7 Tips To Help You Cope With The Unexpected

Distressed woman looking down over a brown rail trying to cope with the unexpected.

Have you experienced cruising through life with things going smoothly, and you hit a bump in the road out of nowhere, causing you to slow down or even come to a screeching halt? Of course, I am referring to being confronted with an event that has stretched the limits of your average ability to cope with the unexpected making it hard for you to continue your daily routine. 

Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, divorce, serious illness, or experiencing a stressful or traumatic event such as a crime, accident, or natural disaster could all be considered a stressful situation that overwhelms your usual coping mechanisms. The event could even be perceived as being positive (marriage, starting a new job), but the stress associated with the event has exceeded your ability to cope with the unexpected.

The event doesn’t necessarily have to happen to you, it could happen to a loved one, and you are affected by watching them go through it.

We naturally experience emotional and mental responses when we go through these situations. But, of course, every person reacts differently, and there really is no right or wrong way to feel. You might even find yourself saying, “I feel depressed.” But are you experiencing true depression?

Situational depression. What is it?

What you could be experiencing is called Situational Depression which is a short-term condition that occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with or adjusting to a particular source of stress like those mentioned above. It has also been referred to as adjustment disorder rather than true depression. However, that does not mean you should ignore it. If situational depression goes untreated, it could develop into major depression.

So, are you having a hard time coping with the unexpected?

Ask yourself if you have any of these symptoms of situational depression:

  • Weight loss or gain — increase or decrease in appetite
  • A depressed mood
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling restless or slowed down
  • Trouble concentrating or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of excessive guilt 
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, thoughts of suicide with or without a plan


Have you had a stressful situation occur within the last three months before your symptoms developed?


Do you think your symptoms are worse than expected, or are you having trouble functioning in your job, school, or social relationships?

Suppose you can answer yes to these questions. In that case, you probably are experiencing situational depression. You could benefit from therapy or, at the very least, some self-help efforts to make you feel better. These are all symptoms that both situational and clinical depression share. However, unlike clinical depression, where you are overwhelmed by symptoms for a long time, situational depression should disappear once you have adapted to your new situation. 

Tips to cope with the unexpected

Several ways you might find helpful to cope with depression following trauma are:

  • Allowing yourself time to grieve. Don’t hide or deny your feelings.
  • Talk to friends and family members about how you feel. Ask for support from people you trust.
  • Keep to your daily routine. Even if you don’t feel like it, do your best to eat balanced meals and get plenty of rest.
  • Stay physically active. Even light exercise, such as walking, can help minimize the physical effects of stress.
  • Join a support group.
  • Don’t use alcohol or illegal drugs to cope.
  • Spend time doing things you enjoy (painting, working in your garden, watching a movie, spending time with friends, listening to music, or reading a book before bed instead of watching the news).

Seek help early on

The healing process after a traumatic event takes time, especially if you have experienced a personal loss.

Frequently, people who could benefit from therapy will not seek it because they think their reactions are normal and that they will pass or are ashamed of their emotions. While depression can be considered normal and experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives, that does not mean you can’t benefit from help dealing with the situation causing your distress. Your perception and perspective of life and its circumstances often dictate your mood. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your feelings and behavior. That is where therapy can be of great help.

It has been found that people who are depressed because of difficulty adjusting to their new situation are often the ones who respond most quickly and successfully to treatment. Once they can isolate some of the stresses and causes of their depression, they feel relieved. However, sometimes it is the anguish that they are depressed and the feeling of being out of control that can worsen the situation—so knowing why can free them up to examine how they can improve their situational depression by thinking about the stress differently.

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.” ― Angela N. Blount

Everyone, at some time in life, will face unexpected events. And most assuredly, some will be harder to navigate than others. But the above tips can make the whole process more manageable. However, if you want to learn additional skills to cope with the unexpected, working with a coach is a great way to do it. They can help you develop the skills and abilities to deal positively with whatever life puts in your path.

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

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

How To Break Negative Patterns In 3 Steps

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Have you ever felt caught in a continual loop of behavior that has had you asking, “Why me?” or saying, “Not again!”. At first, you might have seen the cycle of negative patterns as chance or bad luck, but as time passed, you had to question if you were doing something to attract those situations. We’ll look into that in a minute.

As you know, February kicks off with Groundhog Day on February 2. As a kid, I remember waiting with fingers crossed to see if Punxsutawney Phil was/was not going to see his shadow meaning six more weeks of winter or early spring. It never occurred to me that a rodent seeing his shadow in Pennsylvania had absolutely nothing to do with the weather in my neck of the woods (or elsewhere). Nevertheless, out of curiosity, even though I am older and wiser, I still check in to see if “ole Phil” sees his shadow. Of course, I always hope that he doesn’t. Old habits die hard, I guess!

Speaking of Groundhog Day, have you ever watched the movie titled Groundhog’s Day starring Bill Murray? Murray plays a snarky weatherman who’s forced to cover the story of the weather-forecasting rat (his words) in the small town of Punxsutawney, PA. Long story short, Murray’s character relives the same day repeatedly, driving him nuts until finally, one day, he wakes up to find that it’s February 3, allowing him to go on with his life.


There are many speculations about the above story’s moral, but suffice it to say Bill Murray’s character kept repeating the same mistakes over and over again until one day, he finally got it right. Take a look below at some of the most common recurring negative behaviors and see if any of them look familiar.

  • Habitually being late for appointments
  • Being absent-minded
  • Emotional eating, gaining weight, dieting, then gaining it back
  • Attracting the same (wrong) type of people in your life that results in destructive relationships
  • Constant issues with friends, family members, authorities
  • Being financially irresponsible
  • Sleeping late
  • Not exercising even though you had planned to
  • Getting into arguments or quickly losing your cool
  • Procrastination, disorganization, inability to complete projects, or failure to meet deadlines.
  • Staying too late at work, getting burnt out
  • Addictions, recoveries, and relapses
  • Any unwanted situation that repeats itself


You can only change something if you’re conscious that it’s happening.

1. Identify Your Patterns

The first step to breaking a pattern is recognizing you’re in one. Next, look for something you keep repeatedly doing even though you have vowed not to do it anymore, such as hitting the snooze button too many times (causing you to be late), arguing with co-workers (relational issues), or impulse spending (being financially irresponsible). And the list could go on and on. 

Often the behavior is followed by complaining with the same intensity as if it was the first time it ever happened. Although you know it’s been going on for years. You make statements such as, “Why does this always happen to me?”, “I can’t believe I did that again!” or “People always treat me this way!”. As soon as you hear yourself say such phrases, pause and check yourself. You are probably in a cycle. You don’t have to keep going down that road, though. When you realize what’s going on, make a conscious decision to break it.

2. Getting to the root of the pattern

Like an iceberg, so much of who we are and why we do what we do is hidden below the surface. Getting to the root of the pattern will help explain the “why” you keep doing it. So when you find yourself repeating an unwanted pattern, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What makes you feel like doing it?
  • Where are you when you feel like doing it?
  • When do you do it?
  • Who makes you feel like doing it?

You will find that the root cause isn’t external but stems from your thoughts, emotions, personality, choices, beliefs, or past. Sometimes, decisions have been made early in life to cope with or survive an existing situation. Those decisions can often be carried on into adulthood even though the difficult circumstances are no longer present. But, then, on an unconscious level, they stand in the way of achieving what you desire in life.

Understanding the reasons and emotions behind your behavior will help you focus on how to work through the issues. Because all the behaviors are yours alone, you hold the key and the power to change them.

3. Breaking the pattern

Here’s where the work really begins as you take some action steps. Instead of repeating the pattern as if on autopilot, respond more thoughtfully. Choose to react differently. In other words, do something different from what you have always done at that moment. Yes, it will initially feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but be encouraged; it will lead to more favorable outcomes. 

Be patient with yourself as you work through this process. You only develop your patterns after some time. Therefore, it is unrealistic to think you will overcome unwanted habits overnight. But, just like any other personal development technique, the more you do it, the easier it will become. There’s liberation ahead!

“If you change nothing, nothing will change.” — Tony Robbins

As for me? Now that I have identified my pattern of relying on Punxsutawney Phil “pfft!” to bring me an early spring, I’m going to break that pattern this year. Oh Yeah! From now on, I will be celebrating “Hoodie-Hoo Day” on February 20. What is Hoodie-Hoo day, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Hoodie-Hoo Day is a holiday somebody created to chase away winter and make way for spring. So you go outside at high noon, wave your hands over your head and yell, “Hoodie-Hoo!” And nope, I didn’t just make that up. It’s an actual holiday! Look it up. Hey, what do I have to lose, right?

Okay, being serious now, we all have patterns in our life, don’t we? And yes, some are just a silly nuisance, but others can be negative behaviors causing troublesome issues. 

If you are at the place where you want to stop the negative patterns and replace them with positive ones, I believe you can use the steps above to make some much-needed changes in your life. However, while it’s good to solve problems on our own, sometimes we all can use a little help. And working with a coach can be a great way to help you stay motivated to reach success. 

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

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

How To Plan For Success In The New Year

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And just like that, with a flip of the calendar, we’re off to a rolling start of a new year. And that provides us the opportunity for a “do-over” or a “fresh start,” if you will. So whether you left last year with more of a “Good riddance” than a “Sorry to see you go” kind of attitude, it’s still the perfect time to plan for success in the new year. 

Now to be clear, I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions here. Those rarely are carried out past the first couple of weeks anyway. I’m talking about looking ahead with a sense of expectancy and setting goals on want you want to accomplish in the new year, THE WHOLE YEAR, and even beyond! 

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a famous french writer, once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” So, unfortunately, you can wish for something to happen, but in all reality, it is up to you to make it happen. 


You are in the driver’s seat. So obviously, you need to make a plan and carry it out. But first, you must reflect on the past year and then decide what to do to make 2023 the best it can be for you.


Think of 2022 as a parking space you pulled into, like at the grocery store. You had a purpose for going there, but now it’s time to leave. To get out of the parking space, you first have to check your car’s rearview mirror to back out so you can go forward to the next place on your “To do” list.


Everyone approaches a new year with different emotions. Some might look back with regret or sadness about things done or not done. Others might not want to let it go because it was a good year for them. I have experienced both scenarios. And that probably goes for everyone else reading this blog. 

Here are some questions you can ask yourself and thoughts of reflections that you might find helpful in planning for success in the new year:

  • What would you say was the best thing that happened to you in the past year?
  • What was the most challenging thing you had to deal with?
  • Pick three words to describe the past year.
  • What relationships would you say you spent the most valuable time with?
  • What was your biggest time waster in the past year?
  • What activities would you say were worth your time spent?


So now you’ve looked into the rearview mirror and noted what obstacles might have been in your path over the past year. Next, it’s time to map out the direction you want to take to move forward. Here are some helpful suggestions for you to get you on your way.

  • Celebrate your accomplishments of the past year.
  • Make a list of what is important to you emotionally, professionally, spiritually, and physically. 
  • Pick three words to describe what you want to focus on in the next year.
  • Come up with a plan to cultivate the relationships that are important to you.
  • Weed out activities that robbed you of time that could have been spent on more worthwhile and productive things.
  • Remember, you might have to check your rearview or side mirror once in a while if you need to change lanes to get where you want to be.
  • You’re on a lifelong journey. Take your time, or you will likely get overwhelmed. Stop off on the side of the road periodically and take a minute to smell the flowers along the way. And remember to pat yourself on the back for your effort and accomplished deeds. 


Here is some advice to remember as you travel your road to success. 

  • While carrying out your plan throughout the new year, circumstances outside your control may thwart your objectives. That’s just how life goes. But not to worry, for there’s a saying I heard long ago from an unknown author: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not become broken.” 
  • It’s okay if you have to tweak your plan here or there. The main thing is to stick to your plan and keep working towards the goals you made to the best of your ability.
  • Don’t get discouraged along the way. You will find that consistent and effective effort will lead to success. 

“Plan for the future because that’s where you are going to spend the rest of your life.” — Mark Twain

Having a plan for success means you intend to go somewhere or do something. And there’s no time like the present to get started. Wouldn’t you agree? And working with a coach is a great way to help you stay motivated for higher achievement in your plan for success. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And here’s to a fresh start and your plan for success!

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Handling Your Emotions During The Holidays

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As I was decorating my Christmas tree this year, I was reminded that ornaments and emotions have something in common. And that is that each can be fragile and must be handled with care. I’ll get to the handling your emotions during the holidays part a little later on. But first, I want to share how I concluded that ornaments and emotions have something in common.

Ornaments and Emotions — FRAGILE/ Handle With Care!

A couple of years ago, I was looking for new tree ornaments to prepare for the coming Christmas season. I had been to the usual places you would typically go to find them, but nothing had yet caught my eye. Then, of all places, I happened to stop into a furniture store, and lo and behold. There they were. They were hanging on the store’s display tree. I was so excited I had found just what I was looking for.

However, my excitement was somewhat diminished when I found out the only available ones were the five on display. Even the warehouse was out (I had wanted at least fifteen). So, I decided to take the ones they had in the store and call them good. Well, long story short, when the worker helping us went to remove the ornaments from the tree, the first one slipped through their fingers and hurtled to the ground, and broke in half. Now, I was down to a precious four. A couple of days after this little experience, I got to thinking. And this was when I correlated the fragility of ornaments and emotions together.

Five things I learned from a broken ornament

1. Fragile things need to be handled with extra care.

ORNAMENTS:  After the first ornament crashed to the floor, the worker taking the next ones off the tree handled them with extra precaution. 

EMOTIONS: The holidays can stir up diverse memories and feelings, some pleasant and some heartbreaking, leaving us with fragile emotions. Our hearts ache over loved ones who are no longer with us. We find ourselves feeling alone due to splintered relationships, or maybe our children have grown up or moved away, leaving us with only memories of Christmases past. Or maybe living with depression make the holidays especially hard for you. Whatever the case, sometimes we need to give ourselves or others some extra love at this time of year.

2. Things can still be beautiful even when they are broken. 

ORNAMENTS:  At first glance, the ornament lying on the ground looked unscathed. But as I picked it up, I could see the whole back part was missing. But you know what? It was still beautiful, and I even considered taking it home and hanging it on my tree. I knew if I positioned it just right, no one would see the parts missing.

EMOTIONS:  And that’s where we come in. There’s not a person on earth who has not felt broken at some time in life. Even though we started this life as a perfect little bundle of joy, we have incurred scrapes, missing pieces, and jagged edges along life’s journey. Each blemish and missing piece tells our story. It’s what makes us who we are. And each one of us is unique and still beautiful in our own way. 

3. Some things can’t be replaced. 

ORNAMENTS: Welp! As my ornament “bit the dust,” I knew I couldn’t replace it. “Oh well! C’est la Vie.” Now I have some old ornaments of my grandmother, who has long since passed on. And no one or nothing can replace her, but when I unwrap those ornaments year after year, they hold a special memory of her in my heart.

EMOTIONS:Throughout life, anything lost is only sometimes detrimental. Therefore, it’s a good reminder for us to emphasize things that matter. A broken ornament? “Pfft!” But taking time to appreciate what we have and cherish those we have in our lives right now? Yes, very important! 

4. Sometimes, you just have to sweep up the broken pieces and move on. 

ORNAMENTS: Okay, I’ll be honest with you. Once I told the salesman, “I’ll take all of them,” in my mind, that meant the ornaments were mine. In other words, “BE CAREFUL WITH THEM!” So, when the first one was “yanked” (maybe a slight exaggeration) off the tree, I was a little miffed (okay, more than a little)! But what could I do about it? The damage was done.

EMOTIONS: There’s a lot of water that’s gone under the bridge called life. So as you gather with family and friends over the holidays, don’t let past hurts and injustices overshadow this season’s joy. Forgive, forget and move on!

5. There are more important things than ornaments. 

ORNAMENTS: Sure, it bugged me that the store didn’t have the number of ornaments I needed. And then more annoyed when they broke one. But after my initial huff, I realized it was no big deal. Good grief! It was just an ornament! 

