The Good And The Bad Of Anxiety

A man leaning on a wall experiencing anxiety.

Anxiety is a common experience that many people wish they didn’t have to deal with. However, it’s important to understand that anxiety serves a purpose in our daily lives. When challenges arise that trigger anxiety, it’s our response to those challenges that determines whether anxiety is a healthy or unhealthy emotion.

A Look At Productive Worry 

Good worry can be productive, like a survival technique or a personal radar system. It helps us take clear, decisive actions and move forward. For example, when driving, we scan the road to be aware of our surroundings and respond appropriately. Without this skill, we could quickly get into trouble.

Anxiety can sometimes be a positive force, motivating us to do something good, like studying for an upcoming test or being cautious while driving on a slippery road. Feeling anxious temporarily in these stressful situations is typical and expected.

A Look At Unproductive Worry

Bad worry is unproductive and can lead to anxiety that paralyzes us from making decisions. Instead of taking action, we spend time ruminating and worrying about things that may never happen or are too far to address. It’s important to distinguish between good and bad worries to use our energy effectively.

However, it becomes a significant concern when worry consumes you. Do you find yourself in a constant state of anxiety? Do your friends and family notice that you always seem on edge? Take a moment to reflect on all the unnecessary or unrealistic things you have worried about. If your anxiety is excessive or severe, you will likely find that most of those things that you were stressing over never actually happened.

When Anxiety Is Out Of Control

Everyone experiences the typical stresses of daily living at some point. We have jobs, family, illnesses, bills, and other responsibilities that can cause anxiety. But suppose you find that your worry is starting to interfere with your daily life. In that case, you might be suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Here are some primary symptoms that may indicate you are struggling with an anxiety disorder:

  • Feeling nervous
  • Feeling powerless
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic, or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry

Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience excessive worry and tension, often anticipating the worst possible outcome even when there is no apparent reason for concern. They tend to fear that a catastrophe is imminent and become overly anxious about their health, finances, family, work, or other issues. 

This persistent anxiety and worry about everyday things, even when there is no apparent reason to worry, takes a toll on the individual’s well-being. They usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation requires but can’t seem to shake off their concerns. As a result, they find it hard to relax, which can cause difficulties in falling and staying asleep. Their worries are often accompanied by physical symptoms such as trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, or hot flashes. They may also feel lightheaded or out of breath, experience nausea, have the urge to go to the bathroom frequently, or feel like they have a lump in their throat.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition that affects both children and adults. While mild symptoms of GAD may not impact a person’s social life or job, severe symptoms can be debilitating and make it difficult for them to carry out daily activities. Symptoms of GAD can fluctuate over time and may worsen during stressful periods. 

Even though the onset of GAD is usually gradual and can occur during childhood or adolescence, it can also develop in adulthood. Women are more likely to be affected by GAD than men, and there is often a hereditary component to the disorder. While the exact cause of GAD is unknown, biological factors, family history, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, are thought to play a role. 

Getting Help

Getting diagnosed with GAD can be somewhat tricky because people experiencing excessive anxiety will often have physical symptoms that drive them to make many appointments with their family physician, complaining that their health is poor. They do not realize that their anxiety is the underlying cause of their symptoms.

If you seem to be dealing with overwhelming anxiety and you can relate to some of the above, don’t hesitate to seek help. First, understand that you are not alone. GAD annually affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the United States population. Secondly, anxiety disorders are treatable. They are one of the most treatable conditions of all emotional disorders.

When it comes to treating anxiety disorders, research shows that therapy is usually the most effective option. Unlike anxiety medication, therapy treats more than just the symptoms of the problem. It can help you uncover the underlying causes of your worries and fears; learn how to relax; look at the situations in new, less frightening ways; and develop better coping and problem solving skills. Therapy gives you the tools to overcome anxiety and teaches you how to use them.

Anxiety is not you. It’s something moving through you. It can leave out of the same door it came in. – James Clear

Working with a coach is a great way to learn strategies to manage stress.  A coach can help you discover and master anxiety relief techniques that will keep you from becoming overwhelmed when “life” happens.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call.  Together, we can work on strategies that will help you live a more balanced and less anxious-filled life.

An Overview Of Women And Depression

depressed looking woman being consoled by friend

Depression can occur at any age and can also affect men, women, or, unfortunately, even children. Women, however, are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Let’s take a look at the link between women and depression.

Research has shown that by age 15, females are twice as likely as males to experience significant depression. In fact, research has found that female high school students have significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and adjustment disorders as compared to their male counterparts.

The stresses of adolescence, trying to figure out your identity, dealing with emerging sexuality, learning to become more independent, and making decisions for the first time. All these changes are accompanied by physical, intellectual, and hormonal changes, which can differ for boys and girls. Females, in particular, may experience more stress and depression during this time.


There are many theories as for the cause of the increased occurrence of depression in women but I will discuss three implicated reasons: psychological, social, and biological. However, something to keep in mind is that though women are twice as likely to experience depression, it should not be considered a “normal” part of being a woman, nor should it be seen as a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a medical illness that affects more than 15 million American adults each year, age 18 and older. It can occur in any woman at any time and for various reasons, regardless of age, race, or income.


  • Some of us women are overthinkers. When we get depressed, we tend to dwell on the situation and rehash the negative feelings. While it might be a normal response to cry, talk with friends, and discuss why we are depressed, research shows that stewing about it can make the depression last longer and even make it worse.
  • Negative body images and stress-induced depression are other psychological factors that also tend to affect us women more than men. The negative body image issues usually begin in adolescence and seem to be connected with the start of puberty in women.
  • Women are more prone to stress because we have increased progesterone levels, which have been shown to prevent stress hormones from leveling out. 


