Monthly Archives

July 2020

5 Free Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

By | General | No Comments

When we talk about our mental health, we’re talking about much more than a clinical diagnosis. Your mental health also refers to your psychological well-being. Having a healthy psychological well-being means you’re able to better manage your emotions as well as your mood. Every day presents its unique challenges, and a healthy mental state can help you take challenges in stride.

1. Positive Affirmations

Repeating an affirmation can help you create a positive mental outlook that will be a driving force in your life. Use a search engine to look up “positive affirmations” and you’ll find several ideas of words and phrases that resonate with you, and things you struggle with. You can also try searching for something more specific, such as “positive affirmations for women” or “positive affirmations to improve self esteem”.

Repeat your phrase or phrases during meditation, either out loud or in your mind. Repeating affirmations or mantras during consistent meditation practices can help you overcome negative self-talk, which will greatly improve your mental health.

2. Gratitude

Practicing gratitude will sharpen your attention towards the positive aspects of your life. By focusing on what’s good, you’ll start to notice and appreciate other positive things in your life. Gratitude is more than just a feeling; it is a choice. By choosing to be grateful, you can keep your mind distracted from negative thoughts.

3. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy is a vital part of positive mental health. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, creating a consistent level of energy that won’t leave you feeling tired or sluggish. Eating healthy will also provide a mental boost because you’ll feel good about your healthy food choices.

4. Sunshine

Sunshine is a great way to boost your mood. Put on some comfortable walking shoes and take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, or a local park. Exposure to sunlight will help your brain release serotonin which will boost your mood, and help you feel more calm and focused.

5. Get Some Sleep

A good night’s sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. When you’re well rested, you’re naturally energized. Regular sleep also boosts your immune system as well as your cognitive and mental health.

 

You have the power to improve your mood. By making some healthy additions to your daily routines, you can develop regular habits that will improve your overall mental well-being.

Are you having trouble staying positive or managing your moods? A licensed mental health professional can help you find better coping strategies, and offer additional support and guidance to help you live a more balanced life. Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

By | Women's Issues | No Comments

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. This becomes even more true for individuals brought up in abusive or unloving homes.

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is taken from Buddhist psychology and refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. Self-compassion or self-love is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.

But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves? It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals treat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion.

Why is this important? Because self-compassion helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize self-compassion also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Self-compassion also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

Now that you know the what and why of self-compassion, let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

You would never harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself. You would only want to help and love that child. When you begin to treat yourself as you would a small child, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. This is to say we all have scripts or programs running in our minds 24/7. These scripts and programs are running our lives, insisting we have certain behaviors and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to become more mindful of your own mind.

When you begin to have a feeling or reaction to something, stop and ask yourself WHO is feeling that? Is it the compassionate self or the program running? If it’s the program, thank the program for what it has done and release it.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a conscious act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and we can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy may help.

5 Ways to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You

By | Adolescents/Teens | No Comments

It’s tough trying to get your teen to talk. Science has shown that the teenager’s brain has yet to fully develop the frontal cortex, which is the area that controls our ability to reason, and to think before we act. As your teen’s brain develops, they’re also learning new things about themselves and their surrounding world; simultaneously, they’re dealing with hormonal changes out of their control.

For all of these reasons and more, it can be difficult to find ways to talk to your teen, or to get them to talk to you. Although it’s difficult, it’s not impossible; read on to find five ways to get your teenager to talk to you.

Learn to Listen

Take the time to listen to your teenager when they want to talk. Instead of saying you’ll talk to them later, step away from what you’re doing and listen to what they have to say. Don’t talk, interrupt or be quick to offer advice; just listen. Kids have thoughts and experiences that their parents don’t know about, and the best time to listen to them is when they’re asking to talk to you.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

As you listen to your teen, your knee jerk response may be to quickly resolve their issue, offer advice or maybe even dismiss their complaints or opinions. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes; think about how you would feel if your spouse responded to you the way you respond to them.

Watch for Signs

Everyone has a desire to be heard and understood. As you talk to your teen, mirror back to them what you hear them saying. Watch for signs that they’re not being heard or understood by you. They might roll their eyes, shake their head, wave their hand at you or interrupt. When they’re nodding and/or silent, you’ll know you’ve understood.

Ask Specific Questions

Ask your teen specific questions rather than general “how was your day?” questions. Ask questions about a friend you know by name. Ask about a sport they participate in or a teacher they like. Ask open ended questions such as, “What was Mr. Burton’s class like today?”, or “What was the best thing that happened today? What was the worst thing?”

Location, Location, Location

When and where you try to talk to your teen matters. One of the worst times to talk to kids is after school. Just like you do after work, they need wind-down time. Instead, ask questions around the dinner table. It’s casual, and there’s no pressure for eye contact. The car is another great place to talk to your teen (unless their friends are in the back seat); they feel more comfortable because you’re not looking at them.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teenager and need some help and guidance, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

Satisfied Versus Full – How to Make Sure You’re Not Overeating

By | Nutrition | No Comments

Most of us have felt that familiar feeling of overeating. We go from feeling “starved” to sort of blacking out as we shove food into our mouths and then roughly 20 minutes later feel “too full” and uncomfortable.

Why does this happen to us and so often? Well, there are three reasons, really”

The first reason and you’ve probably heard this one before (though ignored it maybe once or twice?) is that it takes time for your brain to receive the signal from your stomach that you have eaten enough. This is why eating slowly is very helpful.

The second reason we tend to eat too much is simple – food tastes delicious! We don’t pay attention to whether or not we have “had enough” because we’re too busy loving how our food tastes. This is especially true when eating sweets. Have you ever taken just a few bites of brownie or ice cream and then said I’ve had enough? No, because we crave sweet foods and eat them as if our life depended on it.

And the third reason is that as humans, it seems being full is a sensation that is wired into our DNA. Our ancestors, who lived a feast and famine kind of life, ate as much as they could when food was around, so they could live off the fat when food wasn’t around. This is how the human race survived.

Of course, with a Popeye’s and Burger King on most corners of America and grocery stores open 24/7, most of us have little famine to worry about! Though our modern world has changed, our wiring hasn’t – we still eat until FULL.

But it’s important to be able to listen to your body so you can distinguish between being satisfied – or satiated – and full. So how do you tell these two sensations apart?

Mindful Eating

In order to distinguish you’ll have to start being a mindful eater, which means you will really need to pay attention to your food more. Taste and smell your food, chew thoroughly and recognize how it makes you feel. When you are mindful, you tend to eat more slowly, and this will help you recognize when you cross the line from hungry to satiated.

So being satiated really means not being hungry any longer. You’ve had just enough to satisfy your hunger pains.

Being full, on the other hand, is an uncomfortable physical feeling in your stomach. Being full means surreptitiously reaching under the table to loosen your pants.

So, here are some tips that will help you stop eating too much:

When

Only eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored.

How

Eat slowly and eat mindfully, paying attention to the sensations you are experiencing.

Also, portion your food appropriately – cutting it in half and saving the other half for lunch the next day.

What

Eat clean, healthy wholesome foods that won’t leave you feeling sluggish and “off” after a meal.

If you follow these tips you will find you have much more control over how much you eat. And this means you won’t have to wear elastic waistband pants to dinner anymore or lie down soon after a meal to sleep off the pain.

 

Resources:

The Caregiver’s Guide to Self-Care

By | General | No Comments

Are you acting as a caregiver to a loved one? Maybe your elderly parent or a spouse or child that is battling a serious illness?

According to womenshealth.gov, 36% of Americans provided unpaid care to another adult with an illness or disability in 2012, and that number has almost certainly climbed as the baby boomer population continues to age.

Acting as a caregiver to another is definitely a labor of love, but it can also take a physical, mental and emotional toll on a person. When you focus all of your energy on the needs of other people, it is entirely too easy to put your own needs on the back burner.

Do You Have Caregiver Burnout?

Here are some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout:

  • Uncharacteristic irritability and impatience
  • Poor sleep
  • Forgetfulness
  • Somatic symptoms, such as headaches and gastrointestinal distress
  • Changes in appetite
  • Turning to substances to self-medicate
  • Lack of interest in friendships and hobbies
  • Thoughts of harming oneself or the person being cared for
  • Increased illness
  • Anxiety and/or depression

With so many people relying on caregivers, it’s important that these people learn to take good care of themselves!

