5 Tips for Making Friends in Midlife

For many people, middle age is the catalyst to take stock of life. The kids have flown the coop and there’s more time to reconsider your likes, dislikes, goal, and dreams.

Middle age is also the time we tend to look around at our social circles. Are our friendships still there? Have we lost friends due to illness, a move, or divorce? Do we want something different out of our friendships? As we age, we tend to have less tolerance or energy for fluff friendships. We want substance and real, genuine connections.

But making friends when you’re older is not always that easy. It was simple in school or during those early days in our first job – you saw the same people every single day. You were surrounded by friend candidates. But once you hit middle age, it becomes more difficult to meet new people.

The good news is, while challenging, it’s very possible to make new and lasting friendships. Here are some tips to help you make new friends in midlife:

1. Don’t Feel Embarrassed
There is no reason to feel embarrassed about being lonely or friendless. It is far more common than we are led to believe from the media. So, don’t feel bad, and get ready to put yourself out there.

2. Volunteer
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share your values. As an added bonus, studies have shown that people who volunteer are healthier and live longer!

3. Take a Class
Do you have a passion for dance? Painting? Photography? Taking a class is a great way to learn more about something you already love, be engaged, keep your brain young, and meet people with similar interests and hobbies.

4. Reach Out to Acquaintances
How many times have you run into someone you “sort of know” at a work function or at your local Starbucks. Every time you have a conversation with this person you think, “Gee, I wish we were friends.”

The next time you see this person, ask if they’d like to have lunch. Get their contact information and follow up. You never know, it could be the start of something worthwhile.

5. Get into the Habit of Being Social
By midlife we’ve gotten into some pretty significant habits. Some good…some not so good. If you’ve never been a social butterfly – but instead someone who is used to staying home with the kids or simply staying in because it’s easier – putting yourself out there will probably feel weird. However, it’s important to try to be social daily. This could mean simply taking a walk around your city or neighborhood and saying hello to friendly faces or calling up an acquaintance for a chat.

Good relationships are important for our overall health and the quality of our lives. While it may seem intimidating to build new friendships in midlife, these can actually be some of the most lasting and profound connections we end up making.

 

Do you believe you lack social connections because of fear, grief, or a low self-esteem? If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to talk about how I may help.

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Pet

People with mental and physical disabilities have been using service animals and emotional support animals for decades. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), under Titles II and III, a service animal “is any dog specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.”

But it’s not just trained service animals that can help us cope with life’s challenges, all pets seem to have the ability to calm us, center us, and just make us feel all around better about being on the planet.

Indeed, there are many mental health benefits of having a pet, and here are some of them:

Petting Reduces Stress

Your dog or cat may love when you pet them, but it turns out it’s equally beneficial to you as well! Rhythmic petting has been shown to release oxytocin, the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief. Once this is released your blood pressure and cortisol levels will decrease and you’ll feel much better.

You Don’t Feel Alone

The only thing worse than actually being alone, is feeling alone when we’re around other people. So often we can be with friends and loved ones, yet feel totally disconnected.

But when we spend time with our pets, we feel like we’re with true companions. They make us feel happy, safe and secure. Perhaps it’s because they don’t judge us and love us unconditionally that allows us to connect in a way that is often not possible with other human beings.

Pets Help Us Be More at Peace

It’s hard for most people to be completely in the moment. We’re either regretting the past or worrying about the future. But when we engage with our pets, it helps us take our minds off of any negative stressors and focus them on the adorable fluffball in front of us.

They Help Your Body Release Feel Good Chemicals

When your dog rolls around on his back or your cat rubs her head under your chin, you can’t help but smile. And when you smile, your body releases serotonin and dopamine, which are nerve transmitters associated with calmness and happiness.

Don’t have a pet of your own at home? You can still gain these benefits by volunteering at a shelter. There are many animals out there alone who would love your companionship, and you’ll feel great in the process.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring mental health treatment, please contact me today. While I’m not fluffy and don’t have a tail, I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help you.

How Emotions Enter Our Dreams and Impact Our Health

Society seems to condition us to always appear calm and in full control of how we feel, no matter the circumstances. Suppressing emotions may seem like a great way to prove that you’re strong and not a weak crybaby but hiding how you really feel can have serious health consequences such as mental fatigue, elevated blood pressure, and sleeping problems.

