High Sensitivity

High Sensitivity

“You’re so sensitive.”

“I can’t believe you’re not over that by now!”

“Others will think you’re weak if you don’t pull yourself together.”

“Don’t make such a big deal out of it.”

“No one else feels that way.”

“I don’t understand why you’re so affected by this!”

Sound familiar? Perhaps as you read the above statements you felt heat, chills, tension, or other sensations coursing through your body as you thought back to all the times you’ve been misunderstood for the way you react to the world around you.

Although being in touch with emotions and our surrounding environment is undervalued in a society that tends to emphasize individualism, high productivity, efficiency, and so-called emotional “strength” (i.e., a lack of emotional expressivity), researchers have found that around one fifth of the population is innately wired for emotional and sensory awareness, slower and more intentional processing, and increased empathy. These individuals are characterized in the literature as Highly Sensitive People (HSPs).

What is High Sensitivity?

Dr. Elaine Aron coined the term high sensitivity (Sensory-Processing Sensitivity is the official scientific term often used in research) in the 1990s. High sensitivity entails perceiving the environment closely before acting, often picking up on subtle cues that others miss.

Evidence of the trait has been found in both human and animal species. Since an estimated 15 to 20% of the population exhibits high sensitivity, it is not rare enough to constitute a diagnosis, nor is it common enough to be well understood.

High sensitivity is an innate trait, or a stable characteristic that HSPs exhibit from birth. It is different than shyness, which is often thought of as a learned fear of social judgment that is situationally dependent. In fact, HSPs typically have strong social skills but getting to know them on a deeper level takes time.

HSPs tend to process and experience life events more intensely. Positive life events are highly meaningful and fulfilling, while negative ones may be experienced as particularly painful—this phenomenon is often referred to as vantage sensitivity or differential susceptibility in research.

Fortunately, attachment researchers have noted that goodness of fit between parenting styles and child temperament can serve as a buffer to negative life experiences. In fact, highly sensitive individuals demonstrate even betteroutcomes than non-HSPs when in supportive surroundings because they gain more from positive environments due to their increased sensitivity.

The acronym DOES can be helpful to remember the key traits of HSPs:

Depth of Processing

HSPs tend to process information at a deeper level and for longer. They may find significant connections between past and present experiences and often process their thoughts in a highly intentional, introspective way before sharing them.


With deep processing comes a higher likelihood of feeling overwhelmed. Taking in many aspects of the surrounding environment can feel meaningful yet draining. Many HSPs report needing breaks between social activities or avoiding spaces that are too stimulating.

Emotional Reactivity/Empathy

As noted above, researchers have found that HSPs react more strongly to both positive and negative experiences, and these effects are often compounded by an HSP’s attachment style developed in childhood.

HSPs also tend to exhibit awareness and understanding of others’ emotional experiences, which conveys empathy. Certain areas of the brain are highly activated in HSPs when responding to others’ emotions. One example is increased activity of mirror neurons in the brain. When an HSP sees someone express an emotion like sadness, neurons in the brain fire in a similar way to the neurons of the person being observed, allowing an HSP to connect with what sadness feels like.

Sensing Subtleties

HSPs commonly demonstrate attention to slight shifts in the environment or nonverbal cues of others. They pick up on stimuli that others may easily overlook, which can be helpful as HSPs make decisions about how best to interact with their surrounding environments. They also tend to react more strongly to sensory information, such as lighting, volume, textures, and scents.

High sensitivity can also look like…

…thinking so deeply about a topic of conversation that by the time you have your thoughts together, others have already moved on to a new subject.

…feeling easily bored or unfulfilled by engaging in “small-talk.”

…being more strongly affected by medications, caffeine, alcohol, or substances in lower doses/amounts.

…having a lower threshold for pain or sensory stimuli (e.g., brightness, temperature, textures).

…feeling strongly impacted by art or (emotionally) expressive content.

…enjoying and/or excelling at tuning into the needs of others, while sometimes feeling a lack of reciprocal support.

…routinely being the catalyst for emotional deepening in conversations or group spaces.

Think you might be highly sensitive? Take a quick self-test here.

Prevalence of HSPs:

1 in 5 people are highly sensitive (20%).

It’s estimated that 50% or more of therapy clients are HSPs.

Though the majority of HSPs are introverts, 30% are extroverts.

High sensitivity is equally present across all genders.

