Blog : mental health

Giving Your Rocks Away

Giving Your Rocks Away

I like to use symbolism and metaphors when I work with both my clients and my students. I’m sure I get an eye roll every now and then with, “Here she goes again”. But it offers an opportunity to visualize our experience of life in a way that may seem less abstract, more solid or relatable and understandable.

One analogy that I use often is the idea of rocks in our backpack. Imagine that you are wearing a backpack. This is obviously an invisible backpack, but imagine it hanging on your back. You can feel the straps coming across your arms and feel the weight at the top of your shoulders across your back lightly pulling down. Now imagine that there are rocks in the backpack. The rocks represent things that are bothering us, things that we are holding onto, things that take up space in our lives. For some of us we have small rocks, like pebbles. Rocks that represent our day to day stresses and responsibilities, the things on our to do list.  Maybe there is just a handful, for some of us maybe a bucketful. Maybe some days those rocks are bigger and heavier because of some stressful event going on in our lives. Or maybe we are just having a rough day and the rocks seem just a little heavier. Can you feel the heaviness of your own backpack?

Now, imagine if those rocks were even bigger like bricks or boulders. So heavy that it makes life hard to walk through because of the shear weight of the backpack on your shoulders. These brick or boulders represent the trauma we have experienced, the pain, the resentment we are holding onto, the depression, deep anxiety or fear, maybe anger or resentment, loss or grief.

Walking through life every day with a backpack full of big rocks is hard. Sure, we could carry a heavy backpack on our shoulders for a mile, maybe a few…but to get up everyday and carry boulders on our back as we try to go to work or school, try to raise children, be present in our relationships, attempt a social life, be there for others or even take care of ourselves?

I often encourage my clients to make some decisions about the rocks. With a backpack full or rocks, holding you down, it may seem impossible to pick just one rock to focus on, but we must start somewhere. Maybe pick an easy rock first. Create a plan, take care of the rock and your backpack will be lighter. Maybe just a little lighter…but with time, one rock at a time, life will be easier to walk though when there isn’t so much weight.

Another option is to give some rocks away. Sometimes we hold so tightly on to a large rock because the thought of ever being able to tackle it feels scary and overwhelming. Or maybe we have had this large rock for so long it feels like it is forever attached. But how much lighter would your backpack be if you gave a rock away? Seek out others to hold space for you… for your rocks. This could be a family member, a friend or a counselor. Anyone who will support you, not hold judgement against you and who will validate your experience and your feelings. Maybe offering your rock to God, to nature, to the universe. Allowing someone else to hold a rock for you means some of the weight is taken away, making life a little easier to walk through.

Why Don’t People Go To Therapy

Why Don’t People Go To Therapy

Why don’t people go to therapy? We go to the dentist every six months for cleanings and check-ups. We go to the doctor when we are sick. We get our hair cut or our nails done as needed, or as desired to feel and look our best. We get a massage or go to the chiropractor when we are in pain. But why do so many people avoid addressing the mental or emotional needs. Why don’t people go to therapy?

After working in the mental health field for many years I can say that taking the leap and reaching out for help is the hardest part. There are many reasons that people either don’t reach out or they take a long time to finally take that leap.

I have heard many people say that they would rather talk to their friends instead of a stranger. It is so important to have someone to talk to. You should talk to your family and friends and utilize your support system. But friendship is not psychotherapy. In a therapeutic relationship you are getting support and being challenged to take a deeper look at your life, your emotions and your motivations. Through therapy you gain valuable insight into yourself and the source of your problems. Not only are therapists trained listeners, but they are also trained to work alongside you as you address those problems. Remember that therapy is confidential too. Sometimes we can’t guarantee that with friends or family.

People have also shared that they can take care of mental health issues by visiting their doctor. Yes, if necessary, your doctor can provide medication to address a diagnosed mental health issue, and they can also help you rule out any medical condition that may be contributing to your mental health. But medical doctors are not trained therapists. Therapists will listen, provide feedback, help you identify healthy coping strategies and work empathically to help you find joy in life and in your relationships.

I have also heard people say that they went to a counselor once and it just didn’t work. I always say that every therapist has a different style and approach to their work. Just because it wasn’t a good fit the first time doesn’t mean it wont work out if you try someone else. Our personal perspectives and circumstances change with time. Sometimes we are more ready for therapy than we may have been in the past.

