Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a major depressive disorder that occurs during the same season each year. Also known as the “winter blues,” SAD typically comes on in the fall and winter, when the light is diminished.

SAD is believed to affect nearly 10 million Americans and is four times more common in women than men. Many people experience symptoms that are severe enough to affect their quality of life.

Though not everyone will experience the same symptoms, here are some of the most common:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • A change in appetite and developing a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • A drop in energy level
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Thoughts of suicide

Treatments

If you suffer from SAD, here are some ways you can alleviate your symptoms:

Light Boxes

By far the greatest relief, according to research, comes from the use of lightboxes. Lightboxes emit high-intensity light between 2,500 to 10,000 lux. Compare this to a normal light fixture that emits only 250 to 500 lux.

Lightboxes closely mimic the sun’s natural rays, helping our brains produce the right amount of neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may only need to use the lightbox for 30 minutes once a day. For more severe symptoms, people have found relief by using the box for long periods of time and can often feel true relief in as little as two weeks.

Some insurance providers will cover the cost of lightboxes, but not all do, so be sure to speak with your provider.

Exercise

While it may feel counterintuitive, if not downright impossible, to get up and get moving when you’re feeling depressed, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood. Exercise not only reduces stress and tension, but it releases those feel-good endorphins. Studies have also found that one hour of aerobic exercise outdoors (even if the sky is overcast) has the same positive effect on mood as 2.5 hours of using a lightbox.

Eat Well

It’s common to turn to junk food when you’re feeling the winter blues. High-sugar foods tend to give us a temporary boost in energy levels and mood. But then we come crashing down and feel even worse. A better choice is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, opting for complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and whole grains.

Speak with a Therapist

If your symptoms are very severe, and if you are having any thoughts of harming yourself, then it is important to speak with a therapist who can help you navigate your depression and offer coping tools.

If you or a loved one are currently suffering from SAD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Relationships can only be healthy when both people have the space to be themselves and maintain their personal integrity. Sadly, many people find themselves in relationships, romantic and otherwise, with people who do not respect boundaries and feel entitled to have their needs met regardless of the other person’s. These people most likely grew up in households that were unsafe and unstable, and where there was a constant invasion of personal boundaries.

If you can relate, chances are you have a hard time creating healthy boundaries to create the life experience you wish to have. Here are some ways you can begin to do so:

Identify Your Limits

You can’t set boundaries unless you discover where it is you personally stand. You’ll need to take a bit of time to recognize what you can and cannot tolerate. What makes you happy and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed? Only until you have made these discoveries can you move on to the next steps.

Don’t Be Shy

People who have similar communication styles are easy to engage with. These people will quickly understand what your new barriers are. But people who have a different cultural background or personality may not easily understand your boundaries. With these people, it’s important to be very clear and direct.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

People who have a hard time setting boundaries don’t often allow themselves to acknowledge their own feelings because they’re usually too busy worrying about everyone else’s.

You’ll need to start recognizing how people make you feel in order to know whether your new boundaries are being crossed or not. When you’re with someone, make mental notes, or even jot down in a journal how that interaction made you feel.

If, after spending time with someone, you feel anger or resentment, this is a sign that the person may be overstepping your boundaries. Reiterate to this person what your boundaries are. If they continue to disrespect you and them, you will want to cut yourself away from further interactions.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Put yourself and your needs first. This may feel strange and even somehow wrong if you’ve spent your entire life taking care of others. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and get what you need to feel happy and well.

Speak with Someone

If you’ve spent an entire life with a sense of low self-worth, you may find setting boundaries quite difficult. In this case, it’s important to speak with a therapist that can help you discover where these feelings are coming from and how to change your thought patterns and behavior.

If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you on your journey toward self-care.

How to Deal with Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. For many people that means celebrating with their spouse or partner and showing them extra love and attention. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a sad reminder that they are single or are perhaps grieving the recent loss of their significant other.

If you are celebrating it alone this year, here are a few ways you can alleviate your sadness this Valentine’s Day.

Give Yourself a Break

It’s bad enough to feel lonely, but it’s even worse to scold yourself for doing so. Loneliness is not an indication that you’re doing anything wrong or that there is something wrong and unlovable about you.

Even people that are in relationships can feel incredibly lonely. Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life. It’s not a sin to feel this way, so stop scolding yourself.

Take Yourself on a Date

How many times during the year do you make a real effort to show yourself love? If you’re like most people, you don’t really think much about how you treat yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself a party of one, try and make the best of it by focusing all of your love and attention on yourself. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Or, if you don’t like the idea of sitting at a table alone surrounded by couples, then order in your favorite food and watch your favorite movie.

Take a nice long bath. Listen to your favorite band. Buy yourself a little gift on the way home from work. Use this Valentine’s Day to commit to showing yourself more love and kindness throughout the year.

Show Your Love for Others

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show love. No one says that love must be shown in a romantic way.

This is a great time to show your affection and appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Get your best friend a box of chocolates or your mom a bouquet of flowers. Put a card on your neighbor’s windshield and your coworker’s computer monitor.

You can be filled with love by being loved, and you can be filled with love by loving others. The more love YOU show this holiday, the more love you will feel inside. And you would be amazed at how the loneliness quickly slips away when you are full of love.

Don’t let the commercialism of the holiday make you feel alone and isolated. You really can have a lovely Valentine’s day if you love yourself and others.

How to Spot Passive-Aggressive Behavior

There was a time when the phrase passive-aggressive was rarely uttered among non-psychologists. But it’s a phrase that is mentioned often these days.

The problem is, passive-aggressive behavior is almost so common, that it’s hard for people to pinpoint what that behavior looks like exactly.

Do you know any passive-aggressive people? Chances are you do. But do you know the real behaviors to spot? If not, keep reading to find out.

They Won’t Say No

Passive-aggressive people love playing the part of the victim and martyr. Therefore they’ll never just come out and say “no” to something. Instead, they’ll go along with others’ plans and needs, and then sigh, shake their head and roll their eyes because they didn’t get their own way. Do you know anyone like this?

They are Chronic Complainers

Every other sentence out of their mouth seems to be some form of complaint. They are usually low-grade complaints as again, they try to consistently mask their real feelings. It’s always a guessing game with these people.

Backhanded Compliments

“That dress looks so much better on you than the last one that made your hips look big.” Suppressed resentment is their currency and it tends to come out with backhanded compliments.

They Sabotage Other’s Efforts

Do you have a coworker who resents that they weren’t assigned to head your project? Do they show up to work late? Work at a snail’s pace? Take long breaks? When passive-aggressive people don’t get their way, they will throw their brand of a tantrum so everyone suffers.

They Love Getting a Reaction Out of Others

If pushing buttons were an Olympic event, the passive-aggressive person would bring home the gold, silver AND bronze medals. Once they know what annoys you, they can’t help but push, push, push.

They “Accidentally” Withhold Information

Have you ever had a roommate, colleague or romantic partner take a call that you had been waiting for and then “accidentally” forgot to give you the message? Whoopsie! This is to teach you a lesson: don’t ever ask me to do anything for you again.

They Appear to be Brilliantly Absent-Minded

Have you ever known someone who seemed brilliant in so many instances, and yet, in a second, they become the Absent-Minded Professor? They suddenly forgot where they placed the very important documents you need for the board meeting? Or where they put your purse (why did they even touch or move your purse??!!). Again, these are instances of someone who has deep-seated anger and resentment, but who can’t just come forth and confront you in a mature and direct manner.

Dealing with passive-aggressive people is never fun. But if you know what signs to look for, you can steer clear as much as possible!

Why Setting a Strong Female Role Model is Important for Your Daughter

Every Halloween, little girls all over the country choose costumes that reflect what they want to be when they grow up. And each year we see many girls choosing to dress as princesses and fairies, kitty cats and maybe the odd super hero. Rarely do we see young girls dressing as executives, scientists, or world leaders.

It can seem benign enough, but it does beg the question: are young girls still under the impression their choices in life are limited? And what can parents, particularly mothers, do to set a good example?

The Importance of Role Models

If you are a runner, you probably know that for most of human history no one was able to run the 4-minute mile. In 1940, someone actually got to 4:01, and for nine years that is where the record stayed, with not one runner in the entire world being able to break it.

It seemed to everyone that the human body, no matter how fit and trained, would never be able to break that record. But then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4.

And then a very interesting thing happened: barely a year after this feat, someone else ran a mile under 4 minutes, and then more runners did it, and then even more. Now it’s common practice for runners to run the mile in under 4 minutes.

Role models show others what is possible, and that’s powerful. Humans tend to not attempt things unless we believe it can be accomplished.

Our children learn from watching us. They learn how to think, act, and feel about themselves and the world around them. Here are some ways mothers can set a strong female role model for their daughters:

Body Image

It’s important for mothers to encourage their daughters to be healthy and strong, but not to obsess over beauty. It’s not enough to talk the talk, moms have got to take care of their bodies and health and accept themselves as they are.

Boundaries

Unless they are shown otherwise, young girls may grow up assuming they must constantly please others and never say no. Moms, it’s important to show your daughters that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary.

Confidence

Confidence comes from a mindset that failure and mistakes are merely chances to learn. It also comes from knowing strengths and abilities as well as limitations. In other words, confidence is a byproduct of knowing and accepting our true selves.

 

Are you having a hard time being the role model you’d like to be? Maybe you’re a stressed-out single parent who could use some coping strategies. If you’d like to speak with someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201205/female-role-models-the-absent-conversation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-about-kids/201205/i-could-do-why-role-models-matter

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beauty-sick/201705/gift-mothers-daughters

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201402/9-ways-be-the-best-role-model-you-can-be

https://www.nomeatathlete.com/4-minute-mile-certainty/

When to Worry: Recognizing Signs of Trauma in Your Loved Ones

Over the past several years, there have been numerous traumatic events all across the country. From incidents of mass violence to devastating natural disasters, hundreds of thousands of Americans have experienced or witnessed a disastrous or life-threatening event. In addition to tragedies such as these, anyone who has experienced a shocking or dangerous incident (such as a car accident or a robbery) is at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a serious mental disorder that requires medical treatment. PTSD can have devastating effects on every aspect of a person’s life, from their marriage and family, to their friendships and career. If you’re concerned that a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, here are some signs to look out for.

Reliving the Trauma

Someone with PTSD will have repeated, involuntary re-experiences of the event. They may experience bad dreams or flashbacks. They’re also vulnerable to certain triggers that remind them of what happened, such as sounds or smells.

Angry Outbursts

Someone silently suffering from trauma may be prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. Feeling irritable, the sufferer may be prone to outbursts of anger that they can’t control. If you’ve noticed your loved one frequently losing control and lashing out in anger, this is a sign that they’re suffering emotionally and require treatment.

Withdrawal

People suffering from PTSD will avoid people and situations that are reminders of the situation. As the victim continues to isolate themselves, how their friends and family react to their withdrawal will likely further isolate them, causing additional emotional distress.

Substance Abuse

It’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to self-medicate. Seeking an escape from high levels of stress and difficult emotions, they may turn to drugs or alcohol. The painful trademark of substance abuse is the growing need for more of the drug to produce the same high. If left untreated, as substance abuse grows, the abuse will turn to addiction and eventually dependence. This can have devastating effects on every facet of a person’s life.

 

If you’re concerned that a loved one is experiencing symptoms of trauma, the most important think you can do is encourage them to seek professional diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. You can help by contacting offices and vetting therapists on their behalf, and volunteer to take them to an appointment. Assure them of your love and support throughout the process.

For additional guidance and recommendations from a licensed professional, call my office today.

3 Ways to Cultivate More Self-Compassion

Many people are brought up to always be kind to others. But how many of us were taught to be kind to ourselves? Self-compassion, or self-love, can often seem like a foreign concept, particularly to those raised in an abusive or unloving home.

Self- compassion and self-love are not to be confused with arrogance or conceit, which are usually indicators of a lack of self-love. Self-compassion has nothing to do with faux superiority and everything to do with being kind and gentle with oneself. It allows us to treat ourselves as we do our greatest loved ones. Instead of harshly judging ourselves for any personal shortcomings, we can instead give ourselves unconditional love and acceptance.

Why is Self-Compassion Important?

Over the last decade, research has shown a correlation between self-compassion and overall psychological well-being. Self-compassion helps us recognize the difference between making a bad choice and being a bad person. It also helps us have greater connections with others and less depression, anxiety, and fear of failure.

A lack of self-compassion can take a toll on our personal and romantic relationships. How we treat ourselves is typically an indicator of how we let others treat us. The less love and compassion we have for ourselves the more likely we end up in abusive and dysfunctional relationships. But, when we have self-compassion, we are less likely to depend on others to validate our self-worth or “complete us.”

Here are 3 ways you can begin practicing self-compassion:

1. Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

You would never treat a small child the way you may sometimes treat yourself. You wouldn’t call a child “stupid” for making a poor decision. And you certainly wouldn’t tell them they are unlovable and “will wind up alone forever.”

It may be hard treating yourself with such kindness in the beginning because you are not used to it. But in those moments, decide to treat yourself as you would a child and much progress will be made.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Self-criticism is a mental habit. In order to replace self-criticism with self-compassion, we must practice mindfulness.

When you find yourself caught up in that negative noise and mind chatter, stop, take a deep breath, and refocus your thoughts on something more positive about yourself. What qualities do you like about yourself? What have you done recently that you feel proud about? It can be anything, “I am always on time,” or, “I made the cashier smile.”

When you do find yourself having negative thoughts, DO NOT chastise yourself for having them. Thank those negative thoughts and tell them you no longer need them, then send them on their way to make room for positivity.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Be Human

At the end of the day, self-compassion is about being okay with our own humanity. It’s important to recognize that being human means being flawed, and that’s okay. You and the rest of the world have imperfections in common.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes and accept yourself, warts and all. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much lighter and happier you will feel.

While it’s incredibly important to learn self-compassion, it’s not always easy cultivating new thought and behavioral patterns on your own. A therapist can give you the support, encouragement and guidance you need to help you make these positive changes in your life.

If you or a loved one has struggled with self-compassion and would like to speak with someone, please give me a call. Let’s discuss how I may best be able to help.

10 Signs You Might Be a “Highly Sensitive Person”

Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)? If so, you’re not alone. It is estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. In fact, scientists now believe there is a gene behind this trait.

But what does it mean to be highly sensitive? The HSP is generally defined as someone with “acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli.”

The bad news is, being highly sensitive can make many “normal” life situations feel awkward and downright uncomfortable. But fear not, there are some benefits to being highly sensitive, and I’ll share those a little later in this post.

Signs You May Be a Highly Sensitive Person

If you are curious whether you may be part of the population that is highly sensitive, here are 10 signs to look for:

  1. You are quick to feel negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety.
  2. You may feel physical symptoms in relation to these emotions, such as headaches and muscle tension.
  3. You become overwhelmed with physical stimuli such as sound, light and smells.
  4. You have never felt comfortable around crowds. The energy of the crowd easily overwhelms you.
  5. You become very emotional over the injustices of the world. (you cry or become angry at the thought of children or animals being harmed, as an example)
  6. You often worry what others think of you.
  7. You take things personally.
  8. You have a hard time letting things go and receiving critical feedback.
  9. You avoid most social situations and prefer to stay home alone.
  10. You startle easily to loud noises.

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

As I mentioned earlier, while being a HSP can cause you to feel awkward or overwhelmed at times, there are some definite perks to being highly sensitive. For starters, you are someone who can enjoy subtle sensory detail that a majority of the population misses. You get pleasure from noticing the end of day light play. You’ll notice subtle shades of color and texture and feel immense pleasure at the complexities of Indian cuisine.

You’re also someone others like being around because you are aware of others’ feelings, needs and emotions. Because of this natural empathy, HSPs make great teachers, managers and leaders.

HSPs are also incredibly creative. Many artists, musicians and famous actors are highly sensitive people who have gifted the world with their talent and insight into what it means to be human.

As you can see, if you can manage the negative aspects of being a highly sensitive person, you can reap some pretty great rewards.

If you or someone you love suspects they are a HSP and would like to explore treatment options to manage those negative aspects, please get in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help.

5 Steps to Better Emotional Health

When it comes to our overall well-being, taking care of our emotional health is as important as taking care of our physical health. After all, when we aren’t healthy emotionally, our bodies react by raising our blood pressure, creating ulcers, and impeding our immune system from doing its job.

Here are 5 ways you can improve your emotional health starting today:

  1. Get Your Body Moving

Any form of exercise can have a significant and positive impact on your mood. Not only does exercise help your body burn through stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, it also releases feel good chemicals called endorphins, which help fight pain and make you happy. On top of this, you simply have a better self-esteem when you commit to exercising regularly.

  1. Build a Support Network

It’s very important to have a group of family and friends that you trust to share your problems with. We all need someone to lean on every once in a while who will listen and make us feel less alone.

If you’re currently feeling isolated, reach out to some old friends while making new ones. Consider volunteering or using a social gathering website like MeetUp.com to find people who share your passions and interests.

  1. Have More Sex

Physical intimacy within a committed relationship leads to numerous emotional benefits. You feel loved and secure because of a deep connection. You also feel good about yourself, and a healthy self-esteem is important to our overall well-being.

If you find you and your partner simply don’t have the time, make the time. Create a schedule and stick to it. It could be once a week, three times a week or even twice a month, whatever works.

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet

During stressful times, many of us make unhealthy food choices. After all, comfort foods, which are often laden with fat and processed carbohydrates, are supposed to make us feel better, right? Wrong.

Eating food high in sugars or drinking alcohol can negatively affect our emotional health. Sugar and other chemicals found in the foods we eat and beverages we drink alter our brain chemistry, often leading to feelings of anger, sadness, and even hopelessness.

It’s important to eat a healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, lean cuts of meat, and whole grains. Restrict your consumption of processed foods.

  1. Work with a Therapist

Sometimes, whatever is affecting your emotions may feel too big for you to handle alone. During times like these it’s important to seek guidance from a therapist who can help you understand your behaviors and reactions to events, as well as offer tools to help you cope and manage.

If you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with a temporary emotional slump or full-blown depression, contact a mental health professional as soon as possible.

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.

4 Signs You Might be Struggling with Depression

It’s natural to feel down or anxious from time to time. What’s not natural, however, is prolonged feelings of hopelessness and despair. When these emotions grab hold, and won’t let go, it is likely you may have depression. Depression makes every day a constant challenge. You no longer enjoy life as you once did. Just getting out of bed can feel overwhelming.

But, through education and therapy, you can overcome depression and get back to the life you were meant to live.

If you’re unsure of whether you are suffering from depression, read on to learn 4 common signs of the disease.

Signs of Depression

How can you tell if you are depressed? It may seem like an odd question, but a surprising number of people do not recognize that they may be suffering from depression. While some signs are obvious, others can be subtle.

Every individual will manifest symptoms in a different way, so it’s important to recognize any changes in your behavior. With this in mind, here are four signs you might be struggling with depression.

Changes in Weight

Depression can affect individuals in different ways. Some people may find they have no appetite at all and, before long, lose a significant amount of weight. Others may find their desire for food increases and they easily gain weight.

Changes in Sleep Cycles

As with a person’s appetite, the changes to one’s sleep cycle can also go in one of two directions. You may notice you feel lethargic and want nothing more than to sleep all day. Then again, you may find you can’t fall asleep and are restless all night long.

Anger and Irritability

It has been said that anger is depression turned inward. If you suddenly find yourself with a short fuse, and things that used to not bother you now cause you to fly off the handle, it may be a sign you need some help.

Physical Ailments

Many people don’t realize that depression can manifest itself physically. It is common for sufferers to feel sick to their stomach with whole body aches. Some may find they seem to have a cold or flu that won’t go away, while others may notice their chronic conditions, such as arthritis, are exacerbated by depression.

It is important to recognize these signs so you may seek treatment as soon as possible. While depression may feel like a life sentence, reaching out for help will put you on the path toward joy and peace once again.

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.