By: Lisa Philippart
Does that word frighten you? Chances are, you or someone you know has or has had some form of dementia. I provided counseling services in nursing homes for many years, and have painfully watched as residents and their families struggled daily with this disease. November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some facts first, and then next time, my own personal thoughts on this difficult subject.

Let’s start with the statistics:

1. Alzheimer’s currently affects more than 5 million Americans and that number is likely to triple by 2050.
2. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and is climbing steadily.
3. Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
4. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.
5. Alabama ranks 17th in number of deaths due to Alzheimer’s disease as of 2014.

I know these numbers are sobering, but here are some facts you need to know:

1. Alzheimer’s is often not detected until the end-stage of the disease. Alzheimer’s generally follows a 14 YEAR course! This means that from the onset of the first symptoms until death, it is typically about 14 years, with the diagnosis being made in the 8-10 year time frame. So the symptoms go untreated and undiagnosed for 7 years, while the lesions spread throughout the brain.
2. Memory loss is not a normal part of aging. Unfortunately, many people resist medical attention because they fear being labeled or are misinformed to believe that Alzheimer’s can’t be treated. Regardless of the cause of the memory loss, addressing the problem early can improve the effects of treatments currently available.
3. Many Alzheimer’s drugs are more effective than you might think. Unfortunately, late detection has negative consequences. With early intervention, treatment can be provided for those with healthier brains, which will respond more vigorously. Obviously, those with an end stage diagnosis already have massive brain damage.
4. Alzheimer’s disease can be treated. And while there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are plenty of treatment options. What this means is that preventing or slowing further brain damage is desirable to letting the damage spread without restriction. A good diet, exercise, socialization, and certain drugs can also help to preserve quality of life.
5. Better treatments for Alzheimer’s are on the way! The good news is that because of intense research over the past twenty years, insights about Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms and factors that increase risk are being discovered every day. Much has been learned and promising drugs are in clinical trials right now.
6. Taking care of your heart will help your brain stay healthy. The health of your brain is directly related to the health of your heart. This means that high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity all contribute to a greater risk of cognitive decline. Again, this can’t be stressed enough…good vascular health will help to improve cognitive vitality.
7. Managing risk factors can delay and even prevent cognitive problems later in life. Risk factors that can be controlled include diabetes, head injuries, poor diet, inactivity, and isolation.

So, why bother with Alzheimer’s awareness? Because it is a terrible disease that will destroy our aging society. Through education and stigma reduction, maybe more people will be willing to take a more proactive approach to early intervention. Please share this information with a friend and take care of yourself now.
Until next time…Lisa

By: Lisa Philippart
Now that you know a bit more about high sensitivity and its characteristics, it’s time to ask the question…how can an HSP not only survive, but thrive in a non-HSP world? According to Dr. Elain Aron, there are four steps to using our talents and gifts as HSPs to flourish in our daily environments.

First step is self-knowledge. You have already done this! As an HSP, you recognize four areas or indicators of our sensory processing sensitivity. 1. You reflect more than others about the way the world is going, the meaning of life, pondering the direction of a relationship, and feeling more deeply about the suffering of others. 2. You are often overstimulated by sights, smells, sounds, and people, which can lead to confusion, poor memory, and an activation of the “fight or flight” response. 3. You are emotionally intense! Yes, you feel deeply. HSPs are sentimental, full of compassion and worry, and are easily moved to tears or laughter. 4. You are sensory sensitive, which means that you are keen observers. You notice the smallest details, have low pain thresholds, and can sometimes identify feelings of positive or negative energy.

Second step is reframing. Reframing means seeing something in a new way or in a new context. Now that you are aware of your gift, you will want to reframe your past. So many of your “failures” were inevitable because neither you nor your parents or teachers or friends or co-workers understood you. You are considering your responses in light of what you know now about how your body automatically operates. Reframing your past and your perspective can lead to improved self-esteem, which can then lead to a decrease in becoming over aroused in unanticipated or highly stimulating situations.

