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.

4 Healthy Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural dialogue between our mind and body. It’s a red flag that something might be going on in our surroundings that requires our attention.

For most of us, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times. For some, anxiety may be more present and color more of their daily life. And for still others, anxiety is a constant torture; a nightmare they can’t awaken from.

Depending on your level of anxiety, there are some healthy coping strategies you can use to manage it. Here are 4 I recommend:

Mind Your Mind

How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Our thoughts tend to bubble up from our subconscious without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening, although the majority will not be based in reality.

Start to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings. Instead of thinking the worst will happen, challenge the thought. What is the realistic likelihood the worst will happen on a scale of 1 – 10?

The more you do this, the more you will retrain your mind to process life differently.

Remind Yourself What Anxiety Is

Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you are dying.

But you’re not.

You are having a physical response to an irrational fear or thought. Remind yourself of that ancient dialogue your mind and body are having and know that, in reality, you are okay.

Learn Your Triggers

Once you learn to pay attention to your thoughts and remain calm knowing you are having a natural reaction to what you perceive as a threat, find the threat. Observe your surroundings to find the potential trigger that activated your reaction. If there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger. Do they seem uneasy or concerned in the least? Chances are they don’t because the threat is not real. Store this information away so eventually your subconscious mind will stop thinking of the trigger as a threat.

Breathe

Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being. Don’t underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.

If you find you need a bit more help controlling your anxiety, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss treatment options with you.

3 Great Phone Apps to Help Improve Self Esteem

People who struggle with low self-esteem often hold themselves back from making intimate connections with others and reaching their most desired goals. Luckily, technology is making it easier for these people to give their self-esteem a boost.

Here are 3 great phone apps that can help you improve your self-esteem:

Simply Being

A positive self-image is the result of a positive mindset – and that can be the result of daily meditation. Simply Being is a guided meditation app. Users can intensify the experience by adding their own choice of music or selecting from a list of soothing nature sounds. The app is available on iPhone, iPad, Windows, Android, and Blackberry.

Confidence Coach

Here’s an app that was actually developed by two British Clinical Psychologists. Confidence Coach takes a psychological approach known as Cognitive-Behavior Therapy or CBT for short.

With over 25 years of experience between them, these clinicians combine numerous techniques that, when used, can help change thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Users can monitor their behavior by tracking their strengths in the “Positive Quality Diary” and making use of the “Confidence Commitments” features. These remind users of their daily to-dos for boosting self-esteem.

Happier

Coming at self-esteem from a different angle, Happier focuses on inspiring individuals to gain self-esteem by “mindfully curating what makes you happy.” The app illustrates the many simple ways happiness can be instilled in one’s life. Users could spend a few moments with their pet or volunteer at their local soup kitchen. The idea is that by feeling grateful we can feel more positivity about ourselves and our lives.

Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help

A low self-esteem shows up in our lives as a wall; a wall that keeps us from reaching our full potential and fulfillment. To live an authentic life, these walls need to come down. Cognitive Diary  aims to do this by teaching users to establish certain triggers and thought patterns that lead to a negative state of mind. Once these triggers are identified, it becomes easier to stay one or more steps ahead.

Like “Confidence Coach,” Cognitive Diary is based on tools of cognitive behavioral therapy and was developed by a licensed and practicing psychotherapist.

There’s no denying that personal development takes time and commitment, but luckily various applications are helping people reach their full potential.

If you’ve tried some of these apps, or, deep down, believe you need more help in boosting your self-esteem, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

5 Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship

At some point in life, most of us have experienced being in a toxic relationship, whether we’re aware of it or not. People of all ages, nationalities and sexual orientations can find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, confused as to how they got there, or perhaps even unsure the situation is unhealthy.

While physical abuse is obvious, mental and emotional abuse can be subtle. It can also be particularly hard to notice things are wrong when you suffer from low self-worth. Abusive behavior can seem right to those who don’t know their own value.

Here are 5 signs you’re in an abusive relationship.

1. Undermining
When you try to speak with your partner, do they refuse to hear your side? Do they deny everything you say to the point of questioning your sanity? Do you question your own? Having disagreements is normal, but a partner who refuses to have an open conversation is problematic.

2. Isolating You from Others 
If you feel you need the love, support and energy of close friends and family, but your partner isolates you from them, this is a sign of abuse. It could be subtle, pretending to be sick or in a funk to get you to stay home with them instead; or it could be more obvious, as in forbidding you to see certain people.

3. Put Downs
Saying something you know will be hurtful to someone is a form of verbal abuse. You are intentionally causing them pain. Though it may be said in jest, the humor may simply be a cover for cruelty.

If your partner is constantly putting you down or intentionally pushing your buttons, this is a sign of disrespect and even hostility.

4. Using the Guilt Card
Much abuse comes in the form of manipulation, and guilt is one of the easiest ways to manipulate another’s emotions to get them to do what you want. If you feel you are being manipulated through guilt to the point where you’re ready to give up any power you have in the relationship, this is a sign something may be going on. For instance, it is natural and healthy for a person to need time alone. Does your partner guilt you into spending your alone time with them?

5. Controlling Your Behavior
This could mean a broad range of things, from controlling how you dress to what you say and where you go. Again, it may be subtle. Maybe they buy you clothes often and tease you about your sense of style, or lack thereof. Maybe they tease you and say that you sound “silly” not knowing what you’re talking about regarding politics. This is disrespectful and abusive.

How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship

 Learn how to spot controlling behaviors so you can be clear about what is happening to you.
 Become your own greatest strength and support by beginning to trust your instincts, thoughts, and feelings.
 Surround yourself with those who love and respect you and want the best for you.

You may also want to seek guidance from a trained counselor. They can help you see reality clearly and offer strategies to extract yourself from the relationship so you can begin to heal.

If you or a loved one is in an abusive relationship and are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may help.

5 Signs You Aren’t Practicing Self-Care

Self-care is complex. Anyone can tell you to do it, but only you can bestow the gift of self-care onto yourself. But before you can begin bestowing, you’ve got to first recognize that you are worthy of caring for yourself as you do others.

How do you do this? By noticing the ways in which you are currently not taking very good care of yourself.

Here are 5 signs you aren’t practicing self-care. If any seem familiar, it is time to make more time for yourself:

1. You Get Sick More Often

When we don’t take proper care of ourselves, our health takes a big hit. Lack of proper sleep and nutrition can lead to a taxed immune system, which in turn makes you vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.

2. Increased Moodiness

What happens when a child does not get the care and attention they deserve? They begin to act out in order to get any attention. In much the same way, a lack of self-care and feeling of unimportance can lead to increased irritability. Leaving this unchecked can result in personal and professional relationships being negatively affected.

3. Unpleasant Physical Symptoms

What can start out as unpleasant (and even scary) physical symptoms, can be a sign of poor self-care. Symptoms may include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, headaches, and fainting spells. All of these symptoms should be checked out by your healthcare provider immediately.

4. A Feeling of Isolation

When you feel you don’t deserve to care for yourself, you naturally feel unworthy of enjoying other aspects of life, like socializing and a true connection to friends and family. This can lead to a detachment of others and a sense of isolation.

5. Depression

Feelings of worthlessness can snowball into feelings of hopelessness and depression. If you have noticed yourself slipping farther and farther into a depression, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional. They can help you recognize where the darkness has come from, and how to break through back into the light.

If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, or would simply like some help practicing self-care, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.