About Kristina's Practice, Stress

We’re Only Human: Getting a Handle on Managing Holiday Stress

“Fourteen people,” said my mom. Wait. Fourteen people?

My family is not used to hosting that many people for Thanksgiving, and as soon as she said the number I noticed a definite jump in my heart rate. But why was it so stressful?

Sharing time with family and friends (and having fourteen to share it with) is a gift—yet I dreaded the preparation, the cleanup, being pressed for time with clients booked in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, the prospect of limited energy when the holidays seem to demand it—in short, I was stressed. Sure, I’m a therapist, but like everyone else, I’m a human being and I struggle with managing holiday stress.

I’m also not alone, which means you aren’t, either.
Stress is a common problem during the holidays.

While we’d like to enjoy winter’s brighter traditions, from peppermint lattes and twinkly lights to some of the year’s best sales, it’s easy to get sidelined by the season’s many trials. As the calendar comes to a close, challenges like deadlines, loneliness, unstable finances and the obligation to spend time with difficult relatives can take up residence in the most cheerful of minds, along with a grey, mournful grief for the life we wish we had, or perhaps one we have no longer.

And for comfort, many of us human beings resort to overeating, extra alcohol, avoidance, even procrastination—coping mechanisms that might suffice in moderation, but can handily work against us. Our excesses can lead to more anxiety, despair and depression.

So what can we do when we’re faced with higher-than-normal stress levels, and our current methods of coping aren’t proving as effective as we’d like to them to be? Before we can deal with stress in a positive way, we need to know what it is, and how it impacts our bodies.

Know what’s happening

Stress begins with a “stress trigger”—anything that activates the sympathetic nervous system (think “S for stress”), also known as the “fight or flight” response of the body. The stress response is recognizable and for some, familiar: a noticeable shift in breathing, increased heart rate, feeling sweaty and ready for some kind of action. In the face of actual threat, the stress response is crucial whether we’re being chased by a bear, tackling a pile of bills or enduring an annoying coworker.

Sometimes, though, stress triggers activate our stress response to a “perceived” threat rather than an actual threat, and we act out of “fight or flight,” unintentionally creating more conflict.

Here’s a classic example: All day long, your stress response has been triggered with deadlines, demands and difficult people. When you finally get home, your sympathetic nervous system has been active for quite a while and is still “on,” so when a loved one innocently asks, “How was your day?” you’re likely to snap with “It’s fine!” or “Can’t I have just one minute to myself?” Your response appears unreasonable, unwarranted, and by the time you realize you were too harsh, a fresh emotional wound has already been created.

The holidays in particular present us with a lot of triggers. Not all of them are negative (spending time with fourteen loved ones), many of them are small (washing dishes), but they can pile up to cast a looming, daunting shadow. Sometimes they’re substantial. It’s a time when the loss of loved ones seems especially vivid, and the latter part of this year in particular has seen tragedies like the Woolsey Fire and the Thousand Oaks shooting, and that’s in Southern California alone.

It can be extraordinarily difficult to process these triggers, big and small, all at once and during a fast-paced holiday season. Even those of us with specialized training on how the brain and body respond to stress aren’t immune to it. We do, however, have tools to deal with it.

Flipping the switch

Now that we understand how our stress response is engaged, we can find a solution in doing the opposite. We need to switch the stress response off and switch our parasympathetic nervous system (think “P for peace”) into action—in other words, switch on the peaceful and restful response.

The next time you’re aware that your stress response has been engaged, here are eight simple ways you can turn on your peaceful and restful response:

1) Count backwards from 100, in 7’s, 3’s or 2’s.
2) Find the closest written words and read them backwards.
3) Listen to your favorite music.
4) Take seven slow deep breaths, with a seven-second inhale, a seven-second hold and seven-second exhale.
5) Count ten things in the room.
6) Notice five different sounds in the room
7) Step away if you are able. Take frequent breaks.
8) Go for a walk.

Deeper diving

I’ve found these methods of dealing with stress very helpful, and as the holidays roll around with the added stress of shopping, planning and socializing, you might gain peace of mind from them, too. But know that this is not an exhaustive list.

I could write a thousand different blogs on stress (and there are more to follow) to complement the countless resources available that describe an endless variety of coping mechanisms. It’s a rich and relatable subject that begs a number of approaches. What’s important is finding a way of dealing with stress that feels right to you.

But if you’re constantly overwhelmed, if you repeatedly find yourself in states of fight, flight or freeze, if your trigger is something big like having to face an assaulter in a social situation, if you have a trauma-related disorder or other impactful diagnosis, advice from a blog is not going to help. In cases like these, I urge you to seek professional consultation.

Facing reality is key to coping with stress. And while the season is magical with sweet escapes and storybook endings, it’s important to remember that we don’t live in a Hallmark fantasy. Bumping into an old beau or standing under the mistletoe won’t make our problems disappear. Life is full of obstacles, and it serves us humans to keep a toolbox equipped to deal with them.

Vigilance, diligence, and appropriate care are the most effective routes through stress—through the holidays and beyond!

About Your Santa Clarita Therapist

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, emdr therapist, trauma therapist, trauma specialist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for kids, therapist specializing in anxiety, therapist specializing in depression, suicidal thoughtsKristina de Bree is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in the state of California and an EMDRIA certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist with a private practice in Valencia. She focuses on helping individuals build, mend and develop healthy relationships and authentic connections with others and with themselves, and as a Valencia EMDR therapist, she is specially qualified to treat trauma, sexual abuse, and medical illness, right here in Santa Clarita. Kristina believes that the core of every working relationship should be built on trust, authenticity and quality. She brings a deep value and care for the patient experience, believing that change is made through relationships that are trusting, caring and safe.

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About Kristina's Practice

What Type Of Mental Health Professional Is Right For You?

Ever wondered what type of mental health professional is right for you? This simple guide explains the differences among psychiatrists, psychologists, marriage and family therapists (LMFT), counselors, social workers and more. 

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Some of the most common questions I get are: How do you know what type of mental health professional is right for you? How are you different than a psychologist or a counselor or an LCSW?

And I understand why. Navigating all the different titles and licenses can be very confusing for someone who is new to therapy — especially when you have specific needs like medication management or psychological testing.

That’s why I created this quick guide, to help you figure out what type of mental professional is right for you. First, let’s cover the basics.

The Basics

The mental health community is generally broken down into three main categories:

  1. Professionals who can prescribe medication, such as psychiatrists and general practitioners
  2. Professionals who specialize in assessment, such as psychologists 
  3. All other professionals, who cannot prescribe medication but instead provide specialized types of therapy

Once you’ve decided whether or not you need medication management, you can dive into the specifics. For example, different mental health professionals have different specialties (i.e. relationships, case management, etc.), as well as sub-specialties (i.e. EMDR, play therapy, art therapy, etc.). Just as you wouldn’t see a foot doctor for a heart problem, it’s important to know which type of mental health professional is best for your needs.  

So let’s take a look at each type of mental health professional to see how they differ.

Psychiatrist

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A psychiatrist is a licensed medical doctor who specializes in medication management. They can diagnose, prescribe medication and monitor medication. Though they are licensed to provide therapy, some psychiatrists do and some don’t. Those who don’t provide therapy generally focus on medication management.

  • Education/License: Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), State license
  • Specialty: Medication management, Diagnosis of mental and emotional illnesses
  • A Good Fit: If you want to talk to a mental health professional about medication

Psychologist

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A psychologist specializes in neuropsychological testing and evaluation. Like psychiatrists, some psychologists offer therapy while others don’t. Psychologists are most often found in a school setting or a clinical setting.

  • Education/License: Advanced degree in psychology, State license  
  • Specialty: Testing and evaluations
  • A Good Fit: If you need services from a school or institution that requires formal evaluation

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT)

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, emdr therapist, trauma therapist, trauma specialist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for kids, therapist specializing in anxiety, therapist specializing in depression, what type of mental health professional is right for youA Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) works with individuals, couples or groups and generally focuses on relationships. An LMFT is required to have experience with a wide array of relationship dynamics.

  • Education/License: Advanced degree in psychology, Special education and training, State license  
  • Specialty: Relationship-based therapy
  • A Good Fit: If you’re looking for couples therapy, family therapy or to improve your relationship with yourself

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, emdr therapist, trauma therapist, trauma specialist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for kids, therapist specializing in anxiety, therapist specializing in depression, what type of mental health professional is right for youUsually found in a hospital setting, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is trained to make diagnoses, provide individual and group therapy, and provide case management and advocacy.

  • Education/License: Advanced degree in social work, State license  
  • Specialty: Case management and advocacy
  • A Good Fit: If you’re experiencing special life circumstances, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, emdr therapist, trauma therapist, trauma specialist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for kids, therapist specializing in anxiety, therapist specializing in depression, what type of mental health professional is right for youA Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) works with individuals, couples or groups and is trained to provide counseling.

  • Education/License: Advanced degree in psychology, State license  
  • Specialty: Outpatient therapy
  • A Good Fit: If you need help coping with a specific event or life circumstance

Other Professionals & Specialties

It’s important to remember that this isn’t a comprehensive list. Nurses and nurse practitioners, for example, can specialize in mental health, and some professionals are even more specialized, such as certified alcohol and drug abuse counselors or pastoral counselors. Eye Movement and Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), for example, is another specialty that is recommended for the treatment of trauma.

What Type Of Mental Health Professional Is Right For You?

With so many options, how do you choose? Well if you need medication or testing and evaluation, then that narrows your search. If your primary need is therapy or counseling, however, you have a little more flexibility.

Once you find the type of mental health professional who checks all your boxes, the most important thing is to find someone you connect with. Over and over again, research has shown the therapeutic relationship is more important than the area of interest or specialty. In fact, it’s the number one factor that drives quality progress for the patient.

This is especially important for parents to remember when finding the best match for their child. Your child’s therapist needs to be someone who they can trust, as well.

If it doesn’t work out the first time, it’s very important to try again with another therapist or mental health professional. There is someone out there for you, especially with so many options in today’s mental health community.

What Type Of Therapist Am I?

I am an LMFT who specializes in EMDR, trauma, kids and teen therapy, and medical illness. I completed my advanced degree in psychology, as well as 3,000 hours of supervised practice, to complete my licensure. Because of my personal experience with EMDR, I then decided to complete an additional certification to specialize in EMDR.

So what does all this mean? Put simply, I specialize in helping people process traumatic memories and alleviate various symptoms that can stem from trauma — especially when other forms of therapy don’t work.

Hopefully, after reading through this guide, you can now confidently answer the question: “What type of mental health professional is right for you?”

About Your Santa Clarita Therapist

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, emdr therapist, trauma therapist, trauma specialist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for kids, therapist specializing in anxiety, therapist specializing in depression, suicidal thoughtsWondering what type of mental health professional is right for you? Kristina de Bree is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in the state of California and an EMDRIA certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist with a private practice in Valencia. She focuses on helping individuals build, mend and develop healthy relationships and authentic connections with others and with themselves, and as a Valencia EMDR therapist, she is specially qualified to treat trauma, kids and teens, performance enhancement and medical illness, right here in Santa Clarita. Kristina believes that the core of every working relationship should be built on trust, authenticity and quality. She brings a deep value and care for the patient experience, believing that change is made through relationships that are trusting, caring and safe.

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Suicide

What Happens When I Tell A Therapist I’m Suicidal?

“I’m scared to tell a therapist I’m suicidal.” I hear it all the time. That’s why I’ve designed this helpful guide that explains: who to talk to, what will happen, and how to have that tough conversation. Resources included.

If you’re experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911 immediately, or go to the nearest emergency room. If you’re having suicidal thoughts and need help now, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Lately, we’ve seen a surge of suicidality in the media, starting with the popular teen TV show “13 Reasons Why” and escalating with the very public deaths of American fashion designer Kate Spade and renown foodie Anthony Bourdain. Even now, suicide feels like this big, hairy monster that no one likes to address and nobody knows what to do with.

So what do we do?

Breaking the silence is a common call to action, heard among both mental health professionals and people struggling with suicide. But how? Well, I’ve noticed a gap in the conversation about suicide. There seems to be a good amount of information available about warning signs and resources; however, we’re still missing frank discussions about what it actually looks like to walk into a professional’s office and ask for help. To address this problem, I created a practical guide to having that tough conversation.

Here’s everything you need to know in order to safely tell a therapist you’re suicidal — and start healing.

How Do I Know If My Suicidal Thoughts Are Serious?

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for suicidal thoughts, therapist specializing in depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide symptoms, i’m suicidal, what do I do if I have depression, what do I do if I’m having suicidal thoughts, tell a therapist I’m suicidal First, it’s important to understand any thought of suicide is serious enough to tell someone. There are ways to lessen your suffering — and that’s reason enough.

However, it helps to understand that suicide exists on a continuum of intent. On one side of the continuum is a person who’s entertaining vague ideas about suicidality. She might wonder what it would be like to not wake up the next day, or she may just feel like “disappearing” completely. On the other side is someone who has a detailed plan, a date and time, and the means to carry out his plan. He might be taking actionable steps, such as writing a note or preparing his things.

It’s important to understand this continuum because mental health professionals use it to determine the level of care you need. Once you understand this continuum, it’s time to consider who you can talk to with trust and safety.

What Should I Do If I’m Having Suicidal Thoughts?

First and foremost, the most important thing is that you talk to someone if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts. Many people wait months or even years to reach out for help, even when they’re struggling. I’m here to tell you there’s no reason to suffer that long — especially not for fear of treatment.

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However, it’s also important to choose this person wisely — whether it be a trusted friend, family member, mentor or mental health professional. So how do you find the right person?

For some people, a friend or mentor can be less intimidating than a parent or mental health professional. Most people have an intuitive fear of extreme reactions or forced treatment. You might be afraid, for example, that a parent or doctor will force you to take medication — or even hospitalize you. While there’s no reason to be ashamed of any treatment options, I realize these outcomes can be frightening enough to stop you from reaching out. (More information about this common fear is included below.)

If this is you, tell someone. And if you reach out to someone and don’t receive the help you need, then try talking to someone else. Try again and again and again, until you find a treatment plan that works. Please don’t stop reaching out until you’re on the road to healing.

Why Should I Tell A Therapist I’m Suicidal?

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While it’s imperative that you talk to someone about suicide, there are reasons to choose your confidant with care. The average person, for example, doesn’t have the training and experience necessary to perform an assessment or guide you toward the best treatment options. Nonprofessionals also have much less experience determining where you fall on the continuum of intent. It’s possible they could project fears and risk escalating the problem, or they could miss a call for help.

And it’s true: Anyone can.

That’s why it’s so important to have another advocate in your corner, one who understands what you’re going through and how to treat it. Besides, if you’re more comfortable telling a friend, you can ask them to help you find a professional.

How Do I Tell A Therapist I’m Suicidal?

Assuming you found a safe therapist you trust, just be frank. It may sound simple, but thoughts of suicide feel anything but simple. It’s a complex experience that can come with shame, fear and guilt. That’s why it helps to just be straightforward and stick to the facts.

If you want to tell a therapist you’re suicidal, start by sharing:

  • Whether or not you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts in the present moment
  • The last time you experienced suicidal thoughts
  • How often you’ve experienced suicidal thoughts
  • What thoughts run through your mind
  • How you’re feeling about it
  • Anything else you want to unload or share

What Happens When I Tell A Therapist I’m Suicidal?

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for suicidal thoughts, therapist specializing in depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide symptoms, i’m suicidal, what do I do if I have depression, what do I do if I’m having suicidal thoughts, tell a therapist I’m suicidal Mental health professionals are legally and ethically mandated to report to authorities when a person is an imminent threat to him- or herself or others. That doesn’t mean, however, you need to worry about saying the wrong thing and — poof — you’ll be automatically taken away. In fact, not every person who experiences suicidal thoughts should go to the hospital or even take medication.

Each individual case is handled differently.

So what does happen when you tell a therapist you’re suicidal? The therapist or mental health professional will likely follow a process that begins by assessing where you fall on the continuum and ends by recommending the most appropriate treatment for you. For example, I would walk you through the following process.

Assessment

I ask you a series of questions to determine:

  • Are you currently having suicidal thoughts?
  • If not, then how recently and often have you had them?
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Do you have the means to carry out your plan?
  • Is your plan viable?

Recommend A Treatment Plan

Treatment options I might recommend include:

  • Check-in calls between sessions
  • Self-care plan
  • “No Suicide” contract
  • Involvement of your support system
  • Increased frequency of sessions with me or another professional
  • Referrals to health professionals, including a mental health specialist, psychiatrist or doctor
  • Medication management
  • Hospitalization, in the event of imminent threat or danger

Increase Level of Care

With the treatment plan as our guide, I will adjust your level of care as needed until suicidal thoughts, and other possible symptoms, are eliminated. If we hit a roadblock, then I can recommend services to use in tandem with psychotherapy, until we figure out the right plan for you. It’s as simple as that.

How Do I Get Help?

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for suicidal thoughts, therapist specializing in depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide symptoms, i’m suicidal, what do I do if I have depression, what do I do if I’m having suicidal thoughts, tell a therapist I’m suicidal I know it’s really scary to talk to a therapist about suicide, but it’s much more common than you think. More importantly, it’s very treatable, and at the end of the day, I don’t want anyone to suffer longer than they would have to otherwise. So — please — if you want to tell a therapist you’re suicidal, make a plan to get help, and reach out to someone you trust.

It can get better.

In fact, if you want to talk to a professional, here are 3 steps to finding a therapist in Santa Clarita:

  1. Some therapists accept insurance and some do not. To use your insurance, it’s best to call your insurance or make an account online, and search for in-network providers.
  2. If you have the flexibility to pay cash, you can search online directories and listings, such as Psychology Today,  and click on “Find a Therapist.” You can also search the EMDRIA Directory, which has only EMDR therapists.
  3. If you’re age 25 or younger and have MediCal, our local resource is Child and Family Center.

Local Resources

Regional and National Resources

About Your Santa Clarita Therapist

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, emdr therapist, trauma therapist, trauma specialist, Santa Clarita teen therapist, therapist for kids, therapist specializing in anxiety, therapist specializing in depression, suicidal thoughtsKristina de Bree is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in the state of California and an EMDRIA certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist with a private practice in Valencia. She focuses on helping individuals build, mend and develop healthy relationships and authentic connections with others and with themselves, and as a Valencia EMDR therapist, she is specially qualified to treat trauma, kids and teens, performance enhancement and medical illness, right here in Santa Clarita. Kristina believes that the core of every working relationship should be built on trust, authenticity and quality. She brings a deep value and care for the patient experience, believing that change is made through relationships that are trusting, caring and safe.