Third step is healing. How can you survive as an HSP? Here is a brief list of suggestions from Dr. Ted Zeff’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide: prepare for the overstimulation in your daily life, learn to calm your senses and cope with time pressures, take care of your body, allow yourself to sleep when needed, maintain harmonious relationships, create a peaceful work environment, and nurture your HSP soul. I am giving you permission to spend more time in serenity and quietude. I promise you will notice a positive change in your energy and spirit.

Fourth step is being an HSP in a non-HSP world. How can you thrive as an HSP? This involves three areas of an HSP’s world. 1. HSPs require more self-care than non-HSPs, so diet and exercise are vitally important. In addition, your mental and emotional processes can deliberately and intentionally alter all other areas of health and life. The happiness factor is crucial! Your self-care also includes quiet time to create that inner peace, which will allow your body and mind to realign and repair. 2. HSPs tend to experience discomfort in social situations. You will want to develop ways to reduce the chaos while creating a social life “persona.” In some situations, it may be appropriate to explain your trait. 3. Handling conflict is a difficult topic for HSPs. You tend to avoid it at all costs! But when you can’t, it helps to be as prepared as possible whenever you can, and to counter each negative thought with a positive one. A sense of humor and the natural gift of compassion can often de-escalate an uncomfortable situation.

Can you tell I am passionate about being an HSP? Until next time
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
The purpose of my previous article was to introduce you to the trait of high sensitivity. If you completed the self-test at http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/ and decided you were not highly sensitive, the chances are that you know someone who is. This article is part two of three parts designed to present you with specific characteristics to hopefully give you a clearer picture of yourself or the HSP in your life. We will look at the mental, physical, sensory, spiritual, and psychological/behavioral characteristics in an abbreviated form.

Mental:

  • Better at spotting errors and avoiding making errors
  • Highly conscientious
  • Able to concentrate deeply (better without distractions)
  • Often thinking about our own thinking
  • Deeply affected by other people’s moods and emotions


Physical:

  • Specialists in fine motor movements
  • Good at holding still
  • “Morning people”
  • More right-brained
  • More easily affected by stimulants
  • Nervous systems are designed to react to subtle experiences



Sensory: (sensitivity to)

  • Touch—fabrics, water, temperatures
  • Sound—loud noises, music, white noise
  • Sight/Light—visual beauty, fluorescents, bright lights
  • Taste—warm foods, textures, alcohol, caffeine
  • Smell—chemical sensitivity, aromatherapy

Spiritual:

  • Meditative, prayerful, soulful
  • Intuitive
  • Search for meaning, purpose, and wholeness
  • Vivid dreams and active imaginations
  • Visions, divine intervention, miracles


Psychological/Behavioral:

  • Empathic
  • Affected deeply by environmental stimuli
  • Big picture/serious thinkers
  • Conscientious, methodical, perfectionist
  • Boundary difficulties
  • Avoid conflict and criticism
  • Require meaningful work and personal relationships

So, what do you think? Do you see yourself or someone you know with most or all of these characteristics? The next step is for HSPs to figure out how to function in a non-HSP world. I’ll share some tips and ideas in my next article. Until then…..Take time to appreciate the HSP!
By: Lisa Phillippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

My New Life As An HSP

By: Lisa Philippart
“And those who were seen dancing were thought insane by those who could not hear the music.” —Nietzsche

Several years ago, I had a client ask me if I was an HSP. At the time, I was too embarrassed to inquire what an HSP was, so deflectively I asked her why she wondered. She told me that our connection felt so deep and empathetic that it was almost like I could feel her emotions. Her words began my journey into understanding the trait called HSP, or highly sensitive person. I am forever grateful to this client because my life now makes so much more sense to me, as I embrace the gifts and challenges of this characteristic of my personality. Let’s look at what it means to be a highly sensitive person.

The trait of high sensitivity is found in about 15-20% of the population and, surprisingly, equally divided in numbers between men and women. There are way too many of us for it to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around us. This incredible trait is innate and can be found in over 100 species of animals, reflected by a certain type of survival strategy…being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive people actually work a little differently than non-HSPs. We are more aware of subtleties because our brains process information and reflect on it more deeply. We can become more easily overwhelmed. When you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things become too intense, complicated, chaotic or unfamiliar.

