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.

5 Reasons Why Parents Don’t Discuss Child Sexual Abuse

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18, and 44% of rape victims are under age 18. Sadly, but not surprisingly, victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide according to the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Recognizing the real threat of sexual abuse against children is only half the battle. Talking to children about it is necessary to keep them safe. Unfortunately, many parents, particularly those of little children, have a hard time speaking to their kids about sexual abuse.

Here are some of the top reasons parents don’t discuss sexual abuse with their children:

  1. 1. Child Sexual Abuse Doesn’t Happen in My Community

Wrong. Child sexual abuse happens everywhere, from big cities to small farming communities and everywhere in between. No matter your location, religion, race, or yearly income, your life can be affected by it.

  1. 2. Our Children Know Better Than to Talk to Strangers

Sadly, 93% of all child sexual abuse happens at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts. Parents who teach only stranger danger are doing a disservice to their child.

  1. 3. My Child is Too Young to Handle This Discussion

You may be surprised to learn that the appropriate age to begin discussing the topic of child sexual abuse prevention is when a child is three years old. You can teach your young child about appropriate and inappropriate touch by saying something like, “Did you know that the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit are private and are for no-one else to see or touch?” Be sure to include any exceptions to this rule for potty training, hygiene and doctors’ visits. Also, explain that if someone does give them the “bad kind of touch,” that they are to tell Mommy or Daddy or their teacher.

  1. 4. I Don’t Want to Frighten My Child

You most likely don’t refrain from teaching your child about traffic safety for fear that your child will be scared to cross the street. Teaching body safety is equally important and, if done properly, can empower children.

  1. 5. My Child Would Come to Me if Something Ever Happened

Most children don’t immediately tell their parents. Typically, the perpetrator convinces them that the act is “their little secret” or that their parents will be angry with them. Be sure to tell your children that you would never ever be angry at them and they should come to you immediately if they ever became a victim of sexual abuse.

Children who have been the victim of sexual assault will require love and support. Parents of victims should consider seeking the guidance of a trained therapist who can help the child communicate facts and handle feelings.

If you or someone you know is a parent of a child who has been sexually abused and 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.

Using Your Faith to Practice Mindful Gratitude

It’s a familiar memory for a lot of Americans: sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, each person taking a moment to mention the things they’re grateful for. Unfortunately, being grateful seems to be something we’re reminded of only once a year on the holiday.

When it comes to practicing gratitude, many of us fall short. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, with the difficulties that life throws to us on a regular basis. We start to focus on our troubles, then wonder why we’re often so tired or unhappy.

Practicing mindful gratitude, and being thankful for things all year long, will improve your life in several ways: it will improve your physical health, your mental health and your relationships. If you’re a person of faith, you can use your faith to improve your gratitude in the following ways.

Improved Physical Health
Gratitude helps improve your physical health in numerous ways. According to a 2013 study published by the journal Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and were more likely to take care of their health. Improved self-care will have a positive impact on your willpower and mood, and help you sleep better.

Improved Mental Health
Regularly practicing gratitude can help you learn to appreciate yourself more. By being grateful for your blessings, you’ll look less enviously on the special trips and occasions of your friends in your social media feed. Avoiding negative thoughts will help bolster your self-esteem and keep your mood lifted. Gratitude can also help ease depression as you stay mindful of reasons to be happy and appreciate the positive things in your life.

Improved Relationships
Saying please and thank you shows good manners, but it also exhibits a positive attitude that can attract new people into your life. Showing appreciation will not only lead to new friendships, but will also help improve existing ones. As you practice gratitude on a regular basis, recognizing the positive in the people in your life and letting them know, you’ll create loving, long-lasting bonds.

Finding reasons to be and stay grateful can sometimes be challenging. Life can often test us in ways we feel we’re not quite prepared to handle. But leaning on your faith in times of trial can give you the edge you need to practice gratitude regularly. The benefits to mindful gratitude are so numerous, it’s well worth the time and effort to make practicing mindful gratitude a priority in your life.

 

If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to practice mindful gratitude, give our office a call today. One of our specially trained staff will be more than happy to help.

4 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating Every Day

Is this a scenario you can relate to?:

You sit down in front of the television or computer with a bag of chips or pint of ice cream intending to eat only one serving, but before you even know what’s happened the entire bag or pint is gone. And you have no real recollection of tasting or even enjoying it. You seem to have eaten the whole thing on autopilot.

This is how many of us eat every meal of every day, without any awareness of the food or how much we eat of it. This is mindlesseating, and it is the cause for so much overeating and weight gain in this country.

What is Mindful Eating and How Do I Do It?

Mindful eating is exactly what it sounds like – it is a practice of becoming more aware of what and how much you eat. It is not a fad diet, which are short-sighted approaches to eating, and there are no specific recipes to follow.

Instead, mindful eating is a long-term approach to eating. It’s about forming a relationship with your food, not being controlled by food. When you eat mindfully, you taste and savor each and every bite.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, here are 4 ways you can begin practicing mindful eating every day:

1.  In Sight – In Mind

You know the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind?” Well the opposite is also true – the food we see we tend to want to eat. If you have boxes of cookies and donuts on your kitchen counter, you are going to grab one (or more) when you pass by because your blood sugar is low, and you need energy. You’ll have an entire donut eaten before you even realize you ate it.

Your mindfulness must start in the grocery store. Stop buying unhealthy foods laden with salt and sugar, and opt for healthier foods and snacks like fresh produce and nuts. Strategically place these healthy options around your home and kitchen so you can’t help but see them first the next time you reach for something to eat.

2.  Stop Multitasking

How often do you just eat and only eat? Stop eating in front of the television, and stop eating at your computer. And if you absolutely must work through your lunch break, try alternating between tasks so you can focus on one entirely at a time.

For instance, focus on writing and sending that email, then switch tasks and spend a full minute or two on eating your lunch, savoring each bite. Then switch to another task, and back to eating and so on.

3.  Slow Down

Unless you’ve entered a pie-eating contest, there’s no rush. Too many of us wolf down our food, then wonder why we feel so sick. Pace yourself. In your mind as you chew, repeatedly tell yourself to slow down. Eventually slow, purposeful eating will become an ingrained habit, but in the beginning you need to train yourself.

4.  Gauge Your Hunger

How hungry are you when you begin to eat? Are you even hungry at all, or are you eating as an emotional response to something?

Before you dive into that large pizza with the works, gauge your real hunger level. On a scale of 1-10, if your hunger is a 3, one slice should suffice. If you’re not hungry but in a bad mood because the boss is making you stay late, don’t eat the pizza. Instead, lift your mood with a non-food treat like a funny Youtube video you know you like or by mentally planning out all the enjoyable things you’re going to do after you get out of work.

Simple. Not easy, per se, but it will become easier with practice.

Try to incorporate these tips into your everyday life. You will be surprised how mindful eating can change your entire life, from the size clothes you wear, to your health, to how in control you feel in other areas of your life.

If your mindful journey helps you to uncover certain food or emotional issues you’d like to explore further, please contact me. I have worked with many people who have food addictions or use food as an emotional response and I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you.

When Will I Start Feeling Better? Grieving for the First Time

One of the most devastating experiences we must endure in life is grieving the loss of a loved one. Although we have the knowledge that everyone will eventually die, and we logically understand the finality of death, no amount of information can prepare us for the devastation of the actual experience. Losing someone we love for the first time can be overwhelming. Trying to comprehend the finality of this separation is a shock to our system. We can feel angry, anxious, or depressed.

Experiencing grief differs for each person. How we endure, experience, and eventually thrive is unique to each individual. Although Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) are very well known, they are still imperfect: not everyone will experience those exact emotions. There is no road map and no timeline when it comes to grief. When you start to feel better is largely up to you.

One of the most important things to recognize when it comes to grief is that the length of time you spend in mourning, or the depths of the sadness you feel, are not a measure of how much you treasured the loved one you lost. At the same time, it’s unhealthy to try and “skip over” the period of mourning by burying yourself in work or play. The only way to the destination at the end is to walk the road and to do that you must let the feelings come up: cry when you need to cry, and laugh when you need to laugh. If the sorrow you’re experiencing is overwhelming, here are some activities to try and alleviate it.

Schedule time to cry. If you find yourself spending too much time crying and upset, schedule a time to feel sad. Give yourself one hour when you can cry as much as you like. But when the hour is up, wash your face and do something nice for yourself.

Do something in honor of your loved one. This can be making a donation in their name, volunteering, planting a tree, or baking their favorite cake.

Write. Write your loved one a letter or journal your feelings.

Meditate. Find a quiet place to meditate or pray. Visit your place of worship or read religious books you find comforting.

Exercise. Go for a walk, go to the gym, or take a yoga class. Try something new, or do something familiar – whichever feels better to you.

Although someone you loved has died, who they were has left a permanent mark on you: you are forever changed because of them. Honor their memory by honoring their life, and honor their life by making the best out of yours.

If you are struggling with grief and need help moving forward, contact my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.