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.

Treat Yourself: The Importance of Putting Yourself First & Self Care

If I asked whether you were the victim of childhood emotional neglect (CEN), would you know how to answer? Probably not. CEN is often misunderstood and therefor, misdiagnosed.

Childhood emotional neglect means an individual was not provided the emotional support from parents and other adults that is required to grow up to be a confident person with a healthy self-esteem. Though a parent may never physically harm the child and provide them with food, healthcare, clothing and shelter, they may still emotionally neglect their child causing psychological harm.

Symptoms of CEN

In her book “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect”, Dr. Jonice Webb outlined some of the most commonsymptoms of CEN:

  • Feeling numb or cut off from your own feelings
  • Feeling like something has always been missing
  • Feeling hollow
  • Having a low self-esteem
  • Feeling the need to be perfect
  • Being overly-sensitive
  • Lack of self-care while taking care of everyone else

That last symptom is a biggie. Have you found that for most of your life, your needs always came second (if not third or fourth?). If yes, it’s time to recognize that your feelings and needs matter.

With this in mind, here are some ways you can begin to treat yourself better:

Take Baby Steps

You’ve spent years believing your needs didn’t matter, don’t expect that putting yourself first will come easy to you. It won’t. It will feel awkward and downright wrong to put yourself first. The important thing is that you take baby steps each day to show yourself you matter.

Ask Yourself What You Need

If you’ve experienced CEN, you’re most likely unaware you even haveneeds, so you probably won’t be able to identify them right away. Take some time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself what you need and be sure to listen!

Stay Healthy

You have a big and exciting journey ahead of you, one in which you will be exploring your inner world and getting to finally know yourself. This is going to require strength and energy. Be sure to avoid processed foods and opt instead for whole foods focusing on fruits and veggies.

Also, be sure to get plenty of exercise and enough rest. Adults generally require seven to nine hours of sleep each night, so don’t cheat your body. And avoid using the TV, computer, or your smartphone before bed.

Learn to Say No

Guess what? If you want to put yourself first more often, you’re going to sometimes have to say “no” to other people. Don’t feel guilty about doing this. Having boundaries is healthy. It’s not only your right to say no to others sometimes, it’s your personal responsibility.

Get Support

As wonderful as your self-discovery journey will be, it will be fraught with bumps in the road. It’s important that you have someone who will support your efforts without judgements or criticism.

Consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to manage stress in the future. A therapist will help you prioritize your needs moving forward and recognize your emotions and needs matter.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help you on your journey.

Get Some Sleep! 5 Tips for Busting Through Your Insomnia

If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, you’re not alone. Insomnia, the chronic inability to get sufficient sleep, is a common problem affecting millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 study, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a daily basis.

With a lack of sleep at the root of serious medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, getting a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis is crucial to a long and healthy life. Here are five things you can do to change your routine and start getting to, and staying, asleep.

1. Just Two Things in Bed
Make sure that your bed is used only for two things: sex and sleep. By using your bed almost exclusively for sleep, your body will associate your bed with rest and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.

2. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular exercise (the recommended thirty minutes a day, five days a week) will help you promote healthy sleep habits. Your post-exercise temperature may promote falling asleep, and exercise in general will help eliminate insomnia by decreasing arousal and anxiety.

3. Naps, Caffeine, & Alcohol
Short naps are helpful for some, but for others it impacts their ability to fall asleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, avoid naps during the day. Caffeine, a known stimulant, may keep you up longer than you’re aware. You may need to avoid caffeine entirely if it prevents you from falling asleep. And, while alcohol is a sedative, it can disrupt your sleep; so if you have trouble staying asleep, avoid alcohol.

4. No Screens Before Bedtime
Screen time, such as computers, smart phones and television, prevent you from falling asleep due to cognitive stimulation. Too much light at bedtime affects your melatonin production, giving your body the impression that its staying awake, not ready for sleep. Help your body get ready for sleep by eliminating screen time at least two hours before bed.