EMOTIONS: There will always be little annoyances in life and things that don’t always go according to plan. By putting things into perspective, we will learn not to “sweat the small stuff.” Too often, things like looking for the perfect ornament or the busyness of getting everything done for the holidays receive more care and attention than where it truly belongs. And that is our family, friends, and the other people in our world.

“The only way to get over the pain is to face it, embrace it, hug it and learn the lessons embedded within it.” ― Adele Theron

Wow! Who knew you could learn so much from a broken ornament? Honestly, I believe that little ornament means more to me now than before it broke. There are many broken people in our lives and around the world. One of them might even be you. Yes, it is Christmas time, but only sometimes is it the most wonderful time of the year. And even though adversity can make us stronger, sometimes, getting there requires a little extra help and special care. 

If you are dealing with fragile emotions as we head into the holidays. A time of year that can come with expectations and a whole array of emotions, working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills to help manage them.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So, therefore, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And I believe together; we can help you move forward to find the beauty even in the shards of brokenness.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

4 Reasons Why Practicing Gratitude Is Good For You

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In honor of this month being November when we celebrate “Thanksgiving,” I thought, what better topic to discuss than just that? Giving thanks, being grateful, and gratitude. And why practicing gratitude can be beneficial to our emotional and physical well-being. 

“Thank You!” Two little words can mean so much — or maybe not. I would hazard a guess to say that on occasion, we all probably throw that phrase out there without much thought or feeling behind it. How so, you might ask? Let me explain.

Do you remember, as a young tot, your parents teaching (and reminding) you to say “Please” and “Thank you?” I know I taught my children to say it. And it is good manners, and we should do that. But, if I am honest with myself, I’m not sure if I was always teaching them to practice gratitude or just teaching them good manners. I mean, after all, what parent wants their children to be thought of as rude and ungrateful? I want to think that my intentions were always for the right reason, but I’m not 100% sure.

A lesson to be learned

When I was about six years old, I was excitedly waiting my turn to open my Christmas gift in front of the whole family. You know, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandmas and Grandpas — the entire gang. And when I finally ripped the paper off and opened the box, the only thing that popped out of my mouth was, “I already have one of these!”. Well, needless to say, my parents did not appreciate my candor and outright honesty! 

The “talking to” I got on the way home must have made a big impression on me. And I’ll tell you why. Because when I finally had kids, they knew  the drill. It didn’t matter what was in that gift when they opened it. They were expected to smile and say, “Thank You!”. In fact, my children got to the point where they would pipe in and finish my little mantra before any family gathering where there would be presents. So the goal was to teach my children that even if they didn’t like what they got, they should recognize that the gift giver thought enough of them to give them a gift, and for that, they were to be grateful regardless of what was inside.

So, how important is it to be grateful? Robert A Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. In addition, he has researched and written many books on gratitude that reveal why gratitude is good for our bodies, minds, and relationships. I want to share a couple of key points of his research.

What practicing gratitude can do for you

 1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something. When we do that, we can enjoy its benefits and will be less likely to take it for granted. We notice the positive more, allowing us to appreciate life’s pleasures as they come.

2. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions. Emotions like envy, resentment, and regret can destroy our happiness. You can’t be grateful and envious at the same time. They are conflicting feelings. Research that was done by Emmons’ colleagues Michael McCullough and Jo-An Tsang suggests that people with high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.

3Grateful people are more stress-resistant. An interesting finding in several studies showed that people with a grateful disposition in life recover more quickly in the face of severe trauma, suffering, and adversity. He believes gratitude gives people a perspective that guards them against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety amid negative life events.

4. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. When you are grateful or practicing gratitude, you sense that someone else is looking out for you or maybe has somehow provided for your well-being. You are mindful of your network of relationships, past and present — people who have helped you along the way to where you are right now. You can change how you see yourself when you acknowledge how others have contributed to your life.

If you look for goodness, you will find it

There is goodness in our world. We have all benefited from it in some way. Of course, it doesn’t mean that life is perfect and that we don’t have discouragements and burdens along the way. That would be unrealistic. But we can strive to make it a habit to be present in our daily living and recognize all the good things in life that we get to enjoy. 

It can be such simple things that we take for granted every day. For example, the next time you brush your teeth, consider that all you have to do is turn the knob, and instantly you have fresh, clean water. You didn’t make that happen — it took lots of people to make that happen. 

Another part of practicing gratitude is figuring out where the goodness comes from. When it is not because of something we did, we must acknowledge others. Or even higher powers, if you are of a spiritual mindset, to give thanks for the many gifts received. Whether big or small, they have helped us to attain goodness in our lives.

Gratitude takes practice, just like any other skill. Thanksgiving Day is an excellent time to start, but don’t stop there. Keep practicing it daily so you can reap the benefits all year long. I’ll be right there with you practicing it too! 

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” — William Faulkner

Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop new techniques to incorporate into your life as part of a healthy mental and physical lifestyle. And now, in closing, it would be appropriate to give thanks to you, my readers, for reading my blogs. I hope you find them informational and inspiring. So, “THANK YOU!” for checking in to see what’s new, and I wish you all a very “Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know I am here to help. Therefore, please don’t hesitate to contact me or schedule your phone call today. I’d love to work with you as you make daily changes regarding gratitude that can lead to big results in improving your satisfaction and success in life. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

Yes, Your Changes In Emotions Could Be Tied To The Calendar

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Autumn is here, and I can deny it no longer seems how the calendar and the weather are now in cahoots with one another (sigh). I sigh because I love and live for summer, so I wring as much out of it as possible. Now because my usual modus operandi involves kicking and screaming into the colder months, I always have to talk sternly with myself to deal with it. How about you? Do you notice changes in emotions this time of year? How about other times of the year?

