Author Archive

Part 2: Brittany’s Interview with Avenu Fitness Owner Brent Gallagher

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Last month, we featured an interview with Brittany Senseman and Avenu Fitness owner Brent Gallagher about New Year’s Resolutions and gaining a new perspective on fitness goals. This month we are featuring the second half of the interview that highlights Brent’s personal journey.

 

Why did you start Avenu?

Back in the day I played soccer in college. I had played since I could walk, so it basically had become my identity. When we lost the Conference Championship game my senior year, I didn’t want to leave the field. I didn’t know what was next. Since I was lost without soccer – my identity – I just started running. This quickly became a five-year journey of marathon after marathon, supplemented with hour long gym workouts that trashed my body. To give me the energy I needed to maintain this crazy training schedule along with work, I started popping Ephedra like candy. About five years later I ended up in an internist’s office with a bleeding ulcer and an ultimatum: Change your ways or life isn’t going to be good for you.

This six-month setback forced me to train less and workout only 30 minutes at a time. Instead of running endless miles, I reintroduced the agility work I used to do to get ready for soccer. I worked increasing my sleep from five and a half hours to seven hours. There was such a change in my body from making these small and sustainable steps that I realized: This is it! I ran my last marathon on Jan. 15, 2006, and I opened the gym the very next day, Jan. 16, 2006. As I put the key in the back door to open for business that Monday, I said a prayer. I knew I had been trashing my body, and I thought, “If this 30-minute workout stuff works, then please let this be the right step to take.” For the last 13 years, it seems to have caught on. My team and I have been crusading this message of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle, along with training just 30 minutes.

Over the years, though, I had been wrestling with my own mountain of insecurities and shame. In May 2018, I went through an intense week-long counseling/therapy/coaching program for two and three sessions a day to work through my story. It finally came to a point to where my past, what I tried to keep quiet by playing soccer, then running all those miles and lately building a business on top of, started to affect my marriage, my kids and my focus at work. I had been hiding these lies for so long—these chapters of my life that I didn’t want anyone to ever know about. And I always covered it up by saying that I was just running and lost and didn’t know what to do, when, in reality, I had gone through a period of seven years of physical, mental and sexual abuse when I was a kid; and I never wanted anyone to know that. For all these years, I was trying to live up to standards that I wasn’t good enough.

Though my wilderness years really drove me to grow Avenu into what it is today, I honestly step back and say that I wouldn’t change it. I’m happy I’ve gone through the steps to say that I can own this chapter of my life instead of feeling embarrassed and ashamed. It’s almost that “born again” moment where I can step into that next phase of life and business with the honest truth. Everyone of us has a story that we are wrestling with. So most use wine, social media, medicine or extreme dieting and workouts to cope and comfort themselves with. Sadly, in the fitness world, this isn’t talked about. It’s all about the look and the sex appeal. There needs to be a new champion of this, one who’s vulnerable and willing to go first. My hope, prayer and vision is to build Avenu into a safe place to being these conversations.

The journey with Avenu was originally built upon how I had crushed my body as an athlete; and for the last 13 years it was about a façade, so to speak. But now we have transitioned to this firm foundation to say that here is the truth; and here are the steps I went through, and I’m going to be completely open and public about it. Not a lot of guys are speaking up about this, especially in the fitness world. It’s not cool to speak to someone about this, but it’s the healthiest thing to do.

There is nothing more freeing than telling your story and then owning it.
A lot of times we put off taking care of ourselves to take care of others. It’s easier to put others first and push our own needs to the back burner. It’s not a comfortable process to address our own story first. I went through the counseling last year, and I’m just now speaking out. Dealing with these problems takes that “50-pound weight” off your back. Any shortcomings that we have now all of a sudden fall by the wayside, and we can laugh about it because you realize this one person has a story and this other person has a story. You know that everyone in the room has a story, regardless of upbringing, age, height, or weight. Then all of a sudden you realize we are all at a level playing field; and when you do step into that gym you can say, we are all here for the same reason. First is to take care of our bodies and second, is to wrestle with our story and process it.

If there was one thing you wished everyone knew on the topic of fitness, what would you say?
It’s all about sustainability. Ask yourself: What are you doing today and is it something you can do five, 10, or 20 years from now? You look at the new diet plans and crazy workout trends and ask yourself, “Is this the thing that’s really going to help me over the long-term lose the weight, maintain an ideal weight and fits into my daily schedule?” At the end of the day, the 80/20 rule applies to everything. If 80 percent of the time we are doing well, then it’s a sustainable way of living, eating and taking care of our bodies. Our whole philosophy is 30 minutes, whether you’re coming in here to lift weights or going outside for a walk or a bike ride.

On the flip side, you look at it with food and say that the easiest way to do something is simply to divide your plate in half and make half of it vegetables and half of it anything else for the next three to six months. Yes, you’ll see some ups and downs. But you get to that point about three months down the road, something magical happens and you flip a switch. It takes time to heal from the inside out.

If you look at it from a short-term view, one little slip up will feels like a failure. And you throw in the towel. When you shift your thinking to a long-term, sustainable view, you realize that you living healthy for the rest of your life. It feels daunting, but a short-term view is the way we’ve always thought and what’s got us to where we are today. What feels good in the moment is great, but look where it’s gotten us. We need to take a broader view and look at sustainable steps. If we don’t get a walk or workout in, or we mess up on food, we don’t throw in the towel and wait until 2020. We realize that everything we do today is paying deposits into our future self and we can jump back on the path this afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning.

I hope that you’ve been inspired to wrestle with you story and start on a path to take care of yourself – both body and soul. Check out the Avenu Fitness website at avenufit.com for more information about the gym and to subscribe to Brent’s insightful and encouraging emails!

 

Brittany’s Interview with Avenu Fitness Owner Brent Gallagher

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Brent Gallagher is the owner of Avenu Fitness with locations in West University and River Oaks. As we head into 2019, I interviewed him to get his take on fitness and those infamous New Year’s Resolutions. He has a great perspective, so read on!

What do you think makes a good New Year’s Resolution as opposed to a bad one?
What makes them bad is that we wait until January 1! We put all our hopes and dreams into a specific day, and believe it’s the day when everything will change. What happens is that you get there on Jan 1 and decide that I’m going to follow this crazy workout and eating plan that’s not truly sustainable. We forget to take into account our life, kids, work and all the additional stressors that make up our day. As we collectively build up to New Year’s, we become overwhelmed and blame the program for being to complicated. We don’t blame it on biting off a little more than we can chew. We focus on the outcome rather than the small foundational and focused daily behaviors we need to change that will lead us to finally accomplishing the big New Year’s Resolutions.

It sounds like you’re describing the emphasis is on the process rather than the goal or outcome. It’s the decisions you make today, which mirrors what we do in mental health.

You made an interesting point about blame and needing something to blame when a goal isn’t reached. If it’s too easy and too manageable, then I become responsible for my health. Being mature enough to own your health choices is hard.
We have to be mature enough to own our choices and our story. We all have stories, which I see every day when people come to Avenu. They say they have a weight problem, a health problem or a food problem. It’s not that they don’t know what to do; it’s that, for instance, food has been used as a supplement to comfort oneself. This lack of taking care of ourselves might be a control thing: Maybe a person was too controlled and manipulated by someone and then said, “I’m going to go the exact opposite, and no one is going to control me.” And then you have others who take working out to the extreme. You wonder if they are running or trying to outwork something. Maybe there’s a troubled marriage or a dispute in the family or business partners that are bailing on you. What we need to do is slow down long enough to ask “Am I addressing the root of the problem or am I just putting a band aid on it?”

What do you see as the connection between mental health and physical fitness?
Our bodies are designed to move, and you see that from a young age. You watch kids hop, skip and jump. It’s crazy how many kids have so many more issues today than they did back in the day. We’ve removed physical activity from their school day. We’ve changed their eating and sleeping behaviors in favor of profits and fitting more in. We, as adults, have failed to slow down long enough to question whether it is the right thing to do. What happens when these kids are in their 20s, 30s and 40s? Hopefully we can reevaluate and make the changes sooner rather than later. I just know that when you move more as a kid, the wiring in our body tends to calm down. And instead of looking at the bottom of the medicine bottle for help, let’s look at the end of our fork, knowing that is what fuels us in the long run.

Our kids need someone to look up to. We are in a perfect position to role model a healthier lifestyle and say, “I used to battle with depression or anxiety or ADHD as well. And these are the steps I began taking to help me.” It’s time to show them the best way to take healthy and positive steps. Let them know you met with a therapist and started walking, lifting weights and connecting with friends on a regular basis.

Creating healthy social connections does such wonders for the body as well. Even though you’re not physically moving around, you’re connecting in a way we are designed to. Life is all about relationships – relationships with loved ones and colleagues at work, but it’s also about the relationship with the food you eat and how you move and take care of your body.

Let’s assume someone has been making good choices: they’ve been getting good sleep, making reasonable food choices, moving some and they’re ready to go to a gym. How can they tell a good gym from a bad gym?
Aside from doing your own research, talk to friends and see what people are saying. Think about this: if you’re someone who’s a low-key person and go to a gym with bright colors, loud music and big groups of people, obviously that’s not going to be something for you longterm.
Is it convenient? You can find a gym that’s 20 minutes away but if it’s not on your commute to work, then it might not happen.
Is it program realistic? Is the equipment in good shape? You can also tell a lot by the way people greet you at the door. Are you another number? Or is someone engaging with you? It mostly has to do with your personality and your style and your way of wanting to feel when you walk into a place.
What makes Avenue Fitness unique?
I’m an introvert at heart, very low-key and have never felt comfortable in a big gym. So I asked myself “If I’m setting Avenu up for a person who’s looking for a low-key facility, how would I want it to feel?”
I knew creating a sense of comfort was going to be key. So we took out the front desk to make it feel warmer when you walk in.
Familiar faces creates a sense of comfort for our community who walk in and know that they’re going to see the same faces when they walk in. We’ve just celebrated 12 years for one of our employees, 10 years for another two, and multiple others have been with us 5 years or more.
Even though it’s for just 30 minutes (we hang our hat on working out 30 minutes at a time) we want to create that small sense of assurance and community in someone’s life.

Find out more about Avenu :
Website
Facebook
Instagram

Thanksmas

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

by BRITTANY SENSEMAN, LPC-S

Every year, our group gathers to celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons – we call it “Thanksmas.” We get together in November because December is just too busy; and, as mental health professionals, we know better than to over schedule! 😉 These celebrations are always a highlight for me, and I was thinking about what makes them special…
I’ve decided it’s the people. I am surrounded by good friends and colleagues for whom I have profound respect. Our conversations are generally funny (with plenty of dry humor) and thoughtful. We can talk about topics ranging from embarrassing Christmas memories to the #metoo movement, being vulnerable and intellectually stimulating simultaneously. I’m pretty sure most people don’t have this experience at their office holiday party, and I am supremely grateful!
But I’m not writing this just to say how awesome we are (even though we are). I’m writing this because I know how powerful it is to ponder, and I want you to know it, too. I’m actually writing this to emphasize my experience of remembering—not the experience itself. While I’m thinking about those evenings with conversations and good food, I feel GOOD! Bringing up these positive experiences helps me enjoy today even though it’ll be a year before we celebrate another “Thanksmas.”
What are you pondering? Are your to-do lists running through you mind? Are you rehashing an awkward conversation? Are you wondering how you’re going to pay your January credit card bill after gift shopping? None of these things are bad or wrong. But they have their place, and it’s your job to put them there.
If you want to enjoy this holiday season and make sure you’re spending time intentionally pondering good memories! If you don’t have a lot of good memories to choose from, then it’s time to create some!

2018 Summer Reading List

Friday, June 29th, 2018

It’s summertime and time to relax, chill by the pool, soak up some rays and go on vacation. On those days when it’s just too hot to get out or perhaps when you need some down time, pick up a book and take the opportunity to dive into some good reads. Here are our list of suggestions of both new and old favorites.

Click to see Brittany Senseman's List

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
A perennial favorite of mine chronicling Jane’s difficult life and eventual acceptance of her whole self – body, mind, and spirit!

No Drama Discipline (workbook by Dan Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD)
Practical advice for disciplining children based on brain research. Nerdy and helpful all at the same time!

Brain Rules (John Medina, PhD)
Highly scientific, but easy to read book about how our brains work and how we can optimize them.

Boundaries (Cloud & Townsend)
This classic book gets into the details of how to draw effective boundaries in a variety of relationships (Christian worldview).

Click to see Beth Flinn's List

Harmony (Caroline Parkhurst)
A contemporary novel about a family who changes their entire lives to help one of their children, who has behavioral issues. A wonderful story, and speaks to the great lengths parents will go for their kids.

How to Walk Away (Katherine Center)
Contemporary novel set in Austin about a young business school graduate who sustains a life-altering injury in an accident. Heartbreaking and heart warming, funny and generous. A great summer read.

Present Over Perfect (Shauna Nyquist)
A memoir that talks about how our lives would be different if we lived more in the moment, and worried less about the things that don’t really matter in the long run.

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say  (Kelly Corrigan)
Non-fiction essays by the hilarious and honest author, about 12 powerful phrases we use to strengthen and sustain relationships.

Everybody, Always. Becoming Love in a World full of Setbacks and Difficult People (Bob Goff)
A follow-up to Love Does, this book is inspiring and entertaining as it talks about loving others without inhibition or restriction.

Click to see Annie Higgin's List

Gospel Treason (Brad Bigney)
A practical resource for those interested in identifying what is holding them back in their spiritual growth. It is both convicting and encouraging. I found it to be very helpful in illuminating hidden motives and underlying character issues that I want to change and heal.

Stronger Than You Think (Kim Gaines Eckert)
Written by a Psychologist and counselor, this book is an excellent resource for anyone who has believed the lies that they are not good enough or are unworthy of love and belonging. By combining a Christian worldview as well as clinical expertise, the author presents practical and relevant tools for growth and healing. It is also wonderful to work through in a group setting.

The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
This beautifully written memoir is about a deeply dysfunctional family system and one child’s struggle to love and accept her parents while also breaking free from their destructive patterns. It’s a remarkable story of resilience and redemption.

The Meaning of Marriage (Timothy & Kathy Keller)
This is my absolute favorite book on marriage! It is helpful for both married and single people who want to better understand a Biblical perspective on God’s intention for the covenant of marriage. It presents a strong theological foundation as well as very practical applications for couples facing the complexities of married life.

Click to see Sarah Burkhart's List

The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (Matthew B Crawford)
This is basically a philosophy book by a fascinating guy who doubles as a philosopher and a motorcycle mechanic. He talks about the ways that technology has caused us to become disconnected from our world and, therefore, from ourselves. Get ready for a dense but (in my opinion) enjoyable read.

Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)
This is a fun, girlie novel that also hits on some tough topics like sexual assault and domestic abuse, concealed within picture-perfect suburban lives.

Bold Love (Dan Allender & Tremper Longman)
This is a book about love, obviously. But it talks about scenarios in which love can be very difficult and also can look very different from what we might expect. It talks about how to love people who have wronged us, people who are foolish and untrustworthy, or even people who are downright evil.

Harry Potter (J K Rowling)
Just read this whole series. It has everything: good vs evil, courage, friendship, self-sacrifice, mother (and father) love, triumph, grief, and a happy ending. It’s magical.

Anticancer Living (Lorenzo Cohen & Alison Jefferies)
This is really a book about more than cancer. It talks about the many facets of our lives that influence our biological health, including our diet, sleep, stress, and relationships. The author is a researcher at MD Anderson who has solid, scientifically researched info to share. I find this book incredibly inspiring and motivating when it comes to making choices about my lifestyle. 

Click to see Ginny Wiley's List
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Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance)
The tagline is “a memoir of a family and culture in crisis.” The author presents a healthy dose of the realities of poverty, addiction, and class divisions in modern America by telling his own story of growing up in Appalachia. [Warning: adult themes and language]

The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah)
Novel about two sisters lives during WWll and their fight of survival.

The Whole Brain Child (Daniel J Siegel)
This book explains the science of how a child’s brain is wired to help parents respond in helpful healthy ways.

Mark of the Lion Series (Francine Rivers)
Three Biblical historical fiction novels about the life of a young Jewish girl captured to become a slave in the Roman Empire and a German soldier captured to become a gladiator and how their lives intermingle.

Q & A with Sex Therapist Mel Sutton, LPC

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

The following is an interview between Brittany Senseman, LPC-S, and Melanie Sutton, LPC. Melanie is a trained sex therapist with a Christian world view. In this interview, Mel answers some basic questions regarding the purpose and process of sex therapy.

Melanie Sutton, LPC

Brittany: What exactly is sex therapy?
Mel: Sex therapy can take a lot of different forms. Typically a couple will come in when they’re experiencing some type of sexual dysfunction, and we will work together to come up with some solutions for whatever dysfunctions they’re experiencing. If it’s a married couple, we’ll do some marriage work, relationship work, and make sure they’re communicating well and handling conflict well. So it might look like your typically counseling session. But then we weave in exercises that they take home and do together to overcome whatever hurdle they’re facing.

Brittany: It sounds like it is a lot more about the relationship part, and then the physically intimacy piece of it gets added on. Is that accurate?
Mel: Yes! Sometimes we’ll have a couple that comes in that has a really solid relationship, and with those couples we can jump right in to the sex homework. There’s a protocol for each different issue that comes up, sexually speaking. It depends on what they come in with.

Brittany: I have to assume when people come in, they’ve got to be embarrassed and uncomfortable. How do you get them comfortable?
Mel: You know, I get it because whenever I started out on this I was uncomfortable as well. I had to get myself really used to using sexual language and talking about body parts and talking about things that happen during intimacy. So, I think part of it is how we approach anything that makes us anxious. I think some of it is just exposure.

I think the first benefit of coming in and talking about things that make you feel embarrassed is that it will push them out of their comfort zone a little bit. But by the end of the first session, they realize, “We survived that, and it wasn’t so bad; and maybe we can do that again.” I think that exposure and talking about it can really help decrease that anxiety and help overcome the awkwardness of talking about your sex life.

Brittany: So it’s almost just like talking about it is the therapy.
Mel: Yes, sometimes it’s like that for couples. Especially if the couple isn’t talking about sex in the first place, just showing them and modeling for them that it’s something they can talk about it … sometimes that’s all they really need and then they can work on things on their own.

Brittany: How can a couple know when it’s time to come in for sex therapy?
Mel: It’s totally subjective. But there are a few issues I want to point out that would be important to specially to see a sex therapist. Any sexual dysfunction: female vaginal pain disorders… when they’re experiencing a tremendous amount of pain during sex, or if it’s really raw or stinging. Male erectile dysfunction or ejaculatory disorders. Those are things to work on in therapy.
Something that I see really often is decreased arousal or decreased desire. Or a discrepancy in desire or arousal. Like if one partner says “I want to have sex five times a week” and their spouse says, “I would be OK with having sex just once every other week.” Then we can sit down and work through some of that as well.

If there has been sexual trauma or abuse, then that’s something that will come up in intimacy later on down the road, and that’s another specific issue that I would highly recommend someone coming in for. Any compulsive sexual behavior… pornography or anything looking outside of the relationship for sexual satisfaction.
A couple may have several different issues, but if they find themselves fighting about sex more often than the other issues, then that’s typically going to be a couple where sex therapy would be beneficial because in their minds sex has become a centerpiece of the problem in the relationship. Sometimes that can be the first domino that we knock down as a way of creating change for them.

Brittany: I do couples counseling, and sex has to be a part of that conversation – and like you say, a lot of times, sex becomes the identified problem. I see a lot of the discrepancy issue where one person has a higher desire than the other and that tends to be what everyone is fighting about. When, like you say, there’s almost always some other underlying issue that’s creating the barrier; but it’s just easier to talk about sex and get mad about it.
Mel: Right, exactly! Sometimes it’s just easier to point back to sex than it is to uncover some of the other parts of the relationship that they may feel uncomfortable with or vulnerable about. I think sex is one of those areas that’s easy to just point the finger, and a lot of times it can give the couple some ammo whenever they’re coming into session.

Brittany: What are common myths you’ve had to debunk as a sex therapist? It seems like people have the impression that they’re going to be prescribed some odd, kinky, uncomfortable kinds of things to do which makes them really reticent to go.
Mel: One of the funniest things I’ve heard is people worrying they’re going to have to do something sexual in the office – that I’m going to grade them, or watch their technique! There’s no removal of clothing in the office! I don’t show techniques or anything like that. There may be a time when we do an exercise, but it wouldn’t be anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in front of a large group of people. We definitely keep it very safe.

Now, I will say that there are many “flavors” of sex therapy out there. My training as a Christian sex therapist definitely approaches this process through the lense of how we can have this intimacy within the bonds of a covenant relationship and honoring the sexual ethic formed by biblical beliefs. That creates for couples more of a sense of safety because they know I’m not going to send them to go watch pornography or read racy novels or do anything that would be outside the boundaries they’ve become comfortable with.

Brittany: Is that a main distinguishing feature between what your services and typical sex therapy?
Mel: Yes. In your typical office, if someone comes in and let’s say a woman has been breastfeeding and her hormones are out of whack and her sex drive is almost zero, which is very normal for a new mom. What a typical sex therapist might prescribe is anything to increase sexual stimuli and definitely pornography would be a tool and reading racy novels and things like that.
The neat thing about what I get to do is think outside the box and tap into “holy imagination” and allowing our brains that God has given us to be a playground for our intimacy and creating new ways of finding that sense of excitement with your spouse and not having to look outside the marriage for that.

Brittany: What is a typical amount of time a person or couple might expect to be in therapy?
Mel: Typically expect six months to a year. We start out seeing each other frequently and once we put homework exercises in place, we see each other less frequently to give the couple time to do those exercises.

It’s all about what effort you put into the process outside the counseling office. We can talk about it all year long, but are they actually doing the homework exercises and changing their behaviors? I’m not a behavioral therapist, but some of the protocols are so behaviorally oriented that it requires a lot of follow through. So, I would say it takes a motivated couple for the therapy to work.

Brittany: This is great information! Thank you for your time!
Mel: Thanks for having me!

Beauty in the Eye of This Beholder

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

by BRITTANY SENSEMAN, LPC-S

Recently I visited “The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I should start by saying that I have no fashion education, and I am quite certain this limits my ability to truly appreciate the art I witnessed. So, I ask those well versed in the world of fashion to please forgive my potentially amateur observations. Now that I’ve made my disclaimer, here goes!

First: Wow. I’m in awe of the beauty of those garments. The intricate details of each piece were fairly mind-blowing – type of silhouette, variety of influences, fabric, thread, applique, beading, and on and on!

I have always been jealous of those gifted with the ability to create from nothing. It is truly a spark of the divine! My best artwork came when I was in 2nd grade… I won some kind of rodeo contest, I think. I was thrilled and though I’ve taken art classes occasionally since then, I’ve never been able to repeat that early success. But I digress…

So why would a person like me with no understanding of fashion spend time and money on a museum exhibit like that? Well, to be honest, I needed to see beauty. This world gets so ugly so easily – failing bodies, weighted souls, broken systems. Sometimes the world looks dark, but what a miracle it is to find beauty – to see what creative genius can do. It comforts the soul to hear great music, taste delicious food and, yes, see amazing fashion pieces!

There are times when art and beauty can seem pointless and perhaps even wasteful. I don’t pretend to know where the balance of art and function should lie, but I do know that we must have beauty in this world. I believe it points us to hope for something greater than ourselves.

I know that experiencing beauty isn’t going to solve any problems, but I’m grateful for it anyway. I’m grateful for the miracle that people are gifted with creative talent and the miracle that I can experience it. I’m thankful for reminders of hope and light and that beauty exists!

Think Happy Thoughts

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

by BRITTANY SENSEMAN, LPC-S

Think Happy Thoughts

When you read the word “family”, what feelings do you have? Some of you relaxed your faces and experienced joy, while others just got a knot in your stomachs as you felt the anxiety creep in. I want you to take a moment right now and figure out what you’re feeling. Seriously, stop reading and pay attention to what your body is telling you! I’ll wait…

Ok, now that you know what you’re feeling, I’d like you to think about how satisfied you are with that feeling. Are you happy with your reaction or do you wish it were different?

For those who are satisfied, congratulations! Either because of the choices of others or because of your own hard work, you have the luxury of family relationships that are enjoyable. This is not something to take for granted, so don’t!

I challenge you to take 5-10 minutes a couple of times a week (you can set a reminder on your phone if you want) and write down a positive memory you have with a family member. It doesn’t have to be a momentous occasion – it could be as simple as sharing a joke or taking a walk. This simple exercise will help you hold on to those positive feelings, and that will make your life better in every way! And for you over-achievers, you can share your memory with the family member involved in it to bring those positive feelings to them, too!

Now, for those who are not satisfied with your feelings about family… don’t despair! I wish I had the formula for how to fix every relationship and make it function beautifully, but I don’t – sorry! What I can offer is hope for better relationships in the future. That may begin by grieving the family relationships you have now. It’s important to first acknowledge what the relationship isn’t, so you can be content with what it is.

Once you have accepted how the relationship stands, you may decide to make some changes to make it better. I fully realize that this is not always possible or advisable. Improving a relationship requires each member of the relationship to make changes, and (let’s be real) most people don’t like to change. But, if you are lucky enough to be in relationship with someone who wants to make things better, talk to them! Share how you felt when you thought about your family!

If change isn’t possible for the relationship (and even if it is), I suggest that you focus on positive elements that you can identify. I know that for some of you, it may take some serious time and effort to find those positives, but it’s worth it! As I mentioned above, thinking about positive things gets a really good domino effect going.

Stressful thoughts activate systems in our body that signal it to be prepared to fight – increased vigilance, less sleep, decreased digestion, etc. Peaceful thoughts lead to an increase in neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which leads to better sleep, better sex, and better mood. So, be intentional in your thinking!

I know we started with how you feel about the word “family” and ended up with neurotransmitters, but this is how our bodies work! You can change how you feel and how you behave, but you must CHOOSE to do so.

I hope this has encouraged you to make that choice and given you hope that you can enjoy your family this holiday season in a new and better way!

Trauma Resources

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Here is a list of resources for emotional management you may find helpful:

 

Making Friends

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017
By Brittany Senseman – MA, LPC-S, Principal

The summer before I turned 6 years old, I moved from West Texas to Houston, and it was a little rough at first. Where I used to live, there were lots of kids to play with who lived on my street. We just walked to each other’s houses and ran around all day. At my new house, I knew nobody; and because it was summer, there was no way to meet anyone at school. I got super bored and lonely very quickly… like I said, it was rough!

I used to ride my bike through the neighborhood looking for kids to play with; and even if I saw some, I was too embarrassed to just walk up and say, “Hi.” One day, I was again riding my bike in the cul-de-sac in front of my house, feeling completely miserable and alone. In a moment of desperation, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “I WANT SOME FRIENDS!”

To my surprise, a few minutes later, a boy who lived across the street started riding his bike in the cul-de-sac, too. Long story short: We became friends, and he introduced me to the other kids in the neighborhood. Hooray for a happy ending!

So, why am I reminiscing about my childhood? Well, it’s because I think friends are important and because there may be a lesson in this memory.

Friends matter because we are social creatures – we need people! Notice I’m saying friend with an “s” and people… not person. There is no way one individual can meet all of our needs, so we need backup. But there are times when it’s difficult to find these friends. For those of you who are in the middle of a move due to work or school (which often happens in the summer), this may be particularly pertinent for you.

Am I recommending that we start yelling in the street randomly when we’re lonely? Not quite, but sort of. Let’s look at my story a little more… Not much embarrasses an almost 6-year-old because she doesn’t know enough about social mores to feel ashamed. That said, I totally knew that it was weird to yell about my personal sorrow in the middle of the street. So why did I do it? I was desperate, and I knew that yelling couldn’t make anything worse. I assumed that anyone who happened to be home and heard me wouldn’t run out into the street, point their fingers, and laugh at me. And I was right!

I have generally found that people actually go out of their way to not make others feel ashamed. I think this is particularly the case when they are strangers or not close friends. When there is a higher degree of intimacy, some license is given because trust has been established. What this means for you is that when you’re trying to make friends, your risk of embarrassment is actually lower! Another thing to keep in mind is that many people around you are also trying to make friends and want to connect with new people. You’re not alone – I promise!

In summary, I’m encouraging you to be brave and strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know well or to join a book club or a workout group. Put yourself out there. Allow yourself to feel a little lonely and let it motivate you to make a change!

In the August newsletter, we’re including some ideas on where you can go to meet new people. So, pick a few that appeal to you and go for it! I wish you well in your figurative yelling in the street! 😉

The Burden of Politics

Friday, March 3rd, 2017
by Brittany Senseman, LPC-S, Principal

Burdens. That’s what I see most of the time in my office – people carrying heavy burdens desperate to find rest and peace. This is my work, and what I have done for the past 10+ years is meet hurting people in their dark moments and support them to a place of strength. I’ve been doing this for over ten years, but I have to say that the last six months or so have been different.

I’ve seen a new burden and have been hesitant to speak to it, and when I say what it is you’ll know exactly why I’ve been reluctant. It’s politics. Man, that one word was hard to write! Yes, politics is the new burden that has shown up in my office affecting individuals and families in a myriad of ways – and most of them were unexpected.

Relationships have been battered and some have ruptured. Hearts have been ignited and been broken. Some people have found a voice and gone hoarse in an effort to be heard while others have retreated into scared silence. Old memories of past traumas have resurfaced that seem unrelated to current events creating confusion and fear. These are just a few examples of what I’ve seen in my office over past few months.

The overall theme here is despair. Despair is not new to my office – I’m fairly well acquainted with it by now. I regularly work to find hope for clients who can hardly believe hope can still exist in their lives. But now this despair is on such a grand scale! Clients are despairing not just for themselves but for entire people groups, and I admit that hoping for a solution to meet the needs of an entire population is hard for me. In my office, I see how just two people have radically different needs and can’t fathom trying to find solutions for the needs of thousands or millions of people.

Over the past few months, it feels like a cloud has fallen, and in its fog we’ve lost our vision. If you’re seeking clarity, if you’re frustrated and spinning your wheels, if you’re sad and longing for comfort, read on…

Here’s my sage advice: HELP SOMEONE. Please don’t read that to mean “bring awareness to a cause”. Awareness can be paralyzing – knowing about all the brokenness of this world is absolutely overwhelming and depressing. If you want to feel better, get your body out of where is resides and take action to make another person’s day easier.

I can imagine some of you are arguing with me that you can do a lot of good from your computer or your phone or your bank – I don’t doubt it! But there is something about physically changing positions for benefit of another that just feels different. If you don’t believe me, try it!

Helping someone isn’t going to make the world whole again – it’s broken, guys. But I believe it’s a big part of what we’re made for, a big part of our purpose. We’re not supposed to be alone, and there is something deeply satisfying about connecting with another person when there’s no tangible benefit to us.

Some of you may have already found a place to engage and volunteer – awesome! For those who are still looking, we’ve listed some websites with volunteer opportunities for you to check out. If my words have stirred you even a little, don’t wait to click on at least one of these sites and see what’s out there.

Despair isn’t always bad. Yes, I’m a therapist and I just wrote that. Despair is a feeling to pay attention to – it’s a BIG feeling! It means that there’s something wrong, something off. So, don’t ignore the burden you may have felt for the past few months. It’s important, and you should look at it! But don’t stop with looking… ACT.

 

http://volunteerhouston.org/

https://www.volunteermatch.org/

http://www.houstonservice.org/#s

https://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=Volunteer+Opportunities&find_loc=Houston%2C+TX

About Anthology

We are a group of professionals dedicated to promoting health and healing in the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. We believe that healing occurs more effectively and more efficiently when each facet of a person is addressed.