Commonly Reported Struggles for HSPs:

  • Experiencing low self-esteem or shame related to one’s sensitivity
  • Can feel easily overwhelmed
  • Heightened proneness to depression, anxiety, or related concerns
  • Downplaying sensitivity to fit in with the wider culture
  • Feeling strong reactions to feedback or constructive criticism
  • Struggling to create/maintain long-term relationships (e.g., due to difficulty prioritizing personal needs)
  • Difficulty setting boundaries, or feeling intense guilt for implementing them
  • Avoiding conflict (to avoid increased arousal)
  • Can be difficult to navigate change or quick decision-making due to depth of processing
  • Ending relationships that are unsatisfactory
  • Strain with loved ones who misunderstand high sensitivity

Commonly Reported Strengths of HSPs:

  • Having a strong attunement to loved ones’ needs
  • Often highly detail-oriented and conscientious
  • Provide balance in relationships and groups (e.g., invite introspection and meaningful silence)
  • Experience deep intimacy in close relationships
  • Many are highly gifted/intelligent
  • Positive lived experiences are highly rewarding
  • Enjoy rich inner worlds and vivid imaginations
  • Feel comfortable spending time with oneself
  • Deeply moved by art, animals, spirituality, and/or sensory stimuli
  • Progress quickly in therapy (presuming goodness of fit) due to more intensely responding to positive experiences
  • Claim high sensitivity as a superpower that fosters unique individual strengths!

While these lists are not exhaustive, they present a window into the potential shared experiences of HSPs. Other identity variables (e.g., race, gender, spirituality, neurodivergence, etc.) and lived experiences (e.g., trauma, chronic pain, depression/anxiety) may intersect with high sensitivity in unique ways**. Some of these intersections will be explored in an ongoing blog series—comment below any topics you’d like to see explored in connection with high sensitivity!

**Since HSPs experience their worlds more intensely, exposure to negative life events or relationships can lead to heightened proneness to mental health concerns. However, HSPs are also sensitive to positive experiences and can benefit from exploring what kinds of spaces they find the most nurturing and supportive. Some HSPs may increase such awareness through engaging in their own introspective processes, while others may prefer finding a therapist who works with high sensitivity and/or identifies as an HSP. You can find a list of HSP-knowledgeable therapists here.

Helpful Tools:

Learn more about high sensitivity: Review empirical research on high sensitivity (using search terms like sensory-processing sensitivity, vantage sensitivity, or differential susceptibility), read The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron, or visit https://hsperson.com/.

Make space for downtime: Create intentional space for self-care and introspection, which can benefit HSPs by allowing them to integrate their experiences.

Integrate mindfulness interventions: Gaining awareness of bodily cues and emotions can help HSPs notice when they are beginning to feel overstimulated. These cues can help inform them when it’s time to unplug or seek support.

Set appropriate boundaries: Remind yourself it is okay to say “no” and ask for what you need. In fact, setting boundaries can enhance your ability to show up for loved ones—no one can pour from an empty cup!

Celebrate sensitivity as a strength: Embrace your unique gifts as an HSP! Self-compassion exercises can be useful when struggling with aspects of sensitivity that are often critiqued in Western culture, while therapy can be a supportive space to explore complex attitudes about high sensitivity.


All I Want For Christmas Is Mindfulness

All I Want For Christmas Is Mindfulness

All I want for Christmas is Mindfulness

What do you think of when you think of the holiday season? 

If life were a Hallmark movie, I’m willing to bet you’d say, “Oh, Kylie! Why, the holidays are just filled with romance and excitement. I think of my family, the first fresh snowfall of winter, Christmas cookies, and copy-and-paste generically handsome men that are going to soften my no-nonsense heart and show me the true meaning of Christmas!” And while that description may actually jingle true for some, the holidays can also be extremely overwhelming and bring up feelings of grief, disappointment, isolation or even anger. 

Has anyone else noticed that about the leads, by the way? It’s like Hallmark and The Bachelor have the same casting director. 

Our natural tendency is to avoid or escape from pain in any way that we can, which can look different depending on the person. During the holidays, however, it’s typical that someone might push away the painful emotions by filling their moments with the commercialized “holiday spirit.” “Who can think about trauma when there are gingerbread houses to build? Why bother feeling sad when this is a season of joy! I must feel joy!”

If your life doesn’t meet the unrealistic standards of the holiday entertainment industry, consider what it might feel like to have a mindful holiday season instead.

Presence, not Presents

Obviously, getting and giving presents is great. Everyone knows it and there are already entire blog posts and books on love languages and the best gift to give your estranged Aunt Margaret, so we’re going to focus on “presence” instead.

When we talk about “presence” in this article, we’re talking about being connected to the present moment. It’s normal for our minds to wander into past and future thinking, but it becomes an issue when we live in that space and disconnect from the here and now. Let’s use the example of trying your hand at a new recipe. Wondering what everyone will think of it is typical and can help you pay extra attention to detail. Living in that future oriented thinking might cause perfectionism, obsessive thoughts, or possibly a “what if they hate it so why even bother” mentality. 

Some other examples of future oriented thinking would be:

“I need to finish all of these tasks before my parents come into town!”

“I wonder if my family will bring up politics again?”

“How in the world will I fit in all the holiday parties?”

And some examples of past oriented thinking: 

“I wish I could travel to see my family like I have in previous years.”

“How could I enjoy the holidays without -insert loved one- there this year?”

You can see how living in any of those spaces may cause a disconnect in the present. To stay connected or reconnect with the present moment, we have to practice being intentional with our focus. Just like any other skill, all it takes is a bit of practice! Try bringing your full attention to the activity you are doing instead of multi-tasking activities or thoughts. If your mind easily wanders from the task at hand, use your 5 senses to keep you grounded (sight, sound, taste, feel/touch, smell). Some festive ways you can practice being present are:

– Engaging in your favorite holiday tradition.

– Observing holiday lights / décor

– Baking or being your favorite chef’s taste-tester

– Connecting with a loved one

*Remember, the trick here is to immerse yourself fully and solely in this one activity by paying attention to what you’re seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling.

Gift of Self-Compassion

As noted above, the holiday season brings a specific pressure to be “merry & bright,” but what if that’s not truly how we feel? Trying to force ourselves to experience emotions that don’t align with how we actually feel and then behave accordingly is another way that we disconnect from the present moment. Just like we make space to put out our holiday decorations, we must intentionally make space for our emotions, no matter what they may be. 

One way to do this is by practicing mindful check-ins with ourselves.

Take a few moments each day to ask yourself:

“What am I feeling in this moment?”

“Where am I noticing this emotion show up in my body?”

“What thoughts are running through my mind?”

“How do I want to respond in a situation (instead of just reacting)?”

It’s truly an act of self-compassion when we acknowledge how we are feeling in any given situation without the need to change or criticize it. Getting to know yourself in a judgement free space allows you to become familiar with how your brain and body react and interact to people and situations. 

Another way to show yourself compassion this holiday season is to consider what boundaries you will need to practice to feel safe and respected. 

A few areas to consider boundaries might be around your:


“I will only be staying at the party until 7:30pm.” 

“I’m sorry, I am unable to make it this time.”


“I can only bring 1 dish to the holiday dinner.” 

“I am not able to pick you up from the airport this year.”


“I’m not really a hugger. I prefer handshakes.” 

“I am feeling tired and am going to take a break.”


“I would prefer not to talk about XYZ, so please don’t bring it up again.” 

“I appreciate your advice, but right now I just need you to support me by listening.”

Reflection, not Perfection

The end of the year creates a wonderful opportunity to look back on what went well and what could have gone better. Reflecting on moments, people, or events we are grateful for has been found to improve our overall mood and sense of connection with others. It also allows us to consider what we would like to cultivate in the coming year and recognize what may no longer be serving us.

A few activities I’ve found the most helpful in my end-of-the-year self-reflection practice:

– Journaling 3 things I am grateful for and why. I ask myself, “What did I feel at the time and how do I feel about it now?” “What did it mean to me?”

– Visualizing a specific time in the past year when I felt joy and gratitude, and letting myself feel those same emotions in the present moment.

– Setting intentions for the new year based off my experiences in the past one. I ask myself, “What worked for me and what didn’t work for me?” “What brought me joy and what didn’t?” “What are things I can change now, and what might take a bit more time?”

*Remember, self-reflection is a practice in holding space for all of our experiences without judgement. Reflecting on gratitude should not invalidate or diminish the importance of our other emotions. 

Reflection also offers the chance to measure our growth, and plan for the growth we’d like to see in the coming year. We know that mindfulness is a journey and not a destination, which means we’re always going to be adjusting and shifting as we learn new things about ourselves and how we interact with the world around us, and that’s totally okay! No one expects a novice to have the skills of a professional. If you’re just starting out on your mindfulness journey, it’s okay to not have it perfected. You wouldn’t become fluent in a language without speaking it brokenly first, right? We can be gracious with ourselves as we develop the skills we need to enjoy a holiday season, and not just survive it.