The HSP trait is not a new discovery, but it has definitely been misunderstood. HSPs prefer to “assess” (I say this word all the time!) before entering new situations, and this has been misinterpreted as shyness. But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, you can be an introvert or an extrovert and an HSP. High sensitivity has been mislabeled as introversion, inhibitition, fearfulness, and even neuroticism. And it seems to be valued differently in different cultures. In the United States for example, HSPs are told “don’t be so sensitive,” so we tend to have low self-esteem issues and suppress or ignore our compassion and understanding.

Are you highly sensitive? I encourage you to complete the self-test to find out! Take a few moments and go to www.hsperson.com which is Dr. Elaine Aron’s website. Dr. Aron is a psychologist who made this discovery of high sensitivity and published her findings in her international bestseller, The Highly Sensitive Person. In my next article, we will summarize some of the mental, physical, psychological, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics of the HSP. I look forward to sharing with you more about this fascinating attribute.
Until next time…..Lisa
Lisa Philippart LPC is the only HSP-trained therapist in Alabama!

By: Lisa Philippart
Can you be happy by yourself? Have you had periods in your life where you were by yourself, but wishing for the company of others? In both of these situations, you were alone, but you were most likely only lonely in one of them. Lonely and alone are both adjectives with very different meanings. Lonely describes a feeling of sadness stemming from isolation or abandonment. Alone describes a single person or object, separate from others. So, and stay with me, a person can be alone without feeling lonely, since alone is a state of being in separation or solitude, and lonely is an emotional response of feeling sad or abandoned. You can also feel lonely without being alone.

Why am I so concerned with the semantics of these two words? Because sometimes in my practice, clients confuse the terms, or more often they believe the words are interchangeable. I think it is important to understand how being alone is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I believe that we each need time alone every day to allow our thoughts to settle and to focus on the present moment. Women in particular, seem to have a more difficult time with aloneness than men. And it is generally for one of two reasons: (1)Either we are usually so busy with taking care of family and work and the home and others, that we don’t MAKE the time to ground ourselves. In fact, we multi-taskers often feel guilty spending time alone. There’s too much to do! We can’t waste time seeking alone-time! (2) Or we fear being alone because we might become lonely. And being lonely feels sad. I have counseled women who are terrified of being alone. The very thought sends them into a panic. These women have worked to ensure that they are never alone, to the point that their phone is never out of their hand. Their phone has become their constant connection to others.

I am going to suggest that fear and busyness are not effective ways to avoid being alone. The time will come when you will be alone. And when it happens, what will you do? Those are the moments when our minds take over and choose a path for us. One direction leads to loneliness, sadness, fear, or rejection. The other route leads to contentment, solitude, serenity, or mindfulness. So we are back to the skill of accepting ourselves, flaws and strengths, and appreciating our uniqueness and worth. Now is the time to practice being alone. You can learn to appreciate who you are and actually enjoy spending time with and by yourself. You need to be your own best friend. It’s being content in your own company, and for some that can be extremely difficult. “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” Paul Tillicd.

Until next time, spend a few moments each day taking pleasure in your tranquility.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
Did you reach out to someone after reading my article two weeks ago? I really HOPE so. Today, my article will be HOPEFUL and HOPEFULLY HELPFUL if you have ever wondered about trying to HELP those possibly considering suicide. (OK, I’ll stop with the “H’s!”) I could regale you with statistics and information about suicide and its epidemic proportions in our country, but what I would rather do is give you some application for what you can do personally…one on one. Even though I know it can be scary and uncomfortable, you may be the one who makes a difference for that person in need.

The first H is Here and Hear. The most important thing you can do for someone who is hurting or depressed is to be present. You are both with them and listening. Most of us just ask, “How are you?” Expecting the answer to be “Fine.” And we both move on. But if the answer is not fine, then maybe that person needs you. Maybe that person was waiting for someone to ask, so they could connect, even if just for a few minutes. You can learn to read body language and verbal cues. Even if you have never done this before, take just two minutes to ask, “What’s going on?” That person may only need your presence to reaffirm that they do matter.

