The Pleasant Grove Counseling Blog


The new year is a great time to talk about motivation. A lot of us are intrinsically motivated to turn over a new leaf, or make a fresh start with a new year. Do you feel like that? Or are you one of the people who dread trying anything new, or automatically think you will fail if you try?

One of my favorite quotes that helped me get through school is from Goethe, a German poet. He said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”  

This quote suggests that if we just take the first step on a road to any kind of change, that automatically leads to doors opening to help us continue. I have found that to be true in my life. If I simply make the effort to think about what I want, write it down, and begin to try to figure out how to go about doing it, success comes right around the corner.

I try to break down my wishes, dreams, and goals into tiny doable steps. This is incredibly motivating as it can be quickly and easily accomplished. For example, when I decided to go to college, my goal was to simply spend some time in the library looking through college catalogs to find out what kinds of occupations they offered. That’s it.

It was enjoyable to look through the catalogs and see what types of programs the college offered, and then to imagine myself in those occupations. This led to my looking at more information, such as the prerequisites for those programs, talking with people who were in those occupations, and finally figuring out which one seemed best for me.

After that, it was simply a matter of filling out an application to begin the program. Each step successively led to another step, until I was in college, fulfilling classes, learning, growing, meeting new people, and experiencing the occupation. It was a wonderful, empowering experience. I wish that for everyone.

If there is something you would like to do, just take that first tiny step, and see where it leads!

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling

Stress Busters

Don’t you wish you could have ghostbusters come in sometimes and vacuum up your stressors? How does one actually bust stress? Can it even be done?

Well, I think there is a difference between stressors and stress, right? Stressors are those things that we may interpret as stressful, and stress is a feeling. Everyone does not react to stressors the same way - proving that it’s all in the interpretation. In a car accident, one person may be crying and panicked, one person may be angry and yelling, and another may be quietly tending to the wounded.  

Are our reactions merely a matter of personality? Are we either inborn over-reactors or inborn soothers? Is there a way to change?

I’m here to say yes, there is a way to change! There is a way to become a peaceful person despite stress. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m way better than I used to be. I know - I’ve been there, as the panicked person, numb or not knowing what to do or say. But with time and practice, I’ve been better able to be the person who can think clearly and help out.

The first step to stress busting is to learn how to be more mindful of your own feelings. Learn how to breathe, experience your own feelings, and accept them, without having to act on them.

The second step is to accept facts as they are, including your own feelings, others around you, whatever the situation is - accept these as facts. When we do not accept facts as they are, we are continually stressed, fighting against stuff we cannot change. That’s misery!

The third step is to become more mindful of other people, their feelings, their ideas, opinions, logic, and actions as just - theirs. We put a compassionate boundary between us - we accept our own feelings and thoughts as our own, in our own control, and others’ feelings and thoughts as their own, under their own control. We fully accept other people’s developmental level, with compassion knowing that others will learn and grow as we all do eventually.

The fourth step is to get a picture in your mind of the bigger perspective. Look at the longer view, the wider view, whichever one helps you put the current situation into a larger perspective in your life. Widening one's perspective gives one the ability to not be so concerned about changing something right at this moment - relieving a lot of stress. It helps us see if action is within our role or not, appropriate or not.  

The fifth step is living ones values. Living ones values is usually spiritual in nature and can include being more fully engaged on a daily basis in what is most important to us. This can look like service, listening deeply to someone, allowing ourselves to feel love or compassion for someone. It usually involves staying in the present moment and focusing on the here and now of whatever you are doing. Whatever you are doing, make it good, make it worthwhile, make it valuable to you and others.

The sixth step is to accept your limitations. This may be acknowledging and letting go of those plans and wishes you simply cannot have at this time. Maybe it is something you can have in the future, or can work up to like a race, but it is something that needs to be let go. Let go of those things you cannot have right now. Let them go. Let them be. Let yourself be.

If these things don’t seem to work for you, or you are puzzled by one or more of them, please let me know! I’d love to help you find more peace, as I have in this very stressful world.

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling

Clarity and Charity

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? How do you see yourself? Do you see a precious worthwhile human being? Do you see an ugly, worthless, person of no value? Or perhaps something in between those two extremes? Do you think you see yourself accurately?

We all know that mirrors can distort reality, and of course they are the exact opposite of our true face. Right is left and left is right. But what really distorts our view is our own perception of reality. Some people might go as far as to assert that reality is not even real, or that we cannot even know true reality.

Either way, we do get to choose our perspective. This is important to know because oftentimes we get very caught up in how bad things are in our lives or how badly we are being treated by others, and distort reality by beginning to think the truth is ugly, bad, and wrong. We see others as ugly, bad, and wrong, and then ourselves become a reflection of that perspective. Or perhaps we are victims of those ugly, bad, or wrong people around us. And then our perspective is truly off.

The truth is you are a worthwhile precious human being. And by extension, everyone else is as well. If you can only hold these truths in your heart at all times, believe me, life can be good.

I have to make an exception here of course for those people existing in our world who truly do wish evil on others, who do actually focus on harm to others. Besides these very few evil people, most of us are just people - precious worthwhile human beings, just trying to get along in the world, stumbling along making our mistakes.

So why not choose to see the good? You can, you know. You can choose to see your good qualities, along with your weaknesses and still choose optimism in life. You can choose to be kind to yourself and others. You can choose to react with gentleness and compassion on yourself and others. You can choose to take things that are said or done “with a grain of salt.” You can choose to be patient. You can choose to be understanding. You can choose to have charity with clarity for yourself and others.  

The key is to accept yourself and others as they are, with compassion and understanding for the growth process each of us is on. Each of us is somewhere on the ladder of learning and growing, and can’t be expected to be anywhere different than where we are. There is serenity in acceptance. Peace can be found in clarity. Reality becomes less harsh within the perspective of charity.

Try looking in the next mirror with clarity and charity. The combination is magical! Remember, you make your life what you want it to be. No one else. Why not choose clarity and charity?

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling

Anxiety and the Telephone

I think as long as the telephone has been in existence, there have been people experiencing some kind of social anxiety about talking to someone they can’t see in person. It seems irrational, right? But it doesn’t make it any easier to tell yourself that your anxious feelings about talking on the phone are irrational. It only makes you feel worse. Everyone else seemingly has no problem talking to you by phone, why should your stomach be in knots, and you be sweating, and wishing the other person would just hang up so you can go about your day?

Anxiety is a lot more common than you would suppose, and talking on the phone is one of many different types of social anxiety. You may be fine with talking by phone, but have difficulty face to face with others.  You may be fine one on one, but in a group, your heart may be pounding out of your chest to actually say something in front of everyone else.  

At the root of social anxiety is generally a fear of humiliation. It is the fear that someone will see through our anxiety and find something negative about ourselves and broadcast that to others. Fear may include feelings of anticipating being taken advantage of somehow, or being exposed as a fraud, or misjudged, or misunderstood, or abused emotionally. At the root of this fear is our lack of feeling in control of a social situation, and our lack of confidence in our own skills for detecting danger and protecting ourselves from it.

If you talk it out with someone, you may see that you are really not in control of anything or anyone else at all. You may be able to learn some skills to handle difficult conversations, for example learn how to say “no” or “let’s agree to disagree” or “let me think about that” or “well, I need to go, so I’ll talk about this with you later.” Definitely skills help alleviate anxiety to some degree.

Another pro-tip for anxiety is to simply accept that you feel anxious, and that the other person may or may not be aware of that. Accept the fact you may sound awkward. Accept the fact that others may be aggressive on the phone, and you also have the option to hang up anytime you wish. Accept the fact that you cannot control conversations, but you can set boundaries. Decide what your boundaries need to be and maintain them (no swearing at me, no insulting me, I have no need to answer your personal questions, etc). No matter what your boundaries are, acceptance is key to alleviating anxiety. Accept yourself and others without wishing otherwise.

If you’d like to talk through your anxiety with a counselor please feel free to call! I promise you our staff are understanding and will go easy on your anxiety!

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling

OCD and the Holidays

Whether or not you actually have a diagnosis of OCD, you may be filled with expectations for the holidays that are unrealistic. My personal take on this phenomena is that public media (television) for over 75 years has depicted the holidays for us, and most of us were raised with these images, thinking that the holidays look glowing, fancy, expert, prepared, complete, overwhelming, and that if we do not have all this fanciness, then we are part of the poor, down-trodden folks that Christmas serves.

Not a very ennobling picture.

With OCD, people have intrusive thoughts (obsessive) and then are driven to complete actions (compulsions) to quiet the anxiety. However, this presents a cycle of obsessing and compulsive behaviors that does not quit - because the anxiety is only quieted for a short time, then the thoughts come back.

And many times the obsessive thoughts change, so they are sneaky like that. You think you have dashed out one anxiety-provoking thought, and another one will pop up in its place. Christmastime can increase these thoughts and compulsions because of the expectations we may have been raised with.  

To help quiet these thoughts, my best advice is to look at your time in a more realistic manner. What do you do with your time right now? Is there really that much extra time that you have in your current schedule to accomplish all these feats of Christmas fanciness? Look at your time and abilities realistically. Accept your realistic time and abilities. You are human. You can only do what you can do without stressing your body, leading to immune system breakdown and leading to illness. Resolve to stay healthy as you celebrate the holidays.

Prioritize what you want most out of the holiday celebrations that will keep you healthy - and joyful. What do you want to give? What do you want to get? Make it healthy. Make it warm. Make it joyful. Stay mindful in the moment of how you are feeling and others around you. Enjoy the small moments of peace.  

Stay well folks,

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling

6 Reasons Why You Need a Morning Routine

“I’m not a morning person!” I hear over and over from people. And it’s true to some degree. People do have an inborn circadian rhythm that may preclude them from becoming a morning person. However, I can affirm by my own experience that it is possible to train one's brain if motivated enough to do so.

I remember my mom waking me up at 7 am and being grouchy. And yet, today I rise at 5 am with no alarm clock, no one telling me I have to get up, and indeed I don’t leave for work until much later in the morning - some days as late as 10 am. So what in the world gets one up five hours before they have to rise?

  1. Rising in the morning well before you are required to be awake and attentive gives you a sense of well-being, groundedness, centered, feeling secure and in control of yourself and your life.

  2. Rising before others in the household gives you the ability to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to meet the challenges of the day.

  3. Rising early in the morning gives you a sense of peacefulness because there is no sound, no  one else moving around in the area, you can be utterly alone with your thoughts, and ready to have clarity and communion with the divine.

  4. Rising earlier in the morning gives you the opportunity to use your clarity of thought to plan your tasks for the day or week.

  5. Your brain has replenished chemicals in your brain giving you a sense of wellness, your body is in a state of relaxation and has been healing during the nighttime, preparing you for challenges that may come throughout the day.

  6. Creating a routine for the morning gives you something to look forward to, gets you up and going and feeling that you have time to accomplish important work.

One of my pro tips is to make yourself a list of morning tasks and then follow through with it each day. It can give you a sense of accomplishment so that waking in the morning seems to be a positive experience - one you look forward to doing.

What needs to be in your morning routine to make your life smoother? What do you need to plan or organize so that you wake with positive energy, looking forward to the day? What do you need to add to your morning routine to help you feel grounded, centered, and well?

What do you need to do first thing in the morning tomorrow?

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling

Media Overload

What are your favorite media you access every day? How many times a day do you check your phone for messages or other content? Do you have an addiction? What is an addiction and how do you know if you’ve got one?  

There was a study done several years ago, (which is a mega amount of time in the social media research world), that showed that school age kids were checking their phones about 150 times a day - during school. Think about that for a moment. 150 times a day, your kid is checking messages, responding to messages outside the classroom, taking pictures, or scrolling through some social media.

How has our social media use changed our brains? Our relationships? Our way of life? How many times do you as an adult check your phone? What content do you check, and why?

I remember back in the day when everyone was beginning to get cell phones, trying to coordinate picking up my kids from an activity, and wishing I had the convenience of a cell phone to just talk with them directly. That wish was granted and eventually I got my first cell phone. It was SO convenient and helpful being able to make a call or receive a call anytime anywhere to coordinate the many activities of family life. But now I wonder - has it become too much of an overload? Has it impeded our relationships? Has it only increased the busyness of life instead of helping us coordinate our lives? And we are all familiar now with the detrimental effects it has had on our kids’ self esteem. 

Do you feel overloaded at times, burnt out with the media? I mean, do you look at a tragic news story and simply scroll past it feeling nothing for the people in trauma? Has the overabundance of information numbed us to feeling empathy and support for others?  

I think these are good questions to ask ourselves. And of course, they are good questions to think about in making decisions for our children.  

The answer to the addiction question is a yes, you are addicted. We are all addicted. Research has shown that scrolling through social media or checking messages gives us the same type of dopamine drops to our brains that any other substance of abuse would do that hooks us. Have you had that experience of just checking your phone, and then twenty minutes later, noticing the time flew by? That is addiction. Every new thing that pops up gives you a drop of dopamine, so you scroll and scroll, check and check, and your life literally wastes away before your very eyes as you scroll through your phone.

Have you tried a social media fast?  

I know that most of us now have very important data, events, and connections saved in our phones and have a NEED to use them for these important uses. But what about those things that could wait until maybe once a day - check your email, answer calls or texts, look at facebook posts. What if you fasted from social media for a day, a week, a month?

It takes approximately a month for our brains to begin to heal from addictive urges. So if you do take the challenge to fast from social media, you may find yourself itching to scroll, check, look at it strongly for the first few hours and days - this is your brain withdrawing from addiction.  

But if you persist, and instead spend your time connecting in person with friends and family, working on a hobby, making something with your hands, cleaning, studying, learning something new, working on projects, doing something productive, you will certainly find a breath of fresh air. You will feel like a new sober alcoholic. Your brain will become clearer, you will be more mindful of your own emotions, and the people around you. This can be a scary experience as we may not know what to do with ourselves and our time! But it can also be a more peaceful, exhilarating experience.  

Try it and let me know what you find out!

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling