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.

How to Find New Purpose After Losing Your Faith

For people of faith, their belief system is an important aspect of their life and who they are as a person. It could be a faith that was cultivated in them since they were a child, or one that they found on their own in adulthood. However we find our faith, as we move through the world and experience life, we inevitably come upon trials that test our beliefs.

If you’ve come to a point in your life where you no longer hold on to traditional beliefs, or your religious teachings have been challenged and you no longer believe in them, you might wonder how you can create renewed meaning in your life that will fill the void left by your loss of faith.

Find Healing
When you lose your faith, you go through a process of grieving. How deep the grieving is depends largely on how ingrained faith was in your life. If losing your faith means losing friends and regular gatherings, it can be very difficult to heal. You can heal through this loss by finding a friend to talk to; particularly one who has experienced a similar loss. Talk to like-minded people online, through a support group, or with a licensed therapist.

Find Peace
Finding peace is another important aspect in moving forward after losing your faith. It will help greatly to quiet your mind, and stop from dwelling on the past. Thinking about how you lost time by believing something you no longer believe in, or thinking about how you were lied to growing up will only bring you discomfort and inner turmoil. Quiet your mind through meditation, cooking, crafting, gardening or a long walk through the woods, concentrating only on things you can see, hear, smell, and touch. You can also try donating your time through volunteer work, or helping out a friend or loved one in need with some simple tasks.

Find Meaning
After a loss of faith, you must find new direction for your life. As the lyrics go to an old song, “the best things in life are free.” Paradoxically, you’ll find that the best way to find new meaning is to simply enjoy the little things in life. Enjoying the breeze during a walk in the park, feeling wet sand between your toes as you take a stroll along the beach, savoring wine with friends in front of an open fire.

When you’ve lost your faith, it might feel as though your life no longer has meaning. The truth is, you’ve just lost your way a bit. The road you were on may have closed, but the directions haven’t changed.

 

Are you struggling with your loss of faith, and need guidance and encouragement to move forward? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

How Meditation Can Help Manage Symptoms of Trauma

Meditation offers practitioners powerful benefits, yet many people are confused as to what exactly those benefits are. In a nutshell, meditation focuses attention in a deliberate manner, taking you from a state of noisy mental chatter to calm and quiet inner peace. And isn’t that something most of us could use?

While meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in the east and – more recently – west as a way to grow spiritually, modern medicine is now finally extolling the numerous health benefits that meditation offers.

Meditation has the ability to reduce stress hormones by calming the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. These systems are what activate our main panic responses (“fight,” “flight,” “freeze,” or “friend”) to stressful situations. Because of this, meditation can be a wonderful coping strategy for those suffering with trauma.

Is Meditation Better than Medication

Historically, people battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been given medication to help alleviate unwanted and unpleasant symptoms. But a new study has found that regular practice of meditation enables some active duty service members battling PTSD to reduce, or even eliminate their need of psychotropic medications and to better control their often-debilitating symptoms.

This is great news for service men and women, and anyone who is battling PTSD. Not only can meditation help to calm your nerves and rewire your brain, it can also reduce the risk of developing negative side effects to many psychotropic medications used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. Beyond memory loss and erectile dysfunction, one of the biggest side effects of these medications is depression. That’s the last thing a person suffering from PTSD needs.

How to Begin a Meditation Practice

If you are suffering from the effects of trauma and would like to try meditation, here are some steps you can take to get started:

Find a Group Practice

If you’re completely new to meditation, you may want to join a group meditation course that meets every week. You can usually find groups in your local area through online communities such as Meetup.com.

Be Open Minded

Meditation has long been associated with new age movements. But you would be amazed at the different kinds of people that now practice meditation. If you tend to be a skeptical person, try to have an open mind as you begin your practice.

Be Patient

It’s called a practice for a reason. You won’t “get” meditation overnight. You’ll have to keep at it before it becomes natural for you and you really reap the benefits. Try to have patience and just keep at it.

 

If you or a loved one are suffering from trauma symptoms and would like to speak with someone who can help, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss the treatment options that would work best for you.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/meditation-reduces-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-symptoms

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/how-does-meditation-reduce-anxiety-neural-level

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/01/13/transcendental-meditation-shown-to-ease-veterans-ptsd/131167.html

6 Tips for Grieving a Loved One

Grieving for a loved one is very possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. Understand that it will take time and effort to heal, but you will heal if that is what you want. (Holding onto the past and your anguish is an option, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.) While time will be the biggest factor in helping you heal – and unfortunately the amount of time is different for everyone – there are techniques and tips you can use to help yourself find your center and your inner happiness again.

Remember, grieving is not about forgetting the person you’ve lost, but instead is about coming to terms with the reality of your loss.

1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Always remember that it’s okay to be sad about the fact that the person you love isn’t around anymore. Allow yourself the freedom to explore the full range of emotions that may come up such as sadness, anger, and even happiness at the memories of your life together.

2. Do something special for your lover. The death of your lover doesn’t have to bring an end to the love you shared. You can do something special to honor them such as taking roses to their grave, writing a heartfelt love letter to them, or lighting a special scented candle in their memory. Expressing your love to them even after their demise helps you feel connected to them in a special way.

3. Give yourself a treat. Do something really special for yourself. Pamper yourself by going to the spa, having dinner at your favorite restaurant or sending yourself flowers. Indulge in your favorite hobbies. Taking time out to give yourself a cute treat will definitely lift your spirits. However, remember to recognize your limitations. Don’t force yourself to do an activity you don’t feel up to.

4. Do something nice for others. One of the best feelings is the sheer bliss that comes after doing something nice for someone who has nothing to offer you. You can volunteer somewhere, buy a homeless person food, or give blood.

5. Seek support. You don’t have to put on a brave face or go through your grief alone. Reach out to your friends or members of your family who you can talk to about how you feel without being judged. Tell them what you need, so they can help you in the best way possible.

If you’re having a really tough time coping with your grief over a loved one’s passing, it always helps to talk to a grief counselor or therapist. I offer counseling services and you can contact me to book a session.

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.