The second H is Help. How can you help? Just ask. “Is there anything I can do?” You will be surprised that some people will take you up on it, so be prepared when you might actually have to do something! There is a fine line here because you are asking as someone who cares, not as a professional. So, if you sense that this person may need more than you are able to provide, you can suggest a couple of options. One is for that person to seek counseling. Secondly, did you know that there is a Helpline through Crisis Services of North Alabama? This is a wonderful resource for all types of crises. Their number is 256-715-1000. And lastly, you might recommend that the person seek out someone in the church family. Some people are more comfortable seeking help through their faith base.

And the last H is Hope. As a friend or fellow human being, you can be encouraging and supportive providing that feeling of hopefulness and optimism. Simply saying, “I believe things will get better,” or “I’m here for you,” or even “I care about you” will go a long way. Many of the clients I see have become stuck in a life that is no longer working for them. They can’t figure out how to get unstuck and have sometimes even given up on ever being able to be happy again. Hope is a powerful word because it provides people with the belief and faith that their lives can get better. You can have an impact on someone in need. If you get a chance, check out the movie, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” You might never know how your life has affected another, but it is still worth the effort. May you be that giver of hope.
Until next time…..Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” Martin Luther

By: Lisa Philippart
“I cried out as loud as I could, but no one heard me; I was too far from the people.”
From Something by Hans Christian Anderson
This is a sad story. And it needs to be told. A. Man spent many years working at a job that started out being something that he enjoyed, and even found somewhat fulfilling. As time went by though, he realized that he liked what he was doing less and less. He became short with his co-workers. His home life became unhappy. The longer he stayed in his position, the less motivated he became to try to fix anything. It was just easier to stay where he was and complain.

Eventually, A. felt himself becoming less and less connected to the world. He could not express his frustration and sadness. It seemed like no one cared anyway. He could sense what was left of his old life slipping away, being replaced with constant loneliness, isolation, and dread. Some people noticed, some didn’t. But no one took the time to check on A. He came to believe that his life no longer mattered, so he ended it.

At his workplace, the people were shocked. Some even cried. A counselor was called in to meet with A.’s colleagues to help them “process.” The counselor asked for memories and stories about A. No one could think of any. No one really knew him…or took the time to. Their tears were not tears of grief, but rather because that response was expected. Two weeks later, the workplace was back to the way it was before, as if A. had never existed.

What is happening to us? I do not want to believe that we have become so callous, uncaring, and selfish that A. Man commits SUICIDE and his co-workers (some for 20+ years) do not even know his wife’s name! When “friends” said that they had no idea that A. Man was hurting so, I want to tell them that they should have. In most cases, those considering SUICIDE put out all sorts of signs. They want you to notice. They want you to ask if they are okay or need to talk.

The “s” word is SUICIDE. There. I have written it and acknowledged it. Our culture has definitely made strides in recognizing the need for action when symptoms are presented. But treatment cannot be provided unless YOU notice. I can’t make you care, but I can suggest that you spend some time with others, even those you don’t know. Ask how someone is doing and actually listen to the answer. In my next article, I will share some concrete material about SUICIDE attention and prevention. Until then, are there people in your life who might need you to notice them today?
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brene Brown

In my last article, we discussed a disturbing trend of separation that I had been observing with my clients in my private practice. Since there has not yet been an app created that can replace human connection, I would like to share with you my thoughts on ways to connect not only with yourself, but to those around you. I am a list maker, so I’ve organized my suggestions in an easy-to-read (possibly printable, hint, hint) format:

1. Smile and make eye contact! Smiling at someone is one of the simplest and quickest ways to connect, whether it be with a stranger or a loved one. You never know when a smile will come at just the right time to have the positive effect that person may need. When you make eye contact, you are choosing to be completely present, which encourages a level of trust and safety.

2. Spend time in nature, or at least away from the phone, TV, and video games. Go for a walk, sit at the park, tune into your senses, or just BE outside. Make the time to connect to your breath, feel your heart beating, or the breeze blowing on your face. This is the perfect opportunity to observe and describe the smells, sights, and sounds around you. You might even want to take a friend with you to enjoy the moment of feeling alive.

