3 Ways to Minimize Seasonal Depression

Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short, is a form of depression that typically impacts people during the winter months, when exposure to sunlight and temperature changes naturally occur.

Research indicates that about six percent of the American population, primarily those people living in northern states, suffers from SAD. It is also believed that one in ten Americans experience subsyndromal SAD, a milder form of seasonal depression, also called the “winter blues.” And, though the disorder can affect both men and women, it is more common among women.

Symptoms of seasonal depression include:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Increased weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Social withdrawal
  • moodiness

Though some people confuse SAD as simply moodiness, it is a real form of depression that is dependent on an individual’s hormonal state, as well as seasonal characteristics like exposure to light and temperature.

If you or a loved one are affected by seasonal depression, here are three ways you can reduce the symptoms that impact the quality of life.

Get Outside

While the temperatures outside may be a bit harsher than you’d like, it’s still a great idea to bundle up and get some sunshine, as much as you can. Our bodies need sunlight to boost our levels of vitamin D. Among other things, a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mood swings, headaches and fatigue.

Exercise is also one of the best ways to release the feel-good hormone, serotonin. But it is much better to walk for a half hour outside in the sunlight than to get on the treadmill inside. So, if you can bare the chill in the air, head outside and get that body moving.

Use a SAD Light

Of course, there will be those days when the sun refuses to show its face and the weather is too severe to spend much, if any, time outside. The use of a SAD light can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal depression.

SAD lights are also called light therapy boxes, and the light they produce mimics natural outdoor light. Light therapy is believed to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, like serotonin and melatonin, easing SAD symptoms.

Eat More Produce

Feelings of anxiety are common among those suffering with seasonal depression, but according to Dr. Uma Naidoo of Harvard Medical School, relief may be found at the end of your fork. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of essential nutrients like magnesium and zinc that ease anxiety and make people feel calmer. While you may be tempted to eat starchy comfort foods like bread and pasta, your best bet is to load up on as many whole foods as you can, with an emphasis on organic produce.


While the cold weather is likely to have most of us dreaming about spring, winter doesn’t have to be an emotional trial. By following these tips you may be able to lesson your SAD symptoms and get through winter unscathed.

If you or a loved one is currently feeling overwhelmed by SAD symptoms, 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.

Coping with the Holidays After Loss

For many people, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones. But for those who have suffered a recent loss, the holidays can be painful and isolating.

Here are some ways you can cope with the holidays after a loss:

Recognize You are Not Alone

It’s easy to feel as though you are the only one experiencing great pain during the holiday season. Everywhere you turn, people seem to be happy, putting up decorations, buying gifts and making holiday plans. It’s important to recognize the truth right now, and that is that you are not alone. There are people all over the world who have experienced loss, some perhaps very recently.

Honor Your Pain

No one expects you to feel joyful and in the holiday mood right now, so don’t feel as though you must pretend for others’ sake. It is very important that you honor whatever emotions you may be experiencing, whether it’s sadness, anger, regret or a combination.

Take Your Time

The holidays are usually a busy time for people. There is much to accomplish and many events to host and/or attend. You do not have to keep your normal schedule this year. You simply will not have the mental or emotional stamina for it. So take the time you need. If you don’t feel like attending many (or any) events this year, that is fine. People will understand.

Help Others in Need

One of the worst parts about losing a loved one is the feeling that we no longer have any control over our lives. Loss makes us feel helpless. One way to fight this feeling is to help others who are in need. As a bonus, connecting with others who are hurting can often be a salve on our hearts as well.

When Don’t These Guidelines Apply?

If you have children, it’s important to understand that they are looking to you right now to know what life will be like from now on. To a child, the loss of a parent or sibling can frighten them terribly. Though you may not at all feel like celebrating the holidays, doing so helps your child know that life does go on and that there is space in your life to feel joy along with sadness.

 

If you have experienced loss and would like to explore grief counseling, please be in touch. You don’t have to suffer alone.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. This becomes even more true for individuals brought up in abusive or unloving homes.

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is taken from Buddhist psychology and refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. Self-compassion or self-love is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.

But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves? It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals treat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion.

