Fighting Loneliness During Quarantine

Not many of us have ever experienced the kind of isolation that this COVID-19 pandemic has brought about. While quarantine for some has been a welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of life and a chance to spend more quality time with the family, for others it has been an incredibly lonely experience away from coworkers, friends, and those they love and need most.

In addition, and to make matters worse, loneliness can make managing stress more difficult. And let’s be honest, we are all surrounded by stress these days from worrying about when the world will open up again, when we can start working and earning a living and when life will get back to normal.

Fighting Loneliness in Healthy Ways

Sadly, during times like these, many people turn to alcohol and other substances as a way to cope with stress and loneliness. But there are healthier ways you can fight it.

Plan to Stay Connected

During this time it’s important to create a plan to safely stay in regular contact with family and friends. If you are an older person, be sure to confirm who you can reach out to if you need help getting food, medications, and other supplies.

Leverage Technology

While many of us still cannot be in the same space as our loved ones, we are very lucky we live in a time when phones and digital technology can help us all stay connected. Be sure to schedule regular phone calls and online video chats using apps like Skype or FaceTime.

Get in Touch with Old Friends

Most of us, at some point in our life, lose touch with friends and acquaintances we once shared our lives with. Now is the perfect time to reconnect. And social media makes it very easy to find someone you may have lost contact with years ago.

Seek Help

During this pandemic, many counselors and therapists are helping clients via telehealth services. This means instead of going into a therapist’s office, you can speak to them on the phone or over a video conference. A therapist can help you navigate this forced isolation and offer coping strategies to get you through.

If you or someone you love is having a difficult time dealing with loneliness right now, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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5 Strategies to Calm Your Anxiety Quickly

When you live with an anxiety disorder, any moment can become one that creates a slow-rising panic within you. Life is normal one second and the next, you feel your chest tighten and your heart begin to race. You may begin to hyperfocus on future events and find yourself getting lost in “what-ifs.”

To make matters worse, you may then begin to berate yourself for allowing the panic to get the best of you and begin to believe that all of those what-ifs are indisputable facts.

Luckily there are many powerful tools and techniques you can use to manage your anxiety effectively.

Breathe Deeply

The minute you feel a panic attack coming on, the first thing to do is stop and gain control of your breath. Deep, slow breathing sends a signal to our brains that everything is safe in our environment. Controlled breathing is one of the most powerful ways to activate your body’s relaxation response. It will take your mind and body out of “fight or flight” mode and put it instantly into a calm and relaxed state.

Accept That You are Anxious

It’s important to always remember that anxiety is “just a feeling.” And like all feelings, it can go as quickly as it came. You are having an emotional reaction to a string of thoughts. Accept your anxiety because trying to pretend it’s not happening will only make matters worse.

Let’s be clear – by accepting your anxiety, you are not resigning yourself to a life of eternal misery. You are not throwing in the towel and trying to suddenly like your anxiety. Nope. You are simply living a more mindful existence, being in the moment, and accepting whatever is in that moment with you.

Your Emotions Cannot Kill You

One of the most frightening things about a panic attack is the feeling that you are having a heart attack. But you aren’t. Your brain can and will play tricks on you, trying to get you to believe that you are in physical danger. But the truth is, you are not in physical danger. You are having an episode based on emotions and it will pass. Remind yourself of that as many times as you need to.

Question Your Thoughts

When your panic attack begins, your mind begins to throw out all sorts of outlandish ideas at you, hoping some of them stick. These thoughts are intended to keep the panic attack going.

Before you take any of these thoughts as reality and truth, question them. For instance, if your mind throws things out like, “No one here likes me. I am for sure going to screw this up. I probably left the stove on. And I’ll no doubt get stuck in bad traffic on the way home and maybe even get a flat so I will then be stranded, and on and on and on…”

Questions these ideas. Are you TRULY not liked by everyone around you? Most likely not. Are you really going to screw up? Probably not. Traffic? Well, maybe but a flat tire? Chances are no.

