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Present Hope Counseling

Katherine Arnold, MAMFC, LPC, LMFT

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Loving Yourself Whether You are the Pinterest Mom or Zebra Cake Mom

February 14 by Heather Olivier

SHOUTOUT TO THE MOMS!

     These precious treats you see before you are for my one-year-old’s first Valentine’s Day party, ever. It’s my first go-around with this whole daycare thing, which was clear when I forgot his food on the first day. Seriously, who forgets their child’s FOOD?! I’ll tell you who: this lady right here. Anyway, fast forward to last week when I found a note in his backpack requesting that each child bring Valentine’s Day treats for the class. Y’all, the panic ensued. What was I supposed to bring for a class of one-year-olds? What are they allowed to eat? Do they even all have teeth? If so, is there a tooth count required to eat certain foods? A week and 27 Pinterest searches later, I was still at ground zero. I am not kidding when I say that the treats were seriously stressing me out!

In addition to being a wife and a mom, I’m also a counselor in pursuit of my PhD. As a counselor, I’m filled with excitement when I draw the human brain and can communicate to clients how its inner workings are responsible for emotional, physical, and relational dysregulation. (Heck, I bought special erasable pens to demonstrate how creating new neural pathways decreases the likelihood that we’ll revert back to old, destructive behavioral habits! How cool?!) As a PhD student, I find satisfaction in teaching graduate students about the value of the therapeutic relationship and its function in being the catalyst for change. As a researcher, I’m passionate about understanding, and educating the public on, trauma responses experienced by bereaved mothers. 

My brain is all about these cool things. But, Valentine’s Day treats?!? That’s where my brain slams on the breaks. Real talk: as a mom, I have more questions than I do answers. Y’all, this whole “raising a human being” thing is serious business! When it comes to momhood, there’s no empirical evidence to support my decision to let my son throw everything out of my bathroom drawers just so I can put on my makeup. There are no references to which I can refer you that would reveal the educational value of Paw Patrol. I’m going simply by instinct, and my guess is that I’m not alone in wondering if that instinct is right. 

As moms, we are so quick to dish out grace to everyone else and to be super harsh on ourselves. We often categorize ourselves as being either selfless or selfish. Why do we do that? The short answer is that societal expectations have conditioned us to believe that if we aren’t giving every ounce of our beings to everyone else, then we aren’t being “good” moms. The reality, however, is that if we give, give, give and never replenish ourselves, the burnout is soon to follow. Burnout looks like screaming at someone—anyone!—because you stepped on yet another Lego barefooted. It looks like resenting your family because they aren’t displaying love in the same way that you do. Burnout feels like losing control over your reactions and saying things you don’t mean.

So really, if we never show ourselves a little love, we can’t love our families the way in which we would like. By taking an hour out of the week to attend a therapy session, you aren’t taking away from your family; you’re investing in yourself so that you can, in turn, invest in your family. By taking a yoga class, you aren’t slipping away to have a little fun; you’re releasing weeks of built up tension so that you don’t release that tension on your family. As moms, we see our jobs as lifting up everyone else. That’s great, and super rewarding! But, if we don’t have a firm foundation within ourselves, we don’t have anything from which to lift our families.

Going back to the Valentine’s Day treat dilemma… you might be wondering what lit a fire under me causing me to become Ms. Crafty and send these precious treats. Honestly, nothing because I didn’t make the treats; my mom did. *Insert your judgmental gasps here if you’d like.* After a doozy of a week and a late research class, I conceded to the idea that Zebra Cakes would be the perfect treat. (I am, after all, a 90s kid.) It wasn’t until I spoke to my mom about needing to stop by Walmart to purchase said Zebra Cakes that I found out she had already made these sweet treats for my son and his class. (She is sent from Heaven, truly.) If other moms saw those V-Day treats, they might think I have it all together; that I wasn’t totally rattled by bringing treats to a group of one-year-olds. But the truth is, I’m the Zebra Cake mom, and that’s ok. It’s also a great example of how we compare ourselves to our perceptions of others, which may not always be reality. 

To all the moms that have a perfectly packed lunch, and for those of you, like myself, who realize they’re out of baby food at midnight and have to bust up in Walmart, I have one message for you: GIVE YOURSELF GRACE! This mom thing is tough! Whether you feel like you have it all together or you’re completely falling apart, therapy is a great way to recalibrate and focus on yourself. In a world full of comparison, the gals at Present Hope Counseling and Blue Hill Counseling are here to provide a therapeutic, nonjudgmental space for you to focus on the rockstar mom you are!

So, what’s the deal with a counselor admitting imperfections?? AUTHENTICITY! The days of your counselor being a mysterious robot have, thankfully, come to an end. We’re imperfect human beings who work really hard at educating ourselves on how to help others live their most authentic and fulfilling lives. So whether you’re the Pinterest mom, the Zebra Cake mom, or somewhere in between... we have a place for you! In a month dedicated to showing love to others, don’t put yourself at the bottom of the list. Counseling can help you cultivate that love. We’re here to help you find that grace. If you’re hesitant about therapy, want to check out the vibe of our office, or even want to find release without having to speak, Kelli at Blue Hill Counseling also offers therapeutic yoga classes that focus on relaxing your body to, in turn, relax your mind. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, moms. Don’t forget to love yourself today and every day!

-Heather @ Present Hope Counseling



Thankful Thursdays: Gratitude Through Experience

November 21 by Katherine Arnold 





Thankful Thursdays: Grieving Gratefully

November 14, 2019 by Heather Olivier

     Grieving gratefully… I know what you’re thinking. “That’s an oxymoron! How can someone be grateful while they grieve?” Grief and gratitude seem like two opposing forces that can’t be mixed. Like oil and water. Like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth. Like wearing a turtleneck sweater in the middle of July. They simply don’t mix. But what if they could? And what if it was life-changing?

     I always ask my clients to envision sandbags on their shoulders and to be aware of the weight of those sandbags throughout their day-to-day lives. Instead of asking if they felt better or worse throughout the week, I ask if they felt heavier or lighter. When we’re in the trenches of grief, admitting that we feel “better” can feel somewhat like a betrayal to the individual we lost. So, as you read this please know that I’m not suggesting that we attempt to feel better by cultivating gratitude but that we attempt to feel lighter.

     In a season of giving thanks, it can feel impossible to be in the “holiday spirit” when our loved ones are very obviously missing. We put on a front so no one feels weird, but the masks we wear begin to carry weight and we become weary. We focus so much on how others perceive us that we neglect what’s really going on inside.

     The mere suggestion of gratitude in grief can elicit defensiveness, but I think there is a considerable misconception regarding its true meaning. It’s often believed that gratitude is symbolic of things going well. It’s as if we’ve created some ratio that only allows a certain amount of gratitude as well as misfortune. If one increases, the other must decrease. We see gratitude as a landmark that means we’ve made it past the pain of difficult situations. If we are grateful, then we didn’t feel enough pain from our losses.

     If we view gratefulness in that capacity, then we’re taking away the power of choice. If gratitude is part of that ratio, then we have no control over how much or how little we have, right? But that’s the thing… we do have a choice. We can choose gratefulness even if the gratitude-misfortune ratio is dominated by misfortune. Being grateful – or ungrateful – is an active choice, and some would even say a skill. When we are in a state of gratitude, we are choosing to be mindful of the present moment, choosing to get out of our anxious thoughts, and choosing to have a sense of control amid the circumstances that surround us.

     It’s no coincidence that our demonstrably skewed views of gratitude resemble the views we have of healing grief. When the trauma of the loss haunts us through flashbacks, sleep irregularity, nightmares, and mood changes, we take those symptoms on as if we are expected to endure them. It’s as if we’ve put on backpacks full of bricks and we’ve told ourselves we must carry them until some allotted grief period has passed. Most people choose to go with the ‘ole “time heals all wounds” mentality instead of pursuing healing. I get it – the pursuit of healing can be intimidating and overwhelming.

     Intimidation factors into this scenario due to many people believing that the only path to healing is by processing exactly what happened, play-by-play. Research shows, however, that’s not the case. The trauma itself is not what’s affecting us; it’s the symptoms of the trauma. Those symptoms are the result of our beliefs surrounding what took place. Because they take hold of our lives and steal us from the present moment, the symptoms can often be more powerful than the experience that resulted in the trauma. If the symptoms that are impacting our current lives can be alleviated, we’ve created some sense of healing. Healing doesn’t mean the losses, or the pain of the losses, simply disappear; it means that the impact of those losses has less of a grip on our daily lives.

     So, why gratitude? Why not some other technique? Well, simply put, its restorative properties parallel those being sought in grief and trauma therapy. Gratitude brings awareness to our current environments versus getting lost in our ruminating thoughts that cause anxiety, guilt, etc. When we’re stuck in the spiral of grief thoughts, we fracture the connection to the awareness of our bodies. Gratefulness is a type of mindfulness that pulls us out of the past – pulls us out of our thoughts – and forces us to take inventory of the present. The idea of incorporating gratitude into our lives is much less intimidating than attempting to find healing from grief. It’s taking something in versus pulling something out. But, we can only store a certain amount of energy and emotion in our bodies. So, as the feeling of gratitude makes us feel lighter, the feeling of grief loses some of its weight.

     You’re probably thinking at this point, “Okay, that’s nice in theory, but how do I actually practice gratitude?” The best piece of advice I can give is to be realistic. Cultivating gratitude is a skill that will strengthen over time. Start small and use your senses. Feeling grateful doesn’t have to be some existential awakening; it just needs to bring your awareness to what you can see, smell, touch, hear, and taste. You might be super thankful for the new pine-scented candle you got on sale at Bath and Body Works because it puts you in the holiday mood. A new candle and a sale? Heck yeah, sister! I’d be grateful! Another idea is to be aware of your body’s overall wellbeing – its strength and endurance for getting you through such a painful experience. Like I’ve said, being grateful doesn’t mean accepting everything that is going on externally. You can experience gratitude by simply observing and becoming aware of what your five senses are picking up.

     To sum it all up, we often think that seeking some form of healing from our grief means that we weren’t broken up enough from our losses. That’s not true, though. The amount of pain we experience after loss is not a representation of the value of life for which was lost. So, if we can get out of the headspace that says, “I’m supposed to hurt or that means I didn’t care,” then maybe we will be lighter. If facing the grief that binds you seems too overwhelming, try cultivating gratitude instead. You’re decreasing the trauma symptoms in a way that isn’t focused on the trauma itself. Now don’t get me wrong, gratitude isn’t going to solve all the world’s problems. It’s a tool, however, to utilize until you’re ready to seek out therapy for more in-depth healing from the grief and trauma. It’s also a powerful tool to use while working through grief and trauma during therapy. All in all, grieving gratefully is a possibility and it might just be one that makes you feel lighter during the heavy process of grief.




What to do if you think someone is suicidal?

September 22th , 2019  uploaded by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

ing with them, talking with them, and helping them to connect to someone who is trained to talk them through.   


Find out more. Click the link below.    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtmlIf 



Myths about Suicide are barriers to Helping:  Take the quiz

September 16th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Take the Test: TRUE or FALSE

1. Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health condition?

2. Once an individual is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

3. Most suicides happen suddenly without warning.

4. People who die by suicide are selfish and take the easy way out.

5. Talking about suicide will lead to and encourage suicide.                 

Find out more. Click the link below.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2018/5-Common-Myths-About-Suicide-Debunked


Know the Warning Signs

September 10th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

All lives are valuable and important.  We must never forget the significance of caring.  We encourage you to learn about warning signs and risk factors.  Check out this link for more information.


https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/?fbclid=IwAR154Ph2AsUhxfigvLBI55dut9sSB6NUcMSm03yZbk185Ds8BzDXB8SXOGg


Sound the Alarm

September 9th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

      Over the next month, Present Hope Counseling plans to provide you with statistics, facts, terminology, and aids to help prevent suicide in our community. Our first blog will expose the reality of suicide by reporting on the statistics. 

       Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States? Suicide ranks as the 2nd leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 34. What does that mean? Every 11 minutes a person dies by suicide in the United States. If you head out for a half hour lunch break, by the time you return, two individuals have died by suicide in the United States. If you head to the theater to watch a movie, by the time the movie is over, six people would have died; one of those deaths is a young adult, not yet 35 years old.   For every one of these deaths, 147 people are exposed. In other words, 40-50% of our population has been exposed to suicide in their lifetime.

      Alarming as these statistics are, they do not include suicide attempts. Every 27 seconds, a person attempts to die by suicide in the United States. Consider these facts.  Then consider, prevention!  These deaths can be prevented.


Suicide can be prevented! 
Help us to help others by learning more.


We are Here For You

August 14th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


     August, 2019 marks the three-year anniversary of Louisiana’s “Great Flood.” The floodwaters have receded long ago. Slowly, our community and homes have been rebuilt and much has been restored. The Great Flood of 2016 is said to be in the past, a mere memory. But, is it?

     The Great Flood of 2016 is far from over. While the physical floodwaters certainly have receded, silently the invisible floodwaters of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty have risen. The impact of this event is not a mere memory but remains very active in our thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions.  We are hyper-vigilant to respond to any and all perceived threats; a severe rain forecast, a tropical storm warning, a rising river, or an unexpected downpour. We may find ourselves sandbagging, overanxious, feeling powerless, or paralyzed by panic.   Our perspective and our reality are no longer the same but forever changed. We are survivors of trauma. However, we do not have to stay stuck in the unchangeable past. The invisible floodwaters can recede. We can move forward and refocus on the here and now.

     Together, we want to join you in your journey to overcome the invisible flood.  We want to help you rebuild and restore your internal safety and security.  

    We are here for you.   


Show Up

August 14th, 2019 by Nicole Barnum


       

The First Step in Finding Healing

August 9th, 2019 by Kelli Blue Hill


       With much gratitude I can say that I did not flood personally. It was with great terror that I watched the footage of flooding. My mind thrashed about with worries. How are my friends and family? Is there anybody helping them? Can I help them? Would I have a job to return to? And if I did, who could keep my children while I worked? Will things ever return to normal? While these thoughts swarmed my mind, I was keenly aware of how small my concerns were compared to worries of others. In an instant, their lives had been irrevocably changed. Their physical safety and emotional security had vanished. And though generosity and kindness abounded, the magnitude of this event created scarcity of resources and helping hands.

       An event like this will not soon be forgotten. Trauma changes us. It hides in the fibers of our muscles, rewires our brains, and settles into our DNA. We find ourselves in a pattern of rapid-fire reactions to threats- either real or perceived. Our bodies and mind tell us that we absolutely CANNOT let something like this happen again. We will not be taken off guard! We will remain hypervigilant, ready to fight, flee or freeze at the slightest indication that the threat is returning. It could be a sight, a sound, a smell. A feeling. A roll of thunder. A weather alert on our phone. Whatever, it is, we’ll be ready for it! The slightest trigger will activate the most primitive part of our brain and familiar sensations of stress overwhelm us again! We can’t blame our brain for this reaction. In fact, our brains are primed for survival! Yet, over time, this stress response no longer serves us. The state of hypervigilance is meant to be a temporary reaction, not a sustained pattern. Simply put, trauma robs us of our ability to thoughtfully respond and instead, we react.

      After experiencing trauma, our minds might experience waves of thoughts- ruminations of the past and worries for the future. Our minds might struggle to grapple with questions of “Why me?” Or even play our story on repeat. Our minds might jump to the future, analyzing strategies for avoiding a replay of the pain. Or, sometimes, our minds might tune out altogether. We might live in a fog, become lost in daydreams or lose ourselves in a story while binging Netflix. If these thinking patterns sound familiar, congratulations! You are part of the human race, and, more importantly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

      As a therapist, there are a number of skills that I teach to clients to help redirect and ease their minds. Today, I would like to share with you what is, perhaps, the most powerful tool we have. But first, a disclaimer. I attended grad school for four years. During this time, I completed a 2-year internship which required weekly supervision both individually and as a group. After graduation, I completed an additional 3000 hours of post-masters supervised experience in order to achieve licensure and have since exceeded the minimum continuing education requirements per my board’s regulations. All that to say, I have spent a lot of money, taken a lot of classes, and worked under some really smart people in learning how to best help others. Yet, imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the most effective tools for managing stress, anxiety and trauma required no education at all. In fact, I had been practicing it since the minute I entered into this world-breathing.

       Before you start rolling your eyes, let me explain. I used to HATE when people would ask me to take a deep breath. It sounded so cliché and condescending. I usually thought, “I’m feeling tremendously terrible and YOU ARE TELLING ME TO BREATHE?” This thought was usually followed by a desire to punch them and then a considerable use of constraint. But the more I learn about breathing, the more I see that it’s not such bad advice. In fact, I have learned that it is an incredible, God-given tool that we can use anywhere, free of charge. 

        Think about it. Breathing is the only function that we can use both consciously and unconsciously. It can operate from both the primitive parts of our brain as well as our prefrontal cortex (basically the CEO of our brain). Which means, when we need it, we can pull this tool out of our unconscious toolbelt and move it to conscious. When we do so, we soothe the part of our brain responsible for a stress response. This action, in and of itself gives us a pause….a moment…where we can choose how we respond to a situation rather than react. Additionally, a nice, slow exhale activates our parasympathetic nervous system, prompting our heartrate to slow its pace. When we pause and breath, instead of activating our fight response, we give ourselves a fighting chance! In essence, we gain our control back in an uncontrollable situation.

       I can’t promise you that it won’t flood again. As much as I would like to, I cannot guarantee your safety at any given point. Yet when we make conscious breathing a habit in our lives, we can more easily and readily tap into our bodies’ natural and relaxed state. So, if you will, let’s give it a go. Take a nice deep inhale and a long slow exhale. Breathe into this moment. Allow yourself to feel whatever may come, breath into it and let the healing come.

               


Storm Prep 101: Communicating Your Anxiety

August 5th, 2019 by Heather Olivier


               August 2016 is a date that will forever haunt the residents of Louisiana. The disastrous flooding we experienced was nothing short of a meteorological mystery. As we slept safely in our beds, none of us knew that the rivers were quickly cresting and that the water would soon be rushing into our homes. I had been married for two short months and it was my husband’s first weekend off work since we returned from our honeymoon. What a great weekend off—not! As the panic ensued, we frantically tried to gather as many belongings as we could fit into our bags. I only thought to grab a pair of shoes because they were literally floating past me. We treaded through disgusting, brown water up to our chests as people floated by on boats. I recall a friend of mine yelling from his boat, “We rescued your grandmother and she’s safe.” What?! The thought of my grandmother being rescued by a boat was nightmarish. I was trying to wrap my mind around what was even happening. It was pure chaos.

        Since that dreadful day, I—like many of us, I would presume—have been on edge every time it begins raining hard. There have definitely been sandbags guarding my front door on more than one occasion. Over-prepared much? Probably. But, the interesting thing about our over-preparedness was that with each non-destructive rainfall after the 2016 Flood, we became more and more desensitized to the potential threat of another flood. Our hypersensitivity to heavy rainfall was being chipped away at each time our lives weren’t turned upside down. Over time, the 2016 Flood became known as some freak accident, one of which would not occur again in our lifetimes.

        Enter stage left: Hurricane Barry. Dun, dun, dun. What an uneventful weekend that was. Meteorologists across southern Louisiana and Mississippi were advising residents of those areas to take full precautions in preparing for extreme flooding. The hypervigilance that had slowly been dissipating was suddenly back with a vengeance. Bread, canned foods, water, and other items were cleaned out at every grocery store. The lines to fill up gas tanks were a mile long. Sandbags were showing up on front stoops as if Amazon had just had a blowout sale on them. I wasn’t freaking out. Nope; not me. I had what I call “the crazy eyes.” When you look at someone, ask if they’re okay, and they blurt out, “No, really! I’m fine!” But then you see their eyes and think, “Yikes… she is totally not fine…” and then you back away slowly. That was me—I was crazy eyes. Everyone else was freaking out, so why not follow suit? Bring me to the bandwagon so I can jump on.

        While I was busy freaking out about what needed to be done in preparation for the storm, my husband was cool, calm, and collected. He was saying things like, “I think it’s going to be fine. I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as they’re predicting.” He was right, obviously, but there was no way I could have known that at the time. I did not share his sense of calm, and frankly, it was working my nerves. I was overly-vocalizing my anxiety because I felt like he wasn’t anxious at all. If I didn’t exude a sense of urgency and panic, did the threat of losing everything even exist? I wanted to shake him and scream, “THERE IS A HURRICANE! YOU ARE TOO CALM!”

What I didn’t realize was that my husband and I were falling into a cycle that most people find themselves in no matter what type of relationship it is. He was trying to stay calm because he thought I was too anxious and needed to be grounded. I, on the other hand, was spouting off my feelings of anxiety because I felt he wasn’t taking the situation seriously. The calmer he was, the more anxious I became, and vice versa. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones to fall prey to this vicious cycle. I saw couples posting about their “I’m too anxious; you’re too calm” exchanges as well. So why were so many people finding themselves in this cycle? It’s because we were simply reacting and not stopping to consider what we were reacting to. I wasn’t overly anxious because of the storm, necessarily. My anxiety was heightened because I felt alone in my feelings of concern, which made me feel discounted. My husband wasn’t as calm as he let on either. He was putting his anxiety on the backburner to neutralize my sense of panic. We were adding fuel to the cycle’s fire because we were only reacting. Once we actually talked about it and both explained that we were attempting to overcompensate for the other’s lack of anxiety and calmness, the situation neutralized itself. Instead of reacting to one another, we were able to react to the potential threat as a team.

        The moral of the story is that anxiety—and our reactions to it—can act as a brick wall between ourselves and others. When we feel alone in our anxiety, we often feel the need to spread it to others. The problem is, they are probably already reacting to it whether they realize it or not. Now, let me be clear. A certain level of anxiety keeps us safe and grounded. It urges us to study for tests, to prepare for potential threats, to stay away from people who could harm us. Our jobs are to notice the anxiety, assess the source of the anxiety, and react in ways that could lower the anxiety. One of the quickest ways to relieve some of our anxiety is to communicate it. By doing so, we label the source of the anxiety and we avoid others reacting in a way that could increase it, such as overcompensating for our lack of calmness. So my fellow Louisiana residents, in the aftermath of Hurricane Barry, with the anniversary of the 2016 Flood quickly approaching, and for the rest of hurricane season, I urge you to be aware of how anxiety is impacting your relationships. Don’t be Crazy Eyes Magee who is freaking out on behalf of the whole neighborhood. Notice your anxiety, don’t let it overpower you, label it, and communicate it.


The Sandbags Worked 

July 21, 2019 by Melissa Carson


       In 2016 we waited too late. We watched as the water crept into the parking lot of our apartment complex and began to rise between the cars. By the time we realized we should make a plan to leave, our cars were too deep. We had the foresight to put up a few chairs on beds and move the photos to the higher shelves but beyond that we could not imagine the water getting into our home. We evacuated in 2016 when the power went out and about an hour before the water started creeping into our place. My father in law came in his truck and we waded in knee high water carrying our children and a duffel bag to meet him. As we exited our complex water was coming into his truck and filled the floorboards. Thinking back the words I associate with that memory is “trapped” and “powerless”. Our home flooded in 2016 and we were displaced for 8 ½ long, stressful months. Besides our overall sense of wellbeing, we ended up losing both our vehicles, most of our furniture, and so many of our possessions.

         Fast forward three years to tropical storm Barry. This storm gave us the advantage of advanced warning. The media could not stop talking about what a rain event it could be. We waited and watched, trying not to be overly anxious about it. When the forecasts started predicting rivers rising “just shy” of 2016 levels we started to make a plan. This time around we were going to prepare. We were not going to lose our vehicles. We were going to play it smart. The power of preparation helped me focus my frenetic energy into a task, any task that gave me a sense of control over this situation, unlike in 2016. My husband, children and I worked to put up furniture. I pulled out pots and pans, towels and everything in the bottom cabinets throughout the house. I moved clothing and plastic bins down to my in-laws along with three bags of groceries. I didn’t want to lose anything this go around! Even after all that I felt like I should have done more. I knew there were local sandbag distribution sites in our area so I took my children with me to get sandbags. The energy at the site was hurried, nervous, and yet generous. People were donating time and muscle to help fill and tie bags for others who were comparing this situation to “last time”. We loaded the heavy bags in our vehicles and headed home. My kids were curious how the sandbags would help. I explained it was one more measure to stop water from getting into our home. We put the sandbags in place, loaded up a few more items along with our dog and locked our home up tight, leaving for higher ground. Then we waited. We waited for the heavy rains to come and for the rivers to rise, praying it wouldn’t happen but knowing we had prepared in case it did. Barry didn’t do what the forecasters thought he would. Somehow that dry air caused the storm to produce two days of drizzly rain over Denham Springs. Throughout the weekend we watched the forecast continue to evolve. By Sunday, river estimates were below flood stage and we felt like we were safe to return home and begin the process of undoing all our preparation. I made a quick trip to our place and when I returned both my children asked me if our home had flooded again. I told them it didn’t, all was well and we were safe to return. My son’s response was “the sandbags worked!”. The sandbags worked. They worked to help us feel like we had power and could take action in the face of an uncontrollable event. They helped us channel our nervousness into preparations. They offered a little peace of mind to me and prevented flooding according to my son.

          In times of danger and even potential disaster we yearn to take action. How can we ward off what we cannot control? For us it was putting up furniture and putting out sandbags. For others it may have been to think through the worst-case scenario and then make a plan. Our physical preparations can give us the mental peace we yearn for. Our children hear and see these plans too. I encourage you to be open with them in times like these. Let them be a part of the plans to prepare because it can give them a sense of focused action and control too. My children felt they made a difference in the situation because they helped in the way they could. And now that we know the sandbags worked, next time we will again put out the sandbags.


What to do if you think someone is suicidal?

September 22th , 2019  uploaded by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

If you think someone you care about is in emotional crisis and is considering suicide, ASK!  If they say yes, you can help by being with them, talking with them, and helping them to connect to someone who is trained to talk them through.   


Find out more. Click the link below.    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtmlIf 



Myths about Suicide are barriers to Helping:  Take the quiz

September 16th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Take the Test: TRUE or FALSE

1. Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health condition?

2. Once an individual is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

3. Most suicides happen suddenly without warning.

4. People who die by suicide are selfish and take the easy way out.

5. Talking about suicide will lead to and encourage suicide.                 

Find out more. Click the link below.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2018/5-Common-Myths-About-Suicide-Debunked


Know the Warning Signs

September 10th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

All lives are valuable and important.  We must never forget the significance of caring.  We encourage you to learn about warning signs and risk factors.  Check out this link for more information.


https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/?fbclid=IwAR154Ph2AsUhxfigvLBI55dut9sSB6NUcMSm03yZbk185Ds8BzDXB8SXOGg


Sound the Alarm

September 9th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

      Over the next month, Present Hope Counseling plans to provide you with statistics, facts, terminology, and aids to help prevent suicide in our community. Our first blog will expose the reality of suicide by reporting on the statistics. 

       Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States? Suicide ranks as the 2nd leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 34. What does that mean? Every 11 minutes a person dies by suicide in the United States. If you head out for a half hour lunch break, by the time you return, two individuals have died by suicide in the United States. If you head to the theater to watch a movie, by the time the movie is over, six people would have died; one of those deaths is a young adult, not yet 35 years old.   For every one of these deaths, 147 people are exposed. In other words, 40-50% of our population has been exposed to suicide in their lifetime.

      Alarming as these statistics are, they do not include suicide attempts. Every 27 seconds, a person attempts to die by suicide in the United States. Consider these facts.  Then consider, prevention!  These deaths can be prevented.


Suicide can be prevented! 
Help us to help others by learning more.


We are Here For You

August 14th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


     August, 2019 marks the three-year anniversary of Louisiana’s “Great Flood.” The floodwaters have receded long ago. Slowly, our community and homes have been rebuilt and much has been restored. The Great Flood of 2016 is said to be in the past, a mere memory. But, is it?

     The Great Flood of 2016 is far from over. While the physical floodwaters certainly have receded, silently the invisible floodwaters of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty have risen. The impact of this event is not a mere memory but remains very active in our thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions.  We are hyper-vigilant to respond to any and all perceived threats; a severe rain forecast, a tropical storm warning, a rising river, or an unexpected downpour. We may find ourselves sandbagging, overanxious, feeling powerless, or paralyzed by panic.   Our perspective and our reality are no longer the same but forever changed. We are survivors of trauma. However, we do not have to stay stuck in the unchangeable past. The invisible floodwaters can recede. We can move forward and refocus on the here and now.

     Together, we want to join you in your journey to overcome the invisible flood.  We want to help you rebuild and restore your internal safety and security.  

    We are here for you.   


Show Up

August 14th, 2019 by Nicole Barnum


       

The First Step in Finding Healing

August 9th, 2019 by Kelli Blue Hill


       With much gratitude I can say that I did not flood personally. It was with great terror that I watched the footage of flooding. My mind thrashed about with worries. How are my friends and family? Is there anybody helping them? Can I help them? Would I have a job to return to? And if I did, who could keep my children while I worked? Will things ever return to normal? While these thoughts swarmed my mind, I was keenly aware of how small my concerns were compared to worries of others. In an instant, their lives had been irrevocably changed. Their physical safety and emotional security had vanished. And though generosity and kindness abounded, the magnitude of this event created scarcity of resources and helping hands.

       An event like this will not soon be forgotten. Trauma changes us. It hides in the fibers of our muscles, rewires our brains, and settles into our DNA. We find ourselves in a pattern of rapid-fire reactions to threats- either real or perceived. Our bodies and mind tell us that we absolutely CANNOT let something like this happen again. We will not be taken off guard! We will remain hypervigilant, ready to fight, flee or freeze at the slightest indication that the threat is returning. It could be a sight, a sound, a smell. A feeling. A roll of thunder. A weather alert on our phone. Whatever, it is, we’ll be ready for it! The slightest trigger will activate the most primitive part of our brain and familiar sensations of stress overwhelm us again! We can’t blame our brain for this reaction. In fact, our brains are primed for survival! Yet, over time, this stress response no longer serves us. The state of hypervigilance is meant to be a temporary reaction, not a sustained pattern. Simply put, trauma robs us of our ability to thoughtfully respond and instead, we react.

      After experiencing trauma, our minds might experience waves of thoughts- ruminations of the past and worries for the future. Our minds might struggle to grapple with questions of “Why me?” Or even play our story on repeat. Our minds might jump to the future, analyzing strategies for avoiding a replay of the pain. Or, sometimes, our minds might tune out altogether. We might live in a fog, become lost in daydreams or lose ourselves in a story while binging Netflix. If these thinking patterns sound familiar, congratulations! You are part of the human race, and, more importantly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

      As a therapist, there are a number of skills that I teach to clients to help redirect and ease their minds. Today, I would like to share with you what is, perhaps, the most powerful tool we have. But first, a disclaimer. I attended grad school for four years. During this time, I completed a 2-year internship which required weekly supervision both individually and as a group. After graduation, I completed an additional 3000 hours of post-masters supervised experience in order to achieve licensure and have since exceeded the minimum continuing education requirements per my board’s regulations. All that to say, I have spent a lot of money, taken a lot of classes, and worked under some really smart people in learning how to best help others. Yet, imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the most effective tools for managing stress, anxiety and trauma required no education at all. In fact, I had been practicing it since the minute I entered into this world-breathing.

       Before you start rolling your eyes, let me explain. I used to HATE when people would ask me to take a deep breath. It sounded so cliché and condescending. I usually thought, “I’m feeling tremendously terrible and YOU ARE TELLING ME TO BREATHE?” This thought was usually followed by a desire to punch them and then a considerable use of constraint. But the more I learn about breathing, the more I see that it’s not such bad advice. In fact, I have learned that it is an incredible, God-given tool that we can use anywhere, free of charge. 

        Think about it. Breathing is the only function that we can use both consciously and unconsciously. It can operate from both the primitive parts of our brain as well as our prefrontal cortex (basically the CEO of our brain). Which means, when we need it, we can pull this tool out of our unconscious toolbelt and move it to conscious. When we do so, we soothe the part of our brain responsible for a stress response. This action, in and of itself gives us a pause….a moment…where we can choose how we respond to a situation rather than react. Additionally, a nice, slow exhale activates our parasympathetic nervous system, prompting our heartrate to slow its pace. When we pause and breath, instead of activating our fight response, we give ourselves a fighting chance! In essence, we gain our control back in an uncontrollable situation.

       I can’t promise you that it won’t flood again. As much as I would like to, I cannot guarantee your safety at any given point. Yet when we make conscious breathing a habit in our lives, we can more easily and readily tap into our bodies’ natural and relaxed state. So, if you will, let’s give it a go. Take a nice deep inhale and a long slow exhale. Breathe into this moment. Allow yourself to feel whatever may come, breath into it and let the healing come.

               


Storm Prep 101: Communicating Your Anxiety

August 5th, 2019 by Heather Olivier


               August 2016 is a date that will forever haunt the residents of Louisiana. The disastrous flooding we experienced was nothing short of a meteorological mystery. As we slept safely in our beds, none of us knew that the rivers were quickly cresting and that the water would soon be rushing into our homes. I had been married for two short months and it was my husband’s first weekend off work since we returned from our honeymoon. What a great weekend off—not! As the panic ensued, we frantically tried to gather as many belongings as we could fit into our bags. I only thought to grab a pair of shoes because they were literally floating past me. We treaded through disgusting, brown water up to our chests as people floated by on boats. I recall a friend of mine yelling from his boat, “We rescued your grandmother and she’s safe.” What?! The thought of my grandmother being rescued by a boat was nightmarish. I was trying to wrap my mind around what was even happening. It was pure chaos.

        Since that dreadful day, I—like many of us, I would presume—have been on edge every time it begins raining hard. There have definitely been sandbags guarding my front door on more than one occasion. Over-prepared much? Probably. But, the interesting thing about our over-preparedness was that with each non-destructive rainfall after the 2016 Flood, we became more and more desensitized to the potential threat of another flood. Our hypersensitivity to heavy rainfall was being chipped away at each time our lives weren’t turned upside down. Over time, the 2016 Flood became known as some freak accident, one of which would not occur again in our lifetimes.

        Enter stage left: Hurricane Barry. Dun, dun, dun. What an uneventful weekend that was. Meteorologists across southern Louisiana and Mississippi were advising residents of those areas to take full precautions in preparing for extreme flooding. The hypervigilance that had slowly been dissipating was suddenly back with a vengeance. Bread, canned foods, water, and other items were cleaned out at every grocery store. The lines to fill up gas tanks were a mile long. Sandbags were showing up on front stoops as if Amazon had just had a blowout sale on them. I wasn’t freaking out. Nope; not me. I had what I call “the crazy eyes.” When you look at someone, ask if they’re okay, and they blurt out, “No, really! I’m fine!” But then you see their eyes and think, “Yikes… she is totally not fine…” and then you back away slowly. That was me—I was crazy eyes. Everyone else was freaking out, so why not follow suit? Bring me to the bandwagon so I can jump on.

        While I was busy freaking out about what needed to be done in preparation for the storm, my husband was cool, calm, and collected. He was saying things like, “I think it’s going to be fine. I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as they’re predicting.” He was right, obviously, but there was no way I could have known that at the time. I did not share his sense of calm, and frankly, it was working my nerves. I was overly-vocalizing my anxiety because I felt like he wasn’t anxious at all. If I didn’t exude a sense of urgency and panic, did the threat of losing everything even exist? I wanted to shake him and scream, “THERE IS A HURRICANE! YOU ARE TOO CALM!”

What I didn’t realize was that my husband and I were falling into a cycle that most people find themselves in no matter what type of relationship it is. He was trying to stay calm because he thought I was too anxious and needed to be grounded. I, on the other hand, was spouting off my feelings of anxiety because I felt he wasn’t taking the situation seriously. The calmer he was, the more anxious I became, and vice versa. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones to fall prey to this vicious cycle. I saw couples posting about their “I’m too anxious; you’re too calm” exchanges as well. So why were so many people finding themselves in this cycle? It’s because we were simply reacting and not stopping to consider what we were reacting to. I wasn’t overly anxious because of the storm, necessarily. My anxiety was heightened because I felt alone in my feelings of concern, which made me feel discounted. My husband wasn’t as calm as he let on either. He was putting his anxiety on the backburner to neutralize my sense of panic. We were adding fuel to the cycle’s fire because we were only reacting. Once we actually talked about it and both explained that we were attempting to overcompensate for the other’s lack of anxiety and calmness, the situation neutralized itself. Instead of reacting to one another, we were able to react to the potential threat as a team.

        The moral of the story is that anxiety—and our reactions to it—can act as a brick wall between ourselves and others. When we feel alone in our anxiety, we often feel the need to spread it to others. The problem is, they are probably already reacting to it whether they realize it or not. Now, let me be clear. A certain level of anxiety keeps us safe and grounded. It urges us to study for tests, to prepare for potential threats, to stay away from people who could harm us. Our jobs are to notice the anxiety, assess the source of the anxiety, and react in ways that could lower the anxiety. One of the quickest ways to relieve some of our anxiety is to communicate it. By doing so, we label the source of the anxiety and we avoid others reacting in a way that could increase it, such as overcompensating for our lack of calmness. So my fellow Louisiana residents, in the aftermath of Hurricane Barry, with the anniversary of the 2016 Flood quickly approaching, and for the rest of hurricane season, I urge you to be aware of how anxiety is impacting your relationships. Don’t be Crazy Eyes Magee who is freaking out on behalf of the whole neighborhood. Notice your anxiety, don’t let it overpower you, label it, and communicate it.


The Sandbags Worked 

July 21, 2019 by Melissa Carson


       In 2016 we waited too late. We watched as the water crept into the parking lot of our apartment complex and began to rise between the cars. By the time we realized we should make a plan to leave, our cars were too deep. We had the foresight to put up a few chairs on beds and move the photos to the higher shelves but beyond that we could not imagine the water getting into our home. We evacuated in 2016 when the power went out and about an hour before the water started creeping into our place. My father in law came in his truck and we waded in knee high water carrying our children and a duffel bag to meet him. As we exited our complex water was coming into his truck and filled the floorboards. Thinking back the words I associate with that memory is “trapped” and “powerless”. Our home flooded in 2016 and we were displaced for 8 ½ long, stressful months. Besides our overall sense of wellbeing, we ended up losing both our vehicles, most of our furniture, and so many of our possessions.

         Fast forward three years to tropical storm Barry. This storm gave us the advantage of advanced warning. The media could not stop talking about what a rain event it could be. We waited and watched, trying not to be overly anxious about it. When the forecasts started predicting rivers rising “just shy” of 2016 levels we started to make a plan. This time around we were going to prepare. We were not going to lose our vehicles. We were going to play it smart. The power of preparation helped me focus my frenetic energy into a task, any task that gave me a sense of control over this situation, unlike in 2016. My husband, children and I worked to put up furniture. I pulled out pots and pans, towels and everything in the bottom cabinets throughout the house. I moved clothing and plastic bins down to my in-laws along with three bags of groceries. I didn’t want to lose anything this go around! Even after all that I felt like I should have done more. I knew there were local sandbag distribution sites in our area so I took my children with me to get sandbags. The energy at the site was hurried, nervous, and yet generous. People were donating time and muscle to help fill and tie bags for others who were comparing this situation to “last time”. We loaded the heavy bags in our vehicles and headed home. My kids were curious how the sandbags would help. I explained it was one more measure to stop water from getting into our home. We put the sandbags in place, loaded up a few more items along with our dog and locked our home up tight, leaving for higher ground. Then we waited. We waited for the heavy rains to come and for the rivers to rise, praying it wouldn’t happen but knowing we had prepared in case it did. Barry didn’t do what the forecasters thought he would. Somehow that dry air caused the storm to produce two days of drizzly rain over Denham Springs. Throughout the weekend we watched the forecast continue to evolve. By Sunday, river estimates were below flood stage and we felt like we were safe to return home and begin the process of undoing all our preparation. I made a quick trip to our place and when I returned both my children asked me if our home had flooded again. I told them it didn’t, all was well and we were safe to return. My son’s response was “the sandbags worked!”. The sandbags worked. They worked to help us feel like we had power and could take action in the face of an uncontrollable event. They helped us channel our nervousness into preparations. They offered a little peace of mind to me and prevented flooding according to my son.

          In times of danger and even potential disaster we yearn to take action. How can we ward off what we cannot control? For us it was putting up furniture and putting out sandbags. For others it may have been to think through the worst-case scenario and then make a plan. Our physical preparations can give us the mental peace we yearn for. Our children hear and see these plans too. I encourage you to be open with them in times like these. Let them be a part of the plans to prepare because it can give them a sense of focused action and control too. My children felt they made a difference in the situation because they helped in the way they could. And now that we know the sandbags worked, next time we will again put out the sandbags.


What to do

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if you think someone is suicidal?

September 22th , 2019  uploaded by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

If you think someone you care about is in emotional crisis and is considering suicide, ASK!  If they say yes, you can help by being with them, talking with them, and helping them to connect to someone who is trained to talk them through.   


Find out more. Click the link below.    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtmlIf 



Myths about Suicide are barriers to Helping:  Take the quiz

September 16th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Take the Test: TRUE or FALSE

1. Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health condition?

2. Once an individual is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

3. Most suicides happen suddenly without warning.

4. People who die by suicide are selfish and take the easy way out.

5. Talking about suicide will lead to and encourage suicide.                 

Find out more. Click the link below.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2018/5-Common-Myths-About-Suicide-Debunked


Know the Warning Signs

September 10th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

All lives are valuable and important.  We must never forget the significance of caring.  We encourage you to learn about warning signs and risk factors.  Check out this link for more information.


https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/?fbclid=IwAR154Ph2AsUhxfigvLBI55dut9sSB6NUcMSm03yZbk185Ds8BzDXB8SXOGg


Sound the Alarm

September 9th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

      Over the next month, Present Hope Counseling plans to provide you with statistics, facts, terminology, and aids to help prevent suicide in our community. Our first blog will expose the reality of suicide by reporting on the statistics. 

       Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States? Suicide ranks as the 2nd leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 34. What does that mean? Every 11 minutes a person dies by suicide in the United States. If you head out for a half hour lunch break, by the time you return, two individuals have died by suicide in the United States. If you head to the theater to watch a movie, by the time the movie is over, six people would have died; one of those deaths is a young adult, not yet 35 years old.   For every one of these deaths, 147 people are exposed. In other words, 40-50% of our population has been exposed to suicide in their lifetime.

      Alarming as these statistics are, they do not include suicide attempts. Every 27 seconds, a person attempts to die by suicide in the United States. Consider these facts.  Then consider, prevention!  These deaths can be prevented.


Suicide can be prevented! 
Help us to help others by learning more.


We are Here For You

August 14th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


     August, 2019 marks the three-year anniversary of Louisiana’s “Great Flood.” The floodwaters have receded long ago. Slowly, our community and homes have been rebuilt and much has been restored. The Great Flood of 2016 is said to be in the past, a mere memory. But, is it?

     The Great Flood of 2016 is far from over. While the physical floodwaters certainly have receded, silently the invisible floodwaters of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty have risen. The impact of this event is not a mere memory but remains very active in our thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions.  We are hyper-vigilant to respond to any and all perceived threats; a severe rain forecast, a tropical storm warning, a rising river, or an unexpected downpour. We may find ourselves sandbagging, overanxious, feeling powerless, or paralyzed by panic.   Our perspective and our reality are no longer the same but forever changed. We are survivors of trauma. However, we do not have to stay stuck in the unchangeable past. The invisible floodwaters can recede. We can move forward and refocus on the here and now.

     Together, we want to join you in your journey to overcome the invisible flood.  We want to help you rebuild and restore your internal safety and security.  

    We are here for you.   


Show Up

August 14th, 2019 by Nicole Barnum


       

The First Step in Finding Healing

August 9th, 2019 by Kelli Blue Hill


       With much gratitude I can say that I did not flood personally. It was with great terror that I watched the footage of flooding. My mind thrashed about with worries. How are my friends and family? Is there anybody helping them? Can I help them? Would I have a job to return to? And if I did, who could keep my children while I worked? Will things ever return to normal? While these thoughts swarmed my mind, I was keenly aware of how small my concerns were compared to worries of others. In an instant, their lives had been irrevocably changed. Their physical safety and emotional security had vanished. And though generosity and kindness abounded, the magnitude of this event created scarcity of resources and helping hands.

