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Techniques given most often in 2020 should be repeated in 2021.

As I reflect back on 2020, and more people seemingly needed counseling than ever before in my entire career, I thought it may be useful for you to know some of the techniques given most often in 2020.

1-Turn off the news. The main goal of the modern day news is ultimately to obtain viewers. Journalism today often uses sensationalism, defined as the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement. Therefore, it is not helpful. If you want to be informed as I do, try something such as a positive news podcast I found a year or so ago called, The World and Everything in it. Or try getting headlines only sent to your email once a day. Do not endlessly watch Fox News, CNN, etc. Try turning it off for a week, and let me know how you feel…

2-Focus on what you can control. 2020 tried to teach us that we are not in control, however, most people in living this out tried even harder to control which frequently resulted in more stress and anxiety. You can’t always control getting a virus (masks, gloves, hazmats, etc included). However, you can be intentional with your family and friends (i.e. play games together, call one another, send care packages, etc). You can help others (volunteer for a local food bank, organize a food drive). You can try to be healthy by eating healthy and exercising. You can turn off the news. You can seek God by reading his word daily and spending time with him, the one who actually is in control….

3-Practice deep breathing. Take many deep breaths daily. Use breathing apps or exercises if needed. Just try not to breath in the Covid…

4-When you feel in a panic, slow down your racing thoughts by focusing on your five senses. What do you see right now? What do you smell? feel? taste? hear? Don’t call the person who will get you even more hyped up than you are….

5-When changes happen in our world, find a new routine to help you find order in the chaos. If you work from home now, create a schedule for your work day that includes a lunch break, stretch breaks, and a stop time.

6-Don’t judge others who aren’t reacting the way you are to the changes. Be respectful and kind and follow your convictions without judging others. Judging is God’s job and when we try to do it we feel horrible. So stop.

7-Be social however you can be during a pandemic. If you feel comfortable being with family and friends, spend time in person with them. If you can’t, drive by their homes and spend time 6 feet apart, have zoom or FaceTime parties, etc. We need people no matter how much they get on our nerves at times.

8-Realize grow happens out of your comfort zone and practice doing things that are always comfortable. Try a new hobby. Talk to that neighbor you’ve never met. Pray for your enemy. Exercise. Become friends with someone who doesn’t look like you. Stop making excuses for why you can’t or won’t do something.

9-Make the best of all situations by fostering an attitude of gratitude. List five things you are grateful for each day. Consider the benefits of online learning. Remember the times you wished you worked from home. When you go back to the office, be thankful that you don’t also have to do laundry during your lunch break!

10-Pray, in all things at all times. Make prayer a part of your daily routine, not just once a day or at meals. Talk to God about everything. Ask him what you should be learning during this time. Inquire about why you were created to live during this specific time in history.

Praying you use the hindsight 20/20 view of 2020 for good this year. Make it a happy new year!

God bless,

Dr. Atwell

PS.. I’m praying you all cultivate God’s earth with love and grace as you realize you are made in his image to reflect his goodness! Genesis 1…

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A rare form of generosity…

I love the quote by Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest form of generosity.” Personally, I believe her quote rings true today more than ever. At a time where people can physically,  be it at times technologically, connected, people often seem more disconnected to true genuine conversation and ultimately relationships than ever before. So you may ask what was going on in the world and personally for Simone Weil to make this statement in the early 1900s.

Simone Weil who lived during a tough time in culture 1909-1943, including both World Wars. According to some, she was a philosopher and political activist who eventually turned to religion. We can learn some about her through her essays and writings, but to me she seems like a person who was seeking truth and looking for ways to overcome the evil in the world. Some say she became a Christian and emphasized martyrdom and sacrifice as you sought to share her beliefs and give attention to the hurt of others, which led to her dying an early death at age 34. Simone wrote “Attention is the rarest form of generosity” in a letter to a poet friend ins 1942. It is likely she make this statement out of personal experience. Maybe she felt as if no one was truly giving attention to people (the part of creation made in God’s image). It was after all a time of world war, mass killings of Jews, development of nuclear reactor (which became a part of the first  nuclear bomb), families being torn apart by war, etc. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but wonder if it was stated out of the feeling that no one was giving attention to hurting people in the world, likely including herself.

Maybe Simon believed that if people would show true care and concern for one another by giving them attention that people would respond with love and not fear which often leads to terrible behaviors. Consider the pharaoh in Egypt who thought the Jews were becoming too numerous so he treated them like slaves. What if he would have paid attention to them, learned more about them, listened to their stories about their God? Could this have caused him to love them and in turn not lose his first born son? (Exodus) What if Hitler would have given attention to the Jews in his country, learned from them, and given them a chance to be a part of the country he ruled? Could Germany have been a great nation still today instead of millions dying,  including Hitler, for a terrible ideal?

What if you paid attention to those around you? Would it improve your marriage? Would it impact your kids’ behavior? Would it allow for you to make a new friend? Would it change the trajectory of someone’s life? It certainly could! Finally, what if people paid attention to you? Consider how it could change your life.

While we can’t necessarily make people pay attention to us, we can be people who give attention to others.  So, if you want to be a generous person give your attention to someone today. Here are some a tips for when you try:

-Be aware of the messages sent from your body language (make eye contact, think about your facial expressions). Put your phone down!

-Ask open ended questions and/or specific about the person and his/her situation? Demonstrate concern.

-Paraphrase to show you want to understand when engaging in conversation.

-Don’t interrupt or insert your own personal stuff while you are listening to someone.

-Verbally affirm others.

-Notice the person in the corner or notice the person who no one else is noticing and be friendly. Get to know your neighbors. Make a new friend at work.

-Spend quality time with others without technology and give undivided attention. (Don’t act like you are in a hurry).

I am a firm believer that most of the hurts in the world come from relationships, but so does our healing. My faith leads me to believe that ultimate relationship is with God alone. I believe He alone fills the void in our lives, but also uses others to spread His love and attention. Simone Weil also said, “At the centre of the human heart is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world,” which makes me think she came to the same conclusion and belief I have in God.

I hope someone give you attention today!

Dr. Natalie Atwell

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I didn’t know, but I knew…

Have you ever heard someone make this statement? Have you ever heard a story and thought, “Surely, they had to know”? As a counselor, I have the privileges of hearing stories weekly of people in all types of situations and circumstances. It is truly and honor to walk through tough times with people or to help people process painful pasts.  I don’t take it lightly that people trust me to share their deep concerns, thoughts, etc. With that said, there are often times, I say to individuals, “You knew, didn’t you?” and most often they respond with something similar to, “I did, but I didn’t want to know, so I suppressed it”.

At the end of WWII, when American soldiers discovered for the first time one of the concentration camps they had heard about in Ohrdruf, an American general ordered for the major of Ohrdruf and his wife to visit the camp.  After visiting the concentration camp, the major and his wife killed themselves and a letter was found after that said, “We didn’t know, but we knew.” (www.clevelandandjewishnews.com)

Wow, you may say, “Thanks for depressing us today!” Here is the good news, turning this blog around…As a counselor who is also a Christian, I can offer hope to those who want to know. I believe as the Bible states, that the truth of God is written on the heart of all people (Romans 2:14-15 …They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them”; Ecclesiastes 3:11: eternity is written on the heart of every man). Some people just suppress the truth, while others embrace it. I believe it is why atheists can’t explain where guilt, conscience, and the desire to worship something comes from. Most who dare to be honest with themselves, suppress the truth of a divine creator because they don’t want to ultimately be accountable for their actions and what they’ve done with their lives.

The good news (the gospel) of Jesus Christ is that while we are accountable for our choices in life, He came to pay our debt. We could never do enough to make ourselves right in the eyes of a perfect God, but the good news is that Christianity isn’t about what we can do, but what was done for us. As we celebrate Easter, embrace what you know deep down, that a good God exists, He created you, although choice led us to go against Him, He provided a way back to a relationship with Him through Jesus who bled and died in our place and defeated death as He rose again so we don’t have to experience death (eternal separation from God and all good things).

As the end of your life, don’t let it be said as the mayor and his wife, “We didn’t know, but we knew.” May it be said about you, “I did know about God and I knew Him through his son Jesus!”

Happy Easter!

Dr. Nat

 

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Life lessons learned from running a marathon

This past weekend. I ran my first and likely my last marathon (26.2 miles). My feet still hurt, but it is a great feeling to accomplish such a physical and mental task. Running has been a part of my mental health routine, friendships, physical health routine, fundraising efforts, and life in general for the past 11 years. Through the years of running, I have experienced those scriptures coming to life about “running the race”.

Here are the lessons I learned along with some scripture and my paraphrasing :).

1-Don’t start out like an idiot. If you do, you’ll burn out and not be able to finish strong if at all. Read Proverbs (all of them) to help with this one. *Tip, I read one a day, there are 31 and typically about 31 days in a month.

2-God gives you different people for different parts of your journey. God blessed me with some friends who helped me train, a supportive family who cheered me on and gave me time to train, friends who ran the day of, new friends along the way, and a friend who ran with me the final leg to push me across the finish line! This reminds me of Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

3-Take advantage of the aid stations. Ask for help and stop for aid when needed. Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

3-Be thankful for the cheerleaders. There were people all along the course with signs, some serious “Run with purpose” and some funny such as “Don’t trust your farts.” Sometimes we need people to encourage us in a serious manner and sometimes we need those who will make us laugh. Appreciate them all :). I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

4-Enjoy the scenery. Sometimes, we need to look around us to get our minds off the pain of pounding the road. God has given us a beautiful world to enjoy. John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

5-Act your way into a feeling. Keep going, don’t listen to ever ache, pain, mental or physical and just keep going. Feelings are often misleading. If you wait until you feel like doing something, you will likely never do it. Just act!  Psalm 119: 32 “I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding.”

6-It’s ok to take a bathroom break. Listen to your body and don’t push yourself past the point of no return. After the break, keep going.

7-Some miles in the middle are really hard. Pray your way through. Pray for others and get your mind off of your own stress. Isaiah 40: 31 “..but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

8-Help those around you. It helps to get your mind off of yourself. There was a sweet girl I met who needed me when I needed her with three miles to go and by encouraging her, she encouraged me to keep going also. Encourage those around you. I Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”

9-Compete with yourself not others, this is your life/race. Don’t try to look at what others are doing, life the life God created for you. Let Him write His story with your life which is not to be like any other. I Corinthians 9: 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;

10-Don’t quit, Keep going. When you want to stop, don’t, keep fighting, finish! 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

11-Be thankful for those who come alongside you in the end to help you finish strong. Thank you to my friend and brother who came to push me at the end! Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Happy running,
Love you all,

Natalie

 

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Don’t stop believing!

It breaks my heart that as adults we often stop believing we can do anything. This past weekend, I ran more than I ever thought I could (20 miles). On January 1, I had a moment of insanity (you may think) and registered for a marathon (bucket list goal). My friend and brother asked me to do the Idiot run to prepare, so I said yes and that was the 20 mile race. Why you may ask, didn’t I think I could do this? Well, I was born with club feet and have had four surgeries and am basically circus freak with two different sized feet (a 6 and an 8 if you were wondering). I also have asthma. So what makes me set outrageous goals and seek to meet them?

Honestly, the grace of God, amazing parents, a supportive husband, and a very strong will. Don’t hate the strong willed child, parents! God will use them if they are molded properly. My parents also still believe I can do anything I set my mind to do and ask God to help me with. Kids are so amazing in the belief that they can do anything. Why do we allow them to become beat down by the world and stop believing? So, how can we change this negative mindset that overwhelms so many?

1-Encourage those around you.

2-See the good in those in your life and push them to be the best and who God created them to be.

3-If your friend or child, etc. wants to set a lofty goal, support him/her by doing it with him/her, praying for him/her, and help in any way.

Go set some goals and find some supportive people to surround yourself with today!

Natalie

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Instead of New Year’s resolutions try …

Considering my nature is nerdy and goal oriented, I set yearly goals each year along with my immediate family that we keep posted in an area we see daily. It is true that you will reach 100% of the goals you NEVER set, so I set goals in hopes of meeting at least some of those each year. I also strongly believe people can change and should seek to improve each year in some areas.

Yet, I realize we are not all the same. Some people struggle to set goals or feel intimidated by New Year’s resolutions. While some set goals but forget within weeks. Fitness centers are full in January and not quite as full by February.

Therefore, let me recommend this…Pick a theme for 2019 such as generosity, truth, health, friendships, family, education, spiritual growth, etc. Once you’ve picked a theme, then focus your daily, weekly, and/or monthly thoughts, plans, and activities on the theme. Let’s say, for example, I choose “generosity” as my theme, then daily I may find ways to give a little to someone such as an extra tip to a waiter. Monthly, I may choose to donate more than normal to an organization or charity I support. If family or friendship is my theme, I may choose to be intentional about communication weekly with family or friends. I may choose to do something special with or for those individuals or I may choose to pray for them more. The theme can truly infiltrate many aspects of your life. It can impact how you talk, give, act, pray, etc. At the end of the year, you may even find you’ve completed many more goals that what you would have not having a theme.

Finally, as a Christian, I believe my help for change comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and through reading God’s word. My personal relationship with God helps me to set the right theme for my life which mostly focuses on how I treat others rather than shallow goals the world values such as physical appearance.

Lastly, I do NOT recommend learning to riding a hoverboard as an activity if your theme is physical activity… I tried yesterday and failed. I may have a broken wrist and definitely  bruised my pride.

Happy New Year!

Natalie

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I really shouldn’t…

read the news before I go to bed…I discourage this for my clients all the time, but for some reason, this week I’ve read my “news briefing” (which makes me feel important like they are specifically ‘briefing me’ :)) before I go to sleep. The news is …ugh… most of the time, I can’t watch it, but need and want to stay somewhat informed whether it is fake, real or somewhat in the middle, so I typically go to the ‘NEWS’ app and scan the titles. HOWEVER, last night I dug a little dipper into a couple of horrible stories including the evilness of the California family (a blog for another day) and the Nassar doctor (I just can’t put the Dr. before his name right now) story surrounding 100s of young athletes over the years which led to me not sleeping well and getting up at 5:15 feeling the need to blog…

The funny thing is or actually I believe the spiritual thing is, I have thought about/felt God prompting me to write this post for the past couple of weeks. I was going to title it, “SPEAK UP” or “How to teach your children to SPEAK UP”.

In my profession, I have the bittersweet task often of being the first one to hear people disclose terrible things that have happened to them sometimes 40 years prior or 4 months… It has been a true humbling and honorable experience to be someone God uses to help people heal from true evil that has been done to them. People often think if they don’t talk about it or deal with it that it doesn’t affect them. I explain that it is similar to having a house that hasn’t been dusted in many years. It may look like everything is in place but you still sneeze and are affected by the dust and may not realize that just keeping things neat and orderly isn’t enough. Yes, once you start dusting, it may feel worse at first and your sneezing may increase momentarily, but when it is all clean out and up, you feel so much better and free.

My approach to teaching parents and encouraging victims always includes:

SPEAKING UP! Preferably sooner than later! Whether a boss or co-worker is saying inappropriate things to you, a dirty old man at church (unfortunately church is full of imperfect people) makes comments to you, a classmate smacks your bottom, or a family member/neighbor/stranger or ANYONE says or does anything (even if the person touches your shoulder and you feel weird) SPEAK UP, tell someone you trust and if you don’t have someone you trust, keep searching until you find someone who hears you!

The good news about SPEAKING UP!

Speaking up helps people learn: If you inform an adult that your 8th grade classmate smacked your bottom and he gets in trouble. You are actually helping him to learn that you DO NOT touch a woman inappropriately and without her permission. He hopefully will learn early on NOT to do that again. Boys this applies to you as well. If a girl says something that makes you feel uncomfortable or touches you, when you SPEAK UP and call her out, you are helping her to learn.

-Speaking up helps individuals stay out of trouble: I have boys and they are silly, which is normal. However, they at one period thought they could give me a love tap on the bottom like their dad did while flirting with me. It is my job as a mother to inform them that is it NOT appropriate to touch a woman like that unless you are married and know one another is joking. Basically, my husband had to stop doing that because they needed to see it modeled. Maybe you think this is extreme, but if it helps my kids learn, then it was worth it! Of course, there are times when the kids aren’t in the room ;).

Speaking up breaks the cycle: I’m that weird mom who stands in the doorway of men’s restrooms talking to her boys the entire time they are in there. Yes, they’ve had karate, Yes, they are getting older, BUT… I WILL CUT YOU  if you touch my kids inappropriately. My boys think I’m nuts and hate it, but I’m not their mom to be cool or friendly. Part of my job is protecting and preparing them. Things happen in public restrooms and other places. Teach your kids this…Yes it is an ugly truth but knowing it will hopefully help them. If enough crazy moms stand up, maybe we can begin to break the cycle for some.

Speaking up shows love: This one is very personal to me…You see I firmly believe that children must be taught to speak up against anyone. My neighbor and I are like family, but we’ve even had the conversations with our children that even if one of us tries something, they should speak up! They should learn that even those that are closest to them can and should be held accountable. One way to teach this to your children is to create an environment where your children feel safe telling you anything. My parents are not perfect, but they got this one right at a very crucial time for my older sister and me…A family member once tried to “show himself” to us “and have us touch him” as little girls and my very brave (sometimes she doesn’t realize how brave she really is, although she can’t even give someone the stink eye she looks and is SO sweet…) SPOKE UP. My sister told that person to stop and we got out of the bathroom and when our parents came, she told them what happened. She felt safe telling them and they responded by protecting us. Part of your children feeling safe is knowing you’ll listen and respond (this is love)!  I want go into long details except to say, our dad confronted the person (mom couldn’t go or trust me she’d be in jail to this day, which is basically what she told our dad…You go or I will…) and eventually we were NEVER around that person EVER AGAIN until his funeral. I truly believe I would not be who I am today without my parents allowing us to speak up and then responding appropriately. It wasn’t easy and it tore a family apart, but it was worth it! If you have to tear a family apart, turn a neighborhood upside down, or take on a corporate executive, DO IT!

Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (By the ways, this proverb was based on what a mom taught her son).

God love you and He didn’t intend for us to ever even taste evil, but because of Adam and Eve chooses to think they knew better, we live in a very broken world. The good news though is that Jesus came to make all things new…He is doing that now and will wipe away all evil one day. This is what I have hope and faith in that keeps me going. I hope you will consider this hope too.

With love,

Natalie

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How to have no “ragrets”

A while back a good friend of mine was thinking about getting a tattoo so I decided to help her look for a nice one and found the one in the featured picture. I wonder if the person in the picture has any regrets about his/her tattoo.

As the new year begins, many people enjoy the idea of a fresh start, a new chance to make goals and work towards achieving those goals, or simply having a clean home after taking down all the holiday decorations. Personally, I enjoy getting back into my normal routine.

Unfortunately, many people begin feeling frustrated after a few months or maybe a few weeks of struggling with trying to achieve the goals set as the New Year started. Sometimes frustrations lead to regret. At times, frustrations simply mean you need to get your mind and will focused on the new change because it feels different. Frustrations shouldn’t lead us to quit altogether, but we may need to try something different or at least a different approach.

I’ve met many people who have regrets about their past or life in general. It often makes me sad to see people wish they could do things differently or feel like they missed out on something. One of the things I am appreciative of for being a Christian is that I don’t have to have regrets about anything in my life or feel like I’ve missed out on anything because the best is yet to come. As a believer in Jesus, I believe he has washed away all of my past sin and I don’t have to continue making bad choices because I have God’s help now to live differently. Of course, I still screw up daily but knowing God loves me enough to lay down his life makes me want to live differently. According to Revelation 21:5, “He will make all things new”. One day all will be new, our minds, our hearts, our past…

Also, I believe I won’t miss out on anything because in Heaven, I’ll live in a perfect world and get to do everything I didn’t get a chance to do in this life. The best is truly yet to come. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “…eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

Enjoy having no regrets in 2016!

Natalie 🙂