Here are some ways you can begin practicing self-care so you don’t experience burnout:

Get More Sleep

The quantity and quality of sleep you get each night will have a huge impact on how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Stress can make it hard for us to get good sleep, so don’t make it any harder.

Avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 pm as well as using any digital screens at night. The blue light emitted from these devices messes with our sleep cycle. You may also want to use room-darkening curtains to make your bedroom dark in the morning so you don’t awaken too early.

Get Plenty of Exercise

All of the stress, tension, and balled-up emotions need to go somewhere, or you’re likely to become sick yourself. Exercise is a great way to work all of this… “stuff” out of you. As a bonus, your body releases endorphins after a good workout, and these chemicals give your mood a nice boost.

Eat Right

Your instinct may be to reach for sugary comfort foods but you need to stay healthy and strong. Opt for protein and healthy fats along with some organic produce.

Ask for Help

While everyone around you may refer to you as “superhuman,” the truth is, you’re just human, and you can’t handle everything by yourself ALL of the time. Ask people to help you provide care once or twice a week so that you may have a little bit of time for yourself.

Talk to Someone

If you are dealing with your own depression and anxiety, it’s important that you speak with someone who can offer coping strategies.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver that could use someone to talk to, please feel free to be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

References:

Five Healthy Ways to Reward Yourself

By | General, Nutrition | No Comments

For many of us, when we think of a treat or a reward, our minds turn to food: our favorite chocolate cake at the local bakery, or a big, cheesy slice of pizza. If food doesn’t do it for you, you might want to reward yourself with some other unhealthy habit such as expensive purchases or overindulging in alcohol.

When we’re looking to treat ourselves, it’s usually to reward a positive change or goal we’ve reached through discipline and consistent effort. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, turning to an unhealthy habit to reward good behavior can possibly un-do your hard work; at the very least, you’re taking a step back from your healthy change instead of taking a more positive step forward. If you want to find ways to treat yourself that won’t impede your progress, read on to discover five healthy ways you can reward yourself for a job well done.

1. Relax & Rejuvenate

There might be no better way to spoil yourself than a massage or day spa treatment. Schedule yourself for a massage, a facial treatment, a mud bath or a hot stone massage. You might also want to visit a hot spring, where you can relax surrounded by nature in warm, geothermal pools.

2. Get a Makeover

A makeover is a great way to celebrate hitting a goal. Get a manicure, a new haircut or hire a professional makeup artist to create a new look. You can also consult a personal stylist to help you update your wardrobe.

3. Enjoy Some Alone Time

Some alone time might be just what you need to treat yourself. Take a day off work and plan a “stay-cation” for yourself. Take a bubble bath, find a new podcast to listen to, have a cup of hot tea or coffee while you curl up with a new book or binge-watch some shows on your streaming service. You can also go out by yourself and enjoy a movie or visit an art gallery.

4. Plan a Night Out

If spending time with loved ones is something you crave, plan a fun night out with friends. Find a comedy club, a festival, concert or sporting event to attend.

5. Take a Day Trip

Plan a day trip to a locale you’ve been meaning to visit. Plan a mountain hike or a visit to a beach or lake and enjoy a swim and a healthy picnic. If you’re looking for something more active, consider canoeing, horseback riding or a bike ride. If something relaxing is more your speed, take a long drive and spend the night out under the stars with a loved one.

Changing out our bad habits for healthier ones takes time and effort. By learning to reward ourselves in a more positive way, we reinforce our newer, better habits while discarding the old habits that held us back.

If you’re trying to make positive changes in your life and need guidance and encouragement, a licensed professional can help. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

4 Exercises to Help Teach Young Children Mindfulness

By | Children | No Comments

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body and feelings in the present moment. If you’re silent for a moment, you will notice the subtle smell of your freshly washed clothing, the sound of your breathing, and watch a small leaf blow past your window. Mindfulness is an incredibly calming, relaxing practice that can help adults in numerous ways, and it may surprise you that it can help children, too.

Studies have shown that children who learn mindfulness practices showed better grades, increased patience and improved coping skills. When taught in schools, mindfulness increases optimism in classrooms while decreasing bullying and aggression.

It can be remarkably simple to teach a child mindfulness. Here are four exercises to get started.

Muscle Awareness

Teach your child to become aware of their body with a muscle awareness exercise. Sit down on the floor and do some exercises where they focus on one muscle at a time. They can point their toe and hold, and as you do the same ask them what they feel and where exactly they feel the tightening of their muscle. Hold for a few seconds and release, then repeat with other muscles.

Breathing Buddy

Have your child lie on her back with a favorite stuffed animal on her belly. Have her watch the stuffed animal, which will naturally rise and fall as she breathes in and out. Teach your child to breathe in through their nose slowly, to hold their breath for a few seconds, then slowly release the breath as they watch their stuffed animal rise and fall to match their breaths.

A Mindful Walk

Take a mindful walk around the block or at a local park with your child. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. What does your body feel like as you’re walking? What muscles do you feel working the most? Notice sounds you may hear, especially subtle sounds like a leaf skittering across the grass, or the crunch of a leaf as you step in. This will help them relax, get in a little bit of exercise and learn to appreciate all their body does to keep them moving.

A Mindful Snack

Have a mindful meal or snack with your child. As you eat, do so mindfully. Focus on the food. What are the colors? How does it taste and smell? Have your child describe what happens when they chew and swallow. Have them notice what muscles are moving as they eat or bring the food to their mouth.

Children learn what they see at home, so by modeling mindfulness practices yourself, you will benefit them greatly.

Are you a parent looking for unique ways to cope with challenging parenting issues? A licensed therapist can provide the support and guidance you need. Give my office a call today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Are You Doing Self-Care All Wrong?

By | General | No Comments

The topic of self-care is one that has been discussed openly and often over the past decade. But for many, the concept of self-care is one that is still a bit mysterious, if not downright confusing.

What Is Self-Care?

First, self-care is a practice and a commitment we make to ourselves. It is any activity we do deliberately to support our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Not only does the right kind of self-care improve our health and life, but it can also improve the relationships we have with others.

Some examples of self-care might be:

  • Creating better habits
  • Eating right
  • Getting plenty of quality sleep
  • Exercising
  • Meditation
  • Spending quality time with loved ones
  • Making time to enjoy a hobby
  • Learning something new

Self-care isn’t always fun or easy, but you do it anyway because you know that the activity is what is BEST for you. In this way, self-care is a bit like acting as your own parent, making sure you do the things you don’t necessarily feel like doing because it is what your mind, body, and spirit need.

What Self-Care Isn’t

Self-care isn’t necessarily about making yourself feel better.

Person A has had a very bad day. They practice proper self-care and, when they get home, they change clothes, go for a 3-mile run, then cook a healthy dinner that refuels their body.

Person B has also had a very bad day and practices phony self-care. On their way home, person B stops at the store and gets a 6-pack of beer and a gallon of ice cream, then spends the entire night on the sofa drinking and eating poorly in an attempt to make the bad day go away.

This phony style of self-care is very immature. It is not parental but something a child does. If the parent insists you eat your veggies because they are good for you, the child will eat only candy bars when the parent isn’t looking.

Self-care is about making decisions based on what is good for you, not what you FEEL like doing at the moment.

Self-care should also not be confused with pampering. While there is nothing wrong with getting massages and pedicures, these again tend to be quick fixes we give ourselves to make ourselves feel better in the moment.

At the end of the day, self-care is a commitment to yourself to live, grow, and evolve in healthy ways. It means making choices that will lead to your best self and greatest potential.

 

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Find Relief from What Ails You with Acupuncture

By | Chiropractic | No Comments

If you live with any type of pain, you know that it can negatively impact the quality of your life. To make matters worse, people often experience negative side effects on top of the pain when they take prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications.

It is for this reason that many people are now turning toward alternative and natural pain remedies. And this is when many discover the benefits of acupuncture.

What is Acupuncture Exactly?

Acupuncture has been used as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice for thousands of years. The practice is based on a simple premise: all health issues stem from a blockage in a person’s life force energy or ‘qi’.

By inserting very thin needles strategically throughout the body, an acupuncturist can restore a person’s flow of qi and balance their system, thereby stimulating the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

While Western researchers still don’t fully understand how acupuncture works, there are many different theories to account for its many benefits. One ideology suggests that it’s so beneficial because it stimulates the release of endorphins; your body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.

Another suggests that acupuncture works so well by balancing our autonomic nervous system (which controls our regular bodily functions) as well as releasing the chemicals that regulate blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and calm the brain.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which is a United States government agency that explores complementary and alternative medicine, has found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for a variety of ailments and conditions such as:

  • lower back and neck pain
  • osteoarthritis
  • joint pain
  • headache and migraine

In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) put together the following list of conditions acupuncture has been proven effective for:

  • nausea/vomiting caused by chemotherapy
  • gastric conditions such as peptic ulcers
  • allergic rhinitis
  • painful periods, morning sickness, and even inducing labor
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • sprains/strains
  • body aches/pains, including sciatica
  • dental pain and facial soreness
  • hypertension and reducing stroke risk

Benefits of Acupuncture

Acupuncture offers some impressive benefits. To start, if performed by a trained specialist, it is an extremely safe procedure with little side effects. It can easily be combined with other, more traditional forms of treatments. It has also been shown to control some forms of pain, which can be very beneficial to those for whom pain medications are not suitable.

If you or someone you know would like to explore acupuncture for an illness or health issue you are dealing with, please call or visit our office.

 

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Teaching Kids Mindfulness: The Benefits and Easiest Ways to Do It!

By | Adolescents/Teens, Children | No Comments

“Pay attention!”

It’s a phrase that is uttered dozens of times a week (if not more) in households where children between the ages of two and 18 reside. How is it that when they WANT to, oh say when they are playing video games or watching cartoons, kids can have a tremendous attention span. But at any other time, getting them to be present is harder than getting them to close the refrigerator door!

While getting kids to pay attention can seem frustrating, there is an answer to the madness: mindfulness.

Mindful Kids are Happier Kids

Several studies have shown that kids who participate in mindfulness programs are happier. And the sooner you get kids started with mindfulness, the easier it becomes for them to develop a capacity to become calm and centered when life throws them stressful situations.

What does this look like in real life?

Well, picture how a normal 7-year old responds to a situation that is scary, overwhelming, and generally unpleasant. Say they are getting ready to take a hard test or going to the dentist. Most will become so fearful and anxious that they have a hard time being calmed by a parent or other guardian.

The 7-year old who practices mindfulness meditation knows to stop, closed their eyes, and breathe deeply to get themselves calm and focused.

The two outcomes are vastly different. That’s because meditation and deep breathing exercises actually change the physiology of the brain, according to scientists. Instead of kids reacting emotionally to a charged situation (being controlled by their emotions), children can control their impulses and reactions to that situation.

OK, but how do you get kids to practice mindfulness when it’s difficult to get them to do pretty much anything, let alone meditate!  Here are some ways you can help your kids become more mindful:

1. Help them discover their inner experience.

Spend time helping kids understand what is happening to their bodies during stressful and calm situations. Ask them to explore their emotions. The more insight they have into their inner experience, the better able they will be to control their responses to external experiences.

2. Breathe with Them

Practice deep breathing with your child. You can do it while driving or before putting them to bed at night. Share with them how to relax, slowly breathe in deeply and exhale. Invite them to feel any tension melt away.

3. Be a Good Example

Your child will not even want to try and be mindful and in control when they see you out of control. Are you one to yell at other drivers? Do you get far too angry when your dog tracks mud in the house? Does a telemarketer at dinner send you through the roof? If so, it’s time to try deep breathing and meditation yourself. Be an example. If your child sees mommy or daddy handling stress in healthier ways, they will be far more likely to give it a go.

While it will take some effort to get your kid to commit to practicing mindfulness, the results that it will bring to their life are completely worth it.

 

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