Why Journal?

Written word is a method to release what swirls in our heads and hearts. When life is smooth we often have little to write down. When life is rocky we often avoid putting those thoughts/ feelings into black and white evidence. No matter what season of life we are in, developing a journaling habit can help support the hard times and enrich the good times.

Benefits of Journaling:

1. You have a private space to process your thoughts. —-> Having personal time to sit and reflect on what you’ve been thinking can help unpack the fears, worries, or dreams that are in your mind. Setting aside a designated time and space to process these thoughts may help you focus better throughout the day.

2. Record events. —-> Our daily lives are often filled with schedules and commitments keeping us on the go. Sometimes our days and weeks pass so quickly that we don’t take note of the good and bad experiences that are occurring. Keeping track of the important moments provide us a log to reflect back on when taking inventory of how we spend our time.

3. Emotional Expression —-> You are entitled to feel how ever you feel, but strong emotions that are not reflected on can sometimes lead us to conflict. Writing down what you are feeling and possible reasons why can help you gain insight to your emotions and better communicate with the people in your life.

4. Goal Setting —-> Have you ever felt like you have numerous dreams to pursue but no idea where to start? By writing down and prioritizing the steps of what goals you want to aim for can make a daunting process much more attainable.

Keep this in mind…. once you write something down you release it into the world. If it’s hurt and pain from a break up, you heal a little bit by writing down those feelings. If it’s hope and excitement about a new goal, you put it into motion by writing it down. Either way, journaling provides you the process of identifying what your head and heart are experiencing and make sense of those thoughts and emotions.

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Be Part of Our Community

~ “You don’t have to live in our county to be part of our community” ~MSC~

This spring we all had to adapt and adjust our lives to a different normal. One of the adjustments that we at Morning Star embraced was counseling through a Telehealth platform rather than in person office visits.  Our staff supported one another to accommodate our clients’ needs, while learning the connivence and the options that Telehealth provides.  Our hope as we look forward to our office visits again is that we expand Telehealth counseling services to clients all throughout Pennsylvania.  You don’t have to live in Lancaster County to be part of our Morning Star Community.  WE believe that mental health services are meant to be supportive and encouraging, no matter where you live.  If you are considering counseling and are unsure of where to turn, please contact our office to talk to one of our staff members about the Telehealth counseling process.  Our administration staff will work with you to explore your insurance coverage.  

To learn more or schedule an appointment: 717-806-5050

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The Emotional 🎒 Backpack

Why are some relationships more difficult than others? Some people are easy to be around while some people are more challenging? What is the difference maker? How are we approaching these more difficult relationships?

🎒We all travel through life with an imaginary backpack, the “emotional backpack”. As we go through life experiences we gather emotional memories in our backpacks. Positive experiences result in light and happy emotions, while negative experiences like trauma or grief, can result in heavy emotional backpacks. Whatever our experiences, the people around us influence how we respond to our backpacks.

🎒An unhealthy family of origin isn’t equipped with the tools to show us how to recognize and unpack our emotional backpacks. This pattern leaves us with a heavy backpack as we enter adulthood. As an emotionally weighted down adult we tend to seek relationships that ease our backpack burden. We don’t understand that the backpack has been weighing us down the whole time. We are simply uncomfortable and desire emotional relief.

🎒The difficult relationships that result from emotionally heavy backpacked individuals giving their backpack to a more healthy individual can quickly develop into a toxic relationship. Boundaries are the crux of establishing all healthy relationship. They give us permission to say “no thank you” to someone handing us their emotional backpack, while we tend to our own backpack. We cannot carry the emotional load of others but we can help them recognize the backpack; take it off; and unpack it themselves. This process can be done through many actions: counseling, self-care, hobbies, exercise, and personal growth. Even if you have not yet unpacked your own backpack, it is never too late to learn how the process works. Continuing life travels with a lighter backpack may just enrich your journey.

