Roads to Ruin, Bridges to Recovery

 

Lisa started drinking when she was 16, just casually with her friends. After her parents’ messy divorce, she started to overdo it. Later, in college, things started to get out of hand, and soon she was on a downward spiral of excessive drinking. She knew it was destroying her life, but she couldn’t stop.

Mark first saw pornography when he was 13, but he didn’t make a pattern of looking for it until he was 16. Mark wasn’t close to his parents, and felt like a loner at school, and when he felt bored or stressed he found pornography made him feel a lot better. Years later, he was fired from his job for looking at pornography at work. Soon after, his wife started talking about separation.

Looking for a Fix

It can be hard to understand why people continue with an addictive behavior, even when it threatens to destroy their life. What we often don’t understand is that things like alcohol, drugs, gambling and pornography can sometimes feel like the only options people have to deal with the mess in their lives.

When our need feels desperate, the pressure to find a solution can be overpowering. Think of what it would be like to crawl through the desert for days, mouth as dry as sandpaper, only to come across a pitcher of cold water, with a sign that says “do not touch.” Would you be able to restrain yourself? This gives you some idea of what an addict feels when their brain is pushing them towards meeting a need, or in other words, getting a ‘fix’.

Our brain is wired to solve problems for us. It builds bridges between problems (hunger) and solutions (eating). If we are lucky, we have felt the incredible comfort that can come from someone who loves you and is there for you in your time of need, and so when we feel lonely or sad, it makes sense to turn to one of these people—our brain has built a bridge. But what if this isn’t an option in our mind? Maybe, like Lisa, our family doesn’t feel safe, or like Mark, we don’t have many friends. Where can we build a bridge to?

Fortunately, the brain is a great problem solver, and it will find a solution somewhere else. Unfortunately, under pressure, sometimes it will find a solution that leads down the path of an addictive behavior. Our brain will remember how great that thing felt, and how useful that could be right now. Each time we indulge the impulse, the bridge grows a little stronger, until after a while it feels like the only possible option, and becomes relatively automatic.

Building New Bridges

The good news is, this understanding can open up some big possibilities for recovery. Instead of focusing on just stopping the behavior (which is often frustrating and ineffective) we can instead focus on what the underlying problem is that the addiction is responding to. Then we can find an alternative solution that lines up better with the way we want to live, and gives us the comfort or support we really need. Often, this is best achieved by developing a supportive relationship, and learning to go there for comfort and support.

For example, Mark came to a full awareness of the impact of his addiction, and wanted to make changes. He was so used to hiding his issues and feelings and using pornography to deal with them, that it was hard to open up and be honest—with himself, his therapist, and his wife. But as he learned to go to his wife when he needed comfort and support, they both found that their marriage soon improved to a point where they felt closer than ever.

After crashing out at school, Lisa was referred by her school counselor to an AA meeting. There, she met with people who understood the pull of alcohol, who didn’t judge her, but instead supported her to overcome her addiction. She started to repair relationships with family and friends, and this, along with the support of her group and sponsor, gave her the motivation to get her life back on track.

Addiction affects everyone, everywhere. Often, the best thing we can do to overcome it is to develop caring and supportive relationships that address the underlying need, and help the addict know that they are loved and they are not alone. Recovery can be scary and difficult at first, but it becomes easier as you walk a new path of openness and connection to the people and things that are truly important to you.

Written by Sam Ryland, LCSW

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Turning Holiday Stress Into Holiday Joy

happy family mother and baby little child playing in the winter for the Christmas holidays

It was getting dangerously close to Christmas. I had all but finished my shopping for the season when I realized that I had one more gift to buy. I knew I couldn’t order it online because it wouldn’t arrive on time, so my thoughts turned to how to navigate the stores with other last-minute shoppers. I dreaded the prospect of full parking lots, busy aisles and long check-out lines, and lamented not finishing my gift buying earlier. There was no choice, however; I had to go. I don’t know what it is about shopping that close to Christmas, but the atmosphere seemed to be charged with holiday stress rather than holiday joy. When I arrived at the store, shoppers were rushing in and out, elbowing me out of the way—almost battering me with the gifts they had so lovingly chosen for their family. The drive over to this part of town didn’t help either. It was almost as if driving a mini-van was license for some to weave through traffic like the Apocalypse was here, and that the only thing standing between them and their empty cupboards at home was the last loaf of bread being sold at the store. This is where I started to get stressed and thought to myself, “Isn’t this supposed to be the best time of the year?” On that day, it didn’t feel like it.

How many of us experience an increased level of stress or even anxiety during the holidays? There are many reasons this could be the case: Trying to balance success at work and fitting in an abundance of errands, buying the “perfect” gift, lack of money/resources, more time with family or reminders of family losses (death or absence of a loved one).

The holidays, for some, equates more to holiday stress than holiday joy. Stress often leads to anxiety, a natural response to uncomfortable situations. Anxiety isn’t necessarily bad; it can cause us to act in ways that solve our problems. If experienced in excess or handled in an unhealthy manner, though, anxiety has the potential to cause mental health issues as well as ruin experiences that could bring us joy.

Given that holiday stress has the potential to turn into serious anxiety, and that anxiety is the most common mental health issue adults face (according to SAMHSA), we need to not let holiday stress turn into a holiday anxiety disorder!

The question, then, is how do we do this? How do we not let holiday worries and tasks become more than we can bear? Focusing on holiday rituals can help. Rituals are similar to traditions, in that they are actions or behavior we routinely participate in that have meaning to us. In his article “The Value of Rituals in Family Life,” Evan Imber-Black (2012) pinpoints five purposes behind family rituals. These can help us refocus our celebrations, and perhaps aid in letting go of unnecessary seasonal stress.

Relating – We create rituals during the holiday season to connect with others. It is easy to forget that the most important part of the holidays is being with the ones we love. Plan simple activities or gatherings that allow you and your loved ones to be together. Years after the wrapping paper has been thrown away, children often remember what you did together as a family more than what was under the tree. A ritual my family had when I was younger was cutting down our own Christmas tree. I am sure my siblings don’t remember every Christmas gift they received, but they do remember the year the Christmas tree we were cutting down fell on and trapped our youngest brother. This ritual has created humorous and loving memories for our family over the years.

Changing – Holiday rituals can highlight or ease us into changes in our family. As children grow older, we might celebrate this by having them participate in different and meaningful ways during the festivities. Perhaps give them tasks you normally took on, like organizing a game or making a treat. When children turn into young adults, some serve LDS missions. To mark this transition in life, ask them to prepare a traditional holiday meal from where they served. This allows them to participate and share a significant part of their life as they grow older.

Healing – During the holidays, we often remember those who have passed away or who are not present. It can also invoke memories of better times or more comfortable circumstances. This can be a stressful and painful experience. Creating rituals to honor and remember those who are gone can be healing and freeing. One family watches a home video of their son and shares memories about him as they sit together. This allows them to celebrate his memory and gives him a place in their family rituals. This family is able to heal and feels free to live even though their son is gone.

Believing – All too often, the meanings behind the holidays we celebrate are forgotten as we become focused on tasks, decorations, and planned events. In order to decrease anxiety and stress, make an effort to remember why you choose to celebrate this holiday. Deliberate attention on creating rituals that honor our beliefs helps us to refocus on what is most important.  Perhaps it will help simplify our celebrations, ease the task load, and teach younger family members the reason we celebrate.

Celebrating –  The holidays we choose to celebrate show what we value and who we are. They connect us with family members and others in the community. Choose to celebrate in ways that address the previously mentioned areas—creating relationships, changing, healing, and believing. If you are in a bicultural or interfaith family, discuss together how to share rituals that are important to each person so that all can feel included and connected in celebrating. If we say to ourselves after the holidays are over, “I thought that was supposed to be more fun,” then we might want to re-evaluate how we celebrate this time of year.

While it is impossible to turn off the traffic, crowds and even some of the busyness, it is possible to find holiday joy in a potentially stressful season. The tasks on our to-do lists can be part of family fun, but if they take away joy and create imposing anxiety instead, perhaps we could examine the purpose of our holidays. Let go of holiday stress and embrace healthy, simple and meaningful rituals.

Written by Triston Morgan, PhD LMFT

Originally published by Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Secrets to Being a Happy Mom

 

I have a love/hate relationship with blogs, Instagram and Facebook. They’re great because they keep me connected with people I care about, but not so great when they intensify my perfectionist tendencies. On rough days, I often catch myself comparing myself to other moms—I scroll through their photos and think to myself, How on earth is she keeping the house clean with four kids? or I don’t get how she looks good all the time whereas I can’t find time to brush my hair,or How is it that her kids all look like they came out of a Janie and Jack catalogue?Logic goes out the window as I become fixated on what I perceive the world views as the “perfect mother” and I slowly feel myself becoming unhappy.

As a therapist, this unhappiness sets off an internal alarm saying that I need to stop and process what’s happening. In moments of weakness, we often doubt ourselves. We lose confidence and forget about our unique capabilities and needs. We get caught up in what we perceive the world thinks our needs and capabilities should be. We believe we have to be perfect, and when we fall short of that unachievable standard we experience shame. The truth is obvious, but can be difficult to accept: we will never be perfect and that’s okay.

There are several things mothers can do to work through this damaging mindset:

1) Stop the comparisons. It’s easy to compare yourself to others, but it is important to note that we all come from different circumstances. Our upbringings, personalities, and hardships are different. Not only is comparing ourselves to others a bad idea that often leads to shame and despair, but     we fundamentally lack the context to make an accurate comparison.

2) Adjust expectations. Take a deep breath and relax. Re-evaluate and figure out what is realistic and what isn’t. Before becoming a mom, I spent many years studying and working with families professionally. I had wonderful imaginations of how I would be as a mother. Then, when I became one, I discovered the bar was set so high I couldn’t even see it. It was overwhelming, so I had to compromise. 15-20 minutes a day of one-on-one quality time with my kids is fine. It’s okay if I go out once a week with my kids instead of 4 or 5 times a week. Those things are still accomplishments. Re-assessing what is realistic and planning to do less was a welcome relief; I discovered that I actually accomplish more because I’m in control.

3) Be kinder to yourself. It’s okay to have a moment when you are frustrated with your kids. Allow yourself to be imperfect and accept it with open arms. Fight the natural inclination to feel shame when you slip up—you’re only human.

4) Own your mistakes. Be an example to your kids of what it looks like to make mistakes and bounce back from them. Your kids don’t need a perfect mom, they need a happy mom who teaches them how to deal with reality. Show them that making mistakes is a part of life—this is a profound lesson that will serve them well. Living this lesson will empower you, too.

Perfectionism is a trap that can catch even the best of us, but when we recognize we’re stuck, we can take steps to get out. We’ll never be perfect, but with work we can be perfectly happy with that.

Our Brains, Our Bodies, and Our Relationships

 

Relationships are everywhere. We have relationships in our individual lives, in our corporate lives, and in our virtual lives. We are wired for connection. We yearn for that feeling of intimacy and bonding in romantic relationships and in friendships. Interestingly enough, our brains are wired for that, too! Our brains are wired for us to feel, to sense, to understand, and to remember, especially as we experience relationships. As our brains are wired for connection, they interact with our surroundings in such a way that we respond, both positively and negatively, in our relationships accordingly.

Our Brain and Our Body

Our brain is designed to protect us and to allow us to engage relationally and socially, and our brain has different systems that are activated that do just that. When both systems, the autonomic nervous system and the polyvagal system, are working together, social engagement is achieved. However, we live stressful lives and find stress at every turn in our daily routines. We know that stress impacts us; it can make us irritable, anxious, and can create health problems. Stress can also activate systems in the brain that impact the way we relate to friends, spouses, and family members. When stress occurs, it activates the parts in our brain associated with the fight or flight system, activating our brain and our bodies to respond. Often when this occurs, we feel our heart rates increase, our skin becomes clammy or sweaty, and we often become anxious.

This process is a good thing, but when we are unable to deactivate the system to bring us back to a calm state, there are long term effects. Activating the parasympathetic system quickly reaches the prefrontal cortex, the front part of our brains associated with problem solving and critical thinking. The prefrontal cortex does not have a quick access back to the emotion center of the brain to help calm you down, so the cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex shut down. This has important implications for relationships we desire.

Our Relationships

As your brain and your body respond to a stressful stimulus, different systems activate in your body that decrease the ability to engage relationally and socially the way that we would like to engage. We become unable to attend to our partners or our friends, and our ability to problem solve also decreases. In addition, we lack active interest in others and have a reduced ability to process information. As different experiences take place, neurons fire together in the brain and wire together. This means that the more similar experiences you have, the more likely the similar response will take place for that memory/experience. This wiring together regulates how the systems within us interact and how we interact with others. Heightened and chronic states of stress create more constant states of less engagement, less problem solving, and less capability to process information. We like to think that we have control over the emotions that are triggered; however, the emotions occur, but the reactions we have to the emotions is what we have a chance to correct.

In order to reduce the (almost immediate) impact of the reaction to the fight or flight response being activated, enhanced emotion regulation capabilities provide more room for someone to experience the immediate firing to the prefrontal cortex so that a better, more positive interaction can take place.  Engaging in tools and skills that increase the ability to emotionally regulate can increase the positivity in relationships.

Written by:

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness Magazine

What You’re Fighting About Is NOT What You’re Fighting About

This is a pretty mundane example of the type of things married people argue about. It seems like a pretty simple matter on the surface. The discussion was about doing chores. So why did I feel cornered? Why did something as simple as cleaning the kitchen make me feel so much anxiety? This argument was about more than simply cleaning the kitchen. I felt torn between two demands of great importance: my career or my wife’s good will. I keenly felt the burden of my family’s future resting on my shoulders, and what seemed like an endless to-do list. How could I stop working on that to do something as trivial as cleaning? What good was a clean kitchen if we were drowning in student loan debt? But not cleaning the kitchen meant the evaporation of marital bliss. How could I focus on my work with an upset wife on my mind? Either way, I was in trouble.

Any fly on the wall seeing our argument probably would have thought the issue was as simple as a lazy husband not wanting to do chores. But as in almost every argument, there was something deeper going on below the surface. To my wife, this was not merely a matter of having a clean kitchen. For her, it was about peace of mind. Coming home to a messy house after a hard day adds more stress. When the house is messy, it makes her mind feel chaotic and disordered too. Not only that, but a dirty house reminds her of the instability of growing up with a father who had bipolar disorder and refused to take his medicine. The issue of cleaning the kitchen was proxy for some deeper concerns. For me it was about earning enough to take care of my wife and to prepare for children. For my wife it was about feeling safety and peace in her own home.

Arguments can draw a couple closer together, or they can drive a wedge between them. What makes the difference? That question has a few answers, but one of the big things is whether we ever get to the deeper meanings under the surface of the fight. If we stay on the surface, we may have conclusion, but we won’t have resolution; whether I did the cleaning or not, I would have had stress and felt disconnected from my wife. That’s because what I needed, and what every person needs, is to know and feel that their partner understands and respects them. The reason we had an argument had nothing to do with cleaning at all, it was really about her basic need for safety, and my basic need for competence. We couldn’t fix the problem until we acknowledged the source of our strong emotions and what the fight was really about.

The moment we feel understood by our partner, we can think clearly, and then it’s easy to do problem solving. Next time you’re arguing and feeling upset, ask yourself about the deeper issue behind the disagreement. Find out from your partner what their position means to them. Empathize with their thoughts and feelings, and see how much easier it is to resolve arguments.

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Written by: Kenneth Jeppesen, LAMFT, MMFT

Kenneth is a therapist at the American Fork Center for Couples and Families and is a licensed associate marriage and family therapist. He enjoys helping individuals and couples find peace and happiness and spends the rest of his time learning about everything!

Roots of Knowledge

The Vision

Artist Tom Holdman, owner of Holdman Studios in Lehi, envisioned the potential of this project more than a decade ago. After a meeting with area community and educational leaders at a private event, Tom was asked about his interest in producing a commissioned piece of stained-glass for one of the groups. Tom wanted to make this piece of art something special, so he set out doing research and sketching ideas for the project. What followed was something quite unusual for this artist. Countless ideas began to flow into Tom’s mind and when he was done taking notes and sketching out several ideas, what began as a single stained-glass window, quickly morphed into a profound and unmatched multi-panel stained-glass display. Although that single, commissioned piece of stained-glass art never became a reality, the idea behind the Roots of Knowledge was in place and Tom was determined to act on it.

Through the help of Tom’s team of artists, their dedicated effort, hours of artistic collaboration and a bit of luck, the Roots of Knowledge project slowly began to take shape. Tom knew that he couldn’t do this project alone, so he approached Utah’s largest public university, Utah Valley University.  When asked about their interest in helping Tom make this dream a reality, administrators at UVU jumped at the chance, immediately recognizing the wonderful impact a project of this kind would have on the university. Knowing that more help was needed to fully produce a project of this magnitude, the owners of Roots Media (filmmaker Lee Groberg, and area businessman and attorney, Ross Wolfley) were asked to join the project. With Roots Media acting as the administrative arm of the team, the project was now off the ground and the three groups quickly began to move forward.

The Project

The stained-glass display, when completed, will consist of 80 stained-glass panels, measuring almost 10 feet in height and 200 feet in length.  Utah Valley University has designated a specific spot in the annex of the university’s library, planning carefully regarding placement, to allow the panels of the display to be lit by natural light from the west.  The stained-glass wall will flow in a curved pattern, allowing visitors to casually stroll through the display and study each panel of the project.

Visitors to the Roots of Knowledge stained-glass wall display will be able to see the history of man through learning and knowledge, beginning with the Dawn of Man, the Bronze Age, the Age of Enlightenment and Renaissance, the Industrial Age, and the Modern Era.

Every stained-glass panel of this massive project is being produced at Holdman Studios in Lehi, Utah.  Lead artist Tom Holdman, along with fellow artists Cameron Oscarson and Nicholas Lawyer, have sketched, in detail, each panel’s design and placement.  Through countless hours of historical research and collaboration with an academic scholar team from UVU, the team put together a sophisticated display that brings to light the history of the world, illustrating the advancements and achievements of mankind.  Through a large team of artists at Holdman Studios, each panel began to take shape and showcase its beautiful rendition of history and education.  When the final piece of glass is laid in place, the project will feature over 80,000 individual pieces of stained-glass.

A Great Educational Opportunity

In addition to the daily visitors the wall will invite, UVU students will…(read the rest of the story)

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Written by:Clint Wood

Six Lesser Known Hikes In Utah Valley

Instead of Utah Lake Parkway, try… Payson Lake Trail

Utah Lake is definitely a highlight in Utah County (and its namesake). But if you love Utah Lake, then you will fall in love with Payson Lake. Just 30 minutes south of Utah Lake, the one-mile trail winds around this beautiful mountain lake. Take a moment to take a dip in the cool water or catch a fish. Bring the family and a picnic and make the most of your hike!

 To get there, take the Payson exit off I-15. Turn left on 100 N and then right on 600 E, the Nebo Scenic Loop. The trail is 11 miles up the road.

 Instead of Stewart Falls, try… Scout Falls

Stewart Falls is a beautiful place to hike to any time of year, but few people know that there is another gorgeous waterfall not too far away. On the Timpooneeke trail, there is the scenic Scout Falls. This 2.4-mile hike takes you through forests and meadows before you arrive at the falls. It is a great date hike!

 To get there, take Highway 92 passing the toll booth into American Fork Canyon. Take the south fork until you see the Timpanooke turnoff. Take the turnoff until you arrive at the parking lot. From the parking lot, walk past the restrooms to the guard station. Then take the right trail on the west side.

 Instead of Rock Canyon, try… Days Canyon Trail

In Maple Canyon there is a fun hike, great for family and friends. The Days Canyon Trailhead is just up the right fork of Hobble Creek Canyon by Cherry Campground. This trail is 3.3 miles long, but can be 2 to 6 miles long, depending on how you combine it with other trails. The trail follows a stream and ends in a beautiful meadow.

 To get there, take Canyon Drive for 2.5 miles into Hobble Creek Canyon. Past the golf course, the road splits. Take the right fork for about 1.5 miles. The parking lot is on your right after Cherry Campground.

Instead of Provo River Parkway, try… Spanish Fork River Trail

An alternative to the Provo River Trail is the Spanish Fork River Trail. This 4.4-mile trail is less than a year old. It is great for running, strolling, or biking.

 To get there, take the Highway 6 exit off I-15 heading towards Price. Continue on Highway 6 for 4 miles and then turn right on Powerhouse Road. Park at Canyon View Park and join the trail there.

 Instead of Battle Creek Falls, try…(read the rest of the story)

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Written by: Sarah Toller

How to Build Wealth – by Dave Young

Build-Wealth

Making money is difficult. After a challenging year like 2015, it is important to go back to basics, evaluate your situation, and make sure you are on the right path.

As financial advisors, we provide a variety of financial services like retirement, estate and business planning. However, our focus has always been on managing investments. Why? At the end of the day, if you aren’t effectively building wealth over time, most aspects of your financial plan won’t matter.

So what is the best way to invest? How can you invest to meet your retirement goals? Here are four steps to give you some insight into investing:

Step one: Invest in things that increase in value.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Currently, money markets, CDs, bonds and fixed annuities are not likely to… (read more)

Spring Into Shape! – by Travis Lott

Spring-Into-Shape-200x300

Spring is a great season, for many reasons. Growing up, my family was always excited for the warmer weather because it meant outdoor sports and swim parties at Grandma’s house! For the younger crowd, this is pretty exciting. For others, it can be terrifying. Especially those of us who have avoided exercise and developed unhealthy habits during the winter. When spring rolls around, we feel very self-conscious, and often avoid getting back on track.

So what should you do? Is it too late to get into decent shape? No way! Anyone can make progress if they put their mind to it. Many of us are procrastinators. How many of us cram in a few days worth of studying before a big test when we know we should’ve put in at least a week? There are many scenarios where we do this: school, church, work, and of course, fitness. Losing a few pounds or putting on some muscle does take effort, but when push comes to shove, I believe most people are capable of getting it done. So let’s do it! Here are three steps to help you “spring” into shape!

Step 1: Get outside, and get moving! Grab your kids, friend, spouse, push the baby in a stroller… (read more)

Barbara Barrington Jones: Learning to Dance in the Rain

Dance-in-the-RainBarbara Barrington Jones is a woman known for her beauty, grace, and refinement. She has dedicated her life to helping others realize their full potential and become their best selves. Through her private, non-profit foundation, she runs several annual programs. Her “Be The Best You” teen girl’s camp is to help 12-18 year old girls gain greater self-esteem, and focus on serving others. “A New You” is a 3-day retreat for Women; a haven for rest and spiritual reconnection and an opportunity to rejuvenate both internally and externally. Barbara’s “International Institute of Professional Protocol” is taught at Brigham Young University Hawaii, and Utah Valley University where students are taught the professional protocol that is imperative for success in today’s workplace. All of these programs are designed to help people of all ages realize and fulfill their destiny.

Barbara’s desire to help girls and women, in particular, stems from living through 12 years of an abusive marriage, which ended in the suicide death of her husband. Growing up a ballerina, she never imagined her life turning out the way it did.   Studying classical ballet and dancing professional in Texas, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and even Toronto; Barbara was living her childhood dreams when it seemed that everything came crashing down. Being left with two young children, Barbara’s focus changed…(read more)