Treat Yourself: The Importance of Putting Yourself First & Self Care

If I asked whether you were the victim of childhood emotional neglect (CEN), would you know how to answer? Probably not. CEN is often misunderstood and therefor, misdiagnosed.

Childhood emotional neglect means an individual was not provided the emotional support from parents and other adults that is required to grow up to be a confident person with a healthy self-esteem. Though a parent may never physically harm the child and provide them with food, healthcare, clothing and shelter, they may still emotionally neglect their child causing psychological harm.

Symptoms of CEN

In her book “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect”, Dr. Jonice Webb outlined some of the most commonsymptoms of CEN:

  • Feeling numb or cut off from your own feelings
  • Feeling like something has always been missing
  • Feeling hollow
  • Having a low self-esteem
  • Feeling the need to be perfect
  • Being overly-sensitive
  • Lack of self-care while taking care of everyone else

That last symptom is a biggie. Have you found that for most of your life, your needs always came second (if not third or fourth?). If yes, it’s time to recognize that your feelings and needs matter.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can begin to treat yourself better:

Take Baby Steps

You’ve spent years believing your needs didn’t matter, don’t expect that putting yourself first will come easy to you. It won’t. It will feel awkward and downright wrong to put yourself first. The important thing is that you take baby steps each day to show yourself you matter.

Ask Yourself What You Need

If you’ve experienced CEN, you’re most likely unaware you even haveneeds, so you probably won’t be able to identify them right away. Take some time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself what you need and be sure to listen!

Stay Healthy

You have a big and exciting journey ahead of you, one in which you will be exploring your inner world and getting to finally know yourself. This is going to require strength and energy. Be sure to avoid processed foods and opt instead for whole foods focusing on fruits and veggies.

Also, be sure to get plenty of exercise and enough rest. Adults generally require seven to nine hours of sleep each night, so don’t cheat your body. And avoid using the TV, computer, or your smartphone before bed.

Learn to Say No

Guess what? If you want to put yourself first more often, you’re going to sometimes have to say “no” to other people. Don’t feel guilty about doing this. Having boundaries is healthy. It’s not only your right to say no to others sometimes, it’s your personal responsibility.

Get Support

As wonderful as your self-discovery journey will be, it will be fraught with bumps in the road. It’s important that you have someone who will support your efforts without judgements or criticism.

Consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to manage stress in the future. A therapist will help you prioritize your needs moving forward and recognize your emotions and needs matter.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help you on your journey.

Get Some Sleep! 5 Tips for Busting Through Your Insomnia

If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, you’re not alone. Insomnia, the chronic inability to get sufficient sleep, is a common problem affecting millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 study, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a daily basis.

With a lack of sleep at the root of serious medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, getting a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis is crucial to a long and healthy life. Here are five things you can do to change your routine and start getting to, and staying, asleep.

1. Just Two Things in Bed
Make sure that your bed is used only for two things: sex and sleep. By using your bed almost exclusively for sleep, your body will associate your bed with rest and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.

2. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular exercise (the recommended thirty minutes a day, five days a week) will help you promote healthy sleep habits. Your post-exercise temperature may promote falling asleep, and exercise in general will help eliminate insomnia by decreasing arousal and anxiety.

3. Naps, Caffeine, & Alcohol
Short naps are helpful for some, but for others it impacts their ability to fall asleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, avoid naps during the day. Caffeine, a known stimulant, may keep you up longer than you’re aware. You may need to avoid caffeine entirely if it prevents you from falling asleep. And, while alcohol is a sedative, it can disrupt your sleep; so if you have trouble staying asleep, avoid alcohol.

4. No Screens Before Bedtime
Screen time, such as computers, smart phones and television, prevent you from falling asleep due to cognitive stimulation. Too much light at bedtime affects your melatonin production, giving your body the impression that its staying awake, not ready for sleep. Help your body get ready for sleep by eliminating screen time at least two hours before bed.

5. Create a Nighttime Routine
Creating a regular nighttime routine will help your body get into the habit of winding down and relaxing as it prepares for sleep. Create a nighttime routine an hour or two before bed. Maybe have a glass of warm milk, brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and read a book every night before bed. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

Changing old habits and establishing a new routine is never easy. But as you make changes and sustain new practices, it will get easier. Before long you’ll have a new set of healthy habits, and you can finally settle in for a good night’s sleep.

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

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

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

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

Selenium

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

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

Folate (Folic Acid)

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

Omega-3

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

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

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

Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks! Tips for Starting a Later-In-Life Hobby

Most of us, when we were growing up, had hobbies. Some of us collected stamps or coins, others rode horses, and still others liked to draw or bake. But then we grew up and our world became filled with work and family responsibilities, and we had little time to do the things we once loved.

And that’s too bad, because hobbies are essentially a way for us to play as adult. We don’t pursue needlepoint to become famous or to make millions of dollars (if only!), we partake in hobbies for the pure pleasurethey bring to us.

Happiness isn’t just nice to feel, happiness actually makes us healthier and live longer! A study found that older people who are happy have a 35% lower risk of dying over a five-year period than unhappy people. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But I’m Too Old to Pick Up a Hobby

Rubbish.

Did you know that Winston Churchill didn’t start painting until he was in his middle years? He absolutely fell in love with it. In a small book called Painting as a Pastime, he wrote:

“… There is no subject on which I feel more humble or yet at the same time more natural. I do not presume to explain how to paint, but only how to get enjoyment.” [and then later in the book] “We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box…”

Whether it’s painting, ceramics, photography, Italian cooking, writing poetry, or scrapbooking – or something else entirely – pick something you’ve always wanted to do and just try it.

Getting Started

Okay, let’s set you out on your new journey of growth, discovery, and joy! Here are some steps you can take to get started.

1. Brainstorm – If you aren’t exactly sure what kind of hobby you would enjoy, spend some time making a list of things you have enjoyed in the past. Maybe you like music or you’ve always liked being outdoors.

2. Research – To narrow your list, do some research on things like cost and time needed for these hobbies. This is good to know before you dive in.

3. Don’t listen to others – Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re foolish for wanting to learn to Salsa dance or kayak “at your age.” These people are to be pitied, not listened to.

4. Be honest with yourself – Maybe you’ll love the hobby you choose and maybe you’ll want to try something else. The idea here is to play and explore yourself.

It is never to old to begin a new journey. I wish you an exciting one!

What is Trauma and What Causes it?

Most of us won’t get through life without our own fair share of stress and heartache. But some people experience not just stress, sadness or grief, but actual trauma. This can be from events like being involved in a bad car accident, rape, a natural disaster, or war.

The result of experiencing such events is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where the mind is unable to process the event as it processes ordinary life events. The result is a brain that misfires information, causing the person to live much of their life distressed, as if the event were still happening to them.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms associated with PTSD, but the most common ones are:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks
• Psychological and physiological distress at reminders
• Avoidance of internal and external reminders
• Dissociative amnesia
• Negative beliefs about oneself and the world
• Distorted blaming of oneself
• Negative persistent emotional states
• Loss of interests
• Detachment from loved ones
• Hyper vigilance
• Exaggerated startle response
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Causes of PTSD

Researchers are not altogether clear on why some people experience PTSD and others don’t. What makes one soldier come home from war with PTSD and another one not develop the disorder?

The best we can guess is that development of PTSD is likely from a combination of complex factors such as neurological, stress, life experiences, personality, and genetics. It is also worth mentioning that pre-traumatic psychological factors (low self-esteem, for example) may increase the risk factor for developing PTSD.

How Can Trauma be Treated?

The most common form of treatment for PTSD is something called cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy involves meeting with a specially-trained therapist over a number of sessions to learn strategies and techniques that will reduce and/or eliminate symptoms of PTSD such as recurring thoughts, emotional numbness, sleep issues, and concentration problems. Beyond finding a trained therapist, it’s important to find one you and your family feel comfortable with, so make sure to interview a few candidates to see who might help you on your journey to wellness.

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to see how I may be able to help.

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/ptsd/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-causes/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/trauma

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stress-relief/201707/what-is-ptsd-exactly

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/trauma-focused-cognitive-behavior-therapy

5 Personal Techniques to Work Through Flashbacks

Flashbacks are our brain’s way of processing traumatic events that we’ve experienced. But what tends to happen is, our subconscious goes to our storage cabinet to access some important memories regarding the event, and everything sort of tumbles out of the cabinet all at once. This falling out or flashback experience can feel almost as traumatic as the initial event.

Flashbacks usually happen without warning. Most result from a “triggering” that occurs by an external experience. Triggers are typically sensory-based experiences that manifest via smells, sounds, tastes, textures that remind the person of the traumatic event. The smell of cologne can remind someone of their perpetrator. The sound of fireworks or a car backfiring can remind a soldier of gunfire.

Living with flashbacks is very difficult, but there are some ways you can work through these disturbing events:

1. Remember

Remind yourself that you are safe and having a flashback. Tell yourself as many times as necessary that these are only memories, the event is in the past, until you can feel yourself begin to calm.

2. Empower Yourself

Sometimes using your five senses can help you to be in the present moment. If one sense it causing the flashback – your sense of smell for example – use your other senses to place yourself in the actual current environment. The tactile experience of stamping your feet on the ground can remind yourself that you are free to get away from any situation that has become uncomfortable for you.

3. Breathe

As soon as we become fearful or panicked, our breathing becomes shallow and erratic. This only exacerbates the stress we feel in that moment because our body is literally panicking from a lack of oxygen. In these fearful moments, when we slow our breathing and take deeper and deeper breaths, we actually signal to our brain and body that everything is okay.

4. Honor the Experience

The initial trauma was awful, so it’s perfectly reasonable for you to want to move on “NOW!” However, you should understand that the body needs to go through this process and experience a full range of emotions. Honor the experience and yourself for having gotten through it.

5. Find Support

It’s important that you let loved ones know about your flashbacks so they can help you through the process. You may also want to seek the guidance of a professional mental health therapist who can offer coping strategies.

 

If you or a loved one is suffering from flashbacks and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch, I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/lib/coping-with-flashbacks/

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2013/11/why-do-flashbacks-happen/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-trauma-s-wounds/201506/understanding-and-working-flashbacks-part-one

5 Daily Self-Care Exercises for Survivors of Abuse

Unfortunately, being a survivor of trauma or abuse is exceedingly common. According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. And according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2017 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

While it is challenging to be a survivor of abuse, the journey to a place of peace and acceptance can be an empowering one. No matter if the abuse you endured was recent or long ago, a daily self-care regimen will help you cope with what still affects you today.

1. Quality Sleep

Ensuring you have adequate sleep on a nightly basis is an essential component of maintaining optimum physical, mental, and emotional health. Fundamentally, your body needs regular rest to operate properly. A good night’s sleep will uplift your mood and energy, improve your memory and help keep stress levels at a minimum.

2. Meditate

Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus, and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Find an easy or beginner meditation to follow with a Google search, smartphone app, or the free meditation exercises available on YouTube.

3. Exercise

Finding some forms of enjoyable exercise will help you feel more energized. Exercise is also a great physical outlet to release pent-up emotions you likely have as a result of your abuse or trauma. Try taking up walking, jogging, yoga or anything you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to do anything wholly unpleasant or push yourself too hard; exercise is an act of self-care, not a punishment.

4. Positive Affirmations

It’s all too common for abuse survivors to feel shame about it and blame themselves; for that reason, it’s important to program yourself with positive thoughts and beliefs. You can tell yourself, for example: “I am valuable,” “I am worthy,” “I am capable,” “I am strong,” “I am intelligent.” Pinpoint negative self-talk and counter those thoughts with positive affirmations.

5. Support

Engage your support system by calling a friend or family member, joining a support group and/or finding a therapist. If your support system is lacking, use a smartphone app or the Meetup website to find a local, like-minded group and make some new friends. Sharing your struggles with people who understand and care about your well-being is an important aspect of your healing journey.

 

Are you a survivor of trauma or abuse? A licensed mental health professional can help you so you don’t have to go through this alone. Give our office a call today so we can set up a time to talk.

 

SOURCES

http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/nca-digital-media-kit/national-statistics-on-child-abuse/

How to Tell Your Partner About Your Past Sexual Abuse

Relationships always start out on a high note. Your mutual attraction combined with your commonalities stirs up your feelings, while finding out about your differences and exploring the world together makes your relationship fresh and exciting. When your relationship starts to become more intimate, you may start to wonder when the right time is for you to open up to your partner about your past sexual abuse.

Being a survivor of sexual assault is, unfortunately, not uncommon. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men in the United States experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. So when is the right time to open up to your partner about your past, and how do you tell them?

Be Ready
It’s important as a survivor that you are in control of when you share your story. Center yourself around your own needs and share only when you’re ready, and not before. You may need to discuss it first with a therapist, counselor, friend or support group.

Know What You Need
Know in advance what you’ll need to get through this discussion. You may need your partner to not ask questions, or to not touch you while you’re talking. Be honest and upfront, and ask for support when you need it.

Prepare for a Response
How people respond to your story will vary widely. Hearing sexual abuse disclosures affect both the person telling the story, as well as the person listening. Your partner may be silent for a while as they take the information and consider what to say. Give them time to process it. If it will make you more comfortable, you can ask them to give you some time before you discuss the matter again.

 

Opening up and discussing difficult, sensitive topics with your partner is never easy. But these challenging times are often the ones that create milestones in your relationship, and will ultimately bring the two of you closer than ever.

Are you a sexual assault survivor and in need of guidance and counseling? A licensed therapist can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

5 Ways to Recharge Your Energy After a Rough Day

Few things zap your energy the way a stressful day can. Stress is known to reduce our levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play an important role in our mood, energy and motivation. After a difficult day, you might be tempted to lounge on the couch watching TV until it’s time to go to bed. Although it might feel good in the moment, it won’t give you the mood and energy lift you need after a rough day. Here are five simple ways you can recharge yourself.

1. Unplug

After a stress-filled day, you need to unwind—and that means turning off your phone for some much-needed “me” time. It can be tempting to sit on the couch with your phone all night, checking emails, responding to texts, or getting lost on Facebook or Instagram.

Unplug. Turn your phone off and put it in a drawer in a room in your house that’s out of the way, or leave it in your car. Don’t touch it again until after you’ve had a good night’s rest.

2. Go Outside

If the sun is still out after your rough day, put on your comfy shoes and go for a quick walk. Exposure to the sunlight will help your brain release serotonin, which will boost your mood and help you feel calm and focused. Exercise is also one of the best ways you can improve your mood, helping you relieve stress and sleep better at night. Even if the sun is down, a walk outside will still help, as the exercise and fresh air will help you feel invigorated.

3. Refresh Yourself

After a tough day, take the time to refresh yourself by taking a 45-minute nap. A quick 5 or 10-minute meditation session can also help lift you up. Use your phone to find a guided meditation on YouTube, or play some relaxing music while you meditate quietly for a few minutes. You can also pamper yourself with a bubble bath, or if you need something more uplifting, take a quick shower. Before you get out of the shower, splash some ice cold water in your face; the chill will refresh you and wake you up.

4. Eat Healthy

A healthy dinner or snack is just the thing you need after a rough day. Avoid comfort foods that will leave you feeling sluggish. Instead, fuel your body with protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, and you’ll likely get a mental boost as well from the feel-good result of eating healthy.

5. Make Plans

Looking forward to something is a great way to boost your mood long-term. Plan a vacation, a weekend getaway, or just a day trip. Even planning a special meal, or a visit to a new bar or restaurant will help; give yourself something to look forward to.

 

Are you struggling to maintain your energy levels? Is stress causing you to feel tired, anxious or depressed? A licensed therapist can help you find ways to manage stressful situations. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

4 Subtle Signs of Trauma: When You’re Dealing with More Than You Think

When you think about someone experiencing trauma, incidents such as a violent or sexual assault or a terrible car accident might come to mind. But there are other, subtler forms of trauma that can negatively affect our lives and hinder our relationships.

Emotional trauma is often overlooked and minimized, and we may think we’ve “gotten over” some emotional pain that we’ve simply buried, and not dealt with. A break up, being passed over for a promotion at work or even a simple but negative childhood experience can cause emotional trauma. Read on to see if you recognize any of these four subtle signs of trauma in yourself.

Overwhelm

Anxiety and stress may develop in the aftermath of trauma, causing you to feel overwhelmed in numerous ways. You might feel out of control, like there is too much to do, or that people in your life are taking up too much of your time and attention. If you often feel as though your life has become unmanageable, this could be a sign that you have some unresolved emotional trauma.

Overreacting

Emotional overreactions are a common symptom of trauma. A victim of trauma might redirect their overwhelming emotions towards others, such as family and friends. Because these undealt with emotions are always bubbling under the surface, any incident that brings feelings forward can unleash these pent-up emotions. If you can recall times when you’ve overreacted, and perhaps have even been surprised at your own reactions, this may be a sign of trauma.

Shame

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from emotional trauma to have feelings of shame and self-blame. If you have feelings of shame because of a traumatic event, you may devalue yourself or see yourself as weak. You might feel a stigma from what you endured, and this may prevent you from admitting that you may be traumatized, or prevent you from seeking help.

Daydreaming

Another subtle sign of trauma is “zoning” or “spacing out.” You might feel disconnected from others or have difficulty staying present in social situations. Emotional trauma can cause you to slow down internally, numbing your emotions or causing you to feel exhausted. Because of the trauma you experienced, you may be averse to the expression of painful emotions, so you turn those emotions off. As you withdraw, your relationships with others suffer, causing you further psychological pain.

If these signs seem familiar and you believe you may be suffering from trauma, help is available. A caring, licensed professional trained in trauma treatment can help. Take the first step by giving me a call today, and let’s set up a time to talk.