Exploring new territory

It’s no secret I like to explore the outdoors. Perhaps the only thing better than having a park as my “backyard” in the midst of the big city would be living in the mountains with plenty of hiking trails to explore. Ideally I could have both.

Today, however, my better half and I went out for a walk and took a detour. I knew about the detour but didn’t want to take it on by myself. And rightly so, it was not an area that I would have been comfortable exploring by myself certain times of day or certain times of the week. But today the alternate route was calling my name and it was full of surprises and new perspectives.

I had read about the eastside extension of the Atlanta BeltLine and while I’ve put in many a mile on the paved eastside section I had not yet ventured onto the extension. I had checked out the route on various maps and had an idea where it would go and where we might come out; however, viewing the route on a map versus experiencing it in the flesh was a very different experience!

First, there were plenty of surprises along the way. Things I wasn’t expecting such as the two artistic treasures pictured. I could have easily walked past the mask without even noticing it had I not looked up from the path we were walking at just the right moment.

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We also had a general idea where we were based on our knowledge of the path from the maps but the path didn’t come out exactly where we expected and we were “lost” for a brief period of time. If it weren’t for landmarks with which we were familiar and a keen eye for an exit we could still be out there wandering the trail.

And now, you guessed it–I’m about to make some more therapy analogies. Therapy is exploring your life from a different angle. It is taking some time out to walk through circumstances with a slightly different perspective–to travel down a slightly different path for a period of time. The therapist and the client have an idea of where the therapy session might go, but often there are surprises along the way which are revealing, enlightening, and can sometimes bring new perspective.

It is also important to pay attention to the landmarks along the way. It isn’t always helpful to continue down the same trail for too long. Sometimes there is no benefit. Sometimes it is easy to get lost and not make real progress. Sometimes time restraints permit further exploration. And sometimes the subject matter is too amazing–or too difficult–to digest all at once and must be revisited again at another time.

The thing to remember, however, is that it can be refreshing and exhilarating to travel down a previously unknown path with a trusted individual.

If you would be interested in exploring some new territory in your life and would like someone to walk alongside you, give me a call at 404-895-1525 or email me at Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com. I am totally up for the adventure!

Welcome to my office, part 4: Symbolism

During my walks/runs through the park I enjoy looking at the trees. I love the varieties. I love the benefits they provide such as shade and fresh oxygen to breathe. I also love the stages they go through with the seasons, and the symbolism related to family and life stages.

How many of you have created a family tree to depict your own heritage? You know the type of diagram to which I’m referring. The roots and trunk represent a specific individual or couple and the branches represent the children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I am actually partial to family therapy theories that examine intergenerational influence. Good or bad, our past, and our interactions with our families have shaped who we are today and how we view life and our circumstance. Sometimes our family trees are pretty gnarly and ugly, yet proper nourishment, pruning, and care can produce good outcomes and every tree has a unique and special story to tell.

I am sure you’re also familiar with how trees change with the seasons. Right now, in the midst of summer, trees are full and green representing growth and strength. In the fall the leaves will turn the familiar golds, reds, oranges, and browns and fall off, representing change. During the winter many trees will be bare. Although many people believe this stage to represent death and grieving I have viewed trees in this stage a little differently. It is during the winter when we can really see a trees structure, it’s skeleton so to speak. It is then when we can see any scars or grafts, but also its potential. Underneath the dormant exterior lies strength and life that is merely taking a break in preparation for the seasons ahead. I also love seeing the bare outstretched branches reaching to the sky as if reaching for its life source. And finally, spring brings new buds and new growth symbolizing new beginnings and hope.

I am also fascinated by the types of trees native to different locations. The pictures included today are three views of one of many magnolia trees in Piedmont Park. Magnolia trees remind me of the several years I lived in Mississippi as a newlywed and where our oldest daughter was born. Another tree that reminds me of our time there on the Mississippi coast is the water oak. Seeing these trees reminds me of a time of new beginnings and on getting by on nearly no income. Palmetto trees remind me of South Carolina where I went to college and met my husband. The remind me of a newfound independence being away from home for the first time, but also remind me of many hot, sweaty band practices. Pine, dogwood, and peach trees remind me of my own roots as a Georgia girl…one who is ever thankful to be back home.

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Come take a walk with me and explore your roots or the stage of life in which you are currently. You might be surprised how your past has shaped the person you are right now. I can be reached at 404-895-1525 or Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.

Welcome to my office, part 3: Unloading

“Take a load off, Fanny.
Take a load for free.
Take a load off, Fanny.
And….you can put the load right on me.”
(The Weight. J. R. Robertson, 1968)

Today’s installment includes yet another therapeutic metaphor.

Sometimes you need to unload–your burdens, your troubles, your frustrations, your feelings. Sometimes, quite plain and simple, you just need a listening ear while you bitch. You need someone who will sit with (or next to) you and create space where you may retreat from your hectic life and find a place of solace and rest.

Someone told me recently they loved the idea of walk-and-talk therapy but in this person’s self-awareness there was the understanding that when and if a difficult topic arose there would need to be a place to stop and process. This person confessed a need to process and worried walking would distract from focusing on the issue at hand. That’s reasonable. Besides, another benefit and goal of therapy is raising self-awareness so this individual was ahead of the game.

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As you can see from today’s pictures there are benches in the park. If you have need to rest and “take a load off” we can pull up a park bench and do that. There are benches in the sun (for those days when it is particularly cold which I know is hard to imagine right now), and benches in the shade. I also offer the option of an air-conditioned office space or online, video-conference therapy.

If you or someone you know needs to “unload,” you may reach me at 404-895-1525 or Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.

Welcome to my office, part 2: Everything changes

Yes, today’s picture is another view of the midtown skyline from one of the vantage points surrounding Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park. However, if you look closely you can see a red crane just to the right of the middle gap in the skyline. The Atlanta skyline, as is true with every big city, is ever changing. A new high-rise apartment complex is being built and it’s outline will likely fill in the gap between these two sets of buildings.

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Like this skyline, life is full of change. Some are immediately noticeable. Some, like the construction of this building, happen over time. Some are welcome while some are not. Some changes are new and exciting while others induce fear and worry. And some cause both at the same time. Some of the residents of surrounding buildings are not thrilled with this new development in anticipation of the increase in traffic and the obstruction of their view of the park that will also result; however, this development could serve to increase surrounding property values. The developers of this complex are undoubtedly excited about this new building and the income that will likely result; however, what happens if they are not able to rent enough units to realize a profit?

How do we manage change? Do we sit back and see how things unfold and then if there’s a problem deal with it then? Are we proactive in controlling what we can control along the way? Both tactics can be beneficial at various times for different reasons.

Therapy is about change: managing the changing skyline of our lives as it happens, or as issues arise as a result. It is also about purposing to make a change: clearing out the lot, digging the footings, and bringing in the machinery to build the life we want in the long run. What story does the skyline of your life tell to others? What would you like for others to see?

Come take a walk with me and process how you might bring about the good changes you desire in your life. I can be reached at 404-895-1525 or Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com

Not every office has four walls

Welcome to my office!

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This week I’ll be giving your a tour of my “office” and offering some commentary on the scenery. Today’s picture is obviously part of the midtown Atlanta skyline as seen from the eastern end of the upper meadow in Piedmont Park….”nearby nature” within walking distance of midtown.

Come join me for a walk-and-talk session and enjoy this view too. You may reach me at 404-895-1525 or Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.

You are worth it!

What does self-care mean to you?

Often care-givers are the WORST at caring for themselves. There seems to be a belief that martyrdom will somehow produce positive outcomes and one’s own good health will result. I must admit that I fall guilty to this reasoning at times. As a therapist I often preach self-care but I am one of the worst at actually following through with it. As I painted my fingernails today I was reminded of the importance of self-care.

Why is self-care important? Caregivers are, by virtue of their description, GIVERS. They give of themselves: their time, their energy, their resources, their joy, their strength. But where do they get those things that they give to others? If, at some point in time, they do not plug into whatever source feeds their souls they will eventually lack sufficient resources to continue giving of themselves.

This begs the question, “What constitutes self-care?” It can be different things for different people. For some it can be meditation or prayer. For others it can be a trip to the beach or the mountains. For me, self-care ranges from a massage or a mani/pedi to a good, sweaty run.

I imagine some of you reading this may wonder about the cost of self-care. I must admit that I have struggled with this as well. How can I afford to ________ (insert your preferred method of self-care here)? Self-care requires sacrifice of other resources such as time or money.

I would argue, however, that self-care doesn’t have to cost much, if anything at all. At times I am willing and/or able to afford to go to a salon and pay for someone else to give me a manicure or a pedicure. At other times, such as this morning, my manicure was self-administered with polish I already had. And sometimes my self-care is as simple, and (monetarily) free as taking a few minutes to practice deep breathing and mindfulness or putting on my running shoes and pounding the pavement.

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Self-care is best exercised as a preventative measure. There is some truth to the proverb, “a stitch in time saves nine.” Taking time to manage stress on the front-end can prevent higher levels of stress and potential disastrous results on the back end. It is my desire that people will come to view therapy/counseling in the same way.

Oftentimes therapy/counseling is seen as a last resort. It is seen as a crutch for the weak, a last-ditch effort for those for whom nothing else has worked. What if we treated mental and emotional well-being in the same manner as physical health? What if we implemented regular “well-checks” and practiced good mental and emotional health habits such as self-care?

I painted my nails this morning and it felt good to treat myself during that brief period of time. I’ll have the bright pink polish on my nails for many days to come to remind me that I am worth it. My health—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—is worth the effort and time I invested and will determine the results I get out of it. I’m also a firm believer that physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, & relational health are all intertwined but that is another subject for another blog…

How will you exercise self-care today?

If you are interested in exercising some self-care contact Denice at 404-895-1525 or Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.

Let’s get moving!

In a 2014 interview conducted by David Letterman regarding the internet series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld commented that part of the show’s success is based on his theory that, “Moving people around keeps them awake.”

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What better reason to participate in walk and talk therapy? To keep client (and therapist) awake. smile emoticon

In all seriousness, however, there are some metaphorical parallels to movement in therapy.

Therapy is all about moving. Moving forward in life. Moving out of a place of “stuck-ness.” Moving outside of our comfort zones. Moving into new opportunities. Moving beyond fear. Continuing to move through ongoing difficult circumstances and struggles.

But what about staying awake? Awake to what? Awake to our options and the outside world. Awake to reality and our potential.

When people encounter extreme difficulty a common response is to want to curl up into the fetal position and check out of all activity. Or, when life is going smoothly inertia takes over, we shift into cruise mode, and greater potential is not pursued or realized.

Therapy can help wake us up and move us forward. Walk and talk therapy can do this in more than one way.

Interested in scheduling a walk and talk therapy session? Contact Denice at 404-895-1525 or Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.

Ready for adventure

What are your favorite shoes?

my chacos

My favorite shoes are my Chacos. I have worn my Chacos all over the world. I have even had to have a pair re-webbed after a vacation mishap; however, that just allowed me to purchase a second pair since I didn’t have any other casual shoes with me on that trip.

Besides being comfortable, my Chacos are durable and call for adventure. They’re not my prettiest shoes. On the contrary, they’re quite clunky looking. But they get me where I’m going. I also have awesome criss-cross tan lines on my feet that are reminders of where I’ve been and all the fun things I’ve done while wearing them.

Life is an adventure and we all experience it very differently. Some of us need more support/equipment to endure our journey than others. Sometimes that support takes the form of therapy.

Therapy is not just for those experiencing severe mental illness or major life crises. Therapy is useful for greater self-discovery, for help in making decisions, for overcoming fear, for coping with a new life stressor (even the good ones!), or for helping make the good things in life–like our relationships–even better.

Could you or someone you know could use a little extra support in their life’s journey/adventure? Put on your favorite shoes and join me for a walk-and-talk therapy session.

For an appointment or more information you may contact me at Denice@WalkAndTalkAtlanta.com.