Counseling… Let’s Bust up Some Serious Myths!

Counseling… the “C-Word”? Why is it that in 2018, people are still kind of hesitant to accept that counseling is not for “crazy” people, but for “everyday” people like you and me? We are all people and I have never met a person without problems in their life, have you? We all have some “junk in our trunk!” Sometimes our junk gets overwhelming and we don’t know where to start or what on earth to do with all the crap everywhere and suddenly we’re feeling stuck, trapped and unhappy in our own lives!

Sometimes we need to go to counseling simply to learn what the road of life doesn’t teach us; how to create our own happiness, how to heal instead of hide from pain and how to take your power back during times when you feel like your back is up against a wall.

At some point in our lives, we all have had something that we dealt with and had trouble kicking to the curb (and not going back to get it! 🙂 ). It’s called being human. There’s no shame in that. It is normal to have problems. It is.

Everywhere I looked today as I was running errands, I noticed people with high stress, anxiety, anger, depression, insecurity, apathy, low self-esteem and huge, painful, aching hurts. People everywhere are struggling but somewhere along the line we must have learned that feeling like crap is “normal” or that feeling the way you do is “the best that it gets”.

We also may have learned from somewhere that we have to paste on a smile and keep our pain “in house” because getting help would be shameful or a sign of weakness-or perhaps even feel like a betrayal to someone or something.

I think it takes A LOT of courage to walk into counseling (even though my office is so comfy! 🙂 ). I see you as brave, determined and intelligent because you recognize the need for good health and you are willing to pursue it.

There are a few misconceptions out there about counseling and I want to address a couple. Why? Because inaccurate assumptions can keep so many people from help.

Misconception #1: “Counseling? That’s just talking; how is that going to fix anything?” I am grinning as I write that one because counseling is not a passive process. If that were true and all I had to do was “shoot the breeze” while you lay on the couch (PS. I don’t have a couch!) and chat:

  1.  How on earth would I have a job? If just talking worked, then most of us would be good to go after “venting” to your friends, spouse, parents, etc. … but even after the rant, the problem is still usually there, isn’t it? Sometimes, the “venting” can actually cause you to feel more stress, not less… so there must be something other than “venting” going on in the office… And usually we are venting about the symptoms of the problem (everyone and everything but ourselves) but not acknowledging-or knowing-what is really causing the distress.
  2. Why in the world did I have to go to college for 8 years, get 3 degrees, do thousands of hours of residency, and get tested and licensed by state boards before I was able to even step foot into this career? And why do I have to keep current in the field of counseling by doing 20 hours a year of Continuing Education? I mean, if this is just talking, well, I learned how to do that as a little baby! SO… maybe I learned a little something about helping people re-wire their brains so they can make the changes they desire for their lives, perhaps? 🙂
  3.  Just like going to the gym, counseling works if you work it. If you jump in and start walking or jogging, I am going to pace right along side you, working just as hard to help you reach your goals. The same way a physical trainer would develop a workout process with you, a counselor is going to do that as well to help you get where you want to be. But if you’re not willing to do the work… well, you can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.

Misconception #2: People thinking that mental health medications are “Happy Pills”.

Excuse me while I pause to throw my head back and laugh. Do we call the diabetics’ insulin shots “happy injections”? Or chemo “going to get your feel good on”? Yeah, right.

Don’t you think if there truly was a happy pill, the government and big pharma would be all over it, advertising on billboards, TV, and all over social media, working together to roll bank? Ummm, most definitely. But we already know this: There are no quick fixes in life. You don’t get a Ninja Warrior bod from sitting on a bean bag, eating Cheetos. I mean, that’d be kinda cool but… nonexistent. 🙂 Anything worth having requires an investment of self. And if it doesn’t take some level of investment, we don’t value it very highly anyway.

Misconception #3: The lie that tells us, “I just need to be stronger; I don’t need anyone’s help.”