Always question your thoughts. You will usually find the majority aren’t very realistic or probable.

Visualize

Picture somewhere serene that brings you peace and calm. Maybe this is your grandparents’ old house or a lake you’ve visited before. Maybe it’s that fantastic beachfront condo from your last vacation. Just picture it in your mind’s eye and really put yourself there. See it, smell it, feel it. Feel how calm it feels to be in this space that is perfectly comforting and safe.

Use these techniques the next time you experience an anxiety attack. They should help you feel much calmer much sooner.

If you would like to explore treatment options for your anxiety, please get in touch with me. I’d would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

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Why Did I Feel Fine Yesterday? The Causes of Depression

With 322 million people suffering with depression worldwide, it’s not surprising to learn that in America, depression is among the most common mental disorders. The cause of depression is often simplified as a chemical imbalance in the brain, but the reality is that the disease is far more complicated. Scientific research has yet to completely understand the biology of depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors.

What Causes Depression?

The disease of depression is the complicated combination previously described; this disease gives you the predisposition to fall into a depression after having experienced a negative external event. For example, getting fired from a job might send one person into a deep depression, while another simply bounces back after experiencing the initial sadness and disappointment.

Many experts in the cognitive behavioral field believe that depression is caused by, and worsens, with distorted negative thinking. The emotions you experience during an episode of depression are created by negative thoughts and perceptions. Your feelings will result from the meaning you attach to those thoughts. If you eliminate distorted, negative thoughts, you will find it easier to cope with the negative event that triggered your depression.

Why Did I Feel Fine Yesterday?

If you felt fine yesterday, but today feel depressed and hopeless, distorted thinking may be to blame. As an example, let’s say you woke up late and had to rush to work. This put you in a bad mood, and you started thinking distorted negative thoughts. “I’m always late. I’m a loser. My boss is going to be angry at me all day. He probably hates me anyway. I’m going to get fired.” As the day goes on, every event will be processed through this negative filter, causing you to feel worse.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps you challenge negative patterns of thought. By challenging these thoughts, you can improve your mood. For example, “I’m always late.” This is an overgeneralization. More than likely, you have not been late that often. If this is something you want to change, you can alter your schedule and habits to become more punctual.

Depression is a complicated illness, and as such is best managed by comprehensive treatment. If you’re suffering from depression, a licensed therapist can help you understand your mood disorder and develop strategies to cope with and improve your symptoms. Together, we can develop a plan for you to create the life you want to live. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

5 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep with Anxiety

Affecting nearly 40 million adults in the United States, anxiety is one of the country’s most common mental health disorders. Sleep disturbances such as insomnia are highly prevalent amongst those who suffer from anxiety disorder. If you have trouble falling asleep, it may heighten or trigger your anxiety, and vice versa. While it can be difficult for an anxiety sufferer to fall asleep, it’s not impossible; read on for five ways to get a better night’s sleep.

1. Exercise

Physical activity is an important component for overall health. Exercise will produce chemicals in your brain that will help elevate your mood and decrease your stress or tension, which will provide some relief for your anxiety. Exercise will also help you sleep. Not only will the physical exertion improve the quality of your sleep, it will help insure you’re able to sleep without interruption.

2. Daylight

Daylight helps set sleep patterns, so try to spend at least 30 minutes outdoors during the day time. Daylight sun exposure is critical if you have trouble falling asleep, because it helps to regulate the body’s circadian clock.

3. Healthy Habits

Studies have shown that people who make unhealthy food choices are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances. Healthy balanced meals will keep your energy stable which will help you manage your mood and improve your sleep habits.

It’s also important to avoid big meals or alcohol for several hours before bedtime. Smoking is another bad habit that can cause many health problems, which will negatively affect your sleep in a number of ways.

4. Night Time Routine

Create a routine that you execute nightly, an hour or two before bedtime. Minimizing screen time will help calm your mind and prepare you for sleep. Change into your pajamas and do some light reading, or find other ways to charge down and get ready to sleep. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

5. A Comfortable Bedroom

Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, without distractions. Have a window open to keep the room cool and the air smelling fresh. A clean room and clean linens will make your bedroom more inviting. Make sure you have a good quality mattress and pillow to maximize your comfort.

Are you struggling with falling or staying asleep, and need help maintaining healthy sleep habits? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

Respectful Ways to End a Contentious Conversation

One thing we all have in common is that we don’t always agree with one another. Over time we’ve come to accept that there are times when we must respectfully disagree with someone and move forward. Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly difficult to agree to disagree in today’s divided America.

Television and social media reflect the strain political disagreements has placed on people with their family, friends and co-workers. This has only served to magnify the division, making it seemingly impossible to have a civil conversation with someone you don’t agree with. An argument with a loved one or family member could cause you many problems, and an argument with a boss or co-worker could cost you your job. If you find yourself in a heated exchange and you need to diffuse it fast, here are some ways you can politely end that difficult conversation.

Listen

When we’re arguing, typically we’re not listening, but only wanting to be heard. If you want to end an argument respectfully, stay quiet and let the person vent without interruption. You will want to argue with them or defend yourself or your point of view, but if you want to end the conversation on a positive note, it’s best to let them get in the last word.

Ask Questions

Use your natural curiosity to ask questions of the person you’re arguing with. Do so without condescension or sarcasm, but with genuine interest. Even if you already know the answer (or don’t care to hear what it is), asking questions will diffuse the argument by giving the other person an opportunity to share their viewpoint with you. You can then end the conversation politely by saying something like, “That’s an interesting perspective. I never thought about it that way.”

Find Common Ground

To end an argument on a positive note, you can steer the conversation toward things you both agree on. It’ll be easier to end the discussion on a positive note. If they try to steer the conversation back to the heated issue, change the subject to something positive, or let them speak then say “I can respect that. Thanks for sharing your point of view with me.”

Remember the Golden Rule

The old adage “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a common saying for a reason. Treating other people as you would like to be treated is one of life’s basic principles. When you vehemently disagree with someone, it’s difficult to treat them with kindness. But by having empathy for others, you’ll develop character and patience; qualities that will serve you for a lifetime.

 

Are you struggling to get along with friends, family or co-workers? A licensed mental health professional can help equip you with the skills you need to improve your relationships. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

5 Activities to Help You Love Your Single Life

If you believe the many rom-coms filmed throughout the years, singles are sad, miserable, and lonely people who sit around waiting for someone to come along and “complete them.” Why has this myth been perpetuated to such gargantuan proportions?

Did you know that studies have found that single people usually have more active lives than married people? Single people are far more likely to go out, be involved in their communities and have more friends.

Sure, it can be terrific to spend your time with a loving partner, and yes, a frerquent and satisfying sex life ain’t bad either. But life doesn’t stop just because you’re single. You still exist and the world keeps spinning, so you might as well enjoy your life while waiting for the “right one to come along.”

If you’re new to the single life, fear not, you’re about to have the time of your life! Here are some ways you can love your single life.

Travel

Traveling is a great way to help you gain perspective and learn about yourself. If you’ve never traveled alone, it can be very rewarding. Plus, you don’t have to always compromise with another person. You can go where you want to go when you want to go. There is an incredible sense of freedom.

If you’re a single woman, traveling alone can be intimidating and feel a bit unsafe. There are plenty of traveling groups for women that allow you to be with others some of the time for safety, but also have time by yourself.

Focus on Advancing Your Career

You have more ‘you time’ right now, which makes it the perfect time to go back to school and get that degree that will help you advance your career. Many colleges and universities offer online curriculums to help working adults earn their degree. Night classes may also be a possibility and a chance for you to meet like-minded people on the same path as you.

Volunteer

Did you know studies have found that volunteering is good for our health and happiness? Helping others and ourselves at the same time, that’s a definite win/win. Plus, when you spend time in your community, you are able to meet people from all walks of life and expand your social connections.

Workout

Spend some ‘you time’ getting in the best shape of your life. Try a boxing class or yoga, or maybe take a dance class where you can get a great workout but also meet someone you might like to get to know better.

Reconnect

When we’re in relationships we often spend all our time with our significant other and relationships with friends and family take a back seat. Now is the time to reconnect with loved ones.

Living single is nothing to fear or reject. The single life can be one filled with friends, fun and plenty of fulfillment, so enjoy every second!

What Causes Insomnia? 15 Key Culprits

If you’re someone who spends most of the night tossing and turning and checking the time on the clock, you’re definitely not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, close to 20% of Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. That’s a lot of people walking around cranky and groggy!

Symptoms of Insomnia

People troubled by insomnia experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting back to sleep when they wake up at a very early hour. These sleep disturbances cause stress and anxiety, and make every day activities like working, remembering, and thinking clearly very challenging. Insomnia also typically causes irritability and fatigue. Persistent insomnia may also be a contributing factor of depression.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is a complex condition that is still being studied. So far we do know that there are certain conditions that make people more prone to insomnia:

– Age – people over 60 are more susceptible

– Gender – females, on average, are more susceptible

– A history of depression can make you more susceptible 

The main culprits of insomnia are:

– Jet lag

– Shift work

– Anxiety

– Grief

– Depression

– Stress

– Stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol taken too soon before bed

– An overactive thyroid

– Steroid use

– Certain prescription medications (if you’re currently taking any, speak with your doctor about insomnia side effects)

– Restless leg syndrome

– Menopause and hot flashes

– Gastrointestinal conditions such as heartburn

– Conditions that make it hard to breathe like asthma and sleep apnea

– Chronic pain

As I mentioned, depression is one of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. In these cases, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. CBT targets the thoughts and actions that are disrupting your sleep night after night. This therapeutic strategy encourages good sleep habits while relieving anxiety.

Some therapists may use a combination of relaxation therapy and biofeedback to reduce anxiety in clients. Others may employ different strategies like breathwork and positive thinking.

Therapists recognize that each client is an individual with individual needs. One-on-one talking therapy will help a therapist determine the specific causes – in some cases there may be multiple culprits – and put together a comprehensive strategy for relief.

If you are suffering from insomnia and would like to explore cognitive behavioral therapy, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help you get the rest you need.

Getting Your Inner Spark Back: 5 Tips to Loving Yourself Again

We are born knowing that we are infinitely lovable. Babies and toddlers demand love and attention. They ask to be held, they ask for toys and presents and they feel they deserve them. When we’re very young, we simply somehow just “know” that we are amazing and deserve nothing but goodness.

But then something happens…

We get programmed by kids at school and various media outlets. We hit puberty and our hormones kick in and suddenly instead of being awesome and lovable, we believe we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or good looking enough.

The good news is, you can fall in love with yourself all over again, and here are some ideas to get you started:

Make Time for Yourself

Little kids spend a lot of alone time playing. And during this alone time, they are really connected to their inner world. The “us” in this inner world is the real us, not the us in the business suit or rush-hour traffic or grocery store line. Spend quality time just with you so you can reconnect to the “you” you’ve forgotten.

Say “No” More Often

When we constantly put others’ needs before our own, we tell our subconscious mind over and over that we do not matter. If you are a people pleaser, get into the habit of saying no to others and yes to yourself more often.

Do What You Love

Maybe when you were young you wanted to be a painter or singer or photographer, but an adult “talked some sense into you.” Well there is no reason you can’t explore these passions as a hobby now. Doing what you love is one of the best ways to love yourself more.

Speak Your Truth

When you constantly tell other people what they want to hear instead of telling the truth, you silence yourself. This, in turn, kicks your self-worth to the curb.

Don’t be afraid to always be authentic and truthful. Sure, you’ll sometimes have to find graceful and tactful ways to share your truth with others, but it’s the best way to love yourself.

Get Help

When our self-worth is low or non-existent, attempting to love ourselves can feel impossible. If you suffer from self-esteem issues, speaking with a therapist can help you recognize where these issues came from and how to work through them to truly love yourself.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help you get your spark back.

4 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are one of them, you know how difficult your life can feel most days.

When anxiety strikes, the world around us can become a sort of funhouse, only not that much fun. It’s important to be able to self-soothe in these instances. But how can you calm an anxiety attack subtly when you’re out in public?

 

Breath Work

As soon as you feel the anxiety coming on, focus intently on your breathing and nothing else. Begin to take slow… deep breaths. Inhale for a slow count of three… hold for a count of three… and exhale for a count of three. Slow deep breaths send a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.

 

Talk to Yourself

In your mind, remind yourself that you are having an experience but that you are NOT that experience. While you feel that something is wrong, remind yourself that you are actually safe and all is well.

 

Visualize

Think of something that calms you. This may be your childhood bedroom or your grandparent’s home. It could be your favorite beach or your own bathtub. Simply put yourself IN that space. Use your full imagination to feel yourself there and allow the calm to settle over you.

 

Practice Listening Meditation

If you’ve never tried listening meditation, I highly recommend it for everyone. But it can be especially beneficial when you are feeling anxious, and here’s why. Listening requires you to stop thinking. Try it now. Stop reading and instead listen to all of the ambient sounds there in the room with you, outside the door and window.

What do you hear?

Let your sense of hearing grow and grow, picking up more subtle sounds. The buzz of the lights overhead… the noise of the ice maker… a bee at the window… your dog’s collar down the hall…

It’s actually a very fun exercise to do. And in order to REALLY GIVE SOUND YOUR FULL ATTENTION, you can’t think while listening. It’s a bit like trying to juggle while standing on your hands, it simply cannot be done.

Much of our anxiety comes from our anxious thoughts. It’s our reptilian brain trying to keep us alive by alerting us to all of the dangers around us. But when we meditate, this mind chatter goes away.

 

When an anxiety attack comes on, life can feel unbearable. The next time this happens to you in public, try one or more of these techniques.

And if you’d like to speak with someone about your anxiety, please get in touch. I’d be happy to explore treatment options.

What is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy?

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness meditation, but what exactly is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)? This form of therapy uses mindfulness practices like breathing exercises and meditation to help clients break free of negative thought patterns.

What Can MBCT Treat?

MBCT was first developed to prevent individuals who were struggling with repeating episodes of depression and anxiety from relapsing. Studies have found MBCT to be very effective at helping people with major depressive disorder who have experienced at least 3 instances of depression in their life. This therapy approach may also be helpful in improving the symptoms of depression in those with disease and physical illness, such as cancer and traumatic brain injuries.

How Does Mindfulness Help Depression?

You may think that meditation is something only monks or yoga masters do, but everyday people are reaping the major mind and body benefits through mindfulness meditation. Depressed people suffer rumination, that is they become stuck in mental patterns. They often mistake their rumination for problem-solving, but in reality, rumination prolongs a negative mental state.

Meditation works by disrupting the mental process of rumination. When you focus your mental attention on the present moment, you cannot ruminate. While it’s hard for any person to completely stop the mental process of rumination, it’s our choice whether or not we engage with it. Meditation helps us “just say no.”

How to Find an MBCT Therapist

MBCT is usually held in group sessions once weekly for 2-hours each. The meditations and breath work will be led by your therapist. He or she will not only lead you in these techniques but also the fundamentals of cognition, such as the relationship between your thoughts and how they make you feel. Your therapist will also most likely give you homework to practice the breathing and meditation techniques you’ve learned that week.

An MBCT therapist is a cognitive behavioral therapist who will have had additional training in mindfulness-based practices and techniques and is able to teach these to others. Beyond looking for these specific credentials, you’ll also want to find a therapist you feel comfortable working with. After doing a bit of research for qualified therapists in your area, get on the phone and talk to a few to see who you may like working with the best.

If you or someone you know may be interested in exploring MBCT, please reach out to me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.