3. Practice acceptance. Do you spend time judging yourself and/or others? Do you judge your judging?!? Over time, it will weigh you down. So, instead of trying to ignore that berating, negative voice by pretending to think happy thoughts, let’s try to focus on acceptance and eventually understanding. Acceptance is not approval. It is the willingness to hear and be heard without judgment.

4. Appreciate and celebrate. When we appreciate ourselves, we begin to celebrate those things we do well, or that we at least did better than yesterday! When we appreciate others by recognizing their talents and improvements, growth and change can occur. Making a sincere compliment about yourself or someone else leads to connection and positivity.

5. Be present! Are you a multi-tasker? Then please stop. Try to focus on one person or one job at a time. Give your full attention. When was the last time you really listened to someone by spending time relating through body language, facial expressions, and your overall quality of presence? Spend some time away from your phone, game, TV, and other mindless distractions. People + (FULL) Attention = Connection
Until next time…..Lisa Pilippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” Richard Moss

As a mental health professional, one of my favorite parts of my work is getting the opportunity to listen to my client’s life stories. About 90% of the time, during the first session, my client becomes tearful, and usually makes a statement about just needing to talk to someone. That intake session is generally devoted to me listening and the client spewing out everything that has built up inside…sometimes “emotional vomit” that has collected over a lifetime. Afterwards, my client often reports feeling “lighter” and healthier, in my opinion, mostly because they have shared their struggles with another human being.

All of my life I have worked with people. And I can honestly say that I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity, to the point where I have nothing left to give. But I am seeing a change in my clients that I find unsettling. I have been a psychotherapist for over ten years, and have worked with adults of all ages. Here are some of my observations (not based on any scientific study):

1. Clients are making less eye contact.
2. Clients have difficulty naming one close friend.
3. Clients acknowledge spending HOURS on their phones.
4. Clients acknowledge spending HOURS playing video games.
5. Clients acknowledge spending HOURS on their computers.
6. Clients spend less time interacting with others.
7. Clients have difficulty communicating with others.

Notice a pattern? I submit to you that we are creating a society of human beings who are choosing isolation, but are craving connection. Nothing can replace the relating of two individuals in conversation. There is no app for that! Mental health counseling involves talking to each other! WHAT!? Yup, we are connecting on the most basic level, through dialogue, and that can be disconcerting for some. So, what do I recommend to combat this trend of separation from each other? I’ll let you know next time….
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

“What we think, we become.” – Buddha

The last words that a client sees when they leave my office is this quote from Gautama Buddha. I recently met with a young lady who was struggling with understanding the difference between our thoughts, our feelings, and our spirituality. She could not grasp that while these components are separate, they are also intertwined with our bodies to create our whole being. The health of one affects the health of the others.

This is my definition of mental health: a state of well-being in which the mind realizes the person’s potential, can deal with the daily stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make contributions to the community.

That’s a tall order, isn’t it? This is why how we think pretty much determines how we live and why taking care of our thoughts is so important.

This is my definition of spiritual health: the capacity for love, forgiveness, joy, compassion, fulfillment, faith, hope, values, and morals.

We all have the capacity. It is a matter of choice and typically includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves. Most of my clients are searching for meaning in life. Even the most severely mentally ill adults who come to my office have a desire to FEEL that their life matters.

And finally, my definition of emotional health: an awareness of what you are feeling and the ability to deal with those feelings, whether they are positive or negative.

Emotionally healthy people can feel stress, anger, resentment or sadness, and know how to manage their feelings. The word that comes to mind is resilience . . . striving for a life of wholeness, balance, and contentment despite problems or setbacks.
So, what do your emotions, thoughts, and spirituality have in common? They all originate in that amazing organ called your brain. The brain, body, emotions, thoughts, and soul form the whole person. By recognizing and dealing with each part of the whole within the whole, we can learn how to have a more vital and satisfying life.

I often tell my clients that the work we are doing in each session STARTS with their mental health and AFFECTS their mind, body, and spirit.
Until next time….,
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor