January 16, 2018

How Stress Affects Your Brain

I came across this video the other day talking about how stress affects your brain. If you have ever wondered how stress affects your brain I would recommend you check it out.

One of the most proven ways to deal with stress is through meditation. If you have been interested in meditating but need some help getting started or staying on schedule I recommend you use a meditation app like headspace. They are having a 40% off discount that you can take advantage of or use the free version.

If you would like to schedule an appointment contact us at 713-591-3612 or nancy@wilsoncounseling.org. 

December 27, 2017

Beauty From Ashes. New Year, New Hope.

"Meaningless, meaningless. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless under the sun. What do people gain from all of their labors at which they toil under the sun? I have seen all the things that are done under the sun, all are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. " Ecclesiasties 1

Does anything really matter

Since Hurricane Harvey, I have been thinking a lot about these words from King Solomon in the Christian scriptures. It's a bit nihilistic, but nihilism comes easily in the wake of such quick destruction. A house that may have taken years to build was flooded in a matter of hours. All of the time spent choosing paint colors and fixtures and displaying art, all became irrelevant in a matter of hours. Possessions you spent a lifetime collecting and curating are flooded, soiled, swelled up, gone. When you go through something like that, a natural reaction is to ask, what's the point? Does any of it matter? What is really important to me?

Home being torn down after flooding during Harvey

Getting from sorrow to hope

It is easy to lose hope. So, what keeps you going? What gives you the motivation to rebuild, to keep living, to keep fighting? How can you get to a place of joy from a place of sorrow? Why bother when it will all turn to ashes? It will all end up in a landfill.

The debris of a home torn down after the flood

Joy is deeper and sweeter because you have seen suffering and loss

Many of you who have gone through painful experiences in life have learned that there can be joy even at the end of a very difficult season of life. And you may have found that your joy is deeper and sweeter because you have seen what it means to suffer and to experience loss.

Tomorrow brings wholeness and healing

Crystal Lewis has a song entitled "Beauty for Ashes." I love the redemptive message in the lyrics.
"He gives beauty for ashes. Strength for fear. Gladness for mourning. Peace for despair. When sorrow seems to surround you. When suffering hangs heavy on your head. Know that tomorrow brings wholeness and healing." Sometimes there has to be destruction before there can be rebuilding both literally and metaphorically.

This time of year, people start thinking about the new year and new year's resolutions. But for some of you, life is more about surviving. The idea of adding a resolution feels overwhelming. It is okay to feel down. It is a normal reaction to hard things. Be compassionate with yourself. You have had a hard year. You have survived a hard year in the best way you are able. That is enough.

Be compassionate and you will find good enough is good enough

When you don't have hope, remind yourself that even when you don't feel it, life will get better. We know from our history that after the rain, there is sun. After the sun sets, it also rises. It is just the cyclical nature of life. Believe in that cycle even when you don't feel it to be true. Lean into the hope.

People who love you will be light in your darkness

And when you don't have hope for yourself, surround yourself with people in your life who lift you up. Surround yourself with people who speak encouragement into your life. Surround yourself with people who support you and get you and love you. They will be the light you need in your darkness.

Choose hope. Choose to keep trying again tomorrow. 

Lean in to 2018 with hope that in this new year, there is new life. There is always hope. Be compassionate when you struggle with the hard times. All of the individual moments of life are not going to be good, but we can find meaning by choosing to love and care for those who need us. We can find meaning by fighting to do the things we are created to do. We can choose hope, we can choose life as long as there is breath in our bodies.

May 2018 bring you beauty from ashes, strength from fear, gladness for mourning and peace for despair. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

If you are struggling to find hope in your life, Wilson Counseling has Houston-area counselors who can help you. Please contact Wilson Counseling by phone at 713 - 591 - 3612 or via email at Nancy @ wilsoncounsleing. org. 

November 27, 2017

Wilson Counseling Welcomes New Associate

Wilson Counseling would like to welcome our new associate Ashley Giles!

Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and specializes in helping her clients resolve problems in their relationships, low self-esteem, sexual issues, depression, stress, and anxiety. She enjoys working collaboratively with couples and individuals to address the sources of distress in their lives. Ashley received her Masters in Social Work at New York University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies at Southern Methodist University.
Ashley’s goal is to assist her clients in finding healing, happiness, and empowerment in their lives and relationships because no one is given a guidebook on how to master relationships with others or with themselves. Her experience treating individuals and couples in New York City and her trainings in couples, sex, and cognitive therapies have prepared her to successfully guide her clients to fill-in-the-blanks that leave them feeling unfulfilled and over-stressed.
Ashley provides an environment where clients can feel comfortable to discuss and address personal and relationship issues, including sexual concerns. She relies on a combination of evidence-based techniques to help individuals and couples experiencing a range of relationship and sexual difficulties. Some of the issues that can be addressed in sex therapy include erectile or ejaculatory dysfunction, low sexual desire, lack of intimacy, or sexual pain. When working with Ashley, relationship and sex therapy will consist of traditional talk therapy and may include psychoeducation, exercises to do at home, cognitive and behavioral techniques, and discussion and resolution of any underlying or co-existing issues between you and your partner.
Ashley supports her clients with an open mind, compassion, and validation. She utilizes attachment-based and cognitive behavioral therapies, the Gottman Method, Relational Life Therapy, and mindfulness techniques as appropriate for each client’s unique struggles. She works actively with her clients to clarify their needs, regularly evaluate their process in therapy, and achieve their goals.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Ashley or one of our other Houston therapists you can contact us at 713-591-3612 or nancy@wilsoncounseling.org. Visit our website for more information.

October 26, 2017

A Harvey Refugee Story - Creating a Home Where You Can

You become untethered from the routines, the comfortable spaces and the people who make your life feel normal

When Harvey came to Houston, overnight people lost their homes, their cars, their belongings, but more than that, the floods took their sense of security and displaced their communities. Overnight people became untethered from the routines, the comfortable spaces and the people who made their lives feel normal. 

Before I came up to speak, singer/songwriter Sandra McCraken sang her song "Refugee."  The chorus "Welcome home, gather round. All you refugees come in." It is a reference to coming home spiritually, eternally, but it speaks to what all of those who are displaced long for - the comforts and sense of belonging that you get from coming home.

We wander, like refugees, till we can get back home

After Harvey, we were displaced, as were so many of our friends and neighbors. People are scattered all over the city. There is not one place that we can call home, at least not for now. We have tried to make our new place feel as comfortable as we can because we do not know how long we will be there. But I still feel like a tourist, on a journey I did not choose, with no real road map and no sense of our final destination. We wander, like refugees, till we can get back home.

This sense of being displaced can be very disorienting. If you are going through it, you know that there is a steep learning curve. In our regular life, we know where to get groceries, how to get from point A to point B, who to ask if we need help, where to vote, where I keep my sweaters when it gets cold. But now, I have to think and look up even the most basic information. It all takes emotional effort and time, both of which are in short supply these days.


Your relationships will take a hit

That drain and strain on our emotional energy will take its toll on your relationships. You are likely more cranky and short tempered. You may become angry or tearful and depressed from events that seem insignificant  A natural disaster or other traumatic events can cause significant strain on your marriage. And in the brokenness of our relationships, we can feel displaced. When that interpersonal conflict exists, it is hard to find a home, a refuge in your partner. They are not themselves and neither are you. 

All of this is normal. Your reaction to the trauma of the floods is normal. And it will not last forever. Be compassionate with yourself when you are struggling and bumbling through recovery. Small things will feel like a big deal. Find what you can control. Make plans and change them as needed. Find what is comforting to you and do more of that. 

There is not just one things you can do to feel at peace. But my encouragement is to learn daily to find joy in the now. Don't wait and hold off till you can rebuild, till you can get to your physical home. 

Finding your way back home - Peace in the moment

Our minds have a powerful ability to help us feel good or bad. It is not only our circumstances, but more importantly our perceptions that can affect our moods. If I tell myself that we will never get home and life will always feel hard. If I focus instead on the progress of the day (however small it may be), or if I focus on the beautiful cool water and learn to give thanks in the moment for that small gift, I will likely feel more optimistic. 

I talked about the effects of gratitude in this blog post. There is a lot of research to support how transformative it is for people to intentionally express gratitude. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis, has noted that practicing gratitude in a systematic way can actually change people by changing brains that are "wired for negativity, for noticing gaps and omissions." He explains, "When you express a feeling, you amplify it. When you express anger, you become angrier: When you express gratitude, you become more grateful." This expression of gratitude has been shown to boost emotional health as well as physical health.
This is a hard journey. Don't go it alone. Reach out to friends and family. People love you and want to help. It may also be useful to talk to a professional counselor. At Wilson Counseling, we have Houston based therapists who are available. If you want to know more about this, please call us at 713 - 591- 3612 or you can learn more on our website at www. wilsoncounseling. org.

August 28, 2017

Psychological Health in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey has caused enormous damage and suffering. My heart goes out to all of you have flooded, were evacuated, faced loss and fear. It has been devastating on so many levels for so many in our city.
If you or home sustained damage or flooded, you have a long road ahead. Remember it is a marathon and not a sprint. Please take care of your psychological health along the way. Your body, mind and spirit will all suffer if you do not.

Going through disasters is traumatic

There is a trauma that come from going through this kind of disaster. Give yourself time to get used to the changes that come with it. Give yourself compassion to experience and feel what you need to. There is a sense of loss in all of it. That is normal.

You may go through the stages of grief

You may find you go through the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Accept it for what it is and don't judge yourself as you cope.

Let people help you

Allow people to help when they offer. You will need your village in this. It is not a sign of weakness. It is the whole purpose of having a village.
I wanted to pass along this article with practical tips about psychological first aid. If you know someone who needs this, please pass it along.

This is how you can ask for help

A lot of people want to help their friends and neighbors who are flooded. I recommend instead of just asking generally, "What can I do to help?", you volunteer specifically to do someone's laundry or something else on this list and see if that is helpful. A lot of people don't like asking for help but if you get in there and start helping it will be a big relief. Houston is an amazing city full of big hearted people. We will need all hands on deck to rebuild.
I did not write this list, but found it helpful. If you did flood, show this list to your friends and family who ask how they can help.

Easy Things People Can Do To Help:

Wonderful people will be asking what they can do. Of course clean up and packing are helpful, but not everyone can work at the flooded house. Here are a few things that saved me from going insane …

1. Laundry - even if your clothes did not get wet, they will smell like nasty flood water. Everything in the house that is being saved will need to be washed. My laundry was all over Houston at friend’s houses. People came in and took all clothes. Friends even took items to the dry cleaners.
2. Washing kitchen items - Dishes can be saved but everything will need to be washed!
3. Store important items - friends kept my valuables: grandmother’s jewelry, silver, hunting rifle, china/crystal, wine and even my dog until we were settled in a rental. This was a huge stress reliever so I would not have to keep track of everything as we had to move items several times.
4. Help research storage units, movers and rentals. Storage units and rentals are going to be hard to come by so this needs to happen as soon as possible.
5. Dry out pictures/ artwork - if anything can be saved, have people take items to their homes to dry out. It was so special to get back some of my kid’s artwork.
NOTE: since I could not remember who took what from my house, ask them to send you an email for future reference of what items they have. We were literally collecting items a year after the flood.
Of course childcare, housing, food and donations are always helpful!