       An event like this will not soon be forgotten. Trauma changes us. It hides in the fibers of our muscles, rewires our brains, and settles into our DNA. We find ourselves in a pattern of rapid-fire reactions to threats- either real or perceived. Our bodies and mind tell us that we absolutely CANNOT let something like this happen again. We will not be taken off guard! We will remain hypervigilant, ready to fight, flee or freeze at the slightest indication that the threat is returning. It could be a sight, a sound, a smell. A feeling. A roll of thunder. A weather alert on our phone. Whatever, it is, we’ll be ready for it! The slightest trigger will activate the most primitive part of our brain and familiar sensations of stress overwhelm us again! We can’t blame our brain for this reaction. In fact, our brains are primed for survival! Yet, over time, this stress response no longer serves us. The state of hypervigilance is meant to be a temporary reaction, not a sustained pattern. Simply put, trauma robs us of our ability to thoughtfully respond and instead, we react.

      After experiencing trauma, our minds might experience waves of thoughts- ruminations of the past and worries for the future. Our minds might struggle to grapple with questions of “Why me?” Or even play our story on repeat. Our minds might jump to the future, analyzing strategies for avoiding a replay of the pain. Or, sometimes, our minds might tune out altogether. We might live in a fog, become lost in daydreams or lose ourselves in a story while binging Netflix. If these thinking patterns sound familiar, congratulations! You are part of the human race, and, more importantly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

      As a therapist, there are a number of skills that I teach to clients to help redirect and ease their minds. Today, I would like to share with you what is, perhaps, the most powerful tool we have. But first, a disclaimer. I attended grad school for four years. During this time, I completed a 2-year internship which required weekly supervision both individually and as a group. After graduation, I completed an additional 3000 hours of post-masters supervised experience in order to achieve licensure and have since exceeded the minimum continuing education requirements per my board’s regulations. All that to say, I have spent a lot of money, taken a lot of classes, and worked under some really smart people in learning how to best help others. Yet, imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the most effective tools for managing stress, anxiety and trauma required no education at all. In fact, I had been practicing it since the minute I entered into this world-breathing.

       Before you start rolling your eyes, let me explain. I used to HATE when people would ask me to take a deep breath. It sounded so cliché and condescending. I usually thought, “I’m feeling tremendously terrible and YOU ARE TELLING ME TO BREATHE?” This thought was usually followed by a desire to punch them and then a considerable use of constraint. But the more I learn about breathing, the more I see that it’s not such bad advice. In fact, I have learned that it is an incredible, God-given tool that we can use anywhere, free of charge. 

        Think about it. Breathing is the only function that we can use both consciously and unconsciously. It can operate from both the primitive parts of our brain as well as our prefrontal cortex (basically the CEO of our brain). Which means, when we need it, we can pull this tool out of our unconscious toolbelt and move it to conscious. When we do so, we soothe the part of our brain responsible for a stress response. This action, in and of itself gives us a pause….a moment…where we can choose how we respond to a situation rather than react. Additionally, a nice, slow exhale activates our parasympathetic nervous system, prompting our heartrate to slow its pace. When we pause and breath, instead of activating our fight response, we give ourselves a fighting chance! In essence, we gain our control back in an uncontrollable situation.

       I can’t promise you that it won’t flood again. As much as I would like to, I cannot guarantee your safety at any given point. Yet when we make conscious breathing a habit in our lives, we can more easily and readily tap into our bodies’ natural and relaxed state. So, if you will, let’s give it a go. Take a nice deep inhale and a long slow exhale. Breathe into this moment. Allow yourself to feel whatever may come, breath into it and let the healing come.

               


Storm Prep 101: Communicating Your Anxiety

August 5th, 2019 by Heather Olivier


               August 2016 is a date that will forever haunt the residents of Louisiana. The disastrous flooding we experienced was nothing short of a meteorological mystery. As we slept safely in our beds, none of us knew that the rivers were quickly cresting and that the water would soon be rushing into our homes. I had been married for two short months and it was my husband’s first weekend off work since we returned from our honeymoon. What a great weekend off—not! As the panic ensued, we frantically tried to gather as many belongings as we could fit into our bags. I only thought to grab a pair of shoes because they were literally floating past me. We treaded through disgusting, brown water up to our chests as people floated by on boats. I recall a friend of mine yelling from his boat, “We rescued your grandmother and she’s safe.” What?! The thought of my grandmother being rescued by a boat was nightmarish. I was trying to wrap my mind around what was even happening. It was pure chaos.

        Since that dreadful day, I—like many of us, I would presume—have been on edge every time it begins raining hard. There have definitely been sandbags guarding my front door on more than one occasion. Over-prepared much? Probably. But, the interesting thing about our over-preparedness was that with each non-destructive rainfall after the 2016 Flood, we became more and more desensitized to the potential threat of another flood. Our hypersensitivity to heavy rainfall was being chipped away at each time our lives weren’t turned upside down. Over time, the 2016 Flood became known as some freak accident, one of which would not occur again in our lifetimes.

        Enter stage left: Hurricane Barry. Dun, dun, dun. What an uneventful weekend that was. Meteorologists across southern Louisiana and Mississippi were advising residents of those areas to take full precautions in preparing for extreme flooding. The hypervigilance that had slowly been dissipating was suddenly back with a vengeance. Bread, canned foods, water, and other items were cleaned out at every grocery store. The lines to fill up gas tanks were a mile long. Sandbags were showing up on front stoops as if Amazon had just had a blowout sale on them. I wasn’t freaking out. Nope; not me. I had what I call “the crazy eyes.” When you look at someone, ask if they’re okay, and they blurt out, “No, really! I’m fine!” But then you see their eyes and think, “Yikes… she is totally not fine…” and then you back away slowly. That was me—I was crazy eyes. Everyone else was freaking out, so why not follow suit? Bring me to the bandwagon so I can jump on.

        While I was busy freaking out about what needed to be done in preparation for the storm, my husband was cool, calm, and collected. He was saying things like, “I think it’s going to be fine. I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as they’re predicting.” He was right, obviously, but there was no way I could have known that at the time. I did not share his sense of calm, and frankly, it was working my nerves. I was overly-vocalizing my anxiety because I felt like he wasn’t anxious at all. If I didn’t exude a sense of urgency and panic, did the threat of losing everything even exist? I wanted to shake him and scream, “THERE IS A HURRICANE! YOU ARE TOO CALM!”

What I didn’t realize was that my husband and I were falling into a cycle that most people find themselves in no matter what type of relationship it is. He was trying to stay calm because he thought I was too anxious and needed to be grounded. I, on the other hand, was spouting off my feelings of anxiety because I felt he wasn’t taking the situation seriously. The calmer he was, the more anxious I became, and vice versa. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones to fall prey to this vicious cycle. I saw couples posting about their “I’m too anxious; you’re too calm” exchanges as well. So why were so many people finding themselves in this cycle? It’s because we were simply reacting and not stopping to consider what we were reacting to. I wasn’t overly anxious because of the storm, necessarily. My anxiety was heightened because I felt alone in my feelings of concern, which made me feel discounted. My husband wasn’t as calm as he let on either. He was putting his anxiety on the backburner to neutralize my sense of panic. We were adding fuel to the cycle’s fire because we were only reacting. Once we actually talked about it and both explained that we were attempting to overcompensate for the other’s lack of anxiety and calmness, the situation neutralized itself. Instead of reacting to one another, we were able to react to the potential threat as a team.

        The moral of the story is that anxiety—and our reactions to it—can act as a brick wall between ourselves and others. When we feel alone in our anxiety, we often feel the need to spread it to others. The problem is, they are probably already reacting to it whether they realize it or not. Now, let me be clear. A certain level of anxiety keeps us safe and grounded. It urges us to study for tests, to prepare for potential threats, to stay away from people who could harm us. Our jobs are to notice the anxiety, assess the source of the anxiety, and react in ways that could lower the anxiety. One of the quickest ways to relieve some of our anxiety is to communicate it. By doing so, we label the source of the anxiety and we avoid others reacting in a way that could increase it, such as overcompensating for our lack of calmness. So my fellow Louisiana residents, in the aftermath of Hurricane Barry, with the anniversary of the 2016 Flood quickly approaching, and for the rest of hurricane season, I urge you to be aware of how anxiety is impacting your relationships. Don’t be Crazy Eyes Magee who is freaking out on behalf of the whole neighborhood. Notice your anxiety, don’t let it overpower you, label it, and communicate it.


The Sandbags Worked 

July 21, 2019 by Melissa Carson


       In 2016 we waited too late. We watched as the water crept into the parking lot of our apartment complex and began to rise between the cars. By the time we realized we should make a plan to leave, our cars were too deep. We had the foresight to put up a few chairs on beds and move the photos to the higher shelves but beyond that we could not imagine the water getting into our home. We evacuated in 2016 when the power went out and about an hour before the water started creeping into our place. My father in law came in his truck and we waded in knee high water carrying our children and a duffel bag to meet him. As we exited our complex water was coming into his truck and filled the floorboards. Thinking back the words I associate with that memory is “trapped” and “powerless”. Our home flooded in 2016 and we were displaced for 8 ½ long, stressful months. Besides our overall sense of wellbeing, we ended up losing both our vehicles, most of our furniture, and so many of our possessions.

         Fast forward three years to tropical storm Barry. This storm gave us the advantage of advanced warning. The media could not stop talking about what a rain event it could be. We waited and watched, trying not to be overly anxious about it. When the forecasts started predicting rivers rising “just shy” of 2016 levels we started to make a plan. This time around we were going to prepare. We were not going to lose our vehicles. We were going to play it smart. The power of preparation helped me focus my frenetic energy into a task, any task that gave me a sense of control over this situation, unlike in 2016. My husband, children and I worked to put up furniture. I pulled out pots and pans, towels and everything in the bottom cabinets throughout the house. I moved clothing and plastic bins down to my in-laws along with three bags of groceries. I didn’t want to lose anything this go around! Even after all that I felt like I should have done more. I knew there were local sandbag distribution sites in our area so I took my children with me to get sandbags. The energy at the site was hurried, nervous, and yet generous. People were donating time and muscle to help fill and tie bags for others who were comparing this situation to “last time”. We loaded the heavy bags in our vehicles and headed home. My kids were curious how the sandbags would help. I explained it was one more measure to stop water from getting into our home. We put the sandbags in place, loaded up a few more items along with our dog and locked our home up tight, leaving for higher ground. Then we waited. We waited for the heavy rains to come and for the rivers to rise, praying it wouldn’t happen but knowing we had prepared in case it did. Barry didn’t do what the forecasters thought he would. Somehow that dry air caused the storm to produce two days of drizzly rain over Denham Springs. Throughout the weekend we watched the forecast continue to evolve. By Sunday, river estimates were below flood stage and we felt like we were safe to return home and begin the process of undoing all our preparation. I made a quick trip to our place and when I returned both my children asked me if our home had flooded again. I told them it didn’t, all was well and we were safe to return. My son’s response was “the sandbags worked!”. The sandbags worked. They worked to help us feel like we had power and could take action in the face of an uncontrollable event. They helped us channel our nervousness into preparations. They offered a little peace of mind to me and prevented flooding according to my son.

          In times of danger and even potential disaster we yearn to take action. How can we ward off what we cannot control? For us it was putting up furniture and putting out sandbags. For others it may have been to think through the worst-case scenario and then make a plan. Our physical preparations can give us the mental peace we yearn for. Our children hear and see these plans too. I encourage you to be open with them in times like these. Let them be a part of the plans to prepare because it can give them a sense of focused action and control too. My children felt they made a difference in the situation because they helped in the way they could. And now that we know the sandbags worked, next time we will again put out the sandbags.


What to do if you think someone is suicidal?

September 22th , 2019  uploaded by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

If you think someone you care about is in emotional crisis and is considering suicide, ASK!  If they say yes, you can help by being with them, talking with them, and helping them to connect to someone who is trained to talk them through.   


Find out more. Click the link below.    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtmlIf 



Myths about Suicide are barriers to Helping:  Take the quiz

September 16th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold

   September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Take the Test: TRUE or FALSE

1. Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health condition?

2. Once an individual is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

3. Most suicides happen suddenly without warning.

4. People who die by suicide are selfish and take the easy way out.

5. Talking about suicide will lead to and encourage suicide.                 

Find out more. Click the link below.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2018/5-Common-Myths-About-Suicide-Debunked


Know the Warning Signs

September 10th , 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

All lives are valuable and important.  We must never forget the significance of caring.  We encourage you to learn about warning signs and risk factors.  Check out this link for more information.


https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/?fbclid=IwAR154Ph2AsUhxfigvLBI55dut9sSB6NUcMSm03yZbk185Ds8BzDXB8SXOGg


Sound the Alarm

September 9th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


                                     September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

      Over the next month, Present Hope Counseling plans to provide you with statistics, facts, terminology, and aids to help prevent suicide in our community. Our first blog will expose the reality of suicide by reporting on the statistics. 

       Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States? Suicide ranks as the 2nd leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 34. What does that mean? Every 11 minutes a person dies by suicide in the United States. If you head out for a half hour lunch break, by the time you return, two individuals have died by suicide in the United States. If you head to the theater to watch a movie, by the time the movie is over, six people would have died; one of those deaths is a young adult, not yet 35 years old.   For every one of these deaths, 147 people are exposed. In other words, 40-50% of our population has been exposed to suicide in their lifetime.

      Alarming as these statistics are, they do not include suicide attempts. Every 27 seconds, a person attempts to die by suicide in the United States. Consider these facts.  Then consider, prevention!  These deaths can be prevented.


Suicide can be prevented! 
Help us to help others by learning more.


We are Here For You

August 14th, 2019 by Katherine Arnold


     August, 2019 marks the three-year anniversary of Louisiana’s “Great Flood.” The floodwaters have receded long ago. Slowly, our community and homes have been rebuilt and much has been restored. The Great Flood of 2016 is said to be in the past, a mere memory. But, is it?

     The Great Flood of 2016 is far from over. While the physical floodwaters certainly have receded, silently the invisible floodwaters of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty have risen. The impact of this event is not a mere memory but remains very active in our thoughts, emotions, actions, and reactions.  We are hyper-vigilant to respond to any and all perceived threats; a severe rain forecast, a tropical storm warning, a rising river, or an unexpected downpour. We may find ourselves sandbagging, overanxious, feeling powerless, or paralyzed by panic.   Our perspective and our reality are no longer the same but forever changed. We are survivors of trauma. However, we do not have to stay stuck in the unchangeable past. The invisible floodwaters can recede. We can move forward and refocus on the here and now.

     Together, we want to join you in your journey to overcome the invisible flood.  We want to help you rebuild and restore your internal safety and security.  

    We are here for you.   


Show Up

August 14th, 2019 by Nicole Barnum


       

The First Step in Finding Healing

August 9th, 2019 by Kelli Blue Hill


       With much gratitude I can say that I did not flood personally. It was with great terror that I watched the footage of flooding. My mind thrashed about with worries. How are my friends and family? Is there anybody helping them? Can I help them? Would I have a job to return to? And if I did, who could keep my children while I worked? Will things ever return to normal? While these thoughts swarmed my mind, I was keenly aware of how small my concerns were compared to worries of others. In an instant, their lives had been irrevocably changed. Their physical safety and emotional security had vanished. And though generosity and kindness abounded, the magnitude of this event created scarcity of resources and helping hands.

       An event like this will not soon be forgotten. Trauma changes us. It hides in the fibers of our muscles, rewires our brains, and settles into our DNA. We find ourselves in a pattern of rapid-fire reactions to threats- either real or perceived. Our bodies and mind tell us that we absolutely CANNOT let something like this happen again. We will not be taken off guard! We will remain hypervigilant, ready to fight, flee or freeze at the slightest indication that the threat is returning. It could be a sight, a sound, a smell. A feeling. A roll of thunder. A weather alert on our phone. Whatever, it is, we’ll be ready for it! The slightest trigger will activate the most primitive part of our brain and familiar sensations of stress overwhelm us again! We can’t blame our brain for this reaction. In fact, our brains are primed for survival! Yet, over time, this stress response no longer serves us. The state of hypervigilance is meant to be a temporary reaction, not a sustained pattern. Simply put, trauma robs us of our ability to thoughtfully respond and instead, we react.

      After experiencing trauma, our minds might experience waves of thoughts- ruminations of the past and worries for the future. Our minds might struggle to grapple with questions of “Why me?” Or even play our story on repeat. Our minds might jump to the future, analyzing strategies for avoiding a replay of the pain. Or, sometimes, our minds might tune out altogether. We might live in a fog, become lost in daydreams or lose ourselves in a story while binging Netflix. If these thinking patterns sound familiar, congratulations! You are part of the human race, and, more importantly, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

      As a therapist, there are a number of skills that I teach to clients to help redirect and ease their minds. Today, I would like to share with you what is, perhaps, the most powerful tool we have. But first, a disclaimer. I attended grad school for four years. During this time, I completed a 2-year internship which required weekly supervision both individually and as a group. After graduation, I completed an additional 3000 hours of post-masters supervised experience in order to achieve licensure and have since exceeded the minimum continuing education requirements per my board’s regulations. All that to say, I have spent a lot of money, taken a lot of classes, and worked under some really smart people in learning how to best help others. Yet, imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the most effective tools for managing stress, anxiety and trauma required no education at all. In fact, I had been practicing it since the minute I entered into this world-breathing.

       Before you start rolling your eyes, let me explain. I used to HATE when people would ask me to take a deep breath. It sounded so cliché and condescending. I usually thought, “I’m feeling tremendously terrible and YOU ARE TELLING ME TO BREATHE?” This thought was usually followed by a desire to punch them and then a considerable use of constraint. But the more I learn about breathing, the more I see that it’s not such bad advice. In fact, I have learned that it is an incredible, God-given tool that we can use anywhere, free of charge. 

        Think about it. Breathing is the only function that we can use both consciously and unconsciously. It can operate from both the primitive parts of our brain as well as our prefrontal cortex (basically the CEO of our brain). Which means, when we need it, we can pull this tool out of our unconscious toolbelt and move it to conscious. When we do so, we soothe the part of our brain responsible for a stress response. This action, in and of itself gives us a pause….a moment…where we can choose how we respond to a situation rather than react. Additionally, a nice, slow exhale activates our parasympathetic nervous system, prompting our heartrate to slow its pace. When we pause and breath, instead of activating our fight response, we give ourselves a fighting chance! In essence, we gain our control back in an uncontrollable situation.

       I can’t promise you that it won’t flood again. As much as I would like to, I cannot guarantee your safety at any given point. Yet when we make conscious breathing a habit in our lives, we can more easily and readily tap into our bodies’ natural and relaxed state. So, if you will, let’s give it a go. Take a nice deep inhale and a long slow exhale. Breathe into this moment. Allow yourself to feel whatever may come, breath into it and let the healing come.

               


Storm Prep 101: Communicating Your Anxiety

August 5th, 2019 by Heather Olivier


               August 2016 is a date that will forever haunt the residents of Louisiana. The disastrous flooding we experienced was nothing short of a meteorological mystery. As we slept safely in our beds, none of us knew that the rivers were quickly cresting and that the water would soon be rushing into our homes. I had been married for two short months and it was my husband’s first weekend off work since we returned from our honeymoon. What a great weekend off—not! As the panic ensued, we frantically tried to gather as many belongings as we could fit into our bags. I only thought to grab a pair of shoes because they were literally floating past me. We treaded through disgusting, brown water up to our chests as people floated by on boats. I recall a friend of mine yelling from his boat, “We rescued your grandmother and she’s safe.” What?! The thought of my grandmother being rescued by a boat was nightmarish. I was trying to wrap my mind around what was even happening. It was pure chaos.

        Since that dreadful day, I—like many of us, I would presume—have been on edge every time it begins raining hard. There have definitely been sandbags guarding my front door on more than one occasion. Over-prepared much? Probably. But, the interesting thing about our over-preparedness was that with each non-destructive rainfall after the 2016 Flood, we became more and more desensitized to the potential threat of another flood. Our hypersensitivity to heavy rainfall was being chipped away at each time our lives weren’t turned upside down. Over time, the 2016 Flood became known as some freak accident, one of which would not occur again in our lifetimes.

        Enter stage left: Hurricane Barry. Dun, dun, dun. What an uneventful weekend that was. Meteorologists across southern Louisiana and Mississippi were advising residents of those areas to take full precautions in preparing for extreme flooding. The hypervigilance that had slowly been dissipating was suddenly back with a vengeance. Bread, canned foods, water, and other items were cleaned out at every grocery store. The lines to fill up gas tanks were a mile long. Sandbags were showing up on front stoops as if Amazon had just had a blowout sale on them. I wasn’t freaking out. Nope; not me. I had what I call “the crazy eyes.” When you look at someone, ask if they’re okay, and they blurt out, “No, really! I’m fine!” But then you see their eyes and think, “Yikes… she is totally not fine…” and then you back away slowly. That was me—I was crazy eyes. Everyone else was freaking out, so why not follow suit? Bring me to the bandwagon so I can jump on.

        While I was busy freaking out about what needed to be done in preparation for the storm, my husband was cool, calm, and collected. He was saying things like, “I think it’s going to be fine. I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as they’re predicting.” He was right, obviously, but there was no way I could have known that at the time. I did not share his sense of calm, and frankly, it was working my nerves. I was overly-vocalizing my anxiety because I felt like he wasn’t anxious at all. If I didn’t exude a sense of urgency and panic, did the threat of losing everything even exist? I wanted to shake him and scream, “THERE IS A HURRICANE! YOU ARE TOO CALM!”

What I didn’t realize was that my husband and I were falling into a cycle that most people find themselves in no matter what type of relationship it is. He was trying to stay calm because he thought I was too anxious and needed to be grounded. I, on the other hand, was spouting off my feelings of anxiety because I felt he wasn’t taking the situation seriously. The calmer he was, the more anxious I became, and vice versa. As it turns out, we weren’t the only ones to fall prey to this vicious cycle. I saw couples posting about their “I’m too anxious; you’re too calm” exchanges as well. So why were so many people finding themselves in this cycle? It’s because we were simply reacting and not stopping to consider what we were reacting to. I wasn’t overly anxious because of the storm, necessarily. My anxiety was heightened because I felt alone in my feelings of concern, which made me feel discounted. My husband wasn’t as calm as he let on either. He was putting his anxiety on the backburner to neutralize my sense of panic. We were adding fuel to the cycle’s fire because we were only reacting. Once we actually talked about it and both explained that we were attempting to overcompensate for the other’s lack of anxiety and calmness, the situation neutralized itself. Instead of reacting to one another, we were able to react to the potential threat as a team.

        The moral of the story is that anxiety—and our reactions to it—can act as a brick wall between ourselves and others. When we feel alone in our anxiety, we often feel the need to spread it to others. The problem is, they are probably already reacting to it whether they realize it or not. Now, let me be clear. A certain level of anxiety keeps us safe and grounded. It urges us to study for tests, to prepare for potential threats, to stay away from people who could harm us. Our jobs are to notice the anxiety, assess the source of the anxiety, and react in ways that could lower the anxiety. One of the quickest ways to relieve some of our anxiety is to communicate it. By doing so, we label the source of the anxiety and we avoid others reacting in a way that could increase it, such as overcompensating for our lack of calmness. So my fellow Louisiana residents, in the aftermath of Hurricane Barry, with the anniversary of the 2016 Flood quickly approaching, and for the rest of hurricane season, I urge you to be aware of how anxiety is impacting your relationships. Don’t be Crazy Eyes Magee who is freaking out on behalf of the whole neighborhood. Notice your anxiety, don’t let it overpower you, label it, and communicate it.


The Sandbags Worked 

July 21, 2019 by Melissa Carson


       In 2016 we waited too late. We watched as the water crept into the parking lot of our apartment complex and began to rise between the cars. By the time we realized we should make a plan to leave, our cars were too deep. We had the foresight to put up a few chairs on beds and move the photos to the higher shelves but beyond that we could not imagine the water getting into our home. We evacuated in 2016 when the power went out and about an hour before the water started creeping into our place. My father in law came in his truck and we waded in knee high water carrying our children and a duffel bag to meet him. As we exited our complex water was coming into his truck and filled the floorboards. Thinking back the words I associate with that memory is “trapped” and “powerless”. Our home flooded in 2016 and we were displaced for 8 ½ long, stressful months. Besides our overall sense of wellbeing, we ended up losing both our vehicles, most of our furniture, and so many of our possessions.

         Fast forward three years to tropical storm Barry. This storm gave us the advantage of advanced warning. The media could not stop talking about what a rain event it could be. We waited and watched, trying not to be overly anxious about it. When the forecasts started predicting rivers rising “just shy” of 2016 levels we started to make a plan. This time around we were going to prepare. We were not going to lose our vehicles. We were going to play it smart. The power of preparation helped me focus my frenetic energy into a task, any task that gave me a sense of control over this situation, unlike in 2016. My husband, children and I worked to put up furniture. I pulled out pots and pans, towels and everything in the bottom cabinets throughout the house. I moved clothing and plastic bins down to my in-laws along with three bags of groceries. I didn’t want to lose anything this go around! Even after all that I felt like I should have done more. I knew there were local sandbag distribution sites in our area so I took my children with me to get sandbags. The energy at the site was hurried, nervous, and yet generous. People were donating time and muscle to help fill and tie bags for others who were comparing this situation to “last time”. We loaded the heavy bags in our vehicles and headed home. My kids were curious how the sandbags would help. I explained it was one more measure to stop water from getting into our home. We put the sandbags in place, loaded up a few more items along with our dog and locked our home up tight, leaving for higher ground. Then we waited. We waited for the heavy rains to come and for the rivers to rise, praying it wouldn’t happen but knowing we had prepared in case it did. Barry didn’t do what the forecasters thought he would. Somehow that dry air caused the storm to produce two days of drizzly rain over Denham Springs. Throughout the weekend we watched the forecast continue to evolve. By Sunday, river estimates were below flood stage and we felt like we were safe to return home and begin the process of undoing all our preparation. I made a quick trip to our place and when I returned both my children asked me if our home had flooded again. I told them it didn’t, all was well and we were safe to return. My son’s response was “the sandbags worked!”. The sandbags worked. They worked to help us feel like we had power and could take action in the face of an uncontrollable event. They helped us channel our nervousness into preparations. They offered a little peace of mind to me and prevented flooding according to my son.

          In times of danger and even potential disaster we yearn to take action. How can we ward off what we cannot control? For us it was putting up furniture and putting out sandbags. For others it may have been to think through the worst-case scenario and then make a plan. Our physical preparations can give us the mental peace we yearn for. Our children hear and see these plans too. I encourage you to be open with them in times like these. Let them be a part of the plans to prepare because it can give them a sense of focused action and control too. My children felt they made a difference in the situation because they helped in the way they could. And now that we know the sandbags worked, next time we will again put out the sandbags.