If we were to break our leg, we wouldn’t tell ourselves that we “just have to be stronger” and “suck it up” or that “we can fix it ourselves.” We wouldn’t say, “oh, it’s not that bad” … “the pain comes and goes so I’m probably fine”… “it’s all in my imagination”…. Uhhh, no. We would go to the doctor to get it fixed so we can walk again and not have a limb hanging at an odd angle.

Yet when we feel overwhelmed or tortured in our minds, most of us tell ourselves these very things, though what is happening is just as real as a broken leg! I once listened to a man who was diagnosed with cancer. Due to this diagnosis, he fell into a deep depression. Thankfully, he went into remission from the cancer and recovered from the depression. After going through these huge ordeals, do you know what he said? He said that he would rather go through cancer again than go through that deep depression again. That is a pretty bold statement and I do not take cancer lightly at all. But I don’t take depression lightly, either.

So why is it if we feel awful physical pain, we rush our butts to the ER, yelling, “Fix it!” … “Help me!” … “Make this better!” but it we feel like we are falling apart in our minds, we tell ourselves minimizing statements or tell ourselves that this is the best it gets anyway. Is living with a broken leg the best it gets?

No, you don’t “see” depression as immediately as you do a limb hanging off (well, sometimes you do actually…). But we do see it. We don’t see the wind. But we do feel it. And we all acknowledge that it exists. We don’t pretend a migraine doesn’t exist because we don’t see it visually.

I have NEVER heard someone say, “Oh, I don’t believe in headaches.” Or “No, wind isn’t real- it’s all in your imagination.”  … We acknowledge and believe that fibromyalgia is real, though it is something that has no known cause or cure and cannot be seen… but we ignore mental struggles that can be just as debilitating. Why?…

You know what has always been interesting to me? People think that no one can see their internal. mental suffering -that they can ignore how they feel, push aside their emotions and as long as they put on the smile when they go out the door and laugh at the right times, then no one knows.

But think about what would happen if you ignored that broken leg. You would have major painful consequences that would affect your career, family, activities you used to love, your relationships and your wallet from trying to band-aid this break yourself instead of going in to get the real work done. And yes, people would see it.

It is the same if you ignore emotional pain.  You may push it aside for the moment and then later snap at loved ones, yell at the dog, fight with your husband over nothing, sleep a lot, cry often, have to take time off from work or cancel with friends from mental exhaustion; you may end up in a broken relationship, being left because the other person couldn’t compete with what you were pretending wasn’t there. You may lie to try to cover your tracks, especially if you are dealing with stress a way you know others wouldn’t approve of, knowing the people and things you value in life could fall apart if anyone found out. So when we think we are hiding internal struggles, just know it comes out one way or the other.

Instead of letting mental or physical wounds fester and get worse day after day, what if we worked at repairing it so you could feel better? If your car had a few flat tires or your alternator went out, you would go get that fixed, right? But when our lives feel miserable, we just let ourselves stay in that tortured state. Again… why?

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, constantly down, moody and sad, always feeling guilty, not good enough, not perfect enough, pretty enough, thin enough; feeling as if you are “wrong”, “bad” or “dirty”, feeling like you always have to prove yourself, explain yourself, “fix everything”, do everything for everyone, make everyone happy… if you continuously tell yourself, “If only I had this…” or “If only___________ would change, I would be happy. That would make it better… I can tell you right now that it is not true. We would like to think that something or someone else is causing our unhappiness because it is so much easier to “explain it away” then to take a look at ourselves, our lives, our behaviors and what is really going on inside ourselves.

Therapy is kind of like taking [cognitive] medicine for your mind and every time you come in, you are getting your treatment. It is not just talking while someone listens. It IS treatment. And after you finish all your treatments, you leave feeling better and more equipped to handle what comes your way… just like people in the maintenance stage of a physical issue- things have stabilized and you have the tools you need from the health center to continue maintenance. Occasionally you may come in for a check-up, another treatment, etc.; other times you simply leave feeling relief and knowing you can always come back if you need anything in the future.
If any of this “hit home” for you or you think this information could help a friend or family member, please don’t hesitate to share this with them.

I am a counselor. I love what I do. And I would be honored to walk with you to on your journey. At Hurt Counseling Center, we offer hope, help and healing in a comfortable, nonjudgmental environment where the focus is on helping you. Don’t let fear of misconceptions keep you from feeling better.
*If you are currently in an emergency, call 911 immediately.

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Life’s Best Laid Plans…

I read something today that I kept thinking about with a little smile, so I put it together as a quote (because I was born in the days of notebooks and journals) and then made a meme (because hello, it’s 2018 and that’s what we do!). Basically, I wrote that when life doesn’t go the way you planned, throw your hands up and yell “PLOT TWIST” and then move on, making the most of the next ‘scene.’

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Is life a movie? Uh, no (but if it was, I’d pick a Hallmark Christmas movie house!). But a lot can be learned from that saying. For me anyway. And maybe for you? When I find myself feeling stressed, it is usually because I don’t want to accept the way things are happening. My control button is shaking and I want things to be the way I want them to be! So something I am always remembering, working on, and (usually! lol!) making progress on is practicing acceptance.

Imagine if you could accept life the way it happened and then you could work with what you have in front of you, or even make more opportunities to enhance what life has put before you… but what if you just… accepted it.wordswag_1509634030284.png

When I was in graduate school, I took a personality and career assessment in our “Career Counseling” course. While all the other students in the counseling room were getting nice, docile, therapist-y results, “You should be a counselor who wears outdated clothes and big, square glasses” … My results, however, stand out in my mind as rather unforgettable because I was the only one who didn’t get something like that.

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Want to know what mine was? Elvis. Yup, it turns out Elvis and I have the same exact personality style (and the same good looks 😉 ). I can’t remember all of the career suggestions because only one had anything to do with therapy. But I remember the first suggestion for my life’s work: To be a Cruise Line Director. (Can you even follow that up with another statement?) The other option I remember- because it actually had something to do with counseling- was to be an art therapist.

The cool thing was that my leadership skills, creativity and entertainment abilities came through strong. So with my Elvis personality, I took in the advice and did what I knew was my fit; I became a therapist- a really awesome, really real, interactive, introspective and fun therapist (and humble too, so humble hahah). You know, I say those things about my counseling but honestly it is not in a “full of myself” kind of way. I just know the depths of where I’ve been in life. And I know how great it is to live your life in ways you sort of maybe dared to dream but never thought possible!

I know that in every situation I went through in life, I always had 3 choices: Give in, give up or give it all you’ve got! I chose to do the hard but beautiful work of healing (because you can live in- and get used to- misery, if you want…) and God used it to equip me to be there for others; to help them find healing, freedom and empowerment too. And because of who I am, Little Ms. Elvis, I am real and fun. And it would be fair to say that I get extra-creative in my sessions as needed 🙂

I love what I do; it is so normal for my clients and I to burst  into laughter in the same session where we share heart-felt tears. I love watching my clients heal, to realize how worthwhile they are, to figure out what to do with all their emotions (which for most people, is one of the scariest words ever!) and to go after what they truly want in life- instead of doing what they think they “have” to do. FREEDOM! I love freedom. And seeing people grow in confidence; their posture changes, their voice tone changes and they are no longer scared to live life. EMPOWERED to live freely without stress, perfectionistic, people-pleasing, “have to”, “need to” and “shoulds” running through their minds. I love seeing relationships being restored back to health. I love it. I care for each and every client that walks through my door and I want the best for them. I can’t make anyone do the work of healing. I can’t make anyone put into action the desire of wanting more for their lives. But I can sit with them in their pain, walk with them through their healing and rejoice with them when they are where they want to be.

Want to know something kind of funny? Most everyone in that class who got the “typical counselor” career results… are not counselors. Turns out it wasn’t for them. Kind of ironic, huh?

