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Life Lessons

Coping with a Pet Emergency

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

You walk through your front door and notice your furry friend isn’t there to greet you. You think, “That’s odd,” but continue with a routine of dropping your purse, locking the door, and kicking your shoes off. Again, you think “Where is she? No greeting? No sassy glare? This isn’t right.” And so, the search begins. You notice she isn’t in her favorite kitty box, on the windowsill, or in her chosen chair. Initial concern morphs into concerned and frantic thinking. You finally find her lying in the corner of a room that she normally avoids like the plague. You scratch a favorite spot behind her ear and she barely lifts her head to look at you. An internal alarm rings and it’s scary, as you realize something is terribly wrong. A member of your family is ill, and you feel helpless and frightened.

When you sign up for a lifetime of love you hardly think of the day your beloved pet will become ill. Thoughts like that seem almost unimaginable. Cohabitating with a furry friend is about the joy, the happiness, and all that other good stuff, right? Of course, but life is unavoidable, and our friends do get sick and do eventually leave us. It is never easy to see someone you love not feeling well. It is even harder to know if you are making the right decision to help your pet feel better.

So when I found myself facing this scary situation about a week ago, here is some helpful advice I followed that helped me to cope with such an emergency:

  1. Be prepared
    It really pays off to have a plan.  This allows for direct intervention and lessens the in-action choices we must make in moments like this.  Some ways to prepare are knowing the address and phone number of an emergency veterinarian in your area.  The last thing you want is mad search through the internet for to locate a reputable pet ER while you and your friend are in distress.  More importantly, if you are proactive and take this step you will have time to ask your veterinarian what animal hospitals they partner with and trust.  This will ease your anxiety regarding the quality of care for your friend.
  1. Breathe, try to breathe
    Your deep breathing practices will come in handy during this stressful time.  When you are suddenly confronted with your friend not feeling so well, begin taking some deep breaths.  Try to focus on your breathing by slowly breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Remember, the slower your breathing becomes the calmer your body will be.  Deep breathing will help support your ability to think clearly and be an effective decision maker, which your pet needs you to be.  If deep breathing is a novel idea for you, try practicing it as a part of your daily routine. This will add to your repertoire of calming strategies during times of increased stress and worry.
  1. Try to avoid the internet
    Internet searches are not always helpful! We all do it, as much as we consciously know this will cause more worry we attempt the inevitable internet search to find out what is wrong. Being overloaded with symptoms and a faux diagnosis isn’t helpful. Not only will this give you more things to stress about, but it will create pressure you and your furry friend don’t need right now. Instead, put trust in your Veterinarian. Leave it to the experts who have a working knowledge of your pet. They are trained professionals and have more experience thank any internet search.
  1. Reach out to someone
    This can be a stressful and anxious time. There is so much uncertainty and you can’t help but question the choices you are making. “Am I making the right decision. Did I choose the right vet? Am I keeping my pet safe?”  This is a tough place to be in.  Try finding an empathetic ear, someone who will listen to your story, thoughts, and feelings.  This can be a friend, family member, or even your therapist.  Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help.  Whether this is scheduling shifts to help take care of your pet, sitting in the ER waiting with you, or just being a person’s hand, you need hold on to.

Experiencing fear and anxiety during this time is a normal reaction.  Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings but know that they don’t have to take control.  If you are experiencing stress or anxiety about your pet’s health or grief over the loss of your beloved friend, contact us. We’re hear to listen.

Avanti,
Christina

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Life Lessons

Mindfulness, Does it Really Matter?

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

RING! BUZZ! RING! BUZZ!

There is a moment when you realize the sudden pulsing light is not part of your sweet, slumbering dream. Grasping at the air with foggy uncertainty, you reach out in a flopping seal like motion to silence the sound of your morning wake up call. Rolling out of bed you manage to overcome the almost Quixotic task of lumbering into the shower, and within a blink of an eye you are sitting at your work desk wondering “How did I get here?

More often than you’d like to admit, you often find yourself pointlessly functioning in the world around you. Looking back at the days, weeks, and even months, life sometimes seems to be a blurry mess. With all the modern-day challenges, you try to stay afloat within the abyss of past missteps and worries of an uncertain future. It’s no wonder you may feel like your life is moving at the speed of light. So what can you do to slow things down and enjoy the present or maybe even remember what happened last week? Folks, there is a reason this is called auto pilot, and we need a way out!

Most of us have heard about mindfulness, but what is it really? When you think about Mindfulness you want to create a state of consciousness in which you are solely aware of the present moment. With a calm mind, you acknowledge and accept your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The focus is on the present moment, and releasing your past and future dwellings. In short, you can look at yourself with intention and in a nonjudgmental way to integrate mind and body and spirit.

What I have for you today are three simple techniques you can use to introduce Mindfulness into your daily routine.

1 – One Minute of Mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t require hours of meditating like a Tibetan monk. Instead, you want to create mindful moments throughout your day. You are going to need a timer for this exercise. What you want to do is take a seated spot with your feet flat on the floor, your back resting comfortably, and your hands in a relaxed position. After you start the timer, it is your task to focus on your breathing for one minute.

You may close your eyes or keep them open during this exercise. There is no wrong or right way to breath. If you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts, bring your attention back to your breathing. Remember, if you notice a thought creeping in and you begin to move away from focusing on your breathing, it is Okay. Bring your attention back to your breathing as many times as you need. Refocus on connecting your body and breath. Move within the moment back and forth to bring your attention back to your breathing.

2 – Mindful Eating

As you sit down to eat a meal, do attempt to remove any distractions to bring full attention to your eating experience. You want to connect your body with each of the five senses during this exercise.

Before eating your meal, visually explore your food noting the colors, shapes, and textures that you see. Next, call attention to the scent of your food. Notice the aroma and the sensation you feel as the scents move through your nose. Then bring your attention to touch, listening, and lastly introduce taste. Be mindful for the first 3 bites of your meal. Focus on the smell, texture, taste, and any changes you may experience as you chew your food. Explore each of your senses. Savor the moment with an intention to experience solely through your senses.

3 – Pause and Observe

Choose a moment of the day and find a place that feels right for you. Once you feel you are ready, take a moment to pause and look at your surroundings. In this moment, you are intentionally choosing to focus on your environment.

Simply observe. Notice where your attention brings you as you use your eyes to observe your environment. Try to notice without judgment, without critique.  Continue to observe for as long as you like, and stay present in the moment. During this exercise allow enough time for your body to naturally adjust and relax.

Whether you are attempting to learn a new technique, to be more productive, or to find alternative ways to ground yourself in your busy lifestyle using mindfulness is a great tool to help you stop smell and the roses. Next time we will explore three additional steps to help you on your path to self awareness.

Avanti,
Christina

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eTalkTherapy, Life Lessons

Five Ways to Stop Feeling Stuck

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

How do I move away from feeling stuck to feeling, well, unstuck? What slammed the brakes on my inner most desires and choices? How am I responsible for all of this when so much of it seems to be beyond my control? What decisions could I be making right now to help alter this cyclical outcome? Do I really deserve to be living out my life as I desire and finding my authentic self? Ah, the haunting, swirling questions surrounding missed opportunities, isolation, loss, and feeling stuck in life that plague us all when we are at are most vulnerable.

I believe there are a few contributing factors. For one, we continue to make the same mistakes. If we continue to answer the same question over and over again in the exact same way, then the outcome cannot possibly be any different. If we know the answer to something then perhaps it is the question that needs to be different. Procrastination is lives in our day to day being. “I will do it tomorrow.” How many times have we told ourselves that lie? That tomorrow might happen in a week, a year, if at all?

Most importantly though, the underlying notion of feeling “stuck” is what I like to call the “Cycle of Comfort.” What drives this we possess a safety net of predictability. It’s known, it’s reliable, and yes, it might be making us miserable as all hell, BUT misery feels safe, knowable – it is secure and won’t rock the boat. Familiarity can be breed complacency. No surprises here. Anxiety does not live here, yet. What is difficult is venturing into the unfamiliar territories of your wants and desires. You will need to start taking risks and making life changing decisions. Yikes, not that! Venturing into a dark room is always scary. It feels unsafe and I’m betting just thinking about change can poke the bear in anyone’s cave of anxious thoughts. You are unsure of the outcome and that outcome can either yield a positive or negative experience. The unpredictability, the feeling of anxiety, keeps us stagnant, or “stuck” in this cycle.

So what can we do? If I really desire change and want a life worth living, what do I do? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Understand that feeling anxious is a part of the process. There’s good anxiety and bad anxiety, just like good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. I know this might sound crazy, but welcome this feeling with open arms and know that if you are feeling anxious about change you are on the right track.
  2. Do not focus on the past. Dwelling over the possibility of choosing differently in the past fosters feelings of guilt, sadness, and even more “bad” anxiety. It is about learning from the past, not living in it.  Also, remember that every single day you are making choices so make every single one of those decisions count.
  3. Alter your pattern of choice. Choose the unfamiliar and detach from mediocrity.  Your choices should be derived in an authentic fashion and centered on the life you want, and you should find yourself liberated after walking down the unbeaten path. Who knows what you might discover!
  4. Take action. Commit and follow through with your choices. Set a deadline. Make a list, if it helps. Do what you are going to do, mean what you are going to say going, ESPECIALLY if following through has kept you from truly living and being honest with yourself.

What is really important about change is that there has to be meaning, passion, and purpose behind every single choice. I would rather complete one meaningful act than 100 meaningless actions. In short, we need to sacrifice what we already know to truly get unstuck.

Mark Twain said it best, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Avanti,
Christina

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Life Lessons

6 Reasons Why Online Therapy Will Work for You

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Scenario 1: Jump in the car after work. Fight Traffic. Skip dinner. Arrive at the therapist’s office. Sit in a cramped, stodgy waiting room with your stomach rumbling. Wait a week for your next appointment. Rinse. Repeat.

Scenario 2: Look for a sitter. Can’t find a sitter. Cancel therapy this week.

Scenario 3: It’s snowing, again. Roads are horrible. Cancel therapy.

Scenario 4: “I feel overwhelmed, and I’m really anxious. I’m struggling with my thoughts and feelings.” Your next available appointment is in three weeks? Really?!

Scenario 5: “My insurance deductible is $5,000 and you’re not even sure if therapy is covered?”

Does this sound familiar? These are just a few practical criticisms levied against traditional therapy. As technology, costs and schedules change, having the option to talk to your therapist online is becoming a popular choice for a number of reasons.

At eTalkTherapy we provide convenience, affordability, but, above all professional help and care all from the privacy and comfort of your home. In most cases, you will be able to schedule and meet with a therapist within a day or two.

Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing eTalkTherapy:

  1. You can tackle your issues today:If you are seeking support for anxiety or stress-related issues, and feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to schedule and attend an in-office appointment, then the online option could be the best one for you. This is your health and wellness, and it has to suit your needs. Anxiety, depression and stress are not viruses, and they just don’t go away on their own. Addressing your issues and using proven techniques such as a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and traditional talk therapy will likely help you feel as though your life is not out of control and that you are making gains toward a better, mindful life.
  2. You can have both privacy and comfort:At eTalkTherapy, you can meet live online with your therapist from the comfort and privacy of your own home. All you need is a computer or tablet. Maybe you’re struggling with transportation or a long commute, maybe you can’t get childcare, maybe the weather forecast is not looking favorable, maybe your insurance co-pay or deductible is too high, or maybe you are away from home at college. For whatever reason, if having your session on live video chat works for you, then it works for you.
  3. You can keep your sessions while traveling:We offer you the flexibility of having your sessions online. You might be traveling for work, going on an extended vacation, or leaving for college. Whatever the reason, eTalkTherapy gives you a convenient and affordable alternative to a traditional office visit.
  4. You can schedule to suit your needs:Your time is important. The online option gives you back the time you’d spend commuting without delaying or interrupting your therapeutic work.
  5. You meet with our therapists live online: We value the therapeutic relationship and understand that texting, email correspondence or phoning a therapist will not replace being able to see someone face to face. We provide a HIPPA secure and professional online experience for every client we meet.
  6. You don’t have to worry about insurance co-pays or deductibles: In fact, some mental health issues are not even covered by insurance. Your information remains private between you and your therapist. Our affordable rates give you the flexibility and financial comfort you may have been seeking from your therapy experience.

If you are looking to make positive changes in your life, we can help! Please contact us today about how to register and schedule your live video counseling session with Christina.

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Avanti,
Christina

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Life Lessons

Becoming a Therapist

by Christina Pettinato, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

When I walked into my first professional counseling course, I held my head up high, pulled my shoulders back, and thought, “Yes, I belong here.”  For the first time in my mental health career I felt as if I was headed in the right direction, and I was eager to begin my journey.

My mind was prepared to soak in all the knowledge that was going to be bestowed upon me, and it was then that I realized becoming a therapist was going to be a intimidating endeavor. As the professor began his lecture, I quickly learned that I needed to conquer some inner-demons in addition to fostering a connection to the core concepts of psychotherapy and counseling.

Who me? This is about me? I didn’t think I would be the one sitting in the client’s chair.  At first, I didn’t grasp the significance or meaning behind this moment.  I thought to myself, “Where do I even begin?” No map. No compass. No clue. I’m screwed, and I hadn’t even written my first note yet! Navigating the dark crevices of my mind was going to be a lot more vexing than venturing into someone else’s. My anxiety was through the roof, and my fear was real. Could I ever truly find a sense of peace and beauty within this chaos?

What I began to learn is that life, my life, is based on the perception of my own processes – both the mental and physical perception of experience and how much it influences my daily understanding of the world around me.  Understanding how I perceive the world, which would ultimately impact my future therapeutic relationships, evolved into a consuming endeavor within my therapeutic journey and career.

Exploring my psyche and how it works only reinforces this notion of perception and how each of us can discover a unique pathway to the mind. What was interesting to me was, not only did I develop a heightened sense of awareness of self, but for others, too.  I became highly interested in perception and being-in the-world (to borrow a term from philosopher Martin Heidegger).  Everyone is uniquely human, no two realities are perceived the exactly in the same context. I began to see an uneasy marriage between that which is measurable by science (cognitive processes) and all the mystery of philosophy and art. Things began to gel, take form, make sense, and a fog was lifting.  For me, this exploration was, and still remains, the doorway to understanding another person’s perspective.

With all of my new found inspiration, I knew I needed some guidance. It wasn’t long until my seedlings of thought found purchase in existential psychotherapy.  It is an approach that emphasizes an understanding of your client’s worldview because you are not separated from it. You are human, so is the client. You are forever grounded in a common bond that cannot be quantified or measured. As the French philosopher Jean Paul Sarte said, existence precedes essence. This idea is at the root of our search for meaning. As therapists, counselors and clinicians, we cannot separate ourselves from the living world or our humanness. Understanding, compassion and connection, these are the best tools we have to offer our clients.

My journey then and now can be compared to staring at a painting. At first, I tilt my head in curiosity and uncertainty as the canvas appears unconnected, unruly and unclear. Yet, as I take my time to gaze a little deeper, it becomes easier to see the painting’s intricacies, its inner-struggle, and its beauty. The world opens and things appear as they are – flowing in richness, emotion and connectivity. Meaning is found.  Like the artwork, I began to connect the pieces of my life into theory and produced a strong approach to the helping relationship.

My journey is far from over and there is still so much for me to explore, but for those of you taking that first step, keep looking at the canvas. Don’t give up just yet.

Avanti,
Christina