5 Tips for Making Friends in Midlife

For many people, middle age is the catalyst to take stock of life. The kids have flown the coop and there’s more time to reconsider your likes, dislikes, goal, and dreams.

Middle age is also the time we tend to look around at our social circles. Are our friendships still there? Have we lost friends due to illness, a move, or divorce? Do we want something different out of our friendships? As we age, we tend to have less tolerance or energy for fluff friendships. We want substance and real, genuine connections.

But making friends when you’re older is not always that easy. It was simple in school or during those early days in our first job – you saw the same people every single day. You were surrounded by friend candidates. But once you hit middle age, it becomes more difficult to meet new people.

The good news is, while challenging, it’s very possible to make new and lasting friendships. Here are some tips to help you make new friends in midlife:

1. Don’t Feel Embarrassed
There is no reason to feel embarrassed about being lonely or friendless. It is far more common than we are led to believe from the media. So, don’t feel bad, and get ready to put yourself out there.

2. Volunteer
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share your values. As an added bonus, studies have shown that people who volunteer are healthier and live longer!

3. Take a Class
Do you have a passion for dance? Painting? Photography? Taking a class is a great way to learn more about something you already love, be engaged, keep your brain young, and meet people with similar interests and hobbies.

4. Reach Out to Acquaintances
How many times have you run into someone you “sort of know” at a work function or at your local Starbucks. Every time you have a conversation with this person you think, “Gee, I wish we were friends.”

The next time you see this person, ask if they’d like to have lunch. Get their contact information and follow up. You never know, it could be the start of something worthwhile.

5. Get into the Habit of Being Social
By midlife we’ve gotten into some pretty significant habits. Some good…some not so good. If you’ve never been a social butterfly – but instead someone who is used to staying home with the kids or simply staying in because it’s easier – putting yourself out there will probably feel weird. However, it’s important to try to be social daily. This could mean simply taking a walk around your city or neighborhood and saying hello to friendly faces or calling up an acquaintance for a chat.

Good relationships are important for our overall health and the quality of our lives. While it may seem intimidating to build new friendships in midlife, these can actually be some of the most lasting and profound connections we end up making.

 

Do you believe you lack social connections because of fear, grief, or a low self-esteem? If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to talk about how I may help.

5 Ways to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem has become an epidemic in this country, and one that negatively impacts our quality of life. Feelings of unworthiness can begin at a young age and, if neglected, can potentially lead to depression and anxiety.

Because low self-esteem can be so damaging, finding ways to feel better about ourselves and our abilities is vital to our well-being. Here are 5 ways to increase your self-esteem:

  1. Quiet That Inner Critic

Negative self-talk is a common issue for people with low self-esteem. If you’re one of those people whose inner critic is constantly beating them up, it’s important you quiet that voice. Try to replace any negative comments with positive ones. Stop focusing on your weaknesses and instead focus on your strengths and abilities.

  1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

We are all so unique. Sadly, instead of celebrating what makes us individuals, many of us spend time comparing ourselves to others. And, should we find we don’t quite measure up to others’ standards, we feel inadequate. Stop comparing yourself to others and instead concentrate on being the best version of you that you can be.

  1. Give Up the Quest to be Perfect

Being human means being imperfect. We all have flaws, we are all works in progress. And that’s okay. Striving to be something that simply doesn’t exist is futile and exhausting. And before you say that so many celebrities are perfectly beautiful and lead perfect lives, guess again. Hollywood’s A-listers are typically photoshopped and many have been treated for depression and addiction. They are human and struggling like anyone else.

Stop trying to be perfect and instead set attainable goals for yourself.

  1. Start Loving Your Body

Many people struggle with body image issues. Much of it is because of the photoshopping I just mentioned. It’s hard to love your body when you are expected to look like the people that grace the covers of magazines.

Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, on how much you weigh or how big your muscles are, focus on being healthy. Be grateful for your health and make healthy choices so you can always feel good and vibrant.

  1. Cut Back on Social Media

Social media has its good points, but it can also set unrealistic expectations regarding relationships and lifestyles. It’s important to remember that online, people tend to only post images that make their lives seem awesome. But that’s not always an accurate presentation. Spending too much time looking at other people leading fun lives can lead us to spending less time enjoying our own.