Why is this important? Because self-compassion helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize self-compassion also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Self-compassion also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

Now that you know the what and why of self-compassion, let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

You would never harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself. You would only want to help and love that child. When you begin to treat yourself as you would a small child, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. This is to say we all have scripts or programs running in our minds 24/7. These scripts and programs are running our lives, insisting we have certain behaviors and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to become more mindful of your own mind.

When you begin to have a feeling or reaction to something, stop and ask yourself WHO is feeling that? Is it the compassionate self or the program running? If it’s the program, thank the program for what it has done and release it.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a conscious act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and we can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy may help.

3 Ways to Build Confidence & Self-Esteem

Having confidence helps individuals achieve greater success in life. When someone believes they can accomplish something, nothing can stop them from reaching that goal.

Equally important, however, is having a healthy self-esteem. Many people believe they can achieve a goal, they just don’t believe they are worth the effort.

Having confidence and a positive self-esteem can help you live a more fulfilling life  by making your dreams a reality. Here are 3 ways you can build both:

1. Stop Self-Criticism in its Tracks

In order to grow as a person, all of that negative self-talk has to stop. Here’s what you do:

The next time you have a self-critical thought, ask yourself two questions:

  • Is there any evidence that this thought is true?
  • Would my friends and family agree that this thought is true?

There is a very good chance that the answer to both of these questions will be “no.” When you answer no over and over again, you will start to consider that you are something other – something more – than what you originally perceived.

2. Keep a Journal

This won’t be an ordinary journal. It will be one in which you will write down all of your victories. Writing down successes helps you to feel them and remember them better. The successes could be small, “I kept my cool when my daughter came home at 2AM,” or big, “I beat out 5 other people to get that promotion!” Write these down every day and whenever you need a confidence boost, reread what you’ve written.

3. Keep Your Commitments

When you agree to do something, it’s important you keep your word. If you don’t commit and follow through, you learn not to trust yourself and lose faith in your ability to get results. Empower yourself by always keeping your commitments, to yourself and to others. It can also be helpful to seek positive support and guidance from an objective third party. A therapist will be able to help you navigate your thoughts and offer tools for correction.

Have you been struggling with a lack of confidence or low self-esteem? Are you interested in exploring therapy to get to the bottom of these issues? If so, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

3 Signs Social Media Is Hindering Your Happiness

How long has it been since you checked your Facebook page or Twitter account? If you’re like most people, you use social media many times throughout the day.

But while you may think social media is fun, studies have suggested that it can take a toll on our emotions. One such study by researchers at the University of Missouri focused on the effects of Facebook on mental health. They discovered that regular use could lead to symptoms of depression if the site triggered feelings of envy in the user.

Professor Margaret Duffy, a co-author of the research, said about the findings, “If it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect.”

Other studies have revealed that most people tend to edit photos and only show the ones that make their lives seem more attractive to others.

It is this constant measuring of ourselves against others that causes unimaginable amounts of grief. I see it on an almost-daily basis. Decent people with much to offer feeling unworthy of happiness because they feel inferior to others. They walk into my office with what appears to be the weight of the world on their shoulders.

I have found much of this weight stems from not feeling as “good, smart, pretty, wealthy, or funny” as others.

If you are now wondering whether maybe your happiness has taken a hit from social media use, here are 5 signs it has:

1.  You Need Positive Feedback to Feel Good

Let’s face it, we all love feeling appreciated. It feels good to get that positive feedback when you post a photo or event from your life. But if you find you only have good days on the days you are getting that positive feedback online, you may be depending on social media too much.

2.  You’re an Instant Gratification Addict

We have become a society of people who seek out instant gratification. While it’s okay to want instant oats and instant movie streaming, having a need to instantly feel worthy and good through social media is very harmful.

If the promise of instant gratification is driving your desire to post or share bits of your life, you may have become too dependent.

3.  You’re Reliving the Popularity Contests All Over Again

I find many of my adult clients care just as much about how many Facebook friends and likes they get as my teenage clients do. It’s as if the adults are reliving the high school popularity contests all over again. At the end of the day, are all of those Facebook friends reallyyour friend?

