New look, same us

 

 

 

I am so excited to share my brand design! 

This has been a labor of love over the past few months – and the thoughts that landed me with this particular aesthetic have been in motion for close to a year. Since I am a talker, I want to share a little about the why behind the new elements in the design.

When I founded Solid Ground Counseling Center (lovingly referred to as Solid Ground) there was this vision to meet people where they were and help them experience love so they could grab hold of hope, which I believe propelled them into growth. It was the tagline for my business for a long time. While I still believe in the process of love | hope | grow, this past year was one of immense personal growth for me. As I reflected on how that impacted the way I thought about my business, I realized it really is rooted in love. This emerged as the new tagline for Solid Ground because I believe it is the foundation of absolutely everything we do here.

The original logo, centered on the arrows, represented the path forward. I believe that while we cannot go back, we can use the past to inform us of our steps moving forward. The arrow concept still holds true, but as my understanding of people, behaviors, and healing has grown, thus the brand needed to as well.

The new logo incorporates the arrow on the planter. I couldn’t quit lose that piece entirely 😉 The plant on the new logo is a perfect visual representation of how I picture growth. I always giggle when I see the meme that talks about “Get sunlight, water, and fresh air because we are basically plants with complicated emotions”. It is funny, but true! I think humans need love and nourishment to thrive. When we lack these basic necessities, our roots (the source from which growth is possible) just become ineffective. We struggle to survive, and thriving is off the table. BUT the hardiness of nature, of plants, is SO awe-inspiring. I have seen plants with essentially non-existent root systems get nourished from the top, supported from above and it provided the time necessary for new roots to develop. Once that happened the plant had the opportunity to grow to its maximum potential! Sound familiar??
I chose a snake plant for the beauty they have. To me they represent elegance and strength in the face of uncertain circumstances. They are hardy and resilient, growing slow but steady so long as they have the proper conditions. When neglected, these plants can continue to sustain for long periods, and are relatively quick to bounce back. People, right?

My new colors are based on visually representing adjectives like calm, joy, growth, hope, stability, positivity, freshness, restoration, trust, and patience. I hope you feel these things in the new design.

My desire moving forward is that each client, supporter, and business partner will continue to see how much love drives our work. We only move forward from here! Our business model is not changing, the services are still the same, but we hope that the message we visually convey more accurately represents the work that is done within the walls and hearts of our amazing little center.
THANK YOU for the opportunity to serve you for 2.5 years. I am so humbled and deeply grateful.

Stay well friends. ❤️

#solidgroundmadison #solidgroundcounselingcenter #rootedinlove #mentalhealthmatters

Dismantling Mental Health Stigma

Let’s talk about the stigma surrounding mental health. A stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” Layer that over mental health, and specifically mental illness and now the definition reads “a mark of disgrace associated with mental illness.” Ouch. It breaks my heart that mental illness continues to carry a mark of disgrace with it, especially with the high prevalence in our communities.

Did you know that an estimated 1 in 5 adults struggle with a mental illness? When we include youth and children in this estimate, the percentage rises. With such significant numbers, the fact that mental health is still discussed minimally, if at all, is discouraging. We know that individuals with a mental health diagnosis are at a greater risk for social isolation, have greater difficulty developing fulfilling relationships, and that there is a correlation between untreated mental illness and suicide risk. Despite the known complications, as well as the known benefits of treatment, conversations about mental illness continue to happen below the threshold necessary to encourage change.

What if we talked about mental health as openly as physical health? Imagine what our communities would look like if individuals affected by a mental illness were able to gain support from their family and neighbors for their depression, the same as when they are post-op from a heart surgery. Consider what the recovery process for mental illness would look like if when someone disclosed their struggle and their journey to wellness they were accepted and encouraged! Do you think that kind of support would affect whether people with mental illnesses reach out for help? I think so, and I believe this kind of change is possible, with some shifts in how society thinks about mental health.