If self-esteem issues have become a serious problem in your life, leading to anxiety and depression, consider working with a therapist who can help you work through your memories and emotions.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Ways to Learn to Like Yourself Better

Quick question: Do you like yourself?

When asked this question, most people respond by saying something like, “Of course I like myself.” While their words say they like themselves, what do their actions say?

Are you someone who’s comfortable in their own skin? Are you happy with your appearance, or are you constantly comparing yourself to others, wishing you could be more like them? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? A superstar, or someone who doesn’t quite live up to your own expectations?

The thing is, our self-esteem is based on how we feel about ourselves, right now in this moment. Sure, it’s okay to strive to become a better version of ourselves, so long as we accept this current version, flaws and all.

If you’re someone who is overly self-critical, here are 5 ways you can learn to like yourself better:

1. Enjoy Your Accomplishments

Some people are so focused on everything that’s wrong with them, they never take a look at what’s right. When you’ve done something well, it’s important that you admit this success and enjoy it.

It doesn’t have to be something huge, either. It could be that you made a really delicious lasagna. Allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying every single bite, and happily receive any compliments from those you cooked for.

2. Understand That No One is Perfect

If you’ve been comparing yourself to other people, it’s time for you to stop and realize that no one is perfect. Not the models you see on the cover of magazines, nor the actors in the movies. They have professional makeup artists and are lit perfectly Heck, most of them have been photoshopped.

Not even the so-called perfect among us are actually perfect. The sooner you can accept this fact the sooner you can relax and like who you are.

3. Have Patience with Yourself

Perhaps there are things about yourself that you would like to change. Do you want to lose weight, get healthier, learn a new language?

Often we hate ourselves for not reaching impossible goals we have set for ourselves. If there are goals you would like to reach, be realistic in setting timelines and be patient with yourself.

4. Look at Your Past with a Kind Eye

Sometimes we don’t like ourselves because of past actions and behaviors. It’s important to give yourself some slack. When you were young, you may not have always acted kindly toward loved ones or strangers. Maybe you acted selfishly more often than you care to admit. But this is a part of being young.

The best thing to do is embrace your past, warts and all, and see what you can learn from your actions and behaviors.

5. Like “Most” of Yourself

You may never like 100% of yourself, and that’s okay. Strive to like 80% or 90%. You can still live an incredibly happy life when you think ‘only’ 85% of you is awesome.

A healthy self-esteem is important to our overall well-being, but getting there can be difficult, especially if you’ve suffered from a low self-esteem your entire life. Working with a therapist can be very beneficial. Someone who is impartial and completely new to you can help you gain clarity and a new perspective on yourself and your life.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

How Blood Sugar Affects Your Mood

Have you ever found yourself feeling hangry? “Hangry,” a mash-up of the words “hungry” and “angry,” is used to describe people who become short and irritable due to hunger. But what does it really mean to be “hangry”? Why do some people get angry when they reach a certain level of hunger?

While high blood sugar could be a sign that your body is not creating enough insulin to manage your food intake, low blood sugar is a sign that your body is not receiving enough glucose to function properly. The most common cause of low blood sugar in a physically healthy person is straightforward – you need to eat.

Low blood sugar can cause mood changes, making you feel depressed, anxious or irritable. For people with mood disorders or other issues controlling their mood, low blood sugar can exacerbate these issues. High blood sugar is typically an issue affecting diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar, can cause a person to feel aggressive or angry. To keep your mood stable, controlling spikes in blood sugar is key.

To maintain a stable blood sugar, many nutritionists recommend frequent small meals and snacks, ensuring the body receives nutrients every 3 to 4 hours. Extremely low-fat diets are notorious for causing mood swings, as fat is needed for energy, to support cell growth, to help you absorb nutrients and produce important hormones.

For maximum energy and satiety, many nutritionists recommend that every snack and meal contains a fat, a carb and a protein. For example, a spinach omelet with a slice of whole wheat toast for breakfast, or a snack with yogurt, fruit and nuts. Limiting coffee, regular exercise and plenty of sleep and hydration are also important factors for stabilizing your mood.

If you’re worried that your blood sugar is consistently too high or too low, make an appointment with your primary care physician to rule out other health issues.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and need the help of a licensed professional, call my office at your earliest convenience and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

Do I Have PTSD? Recognizing the Signs

As shocking instances of mass shootings continue to occur all over the United States, we often hear people talk about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Frequently associated with post-war veterans and victims of mass violence, PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who’ve experienced or witnessed a traumatic or life-threatening event.