And then there’s Elvis over here… who begins teaching natural classes because I found something real and amazing that has helped me and my family heal time and time again. And I want people to know about it. Not fall for gimmicks or lies, but to know the truth. But just like counseling, I can’t make anyone want to invest in themselves to feel better. I can only sit with them in their pain, walk with them through their healing and rejoice with them when they are where they want to be.

Now with this Elvis personality, you would think doing this TV show would have had me shaking my groove thang on national television or maybe hosting this year’s 2019 ball drop or something, but alas, my life is quite similar to where it was 2 years ago before I started doing the TV show, except I made a lot of wonderful friends and had a blast doing something I never even considered doing in my life!

I do not have plans to renew my contract but you never know if I pop in here or there just because I miss y’all. 🙂 I gave the Scouts almost 2 years to find me and make me a Super Star. if they’re that slow on their game, I may not want to contract with them anyway 😉  Maybe I just need some blue suede shoes? Do you think that would help? 🙂

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So… why in the world am I talking about all this? Eh, I don’t know. (Just kidding, though I do enjoy a good tangent … ).

I truly enjoy doing DIY. I don’t know if I ever want to do a big, DIY teaching class again. Who knows but right now, I do know that I am not through that place in the grief process of my close friend and DIY partner whom I met when she was an attendee at the very first class that I taught.

I do know that I am up to doing get togethers with a few of us friends making some natural DIY and sharing laughs and fun over coffee.  I want cozy and comfortable, where it feels like sitting on your best friend’s couch and shooting the breeze. Casual with some structure (so we can make our stuff lol) 🙂 My next one of these DIY gatherings is going to be January 26th at 11am. If you would like to attend, I would love to have you! Since the classes are smaller, just comment or message me and I will fill it up, first come, first serve. If this one fills before you get in, you will be the first one on the invite list for my next friend Diva dates! lol 🙂

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Oh, did I tell you that tomorrow is my last TV show? Sorry, it’s 1:30am, I’ve been travelling all day and though the family and I had a fabulous week, I feel like I could sleep for … awhile. 🙂 Anyway, watch it, okay? And tell the Scouts that this is their last chance to snag up Little Ms. Elvis because like all good things, I’m going, going, going, gone- and booking up fast for the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop! hahah

Love you guys. I’m not going anywhere, I just don’t feel that I should continue on with the TV show right now. I will still be doing classes, and providing natural support while posting who-knows-what to my page and my cool, new Etsy Shop. I have a new recipe book in there! And the Christmas Gift Making one! And if you all show me  that you love those, I will make you more! Go to http://www.etsy.com and the search bar “BobbiejoDIYDiva”

Oh! And I am opening my new counseling center (FB: Hurt Counseling Center) on Jan. 2ne (so once again to do that Ball drop… they really gotta be on their GAAAAME!) Look me up and please tell friends and family in need. I am doing sliding scale fees only so I hope to help many that may not be able for afford full fee- though it is 100% worth it for a peaceful state of mind, I understand that money… well, it does kind of grow on trees… but … it is still a tight commodity for most of us!!

I specialize in depression, anxiety, depression and relationships. I have worked with most all mental heath and co-occurring disorders though. I work predominately with adults and teens.

Stay in touch!

❤ Bobbie-jo Hurt, The One, The Only, Mason-Dixon DIY Diva, (side by side with my personality twin Elvis… which explains why I would rather go on Live TV in my jammies than fold my laundry… :))20768117_654792388062401_6344075442393846063_n

The Mason-Dixon DIY Diva: The Prequel.

Whenever I do an introduction of myself for a bio or a class, I always mention that I am also a mental health therapist. Then as Autumn was beginning to come to a close, I did a show on WSLS10 that I thought was imperative to get the information out: Getting help for depression. (Oh how I wish people could know how much better they could feel!!)

This blog could be titled, “The DIY Diva Starts her own Counseling Business” but it sounds a little long and boring. I don’t do boring; automatically puts me in nap mode 🙂

Here’s the scoop: I AM opening my own practice. I HAVE been working as a therapist the entire time I have been The Mason-Dixon DIY Diva. I LOVE helping people empower themselves. Love it. Am I still the DIY Diva? YES. Am I still a Therapist? YES. Nothing has changed… except I am opening my own practice 🙂 So… that is actually pretty exciting. Being a DIY Diva and doing a TV show is something I never envisioned that I would do- not even in my wildest dreams. Nope, not even then. And all those years ago when I was pursing my degrees, certifications, licensures, etc., I always said I didn’t want my own practice. (It is easier to work at someone else’s! LOL!) But here I am, with these doors swinging open, and I feel no fear for moving forward, only excitement to see where God takes this. I am along for the ride! 🙂

Hurt Counseling Center is the name of the new practice. My husband and I met in graduate school and he too has his degree in Professional Counseling, along with being a Certified Life Coach. He is in this venture with me and will be available for appointments as well. (And we may or may not have a few more fun surprises up our sleeve this year!)

We are officially opening our doors January 2nd, 2019, so now is the time to call or text for an appointment (540) 765-7881. My new office is located at: 402 Hershberger Road Roanoke VA. Below is a picture.

I specialize in depression, anxiety, addiction and relationship issues, though I have worked with most all mental health and co-occurring disorders. There is no shame to mental health. We don’t shame someone for diabetes or cancer, so why in the world would we do that for depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.? Our bodies need support. Our brains need support. The sooner we can accept this, the sooner we can get people finding out how much better they can feel. Did you know that you don’t have to live your life feeling blah, nonstop stressed, or miserable? Most people are so used to feeling crappy that they don’t even know there are alternatives to feeling how they do. If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, have thoughts that go-go-go and don’t seem to stop, feel completely lethargic, exhausted and don’t feel like you have the energy to do what you need to, or if you keep doing the same thing that you don’t want to be doing over and over and over and…. maybe you should come see me. From someone who is constantly working on becoming a better, healthier version of herself, I can honestly say that peace of mind and relief from all the mental pressure we put on ourselves is priceless. Healthy physical and mental health is immeasurable in a numerical value. I don’t know about you, but these are two areas I “spare no expense” in because they are the cornerstone to all we do.

I want counseling to be accessible to each and every brave person who is willing to come in and admit that things are not perfect and perhaps feeling a little stuck, down, overwhelmed, etc.. If you want to feel better, well, as they say on the Price is Right, “Come on down!” 🙂

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Life is Short

This is not the post I intended to write. I was going to jump on here and give you some Diva updates. But there is something else that came to me as I began to write and I know I must share this with you. (And you can edit this in your head if you want, my friends, but I do not have time right now to do so and I want to get this information out ASAP 🙂 )

I have had some heavy past few months. As you know from being a part of my life, a very close friend of mine is in her last days of life. She hasn’t even reached the age of 60 but it looks like her time is coming, whether I like it or not. We have spent the past months making big end-of-life decisions together and holding each other’s hands with our heads together sobbing, knowing that when she went off to Texas to an Assisted Living facility near her only family, that everything was our “last” together. The last hug was the hardest. For a short while after her move, she was able to send me a few lines via the internet here and there on how things were going but she was so exhausted that it would drain her. We knew we had to move her soon before she didn’t have it in her to physically ride across the country. It is so hard helplessly seeing the physical break down of her body. Her last message to me was that she finally gave in and allowed Hospice to come (my tough warrior was holding off until the very last minute and has been turning them down for a few months already). I called her the other day and knew it took everything in her to answer. It broke my heart to even smaller pieces, hearing her weak voice and her laughs at my silly life antics. The Evil has gotten into her brain again and she is having difficulty communicating. Her brother has been keeping me updated at this point. The thought is that she will not be seeing next month. Lord, help me. I am shaking and can barely see the screen through my tears.

Then I had another surprise. My niece who is 18 came over the other night, so excited to tell me about her first date. She was showing me the cute messages they were sending back and forth via FB messenger, etc. and we were pondering those fun teenage jitter questions like, “Is this a date?” …”Will he try to hold my hand… or kiss me?!”… “Will he buy the tickets?”… “Will we get our own popcorn or share one?” Her adorable excitement about this cute boy who likes her and thinks she’s awesome was creating those fun butterflies in her stomach that we all remember from days gone by.

This conversation got me to thinking about who I was dating at 18. Back in those days, we communicated by phone (GASP!), e-mail, or by making plans to get online (dial up) at the same time so we could talk on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). 🙂 I still have my very first email address that my dad set up for me when I was 15 and I don’t delete anything from my email, because… what a waste of time 🙂  (I know, some of you are cringing right now. Sorry my Type A friends, love ya!).

I pulled up some emails from a boy I went out with when I was her age, and read her a few of our “flutter” messages such as him saying, “I miss you sooooooo much. T-7 hours [until we saw each other again] TTYL hun” … “Hey Shawty, I can’t wait to see you. In school today we ….” etc. etc. I bought a car while we were dating and named it after one of the things he would say to me, that I was “The Shizzle to his Nizzle.” (What does that even mean? LOL. Who cares! In 18 year old world, it was goose bumps!) I named my car Shizzle. Maybe it had something to do with his favorite candy being Skittles? haha who knows 🙂

After my niece went home and my own cute memories of innocence and excitement were flying back to me at rapid pace, I began to wonder what he was up to today. We hadn’t talked or even seen each other since we were 18. So of course I do what we do in today’s world: I typed his name into the FB search bar. The only thing that came up with his description was an obituary someone posted in 2012. No way, I thought, that can’t be him. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I opened the page. There was his picture right on top of the obituary. All the information listed matched that boy that I had many fond childhood memories with. We were the same age. But he died at age 25. 25!!! I reached out to some people that were mutual friends of ours (and set us up). I find out from his past best friend what happened as the pit in my stomach grows deeper. He took his own life.

I just sat there crying, with these ridiculous thoughts of wishing I could have done something; wishing I could have “fixed” someone I haven’t seen or talked to in 15 years.  As if we can help anyone who doesn’t reach out for it (and I have no idea on those details when it comes to him).

I have felt so blessed these past 10+ years of being in the counseling field, having the opportunity to help people find a way out of the dark by walking beside them in the deep pits of pain and hearing them- really hearing them. And showing them a process of how to get out of the pitch dark woods. My heart bursts every time I see another person in my office find healing, freedom, empowerment, peace in their minds and excitement for life again.

Sometimes I wish life could be more often like a Hallmark movie, you know? Here’s what my 18 year old boyfriend’s story would have looked like if I could rewrite it. We would be walking down the street and randomly run into each other. We would begin catching up and I would be able to pick up on his emotional state and would point him in the direction of help. And of course he would take the help with little resistance because it’s the Hallmark channel. He would find healing in the core of his being and from all the pain inside. He would be truly happy. He would marry a cute “girl next door” type that was sweet and kind. They would start Christmas morning by having an adorable, fluffy puppy with a red bow on, playing excitedly between the happy couple, while they sat in front of the tree, with their hand entwined, a look of love and contentment on their faces. And when we passed each other on the street, we would give each other a wave and a big, genuine smile because we both found true happiness in our lives.

In our Western world 1 out of every 4 people have depression or anxiety (and the other 3 are lying 🙂 ). But we put this stigma on it such as, we just need to be “strong enough….” HOG WASH! We need to have the courage (and it takes a lot to admit we need help!!!) to reach out and get our butts in counseling with a great therapist!

No one would EVER tell a diabetic that depends on insulin for their life survival that if only they were “strong enough” or just “shook it off” they wouldn’t need that medication… BULL HOGIE!!

We don’t tell Cancer patients that if they just tried harder …. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?

Mental illness is just as real as diabetes, cancer, broken bones and autoimmune disorders. And guess what? They are just as catastrophic because we receive the message that “just need to be stronger”… or that getting help is for the weak and getting help for this area of our lives is embarrassing… psssh, we women let doctors stick tools up our vaginas and men let doctors do the “cough and grab” on their gentlemen bits. And don’t even get me started on Colonoscopies… yes, if you can do those things, you can come TALK to someone about what’s going on emotionally.

Mental illness is just as debilitating as physical illness, just in other torturous ways. And the saddest part of all? They can both end in premature death. Pretending we have it all together, you know what that is? A death sentence. Get help. I don’t care if it is for a lump you want to pretend isn’t there of a feeling of hopelessness that you tell yourself is normal. Yeah, right.

My heart reaches out to you in this last statement: Get help. There are hotlines everywhere that can be found with a quick google search on your phone. Just call a random counselor. Or you know what? Just show up at the ER. Or a counseling office. I don’t care. JUST. GET. HELP. And don’t accept NO for an answer. If the person you turn to doesn’t have the expertise to realize what’s going on, don’t minimize what is happening inside. Go to the next professional.

You all know that my office is in Roanoke. I’m real, I’m fun and I’ve been through a lot so I may just be able understand more than you might initially think. I would be honored if you would let me walk with you down this dark road and travel together to happier times. Trust that it can get better. BECAUSE IT CAN.

Here is my office number 1-434-237-2655. It is a Lynchburg number but I am based in downtown Roanoke. And it doesn’t have to me that you see. I just want you to reach out to someone and don’t stop reaching out until you get what the help you need. You’re worth it.

Love and Hugs,

Bobbie-jo Hurt, The Mason-Dixon DIY Diva & Mental Health and Addictions Therapist, who truly, sincerely, cares about you.

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As seen on WSLS-10 TV – November 16, 2018
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Bust Out of The Winter Blues

Winter is coming, the temperatures are dropping and so is the amount of daylight we receive each day. When I was a kid, my dad would come home from work into our Upstate New York living room, stomping the snow off his boots and taking off his layers of added warmth, and would say, “I feel like a Mole; I leave when its dark and I get home when its dark.” As a child this just produced giggles- thinking of my dad as a Mole 🙂  As an adult, I realize that this is the reality of many people. 😦

There are a lot of studies showing what produces the winter blues and the SAD effect in a percentage of the population. As a psychology-research-counselor person, I really enjoy them. But for the purpose of sharing tips on how to break out of the blues- probably not necessary to get into all of them 🙂 Please be sure to read the bottom of this blog though to discover a bit about the differences between the blues and depression! It could save a life-seriously. One is like having a small cut on your leg that needs some cleaning and a band-aid. The other is like having your limb hanging off and trying to convince yourself that it’s fine. BIG DIFFERENCE.

These tips are for the Blues Only. Here are some ways to shake out of that cabin-fever feeling:

  1. Sunlight! Get out during the brightest part of the day- for AT LEAST 10 minutes with bare skin so you can absorb that amazing Vitamin D! Good mood food!
  2. Exercise. 35 minutes/day for 5 days a week is recommended but just do what you can! If you can walk for 10 minutes at lunch, do it! Walk to the mail box, park farther away at the grocery store or coffee shop, etc. Endorphins come from exercise and those are feeeeel gooooooood chemicals for your brain! More Good Mood Food!
  3. Remember that you’re not really hibernating. This is my hardest one in the winter because it is waaaaaay too easy to cozy up with some tasty snacks and Christmas movies! However, too many simple carbs and too much sugar does not necessarily do a body – or a brain – good. Bummer, I know.  :/
  4. Happy music! This has been shown to uplift your mood and light up some feel good portions of your brain! My current favorite is “Grace Got You” by MercyMe. Check it out and tell me if you can keep your toe from tapping!
  5. Hydration! It is so common to overlook this in the winter because we don’t feel as thirsty. (And cocoa tastes better than water, amIright?!) But we must remember to nourish our body to keep the energy flowing! (And hello… winter dry skin? Water can help that too!)
  6. Plan a trip! Pick a fun destination and get to planning a fun time for you and your family- or just you! Whatever 😉 The point is to have something fun to look forward to! When you finish one, plan your next adventure!
  7. Herbal it up! Get yourself some Happy Teas that have organic ingredients like St. John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Lemon Myrtle, etc. Make sure they are  the beneficial parts of the plant in there 😉
  8. Essential Oils! Gaaahhhh, such an overused word right now and you know what? It drives me crazy! All these crappy oil companies coming out of these unknown dingy underground tunnels, with greasy long hair and dirty chipped fingernails, putrid breath and holding out a bottle of “oil” from the sewage system and people are actually reaching for it. SMH. I can’t even. Get some good oils that aren’t so dang cheap and shady so they can actually help uplift your mood! Citrus oils, Lavender, and my BFF Frank are always good choices to soothe the soul!
  9. HELP OTHERS! I love this one. Probably because I “get my kicks” from helping others. You know what’s cool though? This is truly the pay-it-forward effect because not only does the giver receive feel good chemicals for doing the kind deed, but the people that witnessed it get a chemical boost too! Good deeds = Good moods 🙂
  10. Don’t be Scrollin’! Say what?! Yeah you heard me. Only get on social media for short, purposeful moments of time. Why? Well here’s the long and short of it- you get on social media, you post something. You know your cats the cutest, so it’s going to be a hit. You get a bunch of “likes” and tons of “hearts”. Woo, feel good chemical rush! Just like Pavlov’s dogs, we go back because we want the rush (the brain treat) again! But when you posted that awesome pic of your new haircut, barely anyone commented or “liked” it. Instant downer. Instead of feel good chemicals, how about feelings of insecurity, anxiety, etc.? Oh and let’s not forget that little comparison game that people like to play on social media. JUST. DON’T. You’re comparing someone’s highlight reel against your lowest moments. Yeah, that’s an idea for the trash can. There is a direct correlation between time on social media and depression. Interesting, isn’t it? … you gotta save yourself and look up and out at the rest of the world . There’s some really cool stuff out there. 🙂

Okay, I could go on but it is almost 1am and I need to go get my butt on tv in the morning so I should probably jump in bed! Say you’ll join me and give me a dopamine rush for the show, would ya? 😉 In all seriousness, knowing that you all like the show is the entire reason why I do it. I mean, it’s hard to stay in hibernation season when you get pulled in front of the camera! LOL!

**Notes on the Winter Blues vs. Depression: You NEED to be sure you are only experiencing the blah’s of weather changes and NOT something more serious, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder or any other type of depression/mental struggle. A big indicator for the blah’s is that you may feel down and a bit lethargic as the weather changes, but it DOES NOT STOP YOU from enjoying life. On the other hand, if you are becoming uninterested in things that you previously enjoyed, are breaking off planned appointments and get-togethers with friends, etc., and are experiencing feelings of hopelessness, despair, frequent periods of crying or anger, deep sadness that won’t go away, increase or decrease of sleep, appetite, etc. than it may be more than the winter doldrums. In these cases, I highly recommend a counselor. There are very high success rates of overcoming and handling feelings of depression by seeing a counselor. If you need a counselor, I have an office in the Roanoke, VA area (you can find my info on psychologytoday.com). If you are out of the area, you can use that same site to find someone nearby that is suited to what you need. Please keep in mind that if you are experiencing feelings of wanting to hurt yourself, someone else, are feeling unable to take care of yourself and/or those you are responsible for, contact 911 right away. Do not pass go, do not collect $100.00. Make the call.

Whether it’s the blues, depression, or any other feelings that just feel overwhelming, please know that it CAN get better. There is help. Just call up a licensed counselor and get in the office for your appointment ASAP.

Make this Fall and Winter the best yet 🙂 Come along with me, the best is yet to be…

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