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

“If you can’t forgive and forget, then pick one and do it …” Jim Brault

I have a confession to make. I know we don’t know each other very well yet, but I need to make this admission publicly. I WAS the queen of grudges. I do believe that I held the world’s record for longest resentment time by a human being. As a highly sensitive person (a topic for another day), for most of my life I took everything personally. Which means if you hurt my feelings, and that used to happen quite often, I would RARELY “just get over it.”

But then I became a mental health counselor, and learned that unforgiveness can keep our bodies and brains in a constant state of high alert and lead to numerous unhealthy results. For example, I used to nurse and replay a hurt over and over in my head, which fueled my negative emotions and burned the event and pain even deeper in my neurological pathways. This is called rumination. And when we ruminate our harmful emotions become even more amplified. The words or incident would morph into something far worse and I would end up berating myself through negative self-talk. Any of this sound familiar?

I had even gotten to the point where I was having memory problems. When we are continually stressed, and we refuse to forgive (or forget), cortisol causes our memory center, the hippocampus, to atrophy. My body was trying to tell me that my unforgiveness was keeping me chained to the wrongdoer, who most likely was oblivious to my bitterness. My destructive thoughts were detrimental to me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My hope for you is that you can begin to forgive. Some transgressions may take a long time to be fully absolved. Forgiveness is a process, and the deeper the hurt, the longer the healing may take. It’s not so much forgive and forget, as it is CHOOSING to remember it less and less. Even better, would be choosing to remember that the foundation of the Christian faith is grace, receiving it and extending it to others. I am happy to report that I have been in resentment recovery for a while now, but I have to work at it every day.

Until next time…Lisa
By: Lisa Philippart, Licensed Professional Counselor

“Learning to be content in one’s own company is one of life’s most difficult lessons.” Lisa Philippart

WAIT! Don’t just skim right past this section. If you are in a hurry and think this article doesn’t apply to you, then you are exactly who should be taking that minute to read this. Your mental health may depend on it! Ok, so now that I have your attention, when was the last time you took time out of your crazy, hectic, multi-tasking day to just BE in the moment? I know what you are thinking. I’m not into all that reflection, meditation stuff. Well, let me give you some information and see if I can change your mind.

Mindfulness has become quite a buzz-word during the past decade, and it seems to have taken on many different meanings depending on who is using it. For your mental health’s sake, I am referring to just the straight dictionary definition, which means “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” I love this! Have you ever allowed yourself to be completely present in the moment? To take breaks during the day to center yourself?

The beauty of mindfulness is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. You simply set aside as little as 5 minutes daily. I recommend sitting in a comfortable chair (don’t lie down or you might fall asleep!) and closing your eyes. Try to clear your mind completely…no thinking about what else you should be doing, no wondering what time it is, no planning out your day. You are just being you in the moment. Some people use this time to pray or repeat a calming word or phrase. The purpose is to spend a few minutes in the company of yourself and to learn to accept who you are in that moment.

Try this daily for a week and see if you don’t notice a difference in how you think, feel, and act. I promise, it is worth investing the time to become a more contented you.
By: Lisa Philippart, Licensed Professional Counselor