However, there are many other instances of trauma that can cause someone to develop PTSD besides combat or witnessing a terrorist attack. Anyone of any age that has experienced a violent or sexual assault, a natural disaster, a car accident or any other shocking or dangerous event is at risk of developing PTSD. If you’re concerned you or a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, here are some signs to look out for.

Reliving the Event

Someone with PTSD will have involuntary re-experiences of the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, triggers, and unwanted thoughts or memories. Sounds or smells may take them back to the traumatic experience, or they may develop physical ailments when they’re reminded of or remember the event.

Symptoms of Arousal and Reactivity

PTSD sufferers will frequently feel on edge, unsafe or be easily startled. They may be prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. It’s also common for victims of PTSD to have trouble sleeping or concentrating, and they may develop changes in their eating habits by either eating too much or too little.

Avoidance Behavior

An individual suffering from PTSD may begin to avoid the area where they experienced the event, or areas that remind them of what happened. They may also avoid people, events or objects that bring negative memories forward. It’s also common for people with PTSD to avoid talking about the situation, or avoiding feelings related to the event.

Negative Thoughts and Feelings

Feelings of shame, self-blame, and exaggerated negative beliefs are common in people with PTSD. They may lose interest in things they once enjoyed, and isolate themselves from friends and loved ones. It’s also not uncommon for people with PTSD to entirely lose trust in people, or to believe that the world is a dangerous place.

 

After experiencing a traumatic event, it’s natural for someone to have any of the symptoms listed above. However, for people suffering from PTSD, the symptoms persist for weeks, months, or even longer and begin to affect their ability to function.

If you’re worried you might be suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and need the help of a licensed professional, please call my office today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

People with mental and physical disabilities have been using service animals and emotional support animals for decades. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), under Titles II and III, a service animal “is any dog specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.”

But it’s not just trained service animals that can help us cope with life’s challenges, all pets seem to have the ability to calm us, center us, and just make us feel all around better about being on the planet.

Indeed, there are many mental health benefits of having a pet, and here are some of them:

Petting Reduces Stress

Your dog or cat may love when you pet them, but it turns out it’s equally beneficial to you as well! Rhythmic petting has been shown to release oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief. Once this is released your blood pressure and cortisol levels will decrease and you’ll feel much better.

You Don’t Feel Alone

The only thing worse than actually being alone, is feeling alone when we’re around other people. So often we can be with friends and loved ones, yet feel totally disconnected.

But when we spend time with our pets, we feel like we’re with true companions. They make us feel happy, safe and secure. Perhaps it’s because they don’t judge us and love us unconditionally that allows us to connect in a way that is often not possible with other human beings.

Pets Help Us Be More at Peace

It’s hard for most people to be completely in the moment. We’re either regretting the past or worrying about the future. But when we engage with our pets, it helps us take our minds off of any negative stressors and focus them on the adorable fluffball in front of us.

They Help Your Body Release Feel Good Chemicals

When your dog rolls around on his back or your cat rubs her head under your chin, you can’t help but smile. And when you smile, your body releases serotonin and dopamine, which are nerve transmitters associated with calmness and happiness.

Don’t have a pet of your own at home? You can still gain these benefits by volunteering at a shelter. There are many animals out there alone who would love your companionship, and you’ll feel great in the process.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring mental health treatment, please contact me today. While I’m not fluffy and don’t have a tail, I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help you.

How Emotions Enter Our Dreams and Impact Our Health

Society seems to condition us to always appear calm and in full control of how we feel, no matter the circumstances. Suppressing emotions may seem like a great way to prove that you’re strong and not a weak crybaby but hiding how you really feel can have serious health consequences such as mental fatigue, elevated blood pressure, and sleeping problems.

Common signs that you suppress your emotions as a coping strategy include:

– Using substances like drugs or alcohol to numb the pain and escape from your thoughts.
– Consciously not talking about how you feel.
– Avoiding situations that remind you of your emotions or force you to confront them.
– Distracting yourself as a way to prevent yourself from reacting.

One of the major ways that ‘shutting down’ negative feelings, affects you is by affecting your dreams. The brain naturally tries to work out emotions, but it needs your help to do so. When you refuse to acknowledge these negative emotions, the brain is forced to process them alone. While you sleep, memories are processed and stored. When you refuse to confront your negative emotions while you’re awake, the brain works on combating the negative emotion without you while you sleep at night. This causes these emotions to surface in your unconscious dreaming state.

Research by Malinowski (2017) has confirmed the importance of ‘dream rebound’. When we suppress our emotions, they show up in our dreams. Participants who suppressed negative thoughts had more negative emotions manifesting in their dreams in forms of sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety. Participants who suppressed their negative emotions also had sleep problems and experienced poor sleep quality, difficulty falling asleep, use of sleep medication, restless sleep, and tiredness during the day. They also recorded higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

In essence, researchers discovered that there is a greater tendency for negative emotions experienced during waking hours to manifest within dreams. Especially sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety. Positive emotions did not significantly manifest in dreams. Also, suppression of feelings is associated with poorer sleep quality and correlates with anxiety, depression, and stress.

How To Work Through Your Emotions In A Healthy Manner

Here are a few tips to help you process negative emotions in a healthy way, rather than by suppressing them:

– Journal: Free form journaling can help you purge yourself of the negative emotions that you feel. Writing down your negative feelings and noting possible solutions before going to bed can be cathartic and improves your sleep quality significantly.
– Talk about your dreams: It is incredibly helpful to analyze your dreams with the help of a therapist. Unpacking what happens in these dreams with your therapist can help you identify the particular emotions you’re suppressing and how to manage them in a healthy manner.
– Practice mindfulness: Be mindful of your thoughts. Note them, and then let them go, rather than suppressing them. Meditation can help you feel calmer too.

I help people manage their emotions in the best way possible and unleash their full potential to live and love well. If you need help with managing your negative emotions properly, please contact me to book a session.

Grief & Relationships: How Your Relationships Might Change When Facing Grief

Experiencing the death of a loved one is often the biggest challenge a person faces. Grieving can feel overwhelming and consume every facet of your life. It is during this time that you need the comfort of others the most, and yet social connections often feel strained as your relationships and social network seem to be flipped upside-down.

Here are four ways relationships can shift when you are trying to navigate the loss of a loved one:

  1. 1. Your Support System May Surprise You

You may be surprised who steps up in your greatest hour of need. Some of your closest loved ones, those who have been by your side through dating and childbirth and other life dilemmas, may not be able to be there for you during your bereavement. It is often people you’d least expect who show up to hold your hand while you grieve. An old friend you’ve lost touch with, a co-worker you’ve hardly spoken to but who understands the complexities of living with death… these are sometimes the people who help the hurt go away.

  1. 2. You Will Feel Angry – And That’s Okay

You will try and understand why your closest friends and relatives seem to have abandoned you during one of the most painful times in your life. But understanding won’t make the pain of it go away.

Yes, it’s important to realize that not everyone can cope with death and loss, including the people closest to you. It’s also important to recognize that feeling this additional pain, and even anger and resentment about feeling abandoned, is totally normal and okay.

  1. 3. People Will Avoid You

Losing loved ones is something all of us will go through, but some people cannot handle this reality. Just the thought of a loved one dying is more than many people can bear. Seeing your pain and sitting with you in your time of darkness will force others to look this stark reality in the face. Many people simply can’t do it. If you find that friends and relatives seem to be avoiding you, understand it is most likely because they cannot handle their own fears of loss.

  1. 4. You Will Have Something in Common with Others

For most people, it’s hard to understand certain things until they experience it themselves: Having children, running a marathon, getting divorced. Losing a loved one is certainly on this list as well. While your current group of loved ones will try to empathize with you, the reality is that you now belong to a special club and those who you feel close to and understood by may change.

This does not mean you will no longer feel close to those you did before the loss, but it means you have now changed and how you perceive the world and others has changed as well.

Relationships are hard, and they can be more difficult during periods of loss and grief. It’s important that you are gentle with yourself during this time and seek help. Consider joining a support group. Being around those who share your pain firsthand can be a comfort during this time.

You may also want the guidance of a therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to work through your grief.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

How to Tell if You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Some people seem to be born with nerves on the outside of their skin. These people tend to be more sensitive than their parents, brothers and sisters, or the kids in their class. They can’t get through a movie (even a comedy!) or a TV commercial without shedding a few tears. The slightest bit of criticism causes them real pain, and they are empathic to anyone around them.

Chances are these people are told by everyone, “You’re too sensitive!” Well the truth is, some people are more sensitive than others. They are not only sensitive to emotions, but also to energy, sound, light, and other physical stimulus. These people are, literally, called Highly Sensitive People, or HSP for short.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

Do the following characteristics ring true for you?

You’re very emotional

Whether positive or negative, you experience emotions intensely, react strongly to them, and cry easily.

You’re very compassionate and generous

You have always been a natural caretaker, seeking to offer comfort and help to those who suffer. You also go out of your way to avoid offending anyone or hurting their feelings.

You’re sensitive to criticism

Criticism doesn’t feel constructive so much as it feels personal and painful. You are not able to let it roll off your shoulders as others do, and therefore allow criticism to keep you safe in your comfort zone.

You feel different from everyone else and sometimes alone

You’ve always known, or had it pointed out to you, that you were somehow different from everyone else. Because other people have told you that you need to “toughen up,” you see your sensitivity as a weakness and often feel alone.

You’re sensitive to external stimuli

While no one else around you seems to notice that the buzz of the overhead lights is driving you nuts! As is the sound of your coworkers chewing, the rough fabric of your shirt and the smell of the extravagant flower arrangement.

You overthink and worry

You notice every detail and overthink what should be a simple decision, like where to go for lunch. You also get stuck in the rehashing and what-if rut.

You’re intuitive

You walk into a room and instantly get a “feel” for it. You know how people are feeling. This is fine when the energy is positive, but when it’s negative… watch out!

You’re often tired and overwhelmed

Because you deal with the emotions of yours and others, as well as so much stimulation all day-every day, you easily become overwhelmed by all of it and feel as though you need to sleep more.

What You Can Do

Living life as an HSP is not easy, but there are some things you can do:

  • See your sensitivity as a positive, not a negative
  • Remind yourself there is nothing wrong with you and you are not alone
  • Avoid negative people, places and situations
  • Set boundaries with people who take advantage of your compassion
  • Learn to relax through exercise and meditation
  • Give yourself the same sympathy and kindness as you do others

If at any time you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious because of your sensitivity, it’s important that you seek the guidance of a therapist who can help you manage your emotions.

If you or a loved one are an HSP and would like to seek treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

The Impact of Grief on Relationships

Experiencing the death of a loved one is one of the most painful things each person must face. The shock of your beloved friend or family member having passed away, along with the finality of their death is difficult to deal with.

Everyone Mourns Differently

The process of mourning is a very personal experience. Because grief is so personal, each person reacts differently to the death of a loved one; your instinct may be to reach out and connect, and the instinct of your friend or relative may be to retreat, distract themselves with work or hobbies or shut down.

Your relationship with the deceased was a unique one, so the process in which you grieve the loss will also be unique and personal to you. The close friends and family that you would expect to be there for you in one of the most challenging times of your life may not be present in the way you’d hoped or anticipated. Even your spouse or partner may not provide the comfort you’d expect.

Relationships Impacted by Grief Will Change

Although it’s disappointing and hurtful to experience what feels like a breakdown in your relationships when you need them the most, you must realize that your friends, family and spouse are likely also affected by grief, and going through their own process of mourning.

It’s also important not to rely solely on your spouse for comfort. It’s healthier for both of you, and will ease the stress on your marriage, if you have other people to turn to for help.

The impact of grief is an incredible strain on your existing relationships, as who you are as a person is temporarily altered as you struggle to cope with the loss and find a way to move forward. Your close friends and loved ones may have difficulty coping with how you’re mourning, causing them to pull away temporarily. They could also be very used to seeing you as a source of strength, and a pillar, and seeing you in this vulnerable state (in addition to possibly dealing with their own grief) is more than they can bear.

Seek Out New Sources of Support

Maintaining relationships takes effort, and they’re vulnerable to the difficulties we face as we move through life. You may need to turn to distant family members, other friends or acquaintances, make new connections through bereavement groups or seek professional help from a mental health counselor to find solace and understanding.

Although we can expect bereavement to change our relationships, we can also expect some semblance of normalcy as everyone affected copes with the loss over the passage of time. By forgiving friends or loved ones who weren’t there for you as you dealt with your grief, you can re-establish lost connections.

If you’re having difficulty with your relationships as you grieve and need some understanding and guidance, please give me a call and we can set up an appointment to talk.