LGBTQ+ Therapy

LGBTQ+ Therapy

LGBTQ+ Therapy

Things Therapists Need to Know 

As mental health providers, we’re taught that all of our biases or personal beliefs are not to be brought into the session, as if they are a favored hat or scarf that we’ll need to hang on the coat rack prior to meeting with the client. Relegating implicit biases to something that can be brought or left behind is fundamentally flawed and mitigates any responsibility we have as healers and humans to intentionally acknowledge and actively work against them during a session. It’s in direct conflict with what we know about countertransference. Teaching that we can leave our biases at the door is not only disingenuous, but also dangerous. 

The cultural discourse around the 2SLGBTQIA+ experience and existence is changing, but we are all currently the product of a cisgendered and heteronormative social conditioning that directly informs our perceptions and beliefs about LGBTQ+ clients. As a result, we must consciously acknowledge what we’re bringing into the session and how it impacts our ability to guide our clients in their own self-discovery, creation, and healing. Many therapist will feel confident in treating LGBTQ+ clients, say they specialize in gay issues, or go so far as to label themselves an ally without recognition of their implicit or explicit biases. 

Let’s start by taking a look at how our language in a session can reflect these biases:

Using antiquated and charged terminology like the word “lifestyle” or “preference” when discussing sexual identity.

A lifestyle is a way of life that has been chosen. A sexual identity is not a chosen way of life. This view of sexuality immediately disrupts the therapeutic relationship.  

Conflating “gender” and “sex.”

Gender is an ever-changing social construct that is historically determined by the majority in power at any given time. Biological sex is defined by “male,” “female,” and “intersex.” Conflating the two or attempting to correct our client’s identity expression induces shame, confusion, and, many times, anger. 

“Same-sex attraction”

This term has its roots in western Christianity and is oftentimes a trigger for a client that has experienced spiritual trauma. 

Not using person-first language.

Using technical or charged language like “homosexual” and using an identity as a stand-in for the person (such as saying “transgenders” instead of a transgender person) disconnects us from any common ground by creating a barrier of technicalities and discomfort. Reflecting our client’s language around their identity or sexuality is an easy way to meet them where they’re at. 

Now let’s take a look at how our biases can inform treatment plans:

“You may need to choose between your sexuality and your faith.”

Belief systems are a chosen aspect of our identity while sexuality is not. This bias reinforces the notion that Christianity and LGBTQ+ clients are on opposing sides as well as the bias that Christianity is as integral to human existence as sexuality. 

“If they are struggling with their sexuality, I would ask about childhood sexual trauma.”

The belief that non-heterosexual identities have a cause is a direct result of heteronormative bias. It supports and perpetuates a worldview that centers and upholds heterosexuality as the default sexuality despite an overwhelming amount of research that disproves it. 

Additionally, this is an important example of the research differences in correlation vs causation. You may find a correlation between clients who are LGBTQ+ and those that had childhood sexual trauma, however, the numbers do not indicate a causational relationship. One might also keep in mind the ethical concerns found in resolving trauma through “correcting” sexual orientation or gender expression.

“You might be rebelling with bisexuality because of your previous abusive relationship.” 

This is another bias that upholds the notion of sexuality as a choice, as well as heterosexuality as the default. It is also a dismissal of bisexuality as an orientation. 

“If I can treat their depression/anxiety/trauma, that will address their LGBTQ issues as well.”

This decenters the very real issues the LGBTQ community faces as the result of heteronormativity and cisgenderism, as well as any intersectional issues. This minimization or dismissal of our client’s lived experiences will not address their mental health concerns, and may, in fact, exacerbate them.  

Confidently addressing depression, anxiety, trauma, and other issues that a member of the LGBTQ community may have is not the same as specializing in or being able to treat LGBTQ issues.  

Recognizing and understanding your biases will help you recognize and understand the barriers your clients are facing in treatment and the ones they face in finding a therapist in the first place. 

How do we ensure that we are competent and confident in treating our LGBTQIA+ clients?

There are a few key areas that demand intentionality and ongoing attention if we are to serve this community:


Our allyship should be apparent on our website and marketing pages. “Gay issues” should not just be a badge on our profile under “specialties.” If we have a resource page, there should be links to reputable resources for the community. If we have media on your website, there should be diverse representation of couples and individuals. It’s not enough to say that we are allies, because an “ally” is defined by their actions and not just their words.


How many therapists that identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ are we in close contact with? Are we including them in the conversation? Are we looking to their expertise and the content they are producing on this topic? Are we moving past saving a seat at the table and ensuring that we’re removing the barriers that may prevent them from filling the seat?


I’m sure many of us know statistics and facts about other populations we serve, such as the mortality rate of domestic violence victims or the statistics around leaving an abuser. I’m sure most of us know the primary and secondary symptoms of diagnoses we specialize in treating, and many probably even know the tertiary ones. How many of us knew what the “2S” stood for in the 2SLGBTQIA+ acronym prior to reading this article and looking it up? How many of us know the history of the Queer Liberation Movement? Do we know the status of conversion therapy legislature or the statistics of suicidality in the LGBTQ community? If we don’t know the granular details of an issue, how can we consider ourselves competent in addressing it? 

There are many educational resources available for continuing, or initial, education on the LGBTQ community and the unique challenges they have and are currently facing. The Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, PFLAG, LGBTQHistory, and even the APA have free courses and resources available. EdX and Coursera offer certified courses in relevant arenas. Follow LGBTQ identified therapists on social media, and ask proclaimed allied ones questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients questions when they mention a term you’re unfamiliar with.  


We cannot accept a client that is a member of the LGBTQ community if we have not done the work of recognizing and addressing our biases. If we cannot recognize that we are a product of a heteronormative and cisgender-centered society that has indoctrinated us with biases and beliefs, than we cannot treat a client effectively.  

If we are not actively educating ourselves on LGBTQ issues and do not have LGBTQ representation in our personal or professional lives, then we must recognize that serving an LGBTQ client is outside of our scope of practice. However, it’s also important to recognize that there are many ethical debates about referring a potential client based on their sexual orientation or gender identity alone. 

In conclusion 

Our understanding of ourselves and of one another is constantly evolving. There is room for uncertainty and there is room for imperfection, but only within spaces of intentional growth and development. Understanding lived experience, intersectionalities, and the historical components of our client’s identities are critical aspects of our ability to not only treat them, but to also continue moving the needle towards a more inclusive and healthy society. 

We encourage everyone to look into the aforementioned resources to begin or continue the journey in treating the LGBTQ community, as well as identify new resources that you can add to your resource list and share with others. Write down the questions you have and the answers you’ve found. Have conversations with others about your journey and ask about theirs. Be curious, and be intentional. 


Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX to explore issues related to sexual or affectional identity? We have specialitsts who work with the LGBTQAI+ community that offer various niches within this community. Check out our specialty page to learn more about what we offer and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

COVID-19 and Your Mental Health

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Your Mental Health

As trauma therapists, we’ve seen the impact of COVID-19 and quarantining first hand. And we’ve even felt the impacts ourselves. From spending more time than usual at home, to hearing statements like these more than we ever thought we would:

“How’s your quarantine coming?

“How are you holding up with all of this craziness?”

“Do you like my new facemask? My grandma made it.”

“Hey, do you know what day the store stocks toilet paper?”

It’s odd… isn’t it? That these statements are our new normal. Most of us have been stuck at home for almost two months now and the end may be near in Dallas, but the fear that comes with that can be debilitating. We all have so many questions that go unanswered and yet have so much time to dwell on the unknown.

Maybe for some of you, this quarantine has been a great time to catch up on things, get that extra workout in, and spend more time with your loved ones.

For others, it may not seem so pleasant.

This may be the first time that you’ve truly felt out of control, you don’t know what’s coming next and the idea of staying in the house another day seems almost unbearable. You want your freedom back, you want your routine back, and frankly, you just want your life to feel like your own again. For some people, COVID-19 is amping up their anxiety. For some, their response is manifesting as depression. For others, it’s activating past experiences of trauma and feeling out of control. 

Today we’re going to dive into some difficulties that some of you may be going through during this pandemic and we’ll explore some coping strategies to help you get through COVID-19.

Common responses to COVID-19

Although there are some people that are enjoying this quarantine, the majority of people are starting to feel it wear themselves down. It seems that the longer it goes on, the harder it gets. Anxiety is spiking. Depression is louder than ever. Social isolation is tough.

But… no matter what you feel, you’re not alone in this and your feelings are valid.

Most people have never been through an experience like this before and it can be difficult to know how to respond. So let’s take a look at some of the difficulties you may be experiencing right now:

1) Social Isolation

We are naturally social beings. Yes, even you introverted ones need people too. Most of you will say that being with people gives you energy, makes you feel loved, and keeps you more active.

This may be the longest you’ve gone without seeing friends or relatives and it’s starting to take a toll.

Going without your loved ones may be causing you to feel sad, lonely, and maybe even a bit lost.

2) Anxiety

Maybe you’ve been dealing with anxiety for a long time and this quarantine is making it more difficult to maintain balance. Or maybe you’ve never had any history of anxiety and yet you find yourself feeling restless and worrisome with uncontrollable thoughts. These anxious feelings are normal in times like these.

Feeling out of control is scary and if we only knew what came next it would put your mind at ease. But we don’t, and the thought of the unknown is keeping you up at night.

3) Dreams and nightmares

This is a common response to any sort of crisis. You are constantly hearing about the negativities coming from COVID-19, you have so much time to dwell on it, and it has impacted your everyday life immensely.

Being surrounded by talk of COVID-19 and the stress that comes with it can definitely lead to vivid dreams and scary nightmares. In a way, it can be an outlet for your mind to try and process the craziness of your everyday life.

Dreams and nightmares can also come about when you are feeling a lack of control in your life. You may be feeling tired, exhausted, and stressed with a yearning for peace again.

4) Drinking more than your normal

When people drink, they typically do it because they want to “loosen up” or even let go and feel less in control. So it makes complete sense that in the middle of a pandemic you start drinking more. Drinking may be your way of coping with some of the worries you have around this pandemic.

Or it can be less about your worries and more about things like.. you’re in the house… a lot, you don’t have to stress about early mornings with the kids, and…you’re probably bored. It’s important to make sure that your increase in drinking doesn’t become your only outlet for your fear or boredom.

Although all of these responses to COVID-19 are difficult to be dealing with, they’re all valid. It’s hard to feel alone and it’s difficult to feel like you’re not in control of your life.

Waking up to nightmares and strange dreams can be challenging when you feel like your everyday life is already a nightmare. And drinking may be fun in the moment, but maybe when you wake up you realize your worries haven’t gone away.

So what are some healthy ways to help you cope during this pandemic?

Coping mechanisms for COVID-19

1) Focus on what you can control

It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the things that are going wrong right now. Whether it be an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, a lack of proper materials, or the current state of the economy, they can overwhelm us when we dwell on them too long.

One way to help ease your worry is to focus on what you can control. This is actually a wonderful strategy for anxiety management.

There is a little exercise that can help you put things into perspective for you. Take out a sheet of paper and draw a big circle in the middle. Inside the circle, begin writing things that you are in control of. This can be your daily routine, what you eat, your attitude, etc.

On the outside of the circle, you will write down things that are out of your control. This can include any of the unknown things like when everything will open back up, what the weather will be, how many more people are going to be affected, etc.

The point of this exercise is to help you see the things that you can focus on. It may be important for you to know what’s going on in the world and with the community around you, and it’s great that you want to be informed! However, there’s a difference between knowing and dwelling. When you dwell on the knowledge you begin to worry about things that are out of your control.

When you’re worried about something out of your inner circle of control try letting it go and picking something within your circle that you can work on. This can help bring a sense of control to your life.

 2) Make a routine

As much as you may love a vacation for a week when you can just go with the flow and not stress about anything, there’s a point where you want to have structure again. And that’s exactly how many people are feeling now.

Humans are naturally routined creatures. Have you ever walked into a new class where there wasn’t assigned seating so the choice of an uncomfortable plastic chair was all yours?

Maybe you’re the front row, raise your hand type of student, or the back row, texting in class one. Either way, what happens the next time you go back to that class?

You pick the same seat. Sometimes you even feel like it’s YOURS…

“How dare Becky think she can take my spot the third week into courses!”


That’s because routines give us control.

They calm your anxiety by helping you know what’s coming next, and they give your mind space to work on other things since you’re decreasing the number of decisions to be made.

This is exactly why making a routine for yourself now may be the answer to your worries.

Insider tip: this is also FANTASTIC for you moms and dads with children. You can create weekly schedules or day-to-day ones to help your youngins have some structure. Maybe less screen time and more say… quiet time? Chores? The possibilities are endless.

3) Exercise or Pick up Hobbies

The benefits of exercising in times like these are immense. You can add it to your daily routine to make you feel more productive, you can experience the rush of endorphins to make you feel positive, and you can be proud that you’re staying disciplined in the midst of the unknown.

You can get a good workout at home in just 20 minutes a day. There’s HIIT cardio or circuit training to help get your heart rate up by doing simple body movements.

20 minutes of this and you’ll be ready to take your second morning nap. Even going outside and walking for 20 minutes can help you feel better! And it’s also a great way to get the whole family involved.

If exercising isn’t your thing or maybe you’ve already been getting your daily sweat in (good job to you!) then another easy thing to add to your routine is a new hobby.

Maybe it’s time to take out those crochet needles, blow off the dust on that piano, or get to smashing the glass for your stone mosaics.

Whatever it is, getting creative and trying out new things can make the mundane of everyday life seem a bit more manageable and even more enjoyable.

4) Journal and Meditate

With all of your new hobbies and your exciting new routine, it can be easy to try and cover up the things that have been making you worry. Of course, as therapists, we’re not condoning ignoring your feelings…

On the next trip to the store get yourself one of those $1 notebooks. Something that can strictly be used for your thoughts and feelings. Now, this isn’t going to be a notebook that gets slid under the couch and forgotten about. This is a special notebook. Do you know why it’s so special?

Cause you’re actually going to use it.

I want you to write anything you find yourself worrying about, any dreams you have, anything that causes your anxiety to spike or that triggers you.

Writing it all down and getting the thoughts out of your head can help you process what you’re feeling. It can help you work through those feelings to help you understand what’s causing them.

And of course, pairing that journaling with meditation may benefit you more than you know. The amygdala in your brain helps to regulate emotions and deals with emotions around fear. And scientific evidence is now suggesting that meditation helps to calm your amygdala.

This means that your consistent meditation can help give you a sense of peace and control over your fleeting thoughts. And it can also be a way for you to decrease the activity of your amygdala leading to higher levels of relaxation.

This quarantine hasn’t been easy for most of you. Maybe you thought you’d really enjoy all of this time being at home, but it’s actually been way harder than you expected. Maybe this experience has been triggering for you, and you’ve been feeling like you have no control of your life anymore.

I’m hoping these coping mechanisms can help make this pandemic a bit easier, but if you’re still feeling the negative impact of this pandemic and want to explore those feelings together, please reach out to us. We’re ready to start this journey with you.

Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX for anxiety, depression, or trauma counseling? Check out our specialty page to learn more about what we offer and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!

Making Sense of Your Trauma

Making Sense of Your Trauma

Did you know that there are different types of trauma?

I know right… Why can’t things just be simple? Why does there have to be tall, grande, and venti when small, medium, and large have been working out so great?

I agree, we definitely could’ve stayed with small, medium, and large… However, when it comes to trauma it is important to be a bit more specific. Are you experiencing Big T trauma or Little T trauma?

Wait… What about PTSD? How do you know if you’re experiencing that?

Keep an eye out for that post later on…

Knowing the difference between these types of traumas can not only help you understand what you’ve been experiencing but also help you find ways to cope and work through your feelings.

This post is going to give you a bit of insight on two different types of traumas. And it’s even going to give you a few tips from us trauma therapists about what can help.

What is a Little T Trauma?

The word ‘Little’ is definitely not meant to minimize the type of trauma that you’ve been through. Little T traumas involve stressful events that don’t necessarily threaten our lives per se, but they can certainly overwhelm our system.

Has a pet died? Have you gone through a breakup? Have you had ongoing financial stress? Maybe you’re dealing with a relentlessly critical employer. Have you experienced chronic insults or slights from a family member, friend, or partner?

These things may not be life-threatening in and of themselves, but they can be threatening to your emotional state and mental peace. Every person deals with situations differently. Some try to brush off a relationship like it was nothing. While others are laying under the bed (yes under) stuffing their face with the newest flavor from their best friends Ben & Jerry.

These events do affect everyone differently, but they can still be the cause of significant emotional damage. You may have been reading those scenarios and been thinking that they’re just simple parts of life…

And you’re right. But the thing is, if not dealt with, they can lead to bigger emotional struggles. Especially if you’ve experienced more than one Little T Trauma at a time or the Little T trauma is chronic. When you don’t deal with the situation, all of the feelings associated with your Little T Trauma begin to add up and impact your life even more.

Maybe you’re going through these situations or have gone through them feeling like you have to look “tough.” Or you may even be feeling shame that you’re so bent up about them..

It’s important to remind yourself that it’s okay to be sad and it’s good to allow yourself to feel. Don’t simply brush them off. Instead, allow yourself to work through those difficult emotions and express them.

What is a Big T Trauma?

Have you ever experienced something that left you feeling completely helpless?

Maybe it was a car accident that left you more shook up than you were expecting, or even left you with bodily harm. You can’t get that image out of your head. Maybe it was that night where saying “no” wasn’t respected. The night you experienced sexual assault and you still can’t believe it happened to you. It may have been a huge natural disaster that left your home destroyed, and you haven’t felt safe since.

Did you notice what all of these scenarios have in common?

They all put your physical, psychological, and emotional self at risk. And they can all leave you feeling absolutely helpless. Like your life is somehow out of your control. You couldn’t control that awful situation so you begin trying to avoid anything like it.

Some people will never drive a car again, relying solely on trains and buses. Maybe you’ve decided to never date or avoid relationships all together because that person you thought you could trust violated you. Others go the opposite way and engage in lots of unsafe sex with the illusion of taking back control. Regardless, the way that you deal with your Big T Trauma can lead to the type of avoidance that affects your everyday life and even your daily functioning.

Avoidance may seem like the answer. Staying away from everything that even hints at the reminder of that traumatic event. This way you don’t have to ever experience those feelings of helplessness again… Right?


Have you ever done the mental game where someone says, “Don’t think about a polar bear?” And then of course what’s the one thing you can’t stop thinking about… a polar bear! Well, this same thing happens when you try to avoid your Big T Trauma.

The problem is, even when you try to forget about it, your body doesn’t let you. You may have nightmares and flashbacks that you can’t shake. Or you may even have physical symptoms that are your body’s way of saying, “Pay attention to me. I need to deal with this!”

Those feelings of helplessness, of shame, or maybe even guilt from not being able to do something about it can’t be covered up. Put an elephant in a room, cover it with a giant blanket, and you’re still going to know an elephant is there. The blanket of avoidance simply doesn’t work.

I couldn’t exactly find an elephant with a blanket on, so this cute pug (above!) will have to do.

Okay. Back to business.

Of course, working through the traumatic experience and the feelings that are involved is scary! You have to be vulnerable and open. You may even have to cry… (Don’t worry, we think crying is great).

But honestly, you may not even realize how your Big T Trauma has been affecting you. All you know is that you should try to work through it because you’re not quite sure if you’ve been dealing with it in the “right” way (which is, of course, different for everyone).

The best advice is to simply not avoid your Big T Trauma experience. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.

How should you deal with your trauma?

As I mentioned, not avoiding your trauma is important. Allowing yourself to experience emotions is an important step in working through your trauma whether it be Little T or Big T.

These are a few of the things that can help you:

1) Meditate

Have you ever tried meditating? I know, it sounds like it’s the next big wave on the scene right now, but all of the studies are pointing to how beneficial it can be for your mental state. And it definitely doesn’t have to be a spiritual practice if that’s not your thing.

Meditating can help you not only be aware of the thoughts going in and out of your mind but also help with controlling the negative thoughts around the traumatic situation that you’ve experienced. That’s not too bad for only 10 minutes of focus a day.

It’s important to note that for some people, mindful meditation can have very positive effects as mentioned above. But for some, it may lead to further emotional distress. Start slow and see if meditating works well for you

2) Go have fun!

You’re probably thinking, “What… that’s your solution?” I know, I know. It sounds way too simple, but I thought you liked simple… Remember the small, medium, and large thing?

Really though, allowing yourself to enjoy time with friends, family, or even spending time by yourself can help remind you that there’s joy in the present (even while you’re working through your trauma).

Remember the things that set your soul on fire, the ones that give you joy, and go do them. Even going on a walk in nature can have more of a positive impact on your mental health than you’d expect.

3) Talk with a trauma therapist

You already knew this one was coming, didn’t you?

Imagine your electricity gets shut off. You know you paid the bill on time, you know you didn’t blow a fuse from using your microwave while blow-drying your hair. So what do you do next?

Call up your local pizza shop since you can’t heat up that three-day old Chinese food? Maybe… But only if you’re not seeing the big picture. Yeah, your microwave isn’t working but everything else in your comfy living situation is being affected too.  And it’s no different when it comes to your mental health.

We all know you should call an electrician when your electricity goes out. You can sit there and dwell on your daily pizza eating habits, but you’ll be baking in the 1000 degree heat of a Texas summer in no time. Not to mention no lights, no charging your cell phone, no tv… the list goes on and on.

So with your mental health, you can sit there and focus on your daily routine. Getting to work on time (Or at least close enough to being on time), taking out the dog when she needs to go, making sure you’ve eaten. But you’re forgetting about the big picture.

The big picture is your overall mental health. Being able to experience joy, not constantly trying to avoid the thoughts and feelings surrounding the traumatic experience that you’ve had, and being able to feel alive again.

But if you’re trying to throw an avoidance blanket over your traumatic experience, and just let it be… You may start to see how these traumatic events begin to affect every single area of your life. No matter how hard you try to not think about it.

Don’t just focus on your microwave. Your feelings need to be embraced. Whether it’s a Little T Trauma or a Big T Trauma, you’re allowed to feel. You’re allowed to work through it. You deserve to feel safe and empowered.

If you want to see how a trauma therapist can help, please give us a call. We’d love to hear from you. And I promise we won’t only talk about animals and food.


Childhood Trauma Counseling

Are you looking for a therapist in Dallas, TX for childhood trauma counseling? Check out our specialty page to learn more about childhood trauma and to see if one of our therapists might be a good fit for you!