Why can’t we forget the painful past? – Video

A counselorssoapbox.com video by David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Do you have trouble forgetting the painful past? Do the traumas and mistakes of the past make it difficult to enjoy life in the present? There are reasons why your brain wants to remember the pain and can’t remember happy life events. This video explores why you can’t forget the pain of the past and ways to shift the balance, so you remember more happy things and fewer unpleasant events.

What is complex trauma?

A counselorssoapbox.com video by David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

What is complex trauma?

Not everyone who experiences a trauma ends up with a mental illness. Some traumas are easier to heal from than others. Researchers have described a condition called complex trauma which is a subtype of PTSD and more difficult to heal from. This video explores what complex trauma is and the signs and symptoms someone with complex trauma would experience.

Could you have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

A counselorssoapbox.com video by David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Could you have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness caused by exposure to stress. It is similar to some other trauma and stress are related disorders. People with PTSD may also experience several other mental illnesses. What are some of the signs and symptoms of PTSD? How would you know if you were experiencing PTSD?

How to stop overwhelming yourself.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Overwhelmed.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Being overwhelmed can damage your mental and physical health.

Life these days can be hectic. Feeling overwhelmed is one of those stressors that can lead to poor mental health or the development of a mental illness. People often have responsibilities at work, challenges in their relationships, kids to raise, and bills to pay. All these conflicting obligations can cause you to feel overwhelmed.

People who come to see therapists because of depression often have a long history of being under stress and feeling overwhelmed. Some people have a positive stress mindset and interpret life’s challenges as opportunities rather than problems. But if you’re one of those people who is chronically overwhelmed by stress, there are things you can do to reduce the effects of stress on your life.

Your schedule needs to include some downtime.

Over scheduling yourself increases that overwhelmed feeling. If you don’t maintain your automobile, it’s likely to break down. You can’t run your car at full speed for very long before you start developing problems. Machinery needs some downtime for adjustments and repairs. It should be no surprise that humans need that downtime for rest and relaxation if they’re going to avoid both mental and physical problems.

Knowing when to stop reduces feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re chronically overwhelmed, the first step is to simply stop doing anything that doesn’t have to be done. It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget that your human, not a rat. People who are overwhelmed often keep doing things out of habit rather than because they need to do them. If you feel overwhelmed, stop as soon as possible, take a break, and ask yourself, do I need to do this, and do I need to do it right now?

Take a deep breath and say goodbye to feeling overwhelmed.

As the level of stress hormones rise, one of the first things that it affects is your breathing. If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, examine your breathing. People who were stressing out often are holding their breath. Tell yourself to remember to breathe. Breathing like a little puppy, short, shallow breaths, will increase your anxiety and may even make you dizzy and lightheaded. Take a deep breath from the diaphragm, not a shallow breath from up near your throat. Hold that breath for a moment and then exhale. Pause briefly before taking another breath. As you breathe more deeply, and more slowly, you will feel your anxiety level declining.

Reduce the overwhelm by saying no.

The secret to getting more done in life is not piling more tasks on yourself. You become more effective and less overwhelmed when you learn to say no to things you don’t have to do. A very useful rule of productivity is that you increase productivity not by doing more but by eliminating items from your schedule, you don’t need to do so that you can focus on the important tasks.

Make sure your schedule includes plenty of time for personal things. Self-care is not a luxury but a necessity. Include time in your schedule for your relationships, family and friends, and the things you really enjoy.

Don’t say yes until you’ve had a chance to think it over.

A huge source of that overwhelmed feeling is saying yes to too many things. Whether it’s at work or in your personal social life, learn to say no to something that will use up your time and leave you feeling stressed out and pressured. It’s easy to get into the habit of saying yes to everyone and everything. Learn to build some boundaries. Otherwise, people will keep dumping their garbage all over you.

Stop adding things to your priority list.

When you have too many priorities, you’re constantly running from one fire to the next and never getting anything accomplished. The fewer items on your priority list, the more progress you’ll make at getting everything done. Take another look at your to-do list and if things have been on there for a long time, either do it immediately or cross it off the list. It’s the things on your to-do list that you can’t do that add to that incredible sense of being overwhelmed.

