Archive of ‘Peak Performance’ category

5 Categories of Self-Care

Self-care is a buzz word in today’s culture. Sometimes we don’t know where to being when trying to take care of ourselves in our busy world. Below are 5 categories of self-care to help you start out. The great thing is that the act of trying with self-care is a form of taking care of yourself. Take a look at the list and see what you are able to try this week.


Hydrating your body with water has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It is recommended by nutritionists that a person drinks half their body weight in ounces of water each day. So that means if a person weighs 150 pounds, they are recommended to drink 75 ounces of water each day.


Nutrition is all about balance. Every human body has different nutritional needs. Becoming aware of what your body needs with nutrition will help your body function better, your mind to think clearer, and overall your ability to care for yourself increases.


The category of sleep can be divided into bedtime routines, how long a person sleeps, and quality of sleep. Looking into how you put yourself to bed can shed light on how you are preparing your body for a good night’s rest. It is recommended that screen time is turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. How much sleep and the quality of sleep a person can get is dependent on a lot of factors. Take time to look at how this can be improved for your body, because your sleep pattern is unique to yourself. If quality of sleep feels beyond your control, contact your doctor to get more information.


Activity is an important category of self-care because of how quickly it addressed both physical and mental health. Activity can be defined as any movement that is more than your body’s resting position. For myself as a therapist, I spend most of the day sitting. Activity for me can be something as simple as standing. When activity turns into exercise this is when your brain pumps all of the happy hormones, like endorphins. Any form of activity is welcomed when trying to add more self-care.


Social activity for self-care is based on what a person needs. Taking time to listen to your body will help you decide what kind of social interactions you are needing. Sometimes a person needs alone time away from the social scene to recharge. Other social needs could be knowing if you need to spend time with friends who are fun and are going to make you laugh, or if you need to spend time with friends who are able to listen and comfort you. Before making plans, take a moment to pause and listen to what your body needs before making a social decision.

Written by: Julie Smith, LMFT-A supervised by (Supervised by Kirby Schroeder MS, LMFT-S

Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

Since the birth of the psychological field, there have been dozens of therapeutic approaches that have been developed to help individuals work through their struggles. One therapy that is relatively new, at least in relation to how long others have been around, is known as a therapy called EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I’m going to tell you a little bit about what EMDR is and how it can be used in therapy to treat a wide array of difficulties.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a therapy developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989. In 1987 Dr. Shapiro stumbled upon the observation that eye movements can lessen the intensity of disturbing thoughts and used this observation to fuel research that led to her publication in The Journal of Traumatic Stress, establishing EMDR as a therapy used to treat post traumatic stress. Since then researchers have gone on to show how EMDR is not only very effective in treating trauma and PTSD, but can also treat other difficulties such as:

  • performance anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • body dysmorphic disorders
  • painful memories
  • phobias
  • complicated grief
  • dissociative disorders
  • personality disorders
  • pain disorders

How Does EMDR Work?

There is no way to know how any psychotherapy works on the neurological level, but there are some things we do know. When a person is very upset and under duress, the brain cannot process information as it would under normal conditions. (See my previous blog about how trauma affects the brain). So parts of the memory get stored separately and “frozen in time.” When the memory is then activated, it can feel very much like the person is experiencing the memory as if it is currently happening: the same feelings, thoughts and body sensations can resurface with the same intensity as when the event occurred because those things never processed through adequately and thus remain unchanged. These memories interfere with the way a person reacts to and views the world and others.

It appears that EMDR has an effect on how your brain processes information and allows the “frozen” material a chance to process through in a functional manner. Once the memory has been processed adequately, it no longer has the same effect on the person. Many individuals come away feeling neutral about the memory. By using bilateral stimulation (meaning both the left and right hemispheres are alternately stimulated), that’s where the eye movements come in, these “stuck” memories get activated and normal information processing can be resumed. This is similar to what happens naturally in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the cycle of sleep in which information taken in through the previous day is processed and sorted into short-term and long-term memory networks. If you have ever observed someone during the REM sleep cycle, you may have noticed that their eyes are darting back and forth underneath the eyelids. So really this is different from other therapies that work toward the same goals because it works on the physiological level.

Why Choose EMDR Therapy

So, Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

In short, EMDR therapy is optimal because it can usually achieve the same goal as similar therapies with fewer sessions. It can also be useful when talk therapy has not proven to be effective. Since some experiences seem to get “frozen” in the memory networks, talking about them may not be enough. EMDR works on the neurological level to access those memories in a way that talk therapy may not be able to, so then the memory can be worked through. Survivors of trauma have also reported that EMDR therapy was optimal because it is not necessary to talk in detail about the traumatic event in order for EMDR to be effective. That doesn’t mean that it may not still be painful and difficult to bring up, but the whole narrative does not need to be given and once the memory is activated the person can move through the process with less difficulty. The brain moves towards healing just like our bodies do. If you cut your hand, your body works to heal itself. The brain does the same thing, and EMDR helps remove those barriers so it can.

