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Therapy Blog

  • ADD & ADHD: The Truth of the Matter

    Is it ADD? Is it ADHD? Is it depression? Is it anxiety? Or is it something else medically related? These are all valid questions that you have possibly asked yourself or asked about your child at one time or another. It is a difficult diagnosis to pin-point and can often be confused with other diagnoses. It is extremely important try the following steps, in this order, to assess whether or not you might be dealing with ADD/ADHD:

    1. Get a full physical. Rule out any medical issues that could be masquerading as inattention or hyperactivity.
    2. If medical issues are ruled out, seek assessment by a mental health professional. Don't try to diagnosis and/or treat yourself.
    3. If your child is the one displaying ADD/ADHD- like symptoms, speak to his/her teacher, school counselor, principal, and any other school professional that may be involved in your child's education. They can give you insight into what they see in the classroom and what is observed as they interact with peers during the school-day.
    4. Work with your mental health professional to institute an individualized treatment plan to deal with whatever diagnosis is made. If outpatient therapy is not successful, consider being evaluated by a psychiatrist for possible medication management IN ADDITION TO mental health therapy.
    5. Be sure to take care of your physical self as this impacts your emotional and mental well-being. Getting plenty of sleep, eating right, and exercising are all key ingredients to getting any ADD/ADHD-like symptoms under better control.

    So, what would symptoms of ADD or ADHD look like? Often times in my practice, I see individuals come in who assume that since they are having trouble concentrating, it might be ADD or ADHD. I carefully evaluate their medical, personal (including mental health, substance abuse, and family), and work history to get a handle on the bigger picture of what we might be looking at as a diagnosis. Sometimes, a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is deducted from certain combination of hallmark characteristics along with the close assessment of behavioral and emotional health information a client gives. However, sometimes issues as basic as stress, depression, loneliness, grief/loss, or anxiety are truly at the root of what might otherwise be considered ADD/ADHD.

    There are a number of checklist symptoms of ADD and ADHD which include:

    • Inattention
    • Difficulty Concentrating
    • Easily Distracted
    • Unable to Sit Still
    • Fidgety
    • Frequently Interrupts
    • Struggle to Complete Tasks
    • Frequent Forgetting
    • No Filter
    • Restless
    • Talk Excessively

    Now please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of symptoms for ADD/ADHD. This article is also not a substitute for professional help. However, if you are needing to find relief from these symptoms while working on yourself between sessions with a therapist and/or appointments with a psychiatrist, you may want try this simple tips:

    • Get Adequate Sleep
    • Keep a Consistent Schedule
    • Take Breaks
    • Get Organized (start color coding, use a journal, use a note pad as a reminder system, etc.)
    • Eat Healthy
    • Exercise (get out excessive energy to assist you in focusing and concentrating through your day)
    • Learn Healthy Communication Skills
    • Use You Support System
    • Relaxation Techniques

    Again, this is not an exhaustive list, and more information can be obtained from your therapist or doctor to institute specific treatment options and steps to help you get a better handle on this disorder. Remember that ADD/ADHD is quite common in our extremely busy and high expectation society. It is no wonder that especially if you have a genetic propensity to having ADD/ADHD, that your environment can aggravate it and exacerbate it. Take care though. There is always help that can be located through your school, work, EAP, health insurance, and simple Google searches for the proper treatment professionals.

  • Making Change: Life's Main Hurtle

    Change is what makes us human. It is a natural way of life as we know it- integral to growth, both physical and emotional. Change occurs whether we are ready for it or not, and sometimes we do everything we can to abstain from change because the fear of the unknown holds us back. Do you consider yourself fear-based? Or a worrier? Do you make decisions or choices based on your fears about what will happen or do you think about the rational and realistic consequences to situations? If you answer yes to any of these questions or know people who would answer affirmatively, then this article is for you.

    One of the biggest obstacles in getting life on track can be a person's comfort level with making change. Many people dealing with anxiety, depression, relationship issues, or stress seem to be stuck in the same unhealthy patterns. Without making even small changes to how we go about doing things, you will get the same result by making the same actions. This seems rather simple, but for many people suffering from negative life issues, actually doing something different can feel scary and foreign.

    It is important that if you decide to keep engaging in the same patterns of behavior, the outcomes will almost always be the same. If you truly want to feel better about yourself and your life situation, consider how you can change the ways you go about doing things. This can be as minor as discontinuing that unhealthy relationship with an acquaintance to something as major as changing careers or moving locations. Always ask yourself, is the reason I am unwilling to change because I am scared or worried about the consequences? Then follow that question up with what are the possible outcomes or worst case scenarios. Typically the worst case scenario, realistically speaking, is actually not that bad. Get comfortable with the what if's and prepare yourself for possible negative and positive outcomes. Without change, everything will stay the same.

  • Realistic Expectations & Control Issues

    Have you ever hoped to influence an outcome of a situation? Or possibly attempt to manipulate someone's response to result in your desired outcome? We all do it, whether consciously or unconsciously. Depending on the situation and/or interaction, it can be looked at as expected human behavior or as a negative behavior. In this article, I will suggest that often times we, as human creatures, struggle to realize realistic and rational expectations as well as understand the things in which we can and cannot control.

    Let's start with realistic expectations. It's important that when we are interacting with others, particularly friends, family, or partners, that our expectations of them are realistic and rational. We can hold others to a standard that is just not realistically achievable. For example, a husband expects his wife to always "say the right things." He is disappointed when she disagrees with him or gives a response that he does not like. This would be a form of unrealistic expectations that he is placing on his wife. You can even go as far as labeling it as a cognitive distortion if the husband feels that because his wife "does not say the right thing all the time" that she does not love him.

    So how does this play into something called "locus of control?" Locus of control is what a single person has control over in his/her life. This person is in control of his/her emotions, thoughts, actions, and reactions. No one "makes" you do anything. You are in charge of your responses to situations and interactions. You, and only you are in control of YOU. Consequently, you cannot control another person's emotions, thoughts, actions, and reactions. That person is only in charge of himself/herself. This means that you must take responsibility for yourself, that even if you want another person to do something or treat you differently, ultimately it is up to that person to make those actions, not you.

    This can be a difficult concept to come to terms with as we have a tendency to think we can "make" someone do something. Understanding that setting realistic expectations and controlling what you can control, takes a large burden of stress and anxiety over feeling responsible for someone's thoughts, feelings, and actions. It also is helpful in not setting up situations and interactions as having a negative or disappointing outcome (setting up for most probable failure).

  • SAD: Got the Winter Blues?

    Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) affects a great deal of people throughout the world. Basically what it means is that someone's moods are affected by changes in seasons. This is pronounced in individuals who live in more northerly climates. When were there are long winters with short, overcast days, it can really have a big impact on someone's disposition. Daylight is a huge factor in triggering the brain's ability to cope with depressive feelings.

    What can you do? Here are a few tips in managing SAD if you think you might be suffering from it.

    1) Get a sun lamp. Google this. They are out there ranging in different prices. This can be helpful if you are currently in a locale in the dead of winter with little natural sunlight.

    2) Talk to someone. Find a therapist. Talk to a friend. Confide in a family member.

    3) See a doctor. If your mood is low enough where you are feeling like you may be experiencing full-blown depression, see your MD for a full physical. Rule out any physical medical problems. Talk to your doctor (or see a psychiatrist) about anti-depressants.

    4) Exercise. Get the chemicals in your brain that produce heightened mood moving.

    5) Eat right.

    6) Don't isolate. Try to be social- even if it's just picking up the phone. It's easy to get into a "hibernation" mode. Don't do it. Try to keep yourself motivated by having people over, going to movies with friends, making time other than just for work and sleep.

    7) Find hobbies to do indoors. Focus your energy on SOMETHING!

    If you're not sure that you're experiencing SAD, try to track your mood to see if you can find a pattern with weather or seasons on your mood and disposition. Talk to a therapist and/or a doctor to be accurately screened. There are a lot of resources out there- and it doesn't mean the only answer is moving to a warmer climate!

  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

    What a more fitting topic to discuss while we enter February, the month of "love." Valentine's Day. Many people cringe at the very mention of this holiday. Mainly it is a "Hallmark" sort of holiday. Giving another reason to give gifts and cards. However, it can also inspire some really meaningful interactions among friends, families, and couples. It's all how you look at it.

    It's now 2011. In this day and age, we communicate mainly by text, email, social networking sites...rarely a phone call or even an in-person visit. What happened to the days of written (hand-written to clarify) correspondence? What happened to having an actual phone conversation over texting back and forth cryptic messages with text jargon? What happened to not being attached to a cell phone at all times? It was not long ago that people took phone calls when they were home. When they were out and about- driving, spending time with others- they just were not reachable. It seems like if you happen to miss a phone call or don't respond quickly enough to a text, the sender starts to wonder, is this person mad at me? Tone in conversation is lost in the electronic communications of today. One statement could be interpreted in so many different ways. And people continue to add friends to their social networking sites...some people they may have never even met...or individuals they probably would never speak to otherwise.

    Now before you feel there is a hugely negative spin on all these advances in technology and communication, I would like to state for the record that there are quite a few positives in it all. We connect to people we wouldn't have otherwise- broadening our social relationships farther than could be imagined. In some ways this can be healthy in order to keep people connected in a faster and faster paced world. Thank goodness for cell phones especially in emergencies. Could you imagine getting into a car accident 15 years ago? More than likely you wouldn't have had a cell phone and definitely no On-Star or GPS. So there are advantages to this ever-evolving world of technology and communication.

    How does this impact peoples' romantic lives? I think it's fair to say it opens a whole new world of complications to the already difficult world of dating. Why hasn't she text me back? What did he mean by that email? Is there some hidden agenda? These questions might be swirling in your mind right now. It's ok. You're not the only one. With all these ways to immediately communicate, there seems to be an increasing expectation to be readily available for a back and forth conversation of some sort. Who also hasn't misinterpreted what someone has posted on say a Facebook page for example? It can all be very confusing.

    So what does this mean for the average person? My suggestion is to take a step back. Try to put yourself into someone else's shoes. People have jobs, lives, commitments, things that they need to be doing. So if you haven't gotten a text or email back right away, calm down. There is usually a logical reason behind it all. Try also to avoid too many text conversations. Have a phone conversation instead. It will most likely be more meaningful. If you feel that your relationship with someone is centering on text, you may want to evaluate if this is how you truly want your communication to go. Talk to your significant other about trying to switch it up a bit. This also means you should try to balance relationship with your own personal and professional life. Make sure you are connecting with others to offset the time you aren't with a significant other.

    What about for those who are just plain struggling with their dating lives? My first recommendation is to make sure that you feel secure and healthy in your own self-esteem and self-image. Being strong in who you are makes you a more attractive person to most and gives you the ability to see that happiness will not come from having a significant other. It can be a great thing- but they are not there to generate the happiness in your life. Additionally, be creative in how you try to meet people. Try reputable dating online sites, do social activities outside of drinking establishments, connect with people who have similar interests, join community groups, check out what's going on at church, look into park district or community college classes, etc. The list really is endless when you take a look at the wonderful world of social networking- both in person and online.

    Maintaining a relationship is a whole other ballgame. It takes a balancing act of sorts. Make sure that you connect in different ways outside of the world of technology. Plan activities that you can do together that require you to be in-person. Try game nights, lunch dates, sporting events, festivals, take a cooking class together, etc. There are a lot of ideas on what you can do within a budget to keep things going in a romantic relationship. You can use the world of the internet to your advantage! Just remember, be positive. Love yourself. Maintain realistic expectations for yourself and others. The rest will come in time.

  • Back to Basics: What is Therapy?

    A large amount of people often wonder what true mental health therapy and counseling is. These concepts can be quite ambiguous, and there are so many different approaches to therapy that it can seem a little overwhelming and confusing. Many would agree that therapy is an inexact science in that there isn't one right or wrong way to handle particular issues. In most cases, it is very individualistic depending on a person's personality traits, genetics, upbringing, social economic status, culture, religion, ethnicity, and so on and so forth.

    So how is a lay person to know what he/she should be looking for when searching for the right counselor or therapist? It does truly depend on the person. You should start by identifying what you hope to gain out of therapy. Are you looking to cope with grief? Are you trying to manage a behaviorally challenged son or daughter? Are you having marital problems? Making sure that you have a good grasp on what you want to change or improve on in your situation is key to finding the right fit in a therapist.

    The next step is to do a little research. Contact your insurance carrier for referrals. Look up therapists in your area via your internet search engine. Take a careful look at the options you have in front of you. You will want to have a handle on how much you can afford to pay. Take note of the location and hours of the person you are interested in seeing. Would you feel more comfortable seeing a male versus a female? What is the therapist's areas of expertise? Do they fit with what you are trying to work on in your life?

    Make an appointment. I always encourage people to make the jump. You will never know until you try. Now remember, every person has their own personalities, quirks, and abilities. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error in finding the right fit in a therapist. Do not get discouraged if you feel like something does not click after a few sessions. A good therapist will also be aware of these things and should be checking in with you on how you feel things are going. It does not mean there is something wrong with a therapist if you are having difficulty meshing with him/her. It just means you need to find someone that better suits your tastes. It is important to feel comfortable with your therapist as you will need to be honest and open in order to get the most out of your treatment.

    Typically therapists will explain their theoretical orientation towards therapy in the initial session.  What this means is that, again, there are many different approaches to dealing with certain stressors, issues, and mental health concerns. A few different, but common approaches to be on the look-out for are:

    -Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

    -Psychodynamic Therapy

    -Person-Centered Therapy

    -Bio-Feedback

    -EMDR

    Don't know exactly what these entail? That's ok. Educate yourself by looking them up via the internet. Ask your therapist to explain what his/her approach will look like for you and your treatment. All therapies that are in good standing should encompass confidentiality, caring, a level of being non-judgmental, and a place where YOU, the client, feel HEARD. As this post is just a stepping stone in the right direction to finding your fit within the world of therapy, remember that there are a lot of resources out there. Sometimes the hardest step is making that first phone call and setting up an appointment. It can definitely be well-worth it.

     

  • New Years Resolutions: Fact or Fiction

    We all make our obligatory New Years resolutions each year. How many of us actually fulfill these goals? Or even make head-way on them at all? Often times, it feel like a lot of hot air:

    "I'm going to lose 20 lbs."

    "I will go to church every Sunday."

    "I am going to exercise and eat right."

    "I will not fight with my mother-in-law."

    Any of these sound familiar to you? Maybe some more than others. Either way, are resolutions something we can actually stick to? In my years of working with people, one thing definitely stands out for clients who are looking to make change in their lives...often times the goals or change they want to make are unrealistic or unattainable. We set lofty goals for ourselves- they sound good and can drum up some inspiration. But when the daily grind comes into play, are they goals that someone can truly achieve?

    I encourage you to take a look at the things you would like to change in your life. This can include everything from losing weight to managing emotions more successfully. Write them out in black and white. Then ask yourself, are they achievable? If not, how could I change the statement to make it realistic? Maybe the time frame on a goal is either awfully optimistic or pessimistic...really take time to self-evaluate. It can also be helpful to share some of these things with a significant other, a close friend, or a counselor to help you make your goals realistic and help keep you accountable.

    New Years resolutions can be fact or fiction, depending on how you carry through your desire for change not just after January, but through the months that follow. Don't set yourself up for failure, but do try better yourself for the new year to come.

  • Holiday Stress: Information Everyone Should Know

    Holiday Stress- A time of year where the hustle and bustle of often changing weather, increasing amounts of holidays scheduled close together, that can cause feelings of anxiousness, nervousness, and being overwhelmed.

    This of course is not a textbook definition by any means. However, it is a statement I fully believe defines what most probably think of as "holiday stress." Whatever way you slice it, no matter what religion or faith, this time of year can produce stress in many different ways. This can include family, friend, church, synagogue, and work obligations. It can also impact everything from shopping to parking to traffic. And if you live in a place where cold weather and snow come to those in November, December and January, that you know that this can cause even more affects on daily life.

    The first step in dealing with holiday stress is to acknowledge it! Yes. Being able to recognize that the next month of your life is filled with shopping for presents, decorating, work parties, family get-togethers, friends' parties, donating, traveling, driving, and weather is truly half the battle. The second step is getting yourself organized. It IS possible to manage this time of year with grace. It takes practice and a good sense of realistic planning. Do NOT overbook yourself. That will cause you more stress in the end and may even cause you to cancel last minute to things when at the end of your rope. You also should enjoy this time of year. Remember that the focus is on your spiritual beliefs, your family, and friends. Often times, this time of year becomes synonymous with gift giving and receiving.

    Having trouble prioritizing? Get out your daily or monthly planner. Take down the must-do obligations. Carve out "you" time in between there. Then see what time is left. Remember, sometimes it's not possible to please everyone or get to everything you're invited to. Do your best. Delegate responsibilities like certain gift shopping to other family members. Consider e-cards if needing to save money. Simple gifts given from the heart are most appreciated. And take time to breathe. Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you need to, and prepare your car for winter weather.

    If you're really struggling, many people seek counseling this time of year from pastors, priests, counselors, and therapists. It is ok to ask for support and guidance. And reach out to family and friends. That is what this time of year is really all about.

  • High Emotions: The Ups and Downs of Feelings

    What are "high emotions?" Simply put, they are the mental feelings that literally run "high." These emotions can be extreme amounts of anger, sadness, hurt, disappointment, guilt, happiness, and confusion just to name a few. When individuals are experiencing high emotions, typically they can feel over-exaggerated and flip-flop from good to bad and vice-versa. Most people will experience these kinds of feelings surrounding major events in their lives. This could include graduating, moving, weddings, divorce, and losing a job. When anything positively or negatively stressful occurs in one's life, it will typically produce some type of emotional response.

    When do high emotions become problematic? If you are feeling overwhelmed by your mood swings or the intensity of a certain mood, then your emotions are probably interfering with your ability to maintain a normal, healthy existence. These extreme emotions can affect your personal life, your work performance, and your physical health. That is why it is important to be able to recognize when you are experiencing high emotions so that you can start to regulate your mood and how it is impacting the different areas of your life.

    Seek out help. This can come in a number of forms including but not limited to individual counseling, group counseling, attending support groups, confiding in a close family member or friend, educating yourself about what you're experiencing, journal, soul-search, and identifying the triggers. There are many resources both online and off that can assist you in whatever you are dealing with. Remind yourself that you are never alone in what you are going through, even if it seems like it at the time. More often than not there are many people who have been in your shoes before. That is why you should reach out.

    Having a hard time getting a handle on what you are feeling? Start by keeping a daily log of what is going on in your life. Note when you are having certain emotions throughout the day. Eventually you should be able to decipher a pattern in what triggers your emotions. Once you are able to identify your triggers or stress, you can them begin to implement ways to manage your triggers in a different way. Remember: There is always hope. The way you are feeling will not last forever.

  • DBT: What is it? Help for Bipolar Disorder & Borderline Personality Disorder

    What is DBT? Dialectical Behavior Therapy is "combines standard cognitive-behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectical_behavior_therapy)." It has been shown to be effective in treating Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Self-Injury, and other mood disorders. It was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan beginning in the 1970s. Techniques derived from this type of therapy can be very helpful in managing symptoms of personality and mood disorders. If you are a therapist, it is encouraged to learn more about these techniques to incorporate them into your practice if you are not already aware of DBT. If you are a patient/client, ask your therapist if they do any DBT techniques. This could really decrease your symptoms if you fall under the category of any of the above mentioned disorders.

    Part of DBT is a technique called mindfulness. It helps you to practice and utilize focusing on an innocuous item or topic. By doing this, you can center your attention away from desires to seek attention negatively, self-harm, use substances, wallow in depressed/angry moods, etc. A good website on DBT is http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm. In particular, try observing your environment, describe/express your environment, and fully participate in your environment. It is important to do these things without judgment, try focusing on one thing in your environment, and to be "effective" in doing it.

    Mindfulness is just one skill under the DBT umbrella. There are many other pieces to it. It is encouraged to research this further to gain a better understanding of the other skills it uses. You can find a lot on internet; however, make sure if you are trying to utilize these skills to get assistance from a professional savvy in DBT.

     

  • What is Wrong with My Marriage?

    Couples...Marriage...Relationships...Romance...Intimacy...Emotional Connections...What's it all mean?

    I see, and have seen, a lot of couples in my various positions as a therapist. There tends to be a common thread in couples who are seeking answers to "what is wrong" with their relationship- they don't see the "what is right" with their marriage. It can be very easy to get caught up with the negatives that fill our days...and this is no different when it comes to a relationship. If there has been some good connection or a meaningful intimate act, it can be colored by a petty argument, bringing "old stuff" up, by a misinterpretation, etc. It's important to take an active role in your relationship with your partner. Acknowledge both the bad and the good. Try to look at it from a bigger perspective, than from a narrowed point of view. Are things that bad?

    Your answer may be yes. In cases like that, where the positive is difficult to find, or is few and far between, you may want to look at things that both your partner and yourself need to work on in the relationship. One thing may very well be communication. Is there a breakdown of communication over even simple matters? Is one person interpreting what their partner is saying inaccurately? In these situations, it's important to break down your communication styles...like what type of belief you may be attaching to what your partner has said. Is it accurate? Have you truly understood what he/she has tried to say to you? Paraphrase what you've heard. Use I statements. Talk it out until there is "understanding" on both parts.

    You may need a bit of a referee or mediator when trying to do these simple techniques...try not to assign blame or take things personally. Each person is responsible for self-soothing, for how they interpret an action or comment, and for how they react. Try to look at a problem as either "your problem," "their problem," or "our problem." Typically, an "our problem" is something affects the both of you (i.e. financial issues, parenting your children, etc.). Take a look at whether maybe seeking professional counseling or a self-help materials may be helpful in guiding you through the mountains and valleys that CONSIST of your relationship: http://www.helium.com/items/346091-self-help-resources-vs-professional-counseling

     

  • The Power of Spirituality

    Spirituality: noun. ~the state or quality of being dedicated to God, religion, or spiritual things or values, esp as contrasted with material or temporal ones.

    Spirituality IS different from religion. Religion is an organized way to demonstrate your beliefs or spirituality. Spirituality is something much deeper and profound. You don't have to believe in God to be spiritual. Sometimes people automatically think that spirituality automatically means religion...and can be a very sensitive topic. I find that even individuals who espouse being agnostic or atheist still possess spirituality within themselves and their belief in others.

    How does spirituality benefit one's mental and emotional well-being? It can be a very powerful piece to finding joy and purpose in life. It can be something as basic as believing in your surroundings (nature) and as complicated as believing in an afterlife and a higher being. Having a difficult time figuring out your specific beliefs? Try making a list of your own morals...what values do you hold? What is the positive and greater good that you find in life? These all fulfill your spirituality.

    People swear by their spirituality to get them through the best and worst of times. It helps those who are in trouble and in pain to find solace in their efforts. It helps you move forward. Looking into the present and future, instead of the past, is a very integral part of believing in yourself and those that surround you. If you are struggling with something, it can help pull you out of the deepest of funks. And again, I can't stress enough, that it doesn't mean you have to be religious. One's spirituality is unique. It is something you hold within you. Find your spirituality, define it, and live by it.

  • Pets and Mental Health

    Whats do pets have to do with one's mental health? Quite a bit actually. It has been found that having pets, such as cats or dogs, actually lower blood pressure and improve physical health of owners. This trend is also found in correlation with mood and anxiety disorders. According to an article on www.moodletter.com, pets provide companionship, helping owners to feel less lonely. The responsibility of caring for a pet also can help individuals struggling with depression and getting motivated. It requires you to feed, walk, and clean up after your pet, which also promotes excercising. It promotes mental stability, through petting and cuddling with your pet. All in all, having animals in your life is a rather positive thing. (http://www.moodletter.com/PetsandMentalHealth.htm)

    Therapists, hospitals, nursing centers, and other healthcare oriented programs are increasingly instituting animal therapy into clients' and patients' daily routines. Pet therapy is gaining popularity because it works. Think about how you feel when you have that special bond and unconditional with your cat or dog. They listen. They don't talk back. They love you whether you like it or not. Petting your animal can release stress and anxiety. Healthcare providers are seeing that individuals are demonstrating improved moods, less depression and anxiety, when engaging with animals. (http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/36/3/17.1.full)

    It doesn't have to just be a cat or a dog! Rabbits, mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, ferrets...the list goes on and on. Can't afford to keep a pet? Volunteer at a local shelter or pet store. There are so many ways to get involved with animals without actually having to own one. Google counselors in your area with "pet therapy" as a keyword. See what you come up with! Need ideas on how to find these resources in your community or how a pet might enhance your life? Check out LivePerson to speak with a licensed counselor live.

  • Weight 1-2-3

    A lot of clients, friends, and family members have asked me about the link of weight to one's own mental, physical, and emotional health. It may seem like a no brainer- that what you put in OR deprive yourself, has an impact on your health. However, it's the HOW to get yourself back to healthy eating and exercising that really appears to be the struggle. Change is very difficult. Especially if you have a high stress job, it can feel natural to want to reward yourself for a good job done by swinging by the nearest fast food place. Unfortunately, this contributes to weight gain, general unhealthy eating habits, physical health problems, and mental/emotional issues. Do you really feel better after that cheeseburger and fries? It's ok in moderation. It's when things get to an extreme that I suggest people look at their daily living habits and ask themselves if they are happy where they are at in life (appearance, self-esteem, self-confidence, physical health, etc.).

    It is up to YOU and you alone to make CHANGE today. Excuses are just that....excuses. Start using that gym membership. Often times, gyms offer a free trainer if you've just joined or a trainer at a discounted rate if you ask. This can help keep you on track for your workouts. The word "workout" may make you want to run and hide. It doesn't mean you have to be doing heavy cardio for an hour even. Do what you CAN. That is why it is good to consult with a trainer so that you can choose a workout plan that fits with your body and lifestyle. Swimming, running, walking, yoga, bicycling, kickboxing, rowing, basketball, volleyball, and weights are just to name a few options for getting yourself back in shape. Take a buddy with you if you have trouble getting yourself motivated. New mom? Try Stroller Strides. These groups can be found through your community postings at the library, local mall, or park district.

    See a dietician! Even if you can swing just ONE APPOINTMENT with a dietician, I highly recommend it for anyone with any body shape and lifestyle. This can help you make sure you are getting what you need through your daily intake of food. Just because you are average weight does not mean you are getting all of the nutrients you need. Again, this is helpful to give you that extra bump of motivation to get your act in gear.

    Talk it out. Feeling stressed? Don't know where to put this stress? Find a healthy outlet. Often times, talking out what you're going through with a significant other, close family member, or friend can be very helpful and an alternative to burying yourself into sedentary activities (like watching TV and overeating). Also, get active in CREATIVE outlets! Singing, writing, drawing, playing music, painting, jewelry making, woodworking, landscaping, and the list goes on and on in things you can do to focus your energy in positive ways. Get active in the COMMUNITY. Whether reaching out to your church or to a nursing home, try volunteering your time to help out non-profits or other service oriented businesses in your area. Don't like people? That's ok! Maybe you have an affinity towards working with animals. Local shelter and pet stores need help too.

    Feeling empowered yet? Talk to your counselor or therapist to obtain more motivation if you feel you're lacking it. Reach out to clergy or a church member for help. Get involved in your childrens' school functions and field trips. Make your life worth living. William Saroyan said, "Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough."

  • Battle of the Bulge: Weight and Mental Health

    The fight against weight gain, and even weight loss, is on!

    What does mental and emotional health got to do with it?

    Actually, a lot. If you're feeling stressed, upset, angry, or sad, do you ever reach for that gallon of ice cream? Or do you lose your appetite altogether? Either way, it's not healthy for anyone. In a perfect world, we would all be an average, normal weight. We wouldn't have things like stress and life issues bombarding us on a daily basis. However, we don't live in that perfect world (Which ultimately is probably a good thing! Otherwise, things would be pretty darn boring.). Stressors are a part of our way of life. It's all about how we manage them that makes the difference. And how you're feeling can be directly related as to whether you seek solace in food or engage in eating disorder behaviors. Fluctuations in weight and our physical health are impacted by whether we are in an emotionally and mentally healthy spot. When we feel good or are making healthy choices, we take care of ourselves. When we feel bad or are not managing our mental health successfully, our physical health pays the price.

    I know I'm having difficulty regulating my mood. What now?

    Identifying that you're struggling is the first step. That opens the doors to seeking the help and support you need to get yourself to a better frame of mind. This in turn will lead to a happier existence, where mental and physical health are in balance. Locate a trainer, see a dietician, talk with your primary care doctor, seek counseling/therapy, and/or ask for emotional support from family and friends. Don't know where to start? Feel overwhelmed? Get a physical. That will give you a baseline of where you're at right now- whether you're overweight, underweight, have any physical issues beyond weight, etc. From there you can determine your next plan of action.

    I don't know if I can beat the way I'm feeling. How do I feel better? And get my weight under control?

    Feeling unsure, scared, and overwhelmed can be common feelings when you're mental and emotional healthy are out of whack. It takes some effort to reach out for the help you need. It's ok to not be able to do it on your own. Journaling, taking breaks, practicing relaxation techniques, talking to clergy/friends/family, and doing some realistic goal setting are good ways to get started. By getting the depression, anxiety, panic, stress, confusion, anger, and/or apathy under control, you WILL see results in terms of your physical health (i.e. weight gain/loss). Counseling can be a helpful tool to use- especially if you feel you can't really depend on someone in your life currently. Counseling gives you an objective, nonjudgmental individual to help support you through your life's issues.

  • Weight Loss and Its Link to Stress Reduction

    Weight. The never-ending battle. If you yourself isn't dealing with weight issues, you probably know someone who is. There is definitely a link between stress and weight gain. There are a number of studies that have found that stress can increase a chemical in the body called cortisol to be produced at higher rates. This in turn can cause weight gain by slowing down the metabolism. So the question is: How do you reduce stress in your life?

    In previous blog articles I have mentioned different techniques and tips that you can do manage stress more succesfully. However, I feel that there can't be enough of techniques and ideas shared on stress reduction since it is such a pervasive issues for most American lives. Stress is a way of life for most. Some stress is positive like major life changes such as getting married, having a child, graduating, etc. Some stress is negative like work, school, family and interpersonal issues, loss and grief, etc. Either way, stress is present and something that we all need to learn how to manage.

    The following website links are great resources in finding different ways to manage stress:

    http://www.holisticmed.com/stressfree.html

    http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087

    Know that you can't rid your life of stress. However, accept it and practice techniques like journaling, drawing, painting, cooking, baking, music (listening or playing an instrument for example), knitting, jewelry making, fishing, playing catch, exercising, eat healthier, taking a walk and enjoying nature, deep breathing, counting, positive self-talk, and the list goes on and on. Don't know where to start? Try starting one technique. Doesn't work? That's ok. Try another. Also, make sure you know who is in your support network. List these individuals out so you can readily access them by phone, email, text, etc. Sometimes when we are most stressed we don't reach out for others. Try not to isolate. It is ok to need help!

    Find more information about stress and it's connection to weight gain/weight loss through the following sites:

    http://www.advance-health.com/cortisol.html

    http://technorati.com/lifestyle/article/assist-weight-loss-with-stress-reduction/

    http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/can-stress-cause-weight-gain

    If you feel like your stress is out of control, and you're having trouble managing your stress even if you are trying the above techniques, talk to your MD, talk to a dietician, find a counselor if you don't already have one, and reach out to friends and family. You are not alone.

  • Before or Back to School Jitters?

    It's that time of year again!! Back to school. Whether you/your child is going back for your next year in high school or college, OR starting a new chapter in your life by heading off to college, this article is for you. It is completely normal to feel some anxiety, particularly if you are going off to college. Not only are you dealing with possibly moving some distance away from your family, you are starting a next chapter in your schooling and getting back into the swing of things with continuing your education. New faces, new classes, new teachers, new everything are there to meet you (or your child). This can be both a scary and exciting chapter as is any start of a school year can be.

    So, how to get over the nerves and anxiety? Definitely get involved in any orientation groups that the school might be offering. This will help you meet other students and possibly form some friendships. Also, if you are starting college, take this time before classes start to get the lay of the land. Take your class list, a map of the campus, and walk around to where you classes are. This should help calm some of the nerves you might be having, at least in terms of feeling comfortable with getting to your classes successfully and on time and being familiar where things generally are on campus. It's also ok to call home! Everyone experiences anxiety before school starts. So, remember, it's ok if you want to call home or call friends. Make sure to be talking to people about how you're feeling instead of bottling it up inside.

    If you feel like you're having difficult getting any before-school jitters out of your system or your nervousness is becoming problematic, get in touch with your guidance counselor, advisor, and/or school counseling clinic. This can also be a good resource to use if you're having a difficult time adjusting. There are also a lot of techniques like deep breathing, grounding, progressive muscle relaxation, journaling, etc. that can also be helpful to get rid of nervous energy. Not getting the immediate help or guidance you need? Check out www.liveperson.com to locate a counselor or therapist today. And remember: "Nerves and butterflies are fine- they are a physical sign that you're mentally ready and eager. You have to get the butterflies to fly in formation, that's the trick." ~Steve Bull

  • Current Issues for Male Health

    Some people may think that women are the main individuals who need to deal with their emotional health. However, men also need to get in touch with their emotional side in order to stay healthy overall. There are more articles and research coming out regarding men and their feelings of being needed by females in the 21st century. These days, women can be and are self-sufficient. Much different than just 50 years ago, where males were the primary and most likely the ONLY bread-winner in the family. Women have stepped out of the "stay at home" and be "with the kids" role. Families are blended. Men and women are needing to work simultaneously (i.e. either by need or want- having a two person income). Individuals are deciding not to have children. Women are having children on their own. So why would a woman need a man these days?

    In heterosexual relationships, men are definitely still needed in the relationship dynamic with a woman. Yes, roles have changed. Men may be staying at home with children while women work. There are so many different scenarios in this day and age. However, people are still interested in developing relationships. They may not need to depend on someone for financial help or to procreate, but the human need for relationship building is intrinsic.

    Males should not be afraid to voice their feelings and emotions. It is encouraged to see a mental health therapist and a couples therapist if you feel you need help in your relationship. Roles of men and women are evolving daily. There is no right or wrong, black or white. We must become comfortable with a new norm of relationship and family. If you are individual who feels that you need to talk to someone, try contacting a therapist like me on LivePerson to see if you need assistance figuring out your own emotional, mental, and physical health issues.

  • Womens' Issues: Health, Relationships,and Career Roles

    There are a lot of websites, books, television shows...you name it...there's all kinds of information out there to bombard women and how to live life. You should be thin, you should be proud of how you look no matter what; you should eat better, eat here because it's cheaper; you should stay at home, you should work, you should be a mom and work, you should get married, you should not get married, you should get an education, you should be the woman who does it all, you don't have to be the woman who does it all....What message is being sent? CONFUSION!

    Working in mental health, and particularly with women, roles for women are a huge factor in my counseling focus presently. Women CAN have it all, without having a man. They can adopt, have children by artificial insemination, have a career, and basically have their own lives without the need for a man. Men's roles are changing too because of this. What used to be our mothers', grandmothers', and women before them, expectations were to be stay at home mother's while the husband was the bread-winner. Times have definitely change as we move further into the 21st century. However, commercials and ads targeted to women push for them to be thin, look younger, have a career, have children/don't have children, get married/don't get married. There is no right or wrong answer to any of these. Each woman has a right to decide what she wants to do with her life.

    A great womens' website resource is: www.itsallaboutwomen.com

    There is information on health- for body and mind, career and financial advice, and relational ideas/suggestions. It's important that as a woman you utilize the support system you have surrounding you. If you feel you need extra support trying to juggle all the things you have going on in your life, seek out a counselor or a therapist. Having a safe-place to explore these issues with someone who understands womens' issues can be very liberating and get you started on a new path to life. And remember, you are who you are, and be proud of that.

  • Eating Disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia, and Body Image Issues

    What IS Anorexia? What IS Bulimia? What IS Binge Eating? And what does it mean to have body image issues? In this article, I will delve into eating disorders, triggers, treatments, and what they mean in society today. Of course many people have heard of anorexia or bulimia, but they may not have a grasp on what the disorder actually are. Anorexia is when a person deprives themselves of food- meaning they won't eat, or control the amounts they eat, which usually results in major weight loss as well as other health problems. Bulimia is a form of eating disorder where an individual actually purges, or physically induces themselves to throw up, food that they have eating. In fact often times, binge eating (gorging yourself to the max) can be and is often associated with this disorder. The person will eat and eat and eat, then purge. Although individuals with bulimia do not normally display the dramatic weight loss that Anorexics do, they also will have severe health problems due to stomach acid on the teeth, etc. Most often times, all of these eating disorders stem from body image issues. Many individuals, including females and males, perceive their bodies in a way that is not realistic. They may see themselves as "fat" when in actuality they are not. It's a type of thinking and perception that does not add up to the reality of how they really look on the outside.

    Triggers for these disorders can stem from so many things. To name just a few, they could include:

    1) Past trauma

    2) Poor self-esteem/self-image

    3) Parents or someone in authority influencing an individual to achieve perfection and nothing else

    4) Low self-worth

    Why are these triggers? Well, take for example if your life has been managed by parents who have always expected perfection from you. Sometimes, girls and boys get to a point, that in order for them to feel any control over their lives, they take control of food- how much they eat, how much they don't eat, etc. It gives that person a sense of control, where everything else seems out of control in their lives.

    Luckily, there are a lot of programs out there for individuals with eating disorders. If you or someone you know might be dealing with some of these issues, it's important to get help sooner rather than later. Search for an outpatient therapist and psychiatrist that specializes in Eating Disorders. There are inpatient and outpatient programs at hospitals and treatment centers that focus on eating disorders. Often times, there are also programs that work in conjunction with eating disorder programs called self-injury programs. It has been found in some research and from many of my clients who have dealt particularly with anorexia, they they also will engage in self-harm (cutting, etc.) to help with the emotional pain they are going through.

    Please seek out treatment. These issues are very serious and can result in death. Check out www.liveperson.com where you can speak online with a counselor such as myself who specializes in these areas or look into your area for in-person counselors/therapists/psychiatrists. Here is also a website link that I would highly recommend looking at in regards to this topic that is such an issue in today's culture of being "thin."

    www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

  • Sexual Assault Victims: Past, Present, and Future

    Do you know someone who has been sexually assaulted? Have you been the victim of sexual assault. Chances are that you probably at least know one person that has. Although Sexual Assault Awareness month (April) has came and gone, it is never NOT a good time to discuss the topic. What I hope to accomplish in today's article is to look at some statistics on sexual assault, what it means to a person's past, how it affects his/her life now, and what it all means for the future of that individual.

    According to this site, the following statistics stood out significantly on this topic:

    How Often Does Rape Happen to Women?

    • One in Four college women report surviving rape (15 percent) or attempted rape (12 percent) since their fourteenth birthday.
    • In a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease control of 5,000 college students at over 100 colleges, 20% of women answered "yes" to the question "In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?" Thus, one in five college women has been raped at some point in her lifetime.
    • In a typical academic year, 3% of college women report surviving rape or attempted rape. This does not include the summer, when many more rapes occur.
    • In the year 2000, 246,000 women survived rape and sexual assault. This computes to 28 women every hour.
    • A survey of high school students found that one in five had experienced forced sex (rape). Half of these girls told no one about the incident.
    • Rape is common worldwide, with relatively similar rates of incidence across countries, with 19%-28% of college women reporting rape or attempted rape in several countries. In many countries, survivors are treated far worse than in the U.S.

    Are Men Raped?

    • 3% of college men report surviving rape or attempted rape as a child or adult.
    • In a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of 5,000 college students at over 100 colleges, 4% of men answered "yes" to the question "In your lifetime have you been forced to submit to sexual intercourse against your will?"

    Who are the Perpetrators?

    • 99% of people who rape are men, 60% are Caucasian.
    • Between 62% and 84% of survivors knew their attacker.
    • 8% of men admit committing acts that meet the legal definition of rape or attempted rape. Of these men who committed rape, 84% said that what they did was definitely not rape.
    • 35% of men report at least some degree of likelihood of raping if they could be assured they wouldn't be caught or punished.
    • First-year students in college tend to believe more rape myths than seniors.
    • Sexual assault offenders were substantially more likely than any other category of violent criminal to report experiencing physical or sexual abuse as children.
    • In one study, 98% of men who raped boys reported that they were heterosexual. 

    Who are the Survivors?

    • 41% of college women who are raped were virgins at the time.
    • 42% of rape survivors told no one about the rape.
    • False reports of rape are rare, according to the FBI, occurring only 8% of the time.

    Circumstances of Rape

    • 57% of rapes happen on dates.
    • 75% of the men and 55% of the women involved in acquaintance rapes were drinking or taking drugs just before the attack.
    • About 70% of sexual assault survivors reported that they took some form of self-protective action during the crime. The most common technique was to resist by struggling or chase and try to hold the attacker. Of those survivors who took protective action, over half believed it helped the situation, about 1/5 believed that it made the situation worse or simultaneously worse and better. 
    • 84% of rape survivors tried unsuccessfully to reason with the man who raped her.
    • 55% of gang rapes on college campuses are committed by fraternities, 40% by sports teams, and 5% by others.
    • Approximately 40% of sexual assaults take place in the survivor's home. About 20% occur in the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative. 10% occur outside, away from home. About 8% take place in parking garages.
    • More than half of all rape and sexual assault incidents occurred within one mile of the survivor's home or in her home.

    What Happens After the Rape?

    • Throughout the last 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has reported that approximately 30% of rape survivors report the incident to the police.
    • Of those rapes reported to the police (which is 1/3 or less to begin with), only 16% result in prison sentences. Therefore, approximately 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison, 95% of the time he does not.
    • 42% of rape survivors had sex again with the rapist.
    • 30% of rape survivors contemplate suicide after the rape.
    • 82% of rape survivors say the rape permanently changed them.

    As I mull over these statistics, and as you read them as well, a mixture of emotions runs through me as I am a therapist, a female, and a survivor. It is difficult to take an objective standpoint on these issues with numbers glaring you in the face of the prevalence of rape- particularly among high school and college students. It is equally as scary that there are men who have admitted they would sexually assault someone if they new they would not be caught. It makes you wonder where the values and morals were instilled in the male psyche and how our culture possibly continues to perpetuate a dominant role for males and a submissive role for females. These meanderings are just food for thought.

    So what DOES someone do with being a rape victim and survivor? Usually, victims tend to feel shameful, guilty, and as if it the rape was his/her own fault. Kind of like a "I was asking for it" mentality- especially if there was drinking involved. It's easy to go back to the situation and say, if I had only done this or not done that. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, and RAPE IS NOT YOUR FAULT. No means no. Period.

    It is strongly suggested that someone who has been sexually assaulted seek counseling in order to work through the issues and baggage that comes with being a victim of such trauma. If help is not sought, often times individuals turn to other means in order to cope such as eating disorders, becoming a workaholic, self-harm, and sometimes even suicide. It cannot be stressed enough that if you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, that you or that person should contact the police. This perpetrator could and probably will do it again to someone else.

    There is a future beyond going through someone as traumatic as rape or sexual assault. With the proper support and working through issues of guilt and shame, you can learn that it was not your fault. You may not be able to forget- but you can definitely move forward. There are support groups, counselors, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists who specialize in this very area. There are also many different therapeutic techniques to move past the flashbacks, the feelings of depression, and the anger you or the victim is experiencing. In order to find some local resources in your are on sexual assault, I recommend taking a look at this site:

    http://www.rainn.org/

    In closing, SEEK HELP for being a victim of sexual assault. There are a lot of therapies, techniques, and resources to gain back your life.
     

     

     

     

  • Infidelity: What now?

    According to a very informative website called: www.infidelityfacts.com I found the following statistics on relationships, marriage, and cheating quite interesting:

    Percentage of marriages that end in divorce in America: 53%

    Percentage of "arranged marriages" (where parents pick their sons or daughters spouses) that end in divorce: 3%

    Medical field(s) with the highest divorce rate: psychiatrists and marriage counselors

    Percentage of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional: 41%

    Percentage of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they've had: 57%

    Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they've had: 54%

    Percentage of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker: 36%

    Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity on business trips: 36%

    Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity (emotional or physical) with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law: 17%

    Average length of an affair: 2 years

    Percentage of marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered: 31%

    Percentage of men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught: 74%

    Percentage of women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught: 68%

    I bolded the last two statistics because it was surprising to me how high of a percentage of men and women would engage in cheating behavior if their significant other would never find out. It's somewhat staggering to see that maybe marriage with all its vows, promises, and feelings of a sacred union, that such a large number of people in relationships would have an affair. It kind of blows that "marriage is bliss" idea out of the water. This is particularly alarming as young people might see these statistics and avoid marriage all together. There is also a rise in more unconventional relationships such as open marriages, multiple partner relationships, etc.

    Writing this blog today, I do not profess to say what is right and what is wrong with cheating, having affairs, and making choices to engage in relationships outside of a monogamous one. It is fair to say, however, that I increasingly have clients come to me for counseling who come from both the cheater and the cheated ends. Clients feel hurt, sad, guilty, disappointed, and the list goes on. So what happens if you are the one who has been cheated on?

    • Seek counseling, like in-person or online, for emotional support
    • Reach out to others who have gone through the same thing (divorce support groups, online support groups, friends, etc.)
    • Decide whether or not you want to move forward with the relationship (if the other person is wanting to reconcile)- is this a one-time thing? Or has it been a pattern over your relationship together? Statistics show that if there have been continuing behaviors of cheating, it is unlikely to stop. Also, ask yourself, what is in MY best interest. Seek couples counseling if you do stay together!
    • If the other person does not want to reconcile, then it is time to move on. It will be difficult, painful, and will take time to heal the wounds. That is why I recommend reaching out for support from mental health professionals, close family, close friends, and keeping busy with your hobbies, social life, work, etc.

    So what happens if you are the one who has cheated?

    • Do you want to reconcile with your partner?
    • What led you to cheating in the first place?
    • Are you struggling with feelings of guilt and shame? Can your spouse forgive you, but you can't forgive yourself?
    • Have you had extra-marital relationships in the past?
    • Are you a serial cheater?
    • These are all questions to ask yourself- again, I recommend individual counseling/therapy to get to the root of your behavior AND couples counseling if you do intend to work it out with your significant other.

    It is also important to note that men often cheat because of sex and women often cheat because they are looking for an emotional connection. Does this fit with you and your situation? Regardless, this blog article does not even touch the tip of the iceberg with all the in's and out's of cheating behaviors and the why's and why not's. I do recommend reading "Committed" by Elizabeth Gilbert to get a perspective on relationships, divorce, marriage, etc. You can always reach out to a therapist/counselor as well- like at www.liveperson.com or through your insurance company, etc.

  • Anger Management: Signs, Symptoms, and Tips

    Ever get that feeling where you feel like you just can't hold your anger in and you might just burst? Ok...maybe some of you can say yes I've definitely felt this way, others of you may not be able to relate as closely. Either way, everyone gets angry. It's a normal human emotion that everyone experiences in some form or another. However, there are definitely healthy and unhealthy ways to manage your anger, and that's what this article is about. How do you know if you have an anger management problem? If you do, how do you work to take your unhealthy behaviors of anger management and make take them to healthier outlets? These questions and more will be answered below; But, before getting started ask yourself the following questions:

    1) Do you feel like you cannot control your anger at times?

    2) Do you ever take out your anger on loved ones when it isn't deserved? Whether verbally or physically?

    3) Do you feel guilty or ashamed after you have lashed out at someone when being angry?

    4) Have people told you you have an anger management problem?

    5) Does your anger seem to consume your normal life activities?

    *If you said yes to any of these questions, then it might be fair to say that you need assistance in gaining some anger management skills.

    This article is definitely not a quick fix for these issues. It is encouraged to take steps through talking with a counselor, seeing a psychiatrist, and looking into anger management group therapy to assist you in your journey through managing this emotion. However, there are ways to work on this daily with just a few of these tips:

    • Note when you physically START to feel angry: turning red, feeling hot, clenched fists, tightening of muscles, heart racing
    • Note when you mentally START to feel angry: racing thoughts, increasingly focused on the issue(s) that have triggered your anger, inability to control your emotions or physical body
    • Journal when you start this process- if you can see these signs and symptoms, you know it is time for a TIME-OUT
    • Usually anger comes from sadness, being upset, depression, feeling hurt- this may be your way of displaying those emotions; if this is so, you should look into yourself and your past and see what is really at the root of the problem
    • Is your anger warranted? It's ok to be angry about things! Just don't take it out on others, especially those who don't deserve it- or channel that anger into something positive (i.e. upset with something your child has done- it might be helpful to take a five minute break before you come back to the situation to sit down and talk to your son/daughter instead of instantly going into yelling mode)
    • Outlets for stress, anxiety, depression, and ANGER: exercise, relaxation exercises, playing music, drawing, painting, writing, meditating, talking it out with a spouse or friend (venting-but appropriately)

    These are just a few things you can start to do in order to begin the process of healing and managing your anger. Seek counseling for more extensive assistance in keeping your emotions under control. When you can check your anger, manage it healthily, it will really give you a new lease on life.

  • Could I have a sexual addiction?

    Many clients have been requesting assistance with what they feel is possibly a sexual addiction. Some individuals define it as the need to masturbate daily. Others feel it's the need to use pornography in their sexual experiences. And still others indicate a more severe need for masturbation, the necessity of pornography for any sexual satisfaction, or engaging in more bizarre and risky acts of sexual behaviors to fulfill their "needs."

    As I broach this taboo topic, I feel it is neccessary to tackle it at least briefly as there are many individuals out there seeking validation and assistance in what they feel is something that is problematic for them. In my counseling experience, sexual addiction would include anything that has started to interfere with your every day functioning- not leaving the house, negatively affecting your work/school, affecting your interpersonal relationships, etc. It is also something that may come into conflict with one's on belief set or faith. For this person, he/she feels that he/she cannot stop the need for this "sexual satisfaction," and feels guilty, ashamed, and overwhelmed.

    Do you or someone you know have a sexual addiction? How DO you know? I encourage you to ask these questions while considering this "diagnosis" of sorts:

    1) Are your actions negatively affecting your relationships with others?

    2) Are your actions interfering with your ability to be successful at work or school?

    3) Are you engaging in increasingly unsafe/more bizarre behaviors in order to meet your sexual needs?

    4) Do you feel shame, guilt, or worry about your behaviors?

    5) Has someone suggested that you might have a problem?

    If you have answered yes to any one of these questions, it might be time to seek counseling. If for no other reason, but to put your fears to rest as to what is healthy sexual behavior and what is not. There are many counselors and therapists that specialize in this area. Sessions are confidential- so a fear of discussing these issues could be laid to rest with just knowing that your personal information is kept from outside knowledge. Trying Live Person online counselors could be a start in the right direction if you are looking for immediate but anonymous help.

    With that, I would like to leave some resources for you to look into as you make your way through this journey of emotional and physical confusion:

    http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sexual-addiction/content/article/10168/55141

    http://www.medicinenet.com/sexual_addiction/article.htm

    http://www.sexualcontrol.com/index.php

    Remember: “This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.” ~Susan Polis Schutz

  • Suicide and You

    Suicide. This is a topic that can be quite taboo in the rather inconsistent, chaotic, and difficult world we live in today. As the topic has slowly gained more recognition, instead of talking about it behind closed doors "per se," it has become a realistic issue that children, adolescents and adults all face in some way or another.
    This could mean that you, yourself, may be having some suicidal ideation. It could mean you have tried to hurt yourself in the past. It could also mean you have a close family member or friend who has experienced suicidal thoughts, self-harm, or actually committed suicide. If you fall into any one of these categories, then I encourage you to read on.

    I recently attended a conference on "Counseling Suicidal Persons." It was interesting because suicide rates are higher among young females who are sexually active- meaning the more adolescent females that were sexually active had higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts. It was also noted in this particular conference that about 80% of elderly suicides are male. These pieces of information alone threw up red flags for me as a counselor as I realized that suicide can touch female, male, young, and old.

    If you have suicidal thoughts, it is important to reach out for help. Calling 911, going to the nearest emergency room, or calling 1-800-784-2433 will get you immediate assistance. If you feel that someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can do the same for him/her.

    A majority of people have contemplated ending their life in some way. It's about what people DO with those feelings that is of concern. If someone is describing being depressed and not wanting to "go on" but does not have a plan, this is probably a matter of the depression talking and seeing a psychiatrist and a talk therapist would be most helpful- unless there has been a history of suicide attempts (psychiatric care may be needed immediately). Other resources for people in any stage of the suicidal thought process can be found at the following links:

    www.mentalhealth.org/suicide/prevention

    www.surgeongeneral.gov/library

    www.survivorsofsuicide.com

    www.afsp.org

    Remember: Life IS worth living. It is a gift and a blessing. Even the hardest of times can be overcome. It's ok to reach out for help and hurting yourself should never be the answer. If a loved one you know is dealing with suicidal issues, seek out assistance as soon as possible. Counselors, like myself, can be found on www.liveperson.com to chat with live or met with in person by setting up an appointment.

  • Dissociative Identity Disorder

    What is Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)? Do you know someone who has it? Do you think you may have it?

    • DID used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)
    • According to the National Alliance of Mental Illiness (NAMI) it is described as a "dissociative disorder involving a disturbance of identity in which two or more separate and distinct personality states (or identities) control the individual's behavior at different times."
    • People who have it, may not know that they actually have it- instead they may be experiencing boughts of amnesia or memory loss, which prompts them to seek initial professional help.
    • Auditory and Visual hallucinations affect about a third of those diagnosed with DID according to NAMI.
    • DID can often be misdiagnosed as schizophrenia.
    • Some kind of trauma can often trigger DID- so that the person develops multiple "personalities" or "alters" that help them "cope" with the trauma.
    • There is debate whether DID is really an appropriate diagnosis among professionals.
    • It also is a primarily North American diagnosis.
    • There is a high co-morbidity rate with having DID along with Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia.
    • Two websites that are VERY helpful to look into what types of symptoms DID presents with as well as how it is treated:

    http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Dissociative_Identity_Disorder_(formerly_Multiple_Personality_Disorder).htm

    http://www.medicinenet.com/dissociative_identity_disorder/article.htm

    Remember: If you have someone in your life diagnosed with DID, or you have DID, there IS help out there. Try locating a therapist and psychiatrist in your area if you haven't already. You can also reach out to therapists like myself who are online on sites like LivePerson to get you started in the right direction.

  • Leadership and Counseling

    I wrote the following article/essay for Chi Sigma Iota which is the Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International that I have been blessed to be a member of since 2002. I won second place in their 2010 Essay Contest on Leadership: The Many Voices of CSI and wanted to share that article with you. It will also be published on their website at: www.csi-net.org.

    Leadership: Words from a Past Student, Present Counselor, and Future Entrepreneur

    It has been with great pleasure that I received the utmost in a counseling education that a university could provide by attending Bradley University in Peoria, IL. I was invited to become a member of Chi Sigma Iota in 2002. I was a very young 22 year old graduate student who was still finding her footing in the world of counseling and mental health. By becoming a member of the university’s chapter, I gained the knowledge and experience I carry to this day from fellow Chi Sigma Iota members and leaders.

    As I entered the working world in 2003 after my graduation at Bradley, I was challenged by the initial position I took as a counselor in chemical dependency and substance abuse. By utilizing my ties to Chi Sigma Iota, following their periodic newsletters, and gaining CEUs offered through the fraternity, I was able to become a highly successful counselor and leader from the start of my early twenties.

    Now I am entering a new phase in both my personal and professional careers. I am in the process of opening my own private practice. Without the assistance and resources that Chi Sigma Iota has provided me through the years, I would never have been able to say that I am actually starting my own business. With this new beginning, I want to pursue Dr. Herr’s and Chi Sigma Iota’s mission.  I want to continue to conduct and continually improve my professionalism, leadership, and excellence in the counseling field.  I plan to do this by engaging with the fraternity to promote scholarship and research among students, professors, and practitioners in the mental health community and counseling field. I also plan to take on more leadership roles both within the fraternity and outside with other counseling associations with which I am affiliated.

    The future lies ahead, and it looks very bright for both myself and my fellow Chi Sigma Iota members.  "I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow." – Julia Cameron

    By: Meghan L. Reitz, MA, LCPC, NCC

  • Tips & Tools in the Counseling Trade: Ideas to Promote Peace of Mind

    I thought that this week a focus on sharing tools of the trade would be helpful. Sometimes, I think as both a client and a therapist, you really want to reach solution-focused help. Talk therapy can be very therapeutic, cathartic, and releasing. However, when you walk away from a session- do you have homework to do between sessions? If not, then maybe ask yourself, why you don't.

    In order to engage in the therapy/counseling process, it takes work on the client's part to make changes and be held accountable for the goals that he/she has set out in seeking therapy/counseling in the first place. A good place is to start learning techniques that can ease stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness- basically giving a person a better state of mind.

    I am going to touch upon a few here. There are so many out there- and with the world of Google, many of you can find similar and additional ideas. But, for the sake of this article, I'd like to stick with some of the powerful ones that I utilize in my practice with individuals.

    1) Guided Imagery:

    Gently inhale and exhale until you feel yourself calming down from your activities. Now, gradually allow an image of yourself to emerge from within your mind. See yourself sitting in the middle of a Triangle–as a point in the middle …

    (You can put on quiet, transcendental music as you begin to imagine yourself).

    Feel the Triangle forming itself all around you … right where you are … Let your senses really create this sensation … Now, notice how you feel sitting in the midst of this great structure … how are you sitting, what you look like. Notice as much as you can … (long pause).

    Now, very slowly, allow this Triangle to become filled with a warm and gentle blue light … until you can feel yourself being enveloped in it … Bring this light into your solar plexus … and on up into your heart … (long pause).

    When your heart is full, imagine a point in the center of the sun … way out there in space where the heart of God resides … Gradually now, allow yourself to merge with this heart in the center of the sun … (long pause). Feel your mind … your heart … your body becoming filled with the energy of the sun … (long pause).

    Now, sit for awhile in calm reflection … in the center of the sun … and just let this experience fill you to the very core of your being. Breathe it in with long, slow breaths … (long pause).

    Very slowly, now, feel yourself returning here … and coming back into your body. Feel your feet, your arms, your face. You may want to move around a little to bring your consciousness fully back … Take some time to feel yourself being totally present in your ordinary reality.

    ~This was taken from: HEALING THE EMOTIONS by Jacquelyn Small, Eupsychia Institute

    2) Positive Affirmations:

    By using the power of affirmations you state what you want to be true in your life. You see reality, as you want it to be. For a while, you ignore your current circumstances and your doubts, and concentrate on a different reality.

    - I am healthy and happy.
    - Wealth is pouring into my life.
    - I am flowing on the river of wealth.
    - I am getting wealthier each day.
    - My body is healthy and functioning in a very good way.
    - I have a lot of energy.
    - I study and comprehend fast.
    - I am getting A's in my exams.
    - My mind is calm.
    - I am calm and relaxed in every situation.
    - My thoughts are under my control.
    - I radiate love and happiness.
    - I am surrounded by love.
    - I have the perfect job for me.
    - I am living in the house of my dreams.
    - I have good and loving relations with my wife/husband.
    - I have a wonderful satisfying job.
    - I have the means to travel abroad whenever I want to.
    - I am successful in whatever I do.
    - Everything is getting better every day.

    ~ Copyright 2001-2005 Remez Sasson, SuccessConsciousness.com

    3) How to do the Grounding Technique:

    1. Bend your knees slightly and place your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind your top teeth. Focus on your feet and imagine them sinking down into the ground that supports them.
    2. Place the fingertips of one hand beneath your lower lip and the heel of the other hand on your navel with the fingertips pointing down towards the ground (see arrow on diagram).
    3. Hold your hands on the points for about 30 seconds, or 4 - 6 complete breaths. Then switch hands and repeat.
    Breathing slowly and deeply encourages relaxation and further enhances the benefits of using this technique.

    How it Works:
    When you hold your hands in these positions they are contacting key points on the central vessel of the energy system. By simultaneously stimulating the beginning and end points of this meridian the brain is stimulated and mental fatigue is relieved.
    This simple exercise is useful during breaks from repetitive tasks, when working in front of a computer, or after long spells of driving.

    The Grounding Technique helps with:
    - General co-ordination
    - Organizational & sorting skills
    - Reading without disorientation (smoother tracking along lines of text)
    - Promoting grounding
    - Mental alertness
    - Improved posture (discourages slouching)
    - Relaxes the eyes

    ~From livingbydesignonline.com

    4) Anger Management Techniques:

    Anger is a very strong emotion. Uncontrolled anger is a life-long pattern. It is not easy to overcome anger; it requires determined commitment. It requires honesty, courage, and tremendous inner strength. It also requires help from others. To overcome anger, these steps are important:

    • Consciously determine to be calm. Don't react, think! Remember your goals and respond appropriately. Choose to remain calm!
    • Communicate. When someone upsets you, tell them. Calmly talk to them about how you feel about their words or actions. Learn to express yourself better -- clear and composed. Choose to!
    • Remove yourself from the scene until you can respond without anger.Your success will not happen overnight. Take it one step at a time, one day at a time. Remember to relax. Relaxation exercises or music can be helpful. Keep in mind you can reach out to someone you trust for help. Choose to!
    • Frequently take time for yourself. Do something you enjoy like walking in the park, swimming, reading the Bible, or seeing a feel-good movie. Do something nice for someone you admire. It's okay to feel good about yourself. Choose to!
    • Look for the positives. Don't dwell on the negatives. "Don't sweat the small stuff." Learn to be forgiving. This is difficult, but we need to start by learning to forgive ourselves!

    ~ From allaboutlifechallenges.org

  • Realistic Thinking: Distorted Cognitions

    Through my years of counseling practice, I have noticed that a major mental health issue has been what's called "cognitive distortions." These are thoughts that include all or nothing thinking, catastrophizing, focusing on what you should have done in the past, etc. They are not realistic ways to think of yourself or situations. These distortions can be very common with depression, anxiety, stress, OCD, and a mulititude of other mental health diagnoses. Particularly in a world where the pressure is on to be bigger, better, and faster, it makes sense that feeling this way has increased through time.

    I you feel you are experiencing unrealistic thinking, and it is interfering with your life, it would probably be helpful to take a look at this link which details out the different types of "cognitive distortions." See if any fit for you:

    http://cognitivetherapymd.com/Links/Distortions.htm

    If you fit into any of the categories at that website, it may be helpful for you to seek assistance in gaining control by seeing a counselor, therapist, or a life coach. There are also techiniques and workbooks to utilize in managing it on your own.  I would recommend the following:

    1) Recognizing a cognitive distortion, writing it down. Ask yourself, is this a realistic thought? If not, change it into a statement that IS realistic. (i.e. "I always mess up- could be changed to "I messed up, but I have learned from my mistakes in the past.")

    2) Positive Self-Talk- I have probably harped on this topic a number of times in my previous blog articles. I can't stress enough how important it is to be kind to yourself.

    3) Check out this book: How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by John C. Maxwell

    4) Journal!!! Track when you're most having these cognitive distortions- it will help you see if there are particular situations, times of day/weeks/months that it's happening, a certain person triggering it, etc.

    Remember, change can be scary and difficult, but it is necessary to live your life to its fullest potential- especially if you are having a difficult time seeing things clearly.

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and You

    http://www.ptsd.va.gov/http://www.ptsd.va.gov/http://www.ptsd.va.gov/http://www.ptsd.va.gov/PTSD. This term is thrown around quite a bit in both the world of psychology and with veterans of war. What is it? And who does it affect?

    PTSD means Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  According to the DSM-IV, PTSD is: The development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one's physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate.

    That's a pretty long definition- and it keeps going from there!! So what does this mean to you? Most often we hear of PTSD as something that veterans of wars go through due to the traumatic experiences they have during combat. It's normal to have such symptoms as flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, depression, decreased motivation, suicidal/homicidal ideation, etc. It can manifest itself in many different forms, but either way, it is something that needs to be addressed as early on as possible as it can cause increasingly problematic issues in one's functioning in everyday life.

    So, does PTSD affect civilians too? Of course. Anyone who has been through a traumatic event such as sexual assault or abuse, mental or emotional abuse, verbal abuse, witnessing a traumatic event, etc. could experience any level of PTSD depending on what the person has witnessed or been through and his/her predisposition to stress and depression. Many people turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate and cope with the feelings they are having. The problem with that is, is that is never really addresses the underlying problem and the PTSD symptoms can actually become worse if masked by certain vices.

    PTSD can be managed and worked through with the proper treatment. Many individuals turn to talk therapy in conjunction with possible anti-depressant medications. There are also support groups for survivors of certain traumatic events that can help people cope more efficiently with the feelings and thoughts associated with the traumatic event(s). How might you be able to tell that you have PTSD? And what resources are there for treating it?

    A good resource is the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

    http://www.ptsd.va.gov

    http://helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm

    A great checklist to see if you might actually be experiencing PTSD can be found here:

     http://www.tgorski.com/Terrorism/ptsd_checklist_civilian_version.htm

    To start the process of healing, I would recommend using this workbook in conjunction with talk therapy and seeing a psychiatrist: The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery, and Growth by Glenn R. Schiraldi

  • Is it ADD, ADHD, or Something Else?

    One of the most mis-diagnosed mental health issues is ADD/ADHD. Often times, as a child, individuals will present with symptoms that may mimic ADD/ADHD when they might really be experiencing bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, or stress. If you or someone you know is trying to figure out if he/she indeed does have ADD/ADHD, there are some things that should be thought of from the start:

    • Did you take medications or receive assistance in school or counseling when you were younger? 
    • Are you having trouble focusing?
    • Difficulty keeping your attention span?
    • Feeling a little manic even?
    • Having trouble finishing tasks?

    I suggest seeing your regular MD first for a full physical. Then, seek a psychiatrist for help with getting on medication if you aren't already on some. You can bring with you the results of a quiz on whether or not you may have ADD/ADHD with you. There are many sites out there that you can find free quizzes on- i.e. http://psychcentral.com/addquiz.htm.  He/she can then determine if what you're dealing with is indeed ADD/ADHD, or something else.

    Psychotherapy, as well as possible medications, could be the answer you're looking for in dealing with whatever it is you may be diagnosed with. With talk therapy, you can begin to build the tools to manage symptoms of interrupted concentration, inability to focus, stress, and anxiety. This, in conjunction with possible medication management, may be the relief you are seeking- whatever the diagnosis in the end may be. I also recommend reading this book as well as one travels on this journey:

    You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder by Kate Kelly, Peggy Ramundo, and Edward M., M.D. Hallowell

  • Mid-Life Crisis: Not just a Male's Issue

    What is it about reaching your forties and fifties that causes some individuals to revert back to the action of their twenties? There are many theories on this. Most of them surround the typical mid-life crisi a man has where he buys a sports car or a motorcycle. Maybe he'll start dressing more up to date or looking for a younger woman. But what about the female that hits her forties and fifities? Is it possible for women to have a mid-life crisis too?

    The answer is simple: Yes. Everyone starts to evaluate their life's accomplishments around this stage in life. You've usually gone through marriage, having kids, working for a period of time, etc. You start to think about the end of your life- have you accomplished all the things you've wanted?  Is there where I thought I'd be at this age? What does my future hold? And there only so many years left, I'm going to get out there and do the things that I should have done when I was younger.

    In my experience working with both males and females, I've been told that it feels almost like a switch has been turned on and they can't make sense of it. It may be confused with mania, depression, anxiety, stress, etc. It can also come hand in hand with those emotional issues. It doesn't mean that you are crazy though.

    Some sites that I would particularly recommend both males and females to check out are listed below. They help to define what is or isn't "normal" in a mid-life crisis state of mind. They also talk about the differences in what manic behavior might be like as opposed to mid-life crisis thoughts/feelings/actions.

    http://www.more.com/2035/2640-midlife-crisis--how-women-cope\ 

    http://cme.medscape.com/viewarticle/487928 

    http://counsellingresource.com/distress/mood-disorders/manic-symptoms.html

    If you feel you can't seem to get a hold of what's going on with you, seek help from your friends, family, and your doctor. It may be helpful to also work these issues out with a therapist/counselor, especially if you feel what's going on is affecting your family and friends (and living your life in general).

  • Self-Esteem: A Look Inside and Out

    Ever feel less than perfect? Or that you just aren't measuring up? This is a common issue amongst people all over the world. It's a stressful environment out there. The pressure to look and be a certain way is forever rising. The bar is set just a little bit higher for each generation to come. Is there a way to actually love yourself for you are? The answer is definitely yes.

    Body image is not just an issue females face, males also struggle with how they look. It's doubley difficult if others have mistreated you or not been there for you as you've experienced your weight/body image/self-esteem issues. Do you see a psychiatrist or a therapist/counselor? If not, I would definitely recommend it. It can be really helpful to get out whatever you're feeling, particularly to someone who isn't in your world and can be objective. There are places that do sliding scales for fees and free clinics if money is an issue. I'd be happy to help you get referrals in that regard.

    As for what you can do for yourself, I'd definitely recommend checking www.whatswithme.com. There are articles/blogs I've posted on here about depression, anxiety, stress, anger, etc. I also have my website linked to my Twitter account. It sounds cheesy, but I post daily positive affirmations on there. It's really important to try to focus on the positives about you (because you are not just made up of your outward appearance, it's also what is inside).

    I would suggest reading:

    http://www.loveyourbody.org/

     
     

    The Body Myth: Adult Women and the Pressure to be Perfect by Margo Maine

    The Good Body by Eve Ensler

    I hope some of these resources are helpful. Remember that you can always turn to depression, body image chat boards or forums. You can also contact me online now and either chat live or drop me an email. Hang in there- You ARE smart enough, good enough, and gosh darnit, people like you!

  • Mood Management: Anger

    Anger management is a common subject that people look for help with. It can stem from years of abuse.....or seemingly come out of nowhere, for no good reason. Either way, anger, hostility, and aggression are on the rise in our culture. This may be due to the more graphic nature of video games, television programs, movies, etc. that children at ever younger ages are being exposed to. It could also be attributed to individuals never learning how to deal with their emotions (like fear, sadness, confusion).

    "Anger" can come in many different forms as well. For instance, I was driving in downtown Chicago traffic where a cab was stopped, blocking multiple lanes of traffic. After awhile, I honked. The cabbie jumped out of his car and run up to my driver's side window. He was yelling and screaming at me- in a language I didn't understand. I opend my window a crack- enough to say, please go back to your car or I'll call the police. Only when another cabbie pulled up beside me, asking what the problem was, did the guy get back in his car and pull away. It definitely was frightening and could have been much worse. What if he had had a gun?

    So, as you can see anger can come in forms of emotional, verbal, psychological, and physical abuse. Even road rage! It's something that everyone experiences. Anger is a normal emotion. It's when it gets out of control that it becomes a problem. There are negative and positive ways to handle situations, and people with anger management issues tend to be dealing with issues with negative ways. To get a handle on whether or not you may have an anger management problem, see what other people are saying about your behavior. Also, do you feel a loss of control when something negative happens to you? There are plenty of quizzes and such all over google if you'd like to see if you're anger is dealt with normally, or if you may be needing to institute some anger management skills. There are also tons of self-help books out there (search Google or Amazon) and websites/blogs.

    One technique that proves to be particularly helpful when you are feeling your anger thermometer rising is progressive muscle relaxation. I also recommend some of the methods of de-stressing from my previous blogs as well. However, for now, we'll focus on this one tool.

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

    You systematically and intentionally tense muscle groups and then completely relax them, moving throughout your entire body using the process. You can start from your hands, your feet, or from your head.

    Example: If you decide to start with your head.....you'll want to find a place where you can comfortably sit. Relax your whole body. Then, focus on your forehead and eyes- scrunching them tightly for at least 5 seconds, then completely relax that are for another 5 seconds. Move to the rest of your face- tightening your mouth, cheek muscles, etc. Move to your neck- pull your shoulders up and feel the tightness in that area of your body, and so forth. After this exercise, your body should feel more physically relaxed, your focus should be less on what was making you so angry in the first place, and you should feel more calm emotional/psychologically.

     

  • Who's Fault is It? Relationships: Couples, Friends, & Families

    Being in a relationship takes effort, respect, and empathy. This is integral within friendships, family relationships, and romantic relationships. We often want to place blame on someone for troubles or issues that arise. No one is perfect; even the best of friends will have disagreements. It's about how you handle yourself in these situations that will determine the outcome.

    Things to Remember:

    1) You can only control yourself, not others.

    2) Think about what triggers arguments- is there a common thing like money, trust, responsibility that is in question? Does it seem to always be the start of a disagreement? Or just sometimes?

    3) Take an in-depth look on how YOU argue- are you respectful? Do you jump to conclusions? Are you verbally abusive? Do you shut-down?

    4) Ask yourself, what would I like to change in my relationship to make me happier? Then, talk to your partner about it. This doesn't mean that the other person will agree- respect their opinion. Focus on doing what's best for you.

    5) Trouble communicating? It's ok. We're never all on the same page. In essence, if you feel you and your partner are not communicating effectively, it's time to learn new ways of communicating if you want to salvage the relationship. This can be done through individual, couples, and family counseling. Individuals can also benefit from seeing a Personal or Life Coach. There are many resources out there in self-help books, websites, and blogs. Not sure where to start? Ask yourself what medium you best learn in- visual, talking it out, listening, etc.

    Try not to place blame on others for what you are feeling. If you are unhappy with where you are at, try to improve yourself. Set boundaries, be thoughtful in your approach towards people, and take care of you.

  • Why am I Depressed?

    Depression. A word that you probably hear a lot of- especially on TV commercials about anti-depressant medications. With all the information that's out there- it's hard to know if you are suffering from clinical depression or just having a normal bought of the blues. Regardless, no one wants to feel sad or depressed. The bigger questions become- Why am I depressed? And how do I get better?

    Ask yourself why you might be feeling this way? Are there things going on in your life that are affecting you? Has there been any past trauma that seems to be rearing its ugly head now? It the weather making you feel blah? There are many factors that can cause depression. Sometimes, you might not even be able to pinpoint "why" you're feeling this way. There have been many studies that have found that depression can run in families. So there is a biological link as well.

    The most important issue regarding depression is getting help. You don't have to live this way. Luckily, in this day and age, there are many treatments for this very common affliction. Here are a few things you can do to improve your mood and get out of the depression you're feeling:

    • Keep a journal. Maybe there are certain times of day, week, or month that you are feeling this way. This may help you to identify what's causing the dip in your mood. It also is a very healthy outlet to get those feelings off your chest.
    • Don't be afraid to share this with your doctor. He/she may prescribe an anti-depressant, refer you to a psychiatrist, or suggest seeing a therapist. No one person is the same- what works for one may be different for you. So it's important to explore your options and see what helps you.
    • Talk about it. Confide in a friend or close family member. Don't keep it bottled in. It will continue to get worse. Seeking a therapist or counselor to speak to can be very helpful since it is their job to be an objective person to help you work through your depression.
    • Make change. Are you spending time with people that are not reciprocal of your friendship? Are you using alcohol and/or drugs to "self-medicate" your depression? If you keep doing things the same, nothing will change. Assess your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Is there even one thing you could change that could result in a more positive outcome for you? Taking that first step, as small as it might be, can be the catalyst to stop the cycle of depression you are experiencing.

    These are just a few tips to keep in mind as you are seeking help to manage your depression. If you're feeling like hurting yourself or someone else- it's time to seek immediate help. Call 911 or get yourself to the nearest emergency room. Safety is a priority. Life is worth living. Utilize the resources around you. If you've read this, you already are!

  • How To Deal With Anxiety

    Ever experience times where you feel like your heart is going to jump out of your chest or having trouble breathing, and not sure why? Maybe you are experiencing anxiety. Of course it doesn’t have to be as severe as the symptoms I just mentioned or it can feel even worse than that. Anxiety is usually produced by stressors in your life.

    Normal stressors would be taking a big exam, doing a speech or presentation, or having a job interview. However, how you handle anxiety makes all the difference in your success in managing every day life. Some people experience what are called panic attacks- even without prominent provocation. Panic attacks can be managed and so can anxiety and stress.

    If you or someone you know suffers from panic attacks or anxiety in general, the following tools may help to subside the effects and even make them eventually “go away.”

    • Journal- When you have a panic attack or feel an anxiety “attack” coming on, write what you are feeling and thinking: physically, emotionally, and mentally. When it’s passed or even if the moment if possible, try to think WHAT the triggers were leading up to you feeling this way.
    • Look through your journal- note if there are certain times of day that you happen to have more anxiety than others, or if there are certain events that make you especially susceptible to anxiety. Identifying triggers is your first line of defense.
    • Sometimes triggers can be eliminated, but often they are things you will have to deal with- so you cannot avoid them (i.e. your parent “stressing you out,” dealing with a difficult boss or colleague at work, taking tests, etc.). This is when you should institute some of the techniques I mentioned in my “article” about stress. Deep breathing, counting, grounding, and imagery are all very helpful.
    • The quicker you can identify that you’re having an attack or about to, the quicker you can utilize your tools to calm yourself. Often times, positive self talk can really be helpful. If you’re feeling self-doubt, keep telling yourself positive good things, try to push out the negatives.
    • Talk to your doctor or therapist about anxiety. There are medicines out there that can help with the symptoms of anxiety. Also, talking through these feelings and thoughts that you are having can be a sounding board for you to obtain advice and suggestions on how to further help yourself.

    These are only a few tips on anxiety. Please check back often as I update these articles at least weekly. You can also check out my twitter account where I put daily affirmations, positive thoughts, and helpful tips.

  • Stress: How Do I Manage It?

    Stress is a common and often consistent part of our every day lives. Unfortunately, it's not something we can completely cut out of the human routine. Especially during these difficult economic times, stress seems to have reached a fevered pitch. However, this does not mean that people can't learn, access, and utilize tools to manage it.

    Although we can't eliminate family, relationship, school, and work stress, here are just a few ways you can lessen stress:

    • Ground yourself- take a 5 minute break to focus on your 5 senses. Be aware of sights, sounds, touch, taste, and smells.
    • Counting- Count back from 100 or whatever number you are comfortable with- steady your breathing with your countdown picturing the number in your head while saying out loud (or internally).
    • Breathing Exercises- Place your hands on your abdomen. Breathe in and breathe out slowly, letting your belly relax- while it moves outward and inward.
    • Imagery- Place yourself in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Choose a place (pretend or real) that makes you feel calm (i.e. lying in a hammock on the beach at sunset works for me!). Focus on that image. Take note of the atmosphere around you, notice the smells, notice the noises around you, etc. Sometimes imagery works well if you can also put on some calming soft music.
    • Make realistic daily goals for yourself. A list of "things to do" longer than seven items will probably cause you stress. Do what you are ABLE. Do not set yourself up for failure before you've even begun to tackle your day.

    These are just a few ways to take breaks from stress and calm yourself. I will be posting more blogs detailing more specific tools to use in de-stressing your life. For now, remember, you are a good and worthy person who has much to offer the world.

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