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Moral Injury and Healthcare Providers

Many of us have heard of healthcare fatigue. The “burnout”, “overwhelmed” feelings that nurses, doctors, and healthcare staff experience from long shifts and stressful circumstances. Healthcare fatigue is a common term that has long been plaguing the halls of our hospitals as patient populations and disease processes increase. Some medical facilities have implemented wellness programs that promote healthy lifestyle activities and offer employee discounts at various gyms. However, the COVID-19 time period is beyond healthcare fatigue.

COVID-19 has taken healthcare fatigue and turned it upside down. The frontline workers who are facing some of the illest patients that they have encountered are left questioning their medical knowledge and skill. To make the situation worse, our healthcare workers are often met with dwindling supplies of protective equipment. This leaves our heroes not only fearing for their patient’s safety but also for themselves and their own families.

A term that was coined for our Vietnam Veterans returning home in the 1970’s has been recently applied to the mental and emotional toll that our current day healthcare teams are experiencing, MORAL INJURY. “Moral injury occurs when we perpetrate, bear witness to, or fail to prevent an act that transgresses our deeply held moral beliefs. In the health care context, that deeply held moral belief is the oath each of us took when embarking on our paths as health care providers: Put the needs of patients first” (Dean, Talbot, & Dean, 2019). Moral Injury is happening all through our hospitals as workers are challenged with an unfamiliar disease. There is no protocol for COVID-19 patients that has been tested and approved to be the benchmark of treatment modality. Our healthcare workers are doing the best that they know how, and yet they see the ongoing death toll of their patients. This internal battle of facing death day in and day out creates the Moral Injury that can distress anyone’s mental and emotional stability.

So healthcare fatigue may be the term that you are more familiar with but I urge you to become aware of Moral Injury. Left unattended, mental health distress can overwhelm and overtake individuals. Let’s start now by offering a listening ear or a kind gesture towards our strong healthcare heroes, embracing them as humans as well.

Dean, W., Talbot, S., & Dean, A. (2019). Reframing Clinician Distress: Moral Injury Not Burnout. Federal practitioner : for the health care professionals of the VA, DoD, and PHS36(9), 400–402.

For more information about Moral Injury check out this article: https://www.statnews.com/2020/04/01/lessons-different-war-protecting-clinicians-moral-injury/

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Redefining a New Normal

beverage-black-coffee-caffeine-coffee-606543-1One thing that has been a theme for my clients in the weeks after the COVID-19 lockdown, is creating a new normal and re-defining normal. Hmm, what does that mean? The challenge is not trying to take life before the pandemic and trying to make it fit into what we are experiencing now, it won’t work. It will create anger, shame, guilt and sadness. Rather, take concepts of what was your normal before and redefine it. Confused? Here’s an example. If you valued a routine in the morning that helped you get ready for work, re-define it while you are working from home. Set an alarm, brew coffee, brush your teeth and get dressed. Maybe getting dressed now is casual and that’s ok, it’s re-defining normal, right? Another example is that you got to have a commute home that was just your time, recapture that! Get into your car, play your favorite old school tune (Backstreet Boys anyone?!) and just belt out along with it! This was your time in your car, then create it again, maybe this time it’s pj’s and coffee at 4:30PM, that ok!

It is okay to struggle with this, no one can tell you what you need to feel. Give it time, give it space and co-exist with the emotion for a bit. You will be surprised what happens when you allow your emotions to just have a space to be. Be graceful with yourself right now. Re-definition is hard under “normal” circumstances so allow there to be days where you just can’t. Defining normal for your life at this time allows us to gracefully create power in a situation where we are grasping for some sort of power. That is being human, we are created to find consistency and predictability but this time doesn’t lend itself to that experience, so be patient with yourself.


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Mindfully Being Okay

Something that has been an ongoing discussion lately is not accepting this “new normal” as normal. We are adaptable human beings that can look at the positives in situations and learn how to make do with what we are dealt. However, it is okay for you to feel uncomfortable with this current day “normal” and it is okay for you to feel exactly how you are feeling. NO ONE can tell you that you must feel a certain way. The feelings that you are having are your feelings; your perceived experience; your perspective. Yours to own.

Mindfulness is a tool that most counselors incorporate into their therapy modalities as a means to client centeredness. During this uncertain time, mindfulness seems like a concept that we all can use in our everyday lives. The idea that we can acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that are occurring for us and be okay with them is mindfulness. Relinquishing shame or guilt for not finding acceptance for this timeframe of COVID-19 is okay. Grieving the loss of time that we will never get back is okay. I encourage you in the state of mindfulness to recognize what you are feeling, acknowledge its presence, and accept it for what it is. Sadness, anger, fear, grief, resentment, peace, relief or whatever you’re feeling: be okay with that. This time will pass and these feelings will pass with it. Try to allow yourself the space and grace to feel whatever you must while mindfully being okay.


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An Open Invitation to Healthcare Providers:

Dear Healthcare Provider,

I know you are scared.  How can you not be?  You are walking into the storm that the rest of humanity has been directed to distance from.  Every time you swipe your badge you have no idea what you will be encountering or if you will be adequately protected.  You have trained and worked long hours and held patients’ hands as they were scared.  Who will hold your hand now in your moments of fear?  Picking up your goggles and N-95 (hopefully) you are walking directly into the eye of the COVID storm that no one can guarantee an end to.  You prepare and protect yourself but when the patient falls into distress we all know what you do.  The emergency becomes your priority.  The patient’s needs suddenly make your fears less palpable.  You are a healthcare provider; a healer, a caregiver; a hero.  We thank you and pray for your safety through this storm.  

Morning Star Counseling would like to provide the frontline healthcare workers  a space of comfort, decompression, and community during this scary COVID-19 season.  We are offering a FREE online support group through a Zoom platform on Saturday April 4th (Noon and 8PM) and facilitated by our therapist Jessica who continues to work part-time as a Respiratory Therapist.  No fee, no judgement, no commitment.  Simply a space for healthcare providers from around the world to connect and comfort each other during the scariest moments of their careers.  Please join us as we navigate this storm together.

To register please click the link below.

For more information regarding the online support group, please email Jessica at jessica@morningstarllc.org

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COVID-19 Unexpected Effects:

Working in the counseling realm during the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing that resulted, I was unsure how my current and new clients were going to present to their newly introduced TeleHealth sessions this week. My naive assumption to this “world pause” and “global crisis” was that the people who were engaged in counseling prior to COVID-19 were going to need extra care and attention to help navigate the anxieties of the new normal. Boy, I was wrong.

I discovered a surprising theme throughout my client sessions this past week. A theme of gratitude for health and space to pause. To pause the busyness of life and take a step back from “all the things”. Don’t get me wrong, everyone had worries about what the next day was going to bring and how the world will move forward; However, the individuals sitting across from me on the computer screen expressed these deep appreciations and self-aware moments that frankly we hadn’t discovered yet in our sessions. Client after client dug deeper into their sessions than before and left this counselor stunned that she didn’t anticipate this unusual effect of COVID-19. How naive of me.

Scaling back the activities, deadlines, and engagements gave these people more space to focus on their wellness. Emotional, mental, and physical wellness that often become ignored as “all the things” take precedent. More time to connect with friends and family (ironically) via a phone call or Zoom (yes I have learned this new platform) made relationships stronger over the past week. The unexpected results were evident with my clients as they simply expressed that they felt less stress. We all know that life will transition back to somewhat of our previous normal but my challenge to these clients was to remember this timeframe and how eliminating “some of the things” opened up space for them to be less stressed and care for themselves more than before. Being a goal-getter is admirable and takes tremendous work, but not at the expense of your own wellness. Take care friends and use this time wisely as the world remains paused and we have time to reflect on our lives.

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