How do we begin to unravel the stigma? I believe the first step is to get educated! Almost without exception, when I have a judgment about a topic, it is due to a lack of information about that subject. Mental health is no different. In my opinion one issue that prevents people from being educated about mental health includes the lack of open discussions regarding the prevalence and impact of mental illness. Due in large part to stigma, many individuals who struggle with mental illness feel unable to talk as openly as someone who is battling cancer – and yet mental illness can be just as detrimental. When we hear personal testimonies about how mental illness affects people, we can connect our hearts with the importance of the cause. As I see it when we become educated, through real people accounts, our understanding and compassion provides the catalyst for reducing the stigma and normalizing mental health care.

To begin changing the conversations surrounding mental health I have unpacked some points I believe are important.

1. Understand mental illness is not a choice. Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder, PTSD, Anorexia, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. These diagnoses, like so many others, involve a reaction in the brain that the afflicted individual has difficulty controlling without outside assistance. The behaviors, thoughts, reactions, and effects are not something the person would choose for themselves. Unfortunately, because of a lack of information, society sometimes paints a picture that people who are mentally ill choose to live this way. The truth is that even if they felt comfortable doing so, many people do not know where to turn to for help, or even that something is “wrong”. Mental illness tells lies like “You are the only one that feels this way”, it is from this isolating place that the person struggling keeps their battles tucked away, lest they seem “crazy”.

2. Mental illness can be treated. The field of psychiatry and therapy has grown tremendously over the past few decades. What we now know about the brain allows clinicians and physicians more opportunities to assist individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses. Previously, a schizophrenia diagnosis would almost certainly mean hospitalization. Fortunately, the advances in medicine and psychiatry have allowed a more comprehensive approach, providing platforms for many individuals with schizophrenia to live full, independent lives. These advances have positively impacted the field of mental health in many ways. Understanding the possibility of treatment can encourage those struggling to get help, which means more people on the road to wellness.

3. People with mental illness are not their diagnosis. Mental illness does NOT define an individual. We do not say “That bi-polar woman”, but rather “the woman with bi-polar disorder”, because the diagnosis does not define the person. It is a struggle they are walking through, not a definition of their being. Can you imagine calling the mom battling breast cancer “the cancer lady”? Absolutely not, and yet society has normalized the labeling of people struggling with mental illness by their diagnosis. In my opinion, this reinforces the stigma, rather than creating space for safe, open conversation about the struggle. Realizing that mental illness is something that affects the individual, rather than who they are, is key in updating how we view mental illness.

4. People with mental health diagnoses are capable. Individuals with a mental health diagnosis are just as capable of living abundant lives, raising families, and working fulfilling jobs as people who do not struggle with mental illness. It is true that some diagnoses will require more intense, or even long-term care for symptom management, but this does not prohibit productivity or decrease the value of the individual. Some of the most resilient people I know have battled mental illness and come out with more grit, tenacity, and compassion for others than individuals who have never dealt with mental health issues.

So, what do we do with all of this? The reality is mental illness is not going away, a fact we cannot change. What we can change is the way we perceive mental health as well as the individuals who struggle with mental illness. We can set into motion a snowball effect of acceptance, and thus facilitate dialogue for healing. I believe when we do so the stigma decreases, and the topic of mental health care becomes a more normal conversation. People who are struggling feel more safe reaching out for help, and a shift begins. I am ready to be a part of the change, are you?

 

Mental Health & the Holidays

Recently I submitted this writing for the fall issue of Inside Medicine Magazine and wanted to share here to. I believe this topic is so important and often something we struggle to navigate. I hope this lends some hope to your holiday season!

Perhaps you have heard of people, or you yourself experience stress around the holidays. We see it advertised as this amazing time of thankfulness and joy, and while it can be, the reality is it does not always feel that way. Family members we do not care to see, houses that bring back awful memories, the constant obligation to be “merry and bright”. Ugh.

This narrative is all to familiar in my office this time of year. Individuals who are functioning optimally throughout the year but mid-October hits and so does the dread. They share how the pit begins in their stomach and they just cannot shake it. Or they feel their blood pressure is through the roof 24/7 until after December 31st. They begin experiencing panic attacks, overwhelming anxiety, and high levels of stress, all because they are thinking about the impending holiday season. The range of symptoms that result from compromised mental health during the holidays is serious. We are aware that high levels of stress can affect you physically in many ways, this season is a prime time for those issues to arise. I invite you to discover why we feel this stress and what we can do about it.

Stress is your body’s response to external stimuli that presents a challenge or demand. It manifests as a feeling of emotional or physical tension and results from any event that creates feelings of anger, frustration, nervousness, and even motivation. Stress is not inherently bad. There are many benefits of the stress response when we are properly managing the effects and input. Think about how you use to stress to finish that assignment at the last moment or push through a tough workout. However, stress becomes a negative when we are struggling to process the received stimuli appropriately and become overwhelmed by the information. In a nutshell, stress is the way we describe the feeling we get when are faced with something that seems out of our control or beyond our abilities.

Combatting stress, especially around the holidays can be helpful since lower stress levels equates to a higher likelihood to enjoy the present. Relishing in the here-and-now triggers our brain to transmit positive neural signals which assist in creating new, happier memories. This process is crucial in rewriting negative or unhelpful memories from the past. How do we execute this on a practical level?

1. Recognize what your triggers are. Stress tends to present itself in similar situations. For example, you may experience the same feelings from hanging out with family who do not communicate clearly and frequently leave you struggling to be heard as well as in a work setting where your coworkers are not listening to your input. The trigger here is the reality, or anticipation, of being unheard. The physical tension grows in your body as it recalls the defeat in past engagements with these people. The physical may be joined by emotional anguish from feeling so desperately voiceless. Your stress response in this moment is informing you of how your system was unable to find a solution in the past. That deficit is trying to warn you to avoid the situation in order to prevent experiencing those feelings again. Recognizing the trigger helps you understand BEFORE the event that you may need to consider your options before jumping in.

2. Understand you can set boundaries for yourself. Boundaries are often misrepresented as a bad thing but should be a part of all relationships. Boundaries allow an individual the opportunity to take their beliefs, needs, and limitations into account in order to advocate for and protect themselves from situations or people who cannot or will not bring them life. As humans we all have limits, recognizing what those are and establishing safeguards that keep us protected from harm is a normal part of relating with others. While boundaries are not cutting off everyone who makes us feel uncomfortable, you may have a need to cease contact with certain people in your life. As individuals, the limits we have look vastly different from person to person. Thus, it is crucial we establish personal boundaries that are based on our own unique needs. Discovering what those necessary boundaries are will require some mindfulness about how we feel in those stressful life moments. Healthy boundaries include: deciding to take a step back from a toxic relationship, not participating in a holiday at a certain family members house, or choosing to protect a specific night of the week for your family. The process of implementing boundaries is often stressful. It can be helpful to remember the following: You see a need for this boundary for a reason. Not everyone has to understand the need, they are not managing your stress around this situation. When you implement and respect your own boundaries, others are more likely to follow suit.

3. Schedule time for enjoyable things. The pressure is on to be at all the mandatory events and celebrations. The stress creeps in when we are not purposeful about taking time to engage in activities we enjoy. During the holidays it can be especially difficult to carve out time for ourselves. However, if we want to reduce our stress levels and increase the enjoyability of the season, doing so should be non-negotiable. Self-care through personal time and hand-picked activities can reset our stress levels and help us approach the must-dos with more patience and strength. A key here is knowing ahead of time what we really enjoy and how much time those activities will take so we can pencil them in accordingly. 30 minutes on a Thursday afternoon? Have your current book ready for reading. One hour on a Saturday? Enjoy that walk around your neighborhood. Remember that self-care is necessary, not selfish.
As with all matters of mental health, techniques to reduce stress are not a one-size fits all. However, these tips can be a great starting place in the journey toward a healthier mental state. I encourage you to take the time to be mindful, identify your triggers, recognize what your stress response looks like, and consider what healthy boundaries need to be in place in your life. Give yourself some grace, enjoy the delicious food, and have a Happy Holiday season!

Relationship Talk

If you are interested in what it looks like to begin building better communication with your partner, you are in the right place! Relationships, although deeply rewarding, are hard work. Contrary to the fairy tale scenes today’s movies and shows depict, partnerships with our significant other take work – do not get discouraged, there is good news here!

Communication deficits remain one of the top reported relationship issues. Often, after multiple attempts at conversations that go awry partners begin to assume they are incompatible, or that the other person does not care. While this can be incredibly frustrating, it tends to be largely untrue. When we think about how different our communication styles from our families of origin are, it is understandable to see how we end up in conversations that go around in circles.

Something I have learned in life, as well as my professional career is that it is ok to argue or disagree. Conflict (i.e. not having the same perspective) is 100% alright, and honestly a healthy part of relationships. Disagreement allows us an amazing opportunity to stretch ourselves and learn about our spouse, as well as teach them about us. If this seems far-fetched or impossible because communication is a struggle in your relationship, I can completely understand. I HAVE BEEN THERE! However, I can assure you it is true. As with any area we are looking to improve, purposeful effort to update our communication patterns can result in an increase in satisfaction concerning this area of our relationship. The following are rules I use in my relationship, as well as teach couples in my practice. I am so excited to share them with you here.

1. Communicate clearly and fairly.
I imagine that most of us can think of an example of when a conversation that we had with our spouse just went downhill fast. Every time that we have an exchange of this nature it creates a connection in our brain that says “this type of conversation is not effective”, “this topic is not safe to talk about”, or even “my spouse is unwilling to resolve this with me”. Anybody been there? Communicating fairly and clearly helps conversations proceed in an effective, productive manner. Assuming the best of our partner rather than filtering everything they say as a personal blow facilitates an atmosphere of fair communication. So, how do we actually communicate clearly and fairly? Keep reading!

2. Determine what it is that you really need.
If you think about it, how are you going to help your spouse understand what you need if you cannot explain it to yourself? It is unfair to expect our partner to read our mind (if you are like me, you may need to read that again). Perhaps you are familiar with the type of conversation that begins with you asking or telling your spouse one thing, but then spirals out of control after you have requested or gone off about 9 other things. Doing a heart check to determine what you need BEFORE you bring a conversation or request to your spouse will ensure you are able to effectively communicate what you actually need.

3. Manage your expectations.
Have you ever had an exchange with your spouse that you ended up with you being upset due to them not meeting your expectations? When you think about that situation, did you go into that conversation expecting something from them that was never expressed? As previously mentioned, our partners are not mind-readers. If we need something from them, we need to talk about it. Having expectations of our spouse, especially those that are uncommunicated, leads conversations into disaster more times than is necessary. Also, it is important to ensure that the expectations we have of our spouse are appropriately theirs. By this I mean, we cannot expect our spouse to determine our self-worth. We cannot expect our spouse to be our source of joy. These are not their roles. Expecting our spouse to be responsible for these things will leave you repeatedly disappointed. Taking responsibility for those areas of our life takes the pressure off our partner to fulfill the roles they were designed to do!

4. Listen to hear, not to respond.
One of the most hurtful things that can happen in a conversation is to have poured your heart out or said something important only to have your spouse respond in a defensive manner, or not even hear what you said. When we listen to hear we use active or reflective listening. Active listening is when we listen to hear what the speaker is saying rather than listening to respond. Specifically you are listening to hear what they are communicating and why (or the emotion behind it). Although it takes a bit of practice, it is a highly effective tool for communicating.

5. Reflect what you heard to ensure you understood.
This is the second part of listening to hear. Reflecting back what you heard ensures that you understood what your spouse was saying. It also gives them the opportunity to steer you back on course when you hear something that was not their intent to communicate. Having discussions in this manner ensures that you do not assume something based on misheard information. There is very little room for misunderstandings when a conversation contains two active listeners 😉

6. Put yourself in their shoes.
Would you want your spouse to treat you or speak to you the way that you speak to (or about) them? Affording our partner dignity and respect in conversations sets the tone for how the situation can turn out. If we would not enjoy being spoken down to, disrespected, or cut short, we need to avoid speaking to our partner this way. This can be a difficult habit to break, but is an absolute game changer for productive conversations!

That is it, easy peasy, right? Kidding. If all this seems overwhelming, I suggest you begin with #2. Going into a conversation with knowledge about what you are asking for, or needing from your partner is key. If you are to be the listener because your spouse has brought something to you – than hone in on #4/5. While these techniques work best together, it is not worth stressing yourself out over perfecting them before your next conversation. Like any good skill in life, good communication skills are learned during practice. Good luck, and happy conversations!