Some of the social factors that may lead to depression in women include:

  • Stress from work — discrimination at work or not reaching essential goals, job change, retirement
  • Family responsibilities—caring for children, spouse, or aging parents
  • Roles and expectations of women — balancing the pressures of career and home life
  • Income levels— persistent money problems
  • Stressful life events — death of a loved one, domestic violence, sexual abuse


Biologically speaking, depression runs in families. Although genetics can increase the likelihood of depression, strong family and social relationships can help build resilience.

Other biological and hormonal factors that are also likely to increase the chances of suffering from depression are issues with premenstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy, postpartum depression, and premenopause/menopause. Most of these are due to hormonal imbalances and rapid fluctuations in reproductive hormones.

Something else to consider is how the stress of dealing with health problems such as a chronic illness, injury, or disability can also lead to depression or make it worse. Some chronic diseases can change your body chemistry and cause depression, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

In addition to the psychological, social, and biological causes of depression mentioned above, the following are also increased risk factors for depression in women:

  • loss or death of a parent in childhood
  • job loss, relationship problems, divorce
  • past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • use of certain medications


If you treat depression, it can improve your health and quality of life. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help yourself, and the first one is knowing the signs of depression so you can get treatment. Symptoms of depression can vary depending on whether you are suffering from mild to severe or major depression and are characterized by the impact they have on a woman’s ability to function. Common complaints include:

  • pronounced feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • sleep disturbances (Sleeping more or sleeping less)
  • appetite and weight changes
  • lack of energy and fatigue
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling out of control
  • panic attacks
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts of suicide


Usually, medications and therapy are the most common treatment options for women suffering from depression. Therapy has been shown to be a very effective method of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most standard forms of talk therapy or psychotherapy. With CBT, one learns new ways of thinking in addition to coping mechanisms to use when feelings of depression hit.

This one-on-one therapy is also helpful in assisting women in understanding the problematic relationships they might be in and how to improve them. It also helps women change habits that might be contributing to their depression. Group therapy or family therapy is also helpful if family stress is a contributing factor to one’s depressed state.

Along with medication and/or therapy, there also are some self-help techniques that can help improve your mood if you are suffering from depression. You will find them listed below:

  • Find a listening ear — Share your feelings with people you can trust, and don’t be afraid to ask for the help and support you need.
  • Engaged activity — Even when you don’t feel like it (and you probably won’t), stay involved in social activities and functions.
  • Physical exercise — Regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. Even three or four 10-minute short bursts of movement throughout the day can be just as effective as 30 minutes at one time.
  •  Sleep — Get enough sleep – 8 hours per night is ideal.
  • Practice relaxation techniques — Meditate, try yoga, or practice other relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

“If you rearrange the letters in depression, you’ll get ‘I pressed on’ – meaning your current situation is NOT your final destination.” –Unknown

Working with a coach can be beneficial for exploring one’s emotions and gaining clarity on how to move forward in life. Are you ready to take the first step? 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

I Have Anxiety And Depression. What Can I Do?

A young black woman dealing with anxiety and depression.

Feeling anxious or down from time to time is a common human experience that we all go through in life. Although anxiety and depression are different conditions, they commonly occur together. And sometimes, it can be a struggle to determine the difference between the two. 

Because anxiety and depression have many overlapping symptoms (for example, problems with sleep can be seen in both generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder), getting an accurate diagnosis to treat the correct condition is vitally important. This is especially so if the individual is experiencing both of them simultaneously.

If you have never wrestled with mental health issues, it can be challenging to understand the struggle. Look below at some comments from people who live with anxiety and depression daily. 

It’s like living with two different people inside your head.

“The anxiety makes you stress over the littlest thing (like going to bed with dishes in the sink), and you berate yourself for it. But then the depression tells you there’s no point in taking care of it because nothing matters anyway, so you stay in bed. Then while you lay there, your mind wigs out about everything else going on, but you don’t have the energy to sort it all out.” — Carmella D.

It’s a never-ending rollercoaster.

“You worry all the time. The voices inside your head won’t stop. You stress over every little detail, yet sometimes you can’t even care. You feel exhausted every day. It’s hard to concentrate or find the energy to do anything. It sucks the life right out of you.” — Brian T.

Nothing brings you joy.

“You always have this sense of fear even when there’s nothing to be afraid of. Your mind tells you there’s always something to worry about. You overthink and worry about things to the point where you can’t sleep, lose your appetite, and can’t breathe. The depression feels like a heavy weight on your chest. You feel constantly tired, sad, and uninspired. Nothing seems to bring much joy, and you feel alone and withdrawn. It feels overwhelming.” — Abbey B.

It’s like living a nightmare.

“It’s a vicious cycle of not caring about anything because of the depression while caring too much about everything because of the anxiety. You want to sleep and forget everything, but you can’t because you are overthinking everything you didn’t do or have to do.” — Cameron T.


People dealing with anxiety and depression say waking up every day is a struggle. They feel like they are fighting a battle day in and day out. But if you ask them what’s one of the hardest parts?—It would be trying to hide it. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of others often keep them from talking about their difficulties. And even though they long to confide in someone who genuinely understands what they are dealing with, the fear of being viewed as “different” holds them back from reaching out for support.

Suppose you are someone who lives with anxiety and depression. In that case, you know what these people are talking about because you live it. You need to know you are not alone, even though you might feel lonely. Anxiety and depression affect more of us than you know. Or maybe anxiety and depression are not your struggles, but you know or live with someone whose struggle it is. Hopefully, reading this will help you to empathize with what they are dealing with. 


There would be no point in writing this blog if I didn’t offer a word of encouragement and hope — and that being that symptoms of anxiety and depression are treatable. In fact, there are many ways to get help, and you can even try some on your own.

  1. Talk Therapy – A professional therapist will work with you to develop a plan to treat your anxiety and depression at the same time. There are many types of talking therapy, and different therapies suit different people. Working with a trained therapist will help you find answers to your problems and give you the skills to manage your symptoms.
  2. Medication – Sometimes, along with talk therapy, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant drug that can treat both depression and anxiety symptoms.
  3. Exercise – This can be very helpful for both disorders. Physical activity is a proven mood-booster. It releases feel-good chemicals in the body, aiding relaxation and well-being.
  4. Relaxation Techniques – Give yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises a try. Meditating for just 2-5 minutes during the day can ease your anxiety and lighten your mood.
  5. Watch Your Diet – Anxiety and depression often trigger cravings for carbs in the form of unhealthy “comfort foods.” It’s essential to take care of yourself by eating a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, good fats, and lots of fruits and veggies while limiting sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
  6. Get Support – This one is vitally important! Anyone going through struggles knows that having solid relationships helps you feel better. And living with anxiety and depression is no different. Reaching out to family and friends and letting them know what you’re going through is an excellent place to start. But joining a support group is especially helpful because you’ll meet others going through the same things. There, you might also discover coping suggestions and encouragement from others that will be helpful.


When someone you love or care about is experiencing symptoms of mental illness, you are presented with some complex and unique challenges. Getting support for yourself is as important as the loved one with the condition. Not only to learn how to be helpful and supportive of the person you care about but also to learn how to take care of yourself in the process. Often, some of the best support can come from others walking in your shoes.

Whether you are dealing with anxiety or depression, you need to find out and understand what is happening. It’s okay to ask for help and to take care of yourself.

It is often the small steps, not the giant leaps that bring about the most lasting change. — Queen Elizabeth II

If you want to feel better, working with a coach is a great way to develop the coping skills to deal positively with whatever life throws at you. Let’s work together to bring healing and balance to your life so that you can feel in charge of your inner self again.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together, let’s work on strategies to help you move forward through any problematic situations you may be going through right now and ones you may encounter in the future.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

The Link Between Excessive Social Media And Unhealthy Feelings

Young woman scrolling through social media on her phone

If you frequently feel anxious, stressed, sad, angry, or overwhelmed, it’s essential to identify the source of these emotions. Can you pinpoint a specific circumstance or situation that explains why you feel this way? If not, it’s possible that spending too much time on social media could be contributing to these negative emotions. Anxiety, depression, and other unhealthy feelings are often linked to excessive social media use, so it’s worth considering whether this could be a factor in your emotional state.

Years ago, I wrote a blog about limiting our exposure to negativity on social media. Little did I know then just how much more junk would be “coming down the pike.” 

Social media is here to stay

There are currently more than 20 social networks operating worldwide. However, it should come as no surprise that Facebook dominates the market. Initially created as a platform for college students to connect, it has since grown into one of the largest social networks in the world.

According to statistics, an average Facebook user has 338 friends. This implies that your newsfeed has the potential to receive contributions from at least 338 sources, including any comments posted by them. On top of that, other unwanted Facebook pages push their content on your newsfeed, along with numerous platforms you have access to. All of this combined results in an overwhelming amount of information to process.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of social media

As humans, we are social beings and require the companionship of others to flourish in life. Social media has the potential to broaden our circle of connections significantly. It offers us the chance to feel more linked, supported, and engaged, which can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as prevent loneliness and improve self-esteem. These are only some of the many advantages that social media can provide.

As we scroll through our social media feeds to keep up with loved ones, we sometimes stumble upon content we did not expect to see. While we may come across interesting and helpful content such as educational articles, inspiring stories, recipes, and funny memes, social media platforms can also be a source of disturbing, shocking, angering, and other types of unpleasant information.

Have you ever noticed how often you come across posts, articles, or videos on social media that leave you feeling upset or negative in some way? Even if you’re taking a quick break, it’s easy to stumble upon content that makes you feel sad, angry, anxious, or inferior. For example, you might be watching a cute video of your friend’s child dancing, but the next thing you see in your newsfeed could instantly ruin your mood.

Subjects leading to anxiety, depression, and unhealthy feelings

Here’s a list of the types of posts that I’m talking about that have the potential of turning any warm and fuzzy feelings you might have been feeling into hot and bothered emotions:

  • Politics, Politics, and MORE Politics
  • Multiple warnings of how to recognize the signs of various cancers or other life-threatening diseases
  • Religion
  • Sensationalized “news” stories
  • Civil unrest
  • Protests/boycotts

Do you recognize any of these hot-button topics? Can we all agree that each subject has the potential to evoke an emotional response? If you don’t think so, look at some threads that follow such posts to know this is true.

Social media and secondhand stress

Social media, especially Facebook, can inform people about sad or traumatic events happening in the lives of others. This includes not just close friends and family but even strangers whom we may never meet. However, this can often cause an increase in stress for many people. It’s a well-known psychological fact that stress is contagious; the anxiety and sadness of others can affect our own emotions, even if we are not directly involved in the situation. Here are a few examples:

  • Devastation worldwide by natural disasters
  • GoFundMe pages for people you don’t know who are going through traumatic situations.
  • Missing or abused animals

Have you ever considered how much time you spend on social media and how it affects your emotions? If reading this blog has made you realize that the daily influx of stressful posts could be the cause of your anxiety, depression, or other unhealthy feelings? I suggest you stay logged off for more extended periods to reduce your exposure to unnecessary and unwanted stress.