True happiness is having authentic connections with the loved ones in your life. If you’re paying too much attention to how many online friends you have and not enough on whether or not your face-to-face relationships are healthy, you may have a problem.

The next time you find yourself on your social media sites feeling jealous, envious, or somehow less than the people on those pages, remember that people tend to present very biased accounts of their lives. They, like you, want to measure up to the rest of the world.

Know that every human being is essentially struggling to feel worthy of being alive. It’s something we all seem to have in common. Instead of trying to be better than each other, let’s all instead try to have more compassion for each other.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time with self-worth issues and you’d like to speak to someone, please reach out to me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help.

3 Reasons to Stay Single (At Least For a While) After a Breakup

“Try, try again…”

“Dust yourself off and start all over again…”

“Get right back on that horse…”

These are just some of the common phrases we use to support the idea that trying something after it didn’t go so well the first time is a good idea. And in many instances, this is the right attitude. But there is something to be said about taking a break after a breakup.

When you’ve ended a difficult marriage or relationship, you may feel like putting yourself back out there and start dating again. But here are some reasons why it’s best to stay single for a while:

 

You Need to Process

The longer and bigger the relationship, the more events and feelings you’ll need to process. Dating is a great distraction from your feelings, and that is exactly why you need to remain single for a while. It’s important to process all of your feelings regarding the relationship and the breakup. Ignoring your feelings will only cause them to fester.

 

You Need to Learn

Every heartbreak in life is an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson. Now is the time for you to think about what went wrong in the relationship and why? What was your part in it? What could you have done better? How will you choose your next partner based on your experiences?

Failure to truly understand your relationship history will only cause you to make the same exact mistakes.

 

You Need to Grow

You can either bring an excessive amount of emotional baggage to your next relationship, or you can bring a new version of you that is whole and healthy and vital. Now is the time to nurture yourself and your passions. What hobbies have you been ignoring because of your broken relationship? Have you been wanting to take a night class? Learn a new language or travel more? The more time you spend on yourself now to grow as a human being, the more you will have to offer that next Mr. or Mrs. Right.

 

Breakups are never easy, but they are often a part of life. The key is to not rush into the next relationship but take some time to reflect on the one that just ended. What can you learn and how can you grow?

10 Signs You’re Addicted to Working

We live in a society that worships the overachiever. Burning the candle at both ends and denying yourself pleasure until the work gets done is seen as honorable. And while having a good work ethic is definitely key to living your best life, it is also important to balance your work life with a sense of play and freedom. If you don’t, you could experience burnout.

The Dangers of Being Addicted to Work

You may think that a workaholic would be every boss and manager’s dream employee. After all, if you’re someone who’s addicted to work, you’re generally the first one to arrive, last to leave, refuse to take vacations and take on mountains of work.

But workaholics are often not seen as team players, don’t delegate, and can’t handle their workload efficiently. And, because these individuals refuse to take time off of work, they can become sick. Workaholics experience far more work-related stress, anger, anxiety and depression, which can result in physical symptoms like headaches, migraines, GI upset and insomnia.

Are You a Workaholic?

Wondering whether you are a workaholic? Here are 10 signs you may be addicted to working:

  1. You work over 50 hours each week.
  2. You feel the need to be constantly busy.
  3. You have trouble relaxing and/or having fun when not working.
  4. You are a perfectionist.
  5. Writing to-do lists is fun for you.
  6. Your loved ones complain about how much you work.
  7. You’re often caught not listening or paying attention to conversations because you’re focused on work.
  8. You’ve often been called a “control freak.”
  9. You are neglecting other aspects of your life, like attending your child’s play or music recital.
  10. You become highly stressed when you are forced to turn off your cellphone and other digital devices.

Workaholism is a Real Disease

Workaholism is an actual disease like alcoholism that tends to be passed down from parent to child. Work addicts use work as a means to cope with emotional discomfort and feelings of inadequacy. Because there is a real, intense need for work as a distraction, other areas of their life tend to suffer. And the cycle goes on and on.

Workaholics can benefit greatly from cognitive behavioral therapy where they can learn coping strategies that allow them to feel better and work less.

If you or someone you know is addicted to work and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d love to help you find some balance in your life.