Increase your self-esteem and reduce feeling overwhelmed.

You’re a human being, not a human doing. Learn to feel good about yourself regardless of what you have or are doing. If your self-esteem is based on what others think of you, it will always be precarious. Learn to like yourself. Become your own best friend. Your self-esteem should rest on being the best person you can be, which includes time for self-improvement rather than having to do a lot of things for others.

Invest some time in self-care.

Get plenty of sleep. Reducing sleep does not make you more efficient or give you more time to be productive. Lack of sleep results in foggy thinking, less energy, and will increase anxiety and depression. Lack of sleep also adds to the overwhelmed feeling because when you’re tired, you have less energy to do anything and become overwhelmed more rapidly.

Make sure you exercise regularly. Walking every day for twenty minutes or more has been shown to decrease symptoms of several mental illnesses. If you don’t have time to at least walk every day, your life is far too busy.

Listen to what your feelings are telling you.

Feelings have gotten a bad reputation. Your feelings shouldn’t control you, but they are a valuable source of information. If something is upsetting, you should stop and think about why, rather than ignoring this uncomfortable feeling. Don’t tell yourself you should enjoy something. Ask yourself if you really are enjoying what you’re doing. If the life you’re living isn’t making you happy, consider changing how your living that life. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that happiness comes from the next jolt of excitement. True happiness also includes periods of calm and relaxation.

Take some time to think about your life goals.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of day-to-day living without ever thinking about whether what you’re doing is taking you where you want to go. Do you want to be this frantically busy? If you were to have your ideal perfect life, would it be having more things or having more enjoyable experiences? Make sure that the life you’re living takes you to the goals that really matter to you, not the goals that someone else’s told you to pursue.

Maybe now is the time to say goodbye to that overwhelmed feeling.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders, see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Things You Need to Know About Stress.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Stress person

Stress.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Stress can be normal.

Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but some people experience more stress than they’re able to handle.

Stress is the bodies efforts to prepare for needed effort. Two things will determine how stress affects you. How you initially handle stress is critical. Some people may be able to handle physical stress easily, but not mental stress. You may not be able to manage financial stress equally to the way you handle emotional stress.

Not everyone recovers from stress at the same rate.

Athletes who train every day may recover from physical stress relatively quickly. If you’re one of those people who rarely exercise, doing something physically strenuous on the weekend may require several days for you to recover.

Stressful events can be temporary, or they may last a long time.

Moving from one house to another may be stressful until you have settled into the new home. Starting a new job can also be stressful. Being unemployed and homeless can remain stressful for a very long time.

Some stress is routine, and some are extraordinary.

Everyday stresses could be things such as getting ready and going to work every morning or getting the kids off to school. Most jobs involve routine stress. Extraordinary types of stress include such things as a death in the family, losing a job or working at a job that has frequent episodes of high pressure.

Sometimes stress can be traumatic.

Experiencing a traumatic stressor can result in several types of mental illness. After experiencing a sudden traumatic stressor, some people experience a short bout of Acute Stress Disorder. If the impairment from the stressor does not remit, it may become Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Long-term constant stress can result in burnout.

Job burnout is the result of high levels of stress over a long period, which results in a person feeling both physically and emotionally exhausted and not being able to recover during their time of duty.

Stress isn’t always bad.

Physically stressing your muscles can increase your strength and abilities. Mental stress can lead to learning and creativity. Happy events can sometimes be extremely stressful. Interviewing for a job, starting a new job, getting married, or the birth of a child can all be stressful events. What’s important is to give yourself time to rest after the stressful events. Stress only becomes bad when it exceeds your abilities, continues to long, or is traumatic.

Chronic stress can overwhelm you.

Your automobile should be capable of rapid acceleration or high speeds on occasion. Run your car too many miles at high speed, and eventually something will break. While humans are not machines, the same principle applies. Living life with too much stress can eventually overwhelm you.

Self-care can help reduce stress.

Good self-care can reduce the impact of the stresses you experience. Good self-care does not necessarily mean doing nothing or vegetating on the couch all weekend. Varying your activities can reduce the impact of chronic stress.

Excess stress harms your health.

High levels of long-term stress are unhealthy. Continuing to mentally hold onto stress after the event will also damage your physical health. Excess stress can impair your sleep and appetite. Difficulty falling asleep, called sleep latency, is the result of ruminating about the thing that is stressing you. Chronic or excessive stress can also impair your immune system making you more susceptible to illness and infections.

High levels of stress cause physical and emotional symptoms.

You may experience excess stress in your body. Headaches, nausea, insomnia, and changes in appetite can all be symptoms of excess stress. Too much stress may also lead to irritability, anger, and sadness. Ultimately stress can lead to developing a mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression.

Can stress be managed?

Many people feel that stress is just a part of modern life, and they try to tough it out for as long as possible. Failing to manage stress can lead to physical and emotional illnesses, job burnout, and even permanent disabilities. There are things you can do to reduce the impact of stress on your life. In my next post in this series, I want to tell you about ways that you can manage stress and reduce its impact on your life.

Here are some resources for more about stress and stress management.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a handy brochure on stress and managing it.

Other counselorssoapbox posts on this topic are at Stress.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

Letters from the Dead The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead?

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking, and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

Could your overthinking be an illness?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Woman thinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Overthinking leads to mental health problems.

Overthinking, that constantly turning problems over in your mind, sometimes called rumination, may be a symptom of an existing or developing

Overthinking

Overthinking.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

mental illness. Constantly second-guessing your past leads to depression. Having doubts about the future increase your anxiety. How many of these overthinking problems are you experiencing?

Am I good enough?

Continually wondering how you compare to others can be a sign of social or performance anxiety. Accepting yourself as you are while striving for self-improvement will increase your mental health. Constantly comparing yourself and judging everything you do results in the bias of only seeing your faults and never recognizing your strengths.

Should I have said that?

Extreme concerns over what you should say or didn’t say is another sign of social anxiety. For many situations, there is no correct response. In social situations strive to be your genuine self. You can reduce the number of social errors you make by pausing before speaking. Not every thought should escape from your mouth. Learn from any mistakes you make but avoid continually rehashing every conversation.

You have a bad case of the “what if’s.”

If you are constantly on the alert for any presence of threats, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Some people develop this condition because of past stress or trauma. But if you instinctively look for every possible way in which something could go wrong, you’ve developed the overanxious condition professionals call Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Most time spent on what if’s will be time wasted on thinking about unlikely possibilities. Focus your efforts on high probability events.

You worry about having an undiagnosed illness.

Worry about having an illness that hasn’t been diagnosed can be the result of a Somatic Symptom Disorder or an Illness Anxiety Disorder. When you have concerns about your health see your Dr. If your symptoms are severe, you may want to get a second opinion. Continuing to worry that you might develop an illness robs you of the opportunity to enjoy the life you have.

You worry about leaving the house.

This condition is called Agoraphobia, which translates to fear of the marketplace. People who worry constantly and excessively about leaving the house can also be afraid of crowds and meeting strangers. If you have this worry, seek professional help before your fears hold you prisoner in your own home. Agoraphobia can hold you hostage and deprive you of your family, friends, and your job.

You worry about having another panic attack.

People who are prone to panic attacks often know that the symptoms they have are from a panic attack. Still, during a panic attack, you may worry that this time you actually are having a heart attack or that you will not be able to catch your breath and will suffocate. It’s common for people with panic disorder to fear being somewhere where they will not be able to get help.

You fear something bad will happen and you need to do a ritual to prevent that.

This type of repetitive overthinking is characteristic of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. While the person with this disorder may know, the fear is irrational; they still feel compelled to do a repetitive behavior in the belief that this will prevent the danger.

Overthinking, or rumination can be both a cause of and a symptom of a serious mental health problem. If your overthinking is undermining your happy life, seek help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Therapy can make stress and anxiety disorders worse.

By David Joel Miller.

Traditional talk therapy may make your problems worse.

What do you fear

Fear
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Don’t get me wrong; talk therapy has been helpful to a large number of people.  But occasionally I encounter a client whose condition has been made worse, not better, as a result of being in therapy.  One predictor of whether therapy will work for you is the fit between you and your therapist. If the kind of therapy they’re doing or the way they’re doing it is not helpful, begin by talking with the therapist about this. A good therapist will work with you to find helpful solutions. If you find your therapy making things worse, you may end up needing to switch to a new therapist. Below are some ways I have seen therapy be unhelpful and some suggestions for making it more helpful.

Repeated talking about it can retraumatize you.

Some therapists were trained that the way to be helpful to people, was to do a thorough biopsychosocial assessment before they began treatment.  This historical approach often means beginning with the first event in your life and move things forward one event at a time.  Therapists with this orientation may well believe that the key to fixing your current problems, is to thoroughly deal with your childhood issues first.

More than one client has told me that their therapist’s insistence that they needed to talk about past abuse in detail, became so painful they had to discontinue therapy. We often hear from victims of trauma that the having to go over and over the details was more painful than the initial experience.

There’s some truth to the idea that you can’t heal injuries, physical or emotional, that you deny exist. The problem comes from efforts to dig up the graveyard to get at the root causes before the person is even able to cope with life today.

What is often more helpful is a “solution-focused” approach to your problems. This approach means beginning at the top with the problem that is affecting you today. If today’s problem is unemployment or a bad relationship, that may need working on right now. Keep in mind that early life experiences may be impacting today’s issues. As you get today’s problems under control, you may decide you want to work on those old long-term problems, or you may decide that having solved today’s problems you need to move on with your life.

Talking in therapy can turn into co-rumination.

Sometimes therapy can perpetuate problems.  It’s easy to stay stuck, week after week, reviewing the exact same problems.  When this is done with a friend, it is sometimes described as co-rumination.  The same process can be harmful when done with a therapist or counselor.

Narrative therapists described this as staying stuck in a problem-saturated story. Repeating the same story over and over can magnify its control over you. The challenge is to stop the pain and begin to create a story of how the future can be better than the past.

Being in the wrong group therapy can make your problems worse.

We see this often in substance abuse treatment.  A young adult gets caught with some marijuana, which is illegal in his particular jurisdiction.  This person gets referred to drug treatment and placed in a group made up largely of heroin addicts.  Not only is this group not helpful, but there is an increased risk that this person will develop a worse problem than before.

An equally bad problem can be created when a woman with a history of domestic violence ends up in a PTSD group with some returning military veterans. Group therapy can be extremely powerful, but only if you’re in the right group.

Sometimes the symptoms become the problem.

Many of the things that are described as symptoms of a trauma-related disorder are in fact ways that people adapt to having survived that trauma. When therapy focuses too much on ending symptoms, it can become unhelpful.

For example, a victim of trauma may begin drinking, trying not to have to remember the painful experiences. Someone notices the person’s drinking, maybe because they’re drunk at work or they get a DUI. They may end up in treatment for alcohol use disorder. The difficulty here is that for this person the alcohol is not their problem, it is their solution. The problem is the recurring intrusive memories of the trauma.

Using “unhelpful” behaviors to manage your current symptoms can become a habit. Rather than focusing too much on the unhelpful behaviors, many therapists will work with you on creating new helpful behaviors. Under stress, humans tend to revert to their habitual way of behaving. The therapist will want you to continue to practice your new helpful behaviors until they become your new automatic way of coping.

Don’t give up before the healing miracle happens.

I hope this post will help you understand the ways in which therapy can be helpful, and the times it may not be. If you’re currently coping with the results of trauma and stressors or you have high levels of anxiety that are interfering with your day-to-day life, know that there is therapy out there that can make your life better. If you have been for counseling in the past and it was not helpful, seek out a therapist you can feel comfortable working with. If you’re currently working with someone and it’s not helping, talk to them about this issue.

One other thing you need to keep in mind is that when you’re in severe emotional pain, you may feel like you’re stuck and nothing is getting better. It’s very common for people to make large amounts of progress and not realize they’re getting better. Sometimes your counselor, family or friends will see the changes in you long before you do. Please don’t give up.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.