A Few Words Can Begin Journey from Stress to Balance (Mary McWilliams, Tennessee Register)
"Hey, I'd like to come in and talk to someone about counseling."
It's a stress-free way to get help for stress that could be getting out of control. Just a few words can help begin to re-route a person feeling overwhelmed, back into balance and on the road to health again, according to Lisa McGovern, supervisor of counseling services for Catholic Charities of Tennessee.
With April designated as Stress Awareness Month, McGovern is taking the opportunity to shine a light on a lesser known service of Catholic Charities, its counseling program, which is available year-round to anyone who needs help.
With a sliding scale that takes into account not just income but expenses, fees for counseling sessions range from $2 to $92, which makes it affordable even for individuals and families in the most dire financial circumstances. Services are available to everyone; you don't have to be Catholic or a member of the Diocese of Nashville to make an appointment.
But how do you know that you might need counselling? The circumstances are highly individual, said McGovern. It could be a situation as specific as dealing with a co-worker to an overwhelming, undefined feeling of sadness.
"When most people have some kind of discomfort - something's going on and they don't know how to figure it out - they usually turn to those closest to them," McGovern said, adding that those closest to you aren't objective, nor should they be; they should be in your corner. As a result, often, a person needing help doesn't find the right answers. "They usually keep going. They want to find the answers."
That's normally the point when people seek out counseling. The majority of referrals, McGovern said, come from previous clients. They may also learn of the services from an article or a presentation. Although the number to make an appointment, 615-353-3087, is not a hotline, during regular business hours, counselors man the phones. Sometimes, callers are ready to make an appointment. Others seek information.
Often, people don't know what to expect and they don't know what to ask. The first line counselors help to bridge that gap, explaining the expectations, the fees, locations, and appointment availability. Then they are matched with a counselor for an appointment at one of five locations: the main office on McGavock Pike; St. Stephen Church in Old Hickory; St Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro; St. Philip Church in Franklin; and West Nashville. Sessions for Spanish speakers are available at the main office and the South Nashville Family Resource Center.
The term "stress" can often be used casually to indicate a negative response to an unpleasant or difficult situation, but stress, in balanced condition, is a survival mechanism.
"Stress serves a function," McGovern said. "It cues the body that there's a danger." She explained that the body changes with stress. There is a release of hormones that are sent throughout the body to tell us there is a potential threat. An example of stress working in balance would be the drive to study for an exam or meet a deadline. "Stress helps us move and get things done. It helps us pay attention."
Stress that has gone on too long can become problematic. With chronic stress, the body has a hard time resting and is always on alert due to the flood of hormones, McGovern continued. She said that it can lead to fatigue and difficulty in concentrating. Eventually, other quite serious manifestations may arise: pain, depression, digestion issues, immune system weakness, and a constant state of feeling overwhelmed and on edge.
Counseling is a way of trying to get yourself back in balance so you can manage that stress. Catholic Charities offers traditional counseling: sitting down face to face with an experienced professional and talking about the problem. McGovern said that the counselor and patient decide together what they want to accomplish.
"It's a collaborative experience," she said. "We want the counseling experience to be meaningful for them." And, the intention is to put a framework around it so a client is not in therapy indefinitely. "We have people put into words what their stress is - it may not be as big as they thought. Putting it into words has clarity. The goal is for people not to need counseling."
That goes even for those who think their problems are too big to solve.
"To them I would say, they've got nothing to lose" by seeking counseling, McGovern offered. "Counseling helps them slow down, step back and take things in smaller bites."
In addition to eating well and getting proper sleep, McGovern recommends helping yourself maintain a balance by engaging in some kind of regular form of movement or exercise - whatever type works for you. She also says to take time daily in stillness, such as prayer or meditation. She also said it's important to be with people who love you and help you to laugh.
For those who feel as though they need to talk with someone, they can start by calling 615-352-3087 and make an appointment to meet with a counselor.