Another excuse is time and money. For any real change you want to make, it will also take real resources. Time does not just appear; you must make the time. Making time to address your mental and emotional needs will save you time. Consider all the time spent being unhappy, time spent fighting, scared or unsure. Taking the leap means more control over your time in the long run. It’s true that therapy can sometimes be costly as well, even with insurance, but consider it an investment in yourself, in your relationships, in your well-being. You are worth it.

So, what’s holding you back from taking the leap? Ready to make an appointment? Call us at 231-714-0282 or visit www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com

5 Ways to Promote Mental Health Every Week

5 Ways to Promote Mental Health Every Week

By Tarah K. Elhardan, MA, LPC, NCC

Last week, as I was laying on my yoga mat in the beginning of a Friday evening yoga class, my instructor gracefully stated that “one is the union of the mind, body and consciousness.” As a mental health professional, this truly resonated with me and I thought about it as I practiced that night. Overall health requires so more than drinking green smoothies, practicing yoga or running a 5k.

Now don’t get me wrong, while those are all healthy things that I also engage in, being in good health is so much more. Mental health is an essential and vital piece to one’s overall health. May is national Mental Health month and here are five ways that you can promote your own individual mental health each week.

Mental Health Tip #1 | Creativity and Play

Coloring books are not just for kids anymore – they’re for everyone and actually can be quite helpful in reducing stress. Coloring also can provide a space for creativity. Recent studies have shown that coloring can offer the same mental health benefits as meditation. Coloring in between the lines requires concentration and focus, which relaxes the mind and can be therapeutic. Grab a cup of your favorite herbal tea, coloring book and Crayola crayons for a low-stress activity that will give bring you relaxation and allow your subconscious to drift away.

Mental Health Tip #2 | Grow Mindfulness

Let’s all hop on the Social Media-less Monday train y’all. We live in a culture of busyness, where filling up your schedule is looked at as being successful. Slowing down, disengaging from technology and social media can allow your mind to de-stress. Mindfulness has shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, feelings of depression, chronic pain and increase the ability to cope with negative feelings. Try eating your lunch mindfully, away from your work desk without any distractions, and focus on each individual bite. Take ten minutes at the end of each day and journal any thoughts that come to you without judgment or criticism.  Go for a hike with your dog or go for a walk in the woods without your iPhone – be fully present in that moment – think only about who you are with and what you are doing in that moment.

Mental Health Tip #3 | Self-compassion and Gratitude

By focusing on what you have or what you did well, instead of what you do not have or what how you feel like you failed, you can start to live a  life rich with purpose and meaning. Start each day by writing or sharing three things in your life that you are grateful for. Let go of any judgmental or critical thoughts, and allow kind and compassionate thoughts to drift in and replace them. Eat a nutritious and delicious meal that feeds your body, mind and soul. Work each day to maintain a sense of humanity by being kind to yourself.

Mental Health Tip #4 | Community and Connection

People need people. Surround yourself with people that love you, support your goals, dreams and nourish your soul. Give back to the community and volunteer as a mentor or local food pantry. Each lunch with a co-worker that you don’t know that well, or call an old friend that you haven’t talked to in a while. If someone is toxic in your life, let them go. The toxicity can spread in other areas of your life beyond your relationships. When you engage in relationships that are meaningful, it gives you a sense of purpose, community and connection to the larger picture.

Mental Health Tip #5 | Mindset

Mindset is everything. Working towards a growth mindset, the term coined by Carol Dweck, can increase motivation, self-esteem and productivity. It can also enhance the quality of relationships that you have in your life. A positive mindset can affect the thoughts that you have about yourself, capabilities and abilities for the better. As Theodore Roosevelt would say, “believe in yourself and you’re halfway there!”

Being in good health isn’t just about eating well and working out, mental health is just as important, if not more! Focus on ways you can promote your mental health, not about intervention when things build up or go wrong. Promote your mental health by engaging in the activities, thoughts and experiences above that benefit your overall health.

Meet Tarah

Traverse City counselor Tara
Tarah K. Elhardan, MA, LPC

Tarah K. Elhardan is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and joined Traverse City counseling practice, Mental Wellness Counseling in 2013. Tarah wants to reassure individuals and families struggling with difficult life events that they do not have to face their issues alone. Tarah is a native of Traverse City who has a passion for helping others find happiness and peace within themselves. She works from a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach where she helps clients find how their thoughts and behaviors connect.

She focuses on food intolerance such as gluten-free living, lactose intolerance, and other eating issues. Through her own personal experiences and research with she has found a passion for nutrition and its connection with mental health. Tarah takes a holistic approach to counseling, considering the mind and body as a whole. She feels that one needs to have a healthy mind to live a happy and fulfilling life.