5. Create a Nighttime Routine
Creating a regular nighttime routine will help your body get into the habit of winding down and relaxing as it prepares for sleep. Create a nighttime routine an hour or two before bed. Maybe have a glass of warm milk, brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and read a book every night before bed. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

Changing old habits and establishing a new routine is never easy. But as you make changes and sustain new practices, it will get easier. Before long you’ll have a new set of healthy habits, and you can finally settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Are you struggling with insomnia and need help maintaining healthy sleep habits? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

Balance Your Mood With Food: How Good Nutrition Supports Mental Health

Our brains are magnificent machines: while the brain controls rudimentary yet complex functions like your heartbeat, breathing and motor functions, it also controls a multitude of other complicated tasks such as creating your thoughts and feelings. A machine this advanced, that runs 24/7, clearly requires fuel to run. The fuel you supply to your hard-working brain is none other than the food and drink you consume.

Like any other machine, the quality of your brain function is relative to the quality of the fuel you put in it. Foods rich in nourishment such as complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help stabilize blood sugar levels while increasing your brain’s energy. When it comes to feeding the brain, you get back what you put in.

Selenium

Selenium is an important mineral that your body relies on to perform many of its basic functions. Studies have shown that people with a low amount of selenium in their diet have an elevated rate of depression, irritability, and anxiety. While too little selenium causes health problems, too much can be toxic. According to the National Institute of Health, 55 mcg of selenium a day is the sweet spot for adults 19 years of age and older.

Brazil nuts are by far the most selenium-rich food available. An ounce (about 7 or 8) of brazil nuts contains 544 mcg of selenium per serving, so two or three brazil nuts a day is more than sufficient to get your RDA of selenium. You can also get your 55 mcg a day with 3 to 4 ounces of halibut, roasted ham, or shrimp. Cottage cheese, roast chicken, oatmeal, and eggs also contain moderate amounts of selenium, around 10 to 20 mcg per serving.

Folate (Folic Acid)

Studies have shown that an increased intake of folate or folic acid is associated with a lower risk of depression. Folate is found in a wide variety of food, with spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and brussels sprouts containing the highest levels. You can also get your recommended 400 mcg of folate with avocado, peanuts, orange juice, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, and whole grains, among many other foods.

Omega-3

Dopamine and serotonin are chemicals in the brain that are produced by nerve cells. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer, and dopamine controls your feelings of pleasure and reward. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in them, and they effect the transmission of dopamine and serotonin. Omega-3 also has a role in brain development and function, with the ability to stabilize moods. Omega 3 foods include salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and chia seeds.

There are many other nutritious foods that will serve as prime fuel for your brain, helping you perform, feel and be at your very best. Using this list to help change your eating habits for the better is a great step in the right direction.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and would like some support and guidance to live a more balanced life, contact my office today so we can set up a time to talk.

Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks! Tips for Starting a Later-In-Life Hobby

Most of us, when we were growing up, had hobbies. Some of us collected stamps or coins, others rode horses, and still others liked to draw or bake. But then we grew up and our world became filled with work and family responsibilities, and we had little time to do the things we once loved.

And that’s too bad, because hobbies are essentially a way for us to play as adult. We don’t pursue needlepoint to become famous or to make millions of dollars (if only!), we partake in hobbies for the pure pleasurethey bring to us.

Happiness isn’t just nice to feel, happiness actually makes us healthier and live longer! A study found that older people who are happy have a 35% lower risk of dying over a five-year period than unhappy people. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But I’m Too Old to Pick Up a Hobby

Rubbish.

Did you know that Winston Churchill didn’t start painting until he was in his middle years? He absolutely fell in love with it. In a small book called Painting as a Pastime, he wrote:

“… There is no subject on which I feel more humble or yet at the same time more natural. I do not presume to explain how to paint, but only how to get enjoyment.” [and then later in the book] “We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box…”

Whether it’s painting, ceramics, photography, Italian cooking, writing poetry, or scrapbooking – or something else entirely – pick something you’ve always wanted to do and just try it.

Getting Started

Okay, let’s set you out on your new journey of growth, discovery, and joy! Here are some steps you can take to get started.

1. Brainstorm – If you aren’t exactly sure what kind of hobby you would enjoy, spend some time making a list of things you have enjoyed in the past. Maybe you like music or you’ve always liked being outdoors.

2. Research – To narrow your list, do some research on things like cost and time needed for these hobbies. This is good to know before you dive in.

3. Don’t listen to others – Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re foolish for wanting to learn to Salsa dance or kayak “at your age.” These people are to be pitied, not listened to.

4. Be honest with yourself – Maybe you’ll love the hobby you choose and maybe you’ll want to try something else. The idea here is to play and explore yourself.

It is never to old to begin a new journey. I wish you an exciting one!

What is Trauma and What Causes it?

Most of us won’t get through life without our own fair share of stress and heartache. But some people experience not just stress, sadness or grief, but actual trauma. This can be from events like being involved in a bad car accident, rape, a natural disaster, or war.

The result of experiencing such events is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where the mind is unable to process the event as it processes ordinary life events. The result is a brain that misfires information, causing the person to live much of their life distressed, as if the event were still happening to them.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms associated with PTSD, but the most common ones are:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks
• Psychological and physiological distress at reminders
• Avoidance of internal and external reminders
• Dissociative amnesia
• Negative beliefs about oneself and the world
• Distorted blaming of oneself
• Negative persistent emotional states
• Loss of interests
• Detachment from loved ones
• Hyper vigilance
• Exaggerated startle response
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Causes of PTSD

Researchers are not altogether clear on why some people experience PTSD and others don’t. What makes one soldier come home from war with PTSD and another one not develop the disorder?

The best we can guess is that development of PTSD is likely from a combination of complex factors such as neurological, stress, life experiences, personality, and genetics. It is also worth mentioning that pre-traumatic psychological factors (low self-esteem, for example) may increase the risk factor for developing PTSD.

How Can Trauma be Treated?

The most common form of treatment for PTSD is something called cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy involves meeting with a specially-trained therapist over a number of sessions to learn strategies and techniques that will reduce and/or eliminate symptoms of PTSD such as recurring thoughts, emotional numbness, sleep issues, and concentration problems. Beyond finding a trained therapist, it’s important to find one you and your family feel comfortable with, so make sure to interview a few candidates to see who might help you on your journey to wellness.

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to see how I may be able to help.

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/ptsd/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-causes/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/trauma

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stress-relief/201707/what-is-ptsd-exactly

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/trauma-focused-cognitive-behavior-therapy

5 Personal Techniques to Work Through Flashbacks

Flashbacks are our brain’s way of processing traumatic events that we’ve experienced. But what tends to happen is, our subconscious goes to our storage cabinet to access some important memories regarding the event, and everything sort of tumbles out of the cabinet all at once. This falling out or flashback experience can feel almost as traumatic as the initial event.

Flashbacks usually happen without warning. Most result from a “triggering” that occurs by an external experience. Triggers are typically sensory-based experiences that manifest via smells, sounds, tastes, textures that remind the person of the traumatic event. The smell of cologne can remind someone of their perpetrator. The sound of fireworks or a car backfiring can remind a soldier of gunfire.

Living with flashbacks is very difficult, but there are some ways you can work through these disturbing events:

1. Remember

Remind yourself that you are safe and having a flashback. Tell yourself as many times as necessary that these are only memories, the event is in the past, until you can feel yourself begin to calm.

2. Empower Yourself

Sometimes using your five senses can help you to be in the present moment. If one sense it causing the flashback – your sense of smell for example – use your other senses to place yourself in the actual current environment. The tactile experience of stamping your feet on the ground can remind yourself that you are free to get away from any situation that has become uncomfortable for you.

3. Breathe

As soon as we become fearful or panicked, our breathing becomes shallow and erratic. This only exacerbates the stress we feel in that moment because our body is literally panicking from a lack of oxygen. In these fearful moments, when we slow our breathing and take deeper and deeper breaths, we actually signal to our brain and body that everything is okay.

4. Honor the Experience

The initial trauma was awful, so it’s perfectly reasonable for you to want to move on “NOW!” However, you should understand that the body needs to go through this process and experience a full range of emotions. Honor the experience and yourself for having gotten through it.

5. Find Support

It’s important that you let loved ones know about your flashbacks so they can help you through the process. You may also want to seek the guidance of a professional mental health therapist who can offer coping strategies.

 

If you or a loved one is suffering from flashbacks and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch, I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/lib/coping-with-flashbacks/

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2013/11/why-do-flashbacks-happen/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-trauma-s-wounds/201506/understanding-and-working-flashbacks-part-one