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4 Stay-Fit Tips for People Who Hate Exercise

By | Nutrition, Sports / Exercise | No Comments

Hate exercising? You’re definitely not alone.

It seems that each year, millions of people around the country start off with good intentions, committing to an exercise plan, only to quit completely a few weeks later.

Look, we understand, exercising is not easy. It’s hard work, but it’s hard work that’s really important for your health and overall well-being. And we want to make sure the next time you commit to an exercise plan, you STAY committed.

So, with that in mind, here are 4 tips that will help you stay fit, even when you hate exercise:

Tip #1: Have Fun

No one says you have to go to the gym 5 days a week and do circuit training. If you hate going to the gym, then find something you actually enjoy doing. Do you like swimming? Hiking? Kayaking? Dancing? Playing basketball? There are PLENTY of ways you can get your body moving, condition your heart while building some lean muscle. Find something you love to do and you’ll actually do it more.

Tip #2: Give Yourself Some Time

The science is out and it says that it takes roughly 30 days for a human being to form a new habit. So you can expect that days 1-29 are going to be challenging to ensure you work out. That’s okay. Just be sure to give yourself adequate time to allow this new habit to form. If you do, you’ll find it does indeed get easier to incorporate exercise into your life.

Tip #3: Build Exercise into Your Daily Life

Some people will swear until they are blue in the face that “they just don’t have time for exercising.” Well, you can easily make time if you build exercise into your life. For instance, if you try and spend time with the family each day, why not get the family to go on a family bike ride after dinner?

If you need to spend an hour each day reading through student papers, why not read through them while on the stationary bike? There are ways you can kill 2 birds with one proverbial stone, so look for ways to do it in your own life.

Tip #4: Take Baby Steps

Too many people make HUGE goals that are simply unrealistic. For example, someone may make a goal to lose 40 pounds in 3 months. Well, that’s not only unrealistic, but it’s also not even healthy.

Someone else may have a goal of running a marathon in 3 months. Well, if you’ve never run a day in your life, that’s also not very realistic.

When starting out, set small goals that you can easily achieve. As an example, your first goal may be to consistently swim for half an hour, three days a week for one month. That’s very doable. And when you reach a goal, it gives you confidence in your abilities and energy to keep going and reach even more goals.

If you follow these 4 tips, you will be able to stick to an exercise plan and see positive results from your efforts. Who knows? You may even learn to LIKE exercising.

 

SOURCES:

How Learning Disabilities Affect a Child’s Mental Health

By | Adolescents/Teens, Children, School & Academics | No Comments

For many children and teens, learning disabilities are a frustrating part of life. Learning disabilities not only bring a sense of shame and isolation, but they can also lead to mental health issues in some children.

What Are Learning Disabilities?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a learning disability is any disorder of the fundamental psychological processes involved in understanding or using language. These can ultimately result in difficulties thinking, listening, reading, writing, math, and spelling.

Learning disabilities are quite common among young children and teens. According to the NCES, of the 7 million students who receive special education services in the country’s public school system, 33% have at least one learning disability. Common learning disabilities children deal with are ADHD, dyscalculia (trouble with counting and numbers), dyslexia, and others.

Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Issues in Children and Teens

While a learning disability isn’t a mental health issue in and of itself, both are closely related. When children and teens have a delay in learning, they can feel as if their academic efforts aren’t paying off. They can feel like a failure and, if their classmates aren’t sensitive, they can also feel like the butt of many jokes. This puts children and teens with learning disabilities at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.

It’s important that parents and teachers of students with learning disabilities look for any signs of anxiety or depression. These may include:

  • Sudden fear
  • Worrying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Anger issues
  • Feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
  • Changes in social behaviors (not spending time with friends)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of harming themselves

Once any signs are noticed, parents should bring their child to a qualified mental health therapist. This professional will help the child manage their symptoms so they can better function at home and at school. Some sessions may include the parents while in other sessions, the therapist may want to work one-on-one with the child.

Many child psychologists use cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) to help children become aware of their own thoughts and feelings and then change their thoughts, emotions, and reactions to challenges at home and at school. CBT helps a child become independent and evaluate whether their thoughts and feelings or logical or distorted.

Does your child or teen have a learning disability? Do you believe this disability has caused them to develop depression or anxiety? If so, and you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you to see if I might be able to help.

 

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Balance Your Mood With Food: How Good Nutrition Supports Mental Health

By | General, Nutrition | No Comments

Our brains are magnificent machines: while the brain controls rudimentary yet complex functions like your heartbeat, breathing and motor functions, it also controls a multitude of other complicated tasks such as creating your thoughts and feelings. A machine this advanced, that runs 24/7, clearly requires fuel to run. The fuel you supply to your hard-working brain is none other than the food and drink you consume.

Like any other machine, the quality of your brain function is relative to the quality of the fuel you put in it. Foods rich in nourishment such as complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help stabilize blood sugar levels while increasing your brain’s energy. When it comes to feeding the brain, you get back what you put in.

Selenium

Selenium is an important mineral that your body relies on to perform many of its basic functions. Studies have shown that people with a low amount of selenium in their diet have an elevated rate of depression, irritability, and anxiety. While too little selenium causes health problems, too much can be toxic. According to the National Institute of Health, 55 mcg of selenium a day is the sweet spot for adults 19 years of age and older.

Brazil nuts are by far the most selenium-rich food available. An ounce (about 7 or 8) of brazil nuts contains 544 mcg of selenium per serving, so two or three brazil nuts a day is more than sufficient to get your RDA of selenium. You can also get your 55 mcg a day with 3 to 4 ounces of halibut, roasted ham, or shrimp. Cottage cheese, roast chicken, oatmeal, and eggs also contain moderate amounts of selenium, around 10 to 20 mcg per serving.

Folate (Folic Acid)

Studies have shown that an increased intake of folate or folic acid is associated with a lower risk of depression. Folate is found in a wide variety of food, with spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and brussels sprouts containing the highest levels. You can also get your recommended 400 mcg of folate with avocado, peanuts, orange juice, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, and whole grains, among many other foods.

Omega-3

Dopamine and serotonin are chemicals in the brain that are produced by nerve cells. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer, and dopamine controls your feelings of pleasure and reward. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in them, and they effect the transmission of dopamine and serotonin. Omega-3 also has a role in brain development and function, with the ability to stabilize moods. Omega 3 foods include salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and chia seeds.

There are many other nutritious foods that will serve as prime fuel for your brain, helping you perform, feel and be at your very best. Using this list to help change your eating habits for the better is a great step in the right direction.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and would like some support and guidance to live a more balanced life, contact my office today so we can set up a time to talk.

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.