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5 Signs You Aren’t Practicing Self-Care

By General, Self-Esteem No Comments

Self-care is complex. Anyone can tell you to do it, but only you can bestow the gift of self-care onto yourself. But before you can begin bestowing, you’ve got to first recognize that you are worthy of caring for yourself as you do others.

How do you do this? By noticing the ways in which you are currently not taking very good care of yourself.

Here are 5 signs you aren’t practicing self-care. If any seem familiar, it is time to make more time for yourself:

1. You Get Sick More Often

When we don’t take proper care of ourselves, our health takes a big hit. Lack of proper sleep and nutrition can lead to a taxed immune system, which in turn makes you vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.

2. Increased Moodiness

What happens when a child does not get the care and attention they deserve? They begin to act out in order to get any attention. In much the same way, a lack of self-care and feeling of unimportance can lead to increased irritability. Leaving this unchecked can result in personal and professional relationships being negatively affected.

3. Unpleasant Physical Symptoms

What can start out as unpleasant (and even scary) physical symptoms, can be a sign of poor self-care. Symptoms may include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, headaches, and fainting spells. All of these symptoms should be checked out by your healthcare provider immediately.

4. A Feeling of Isolation

When you feel you don’t deserve to care for yourself, you naturally feel unworthy of enjoying other aspects of life, like socializing and a true connection to friends and family. This can lead to a detachment of others and a sense of isolation.

5. Depression

Feelings of worthlessness can snowball into feelings of hopelessness and depression. If you have noticed yourself slipping farther and farther into a depression, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional. They can help you recognize where the darkness has come from, and how to break through back into the light.

If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, or would simply like some help practicing self-care, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

How Counseling Can Help You Reach Your Goals in the New Year

By General No Comments

If you struggle to set goals, let alone reach them, you are definitely not alone. In fact, it is thought that roughly 92% of the population has found it hard to stick to goals. This constant cycle of trying to set beneficial life or health goals, but never quite reaching them, can ultimately lead to depression.

That’s because reaching goals is empowering and helps us feel we are in charge of our life. When we don’t reach goals, we feel powerless and even hopeless that our lives can change for the better!

How Counseling Can Help

Just as you must follow a recipe to the proverbial “T” to end up with something edible, there is a formula that must be followed to the “T” to set reachable goals. This formula is often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help individuals set and reach goals that will help them change behaviors and better their lives.

Goal setting has actually been shown to be a useful tool for those suffering from depression according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study found that individuals suffering from depression had more trouble setting goals and were far less likely to believe they could reach them.

The study found that those who were depressed had more difficulties setting goals and they were also less likely to believe they would achieve those goals. The participants also tended to set avoidance goals rather than approach goals.

An avoidance goal is one you set to avoid a negative outcome. “I want to lose weight so I don’t develop type 2 diabetes.” An approach goal, on the other hand, is one that you set to ensure a positive outcome. “I want to lose weight to have more energy!”

The study shows that counseling can help people with depression set and achieve realistic and achievable goals as well as help them stay on track mentally in pursuit of that goal.

The goal-setting formula used by most CBT therapists is as follows:

  • Identify your goal.
  • Choose a starting point.
  • Identify the steps required to achieve the goal.
  • Take that first step and get started.

A therapist can help you with each one of these steps. From ensuring you select realistic goals that are approach goals, to helping you identify where you are in relation to your goal, breaking down the goal into smaller, actionable steps, and helping you take that very first one, a counselor or coach will be in your corner, helping you every step of the way.

Make 2021 the year you reach those goals that will help you live your best life. If you’d like some help getting there, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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Could Your Family Benefit from Family Counseling?

By General, Parenting No Comments

Does your family love and support one another unconditionally? Do you have fun together? Do you find talking with your spouse and children is easy and effective?

If you had to really pause and think about your answers to these questions, there’s a chance your family may not be as cohesive as you once thought or hoped. And that’s okay, not every family acts like something out of a 1950s television sitcom. Most have their own fair share of problems.

If you’ve never considered working with a therapist before, here are some benefits of family therapy:

Improved Communication

There aren’t many families out there that have flawless communication skills. It’s actually far more common for family members to feel that they can’t open up to one another. This of course leads to a disconnect between spouses or parents and children.

A family therapist can facilitate effective and respectful communication between your family members.

You’ll Understand Your Kids Better

Do you find yourself going slightly insane in an attempt to understand why your one child lies so much? Are you scratching your head as to why your other child is constantly hitting your first child?

We all think because our kids are made from our DNA that we’ll have some magical insights into why they do what they do. Nope. The truth is, most parents are in a constant state of stupefaction over their child’s behavior.

Family therapy will help your child feel safe enough to express their thoughts and feelings, giving you many A-ha moments.

Help Your Kids with Self-Esteem Issues

Healthy self-esteem is the foundation for a successful life. But unfortunately, many kids grow up feeling less than confident or good about themselves. A child with self-esteem issues may be the product of a parent with self-esteem issues.

The great news is, a family therapist can help both children and their parents build up their self-esteem to become happier individuals and, a happier family.

Help You Deal with Grief

Whether it’s a divorce or the loss of a loved one, most families are ill-equipped to handle loss, especially sudden loss. A family therapist can guide each one of your family members through the stages of grief so they can heal.

If you’re interested in exploring treatment options, please get I touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

Pets Are Better Than Medication

By General No Comments

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.”

– Thom Jones

For many of us, our home is just a house unless there is something with four legs and a tail sharing the space with us. Our pets are not only cuddly and cute, they give us unconditional love.

But it turns out our pets actually offer us more than “just” unconditional love; they seem to also have the ability to help our physical and mental well-being.

Research has found that the bond we share with our animals can do everything from improve our cardiovascular health to lower our cholesterol and decrease our blood pressure.

Beyond these physical health benefits, our animal companions can help our mental and emotional life as well. Here are some ways your pet is better than medication.

Our Pets Teach Us Mindfulness

Have you ever just watched your dog or cat find a swath of sun as it streams into your house in the afternoon? They seem to luxuriate in the warmth and energy of the sun in those moments. Nothing else matters to them but enjoying the feeling of the sun on their body.

Our pets can teach us how to be more mindful and enjoy every moment of our life if we let them. Studies have shown that mindful meditation, which simply means to be fully in the present moment, helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

Let your pets be an example and try and spend more time just “being” instead of “doing” so much.

Pets Relieve Stress

Let’s face it, each of us faces our fair share of stress in life. But research has shown that our dogs and cats act as de-stressors. This is why a growing number of companies such as Atlantic Health System, Mars Inc., Amazon, and Etsy, to name a few, are allowing employees to bring their dog to work.

College students are a segment of the population that also feels a lot of stress. When the University of British Columbia brought therapy dogs on campus, allowing a group of 246 students to pet and cuddle them, the students reported their stress levels decreased significantly after the interaction.

Pets Offer Empathy

There are numerous accounts of war veterans who, when they experience pain and agitation, are comforted by their service dog who will run into the room, somehow sensing their need for empathy.

Recent findings from the University of Vienna suggest that dogs can sense emotions and even differentiate between good and bad ones. There are numerous reports of cats living in nursing homes, sensing when someone is about to pass and going to lie on their bed.

The long and short of it is, when we are feeling tired, scared, sad and alone, our pets are there to remind us that we are not alone and that they love us very much. For those of you who have pets, hold them tight and show them your appreciation. For those of you that don’t have pets, it may be time to take a trip to the local shelter.

 

Coping with the Holidays After Loss

By Depression, General, Grief No Comments

For many people, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones. But for those who have suffered a recent loss, the holidays can be painful and isolating.

Here are some ways you can cope with the holidays after a loss:

Recognize You are Not Alone

It’s easy to feel as though you are the only one experiencing great pain during the holiday season. Everywhere you turn, people seem to be happy, putting up decorations, buying gifts and making holiday plans. It’s important to recognize the truth right now, and that is that you are not alone. There are people all over the world who have experienced loss, some perhaps very recently.

Honor Your Pain

No one expects you to feel joyful and in the holiday mood right now, so don’t feel as though you must pretend for others’ sake. It is very important that you honor whatever emotions you may be experiencing, whether it’s sadness, anger, regret or a combination.

Take Your Time

The holidays are usually a busy time for people. There is much to accomplish and many events to host and/or attend. You do not have to keep your normal schedule this year. You simply will not have the mental or emotional stamina for it. So take the time you need. If you don’t feel like attending many (or any) events this year, that is fine. People will understand.

Help Others in Need

One of the worst parts about losing a loved one is the feeling that we no longer have any control over our lives. Loss makes us feel helpless. One way to fight this feeling is to help others who are in need. As a bonus, connecting with others who are hurting can often be a salve on our hearts as well.

When Don’t These Guidelines Apply?

If you have children, it’s important to understand that they are looking to you right now to know what life will be like from now on. To a child, the loss of a parent or sibling can frighten them terribly. Though you may not at all feel like celebrating the holidays, doing so helps your child know that life does go on and that there is space in your life to feel joy along with sadness.

 

If you have experienced loss and would like to explore grief counseling, please be in touch. You don’t have to suffer alone.

Why Therapy for Caretakers is More Important Than Ever

By General No Comments

Research has shown that roughly 80% of long-term care in this country is provided by family members. Many of these caregivers have their own families to look after and may also be holding down at least one job.

In addition, family caregivers have been shown to ignore their own health and wellness needs. This often leads to caregiver burnout, which is typically defined as a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Caregivers who reach this burnout stage often experience stress, fatigue, sadness, grief, isolation guilt, anxiety, and depression.

Some other symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

  • Withdrawing from others
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Feeling irritable and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Changes in sleep
  • Compromised immune system
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs

 

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

Caregivers become easily lost in the person they are caring for and forget that they themselves have needs and wants. Being so busy, they, often without thought, neglect their own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health and wellbeing.

They also deal with huge challenges and emotions each day, and often without help from anyone else. They push their feelings down so they may remain strong for their loved one who is usually battling a significant health crisis of their own.

 

Counseling Can Be a Lifesaver for Caregivers

Struggling on your own won’t help you or your loved one. It’s important that you get the help you need and deserve.

Talking with someone who will listen compassionately and give you advice and coping tools can take a huge burden off your shoulders.

But perhaps most importantly, a therapist will validate what you are experiencing. This is helpful because you yourself are denying your own existence and your own pain. This is how you have been managing.

A therapist is in your corner. He or she is your champion and will say the things you won’t allow yourself to say. They will point out your own humanity and the need for you to take care of yourself. Hearing this from a neutral third party can often be very helpful.

If you would like to speak with someone, please reach out to me. I want to help you not feel so powerless or isolated.

 

SOURCES:

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.

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.