Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Message for the Holidays

The holiday season is finally here ... a joyous time of year! The holidays present an opportunity to come together with family and friends, to share experiences of the past and dreams for the future.
For those who have experienced a traumatic event, this time of year may hardly feel joyous. Traumatic stress can cast a dark shadow over the colors of the season. Although many people will benefit from the opportunity to connect with others, far too many will feel alone.
During this holiday season, we can help victims to regain a sense of control that adversity seems to have taken away. We can help them to see that their decisions and actions can empower them to not only survive, but thrive!

Here are three suggestions. First, make an effort to notice the feelings behind others' words. Feelings are often the stuff that's hardest to talk about. Second, listen. It's not what we say that helps people the most, it's often what we don't say. Instead of being an expert in solving others' problems, help them to find the answers within themselves. And finally, let people know that it's okay not to be okay when they're living through a challenging experience.  
This holiday season, let's help people who have lived through traumatic events to harness their painful emotions, and use that energy to propel them to live with a new sense of purpose in the new year.

Monday, September 3, 2012

20 Strategies to Manage the Stress of Returning to School

1. Stop texting and start talking. Share your thoughts and feelings with your family and friends, face to face.
2. Clean up and organize your work space. Prepare a comfortable place at home to study.
3. Recognize that itʼs normal to feel anxious about returning to school.
4. Do a “mental walk-though” of your schedule. Envision making your way successfully through the building or campus.
5. Develop a time management program. Write it down.
6. Organize your school supplies.
7. Get a good night sleep ... or at least try to.
8. Learn that stress management techniques, like slow deep breathing, listening to music, reading, drawing or creating a journal really work.
9. Make homework and studying a priority.
10. Wear appropriate clothing that makes you feel good.
11. Avoid destructive choices that violate school codes, including the use of alcohol or substances.
12. Fight the temptation to avoid or withdraw. By facing challenging tasks and situations, youʼll overcome feelings of discomfort.
13. Make breakfast and exercise a part of every day.
14. Fantasize about potential career choices. Even if you change your mind a hundred times, youʼll be working toward a goal rather than just “taking classes.”
15. Turn your nervous energy into productive energy.
16. Become involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, music and art.
17. Plan on joining a club. And really do it.
18. Bring into focus how you would be at your best, and strive to live up to your own expectations.
19. Try to cultivate new relationships with your peers and your teachers. 
20. Recognize that returning to school presents opportunities to grow.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Power of Breathing

During a crisis, it’s not uncommon for your breathing to change, in order to help you to manage the stress of your experience. At times, your breathing may become rapid, bringing oxygen into your system to enable you to respond quickly to further danger. But this very same rapid breathing may also cause you to feel anxious, panicky and very uncomfortable.

So, what can you do? Let me share a great technique that will help you take control of your breathing so that it once again becomes a positive, rather than a negative, to your physical and emotional well-being.

First, take the phone off the hook and turn off the sound on your cell phone. Sit, or lie down, and make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. For the moment, don’t try to change it, just become aware of, and focus on, your breathing. Some thoughts may come into your mind and if they do, just chase them away, continuing to concentrate only on your breathing. Notice each time you inhale and each time you exhale. With each exhalation, think the word, “relax.”

Next, take a slow deep breath through your nose, hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Do this three times. You’ll find yourself becoming more relaxed with each breath you take.

There’s a reason why people, from athletes to soon-to-be-moms, are encouraged to become aware of their breathing and to build a repertoire of breathing techniques. Learning to control your breathing can become a powerful physical and emotional force that will enable you to cope more effectively with adversity.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Adoption Stress" and International Adoption

Unfortunately, far too many adoptive children have faced traumatic events including, but not limited to, neglect, physical and sexual abuse and various degrees of abandonment. As an “Adoption Psychologist,” I regularly explain to adoptive parents that by having an understanding of the symptoms suggestive of traumatic exposure, we can identify children who may be experiencing traumatic stress reactions. Ultimately, by identifying symptoms early, we can address emotional, social, behavioral and educational needs. As I often say to parents, we certainly don’t wait to address physical trauma. And, in the same way, we must not wait to address traumatic stress.

How is traumatic stress manifested in adoptive children?

In the young adopted child, we see immature and regressive behaviors—behaviors that have been abandoned in the past are often observed again (e.g., thumb sucking, bed wetting, fear of the dark, loss of bladder control, speech difficulties, decreases in appetite, clinging and whining, and separation difficulties). Older children may manifest periods of sadness and crying, poor concentration, fears of personal harm, aggressive behaviors, withdrawal/social isolation, attention-seeking behavior, anxiety and fears, etc.

So, what is “Adoption Stress”? Does it refer solely to the experience of so many adoptive children?

The reality is, when we look closely at adoption, we realize that traumatic stress is pervasive - often impacting several, if not all, of the parties involved. Unfortunately, this traumatic stress, “adoption stress,” is generally not recognized and its impact is misunderstood. Consider the following….

Birth parents, who surrender a child for adoption, typically experience a great deal of stress. Oftentimes, due to their circumstance, they have little choice or control and must surrender their child for adoption.

Adoptive parents often bring to the table a history of stress. For example, pre-adoption stressors, which may include fertility problems, losses and significant relationship conflicts. There is also stress associated with the acquisition of an adoptive child. For example, there may be serious medical concerns, “misunderstandings,” and heartbreaking disappointments. Finally, post-adoption stress may center around the realization of a dream, tremendous life changes with new responsibilities, and a future marked by uncertainty and fear.

Adoption stress is manifested in the feelings, thoughts, actions, physical and spiritual reactions of all parties associated with the adoption process—by birth parents, adoptive parents and certainly, adoptive children. By understanding adoption stress and recognizing the symptoms, we can intervene early, educate and empower victims, and prevent acute difficulties from becoming chronic problems.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant

When Confidentiality is a Priority
Corporate Executives, Celebrities, Governmental Leaders, 
Attorneys, Healthcare Providers, Entertainers, Professional Athletes….
For people who live in the public eye, an overwhelming experience presents unique challenges.  Where do you turn? Whom can you trust?  What can you do?  If you demand the utmost in confidentiality, warmth, knowledge, experience and education, consider Dr. Mark Lerner as your Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant.  
What traumatic events are
A plane crash. A terrorist attack. A hurricane…. While these events can create a marked disruption in functioning, it doesn’t have to be a highly publicized incident with a two-inch newspaper headline. Traumatic events are also the personal disasters that color peoples’ lives—including a loss, a serious illness or injury, a financial crisis, or divorce.
What traumatic stress is
Traumatic stress refers to our feelings, thoughts, actions, and our physical and spiritual reactions when we are exposed to, or witness, events that overwhelm our coping and problem-solving abilities. These events are often unexpected and uncontrollable. They compromise our sense of safety and security, and leave us feeling insecure and vulnerable.
What an Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant does
When people experience a traumatic event, there’s a rush to address physical and safety needs. We would never wait to help someone who is bleeding profusely. In the same way, we should not wait to address overwhelming feelings. We must respond to the “emotional hemorrhage” early on.
As an Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant, I empower people during and in the wake of a crisis. My consultative approach is short-term and strictly confidential. My goal is to ease emotional pain, keep people functioning, mitigate ongoing suffering and restore “human stability”.  Ultimately, I strive to empower people to harness painful emotional energy, and use that energy to propel them to not only survive, but thrive!
With whom I have worked 
For over twenty-five years, I have worked with thousands of people who have faced traumatic events. My clientele has included individuals, organizations, schools, universities, businesses, governmental agencies and large corporations. I have worked with people in the health-related fields and the entertainment industry, with educators and professional athletes, with emergency responders and governmental leaders, with artists and corporate executives. I have worked with young people and old people, poor people and wealthy people. And in all my work, I have consistently found that we wait too long, following a traumatic event, to address emotional needs.
When I become involved 
There are many faces of trauma, from the seemingly mundane to the most severe. I have a passion for helping people who are experiencing the worst events that life can bring (e.g., loss of a loved one, serious illness, accidents, domestic problems, sexual molestation, suicide, criminal victimization, war, natural disasters, etc.).
When I work with people
I enjoy working with people before a traumatic experience. For example, I empower organizations, corporations, schools and universities to develop Crisis Management Teams (CMT). Traumatic events, by their very nature, compromise our ability to think clearly. Having a road map, a preconceived plan, makes good sense. Also, I have found that people who are knowledgeable about traumatic stress, prior to a traumatic experience, regain a sense of control more rapidly in the wake of a crisis. 
In the same way that we rush to address physical needs during a crisis, I address emergent psychological needs. My goal, as an Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant, is to provide timely information, support and practical strategies that will enable people to cope more effectively.  
In the aftermath of a tragedy, I help people to seize the energy from a traumatic experience, and use it to propel them to set realistic goals, make decisions and take action!  So many people who have experienced adversity have learned to harness painful emotional energy and used it to cultivate a mission and purpose (e.g., Oprah Winfrey, Carolyn McCarthy, John Walsh, Michael J. Fox, Lance Armstrong and countless others).
How we can work together
Whatever happens to us during peak emotional experiences, the gifts of life and the losses of life, becomes etched in our minds forever. In the same way that negative information (e.g., sights, sounds and smells) stays with us, so too can positive information. Hearing the right thing, at the right time, can make a tremendous difference in how people ultimately respond to adversity. Consider the following:
I recently consulted with Walter, a law firm senior partner, following the suicide of a beloved attorney, colleague and … friend. I provided support and practical information that empowered him to help others. Walter contacted the family of the deceased in order to obtain facts, and to know what was okay to share with members of the firm. He arranged for staff members to be contacted at home and asked that they attend an important early morning meeting. Walter conducted the death notification with 28 people. He provided factual information in order to prevent rumors, and he informed staff of the families’ wishes concerning the funeral. Walter provided support for staff and offered practical documents to help people to know that their reactions were very normal, given an abnormal experience. I empowered Walter to help others.
As a Traumatic Stress consultant, I regularly travel to meet personally with my clients. Some people prefer to meet in the sanctuary of my office in Melville, New York.
When a workshop or presentation is needed
I have conducted interactive workshops and presentations with schools, universities, businesses, governmental agencies and large corporations. I customize and tailor my talks based on your needs. I have presented workshops with groups as small as six people to keynote presentations for over three thousand people.
Traumatic stress consulting versus therapy
For over two decades, I have worked with people as a Clinical Psychologist, providing psychotherapy in the months and years after a traumatic event. As an Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant, I work with people before, during and in the wake of a traumatic experience. My consultative approach is strictly confidential, short-term and goal-oriented, generally from one to several sessions.
If you’re still with me, reading this, you are already on your way to benefiting from traumatic stress consultation.
How we can get started
Simply e-mail me a brief message, describing the nature of your situation and how I may best help you—  If the matter requires immediate attention, please telephone my offices at (631) 673-3513.

TRAUMATIC STRESS refers to our feelings, thoughts, actions, and our physical and spiritual reactions when we are exposed to, or witness, events that overwhelm our coping and problem-solving abilities.
WHO:  Dr. Mark Lerner, a clinical psychologist and an international Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant, focuses on helping people through traumatic experiences. His consultative approach is strictly confidential, short-term and goal-oriented … generally from one to several sessions.
WHAT:  Dr. Lerner consults regularly with people who demand the utmost in confidentiality, warmth, knowledge, education and experience. His primary goals are to ease emotional pain, keep people functioning, mitigate ongoing suffering and restore “human stability”. He strives to empower people to harness painful emotional energy—and use that energy to propel them to not only survive, but thrive.
WHERE:  Consultation may be take place at the offices of Mark Lerner Associates, Inc. in New York. When arranged, Dr. Lerner travels internationally, as an Executive Traumatic Stress Consultant, to organizational venues and client’s private residences.
WHEN:  Dr. Lerner seeks to empower people with practical information and proactive strategies before, during and in the wake of a traumatic event. In the same way that there is a rush to address physical and safety needs during times of crisis, Dr. Lerner strives to address our feelings, thoughts, actions, physical and spiritual reactions—traumatic stress.
WHY:  By reaching people early, we can potentially prevent the acute difficulties of today from becoming the chronic problems of tomorrow.
HOW:  Email Dr. Lerner a brief message, describing the nature of your situation and how he may best help you— If the matter requires immediate attention, telephone Dr. Lerner at (631) 673-3513.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Golden Hour for Traumatic Stress

In medicine, the "Golden Hour" generally refers to the period of time, lasting from minutes to hours, following a serious physical injury. The chance of a patient surviving is greatly increased if immediate care is received during this period of time.

In the same way, there is a golden hour to address the "emotional hemorrhage" following traumatic exposure. In other words, by reaching people early with timely information and support, we can ease emotional pain, keep people functioning and mitigate ongoing suffering.

Traumatic stress refers to our feelings, thoughts, actions, and our physical and spiritual reactions when we’re exposed to, or even witness, events that overwhelm the ability to cope. 

We must not confuse traumatic stress, the normal response to an abnormal event, with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD, along with other psychiatric diagnoses, may apply to individuals who continue to experience debilitating symptoms that compromise the ability to function.

Rather than rushing to label people, let's focus on increasing awareness of traumatic stress, and reaching people during the golden hour, with timely information and support.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Do People Typically Respond During a Crisis?

There’s no standard or typical way in which people respond during a crisis. Some of us respond immediately, while others may experience a delayed reaction, sometimes months or even years down the road. Some individual’s reactions may last for a long period of time. For others, traumatic stress reactions are short-lived.
The reactions/responses that follow are frequently experienced during times of crisis. It’s important to recognize that these reactions do not necessarily represent an unhealthy response. Rather, they may be viewed as normal responses to an abnormal event. 
If these reactions continue to be experienced in the future and are joined by other symptoms such as recurrent distressing dreams, flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, excessive jumpiness, or panic attacks, and interfere with social, occupational or other important areas of functioning, a stress disorder may be present. Consideration should be given to consulting with a mental health professional.
Emotional Responses may include:
    • shock
    • denial
    • dissociation
    • panic
    • fear
    • aloneness
    • hopelessness
    • helplessness
    • emptiness
    • uncertainty
    • horror
    • terror
    • anger
    • hostility
    • irritability
    • sadness
    • depression
    • grief
    • guilt
Cognitive Responses to traumatic exposure are often reflected in:
    • impaired concentration
    • confusion
    • disorientation
    • difficulty in making a decision
    • a short attention span
    • suggestibility
    • vulnerability
    • forgetfulness
    • self-blame
    • blaming others
    • lowered self-esteem
    • thoughts of losing control
    • hypervigilance
    • perseverative thoughts of the traumatic event
Behavioral Responses may include:
    • withdrawal
    • “spacing-out”
    • non-communication
    • changes in speech patterns
    • regressive behaviors
    • erratic movements
    • impulsivity
    • a reluctance to abandon property
    • seemingly aimless walking or pacing
    • an inability to sit still
    • an exaggerated startle response
    • antisocial behaviors
Physiological Responses may include:
    • elevated blood pressure*
    • difficulty breathing*
    • shock symptoms*
    • chest pains*
    • cardiac palpitations*
    • rapid heart beat
    • muscle tension and pains
    • fatigue
    • sleep difficulty and disturbing dreams
    • fainting
    • flushed face
    • pale appearance
    • chills
    • cold clammy skin
    • increased sweating
    • thirst
    • dizziness
    • vertigo
    • hyperventilation
    • headaches
    • grinding of teeth
    • twitches
    • gastrointestinal upset
*These require immediate medical evaluation.
Spiritual Responses to a traumatic incident often include:
    • anger and a distancing from God
    • withdrawal from attending religious services
      or an uncharacteristic involvement in
      religious community activity
    • feelings that faith practice (e.g., prayers,
      scriptures, hymns, worship, communion) is
      empty and without meaning
    • a questioning of one’s basic beliefs and anger
      at clergy