The Three Levels of Forgiveness

In a previous article “Don’t Ask Me to Forgive You”, I have talked about what forgiveness is and isn’t. There are also stages of forgiveness in which we weren’t taught growing up. According to Eileen Barker, there are three levels of forgiveness. Learning about these levels of forgiveness can bring awareness to your own suffering. You might even find one of them to surprise you.

Level one: Forgiving Others

The hardest level is to forgive another person. This challenges us to go against our usual defense mechanisms. There is forgiveness for impersonal acts. These acts are not attributed to one individual yet it can have a profound impact on our lives. Such examples include, mankind destroying the environment or forgiving God for causing some much suffering on planet Earth. Impersonal acts can make us feel powerless as much of it is out of our control.

Level two: Self-Forgiveness

For closure to occur, there has to be forgiveness of the other person and ourselves. Even in situations where we perceive ourselves as victims, we have to come to terms that we contributed to our own sufferings. Author Ken Cloke states, “ Our conflicts therefore seem to take us to a place externally, yet everything we understand about the meaning of what happened, and all of our responses to the actions of others are initiated and coordinated internally by our brain.” Meaning that when an event occurs, it’s stored in our memories and it becomes altered as it continuously played in our minds giving more attachment to the memory each and every time. Once it does this, the “memory” becomes less prominent to rely on as we intertwine other feelings and emotions into the picture.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 11 Self-Help Tips to Try

Anxiety & Depression: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 11 self-help tips to try (and 4 more for others to assist you)

Many think of PTSD as a military phenomenon, but we are all vulnerable, no matter the age or circumstance; a home fire, domestic abuse, witnessing a traffic accident. Any experience of a life trauma, either physically or emotionally; lived, witnessed or thought of, can cause an anxiety problem- even depression, known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The anxiety & depression of PTSD can affect you for years after the event occurs – possibly even the rest of your life. PTSD can very well affect you both psychologically and physically.

As a result, you may relive the trauma, as though transported back in time.

These reminders are what fellow mental health practitioners term, “Triggers” (Yes, just like a pistol trigger; and with similar catastrophic results.)

Triggers, such as loud noises, images or other situations may “trigger” panic attacks, extreme anxiety, unexplained anger or fear (of recurrence) and depression. Those with PTSD also experience issues with their emotional thinking and future: detachment from love, numbness, depression, feelings of helplessness/hopelessness or avoidance behaviors of events, things, and even people that may remind them of the dreaded event.

The good news is that there are genuinely effective ways to help. Many people have cured their anxiety altogether, and others find ways to make it easily manageable. Counseling on practitioners are experts at this.

But first, here are 11 self- help tips to try:

1. Get moving

Focus on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can better help your nervous system become “unstuck”; by walking, running, swimming, or dancing.

2. Spend time in nature

Pursue outdoor activities like hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and skiing or just a simple walk in the woods- even a relaxing view out your window.

3. Self-regulate your nervous system

Learn that you can change your hyper-alert system and calm yourself directly. This challenges the sense of helplessness that often accompanies PTSD.

Mindful breathing, a quick way to calm yourself through mindful breathing. Simply take 60 breaths, focusing your attention on each out breath.

Sensory input Listen to an uplifting song. Smell ground coffee or a certain brand of cologne. Pet an animal.

Reconnect emotionally. Learn more about a mindful practice that connects you to your emotions.

4. Connect with others

Find someone you can connect with face to face—someone you can talk to for an uninterrupted period of time, someone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distracted by the phone or other people. That person may be your significant other, a family member, a friend, or professional therapist.

