4 Keys to Anxiety Management

anxietyAnxiety. Just the word can bring a little flutter to the stomach or make the heart beat a little faster. Most of us don’t like to   experience anxiety. Our bodies and minds can seem to be on overload when it is happening and for many they experience panic attacks as well.
The good news is that there are many ways to cope with and treat anxiety. I will mention for keys here to get you started.
#1 Coping Skills for In the Moment
This is the first essential step. Knowing how to have some things to do when you feel anxiety and/or a panic attack is the priority in knowing how to deal with it. There are many things that can be done to calm the body and mind down. One is breathing. This is often mentioned in a cliché manner, but breathing breathewell can really work wonders to calm the body and mind. Other solutions can help too, like calming music, talking with a friend, journaling, or tapping.
#2 Increasing Habits that Will Keep Anxiety Away
All treatment of anxiety includes this important step. It is crucial to know how to manage it in the moment, but research shows us that there are things we can include in our lifestyle to literally impact or brain physiology and decrease our anxiety. These are mostly activities that include calming and mindfulness. For example, meditation. Including even a few minutes of meditation in your daily routine has been shown in research to calm your brain. The same is true for Yoga. It clears the mind in such a way that the anxiety is less likely to creep in. I would also include activities that improve mental health, such as exercise of any kind, socializing with friends, and journaling.
#3 Accept the Feeling
Although anxiety can be overwhelming, oftentimes the feeling is giving us important information. It is our body’s way of telling us that something is concerning or dangerous in our environment. For many people accepting the feeling of anxiety and then exploring the possible causes and triggers can reduce the feeling. Then, you can be empowered with the information about yourself and your environment to make choices and take actions that are healthy for you.
#4 Deal with Root Issues
Many people with anxiety have a history of circumstances and situations that have produced a high level of anxiety. It could be a high pressure family environment, traumatic events, abusive relationships, and the list goes on. Diving in to find out what some of the root issue may be can help resolve the anxiety once and for all. I would recommend doing this part of the work with a trained psychotherapist who can help guide you through this process. It is empowering to get to know yourself on a deeper level and work through thinrootsgs that have happened in your past.
The most important thing is to do something! You do not have to live with anxiety controlling your life!
Rachel Harrison, LCPC, NCC

Seven Secrets to Self-Care

Seven Secrets to Self-Care

Self-care:  easier said than done!  Most people know about it, know that it is important, but many struggle with implementing it into their lives.  Each week as I sit with people, I find myself encouraging self-care to improve mental and emotional health.  So, I decided to compile a list here of things that may help jump start your self-care or give you some more options to consider.

   hearts1.  Think Passion. 

     Think about what you like to do, now think about what you love to do.  How can you incorporate this into your life more and more?


2.       Focus on your body.  healthy_body

What do you do to care for your body?  What are you neglecting?  Taking care of your body can mean pampering, such as massage or a facial, but it can also mean making a dentist appointment, exercise, or eating a salad.

3.       Consider your mind. 

Scanning of a human brain by X-raysWhat do you tend to think about?  What engages you mentally?  Adding some mental stimulation to your life can be important.  This could be reading a book, going to a museum, learning about something new online or just reading National Geographic.  Mental and intellectual pursuits can renew your mind and engage it again.

4.       Uplift your spirit. 

Every person has a spiritual side.  For some, this is a religious pursuit, for othersrefresh it can be connecting with nature or with meditation.  When was the last time you renewed your spirit?  Take time to attend a service, pray, meditate or commune with nature.

5.       Express yourself. 

artistic-expression-12722909This is an important part of emotional self-care.  There are many different forums that you can use:  art, music, writing, dance.  Take some time to express yourself, connect with your emotional side and feel the freedom that comes with it!


6.       Go Deeper. 

If these things seem too selfish or if they seem like a luxury that you just don’t have time for, consider exploring those thoughts a little further.  If self-care seems too overwhelming for you, it may be good to process through those thoughts with a trusted friend or with a therapist.  Getting to the root of the things that keep you from taking care of yourself could be the best step you ever take!

7.       Take Baby Steps. 

There are many different ideas listed here and it might be impossible to do all of baby-stepsthem, and certainly too much to do all at once.  Pick one small thing and add it to your life once a week.  As you do this, you will likely have more energy and begin to add more of these self-care items to your life.  Before you know it, you may be feeling better!


Rachel Harrison, LPC, NCC has a private therapy practice in Durango, CO.



4 Myths About Grief and Loss

4 Myths About Grief and Loss

Myth #1  There is a time-limit for grieving.time-to-heal

Grieving is often defined by time.  Employers may offer time off for awhile, many people will talk about grieving for a year, or even less.  The truth is that the loss of a loved one or any other significant loss may result in grieving for a long time.  In fact, most people experience grief in waves.  There are reminders, anniversaries, etc. for years to come that will bring on a wave of grief.  This is normal.  Grieving does not look the same for any two individuals.  It is important to allow yourself the time and space to grieve as you need to.

Myth #2  Grief is appropriate only when someone has passed away.

funeralGrieving a loss of a loved one is very real and very significant.  However, there are many other losses as well that send people into grieving.  It can be the loss of health or finding out you have a serious illness.  It can be the loss of a dream, such as having a baby or building a business.  Grief also comes with the loss of a relationship.  This may be a divorce, or it may be an estrangement of friends or family members.  It is also common to grieve after a traumatic event.  Grieving the loss of safety, or the loss of personal property is very common.  It is healthy to grieve any kinds of losses that you have experienced.


Myth #3  If I just stay strong, I will get through the grief without a problem.

tears_of_sadness-700x210Some people cope with grief by ignoring it as much as possible, or just by continuing on with daily life in order to avoid the emotional pain.  A common misconception is that avoiding emotional pain is a sign of strength.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Individuals who allow themselves to experience the feelings associated with a loss are more likely to feel better in the future.  Those who avoid the emotional pain often end up carrying that pain for many, many years.  This can sometimes evolve into complicated grief, which requires professional help.  Allowing yourself to grieve as the emotions come is the healthiest path to get through the difficult time.  And, of course, utilizing the support of friends and family can help make the pain more manageable.

Myth #4  The stages of grief and loss appear in order.stages of grief

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross created a great model called, ‘The Stages of Grief’.  These stages include, Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and Acceptance.  Although this model is helpful to identify many of the different emotions and parts of grieving, many people have taken this to be a prescriptive path.  It is nothing of the sort.  People experience these stages at different times and in different orders.  It is not meant to be a blueprint, it is simply meant to describe the different elements of grief.  So, if you find yourself stuck in one stage of grief or going back to denial, that is all normal.  The important thing to remember is that these are all common feelings to have while grieving a loss.

To learn more about grief and loss, click here.



Rachel Harrison, LPC, NCC is in private practice in Durango, CO


Music As Therapy

 Music As Therapy

Have you ever heard a song that makes you cry?  Makes you mad?  Makes you happy?  Music can be therapeutic. durangofamilytherapy.com It can be cathartic and help someone express feelings that they need to feel.  But it can also help shift a mood or inspire someone to continue on a path or to set new goals for their life.

Using Music to Feel Good

Using music as therapy, one of the coping skills that I often recommend to my clients is to create a playlist for feeling good.  This playlist should contain songs that are inspiring, that help them feel positive about themselves and about the world.  One song that I have recently added to my recommendation list is Brave by Sara Bareilles. durangofamilytherapy.com To see the video on YouTube, click here.

The message that she speaks is truth.  She encourages people to say whatever they need to say, to be themselves, and to be true to themselves.  It is a simple principle to understand, but very difficult to live out in some situations.  There is health and wholeness that comes with being true to oneself, to being brave, to say what needs to be said.  Sara says about her song,  “there’s so much honor and integrity and beauty in being able to be who you are, [and] it’s important to be brave because by doing that you also give others permission to do the same.”

In psychological terms, this would be called congruence.  It is a simple principle of being true to yourself, inside and out.  With congruence comes an increased sense of peace and often a decrease in anxiety and depression.  Helping people stop trying to convince themselves of something, or to stop pretending to be someone they are not, can be liberating work.

Here’s the challenge, what do you need to be brave about in your life today?  What do you need to say to yourself or to someone else to move forward and be true to yourself?  Download the song, Brave, and be inspired!


Rachel Harrison, LPC, NCC is a psychotherapist in Durango, CO who loves to work with artists.  To learn more, click here.



 Did you make resolutions this year?  Do you begin the new  year with a sense that things are starting anew and there are new goals to be made and adventures to plan?  Most people report a sense of thinking about the new year for new possibilities, resolutions or not.  No matter what you resolve to do, remember these 4 truths about life change to help make your new plans successful:

Truth #1:  We live in the real world.  No matter what you want to accomplish, keeping your expectations realistic can help you achieve your goals and move toward success.  If you set your expectations too high, you will most likely burn out and give up.

Truth#2:  Do not rob Peter to pay Paul.  For example, if you begin an intense exercise program and decrease your time working or with family, eventually these areas of your life may become problematic.  Add in the exercise program, but do so in a way that works with your current life obligations.

Truth#3:  Magic pills don’t exist.  This is a time that products and marketing campaigns will try to sell you on miracle products or programs.  Change always requires discipline, time and energy, so don’t fall for the magic pill sales pitch.

Truth#4:  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Most goals take many, many steps to accomplish.  There is a slow and steady way to get there, but it requires one small step at a time.  Set up bench marks for yourself along the way to help you see progress, even if it is slow.  It takes about 6 weeks of doing/not doing something daily to develop a habit. 

With these in mind, you may be able to set some realistic goals for yourself in 2014 and find a way (slow and steady) to reach them. 

If you find that you are feeling stuck or unable to move toward the goals that you want for yourself, there may be some deeper questions to ask.  Is fear of success or failure causing you to stand still?  Are you unsure what you want for yourself and your life?  Do you find yourself stuck in the past and not able to move forward?  Do you struggle with anxiety or depression that keep you from taking active steps toward your goals?  If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, you may benefit from some psychotherapy to address the blocks in your life.  Call or email a licensed professional today and take the step to find healing and wholeness in your life today.


Coping with Violence

warrior pride1I am a warrior.  I am proud to be one, but on December 13, 2013 the circumstances at Arapahoe High School were nothing to feel proud about.  It was senseless violence, in a school…again.  Understanding what happened and why will be unfolding over the months ahead, but for now, this event brings up a good topic for everyone to consider:  How to cope with violence.

I am going to focus on the mental health side of coping, even though there are many other areas to cover.  The change that happens in someone’s brain when they encounter violence is clear.  It is life-changing.  Thought patterns change, biology changes, and life will not quite hold the same innocence as it once may have.  Everyone will have a reaction to the trauma and need to take time to allow themselves to process though it.  This may happen right away, but it may not.  For some people, it is too scary to talk much about and that is okay.  Even just talking about it can re-traumatize someone, so it is important to move at an individual’s pace.

Here are a few things that may help:

* Get back into a routine

* Be around others who experienced the trauma

* Talk about it as much as you need to

* Increase self care activities (exercise, hobbies, friends, spa treatments)

* Ask for help if needed

Some people are not able to cope and quickly recover from trauma.  These individuals are at risk for developing PTSD.   To see a list of  symptoms for PTSD, click here.  If any of these symptoms emerge, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible.  The World Health Organization recommends EMDR for the treatment of PTSD.  You can read more about the WHO’s treatment recommendations here.  To read more about EMDR, click here.

Violence is difficult to deal with, especially for kids and teens.  The good news is that there are effective treatments available.  In the case of the kids, teachers and staff from Arapahoe High School, there is also a very large community offering support in every way possible.

Those wishing to donate to the “Arapahoe High School Community Fund Honoring Claire Davis” can do so online by visiting denverfoundation.org


5 Tips to Keep the Holiday Cheer

As promised, here is the follow up from the last post on Holiday Blues.  There are active steps that you can take to help this season be a bit more merry and bright for you.  Try the tips below and hopefully you will find some holiday cheer this year!

 5 Tips for Keeping Holiday Cheer

5 tips To Keep the Holiday Cheer

1.     Take a Moment to think about this holiday season.  What do you love about it?  What fills you up?  Write it down and make it a priority in your holiday schedule.

2.    Embrace beauty this season.  Find a beautiful view, a light display, a Christmas cantata…something that allows some beauty in.  Allow yourself to be fully present to embrace the moment.

3.    Look over your holiday ‘to do’ list.  Now, go through it and cross off 2-3 items that are less important.  Also, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to make these things a bit easier?’ (i.e.: use gift bags instead of gift wrap, buy cookies instead of baking them, etc.)

4.    Breathe.  It sounds so simple, but it is really difficult to do.  Take moments throughout each day to just stop and breathe.  Feel the air moving in  and out of your body for a few moments.  You will regain perspective by taking this simple step.

5.    Plan for relationship challenges.  Everyone has some family stressors and/ or losses this time of year.  If you will be visiting someone who is difficult, take time to plan some ways to make your trip more pleasant (and an escape route if necessary!)  if this time of year brings up losses, take some time to do something to honor the Memories of loved ones.


Holiday Blues

‘Tis the season, you can see it all around.  Christmas decorations are emerging in the stores, advertisements for toys appear, the weather is getting colder (at least here in Durango!).  It is that time of year…again.

For some people, this season brings feelings of ‘good cheer’.  But for many others, the holidays are laced with sadness, grief and even anger.  Longing and loneliness often emerge this time of year for people who otherwise are feeling just fine in their day to day lives.  There are so many reasons for this.  Sometimes it is the life changes that may make one holiday season different than the next.  It can be the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a child leaving the nest, and many, many other stressors.

If you are one of these individuals who dread the holiday season or just try to get through it, perhaps there is a different way to approach it this year.  Perhaps there is just a glint of hope that could get you through or even help you enjoy pieces of the season.  Often the expected sentiments of this season simply bring to mind a reality of life change or loss.  The season reminds you, but it isn’t actually creating the issue.  The issue, whatever it may be, exists.  Maybe it just gets buried throughout the rest of the year.  Maybe it is worse because of an anniversary of loss this time of year.  Either way, this season may be presenting you with an opportunity to address the loss, grief or life change.

Talking to a licensed, professional counselor is a great place to start.  Most counselors will do an assessment and some history taking at the first session to understand what is going on for you and to recommend the best course of treatment.  This may include many different options, but it is a safe, confidential place to start.

This year, don’t let the holiday blues get the best of you!  Check back next week to read more on ideas on how to stay healthy through the holidays!  Click here for tips to combat the holiday blues.


Adoption Awareness

Adoption Awareness

November is officially, National Adoption Awareness Month.  This is proclaimed from the Whitehouse, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/10/31/presidential-proclamation-national-adoption-month-2013, set forth for our nation to honor the institution of adoption.

So, what does this mean for you?  If you are an adoptive family, chances are this is a time to celebrate the way your family came to be.  If you are considering adoption, this may be a chance for you to attend local event or learn more about the adoption process.  If you are neither of the above, chances are your life has still been impacted by adoption in one way or another.  It may be that you have friends who have adopted, or perhaps one of your coworkers.  Maybe you know a child who is in need of a forever family, or maybe you are a mother in need of someone to care for her child.

Adoption is everywhere, even in the movies.  Consider Despicable Me, with a theme revolving around the adoption of 3 young girls.  The movie was funny, to be sure, but what started out as a ‘bad guy’ adopting little girls for his own ends, turns into the story of a man being changed by the influence of his three little girls.  The audience watches them become connected on the screen and bond with each other.  Although this is a very simplistic version of the adoption process, the themes are true.  Adoption creates bonds, forms families.  Children who did not have homes, now do.  Parents who had more room for children in their lives, are now full.

How are you interacting with adoption in your community?  There are many opportunities to support adoption, but sometimes the best way to engage is by interacting with those closest to you.  Perhaps you can take a little time this month to do something to honor adoption.  This may be by supporting an adoptive family that you know.  Or, perhaps you would like to learn more about how to support adoptive families. ‘ In On It’ by Elizabeth O’Toole is a great read for anyone who wants to know more about adoption or support their family or friends who are adopting.  Adoptive Families Magazine also publishes a list of adoption activities for the month, http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/pdf/2013calendar.pdf.  Lastly if you are local, you can come to a book club and read/discuss adoption related books or go to a free informational seminar on adoption.  For local resources, go to, www.adoptiondurango.com

Whatever you choose to do, you can know that you have supported adoption this month by taking some time to be aware and to honor those influenced by adoption around you.


Family Matters- Blended Families

If you or your children are struggling with a new family situation, you are not alone.  Both children and adults typically struggle with the adjustments that a blended family can bring.  What is a blended family?  Any living situation in which a new family comes together that did not live together before.  This can be a re-marriage, a new boyfriend/girlfriend, and/or step children.

The changes can be hard for everyone.  For some family members this means living in a new home, with new people.  Adults often struggle to find their new role with their partner and with children- either their own or their partner’s.  Children are often grieving the loss of living with both parents and at the same time trying to figure out how to adjust to a new adult in the home.  As the stress level rises for everyone, often arguments emerge and sometimes each member of the family isolates just a bit from the others.  Kids are at a high risk in these situations for developing depression and/or anxiety.

The good news is that there are several things that can be done to assist everyone in this new family constellation.  Family therapy can help to give everyone a voice and set a new tone for the household.  Individual therapy, especially for the children can help them to process through their losses and find a way to accept the changes in their lives.  Lastly, working with a therapist on parenting techniques specific to blended families can set up a new pattern for successful interactions in the home.

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t wait.  Get help early so a healthy pattern of relating can develop quickly, before there has been too much tension and stress in the household.  Find a therapist who has experience with blended families.