Are you one of those who get giddy at the first hint of crisp air and buy anything with the word pumpkin in it? Or do you go into a deep sense of mourning and want to hibernate until spring? For the latter, I feel your pain.

I’m sure you have observed how people approach this season or at different times of the year with vastly different views. But have you ever noticed how and when your feelings come at certain times of the year? 

What could the calendar have to do with changes in my emotions?

A leading Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. John Sharp, who wrote a book titled “The Emotional Calendar,” believes he has some answers. In his practice of over 20 years, he has seen many patients with specific and deep emotional reactions tied to the calendar. His book reveals how the seasons can profoundly shape our emotional lives. 

We all have personal experiences that have conditioned our emotional responses, and we probably don’t even realize it. However, we are keenly aware that at particular months, holidays, or seasons our mood changes in a way that sometimes we don’t understand and can’t quite pinpoint the reason.

It’s troublesome at particular times of the year when our changes in emotions do not coincide with expected feelings. These connections are often tied to memories of significant events in our lives. Such as the loss of a loved one, parental divorce, personal struggles, or holiday-related family gatherings. Or, it might have been a pattern that played out over many years, and if those years were early in life, it was especially bound to have left an impact. These emotions then seep from the past into the present. Dr. Sharp explains that everyone has “emotional hotspots” in times that are indelibly tied to their past.

What are emotional hotspots?

These emotions are a form of pattern recognition. Your mind makes sense of your experiences without you really thinking about them. For adults, positive and negative memories become “triggers” that cause feelings from the past to emerge.

Some emotions lay dormant until your senses stir up the memories. It might be a certain smell, a song that you hear, or walking outside and feeling the chill in the air. Whatever it is, we all have these experiences that are unique to us. 

For example, as a child, I always enjoyed going to Vacation Bible School in the summer. I especially loved craft time. And to this day, whenever I smell burlap, I am instantly transported back to a youngster at the craft table. Or, when a certain “oldie” starts playing on the radio, I remember the feelings of being a broken-hearted teenager. It’s amazing how our brain encodes our unique memories, catalogs those collections, and cross-references those events.

It’s a great feeling when the memories are pleasant. But what do we do when the memories are not so lovely? Especially when the calendar gives us a yearly reminder. While we cannot change the events in our past, we can replace our usual changes in emotions by purposely altering our responses to those memories. Each one of us has lived through emotionally hard and trying times. And to be honest, some people have had more than their fair share. However, our brains need not be chained to memories keeping us a prisoner to past circumstances.

Be proactive with your emotional health

Here’s an example of how a family friend decided that a sad situation wouldn’t become an “emotional hotspot” for her. My friend’s sister fell ill with cancer. After becoming apparent her sister was terminal, my friend took her into her home to care for her. As you can imagine, the family endured months of emotional turmoil until she eventually passed away.

Thanksgiving was going to be the first holiday without the sister. She knew it would be hard on the family to celebrate it in the same living room where their loved one had just died weeks before. Therefore, she rented a place that provided space to cook a meal, play games, and go on a hayride. She had determined to start a new tradition. By allowing the family to continue to share memories and laugh with each other, they were also making new memories, helping them all cope with the loss. That was over ten years ago, and this Thanksgiving, their “new” tradition continues. Something born out of sorrow has now become a special time for their family.

Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Working with a coach can be beneficial in helping you recognize how your changes in emotions might be affected by personal, cultural, and environmental changes throughout the year. In addition, a coach can help you discover the techniques needed to manage those moods and deal with them successfully. A negative mindset need not be set in stone.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or make an appointment online. Together, we can work on which strategies will work best for you to manage your emotions so you can enjoy any season that is at hand.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Nix The Negativity For A More Positive Position

Smiling woman holding smiling face balloon

Would you say that your thinking is more negative or positive? Well, if you said negative, you’re not alone. Not that there aren’t any positive people out there. Because there are, but for the most part, our brains have a negativity bias. They naturally tend to zero in on the negative more than the positive. 

For example, You might have positive experiences like your boss praising you frequently for your work. Still, if he expresses concern over a particular area of your job performance, you can’t stop thinking about it. Or, you might have insults stuck in your brain somebody slung your way decades ago.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.” Wow, isn’t that the truth! I believe that you could also apply that quote to mean that if you are always looking for the bad in every situation, you will find it. So why not flip the phrase into “If you look for the good in people or life situations, you will surely find it.”


Positive thinking boils down to being able to acknowledge both negative and positive events but choosing to focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones. It is not avoiding or ignoring an adverse event but dealing with it by allowing the appropriate amount of time for the negative emotions to surface and then moving on from it by focusing on the positive.

Even though the process is simple, it does take time and practice to create new habits. So let’s look at some ways to think and behave more positively and optimistically:

 ▪ Acknowledge what areas need to change. What areas of your life do you typically have negative thoughts about? Maybe it’s family, a relationship, a work environment, or even your daily commute to work. Whatever it is, start small and focus on one area of your life that you can start approaching more positively.

▪ Check in with yourself. Throughout the day, take a moment and evaluate how you have been thinking and acting. If you find that your behavior has been primarily negative, change course and put a positive spin on it.

▪ Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with people who inspire you to be a better person. Look for people who will be supportive and make you feel good. Negative people can sap the energy right out of you and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.

▪ Practice positive self-talk. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Don’t talk to yourself in a way you wouldn’t talk to someone else. When a negative thought about yourself comes into your mind, be reasonable with yourself and respond with affirmations about what is good about you.

▪ Look for the humor. It’s okay to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Look for the funny in everyday situations. When you can laugh at life, you will feel less stressed.

▪ Live a healthy lifestyle. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. Find time to exercise at least three times a week. Exercise is proven to affect your mood and reduce stress positively. It is also helpful to learn techniques that manage stress.


I like to say just a few essential words about practicing positive self-talk as it relates to positive thinking. And that is, positive thinking often starts with positive self-talk. Self-talk is that constant chatter in your head that never stops. It is automatic thoughts that can be positive or negative coming from logic and reason or misconceptions stemming from a lack of or wrong information.

If the majority of your thoughts running through your head are mostly positive, you are probably an optimist (someone who practices positive thinking). That’s great! You can be an example and inspiration to others who aren’t, so keep it up! 

On the other hand, if the thoughts running through your head are mostly negative, you more than likely are a pessimist and would benefit from the suggestions listed above to become more positive. 

By practicing positive self-talk daily your inner voice will eventually contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance, which will probably help you become less critical of the world around you.

In June, I wrote a blog titled 5 Steps To Overcome Harmful Self-Criticism”. It provided information about self-criticism that you might find helpful. Or, if you have read it and are still struggling with critical self-talk, maybe rereading it would benefit you as a refresher course. We all need reminders at times.

Filling your head with more positive thoughts can make a big difference in how you see AND react to things in life. You can better handle everyday stress more constructively when your state of mind is generally optimistic. And we all know how stress can play havoc with our health. So, it is not surprising why researchers believe that having the ability to think more positively may contribute to the widely observed health benefits.

“Choose to be optimistic; it feels better.” — Dalai Lama

In closing, I would like to give you an exercise that can help you on the way to becoming more positive. At the end of your day, share with someone close to you one great moment that you experienced that day. If you can make this a habit, it will encourage you to be on the lookout for positive moments throughout the day. This exercise is also a great way to increase feelings of gratitude for even the simple things in your life. Things that you might not even realize that you’ve been overlooking.

Also, while writing this blog, a specific song kept coming to my mind. It’s an oldy but still a classic. It’s called Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive.” Give it a listen and let the words get into your brain. And when your thoughts want to turn in a negative direction, hopefully, the words will return to you, and you can turn the negative into positive.

If you want to develop a more positive view, working with a coach can be very helpful. A coach can help you explore and walk through various techniques to help you see the bright side of things more easily.

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

I’m looking forward to your call.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

5 Steps To Overcome Harmful Self-Criticism

Woman smiling in a mirror not letting harmful self-criticism get in the way of her success.

Could self-criticism be holding you back from leading a meaningful and fulfilled life? Is it derailing your success in the pursuit of your goals?

For many of us, self-criticism is just the way we talk to ourselves. Our inner dialogue goes something like this: “I can’t do anything right.” “I look horrible.” “I’m such an idiot!” “What’s wrong with me?”

How would you answer if I were to ask, “What does it mean to be kind to yourself?” Would you say, “I’d buy myself something expensive, or I’d go on a long trip somewhere exotic?” Or perhaps I’d hang a sign in my kitchen saying, “Out of order until further notice,” and head to the beach with a book all by myself. Oh — the possibilities are endless, aren’t they?

But, I wonder if anybody answered with “I would talk nicer to myself” or “I would look for the good in me and not just the bad.” 

Be Kinder To Yourself

Often, and probably too often, we are our own harshest critics. If we treated our friends like we treat ourselves, we probably wouldn’t have any. 

Case in point, after two friends recently attended a wedding, a curious thing happened while discussing some pictures posted on social media. What one friend saw in the photos was her and her friend smiling, laughing, dancing, and enjoying themselves at the beautiful event. However, the other friend saw a long list of what she perceived was wrong with herself. For example, she thought her arms were too fat, and her hair wasn’t right, she hadn’t said the right things, etc.

The ironic thing is, she did have a wonderful time at the wedding. But while looking at the pictures, she didn’t focus on how happy her friend was that she had been there or even the great time she had. Instead, all she could zero in on was what she perceived to be wrong with herself.

Effects of harmful self-criticism

Unfortunately, people mistakenly think such self-critical statements safeguard them against mistakes, laziness, and complacency. Or they will keep them in line and ensure they achieve their goals. However, the opposite actually happens. 

It can drain their energy and confidence and paralyze progress. Destructive self-criticism triggers feelings such as guilt, shame, anger, sadness, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, and hopelessness. 

Whether being overly critical of how they look or because of something they did, people who rebuke themselves are more likely to become depressed, anxious, and lonely. 

Is all self-criticism bad?

I say absolutely not, for we all benefit from constructive self-criticism from time to time. 

Why? Because it’s vital for our growth and development and, ultimately, our success. If self-criticism is used correctly, it can be a helpful tool for pointing out problematic behaviors. The kind of behaviors that could be standing in the way of us achieving our goals. If misused, it can have a damaging effect on our self-worth and confidence.

When we can objectively observe the behaviors we don’t like, we can take the necessary steps needed to change that undesired behavior so we can become the best version of ourselves.

So let’s look at how you can practice self-criticism without undermining your self-worth and confidence. 

5 Steps to overcome harmful self-criticism

Millions of us find ourselves battling self-criticism that is hard to escape. But, the good news is that you CAN defeat harmful self-criticism and challenge that voice that puts you down. Below are five steps that will help you answer that voice.

  1. REPLACE SELF-CRITICISM WITH SELF-CORRECTION. Instead of criticizing yourself, thinking it will correct your mistake and motivate you to do better (which it will not), look for a solution, and change your behavior.
  2. ACKNOWLEDGE THE POSITIVES. No one needs help seeing the negatives, and even if some of the negatives are true, why not consider the positives also?
  3. BE AS KIND TO YOURSELF AS YOU ARE TO OTHERS.  Recognize it as a double standard when you are harsher on yourself than you are with someone else. Just like you need your friends on your side, you need yourself to be in your corner as well.
  4. LET YOURSELF BE HUMAN. If you make a mistake, don’t think you look perfect, treat someone wrongly, etc. Don’t spend hours criticizing yourself. We ALL make mistakes and have flaws and defects. Just like we accept and love the people we know who make mistakes and have imperfections, accept and love yourself. At times, we all have some unlovable, quirky, and somewhat bad qualities. We can recognize our shortcomings without digging a hole and climbing into them. You can rise above your self-critic and say, “YES, I am human. Deal with it!”  
  5. FOCUS ON YOUR GOALS, NOT ON YOUR SELF-CRITIC. Sometimes no matter what you do, that loud voice will still be yapping away, telling you something negative. So give it a wave and say, “Yes, I hear you, but I am going to get on with my life doing what I have to do.” 

“Being self-critical is good; being self-hating is destructive. There’s a very fine line there somewhere, and I walk it carefully.” — Daniel Radcliffe 

Answering your self-critic is the best way to fight for your self-esteem. It would be best if you had yourself on your side. You have to be willing to give yourself credit for what you do that is right and improve what is wrong. In other words – Be Kinder To Yourself! 

Changing the way you respond to your self-critical voice will not occur overnight. So be patient with yourself. Thinking style is a habit, but with time and practice, you CAN change that habit into more of a healthy balance.

Working with a coach can be very helpful if you want to explore additional strategies to cope with being too self-critical. A coach can walk you through various techniques that can help you learn how to be self-critical in a healthy way to increase your overall success in pursuing your goals

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

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Don’t Overlook Nature To Ease Anxiety And Depression

Woman outside using nature to ease her anxiety and depression.

Back in March, when old man winter was stubbornly refusing to leave, I wrote a blog about dealing with “the winter blues.” And now that spring has finally sprung, I’m a little curious. Did “the blues” fade away, or are you perplexed to find they still hang on? Or maybe, feeling blue was never your issue. Perhaps you lean the other way and deal with feeling stressed out, anxious, and overwhelmed. Either way, I have something you might find interesting. And that is, spending time in nature has been found to help with anxiety and depression.

Indoor generation

Let me ask you a question. How much time do you spend outdoors? If you are like most adults, it’s often limited. However, according to researchers, you might be surprised to know that the average American spends as much as 90% of their life indoors.

People don’t realize just how much time they spend indoors. With modern technology, we can work from home, shop online, do our walking on a treadmill in front of a tv, and communicate with our friends. I mean, good grief, you don’t even have to leave your house to get groceries nowadays.

Get Outside

So, with that being said. Let’s say you are dealing with anxiety or depression. What can you do about it? Here’s where spending time in nature comes into play. I want to introduce you to a term you probably haven’t heard before. And that is “Ecotherapy.” 

Have you ever heard the term “Ecotherapy?” It actually goes by a couple of different names but boiled down; it basically means — contact with nature. So it is a name given to a wide range of treatment programs that aim to improve your mental and physical wellbeing through outdoor activities in nature. And here’s the best part — you don’t have to pay for it, it’s free! And you can access it anytime! 

Feel Better

Ecotherapy can make a significant difference in how you feel. For example, it can help you feel more grounded, provide an alternative perspective on life, and allow your mind and body to relax. It can:

  • lessen feelings of anxiety and stress
  • reduce depression
  • decrease anger
  • improve your mood and self-esteem
  • increase your emotional resilience

One technique called “green space therapy” or “green time” involves spending time in areas with grass and trees, such as a park, yard, soccer field, or farm. Outdoor activities could include walking, backpacking, gardening, playing games, sports, or even tackling a backyard project.

I have even found that taking my work outside sometimes can make a big difference. I can sit at a desk or table and look out the window and see nature all around, but when I go outside, I can feel nature. 

And somehow, it can lift my mood. Especially now that spring has popped, being in the yard or park watching the squirrels chase each other, hearing the birds chirp, and watching the bees and butterflies flit from flower to flower,  somehow makes me feel more peaceful and contented inside. 

And who can deny the calming effects of listening to the wind rustling through the trees? Or burying your toes in warm beach sand and listening to the waves breaking on the shore? (I know, there’s a sappy song in there somewhere!)

Nurture Yourself Through Nature

Depression can make you feel like you are in a dark place. And I don’t want to make light of it and imply that just going outside will take it away. However, what can it hurt to try and maybe help yourself in the midst of it? Someone expressed using ecotherapy this way, “I do ecotherapy to get sunlight onto my skin and into my mind. It shines light through the dark fog of depression.”

I thought that was awesome! It’s like the solar lights that you put in your yard, and all day, it soaks in the sunshine (to power up) and then takes that energy to shine through the darkness of night.

A study done by researchers at the University of Essex found that, of a group of people suffering from depression, 90 percent felt a higher level of self-esteem after a walk through a park in the country, and almost three-quarters felt less depressed. Another survey by the same research team found that 94% of people with mental illnesses believed that contact with nature put them in a more positive mood.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

I encourage you to discover (or rediscover) the therapeutic effect nature offers. Exercising, playing, working, gardening, backyard projects, swimming, etc. In truth, the opportunities are endless out there. You just have to open the door and walk through it.

Working with a coach is an excellent way to learn and develop coping skills to help manage unhealthy emotions. Therefore, I’d love to hear from you if you suspect those emotions are hindering your success personally or even in the workplace.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. So I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. And until we meet, if you’re able, step out into nature to energize your mind and body.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan.

Are Your Perceptions Hindering Your Relationships?

Co-workers having a disagreement because of their perceptions.

Have you ever had a situation where only after some time had passed did you discover that someone had been upset with you? And when you finally found out, you were completely dumbfounded? You had no clue they were upset at the time. But later, something upended their cart, and all the pent-up emotions started gushing forth. Then, they start recalling some event in the past where you hurt them, and the details of their story do not line up with your recollection of the same event.

You don’t know whether to tell them you’re sorry or whether to tell them they’re completely nuts! You wonder how they have such a different memory of the event than you do. In fact, you recollect that they did something to hurt your feelings.

Sound familiar? I thought so. It happens all the time in personal, social, or work-related relationships. Each person carrying around hurt feelings about what the other person said or did to them. The interesting thing is, if there were a third party involved, they more than likely would have a somewhat different version altogether.


So why does this happen? It is called “Perceptions.” We all have them. But what creates them? Perception is individual. It is how you think about or understand someone or something through the senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell). Heredity, culture, needs, peer group, interests, and expectations all influence our perceptions.

Not to get too deep, but perception is how we interpret the information we sense. The way we interpret the world in many ways dictates our sense of reality. Even if our senses are sharp, we will not understand the information we sense if our perception is skewed.

Let me give you an example. You disagree with a friend one day, and it’s not the first disagreement you and she have had. However, you decide to take the high road and apologize. And because in today’s world, everyone texts back and forth, you text her the following day and say, “You are sorry.” Expecting a response from her in short order, you’re surprised not to hear back from her. Yet, by evening, you still have not heard from her. What do you think your perception of this situation would be? It probably depends on your perception of that person and the relationship.

First scenario — You believe your friendship is in good standing. Therefore, you wait it out and give that person the benefit of the doubt, thinking they must have a good reason for not getting back to you yet.

Second scenario — You believe the relationship is on rocky ground. Hence, you start imagining that she is intentionally ignoring you, causing you to stew about it all day. You start thinking about other things you’ve experienced with this person. You then feed on your perceptions of this person, even creating a whole new argument in your mind with this person.

What is Reality?

Reality is the actual state of things. It’s how things are, whether we perceive them to be as such or not. Things in themselves are basically neutral. WE are the ones who supply the perceptions and our beliefs about them. Reality supersedes both our expectations and assumptions. How OUR reality appears to us says a lot about our perceptions.

So let’s go back to the two scenarios above. The reality of the delayed answer back from the friend is that she fell ill during the night and took some medicine to help her sleep. She had put her phone on silent so as not to be disturbed. She still didn’t feel well the next day, and because she didn’t feel well enough to call anyone, she forgot that her phone was on silent. It didn’t occur to her that anyone was trying to get a hold of her.

So if you put yourself in the first scenario, you go about your day as usual. You don’t even give it a second thought about why your friend has not answered you back. However, if you put yourself in the second scenario, you spend the whole day in turmoil. You probably work yourself right up into an unnecessary dither by incorrectly interpreting her delayed answer as a deliberate action on her part. Because of your already negative perception of your friend and relationship, the delayed response confirms your beliefs even though they are wrong.

Don’t confuse perception with reality

Can you see how your perceptions can influence your relationships? We get into trouble when we confuse perception with reality — we mistake how we understand something for the way that they really are. So even though our thoughts and feelings seem real to us, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are true.

Unfortunately, we do not often realize how our perceptions can cloud reality. They seem like the same to us. Yet, our perception is essential to recognize because it is the driving force behind our reactions to people and events in our lives.

It’s hard to change our perceptions because we see and feel things from our perspective and have difficulty seeing from another person’s perspective. Something that sticks in my mind is I remember popping over to my neighbor’s house one day, and as I was talking with her, I happened to look out her window. I stopped talking to her suddenly because I was so caught off guard to see my house from across the street. My house looked so different to me from that angle, and I remember thinking, “Oh wow, this is what my house looks like from over here; this is how she sees my house.”

We would do well if we could keep that analogy in our minds when relating with others. Depending on where you stand, you will see some things a certain way or see something that somebody else might not, and vice versa. So, knowing that we can change our perspective stands to reason that the perception can change along with it. Thus, perception is far from a fixed truth.

“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” – Wayne W. Dyer

If you suspect you might have formed some unhealthy perceptions in your life that are causing you to struggle with relationships and it is even hindering your success in the workplace, working with a coach is a great way to learn some techniques that can help you. I’d love to hear from you. 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple adjustment of your thoughts and behavior to change a perception problem. If you want some personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together we can discover which strategy is likely to work best for you to work toward finding the peace of reality and not letting the wrong kind of perceptions stand in your way of success.

This article originally appeared at Counseling Solutions Of West Michigan