Unplug and Hug to reduce Anxiety

I was honored to be a guest blogger for unplug and hug. This is a repost of the article.

Electronics can be great. We love having our gadgets connected to us and we love having what our gadgets connect us to.  The amount of information available at the touch of a finger (thanks to the internet) is life changing.  FaceTime with family has changed the way we interact and stay close to distant relatives. Social media connects us with friends and family that we don’t get to see often. There are wonderful mental health and meditation apps on phones and computers these days.  Connectivity anywhere, anytime allows flexibility at work to check and manage email when out-of-office.

 

As a psychotherapist that focuses on helping those with anxiety, I see a lot of college and graduate students in my office.  Many of these young adults use their phones and social media in a way that increases their anxiety.  Being active on social media can attribute to the fear of missing out. It can also lead to constantly comparing your lives to others. It can also provide a false sense of social support. It can reinforce those negative thoughts in our head that we are not good enough or that others are better than us.

 

While not all use of social media is negative it is important to unplug once in a while. Instead of grabbing for your phone in a moment of anxiety make time for mindfulness and bring yourself into the present. Focus on your breath, notice your discomfort, observe and let is go. When you are using social media be aware of how you feel. If you notice your anxiety symptoms arising or getting worse it is time to set a boundary and put your device down.

 

Besides practicing mindfulness when you are feeling anxious it can also be helpful to take a walk, spend time in nature, connect with a friend, exercise, read a book or practice another form of self-care.

 

The guilt of miscarriage

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It is estimated that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage.  For many, having a miscarriage is a devastating loss that leads to a roller coaster of emotions. One common emotion many women hesitate to talk about is guilt. When you have a miscarriage there is a large amount of guilt associated with it because you feel like you did something wrong.  

 

Different types of guilt with a miscarriage:

1. The Guilt of It was my job. You may feel that that having a baby is part of your role as a woman and a wife. You might feel guilty that this is your job and since this is your job and you did not give birth to a healthy baby you have failed your job. You might have been taught that pregnancy and motherhood come naturally (and easily might I add) so when you are not able to maintain a healthy pregnancy there are strong feelings of guilt.

2. The Guilt of I did something wrong. If you believe #1, that it was your job to get pregnant and have a baby, than this is usually where the second layer of guilt sets in. If you could not do "your job" than you must have done something wrong. Did I drink too much caffeine? Was I exercising too much or not enough? Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? You probably have come up with a dozen things that might have caused your miscarriage and concluded that is was your fault. 

3. The Guilt of what if I can't get pregnant again. If it was your job and you did something wrong than you might be feeling it is quite possible that you cannot get pregnant again. You may fear that you have already lost a baby and now you feel the guilt of what if I already lost one baby and I will never be able to have another. You might feel that this was your only chance and you did something wrong to cause this. You might feel that this is punishment for something else that happened in your life.

Guilt is an intense emotion and a very real part of the healing process of losing a baby in early pregnancy. There is help working to challenge these negative thoughts and normalize these feelings. If you have experienced early pregnancy loss it is not your fault, and  you are not alone. To learn more about guilt and other common feelings after a miscarriage or more information about the free monthly miscarriage support group please contact Julie at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

How to reconnect with your partner after pregnancy loss

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Pregnancy loss can have a profound effect on your relationship. For some, it can be a life altering event bringing you closer, and for others, it can lead to the end of your relationship.

When you lose a baby it can be difficult to cope. There is no handbook that gives you instructions on how to grieve. You may feel like you and your partner created this baby together, so grieving should be a joint process.  However, for many couples this is not the case. People grieve differently; how you process grief, when you process grief, and when you get to the acceptance stage of grief. You most likely felt different the minute you realized you were pregnant, connecting with your baby early on in your pregnancy. Research shows that for many first time fathers, a man does not consider a pregnancy a baby and himself a father until he holds that baby in his arms. www.webmd.com

You may feel emotionally disconnected from your partner when you are processing pregnancy loss, and you may also feel physically disconnected from your partner. It is common that you may also feel physically disconnected from your own body. You may find it difficult to be physically comforted by your partner or may have difficulty being intimate. This is common after you experience pregnancy loss. 

Reconnecting with your partner can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Here are a few things that can help you reconnect with your partner after pregnancy loss.

1. Reconnect with yourself - Before you will be able to reconnect physically with your partner, you need to reconnect with yourself. This can be done using mind-body techniques to reconnect you to your body. Two mind-body techniques that I use in my work include progressive muscle relaxation and the body scan. These exercises are both helpful to identify where in the body we hold pain, grief and stress from the trauma of a pregnancy loss and where we are disconnected. 

2. Communicate - This may not sound difficult in theory, but in practice can be difficult. Discuss your feelings about the loss with your partner and accept that they might not understand and that they may feel different about the loss of your baby. Tell your partner if it is difficult to connect physically. Explore feelings about being intimate and what that means for each of you. You may feel like being intimate again will lead to a subsequent pregnancy that you are not ready for. Your partner may just be trying to comfort  you and connect physically. Identify triggers that lead to feeling disconnected. Continue to check in about how you are both feeling.

3. Honor your loss - Find a way that feels comfortable to grieve your loss. Create a ritual that you can do with your partner to honor your loss together. It is important to find at least one way that you can honor your baby and sharing this with your partner is a great way to reconnect.

 4. Seek help - If the above ideas do not work and you are still finding it hard to reconnect there is help. Psychotherapy can help you reconnect to your partner after a loss. Remember to be kind to yourself. Pregnancy loss is a complicated loss and there is no one way to navigate it. 

For more resources on reconnecting with your partner please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.

Honoring your due date

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Your "due date". 

If you have experienced an early pregnancy loss, you might be overwhelmed with emotions when thinking about these two words.  It might feel like a deadline for you or a last hurdle you are waiting for to move from depression to acceptance. You might even feel that your due date will be the time that you start letting yourself grieve. If you have experienced an early pregnancy loss an upcoming due date might be weighing heavily on your mind. According to clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse, via www.essentialbaby.com, "Commemorating your baby's due date isn't just a way to reflect on how important your baby was to you, it's also a vital step in the grieving process."

While everyone must find the best way to grieve and honor their baby on their due date, here are some ideas that have helped others:

1. Find something that memorializes your baby.  You may find that it is healing to have something that memorializes your baby. You may find that a piece of jewelry that you can wear is meaningful- an initial, name, date or symbol can be printed on necklaces, rings or bracelets to help you remember your baby. You might find that getting a tattoo would help you to honor your baby. Other ideas include a statue, stuffed animal, plaque, or plant are ways that you might honor your baby. You might find it to be healing to create a memory box adding any pictures, poems, toys, outfits, or other momentos that help you to remember your baby.

2. Donate. Whether this is your time or money, you may find comfort in making a donation to a charity in honor of your baby on his/her due date. Donating can be a wonderful way to not only memorialize your baby but to also help others.

3. Surround yourself with family and loved ones. You may fine it helpful to surround yourself with loved ones on this day. Those who know and will help you to honor your baby. It may be helpful for you to talk about it with others, to have a celebration in your baby's honor or simply to just be surrounded by love.

4. Spend time alone. You may find it comforting to be alone.  You may want time to process what this day means to you by yourself. You may not want to talk about the day. You may find it comforting to write about your baby or use art to process your feelings about the day.

5. Take a vacation or a staycation.  You and your partner may enjoy taking time off from work to go out of town or to have a mini vacation in town. It might help you to celebrate the day by making some happy memories or it just might be a good distraction to get through the day.

These are a few suggestions that have helped others. Everyone grieves differently and you have to find what is right for you. If you are having a hard time processing your grief or are feeling stuck there is help.

For more information about grieving after a pregnancy loss please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

 

5 things no one tells you about a miscarriage

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A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will have a miscarriage. While many women have a miscarriage, it still remains a taboo subject, and can be very isolating for a woman to go through. 

5 things no one tells you about a miscarriage:

1.  It is a major loss - Going through a miscarriage is a major loss; whether you were 4 weeks pregnant or 20 weeks pregnant. Every woman has a different reaction and experience with miscarriage, and needs time to process and grieve what they have gone through.

2. The physical process can last weeks, if not months - Some women will miscarry at home while others will require medical interventions. Miscarriages can last weeks before they are completed. Because hormones are in the body some woman can continue to experience pregnancy symptoms such as nausea and weight gain. Once a miscarriage has completed it can take months for a woman's body to acknowledge they are no longer pregnant.

3. The mental process can last longer - Miscarriages are tough to deal with and can make you feel alone. People will try their best to support you and help you through your miscarriage, but may not understand what you are experiencing. In addition many people do not feel comfortable discussing having a miscarriage, which can make it feel isolating when you are experiencing one.

4. Your partner's grief will be different than yours -  It can be difficult to understand how your spouse or significant other feels.  Everyone experiences grief differently. While your grief can be different it is still possible to support each other. Open communication is key in understanding your partners grief.

5. It's okay to want to try again - Medical providers have different recommendations on when you can start trying again. Some for medical reasons and others for emotional/mental readiness. No one can tell you when you will feel ready to try again. It is something that each person will have to assess for herself. 

Each person's experience with miscarriage is completely unique and there is no "right way" to process grief. Not every person that experiences a miscarriage will need extra support, but if you feel like you need support through a miscarriage please contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.