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay because it will be.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. What can you do with the extra time that isn’t being used to drive an hour or more each day in commuting? Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Tackle them now, you’ll feel great about it later.

 

If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via Skype, so you won’t even have to leave your home if your state is in lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf

Tips for Coping with Social Isolation

Humans are social creatures and we don’t do well in isolation. That’s exactly why state penitentiaries punish prisoners by putting them into solitary confinement. It causes them great mental anguish.

Many of us have felt like prisoners in solitary confinement over the last couple of months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. And many of us have been feeling our own mental anguish from this extended isolation.

Who knows how long this may go on? While none of us have control over what our governments do, we do have control over ourselves and our perceptions of the world. With this in mind, here are some tips for coping with social isolation, for however long it goes on.

Isolate Yourself from the Media

If you’re paying attention, it almost seems as if the media is trying to confuse us and cause panic more than report on actual news. Watching too much news doesn’t help anyone’s anxiety levels, so stay informed as best you can but don’t binge-watch.

Get Creative

Being isolated can get very boring very quickly so it’s important that you try and get creative with your time. This could mean painting the living room and rearranging the furniture or getting your husband and kids to learn a new language with you. It could mean experimenting with an old recipe or making up a game with your kids. Just have fun and think outside the box!

Reconnect

Now is a great time to reconnect with friends and loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. And technology like Skype and Facetime makes it incredibly easy to chat with someone no matter where in the world they are.

Stay Active

A lot of the anxiety we may feel comes from the fact we aren’t moving our bodies as much as we usually do. It’s important to stay physically active during this time. So get outside and get some sun. Go for a walk or ride your bike. Not only is exercise good for us physically, but physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel good mentally and emotionally as well.

Meditate

The world is a chaotic place right now and it seems we are being hit with noise and negativity from all sides. It’s important to make time each day for some quiet meditation.

If you’ve never meditated before, that’s okay. Just try it.

One of the easiest ways to meditate is through a listening meditation. Find a space in your house where you can be alone and get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out… and simply listen to the ambient sounds.

What do you hear? The buzzing of a light? A fly? Your dog’s collar rattling down the hall as he scratches. Expand your hearing to see what else can you hear outside your house. Birds? Lawnmowers? Traffic?

Simply breathe and listen intently for 5-10 minutes. When you listen, you can’t think at the same time, and so you will notice finally your thoughts go quiet. This is paradise!

If you find that the social isolation is really beginning to trouble you and you’d like to speak with someone, please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

Fighting Loneliness During Quarantine

Not many of us have ever experienced the kind of isolation that this COVID-19 pandemic has brought about. While quarantine for some has been a welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of life and a chance to spend more quality time with the family, for others it has been an incredibly lonely experience away from coworkers, friends, and those they love and need most.

In addition, and to make matters worse, loneliness can make managing stress more difficult. And let’s be honest, we are all surrounded by stress these days from worrying about when the world will open up again, when we can start working and earning a living and when life will get back to normal.

Fighting Loneliness in Healthy Ways

Sadly, during times like these, many people turn to alcohol and other substances as a way to cope with stress and loneliness. But there are healthier ways you can fight it.

Plan to Stay Connected

During this time it’s important to create a plan to safely stay in regular contact with family and friends. If you are an older person, be sure to confirm who you can reach out to if you need help getting food, medications, and other supplies.

Leverage Technology

While many of us still cannot be in the same space as our loved ones, we are very lucky we live in a time when phones and digital technology can help us all stay connected. Be sure to schedule regular phone calls and online video chats using apps like Skype or FaceTime.

Get in Touch with Old Friends

Most of us, at some point in our life, lose touch with friends and acquaintances we once shared our lives with. Now is the perfect time to reconnect. And social media makes it very easy to find someone you may have lost contact with years ago.

Seek Help

During this pandemic, many counselors and therapists are helping clients via telehealth services. This means instead of going into a therapist’s office, you can speak to them on the phone or over a video conference. A therapist can help you navigate this forced isolation and offer coping strategies to get you through.

If you or someone you love is having a difficult time dealing with loneliness right now, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES: