Psychological Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney

This article comes from The Advocates Injury Attorneys of Utah. They work with people to help them get back on their feet after accidents and other traumatic events. Check out their blog for more information on trauma and legal help.

Adam glided down the road on his way home from work.  A new Netflix series was waiting for him.  He had been anxiously anticipating its release date for a few months.  Now it was finally here!  Adam was always a cautious driver.  He was anxious to get home, but not so much that he was going to drive recklessly.

As he approached an intersection, he noticed the light was green and looked ahead to be sure it was clear.  As he pulled into the intersection, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a sudden speeding blur.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion.  The sound of metal crashing into metal echoed as a car ran a red light and slammed into Adam’s car.  Adam’s body wrenched forward, being yanked against his seatbelt.  With a thundering blast, the airbags deployed immediately.   The car tires screeched as the entire vehicle spun.  Adam felt an abrupt spasm of pain shoot through his neck and back as his body accelerated back against his seat.  As the chaotic motion of everything stopped, everything went silent.  Adam sat, stunned, processing what had just happened.

Shock, worry, disbelief, nervousness, anger, guilt, and many other emotions are possible feelings following a car accident.  Anyone who has been involved in an accident understands that the ensuing days, weeks, and months can be extremely stressful.  A motor vehicle accident is a common cause of traumatic stress.  In one study, a motor vehicle accident was shown to be the traumatic event most frequently experienced by males and the second by females in the United States.

When this stress starts to interfere with the way you live your life for an extended period, it can be dangerous.  According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the longer your stress lasts, the worse it is for both mind and body.  When you are plagued by stress that is encroaching on your life, the APA recommends identifying what is causing your stress, building strong relationships, walking away when you are angry, resting your mind, and getting help with the thing that is causing your stress.

Following a car accident, there are significant hurdles that the victim has to overcome.  Not only do victims have to recover from their physical injuries, but there are associated medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and other potentially debilitating issues.  All of these things can be significant causes of stress.

One of the things that can reduce or eliminate much of a victim’s stress is getting help and developing a plan of action with a personal injury attorney.  If someone was the victim of an accident because of another person’s recklessness, a personal injury attorney could help in deferring medical bills, recovering lost wages, speaking with an employer, finding a mechanic, assisting with a rental car, as well as other services.

It is important to realize that stress is not the same for everyone.  Stress affects each person differently.  For someone like Adam, it is possible that dealing with the effects of his car accident by hiring a personal injury attorney might reduce his likelihood to relive and suffer from that event.  In a way, by hiring a lawyer, Adam is dealing with the problem.  As the APA points out, there is not a universally effective stress reducing technique.  Rather, each person is unique and different.  Adapting and adjusting to what works best for you is critical in helping to reduce your stress following a serious accident.

Disclaimer: This blog is designed for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes. It not meant to be a substitute for any mental health or medical treatment. If you need a doctor or therapist please find one near you. Please do not attempt to do anything without your doctor and therapist or other professional’s go ahead, and remember to use common sense.

Why You Should Talk About Your Tattoos With Your Therapist.

I’m a tattooed therapist. I have six total, four of which are easily visible if I wear a short sleeved shirt. I love my tattoos and put a lot of thought and energy into their creation. For the longest time I covered them up when I was in session. This was partly due to the policies and procedures of where I was working and partly due to my own insecurities. Since then I have overcome my own self doubts and now I proudly display them in session and openly discuss them. Here’s why.

Humans have been tattooing themselves since we were cavemen. Otzi, the 5000 year old Iceman has tattoos. Why he has them is still up for debate among archeologists: were they to fit in with his tribe, stand out in his tribe, were they part of some magical thinking believing they had curative powers, were they to give him strength or abilities? We may never know, but the fact remains that tattoos are symbols and therefore have meaning and power.

In our western society we may not be tattooing ourselves believing they will cause healing or grant abilities, but the tattoos we have continue to hold power and meaning. They tell a story. Each one holds a snippet of our past and gives a glimpse into our thoughts, hopes, dreams, emotions, and experiences. They give the world a snapshot of who we are or at least who were when we got them, or perhaps  who we strive to be. They send the world a message and sometimes let other’s know we wear our hearts on our sleeves.

Tattoos can represent mistakes of our past (an ex-lover’s name over the heart or past gang affiliation). They can express our culture or beliefs (a cross on the arm or passage of scripture). They show the world our interests and passions (a half sleeve of doughnuts and pastries, or an entire back piece of Nintendo characters). They can remind us of love and loss (a memorial for a past loved one). They can give us strength and courage to carry on (a simple semicolon on the wrist). Tattoos can quite literally be our life story written on our skin for the world to see.

At its core therapy is relationship building. A client and therapist get together and over time build a deep and profound relationship. It’s unavoidable when you talk to someone about your deepest wounds, darkest secrets, and greatest fears. It is this relationship that creates the healing aspect of therapy. Knowing this is what happens in therapy doesn’t it make sense to be talking about meaning and purpose of your tattoos?

Here’s the challenge: if you have tattoos look at each one (for some this may take a while) and ask yourself these questions.

-How old where you when you got it?

-What was going on in your life at the time? Were things stressful or peaceful?

-What did the tattoo mean to you then? What does it mean to you now?

-What would it be like to not have that tattoo?

-Would you still want get the tattoo today?

-What does this tattoo say about you as a person?

Afterwards, notice what that experience was like And talked about it with your therapist (if you have one).

Note: If you do not have tattoos you can do this same exercise with a tattoo you would like to get or any body modification (piercings, gauges, scars, etc.). If you have zero body modifications, chances are you know someone who does, you can ask them these questions. Notice what it does to your relationship. Do you feel closer to them?

Disclaimer: This blog is designed for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes. It not meant to be a substitute for any mental health or medical treatment. If you need a doctor or therapist please find one near you. Please do not attempt to do anything without your doctor and therapist or other professional’s go ahead, and remember to use common sense.

3 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing

People often ask, “What are some simple steps to take to improve my mental health/wellbeing.” Although there are no magic bullets and there is no one thing that can completely change your life if you do it just once, I have found that there are three things that if clients focus on improving than their mental state and overall wellbeing tend to improve. They are sleep, exercise, and nutrition.

Sleep
I cannot stress the importance of sleep enough. Although the reason humans sleep and why we need around 8 hours of sleep are still being studied and explored what we do know is that if someone is not getting enough sleep or not getting quality sleep it effect nearly every aspect of their life. When we do not get enough sleep, not only do we feel physically tired but we have a difficult time thinking straight and quickly, our response time decreases, we have a difficult time controlling and regulating our emotions, and our immune system suffers.
Now sometimes it can be really difficult to get a good nights rest. People struggling with PTSD may have chronic nightmares that keep them up; those suffering from anxiety may have such racing thoughts it is hard to quiet their mind enough to fall asleep. Even with these problems however there are a few things that can help with sleep.
-First, go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, every day, yes even on the weekend. This consistency help your brain recognize what to do when.
-Second, unplug one hour before bed. That means no phones or tablets on the bedside table and no T.V. in the room. The light from the screen sends signals to the brain to stay up longer and longer. There are apps that can change the color of the screen to an orange hue and this is supposed to help, but it is probably better to just unplug completely. Give your brain and eyes a break.
-Third, make sure your room is set up to sleep. Keep it dark and quiet. Keep it cool and clean. It is hard to sleep well in a bright, hot, loud, dirty room. Turn it into your own hibernation sanctuary, a place dedicated to sleep.
If your care to learn more about sleep and its benefits read Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution.

Exercise
Exercise is vital to who and what we are. We are creatures designed to move. We are meant to get up and run down prey, forage for berries, climbs cliffs, swim lakes, and build shelters. We are not designed for Netflix marathons, all night WoW raids, or the cubicle.
Exercise has been shown to have similar benefits as certain antidepressants. It improves learning and memory. It promotes neurogenesis (the brain forming new connections). It decreases stress and anxiety. It pumps endorphins and other feel good neurochemicals into our brain and body. It boosts self esteem, self worth, and self confidence. Not to mention all the physical benefits too (faster, stronger, more endurance). Exercise has been show to greatly improve the mental health and well being of those with trauma and PTSD, addiction, anxiety, depression. Exercise improves nearly every aspect of our well being, but it’s hard.
While some people will notice a sudden shift in mood and perception after one bout of exercise for many people it takes time to see the many benefits of exercise. Here are a few ways to help.
-First, consistency is key. Do something active regularly and frequently. For you this might be going to the gym every day of the week for others it may be walking around the block every other day. Find what you can consistently keep up with and stick to it.
-Second, start small. Start with a walk around the block when you get home, take a walking lunch, play with the dog in the backyard. Start with where you are at physically. The last thing you want to do is start an exercise routine, get hurt, and not be able to continue, so please start at the appropriate pace and check with a doctor before you start any new exercise routine.
-Three, recruit support. It is easier to exercise and stay consistent when we have support. This may be a spouse walking the dog with you, a friend going to the gym with you, joining a sports team, even hiring a personal trainer. Find support wherever you can.
If you are interested in knowing more about how exercise effects the mind and body check out the book Spark by John Ratey, MD.

Nutrition
We all know we should eat more fruits and veggies, but healthy nutrition goes so much deeper than getting your daily vitamin C. Healthy nutrition means eating regularly; I’m sure I am not the only one who has experience the emotion “Hangry” the unique combination of getting angry when hungry? Healthy nutrition means drinking plenty of water. Being even slightly dehydrated has been shown to increase cortisol (the stress hormone). There is even a connection between the probiotics in our digestive track and certain mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Bottom line: when we eat a bunch of fast food junk we tend not to feel so good physically, mentally, or emotionally when we eat a healthy well balanced diet and make sure we are getting the nutrition we need on a regular basis we feel better.
Again this is not as easy as it sounds. When we are depressed or anxious it is natural to crave sugar and fat. These things help release the happy neurochemicals and make us feel better, for a little while. The issues arise when this continues for a long period of time there can be pretty drastic consequences. So, try this.
-First, once again, start small, you don’t have to go gluten free or become vegan, but maybe if you have a bowl of ice cream every night replace it with a bowl of strawberries. These little changes can make big waves when they add up.
-Second, if you tend to get hangry make sure you have a snack readily accessible. We never know when we might get hangry and we don’t always have the luxury of stopping what we are doing to make a sandwich. So, in these cases carrying a small snack like trail mix or a protein bar can go a long way.
-Third, carry a water bottle. It is simple really. If we have water readily at hand we are more likely to drink it. Yes, diet coke has water in it and so does coffee, but it is not the same. We are designed to run off of water not aspartame and caffeine. Imagine putting olive oil in your car. It’s got “oil” in it, right? No. Put engine oil in you car and put water in your body.
If you would like to know more about how nutrition effects mental health check out this awesome article on Harvard Medical School’s website.

So here is the challenge: for the next week improve your sleep, get out and move some more, eat clean, and notice how doing even the smallest of changes can effect your thoughts, feelings, and overall wellbeing.

 

Disclaimer: This blog is designed for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes. It not meant to be a substitute for any mental health or medical treatment. If you need a doctor or therapist please find one near you. Please do not attempt to do anything without your doctor, therapist, or other professional’s go ahead, and remember to use common sense.

5 Actions to Overcome a Break-up

We have all been there. We think we have found “The One,” our “Soul Mate,” and it all crumbles away. Break-ups can leave use destroyed; we feel unlovable; we tell ourselves horrible lies like “you’re disgusting,” “It was all my fault,” and “you’re useless.” These are falsehoods that we tell ourselves in a destructive attempt to make sense of the pain we are feeling. We burst into tears at the slightest trigger; we end up sleeping poorly; binge eating or maybe not eating at all; we try to cover up our pain with drugs or alcohol; we isolate and hide from the world for fear of running into out Ex. There is another way. You can heal from this and there are things you can do to not only pass through the grief but overcome and end up stronger than before.

1. Be Kind to Yourself: After a break-up we can treat ourselves like out own worst enemy. We say things in our heads that we wouldn’t dream of saying to another person. This needs to change. Try this, for every action you take tell yourself “I love myself.” Say it with love and compassion, say it with conviction, notice the difference it makes in your life.

2. Take Care of Yourself: When our hearts are broken we can end up spending all day in bed and binge eating pints of ice cream and several large pizzas. Our minds and bodies are connected and when we are not taking care of our bodies by sleeping well, eating a well balanced diet, and exercising our bodies do not feel well and it is harder for our minds to heal.

3. Spend Time Outside: After a break-up we often avoid the world. We lock ourselves in our homes and begin withering away. Going outside and surrounding ourselves in nature has huge benefits from the vitamin D to the fresh air. Get outside, walk around the park, go for a hike, notice how you feel before and after.

4. Surround Yourself with Supportive Friends and Family: When we are rejected by a loved one we can often feel like no one wants to be around us. This is another lie we tell ourselves. Reach out to your friends and family, connect with them, lean on them to listen to you and distract you from your pain.

5. Seek Professional Help if Needed: Sometimes the pain of a break-up is too much for us to handle by ourselves. When this feels like the case seek out a mental health professional: a therapist, a counselor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist. Find someone who is trained in handling the specific pain you are experiencing.

Break-ups are difficult and painful but by taking action we can heal and ultimately become stronger than we were before.

 

Dreams

I love dreams. They are not only freaky fun, but they often give us a glimpse of what we need to be focusing or working on. Although it true that we do not fully know the purpose or value of dreams one theory is that it is our minds ways of processing, organizing, and storing the information and events of the day into long term memory. Check out this great article in Scientific American briefly describing this idea. This theory is also why researchers believe that eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective form of mental health treatment (check out this FAQ page for more info on EMDR.)

Many people, especially those struggling with trauma do not always pay attention for acknowledge their dreams. I fully understand this approach. First dreams often do not make much sense so just trying to pay attention to them can be confusing. Second, those with trauma often struggle with nightmares and I know if I have a nightmare the last thing I want to do is try to remember and acknowledge the experience; I want to forget it the moment I wake up. Once we begin to be mindful and aware of our dreams, however, we can gain a great deal of insight.

This past week, for example, I had a dream I was providing therapy to an old classmate of mine. She is normally very mild mannered and reserved. In this dream, I kept offering advice and suggestions (things a good therapist shouldn’t do). In the dream, my classmate exploded on me and yelled, “Alex, you need to shut the fuck up.” When I woke I was surprisingly disturbed by the dream. I could have shaken it off and left it as just a weird dream after all I haven’t even spoken to this classmate in a long while. Once I allowed myself the space to acknowledge and even more importantly appreciate the dream I realized that one of my biggest fears as a therapist and especially as a therapist newly opening up my own practice was that I didn’t know what I was doing and that It was all a charade.

When I was able to translate my brain’s cryptic message to me I was able to challenge and reframe it. I was able to recognize my own fears and insecurities and begin doing my own work on these issues. I recognized that I am a well trained, widely experienced, empathetic, and knowledgeable therapist. Although I have a lot to learn on the business side I am fully capable of learning it all. My brain may have been shouting at me that I am not ready and trying to get me to retreat but I saw through its scare tactics and was able to gain insight and wisdom from it.

I encourage you to start paying attention to your dreams. You don’t have to pull out a dream interpretation book or channel your inner Freudian. Simply, acknowledge what the dream was, what your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations were during the dream and after you woke, and ask yourself, “What in my current life is creating these same thoughts, feelings, and body sensations?”. Once you have identified what that is thank your brain for sending you the message and making you pay attention (no matter how cryptic it may have been). You may be surprised how it all comes together.

What is Therapy?

We all know the image of what therapy is; the cliché of a patient laying down on a couch and the therapist sitting behind them taking notes. This may be what some need in order to heal, but honestly, it’s a little outdated. Therapy is so much more than just coming and telling someone all your problems. Here are three components that make therapy truly healing.

Connection

Therapy is about connection. Firstly, its about connecting to your therapist; experiencing and learning what it is like to have someone truly listen to you with compassion and empathy.  Secondly, it’s about learning to tune into who you really are and recognizing how your mind, heart, body, and spirit affect each other and ultimately how to get them to all work together instead of battling within. Lastly, therapy is about connecting to everything around us: our relationships, our environments, our family and friends, our jobs, and the world as a whole.

Possibilities

Therapy is about discovering infinite possibilities. When you learn to embrace your most authentic self and live a life that is true to who you are your potential and the possibilities explode. You learn that your own thoughts and feelings were the main obstacle holding you back. Once you learn to challenge and overcome those barriers you quickly learn to thrive.

Hope

Lastly, therapy is about hope. Often times we have been so beaten down not only by the world but mostly by the lies we tell ourselves. We tell ourselves that things are hopeless; that things will never change, and that we are destined to repeat the same cycles over and over again. Therapy helps you regain hope. It may not happen right away but the right therapist can hold hope for you, encourage, and support you so that you can learn that life is full of hope. H.O.P.E Hold On Pain Ends.

Therapy is about connection, possibilities, and hope. The roots of a tree are connected to the earth and everything within it; when things are as they should be the tree grows and thrives; it blooms into all its infinite possibilities; it spreads it branches toward the sky with hopeful anticipation. A healthy tree can withstand the strongest winds, the most powerful storms, and even when the Earth itself shakes it stands tall, unfazed. The same is true for us. Our minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits are all connected, and our essence is connected to the world around us. When we learn to be connected, embrace endless possibilities, and face life with renewed hope we can let go of our resistance, our barriers and obstacles; we can bloom to withstand any storm.