“When your mental health becomes impacted by social media, then it is time for a detox.” ― Germany Kent

Suppose you’ve been feeling any of the emotions mentioned at the beginning of this blog. In that case, it’s essential to determine the cause of your emotional distress and take action to address it. Working with a coach is an effective way to explore your emotions and learn coping strategies.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

Who Needs A Good Night’s Sleep? – Why, You Do!

A young woman in bed getting a good night's sleep.

Now that it’s January, hopefully, the busyness of the holiday season is but a distant memory. I don’t know about you, but by the end of all the planning, wrapping, cooking, and events, I usually feel I have run a marathon and am looking forward to the finish line where I can get some much-needed rest. How about you? Unfortunately, that is one present you never find wrapped under the tree – a much-needed rest. However, who says you can’t give it to yourself now? It’s not too late; in fact, it’s the perfect time to give it to yourself to start the new year right. Everyone needs a good night’s sleep. Every night!

Why we don’t get a good night’s sleep 

Because we live in such a fast-paced society, the benefits of a good night’s rest can be easily overlooked. Many of us do not make it a practice to get the sleep we need. We know the quantity and/or quality of sleep our bodies require is important. But too often, we “borrow” time from our sleep, thinking we can make it up later. Does that ever really work?

Sleep deprivation can cause mental and physical distress

Traditionally, sleep problems were once viewed as symptoms of a psychiatric disorder. However, studies now suggest that sleep problems may raise your risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression, along with physical problems, such as a weakened immune system, cardiovascular problems, and other illnesses.

Our brains need time to reboot

During the day, our brains take in a vast amount of information. And instead of that information being directly taken in and recorded, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored. It is during sleep that many of these steps happen.

Overnight, all of the information we ingest during the day is transferred from more temporary, short-term memory to more substantial, long-term memory through a process called “consolidation.” Isn’t it amazing that our brains can do that while in slumber?

Sleeping well is as essential to your health as eating, drinking, and breathing. While you sleep, your brain repairs your body — physically and mentally. In the deepest sleep stages, tissues grow, muscles relax, and energy is restored. Sleep restores hormones, skin cells, liver functions, heart health, and even more. So you see, sleeping is more than just resting after a full day — it’s more like an overall “tune-up” of our mind and body.


  • being cranky, moody, irritable, short-tempered
  • having a hard time concentrating or staying focused on tasks
  • feel like you are dragging throughout the day, excessive yawning
  • cravings for sugary or fatty foods resulting in weight gain
  • you get sick often
  • feeling forgetful
  • change in appearance, red, puffy eyes, dark circles under eyes, sallow skin
  • feeling depressed

So, what are your sleep habits? Are you consistently getting a good night’s sleep? If you are, great! If not, tonight is the right time to start! Good sleep habits can help you get the good night’s sleep you need. Here are just four habits that can help you to improve your sleep health:

1. Create and stick to a sleep schedule

It is recommended that adults get at least seven hours and usually no more than 8 hours of sleep per night. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Being consistent each night and even on the weekends will help reinforce your body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you don’t fall asleep within the first 20 minutes, get out of bed and relax, such as reading or listening to soothing music. When you start to feel tired, go back to bed. This might need to be repeated.

2. Design a sleep friendly bedroom.

Your room should make you feel peaceful and relaxed. Look around. Does your room look relaxing, or does it look like a jumbled-up mess? It helps if you keep it clean and uncluttered. Also, keeping the room dark, quiet, and comfortable, usually on the cool side, is best. You should remove any electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, or smartphones, as they can hinder you from sleeping well.

3. Limit what you eat and drink before bedtime.

Eating a heavy or oversized meal within a few hours of bedtime can disrupt sleep. Once you eat, your metabolism fires up, making it difficult to fall asleep as well as sleep soundly. Coffee, sodas, teas, and even chocolate contain caffeine that can take as much as eight hours to fully wear off, so a late afternoon cup of coffee could interfere with falling asleep at night. And while you might consider an alcoholic drink to encourage sleep, it’s not the healthiest solution for a good night’s rest. Drinking can rob you of deep and REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep.

4. Get some exercise.

That is, during the day – right before bed, not so much. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night. However, try not to exercise within 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime. The activities before bedtime should be calm, such as reading, bathing, or using a relaxation technique to promote better sleep.

Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow. — Tom Roth

Many other helpful tips can help induce a good night’s sleep, such as not taking naps after 3pm, managing worries and concerns, and having a good mattress and pillow, etc. Still, the four I specifically pointed out are some biggies.

I can’t stress enough just how vital a good night’s sleep is to your physical and mental well-being. While sleeping well is not a guarantee of good health, it does help to maintain many of your body’s vital functions. There is ample evidence to show that getting the right kind and right amount of sleep each night makes you feel better and increases the odds of living a healthier, more productive life.

 If your sleep regimen needs some tweaking and you want to discover what is in the way of getting that good night’s sleep, working with a coach is an excellent way to get some much-needed answers. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Five Steps To Overcome Loneliness During The Holidays

Woman staring at christmas lights in her hand looking sad

Driving through town this time of year, you can’t miss that it’s all aglow with everyone’s unique version of holiday decorating. Whether Christmas trees glow in living rooms, twinkling orbs of color along roof lines, or yards sprouting with every lighted blow-up imaginable, it truly takes on the image of a winter wonderland! And yet, with all the extra light shining forth, it seems like the darkest time of the year for you. And you are left struggling with a sense of loneliness during the holidays.

