love is not tied to their behavior. You want them to feel safe with you, to know they can come to you with anything and your love for them will not diminish. This includes not shaming them for their behavior. Remember, we all make mistakes and do things that don’t make sense – and their brains aren’t fully developed enough to always think things through. So, no, there is no such thing as too much emotional support.


However, there has to be a balance of proper, realistic boundaries. I have seen too many people who let others take advantage or manipulate them into doing things they either do not want to do or is unhealthy for them in some way (physically, financially, emotionally, or mentally.) Boundaries are a very personal thing. They will be different for everyone. Sometimes you may not even know a boundary is there! One way to tell an unknown boundary has been crossed is if you begin to feel frustrated, bitter, angry, or resentful. Take note of that feeling and what just happened to start that feeling – that’s your boundary. With children, you obviously wouldn’t let them do just whatever they want, so those would be some boundaries for them. It is important to make sure they are realistic and that they are fair. There is a lot more I will say about this in upcoming blogs, so keep an eye out!

As mentioned in a previous blog, the brain is very pliable and changes according to our life experiences. Those with repeated traumas, or a severe single trauma, can develop something called “trauma brain.” This is your brain’s way of protecting itself and protecting you. The problem is, you may feel like you’re going crazy and not realize that with help, it can be changed. There are also others that this is their normal way of functioning and think “that’s just who I am,” not realizing it is a byproduct of life experiences.


So what are some markers that you may have “trauma brain?”

  • Those with trauma brain have difficulty sitting still; it is often diagnosed as ADD. The brain interprets staying still as not safe; you must always be moving. This is not to say that all those with ADD have trauma brain, but many do.
  • Those with trauma brain are often hypervigilant. They may appear to be very sensitive to noises and movements around them.
  • They feel under stress all the time. This often shows up in the body: tense shoulders, aching neck, migraines.
  • They have trouble regulating their emotions. It takes a while to calm down after being upset. Others may call them “bipolar” (which is not accurate).
  • Difficulty concentrating. Again, this is due to the brain’s inability to rest. It has too many things to focus on and so it makes it hard to focus on one thing.


This is obviously not an exhaustive list and there can be other reasons for these symptoms. However, it can be a good place to start. So, you see yourself in a lot of these…what now? The first thing you can do is find a licensed counselor, preferable one with training in trauma. Next, mindfulness has been proven to be helpful in reshaping the brain in a more healthy way. There are many helpful apps that are currently out there. However, it is important to make this a daily practice. One time will not have the necessary effect. Finally, if mindfulness is difficult for any period of time, grounding techniques can be very useful. There are several ways of doing this, but a common one is find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Reshaping the brain to function in a more healthy manner is possible, but it does take time.

I always found the saying of this title funny. But there’s a lot of truth to it, and it can have a few different meanings. The one I would like to focus on is the importance of what we say and how we interact with others. It can be so easy to let the heat of the moment lead to words that we regret saying. And while we may apologize and try to rectify the situation, once words have been spoken, they cannot be taken back.


Here are a few tips that can help you to “check yourself before you wreck yourself” (and your relationship). First, try to look at things from the other person’s point of view. I have said several times in previous blogs that things are rarely black and white issues. What is something that you can see from their viewpoint that will help you to understand them more? We want to create empathy, which can cool hot tempers. Next, is this a point that is really worth fighting over? Often, there are so many little things that can add up into what seems like one big thing. Try to tackle the little things one at a time. And a good question to ask is, “Will it really matter 5 years from now?” Sure, if you have to see his dirty socks on the floor ONE MORE TIME it makes you want to flip your lid; but in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? Finally, if you are having a difficult time with the other tips, walk away. If possible, go somewhere that is peaceful for you or where you are able to calm yourself down. Once you feel that the anger has subsided, it may be a better time to have the conversation.

Since March, relationships have been making a shift. We’ve been trying to figure out how to maintain our social circle as well as our relationships with our family while still maintaining social distancing…and in the case of our family at home, without going crazy. Relationships are at an all-time strain for many people. Here are some clues when it may be time to get help:

  • You notice that you and your significant other are getting into arguments either over “little” things or the same things
  • You love your child, but your patience is wearing thin; they just won’t listen
  • You’re exhausted from trying to meet everyone’s needs around you
  • You feel lonely yet want to be alone at the same time
  • The idea of being vulnerable with anyone scares you


Each of these situations have a different root cause and different solutions. While your relationships may have been healthy before COVID, the pandemic has shined a flashlight on areas we may not have known needed some work. However, the good news is that there’s never been an easier time to get help. Most therapists are online at this time, making scheduling and convenience at an all-time high. If you would like to thrive instead of just survive in your relationships, reach out for help!

Gratefulness. In our current climate, with a pandemic, racial upheaval, political upheaval, many relationships being strained, increased unemployment, and education like we’ve never seen it before – it can be hard to find things to be grateful about. But did you know that gratefulness has been proven to increase all those happy, feel-good chemicals in your brain, increase satisfaction with life, and decrease anxiety and depression? And on top of that, it physically rewires your brain so that you are even more grateful!


So, how do we find things to be grateful about? Don’t get me wrong – I know many people today are having a very difficult time. I am not discounting that at all. But by changing your outlook into one of gratitude, it can make things a little more bearable. If you need to, start small! Do you have a roof over your head? Be grateful! Do you have food in your house? Be grateful! Do you have even one person in your life that you feel you can be yourself with? Be grateful! I could go on and on – look in all areas of your life for things to be grateful for.


Here’s the tricky part – don’t follow it up with, “Yeah, but…” Yeah, but I don’t know what tomorrow brings, yeah but I had this happen or that happen. The trick here for this to work is to be grateful for what you DO have. I dare you to try it! You’ll be grateful you did!

Steffani Wooley, MA, LPC-I

Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t  – you’re right.” What did he mean by that? There is something called self-fulfilling prophesies. That is when you believe something to be true about yourself or your circumstances concerning the future, and they come true. Research has shown this does happen! So, you may say, if what I believe is going to come true, then why fight it?


The part about self-fulfilling prophesies that people may forget is that the person themselves consciously or unconsciously dictates the outcome. Let me give you an example. Someone may believe they are destined to be alone for the rest of their life. So, in an effort to stay away from the pain of a break-up, they may (again, consciously or unconsciously) keep people at “arm’s length,” never allowing someone to get close enough to see the real them or be vulnerable to form a real relationship. Some may even be mean, sarcastic, or off-putting in some other way in an effort to not get hurt. So, they have decided their own fate, the fate they were sure would happen.


How does this relate to therapy? The cool thing about self-fulfilling prophesies is that you can decide what you tell yourself! You want to be successful in your career? Believe that it’s possible and I bet you’ll be more likely to do the things that will make that happen. This is just one example of how a self-fulfilling prophesy can be useful. What you tell yourself matters!

Steffani Wooley, MA, LPC-I

You may have heard the benefits of having a flexible body; one primarily being that you are less likely to hurt yourself. The same is true if someone is able to be flexible in mind. What does that mean exactly?


If someone’s mind is inflexible, they are rigid in their thinking, aren’t able to adapt, aren’t able to see things from other’s point of view, and therefore are often less compassionate. We are seeing a lot of this in our world today. Issues appear to be completely black and white with no gray to be found. Instead, all that is found is anger, hatred, lack of compassion, and unhappiness all the way around. This can affect your mind, your emotions, and even your body. How many of us have felt like we had a knot in our stomach when we were upset? Inflexibility carries over into relationships, thereby not just effecting the person, but those in their world.


So how can you increase mind flexibility? One place to start is humility. By that I mean, realizing that no one on the planet knows all there is to know. Consider what the other person is saying, what the other viewpoint may have to offer. It is very rare that one viewpoint is completely positive with no negatives. Considering another viewpoint can increase empathy. This doesn’t mean that you end up agreeing with the other viewpoint, but you are better able to see why another person may feel or think that way. Using these steps can decrease anxiety and anger, aid in healing relationships, and give greater peace.

Making a decision to work on a behavior, a habit, a dysfunction, or maladaptive thinking can be very difficult. Sure, the deciding to do something can be fairly easy to say. “I’m going to do such and such.” However the follow through can be so much more difficult. Why is that?


Many goal-oriented programs will tell you that you need to find your “why.” What is that thing that matters so much to you that you are willing to push through the hard times to complete your goal? This is highly individualized. For example, an individual who wishes to quit smoking. Their reasons could be as varied as wanting to live longer, to walk easier, to breathe easier, to be more active, to not have a certain odor, or many other reasons. What is that one reason that matters more that all the others? We call that your “why.”


The second part of finding your “why” is the follow-up question of “when.” This is often known by the acronym SMART. The goal needs to be:

  • Specific: What do you want to accomplish
  • Measurable: How will you know when it is reached
  • Achievable: Is it realistic
  • Relevant: Your “Why”
  • Time-bound: When do you want to have this goal accomplished


When you can figure out your “Why” and you are able to write it out using SMART, you will have increased your chances of success!