Ruminating Recovery

Is there an issue in your life that has become the focus? Does it consume all your energy and thoughts, even when you’re otherwise occupied? Does it feel like intrusive thoughts about the same thing all the time? You’re likely ruminating.

I’ve described ruminating as “sitting in a dirty puddle with a wet butt.” It doesn’t feel good. You don’t want it, but you keep doing it. I’m here to offer you a hand up and out of the puddle, to get dry again, to feel better, to reclaim your energy. You must place your mind and face in the direction you wish to be going in order to do it differently. This is an active process and a conscious act.

Ruminating is thinking of something negative that makes you feel bad. It’s all-consuming and colors the rest of your day and life with a grey-wash.

How do I stop ruminating? Read this article. Then keep making the conscious decision to stop. Like any practice, it starts out hard and gets easier as you go. You may consider starting therapy (or discussing this with your existing therapist) to help you reframe, break bad habits, have support, or think differently during this process.

You might also like a mantra to support you in not engaging in rumination. I like “It is done. Make good choices.” Dr. Greenberg uses “Stop doing the math.” Pick a short statement that makes sense to you and your situation.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Ways to Self-Soothe

You’re having a bad day due to anxiety, depression, or just the general stress of being a human on this modern earth. You want ways to calm yourself when the things you know to try aren’t successful. Try these:

Pet an animal, real or stuffed, or a soft blanket, or a cozy sweater.

Sip a warm beverage, any that you enjoy (but you might skip the caffeine) like cocoa, tea, or coffee. You don’t have to follow Big Bang Theory’s protocol.

Take a warm shower or soak in the tub. Bonus if you have bubbles or something to add a pleasant scent. You don’t have to cleanse if you’re already clean, but bringing your core temperature up can be helpful.

Write or do art. Getting your emotions out of your body and onto the page can release pent up feelings. What you write/create makes no difference as it’s about expression, not creating something wonderful right now.

Move your body gently and briefly is fine. Take a walk around the block, dance to one song, check out some tai chi, or whatever you like best.

Massage your muscles by rolling your neck, using a foam roller, or rubbing your body with your hands.

Spend time in nature by visiting a local park, or even sitting on your porch and looking at the plants and creatures nearby.

What other tips do you enjoy that I haven’t listed?

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

How to be a Therapist When Your Life is Falling Apart

You are a human being in the real world and sometimes your life, like a taco, is going to fall apart. You still have a job to do. Some jobs are easier than others when heavy things are going on. Therapy isn’t one of them. You can take a sabbatical, maybe, cancel your clients for a day or two, or a week, but probably not much longer than that. Or you can keep working and get by. What to do is a very personal choice and depends on many factors that you will have to weigh. You might seek supervision about transferring your caseload while things settle down or how to proceed.

Doing the minimum Get up, take a shower, and get dressed. You can do the minimum if you have to for now. That may mean not shaving, not dressing well, or not styling your hair. It’s alright to do what you can. Even the minimum can be a lot sometimes. Go easy with yourself.

Being there for your clients when you don’t have anything to give Therapy is part conversation, part technique, part education, and part entertainment. When you’re depleted in your personal life, you may not feel able to do those things. Just show up. When the part of conversation that is yours drags, use silence; you didn’t choose to be a clown and don’t have to entertain all the time.

What do I say? But what if my clients notice I’m not myself, not cheerful, not energetic? Own it. Use it as a teaching moment to say “we’re all going through stuff and we all get by sometimes, even me, even you.” Let it be okay to not be okay all the time. Demonstrate the principles you teach. I also like the analogy “Sometimes I’m at 100% and I can give 100%, but sometimes I’m at 30% and that’s what I can give.”

How much to share Keep it to yourself to be ethical and process your stuff in your time. Use a blanket statement like “I’m just going through some things right now” or “things are just rough right now.” You don’t have to reassure your clients that you’re fine if you’re not, promise them you’ll be alright if you’re not sure you will be, or worry them unnecessarily. You also don’t want them guessing about your personal life, prying, or following up on your issues – that’s your job for them, after all.

Get therapy Don’t hesitate to get yourself therapy. Find one who is a good fit for your needs. Process your stuff. Do your homework. Be a good patient. It’s okay if you just cry the whole time. Sometimes just thinking about my therapy appointment coming up makes me cry because I’m holding it together the rest of the time until then. If you can’t cry in therapy, I don’t know where you can. Express any countertransference as it comes up.

Self care Oh boy is this a hard one! Sleep, eat decently, journal, get some gentle movement in like a walk, and drink water. Oh, and socialize and do your hobbies. You know, all that stuff you tell your clients about. I know you don’t want to and feel like you can’t; do what you can, then do a little more. Oh, I know how hard it is but you have to in order to have a chance at getting out of The Pit, and you need out. Even spending one minute on a self care activity can be progress, so mark that progress and go forward.

Referring out and consultation If there are certain topics that are too close to home right now (relationship issues, parenting issues, whatever the thing may be) or certain populations you cannot deal with right now, stop taking those new cases and refer out your existing similar cases. It’s the ethical thing to do, to let them continue their treatment with someone who has the capacity for them if you currently do not. Unsure how to do this or to whom to send them? Seek consultation. Ask your peers for recommendations on how to handle things that are sensitive for now. Consider taking a sabbatical if it’s possible for you to take a leave for awhile while you get things sorted out. Tell your clients only the brief statement you prepare in advance that does not inure them, like “I’m stepping away from my practice for now and am uncertain when I will return, but am providing you with 3 capable therapists to choose from that work with your needs and insurance. I’m emailing your their contact information and a link to their websites so you can decide who to work with.” Consultation can help you set up referrals and a statement like this. It probably won’t feel good to do, but having done it will feel like relief and will minimize countertransference.

Know that this, too, will pass. What is happening is hard, but you will persevere. You have survived every bad day so far. Keep going. Be gentle with yourself.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Your Needs in the Relationship – an exercise

Young African-American couple at odds and bad mood not talking with each other and looking away after heated argument

If you feel that you and your partner are not as connected as you’d prefer, are not headed in the same direction (either short-term or long-term), are not seeing eye-to-eye, or may not be a good continued fit, you may consider this exercise to examine your place in the relationship, your desires, and your goals for the future of the relationship. If you both do the exercise and discuss it, it may lead to increased awareness of your goals; be aware that this may not be a harmonious discussion.

Are your needs being met in your relationship? What are those needs? Some examples may be related to physical needs, emotional needs, and/or spiritual needs. Your topics may vary. Here is a sample outline:

  • Physical
    • Safety
    • Intimacy
  • Emotional
    • Safety
      • Financial
      • Boundaries
      • Trust
      • Privacy
    • Socialization
    • Communication
    • Intimacy
    • Progress
  • Spiritual
    • Understanding/respect of each other’s beliefs
    • Services or celebrations
    • Future goals

Here’s an article that fleshes the topics out in more detail.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Why me? and It’s not fair.

person walking in rain with red umbrella at night

When a traumatic event happens, most people are left with the question “Why me?” and the feeling of “It’s not fair.” What do you do with those and how do you move beyond the stuck feeling they leave you?

It’s not fair. No, it’s not. Much of real life isn’t fair and this thing is also not fair. There’s no making it fair. There’s no making it right. It was a terrible thing and it doesn’t have to be better or make sense or fit in with an idealized version of reality. Some things just suck and this is one of them. It’s okay that this is how it went down. Fighting the unfairness of it is futile. Allow it to be unfair and you’ll stop coming up against this obstacle.

Why me? No reason, or maybe some reason that isn’t useful to speculate. People do terrible things. Sometimes they’re terrible people, and sometimes not, but done is done. It sucks that it happened to you. Crappy things happen to people all the time and you’re one of the people that had a crappy thing (or series of crappy things) happen to them. Spending your energy trying to solve this is a wasted time.

I get that that this doesn’t sound positive or hopeful. I’m not trying to be a ray of sunshine as I think that’s too far from the truth and wouldn’t be useful anyhow. If you are throwing yourself against these walls and stuck on them, the way past them is through understanding that they don’t have to be fixed to be understood. This is only one piece of the healing, but it’s a crucial piece if its a place where you’re repeatedly finding yourself.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Be Here Now

Have you been feeling unmoored from your body, your sense of self, or your life? Do you feel adrift, unhinged, untethered, or in need of grounding? Have you been spinning out of control in your thoughts and unable to gain traction?

Try this mantra: “Be here now.” But say it like each word is a sentence: Be. Here. Now.

With each word, do it.

Be. Be in your body. Notice your body, the weight of it, the position it is in, the feeling of any fabric or material on your skin, and any movement of the air.

Here. In this place. Where you are, with anything you can notice around you, eyes open or closed. Engage your senses: see, hear, smell, taste, feel – to notice absolutely anything.

Now. In this moment, the only moment that exists, present as best you can, eliminating thoughts of past and future as best you can right now. It might be difficult and that’s okay; just do your best and reset and reset again if you need to.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

What is a Trauma-Informed Therapist?

What’s this buzzword “trauma-informed” mean? Trauma-informed means that the therapist has been trained to see client behaviors as symptoms of trauma, instead of as dysfunction.

Why is being trauma-informed useful? Understanding things from a trauma perspective allows a therapist to view the client as a whole person from the angle of trauma, with the behaviors as a function of trauma, as a means to an end, a repeating of negative patterns, a way they adapted to their environment. It allows the therapist to see the client outside of negative labels such as: willful, inappropriate, manipulative, or staff-splitting. This is especially useful for people who have developed personality disorders like borderline personality disorder. Seeing clients differently allows us to act differently and treat the behaviors with more care and usefulness.

Trauma-Informed vs. Trauma Specialist Is a trauma-informed therapist the same as a trauma specialist? No. There has been a big push to get therapists trained in trauma-informed care over the past 5 years or so, which is wonderful. This often consists of a single introductory-level training which may be only a couple of hours. A trauma specialist, by contrast, has been training in trauma-related treatments for at least dozens of hours, generally over many years. Personally, I have trained hundreds of hours over a decade in various trauma-related treatments over a decade.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Overwhelmed? Obsessing? A technique for you.

several plants in pots along a sunny windowsill

Zooming in/out

When I am overwhelmed, like thinking about war and climate change and politics, global issues that I have little to no control over, I am zoomed too far out. I’m looking at life through a telescope. I’m needing to change the focus to what is now, here in front of me, that I can change or have control over.

When I’m obsessing, like thinking about day-to-day stressors and my to-do list and all the little pieces that seem to need my attention, I am zoomed too far in. I’m looking at life through a microscope. I’m needing to change the focus to what is now, that I can accomplish and check off, that I can move in the priority if necessary.

I challenge you to change your focus. Notice if you are zoomed too far in or out, and move to a more comfortable middle ground. This is a skill and takes practice, so assume that the lens is going to get out of focus sometimes, and that’s okay, but it is also adjustable and you have the ability to adjust it to be comfortable for you.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

What Does the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Mean for School Counselors

boy sitting cross-legged, wearing goggles and a hat, making airplane arms, with wooden toy of plane next to him

On March 8, 2022, new legislation was enacted by the Florida Senate by means of House Bill 1557: Parental Rights in Education that will go into effect July 1, 2022. According to the bill, parents and guardians are the ones who shall remain in control of what dialogue their child has in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, and no school personnel should engage in these discussions as it may interfere with what the family chooses for the child to know/think.

According to the law school counselors follow, counselors do not have to report things to a parent or guardian if the child may be in danger by their reporting. For example, if a child reported abuse by a parent, the counselor is required by law to report that information to the Child Abuse Hotline, but do not have to tell the parent they are making a report. The bill itself states “This subparagraph does not prohibit a school district from adopting procedures that permit school personnel to withhold such information from a parent if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect…” (section 8c2).

In many homes, a gay or transgender child would be in danger if the parent or guardian was aware of their true nature, so students often hide who they are at home to keep the peace, and express themselves more freely at school. Many schools have become safe havens, allowing children to use their preferred names and pronouns.

What does this law mean for these children, now?

It is useful to delineate that this bill applies only to children in grades K-3 (section 8c3). At those ages, most children do not know their sexual orientation or gender identity, but some will. The bill wants the family to be the primary source of information at these young years and to steer the child in the direct they feel is most appropriate. Of course, there are those families that will use fundamental religion as a weapon against children who are not both heterosexual and cisgender, and this bill does give them the express right to do so.

There was fear around this bill before it was in its final form (as linked in the first paragraph above) that a homosexual teacher could be fired for answering the question “What did you do this weekend?” with “I went to the movies with my wife,” when a heterosexual teacher would have no consequences for saying the exact same thing. However, the bill states that students shall not have “classroom instruction…on sexual orientation or gender identity…that is not developmentally appropriate.” I read this as: it is absolutely developmentally appropriate to say “families look lots of different ways – some people have 1 parent or 2, or grandparents or aunts and uncles who live in the home, some have siblings or none, some have 2 moms or a mom and dad…” even at the Kindergarten level. In fact, I’m certain Sesame Street must have taught me this (and it did: Here and Here and Here and Here). Will a child get in trouble, or be hushed if she says she has 2 dads? No. This is developmentally appropriate.

Will a school counselor have to call the parent when a child says they think they have the wrong body and want to talk about it? Not necessarily, but maybe. Since this bill states that parents are to be kept in the know about what is going with their child, to be “notified about a change in his or her student’s [healthcare] services” (section 8c5), it would be prudent for the counselor to notify the family that the counselor met with the student at the child’s request and the child brought up certain issues or concerns. In this meeting, the counselor would be advised, according to this bill, to remain neutral, teach the child to remain calm, and suggest the child speak to their family about the matter. However, if the child expressed that they would be “abused, abandoned, or neglected” as a result of telling the family, the counselor would be wise to make a note of how the child expressed this, what they presented as the issue, how the counselor responded, and what the session consisted of; this protects the counselor in case the issue ever goes to court.

If the child is in the 4th grade or above, no change needs to take place. Children in progressive schools that have created the kind of safety that allows for use of their preferred name and pronouns can still employ those practice. Schools with a Safe Club that allows kids to express themselves and their feelings and thoughts around sexuality and gender can still hold those meetings. However, it would be best if those meetings were run by the students, for the students, and not led by a staff member, but overseen by a staff member; this ensures that it is not seen as the children being indoctrinated by anyone with an ulterior motive.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.

Disordered Eating in Modern Times

Ad for 1950s dress patterns

I was watching a show on Netflix, Explained – every episode covers a different topic – about food (I think it might be Why Diets Fail from season 1). They stated that diet culture has followed disordered thoughts around eating closely. Check out this timeline:

  • 1950s – women were housewives who cooked, cleaned, and raised the children while the husbands worked. How did they get it all done, look perfect, have tiny waists, and have differ on the table when their men came home from work? Amphetamines! It was common to have doctors prescribing amphetamines to get women up and going all day, then barbiturates at night to go to sleep. Was this healthy? No way! But it was common.
  • 1960s-19070s – women were starting to work outside of the home and doctors had figured out that amphetamines were probably not a good idea on a daily basis. Women were still doing the majority of the housework and child-rearing. They were tired. Men continued to work outside of the home. Women’s waistlines started expanding. That’ll happen when you eat throughout the day because you’re not on speed. The diet industry started poking up saying “buy these control-top pantyhose” and “girdles help you look like like you used to” and the food industry said “fat is bad, fat makes you fat” and made a bunch of fat-free foods. When you take the fat from food, it tastes bad, so they added sugar to make it taste better. Now fat-free meant added sugar it was unhealthy.
  • 1980s – The food industry said “sugar-free is the way to go” and started producing artificial sugars. Our bodies don’t know how to process this and it was not more healthy. Diet culture pushed artificial sugars and stopped spotlighting fat-free foods, which still existed, and still exist, and started heavily discussing diets. The media focused on Africa being a continent of starving children with We Are the World and children being told to clean their plates because “there are starving children in Africa.”
  • Fast forward to now. Germany is credited with making videos about how the US is dealing with food insecurity. (In fact, the video was made by a US non-profit.) Diet culture is as strong as ever, and eating disorders are going strong as well.

So what do we do? Lean in – whatever you’re rocking, someone loves it and desires you just as you are. Whether you are fat or thin or somewhere in between, you are a perfectly good person living in a body that was assigned to you, just like everyone else. Yes, there’s such a thing as “too big causes problems with your health” such as extra weight putting pressure on your knees, hips, spine, and heart. But there is also such a thing as “too small causes problems with your health” and 80 pounds for an adult is not enough, causing problems with your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. There’s a lot of good grey area to be in. If you’d like to work on your thoughts around disordered thinking, I’m happy to see you for that. If you are actively engaging in an eating disorder, please seek local treatment at a center that specializes in teaching you to eat appropriately.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist practicing at Clear Mind Group in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Virginia. Call 954-612-9553 for a consultation. Follow Autumn on Twitter & Facebook.