The irony is you might even live in one of those houses with a Christmas tree shining out of the front window. And maybe you put it up because it was the expected thing to do at this time of year. Nevertheless even though your tree shines brightly, you feel you live amid the darkness.

Expectations can be a killer

You know that the expectation of the holiday season should bring about a sense of connection with family and friends — complete with beautiful decorations, friends gathering around crackling fires, laughing and bonding with family. But, it’s just not your reality. Instead, your sense of loneliness during the holidays feels overwhelming to you, and if you could, you would hibernate for the whole month of December.

Feeling lonely can make you dread the holiday season more than any other time of year. And watching everyone else (or so it can seem) connect with their loved ones makes your feeling of emotional isolation even more pronounced.

Reasons for loneliness

The reasons for this loneliness can vary but possibly could stem from the loss of a loved one either through death, divorce, separation by long distance, or other circumstances. Or, perhaps the thought of getting to know people makes you uncomfortable. Whatever the case may be, the struggle is real in dealing with loneliness and sadness this time of year.

You might feel that you are alone in your feelings. You are not! Many people deal with loneliness and sadness through the holidays. It is actually quite common. And while you might not be able to rearrange your life to match your imagination of a perfect holiday, you can feel better by learning to approach the season differently. Therefore, I offer some suggestions on how to deal with the loneliness so that you can make your Christmas holiday a little more merrier.

5 Steps To Deal With Loneliness During The Holidays

  • SEEK OUT COMPANY – Loneliness feeds on itself and can overwhelm you if you are not careful. So, the best way to deal with it is to override the instinct to isolate yourself. Call a close friend or family member and go out for coffee or go shopping. Push yourself to get out in society or attend holiday celebrations.
  • VOLUNTEER – Many charitable causes and events provide services to the less fortunate, especially during the holidays. Serving others in need often helps you switch from being inward to outward-focused. It may also help you to realize that your situation might not be as bad as you think. Helping to make the season merrier for others in need can bring about a sense of fulfillment and happiness in your own life.
  • DON’T PLAY THE COMPARISON GAME – When you feel lonely, comparing your situation with everyone else can be easy but also problematic. “TRUST ME,” no one is experiencing the perfect Hallmark holiday season. What you see on TV is a make-believe (and very unrealistic), always happy-ending storyline. You don’t see the actors’ real personalities or the ups and downs of their personal lives. And those Facebook pictures? Just know most of them are edited and polished versions.
  • HONOR YOUR FEELINGS – Having experienced a loss or dealt with exceptionally hurtful situations in the past, feelings of loneliness or sadness are normal responses to what you have been through. Permit yourself to feel those feelings. However, I would like to add that if you can’t sometimes separate yourself from those feelings and instead find yourself engulfed by them, it could indicate a problem.
  • SHIFT YOUR FOCUS – Try redirecting your thoughts to what you do have instead of what you don’t have. Sometimes, you feel incomplete and unfulfilled because you forget to acknowledge any of the blessings and opportunities that have come your way in the last year. Changing your mindset can go a long way in easing those negative feelings of loneliness and unhappiness.

“A season of loneliness and isolation is when the caterpillar gets its wings. Remember that next time you feel alone.” —Mandy Hale

I hope you find these suggestions valuable for coping with your loneliness and unhappiness during this season of merriment and the days beyond. However, suppose you continue to struggle with profound loneliness. In that case, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills that can help manage unhealthy emotions. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. Please contact me or schedule your phone call today. Let’s explore your feelings and work towards finding some light to overcome any darkness.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

4 Things That Can Keep You From Being Thankful

Woman smiling at the table being thankful

So here we are in November already (big sigh). And because the holiday of the month is Thanksgiving, my chant for the month will be, “will be thankful! ” (That is, thankful that spring and summer will come again!) Whatever! Back to Thanksgiving. Even though there are different theories on when and how the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, most people understand it to be a day of giving thanks. But what do you do when you just don’t feel like being thankful? 

I get it! Life can undoubtedly deliver setbacks to us all, such as grief over a loss, rocky finances, sour relationships, loneliness, health issues (physical or mental), etc. And the very last thing a person dealing with these types of issues might feel like doing is celebrating by giving thanks. If you are one of those individuals, I hope after reading this blog, you will have found something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and beyond.

However, before I go any further, I want to be clear about something first. Suppose you are genuinely experiencing a dire situation right now. In that case, I don’t want to come across as being flippant or uncaring. There really are times when overwhelming grief or sadness are the appropriate emotions. This blog is more for the person who is just in a general “funk,” shall we say, regarding the holiday as being a time to give thanks.


Imagine living in a world where we wanted nothing or nothing ever went wrong. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? You might think so, but then how would we ever learn to be grateful if we never experienced need? Have you ever really thought about it? Let’s talk about this for a second.

The first settlers that came to America endured many hardships. From sailing the dangerous seas to settling in a land of the unknowns, times were tough! After landing, they had to survive the harsh winter with little food. After losing so many to disease and starvation, those left in the spring planted their crops. After reaping their first successful harvest, it’s not hard to imagine how grateful they were, knowing they would have food to sustain them through the following winter.

If we never experienced hunger, how could we appreciate the food set before us? If we had millions in the bank and financially had no worries, how giddy would we be to find a $50 bill? Suppose we drove the latest model of vehicle on the market. How willing would we be to accept a donated or inexpensive car so we could get around town? If we never had an ache or illness, what would pain relievers or medical technology mean to us? If we never lost a loved one, how would we learn to cherish and hold dear those who have been put into our lives? 

Sometimes, we have so much at our disposal that we tend to take “stuff” for granted. It’s easy to do. And yet, unfortunately, we don’t run out of things to complain about or be unthankful for either. 


  1. Envy  This can be a big one, and it can be ugly. Comparing yourself or your “possessions” to others is a surefire way to feel inadequate, depressed, or a failure. 
  2. Dwelling on what you don’t have – When you are so focused on what you don’t have, it’s harder to see and be thankful for what you do have. 
  3. Hanging on to the past (hurts, let-downs, injustices) – In the world of psychology, there is a term called rumination. It literally means “Chewing the cud.” It’s what cows do—Chew, swallow, regurgitate, re-chew. It’s suitable for cattle but not so much for humans. Ruminating is like a stuck record that keeps repeating the same lyrics. 
  4. Fear of what being grateful might bring – Say what? Yes, some people excel at focusing on their suffering (and sharing it, I might add). It’s a way of life for them to constantly complain, hold regular self-pity parties, and play the martyr. Changing would mean stopping these behaviors and having to acknowledge others’ difficulties and find something else to talk about instead of their own problems. So, for them to be grateful, it could turn their lives upside down, but in a good way!

So now, to answer what to do if you don’t feel thankful. Dig deep and really look at your life. Consider all the things you should and can be grateful for. They are there! Everyone, everywhere, has something to be thankful for. Look past the challenges before you (I know they are there.) If, after looking around, the only thing you can be grateful for is that you had just enough milk to cover your cereal this morning, then “Bye, Golly! Be thankful for that!” 


I have an exercise for you. Get a pen and paper. Write down all the things you can think of that you can be thankful for. Don’t overlook anything! Even things we tend to take for granted, from biggies like food and water, electricity, transportation, nature, family, and friends, right down to things like socks without holes. You should do this for a couple of days as different things come to your mind. Then, I want you to contemplate what your life would be like without those things you wrote down. I believe it will seem pretty grim. So, do you have anything to be thankful for? 

Gratitude helps us to appreciate the moment in front of us, even during trying times. It contributes to increased physical and mental health. While it doesn’t take away the challenges we face, it will help us to see life in the best possible light. I hope this makes sense to you, but this thought just came to me: the nose that smells a skunk also has the ability to smell a rose. So go out there and look for some “roses.”

 “If a fellow isn’t thankful for what he’s got, he isn’t likely to be thankful for what he’s going to get.” — Frank A. Clark

Maybe you struggle to be in a thankful mood and can’t quite figure out why. In that case, working with a coach is a great way to explore your emotions and work together on devising a plan to move forward.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And even though it’s November, I believe we can still find you a “rose” garden to tend to. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This article first appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan

The Tricks And Treats Of Seasonal Eating

Beautiful girl siting outside in the fall leaves

Well, we’ve flipped over another calendar page, and “Hello, October.” I’ll admit that I hate to see my summer packed up and stored away. However, I do appreciate the changing seasons and the experiences they bring. I am also aware that this time of year provides many opportunities (or should I say temptations) for some unhealthy seasonal eating, which carries a level of anxiety for some. 

We all know every season has its temptations, but I think for the majority, these coming months can prove to be especially trying; otherwise, there wouldn’t be memes like this one:

“I was gonna start dieting, but Halloween is coming up, then Thanksgiving and Christmas candy. Before you know it, it’s BBQ season again, and I’m not about to turn down a cheeseburger.” — Anonymous

Seasonal eating

Since childhood, Halloween has always been the official “kick-off” of the holiday season for me. I’m sure it had something to do with my anticipation of having a bulging pillowcase full of candy stashed in my bedroom by night’s end. Ahh, those were the days of ignorant nutritional bliss!

While I might not be gorging on an unhealthy amount of candy as an adult, the cooler weather tempts me to switch up my daily menus to include some comfort foods and put me in the mood to bake more goodies in the oven. 

And how about those coffee shops like Starbucks tempting us to drive through and pick up their latest seasonal drink? Here’s a fun fact for you: a grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks has 50 grams of sugar and 14 grams of fat. And that’s without the whipped cream! Now toss in a pumpkin muffin and a couple of candy bars throughout the day (that you bought for the trick-or-treaters, wink-wink), and the extra sugar and calories consumed by nightfall could be called downright spooky!

So, does that mean we should avoid seasonal dishes or not enjoy some fall goodies? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, let’s love ourselves more than the offerings and be mindful of just how easy it is to let those extra calories “creep” in. Below are some tips that will hopefully help you (and me) to not “fall” in the fall: 

Be mindful that eating increases in the fall

We eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall. Maybe it’s a biological thing—putting on weight in preparation for the potential winter famine our ancestors faced. Or, could it simply be because fatty, high-calorie foods are more readily available during these colder months? You know, caramel apples, heavy pasta dishes, or pumpkin pie. Whatever the case, starting the season with a mindful approach will keep you a step ahead.

Eat the autumnal colors  

Seasonal eating can be healthy. Autumn is the season of warm, vibrant colors like deep green, dark yellows, and brilliant oranges. Nurture yourself by eating fresh seasonal foods. They are packed with great nutrients like fiber, protein, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, which are good for you.

Set goals and limits 

Remember to be realistic. Moderation is the key! If goals are more open and specific, it will be much easier to rise to the challenge. Establish clear nutrition and health goals (dessert two times a week, one cookie instead of two, a thirty-minute walk five times a week, etc.) 

Pay attention to your wardrobe 

Now that your shorts and sandals are put away, it’s time for roomy sweaters, sweatshirts, and stretchy leggings. It’s easy to lose touch with your body when you are all cozily wrapped up. So remember to break out your favorite jeans, and if they start feeling a little too snug, you will have your first clue that your goals and limits need a little tweaking.

Get outside

Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside and go for a walk or take a bike ride. It’s an enjoyable and easy way to balance out your holiday treats to avoid the dreaded fall weight gain. It’s also a great mood booster to boot.

Keep the stress under control

This time of year brings a certain energy as well as stress with it. The laidback atmosphere of summer is replaced with a building sense of hustle and bustle as we work out new schedules, school, and sports activities for our kids, to name a few. And let’s not forget the upcoming, often stressful holiday expectations knocking on our doors.

A little stress is okay and can be motivating to accomplish tasks. However, persistent stress causes your cortisol levels to rise. And yes, you will feel motivated, but your appetite will also increase. And what kinds of food are you drawn to when under stress? You guessed it, “Feel good” foods. That is, foods high in fat, sugar and salt. It’s called “stress-eating”.

So, with that, I really do encourage you to be mindful in the months ahead. Be good to yourself, make wise decisions regarding the celebrations, and manage your stress level. By all means, celebrate to your heart’s content. But if you are mindful at the beginning of fall seasonal eating, you won’t end the season with regret. And that’s a win! 

If you want assistance in finding ways to navigate this tricky season of treats, working with a coach is an excellent way to develop techniques you can use now and every season throughout the year.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’m looking forward to your call!

In The Pursuit Of Happiness You Can’t Excape The Pain

Smiling woman in the dark holding a lighted umbrella

The pursuit of Happiness: As Americans, we all have the right to pursue happiness. It even says so in the Declaration of Independence. However, what the founding fathers were talking about then is quite different from what the average American today considers happiness to be.

What Is Happiness?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as “a state of being happy” or “an experience that makes you happy.” That seemed too simplistic, so I looked up the word in other dictionaries, and they all said the same thing. I kept digging until I could find something a little meatier. And then, I came upon a definition on Wikipedia that summed it up well for me. It said that happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. 

Sometimes, Happiness Is Found In The Little Things

That definition reminded me of an incident involving my dad many years ago. My family was vacationing at a cottage on a lake with other family members. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining down on the lake, making it look like glass. My dad eased himself down in a chair and leaned back with a cup of coffee in one hand and a donut in the other. With a massive grin, he leaned back, let out a happy sigh, and stated, “Life is good!”

At that exact moment, all the circumstances had come together for him, and he was experiencing a state of being happy. That didn’t mean that everything in his life was perfect or he had no problems. It just meant that the simple experience he was enjoying at that moment translated into a period of happiness.

You notice that I said a (period) of happiness. Obviously, that donut and coffee would only last for a short time. My dad also knew he had to go home at the end of the week. And anyone who has gone on vacation knows when it’s over, and you walk back into your home, “life” has been waiting for you to pick it back up where you left it the week before. And, as we all know, life is a mixed bag of ups and downs. It is unrealistic to think that we can stay in a state of happiness all the time, even though we might think we should be able to.

True Happiness Isn’t About Being Happy All The Time

Let’s take my dad’s experience, for example. Most of us can envision staying lakeside surrounded by loved family members, feeling happy as a clam (and let’s not forget the coffee and donuts). But what if he had to repeat that experience every morning? How long do you think it would take before the novelty of the experience starts to wear off, and he starts complaining, “Is this all we have to eat, a donut?” 

Think of the adventures in your life that made you over-the-top happy. Maybe it was a new car, you got a raise, or you moved into a new house. Can you see where I am going with this? Eventually, that new car will get older and break down; your raise won’t quite meet your needs that you thought it would, and that new house? Well, you quickly found out your next-door neighbors had three dogs that barked all day, and their teenagers loved to play hard rock music loud enough to rattle your windows.

So, let’s go back to one of the definitions of happiness, which states, “Happiness is an experience that makes you happy.” Even though we might think we would like to be happy all the time, it is illogical to think we could. Pleasure alone cannot make us happy. Although endless fun seems idyllic, the reality is often very different. 

Everyone wants happiness, and nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a bit of rain. – Anonymous 

Experiencing something painful provides a contrast for pleasure. Nobody asks for pain or goes looking for it. Still, studies have shown that experiencing relief from pain can increase our feelings of happiness and also reduce our feelings of sadness. Pain may not be a pleasurable experience in itself. Still, it builds our pleasure in ways that pleasure alone cannot achieve.

How Pain Can Bring Happiness

Let me give you a personal example. Years ago, when my husband proposed to me and gave me a diamond engagement ring, I was ecstatic. I showed it to everyone and constantly looked at it in different lights to marvel at the different colors that would shine out of it. But over the years, I stopped doing that. Eventually, it just became a normal part of life — not even feeling it on my finger. Then, one day, I noticed the diamond was missing. Needless to say, I was devastated. We looked everywhere for it, even tracing our steps in a mall we had been to. Even though we could have bought another diamond to replace it, for sentimental reasons, I wanted THAT diamond. I was heartbroken that we couldn’t find it.

I don’t remember now how long I went without the diamond. Still, I DO remember the night sitting on the couch with my husband talking when suddenly he exclaimed, “Look,” and reached down and picked up something (from the shag carpet, I know, that dates me) and held it out to me. It’s hard to believe, but I was staring at my missing diamond!

As you can imagine, I was over the top happy. And in some ways, I was even more pleased than when he gave it to me the first time. All because I felt pain when I thought it was gone forever. In this instance, the pain enhanced the pleasure and happiness I felt.

Embrace The Good, The Bad, And Everything In Between

Yes, happiness ranks high on the list of desires of all human beings. But even if we could have everything we ever wanted, we would still be subject to life’s highs and lows. What is important is how we respond to the circumstances of our lives. That has more influence on our happiness than the events themselves. If we don’t learn to enjoy the little things in life, our well-being will parallel our life’s circumstances. Every time something goes wrong, we will feel miserable (as opposed to disappointed but determined to make the best of things).

We all need to work on a skill for consistent, long-term happiness: to think about the things that fill us with the most joy, focus on those things, and let them brighten our day. That way, no matter what changes, we all will have a variety of simple pleasures to draw from to get us through the bad times.

If you are struggling with the ups and downs of life and would like someone to help you put things into perspective, you will find working with a coach very beneficial. We can talk about pain and happiness and how they work together so you can live life from a more happy and balanced mindset.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know I am here to help. Please contact me or schedule your phone call today. I look forward to your call!

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

How To Handle A Chronic Complainer – Even If It’s You

Frustrated woman dealing with her chronic complaining co-worker.

In my last blog, I talked about three kinds of complainers and the negative effect chronic complaining can have on your physical and mental well-being. As promised, in this blog, we will learn how to deal with a chronic complainer and if there is such a thing as “the right way” to complain.

Are you a chronic complainer?

How many times throughout the day do you find yourself complaining? Indeed, there are endless things to complain about; the weather, neighbors, friends, kids, parents, boss, co-workers, bills, weight, politics, and inferior service at a restaurant, store, or repair shop. And then there’s everyone’s favorite — overseas customer service for cable, internet, or telephone providers (don’t even get me started)!

As you can see, the list could go on forever. So, what do you think? Do you complain more than you should? Or do you live or work with someone whose primary form of communication seems to be complaining? Either way, let’s look at how to deal with both.


1. Listen to yourself.

Most complainers don’t see (or hear) themselves as being negative. So, the first and most important step is to listen to yourself and note how much you complain. 

2. Stop and take a breath.

When you catch yourself starting to complain, pause, and take a moment to figure out what triggered the complaint. Then describe to yourself what you are thinking and feeling. Ask yourself if there is a purpose in complaining. In other words, do you see a positive outcome by complaining?

3. Accept responsibility. 

After you have taken a breather and figured out the emotions behind your complaint, seek a solution. Determine what you can do to improve the situation. Then address the people who can do something about it. However, the person who can do something about it frequently is the person you see in the mirror. For example, cutting ties to a bad relationship, better time management, sticking to a budget or taking better care of yourself. Despite the problem concerning you, remember the power to take control and do something about it lies within yourself.

4. Create new habits. 

When an old complaint rises to the surface, avoid falling back into past behavior. Make a new habit by seeing if you can look at it with a positive twist. For example, suppose it’s been raining for three days straight. Instead of whining about it, make it positive by saying, “Well, at least it’s rain and my grass is getting greener and not snow piling up waiting to be shoveled.” (For us Michiganders, that is a BIG plus.) This way, focusing on the positive rather than the negative can improve your mood and maybe change your life!


Because chronic complainers are typically resistant to solutions, living or working with them can sometimes be quite taxing. The key to dealing with them is to try to understand their mindset. 

Chronic complainers view the world rather than themselves as being negative. Hence, they feel justified in complaining about their irritating and unfair circumstances. 

Therefore, you won’t be too successful in convincing them that their circumstances aren’t as dire as they believe. In fact, if you try, you’ll quickly discover they have a boatload of other troubles to try to convince you otherwise. Therefore, try using one of the three tips below to see if you can get a more favorable outcome.


1. Give them what they want. 

The main reason complainers complain is to get sympathy and emotional validation for their perceived difficulties, so go ahead and give them what they want. You will find the best and quickest way to shorten the complaint session is to validate their feelings, convey sympathy, and then redirect their attention in another direction.

2. Recognize a genuine call for help. 

Even chronic complainers will have valid and legitimate complaints at some point. If you sense they really want help, still offer sympathy but quickly follow it up with pertinent advice. Or better yet, ask them what it would look like if they could have the perfect outcome for their situation. Then have them think of some things they could do to make it happen. This process will likely motivate them to handle future complaints as well.

3. Set some boundaries. 

And finally, when the chronic complainer is someone close to you, setting some boundaries is essential. Let them know you want to be there for them, but having the same conversation repeatedly is not doing either of you any good. Be open and honest with them about the effect the complaining has on you. Convey that even though you would like to help them, the constant complaining is also causing you to become stressed. You might encourage them to talk to someone qualified to help them manage their issues more successfully.

And lastly, learn to complain the right way. 

When you have a legitimate complaint, go to the person with the authority to do something about it. To be most effective, stick to the facts and know what you want for your desired outcome. 

There will be other times when you need to vent, and that’s okay! It’s actually healthy for you to do this when you do it in the right way. So, go ahead and find someone you can trust and blow off a little steam. Voicing frustrations in small doses can be a great stress reliever. However, make sure those vent sessions don’t turn into a cycle of complaining to anyone and everyone without the purpose of resolving your issues. 

“When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle

If you know you spend too much time in the complaint department and are tired of getting nowhere, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn techniques to change your mindset and make much-needed changes that can have meaningful consequences on your life.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, and I am here to help. I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together we can work to uncover the hidden feelings leading to this behavior and find a solution for a better and more optimal outcome.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.