5. Exercise or move. Take some time to exercise. Jump up and down, swing your arms and legs. A few minutes of that and you’ll be breathing heavily. Your head will feel clearer.
6. Vocal toning. Sing. Find a quiet place and in a straight back chair, purse your lips together and teeth slightly apart, simply making “mmmm” sounds. Change the pitch and volume until you experience a pleasant vibration in your face.
7. Volunteer your time or reach out to a friend in need. This can help you reclaim your sense of power. Join a PTSD support group.
8. Take time to relax. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, massage or yoga can activate the body’s relaxation response and ease symptoms of PTSD.
9. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
10. Eat a healthy diet. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Limit processed food.
11. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation exacerbates anger, irritability, and moodiness.

Here are Tips for what a loved one can do to help (Show this to them):

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PTSD – Profiles in Recovery

William W. Horne1 spotlights the subjects of former President George W. Bush’s paintings of war veterans who found a way to survive:

“Petty Officer Chris Goethner, May 2003-2006: As a medic in Iraq, Goehner treated some 1,200 patients, and his unit was often shelled by mortars at night. Medically discharged with PTS, he suffered insomnia, nightmares and survivor’s guilt. But he was able to come to terms with the deaths and shed his medications. He now does mission work in South Africa.”

“Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell, Army, 2002-2005: After an IED claimed her leg in Baghdad, an impatient Stockwell quickly got back to biking, running and swimming, winning the bronze medal in the triathlon in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She wore the American flag proudly on her prosthetic leg while dancing with Bush in Texas, after a hard day of biking.”

“Sergeant William Ganem, Marines, 1998-2005: Garmen lost a leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq, then headed for rock bottom- with a divorce, a DUI, and a bankruptcy. Then he sought help: “I wanted to see what I could accomplish with my head removed from my ass.” The ‘what’ was impressive- a masters degree in social work and a job helping vets transition to civilian life.”

Matthew Hunt2, “You don’t have to be a veteran coming home from Afghanistan to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also be the result of unresolved emotional wounds from childhood, surviving a traumatic incident like a car crash, or witnessing horrific spectacles like the Boston Marathon bombings.

It’s not “in your head”

Unexamined trauma can lead to serious physical imbalances. Sudden or prolonged stress makes the endocrine system produce too much cortisol – a “fight or flight” hormone which converts protein into energy. This is normal for short term as a reaction to stress – but when prolonged or buried, it creates a hormonal haze which continually affects your body’s systems.

It’s important to get help

These “fight or flight” hormones are supposed to do their job and go home. When they don’t, it’s a good idea to seek counseling to understand why. Left untreated, there’s a good chance of living life continually in an anxious, edgy, tense place that is vulnerable to emotional storms.

The body may handle the continual ‘high alert’ for weeks or even years, and then boom! A trigger may cause a cascading event like an emotional explosion.

Things like a lack of sleep, stressful work situation, relationship issues, death or illness in the family, improper dieting, or even traffic jams can trigger anxiety attacks, nightmares or flashbacks of a terrifying event.

Often people may seek to self-medicate through recreational drugs or alcohol – but this is only a temporary fix with diminishing returns, and is especially dangerous because it can lead to addiction.

Proper counseling is invaluable
Proper medication may be a part of therapy, but figuring it all out first is the first step, and talking to a qualified therapist can be a vital help.

The irony is that many people find it difficult to fit one more thing into their busy lives. But that’s where Counseling on Demand offers additional help. Our therapy group meets you where you are – at any location – using online tools such as Skype to blend a face-to-face connection with convenience.

Anxiety & Depression: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 11 self-help tips to try (and 4 more for others to assist you)

Many think of PTSD as a military phenomenon, but we are all vulnerable, no matter the age or circumstance; a home fire, domestic abuse, witnessing a traffic accident. Any experience of a life trauma, either physically or emotionally; lived, witnessed or thought of, can cause an anxiety problem- even depression, known as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The anxiety & depression of PTSD can affect you for years after the event occurs – possibly even the rest of your life. PTSD can very well affect you both psychologically and physically. As a result, you may relive the trauma, as though transported back in time.

These reminders are what fellow mental health practitioners term, “Triggers” (Yes, just like a pistol trigger; and with similarly catastrophic results.)

Triggers, such as loud noises, images or other situations may “trigger” panic attacks, extreme anxiety, unexplained anger or fear (of recurrence) and depression. Those with PTSD also experience issues with their emotional thinking and future: detachment from love, numbness, depression, feelings of helplessness/hopelessness or avoidance behaviors of events, things, and even people that may remind them of the dreaded event.

11 self- help tips to try3:

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Marriage- Healthy or Hurtful…or Both? Relationships- more than emotion…much more

Dani Shapiro’s story: “It was with great trepidation that I set out to write a memoir about my marriage.

We talk in our culture about marriage in either terms of romantic perfection — what does happily ever after even mean? — or in the blistering, miserable terms of bitter divorce.

But what I wanted to explore was the beauty, along with the troubles, of duration.

In these 20 years together, we have become the people we are in part because of each other.

What does it take to walk alongside another human being over time? How do we form ourselves and against another person who may, or rather, will, grow at a different rate and in different ways? In any long marriage, no matter how happy, there is disappointment, anxiety, disturbance woven into the intimacy and love.

While I was writing “Hourglass,” my 93-year-old aunt, one of the wisest people I know, called me one afternoon. And, as we were chatting, she asked me how my husband was doing. “How are his spirits?” she inquired. It was a rough moment for him professionally, and her gentle question made me cry.

My aunt paused, and then she said, “I remember a particularly difficult 23-year period.” And I thought, what, 23 years? She went on to say that, on the other side of those years was incredible bounty.

Even though a difficult period lasting decades is daunting, to say the least, I also understood that I was on the receiving end of a great piece of wisdom, the kind that perhaps can only come from having living for most of a century.

We never know what’s around the corner. So often, we succumb to our own terror, and we flee, either by actually leaving or just simply shutting down.

There is something exquisite in sharing life in all its complexity, a common language made between two people who have grown together, apart, together, apart, a dance over time.”

(Interviewed by Judy Woodruff, “Marriage is a Dance of Growing Together, Apart, Together”, PBS News Hour)

The ‘smug marrieds’ may have good reason to feel pleased with themselves as experts now confirm that long-term committed relationships are good for mental and physical health and this benefit increases over time. In an editorial published by student BMJ, David and John Gallacher from Cardiff University say that on average married people live longer. They say that women in committed relationships have better mental health, while men in committed relationships have better physical health, and they conclude that “on balance it probably is worth making the effort. (Matthew Hunt, Marriage & Committed Relationships Improve Health,

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Depression, Anxiety of Loneliness 5 Ways to Build Relationships

Living alone can be acceptable to many, even satisfying to philosophers such as Henry David Thoreau, but for the rest of us- not so much.

Robert L. Leahy Ph.D., “As John Cacioppo, a researcher in the field of loneliness, points out, loneliness is on the rise — from 11 percent to 20 percent in the 1970s and 1980s to 40 percent to 45 percent in 2010.” So you are not alone in feeling lonely.

Have you had the experience of feeling lonely like there is no one around and no one to talk to, as you sink into a state of sadness or anxiety that you fear you will never get over? Does such a feeling overwhelm you at times?

Loneliness can lead to excessive drinking or binge eating, to suppress those unpleasant feelings. It can lead to depression and rumination, as you dwell on the question, “Why am I alone?”

But having a strategy to deal with loneliness can be an important safeguard against depression, substance abuse, or even making bad choices for partners.” ( Robert L. Leahy Ph.D., Living with Loneliness, Psychology Today)

The Answer is People, People, People.

“The support you get from your social connections can add to your feelings of meaning and purpose in life. These, in turn, add to your resilience. Happy, resilient people tend to be more connected to the people around them. Resilient people know that they can depend on the strength of their family and friends when the going gets tough.” (Web Md, Social Connections – Topic Overview)

According to Web Md, there are many ways you can start building positive relationships:

  1. Invite a friend who makes you laugh, and go to a funny movie.
  2. Send an encouraging email or text message to someone who’s going through a hard time.
  3. Look for a faith community that shares your views. It may also have its own organized social groups.
  4. Call a food bank or hospital and ask about their volunteer programs.
  5. You can also connect with people through social media on the Internet.

Convinced yet?

Mitch Prinstein gives another great benefit of having friends:

First, the bad news

“Recent evidence suggests that being unpopular can be hazardous to our health. In fact, it might even kill us.”

Now, the good news

Popular People Live Longer

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Anxiety Panic Attacks Over and Over

Constant Attacks Can Become Your Worst Nightmare

Anxiety and panic can be a very normal response to a traumatic event; being attacked, losing a job or even worrying about such. An anxiety disorder is about current or possible future events.  A panic disorder, on the other hand derives from an anxiety disorder- hence the nightmare.

Sheryl Ankrom, “Panic disorder is classified as an anxiety disorder in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) . According to the guidelines, in order to be diagnosed with a panic disorder, you must experience unexpected panic attacks on a regular basis.” (Sheryl Ankrom, Diagnosing Panic Disorder According to DSM-5, Reviewed by Steven Gans, MD, in Very Well)

“A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems.” (Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder, Symptoms, Treatment, and Tips for Overcoming Panic, Health Guide)

Eleanor’s story is about panic disorder:

Eleanor, “I’ve negotiated anxiety in the form of a panic disorder for the last 15 years. Twice, it’s tipped over into a severe depression—the kind that imprisons you in your flat, unable to do anything but watch The Simpsons on YouTube and eat Carr’s water biscuits. Will this be the time it makes me psychotic? Should I call an ambulance? How many sleeping pills would I have to take to sleep for 24 hours but not die?” ( Eleanor Morgan, journalist, author and MSc,  This Is How It Feels to Live with Severe Anxiety, cited in Matthew Hunt, How Does It Feel? To live with Severe Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Troubled Relationship?, Counseling on Demand)

Now, Gila’s story- brief excerpts, “One afternoon several months ago, a friend invited me to come to her house to pick from her tree brimming with Meyer lemons, ripe and fat.

This decision was not as simple as it might seem,.  My panic disorder made it a daunting one.

Come on, I thought, I should be able to drive eight minutes for free fruit. I weighed both sides- go and experience excruciating fear and physical discomfort, or stay at home and let another activity be slashed from my repertoire.

I could no longer teach, or stay at home alone. I could no longer drive, sleep, shop, shower, wait in any kind of line, eat at a restaurant, or sometimes eat anything at all.  I couldn’t make it to therapy anymore, or sometimes even to the kitchen for a glass of water.  Everyday activities went through an exhaustive benefit analysis.  Was it worth the panic attack I’d endure to return a book to the library?  After too many panic attacks at Trader Joe’s, I stopped shopping.  After too many while driving, I didn’t drive.  But the lemons were calling.

I sat in my car, gathering courage to turn the key.  Sweat drenched the armpits of my thin t-shirt, my breathing grew shallow and short.  I turned the key and my heart sped.  I started driving, and dizziness and nausea clawed at my throat, threatening to blur my vision.  I quickly pulled over, gulped some water, spilling half of it down my shirt, and turned the car around.  It’s not worth it, I said aloud.  It’s O.K., go home.  I drove home, got in bed and didn’t get up for weeks.” (Gila Lyons, Read more of her story, When Life Gave Me Lemons, I Had a Panic Attack, in New York Times, disability)

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Couples Therapy

Chantal’s story, “Before developing a specialty in working with couples, I had heard a lot of rumors saying that couples counseling was a waste of time. It didn’t work in most cases, particularly with high-conflict couples. I didn’t pay much attention to these rumors at first, because in the beginning of my career I did not have an interest in couples therapy.

But now, after years of counseling couples and working through challenges in my own marriage to eventually create a strong relationship and happy family, I understand why marriage counseling has gotten a bad rap. The reasons some couples don’t succeed in marriage counseling are the exact same reasons they don’t succeed in marriage!

What Counselors Can Offer Couples

Counselors and therapists have a plethora of training and tools to offer. In couples therapy, clients can learn conflict resolution skills, effective communication skills, empathy, problem solving, parenting techniques, how to get their needs met, how to speak their spouse’s love language. I could keep going and name 25 more things you can learn and achieve in therapy.

Plus, counselors offer their clients understanding, compassion, and a safe place to talk openly about problems. They can also give concrete advice and solutions. We even offer homework assignments, so you can do more learning and growing to improve your relationship between sessions!”(Chantal Gagnon, PhD, LMHC3 Keys to Marital Counseling Success,May 30, 2014,

This is where online counseling does it best

We can help. online therapy is particularly suited to help you…right where you sit. You needn’t leave the comfort and security of your favorite/private place.

Traditionally you may think of counseling and psychotherapy as performed in someone’s office. And that exists; however, for you we have an alternative- online therapy.  Just go to the internet on your favorite electronic device-computer, cell phone, even your e book  and there you are.  No waiting in the outer office- sitting across from others. Session scheduling and rescheduling is flexible. Even if each of you are in different places, you can still be together online- or you can be alone from time to time if you choose. Both work.

But does it work?  Yes.  And, what’s more, online counseling has been found to be MORE effective (In fairness, not all experts will agree- do they ever?) than traditional.  Proof? In 2013, at the University of Zurich, that very thing was found.  In their words, “Fifty-seven per cent of online patients [who] completed [the] course [were] depression free, [and] only 42 per cent of cases who saw [a] therapist in person felt better.” One reason these experts gave for such success was that online clients were able to look over their notes afterwards while traditional clients tended to forget what was said in session. We online therapists exchange emails with you in between online therapy sessions. That serves to “cement” what was tackled in session.

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Exercise in Anxiety & Depression

We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, yet we least know how much it’s good for our minds. Exercising and eating well go hand in hand when getting in shape. However, there is more to exercise than can be said. It’s a stress reliever. More so, along with the proper dose of medication, it can maintain mood levels associated with depression and anxiety. Everyone can benefit from exercise when they find something they love to do and experience positive results themselves!

Exercise helps you sleep better at night, have sharper memories and feel more positive about yourself. More so, maintaining a routine prevents you from relapsing. Be mindful when exercising. It takes away the tension and worries as you take notice of your body. For example, when I do squats, I pay attention to the way my feet are pinned down to the ground. I focus on my balance and the muscle burn I feel coursing through my legs.

Here are some benefits of exercising:

You have a great sense of self-esteem.

When you exercise, you encourage yourself to stay on track and you admire how far you’ve come along. You begin to feel better about yourself and you affirm positive vibes that help you keep that momentum going until you have reached your desired result.

You become resilient to your stress and worries.

When you exercise, your focus shifts and you put aside all your worries.  When you finish exercising, you realize that your issues are solvable and aren’t that big of a deal.

It doesn’t take much to work out.

If you think that you need to dedicate an hour of your day to working out, well you’re wrong! Even something small like 10 minutes a day, a couple of times a week is beneficial. The key is to start small. So, if 10 minutes is all you got then 10 minutes it is. Once you find your rhythm, you can gradually add more time to working out because you’ll have the energy to do so.

Set realistic goals. 

When working out, set realistic and small goals. What do I mean by realistic? Well, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds in 3 weeks for your Florida vacation, then that is a disaster waiting to happen. Either you find a diet that will make you lose an extreme amount of weight, which I don’t recommend, or you re-evaluate your goals. Instead of losing 20 pounds, per se, why don’t you make your goal to be changing your diet a bit? For example, what if you ate more water foods to lose the water weight? Essentially, that is what makes you bloated. Being honest, realistic and setting small goals is the first step to succeeding. Check out this site if you need an exercise sample.

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Managing Anxiety in the time of COVID

The uncertainty of our current environment has made it especially hard for people dealing with anxiety.  The locus of control is often a trigger for anxiety, when the world, your health and your future seem outside of your control it can set off anxiety and the fears that underlie it.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, isolated, or lonely in this rapidly changing dynamic you are not alone.  The National Health Council reports that Anxiety Screening have increased 370% since January.  There are things you can do to help reduce the anxiety and return the locus of control to yourself.

Systems View

Try to stay focused on the larger perspective.  Stay informed but do not become obsessed with the news.  This will further enhance your feeling of lost control.  Use trusted sites, verify information sources as there is no shortage of anxiety producing misinformation out there.   Focus as well on the countries and areas that have successfully managed the pandemic so you are reminded that we can get through this.


Some of the most creative and most powerful ideas were born in hard times.  Hershey moved their chocolate bars from a decadent treat to an inexpensive snack loaded with almonds for protein.  Play-Doh pivoted from a cleaning substance to an inexpensive childhood favorite.  Companies are pivoting from high end liquor to hand sanitizing, from making cars to making ventilators.  We are not the victim of our environment, we do not have to wait to adapt and change, we are free to pivot and use it as a jumping off place for new ideas, innovation, and re-growth.

Support System

The isolation and loneliness of this time is especially anxiety producing.  Build a strong support system.  Look to Professionals, friends, relatives, and associations for support.  We are all isolated, we all need to have support.  Therapists and Counselors are offering On Demand and Online Sessions at affordable rates which are free from the stress of going to an office or leaving the comfort of home.  Find new networks personal, professional or hobby focused where you can meet like minded new friends.   If you are feeling depressed or suicidal please reach out to a professional online, counseling on demand is key.

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Love Yourself

Self-Love and Self-Care – Weapons in the Battle with Depression

Mental Health issues are looming in many Americans, the NIMH reported that 17.3 Million Americans in 2017 reported at least one major depressive event that year.  Estimates of a rise in Anxiety and Depression in 2020 with the converging events of a pandemic, economic collapse and racial unrest mean that Major Depression is likely to rise significantly. The US Census Bureau reports that as much as 33% of the population are now dealing with Major Depressive Disorders since the start of COVID-19.

The isolation required to battle the pandemic is leading to more loneliness and withdrawal in those dealing with depression.  Now more than ever, it is important to use tools and techniques to battle Depression.

Centered on Self 

A significant strategy is to see yourself as worthy of Self Care and Self Love.  The complexities of Depression often transfer to self-loathing, low self-esteem, and low self-value and a constant “tape” in your head that focuses on negatives and low value for yourself.  Switching to a belief that you have value, are worthy of love and care is a battle for many dealing with depression.  Small changes, a plan of attack with your Mental Health Practitioner and daily routines can help you progress.


If you are dealing with Depression, speak to a Mental Health Counselor with experience in treating Depression, Anxiety and Related Disorders.  Counseling can be done in the privacy of your home.  Often Depression keeps one from wanting to leave the security of home, On Demand, On Mobile and Tele-Mental Health are all readily available.  Reaching out in times of isolation, loneliness and depressive events can have a profound effect on managing Depression.  Ongoing therapy can be effective both in reaction to significant changes in your level of Depression and proactive management to reduce future symptoms.  Set small goals, acknowledge small steps, and do what is possible when it is possible.  


Clearing your mind of the noise and distractions can be fundamental for making a mind shift.  Changing to a belief in Self Care and Self Love requires a shift both in the short term and the long term.  Meditation, spirituality, and religion have all helped in the process of getting centered.  Once you are clear and receptive, it will be easier to allow other techniques like meditative hypnosis, books, videos and tapes on the Art of Self Care and Self Love which also present tools and techniques to strengthen your system of Self Care.

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