What you need to know about: Stress

What is stress and what are the symptoms?

Everyone has experienced stress at some point throughout their lifetime. Due to differing causes, some may experience it more than others. Generally speaking, we all experience stress as an instinctive reaction to a threatening situation. Our bodies make physical and psychological adjustments in order to protect ourselves. Physically, our bodies release a hormone called adrenaline when we experience stress. The effects of increased adrenaline production include: increased tone in the muscles, raised heart rate, increased respiration, and increased thought speed. All of these changes occur in order to help a person react quickly, both physically and mentally, during a time of crisis. Although these changes are beneficial in isolated incidents of danger, if a body remains in this state because of constant daily stress (e.g. money problems, job insecurity, family problems, living conditions, etc.), it will have a negative impact on the body and mind. People who experience high levels of stress on a daily basis over a long period of time are more likely to become fatigued, anxious, and depressed thereby damaging their health and quality of life. Chronic stress can cause high blood pressure, teeth grinding, dizziness, increase heart rate, and sweaty palms, which take a toll on an individual’s immune system, making them more susceptible to physical ailments or disorders. Emotionally, stress can lead to irritation, apathy, frustration, mental slowness, a negative attitude and an overall overwhelmed feeling. Over time, these emotional symptoms may develop into emotional disorders.

What can I do to manage stress?

There are a variety of coping outlets to choose from in order to manage stress. It is important to adopt positive healthy outlets that work for you. Some may turn to unhealthy habits, such as smoking or overeating. Although it may temporarily alleviate stress, the long term effects will worsen the situation. Adopting a healthy lifestyle (e.g. getting sufficient sleep, drinking enough water, eating healthy foods, etc.) and identifying positive outlets that reduce stress (e.g. daily exercises, relaxation techniques, or hobbies), will help lower stress levels when incorporated into one’s daily routine.

Should I seek therapy to reduce stress?

A therapist will be able to help you develop your own personal stress management plan by helping you identify the causes of your stress and determine effective stress-combative techniques or activities to fit your lifestyle. It is highly encouraged to seek therapy if the level of stress is interrupting your daily functioning or harming your physical and/or mental well-being. It is also important to seek a therapist if you suspect it may be linked to other conditions, such as anxiety or depression. If you would like to seek counseling with a UB therapist who specializes in stress management counseling, contact us.

Search UB Therapists who specialize in counseling for stress management.

Bressert, S. (2006). Stress Management Basics. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/stress-management-basics/000756

Collingwood, J. (2006). The Benefits of Stress Management. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-benefits-of-stress-management/000405

Suval, L. (2012). Better Management of Stress and Its Effects. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/better-management-of-stress-and-its-effects/00012449

blue cross blue shield counseling therapist in network bcbs

Have Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) health insurance? Urban Balance Therapists Have You Covered

Most insurance plans will cover mental health and substance abuse treatment and Urban Balance accepts most insurance plans. Urban Balance also accepts EAP (Employee Assistance Program) sessions. UB works hard to continue to certify therapists with new insurance plans, as well as ensure that each location is staffed with therapists in-network with most insurance plans.

Billing and Payments

Urban Balance has a billing department that will check your benefits, request authorizations, and submit claims on your behalf. Your therapist will explain your coverage at the following session after the insurance company responds with a quote of benefits – which is not an absolute guarantee of coverage. Co-payments are collected after each session.

Learn more.

counseling practice insurance chicago

UB’s Insurance Services Can Help Maximize Your Mental Health Care Benefit

Since its founding in 2004 Urban Balance has been an insurance friendly counseling practice. Each Chicago area therapy office has therapists in-network with the major health insurance  plans including Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS.) Our insurance benefits team works with each client to ensure their benefits are being maximized. By taking care of it internally we usually save our clients both time and money. UB’s focus has always been on providing affordable, accessible counseling. With 6 offices in Chicago and north suburbs, over 70 therapists on staff, and now 5 members on our insurance team, UB is built to provide affordable, accessible counseling for the next 10 years.

Partial List of Insurance providers UB therapists are in-network with:

If you don’t see your plan here, contact us, Urban Balance has therapists in-network with almost all plans. No insurance? UB offers sliding scale for uninsured clients.

  • Aetna PPO & POS
  • The Allen Group
  • American Behavioral
  • Anthem
  • APS
  • Blue Cross & Blue Shield (BCBS) of IL PPO (contact about HMO)
  • Chickering Group
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • Claremont EAP
  • ComPsych
  • Deer Oaks EAP
  • EAP Consultants
  • Employee & Family Resources
  • Employee Resource Systems
  • FedMed
  • Great West
  • HFN
  • Horizon EAP
  • Humana
  • Magellan Behavioral Health (not EAP)
  • Managed Health Network (MHN)
  • MHNet
  • Mines & Associates
  • Multiplan
  • One Health Plan
  • Private Healthcare Systems (PHCS)
  • UniCare
  • United Behavioral Health (UBH)
  • Workplace Solutions
  • Value Options
counseling chicago self-image

Three Ways to Practice Self-Compassion

By UB Clinical Intern Alyssa Yeo

Take a moment to reflect upon the number of times you beat yourself up this past week. Perhaps you said to yourself, “I should have…” or “If I only would have…” Have you told yourself that you are fat, ugly, lazy, irresponsible, stupid, horrible, useless, pathetic, worthless, incompetent, unlovable, etc.?