This has been a brief description of what EMDR is and how it works. EMDR has been shown to be effective with children, teens, and adults. I hope it has been helpful and I hope you will consider EMDR therapy for yourself and your loved ones in the future! If you would like more information on EMDR you can visit and

Bring your ‘A’ Game! Peak Performance for Non-Performers

By: Shannon Haragan, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

By: Shannon Haragan, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

When you read the words “peak performance,” what images pop into your head? You may picture a world-class athlete, ballet dancer or top-ranked musician. Type the words into a Google image search, and you’ll find a collection of men in business suits, posing victoriously atop mountains they apparently just climbed, briefcases in hand, and not a hair out of place.

Yes, athletes, artists and top executives are performers, but the truth is we all perform. You are asked to bring your ‘A’ game on a near-daily basis. Both our professional and personal roles present regular performance demands, whether it be achieving a specific sales quota for the quarter, nailing that job interview, or hosting your child’s science-themed birthday party, featuring a wall-sized Pin the Element on the Periodic Chart game, and green punch floating in dry ice. Our world demands that we perform on a daily basis, and our physical, mental and emotional response to these demands can strongly impact the outcomes we ultimately achieve.

Of course, most of the time, we’re able to perform successfully, even if it means that we undergo temporary stress or anxiety. Occasionally, however, life requires us to step far outside our comfort zone, or to push our physical or mental limits, such as having to give a toast at your sister’s wedding, running in your first 5K, or asking for a raise. The field of performance psychology grew specifically from the world of sports, but its fundamentals can be applied to a variety of situations:

1. Arousal regulation

Your heart is racing, your breathing is shallow, you’re sweating, and you can’t concentrate. Your nervous system has gone into fight-or-flight mode, and you’re convinced you’re about to faint, vomit, or both. During these stressful moments, using deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help regulate your brain and body. Inhale slowly to a count of 4, hold it for 3 counts, then exhale for 7. Repeat several times. You can also practice progressive muscle relaxation: Isolate one set of muscles at a time, squeeze tightly for 3 seconds, then relax while exhaling, and move up to the next muscle set and repeat. The key with arousal regulation is to practice deep, slow breathing and muscle relaxation when you don’t need it, so your body knows what to do when you do need it.

2. Cognitive Restructuring

We all have those voices in our heads, and during times of stress, those messages are often mired in what-ifs and don’ts: What if I go totally blank? or Don’tfumbletheballdon’tfumbletheball! If your brain is centered on thoughts and images of what you don’t want to happen, those events are far more likely to take place. Instead, when an unhelpful thought enters your head, imagine a huge, red stop sign, and immediately stop that thought. Next, flip that unhelpful thought around, and turn it into something more useful: What is a positive alternative that you’d like to happen instead? Again, practice restructuring your thoughts during less stressful times, and you’ll find it easier to do when you really need to.

3. Visualization

Using mental rehearsal is one of the simplest but most effective ways to improve performance. Basically, this step involves mentally going through your performance with as much detail as you can include. This technique is commonly used by athletes, and years of research point to its effectiveness. Come up with a word or phrase that represents you performing at your absolute best, and hold those words in your mind along with your visualizations.

4. Goal Setting

What do you want to achieve wiith this particular event? Dream big! Don’t let those voices convince you to set the bar low. Instead of, “I just want to get through it with some modicum of dignity,” how about, “I want to wow them!” Break down your major goals into smaller goals, and assign tasks for each. Assign dates to complete each goal, and consider utilizing a system of accountability. Perhaps meet with another person to help each other stay on track.

5. Centering/Pre-Performance Ritual

This is where you put it all together. A few minutes before your event or performance, find some space to yourself. Stand in such a way that you feel grounded and stable, and focus on a fixed spot across the room. Breathe deeply and slowly, release any body tension through muscle relaxation, and focus on your word or phrase from step 3. Trust that you’ve worked hard, that you have everything you need to succeed, and now is the time to put the details aside, be in the present and commit to the experience!

Generally speaking, the practices of peak performance aim to shift you from your left brain, with its inner critics, black-and-white thinking, and fast (beta) brain waves, and more into the right brain, which is more kinesthetic, imaginative, and is where slower (alpha) brain waves originate. Being willing to get out of our own way is often the first step toward bringing our ‘A” game, ultimately helping us to reach and exceed our daily performance goals.

Bring your 'A' game

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