Common signs that you suppress your emotions as a coping strategy include:

– Using substances like drugs or alcohol to numb the pain and escape from your thoughts.
– Consciously not talking about how you feel.
– Avoiding situations that remind you of your emotions or force you to confront them.
– Distracting yourself as a way to prevent yourself from reacting.

One of the major ways that ‘shutting down’ negative feelings, affects you is by affecting your dreams. The brain naturally tries to work out emotions, but it needs your help to do so. When you refuse to acknowledge these negative emotions, the brain is forced to process them alone. While you sleep, memories are processed and stored. When you refuse to confront your negative emotions while you’re awake, the brain works on combating the negative emotion without you while you sleep at night. This causes these emotions to surface in your unconscious dreaming state.

Research by Malinowski (2017) has confirmed the importance of ‘dream rebound’. When we suppress our emotions, they show up in our dreams. Participants who suppressed negative thoughts had more negative emotions manifesting in their dreams in forms of sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety. Participants who suppressed their negative emotions also had sleep problems and experienced poor sleep quality, difficulty falling asleep, use of sleep medication, restless sleep, and tiredness during the day. They also recorded higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

In essence, researchers discovered that there is a greater tendency for negative emotions experienced during waking hours to manifest within dreams. Especially sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety. Positive emotions did not significantly manifest in dreams. Also, suppression of feelings is associated with poorer sleep quality and correlates with anxiety, depression, and stress.

How To Work Through Your Emotions In A Healthy Manner

Here are a few tips to help you process negative emotions in a healthy way, rather than by suppressing them:

– Journal: Free form journaling can help you purge yourself of the negative emotions that you feel. Writing down your negative feelings and noting possible solutions before going to bed can be cathartic and improves your sleep quality significantly.
– Talk about your dreams: It is incredibly helpful to analyze your dreams with the help of a therapist. Unpacking what happens in these dreams with your therapist can help you identify the particular emotions you’re suppressing and how to manage them in a healthy manner.
– Practice mindfulness: Be mindful of your thoughts. Note them, and then let them go, rather than suppressing them. Meditation can help you feel calmer too.

I help people manage their emotions in the best way possible and unleash their full potential to live and love well. If you need help with managing your negative emotions properly, please contact me to book a session.

How to Tell if You’re a Highly Sensitive Person

Some people seem to be born with nerves on the outside of their skin. These people tend to be more sensitive than their parents, brothers and sisters, or the kids in their class. They can’t get through a movie (even a comedy!) or a TV commercial without shedding a few tears. The slightest bit of criticism causes them real pain, and they are empathic to anyone around them.

Chances are these people are told by everyone, “You’re too sensitive!” Well the truth is, some people are more sensitive than others. They are not only sensitive to emotions, but also to energy, sound, light, and other physical stimulus. These people are, literally, called Highly Sensitive People, or HSP for short.

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

Do the following characteristics ring true for you?

You’re very emotional

Whether positive or negative, you experience emotions intensely, react strongly to them, and cry easily.

You’re very compassionate and generous

You have always been a natural caretaker, seeking to offer comfort and help to those who suffer. You also go out of your way to avoid offending anyone or hurting their feelings.

You’re sensitive to criticism

Criticism doesn’t feel constructive so much as it feels personal and painful. You are not able to let it roll off your shoulders as others do, and therefore allow criticism to keep you safe in your comfort zone.

You feel different from everyone else and sometimes alone

You’ve always known, or had it pointed out to you, that you were somehow different from everyone else. Because other people have told you that you need to “toughen up,” you see your sensitivity as a weakness and often feel alone.

You’re sensitive to external stimuli

While no one else around you seems to notice that the buzz of the overhead lights is driving you nuts! As is the sound of your coworkers chewing, the rough fabric of your shirt and the smell of the extravagant flower arrangement.

You overthink and worry

You notice every detail and overthink what should be a simple decision, like where to go for lunch. You also get stuck in the rehashing and what-if rut.

You’re intuitive

You walk into a room and instantly get a “feel” for it. You know how people are feeling. This is fine when the energy is positive, but when it’s negative… watch out!

You’re often tired and overwhelmed

Because you deal with the emotions of yours and others, as well as so much stimulation all day-every day, you easily become overwhelmed by all of it and feel as though you need to sleep more.

What You Can Do

Living life as an HSP is not easy, but there are some things you can do:

  • See your sensitivity as a positive, not a negative
  • Remind yourself there is nothing wrong with you and you are not alone
  • Avoid negative people, places and situations
  • Set boundaries with people who take advantage of your compassion
  • Learn to relax through exercise and meditation
  • Give yourself the same sympathy and kindness as you do others

If at any time you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious because of your sensitivity, it’s important that you seek the guidance of a therapist who can help you manage your emotions.

If you or a loved one are an HSP and would like to seek treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

What No One Tells You About Therapy (But Should!)

It is said we fear the unknown, which is why many people shy away from receiving therapy. It can be intimidating walking into your therapist’s office for the very first time, not knowing what to expect.

On the flip side, some people assume they know everything about therapy and are then quite surprised when receiving treatment.

The thing is, though therapy is not as stigmatized as it once was, it is still not talked about in most social circles. And so many people have the wrong ideas about it. If you’ve been considering seeking help from a mental health professional, you most likely have some questions as well.

With that in mind, here is what no one tells you about therapy – but should!

It’s Not Like on TV

Pop culture would have you believe the minute you step foot into a therapist’s office, he or she will have you looking at Rorschach tests and talking about your dreams within minutes.

While these approaches can be used in therapy, they more than often are not. Dream interpretation can come up, but typically only if the client wants to discuss an interesting or disturbing dream they had.

Also, many people think the entire session is devoted to discussing your early childhood years and the effect your parents have had on your life. While many therapists will want to get a history on you to uncover specific behavioral patterns and emotional memories that have helped wire the brain, the idea of therapy is NOT to blame your parents for all of your current troubles.

You Won’t Feel Better Immediately

Though the end goal of therapy is to create better habits and behaviors that lead to creating a happy and fulfilling life, the process of getting there will sometimes be uncomfortable. It is unrealistic to expect you will feel better immediately. Therapy takes time and commitment.

You Have to Want to Change

You can seek advice from a nutritionist and personal trainer who will give you the tools to get fit and healthy. But if you don’t take their advice and you don’t do the work, you won’t see results.

The same is true for therapy. Your therapist will be gentle and kind and go at a pace that feels comfortable for you, but ultimately you have to want to get better. It takes work from you to get there. And the way people get better is to face their own behaviors, recognize the patterns, and make healthier choices. But don’t worry, your therapist will be there with you every step of the way, cheering you on.

Therapy isn’t magic, but it does provide you with the tools for lasting change.

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.

3 Common Misconceptions About Therapy

Until quite recently, people were uncomfortable discussing therapy because of the stigma attached by our society. As a result, there are still some fairly big misconceptions about it. Here are 3 of the most common misconceptions about therapy to help you feel more comfortable and hopefully, take that step to seek treatment.

It’s Just Like Talking to Your Friend

While friends are there to listen and support you, they are not equipped to offer real solutions to your problems. Therapists, on the other hand, are uniquely qualified to help you by offering more than just good advice.

Therapists have trained to have a deeper understanding of human nature. They can help you recognize your own behavioral patterns as well as offer tools to make necessary adjustments. They can also help you to gain a fresh perspective on the events of your life and the choices you’ve made.

And finally, we don’t always want our friends or family to know what’s going on in our lives. Because therapy is confidential and because your therapist’s only vested interest in you is helping you improve yourself and overcome your challenges, it is generally easier talking openly with them. Only by being totally honest and transparent about your life and yourself can you hope to create lasting change.

Therapy is All About Blaming Your Parents for Your Current Behavior

Many people assume therapy consists of spending 45 minutes each week blaming their parents for all their problems. Therapy isn’t about playing the blame game, however therapists do have to look at a client’s history to get a clear picture of their experiences and patterns.

While many people new to therapy may not want to spend any time “wallowing in the past,” they must understand that the first phase of therapy is to gather information. A therapist must ask some questions about their new client’s life history in order to truly understand him or her. Past experiences do have a way of shaping our personalities, and while your therapist is not interested in having you lay blame on anyone, you will need to provide a brief psychosocial history in order for the solution-focused therapy to be successful.

You’ll Start to Feel Better Immediately

Many people new to therapy make the mistake of quitting when they don’t feel better after one or two sessions. The truth is, it will take one or two sessions just to tell your story and develop a sense of trust. Therapy shouldn’t be thought of as a quick fix but a process that is unique to each individual. And, it is important to understand that the process won’t always feel good, though it will be completely worthwhile in the end.

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.