If so, you aren’t alone. People frequently use negative self-talk to motivate themselves to change or improve a certain area of their life.  This type of talk serves as a punishment, and it is your way of reprimanding yourself for a mistake or shortcoming. The cycle goes as such:

  1. You are disappointed by your circumstances
  2. You tell yourself you aren’t good enough
  3. You feel bad about yourself
  4. You change your behavior in order to feel better

The problem with this cycle is the belief that negative thoughts are necessary to change unwanted behaviors.  In other words, you may be attached to the idea that the only way to be motivated to behave differently (and achieve a different result) is to punish yourself for what you perceive is a personal failure. The tricky part is that this thought process has probably helped you in the past, which is exactly why you continue to apply it in your life now.

However, just because you have experienced positive results from this cycle doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Feeling bad about yourself may be permissible when it results in change, but it comes at the cost of your self-esteem. Negative self-talk drives a negative self-image, which increases feelings of depression and anxiety – the very same feelings that you were likely trying to avoid in the first place.  Before you know it, you’re caught in a downward cycle that repeats each time you experience a disappointment, mistake, or a situation in your life that you wish to change.

So how can you get out? The first step is challenging your thought that you aren’t good enough. You can start by repeating after me: I am enough.

From this, you can start practicing self-compassion.

Get in touch with your core self

Many people fear that they will remain static in their life if they are compassionate and forgiving of themselves. Clients often ask me, “How will I be motivated to change if I tell myself it’s okay?” I respond by encouraging them to reflect upon the characteristics they believe are at the core of their self.

Do you consider yourself to be motivated or driven? Are you continually looking for ways to improve your life? Do you believe that growth and change is part of being human?

I bet you answered yes to at least one of the above questions, and I say this because I argue that growth and change are a part of the fabric of our very being. We are constantly changing just because we are human. So is it true that you won’t change if you don’t punish or beat yourself up for something you are dissatisfied with?

Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean that you won’t grow. Your negative self-talk is an unnecessary layer that you add out of habit. Practice removing this element and see what happens.

Make yourself your friend

Next time you start judging your behavior, think about this: Would you talk to a friend that way? If not, then why are you speaking to yourself in that manner? Just because the dialogue is internal doesn’t mean that you can get away with being harsh and condescending. Your self-esteem is damaged every time you make negative judgments on your actions. Next time you start to be unkind to yourself, apply the friend rule. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend then don’t say it to yourself.

Learn to accept

Accepting where you’re at today (whether that be physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually) is one of the most important ways you can challenge your thought that you should be doing differently. Acceptance means to meet yourself where you are at in your life right now, and forgiving yourself for the disappointment or failure you may experience. Your mistakes don’t define you, so stop giving them power. You can still have acceptance and have a desire to change.

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urban balance counseling news

“What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?” Tonight at 8 pm

Join UB’s Joyce Marter & Leslie Holley tonight at 8 PM on The Let’s Stay together Talk Show at www.urbanbroadcastmedia.com.“What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?”

Tis the season to be jolly fala, la, la, la the family gatherings, the endless parties, and the shopping is something to look forward to. However, for some it may get you down and you may start feeling depressed so the days may not be merry and bright.

Meet our guests

Joyce Marter has been in private practice as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) since 1998 and founded Urban Balance in 2004. Joyce received her Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University and was awarded “Distinguished Alumni of The Year” in 2008. She was selected by Crain’s Chicago Business for the “40 under 40″ list of 2010. She currently serves as the President of the Board of the Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association.

Leslie Holley is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) at Urban Balance who earned her Masters in Community Counseling for DePaul University. She offers individual counseling to clients suffering from trauma, anxiety disorders, depression, post baby issues and substance abuse. She also works with clients who are experiencing significant life changes and are seeking personal growth.


divorce and marriage counseling chicago

Talking To Your Children About Divorce

by UB Therapist Rebecca Nichols

One of the greatest fears parents have during the divorce process is how to share the information about the impending separation with their children. This can be extremely difficult when your own emotional resources are being overextended. However, children need information about the changes that will impact their lives. Below are guidelines for having this challenging conversation.

  1.       Remind (daily if necessary) your children that even though mommy and daddy will no longer be married anymore their relationship and love for you, their child, will go on forever. Reiterate that you will both continue to provide and take care of them. This same message also pertains to other relatives including grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.
  2.       Tell your children under absolute terms that they did not cause the divorce.  It can be helpful to give your child a reason (if age appropriate) but refrain from blaming your partner or referring to adult situations. Neutral language is preferred. Be careful not to discuss inappropriate details with your children.
  3.       Be honest in the conversation. Kids often wish their parents will reunite at some point, let them know clearly and directly that this will not be happening. On the same note, it might be best to refrain from telling them until the decision is final. Consistency is key – do not make promises about living arrangements etc. until you know you can keep them. However, try to be as specific as possible about school and any other scheduling in order to smooth any anxiety your children may have.
  4.       Lastly, let your children know that this was not an easy decision and you are sorry for any hurt this has and will cause them. Stay calm and make sure they know you are ready to emotionally support them through this. If possible present the information to them as a united front.

Talking with your children about divorce is not a one-time occurrence. Let them know you are open to questions and will do your best to answer them if appropriate. It is okay if your children may need time to process and re-visit some of these issue. Talking with your children models open communication and lets them know you are available as well as reassure them you are that they can talk to you safely.