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:

Respectful Ways to End a Contentious Conversation

One thing we all have in common is that we don’t always agree with one another. Over time we’ve come to accept that there are times when we must respectfully disagree with someone and move forward. Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly difficult to agree to disagree in today’s divided America.

Television and social media reflect the strain political disagreements has placed on people with their family, friends and co-workers. This has only served to magnify the division, making it seemingly impossible to have a civil conversation with someone you don’t agree with. An argument with a loved one or family member could cause you many problems, and an argument with a boss or co-worker could cost you your job. If you find yourself in a heated exchange and you need to diffuse it fast, here are some ways you can politely end that difficult conversation.

Listen

When we’re arguing, typically we’re not listening, but only wanting to be heard. If you want to end an argument respectfully, stay quiet and let the person vent without interruption. You will want to argue with them or defend yourself or your point of view, but if you want to end the conversation on a positive note, it’s best to let them get in the last word.

Ask Questions

Use your natural curiosity to ask questions of the person you’re arguing with. Do so without condescension or sarcasm, but with genuine interest. Even if you already know the answer (or don’t care to hear what it is), asking questions will diffuse the argument by giving the other person an opportunity to share their viewpoint with you. You can then end the conversation politely by saying something like, “That’s an interesting perspective. I never thought about it that way.”

Find Common Ground

To end an argument on a positive note, you can steer the conversation toward things you both agree on. It’ll be easier to end the discussion on a positive note. If they try to steer the conversation back to the heated issue, change the subject to something positive, or let them speak then say “I can respect that. Thanks for sharing your point of view with me.”

Remember the Golden Rule

The old adage “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a common saying for a reason. Treating other people as you would like to be treated is one of life’s basic principles. When you vehemently disagree with someone, it’s difficult to treat them with kindness. But by having empathy for others, you’ll develop character and patience; qualities that will serve you for a lifetime.

 

Are you struggling to get along with friends, family or co-workers? A licensed mental health professional can help equip you with the skills you need to improve your relationships. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

5 Activities to Help You Love Your Single Life

If you believe the many rom-coms filmed throughout the years, singles are sad, miserable, and lonely people who sit around waiting for someone to come along and “complete them.” Why has this myth been perpetuated to such gargantuan proportions?

Did you know that studies have found that single people usually have more active lives than married people? Single people are far more likely to go out, be involved in their communities and have more friends.

Sure, it can be terrific to spend your time with a loving partner, and yes, a frerquent and satisfying sex life ain’t bad either. But life doesn’t stop just because you’re single. You still exist and the world keeps spinning, so you might as well enjoy your life while waiting for the “right one to come along.”

If you’re new to the single life, fear not, you’re about to have the time of your life! Here are some ways you can love your single life.

Travel

Traveling is a great way to help you gain perspective and learn about yourself. If you’ve never traveled alone, it can be very rewarding. Plus, you don’t have to always compromise with another person. You can go where you want to go when you want to go. There is an incredible sense of freedom.

If you’re a single woman, traveling alone can be intimidating and feel a bit unsafe. There are plenty of traveling groups for women that allow you to be with others some of the time for safety, but also have time by yourself.

Focus on Advancing Your Career

You have more ‘you time’ right now, which makes it the perfect time to go back to school and get that degree that will help you advance your career. Many colleges and universities offer online curriculums to help working adults earn their degree. Night classes may also be a possibility and a chance for you to meet like-minded people on the same path as you.

Volunteer

Did you know studies have found that volunteering is good for our health and happiness? Helping others and ourselves at the same time, that’s a definite win/win. Plus, when you spend time in your community, you are able to meet people from all walks of life and expand your social connections.

Workout

Spend some ‘you time’ getting in the best shape of your life. Try a boxing class or yoga, or maybe take a dance class where you can get a great workout but also meet someone you might like to get to know better.

Reconnect

When we’re in relationships we often spend all our time with our significant other and relationships with friends and family take a back seat. Now is the time to reconnect with loved ones.

Living single is nothing to fear or reject. The single life can be one filled with friends, fun and plenty of fulfillment, so enjoy every second!

What Causes Insomnia? 15 Key Culprits

If you’re someone who spends most of the night tossing and turning and checking the time on the clock, you’re definitely not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, close to 20% of Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. That’s a lot of people walking around cranky and groggy!

Symptoms of Insomnia

People troubled by insomnia experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting back to sleep when they wake up at a very early hour. These sleep disturbances cause stress and anxiety, and make every day activities like working, remembering, and thinking clearly very challenging. Insomnia also typically causes irritability and fatigue. Persistent insomnia may also be a contributing factor of depression.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is a complex condition that is still being studied. So far we do know that there are certain conditions that make people more prone to insomnia:

– Age – people over 60 are more susceptible

– Gender – females, on average, are more susceptible

– A history of depression can make you more susceptible 

The main culprits of insomnia are:

– Jet lag

– Shift work

– Anxiety

– Grief

– Depression

– Stress

– Stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol taken too soon before bed

– An overactive thyroid

– Steroid use

– Certain prescription medications (if you’re currently taking any, speak with your doctor about insomnia side effects)

– Restless leg syndrome

– Menopause and hot flashes

– Gastrointestinal conditions such as heartburn

– Conditions that make it hard to breathe like asthma and sleep apnea

– Chronic pain

As I mentioned, depression is one of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. In these cases, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. CBT targets the thoughts and actions that are disrupting your sleep night after night. This therapeutic strategy encourages good sleep habits while relieving anxiety.

Some therapists may use a combination of relaxation therapy and biofeedback to reduce anxiety in clients. Others may employ different strategies like breathwork and positive thinking.

Therapists recognize that each client is an individual with individual needs. One-on-one talking therapy will help a therapist determine the specific causes – in some cases there may be multiple culprits – and put together a comprehensive strategy for relief.

If you are suffering from insomnia and would like to explore cognitive behavioral therapy, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help you get the rest you need.

Getting Your Inner Spark Back: 5 Tips to Loving Yourself Again

We are born knowing that we are infinitely lovable. Babies and toddlers demand love and attention. They ask to be held, they ask for toys and presents and they feel they deserve them. When we’re very young, we simply somehow just “know” that we are amazing and deserve nothing but goodness.

But then something happens…

We get programmed by kids at school and various media outlets. We hit puberty and our hormones kick in and suddenly instead of being awesome and lovable, we believe we aren’t good enough, smart enough, or good looking enough.

The good news is, you can fall in love with yourself all over again, and here are some ideas to get you started:

Make Time for Yourself

Little kids spend a lot of alone time playing. And during this alone time, they are really connected to their inner world. The “us” in this inner world is the real us, not the us in the business suit or rush-hour traffic or grocery store line. Spend quality time just with you so you can reconnect to the “you” you’ve forgotten.

Say “No” More Often

When we constantly put others’ needs before our own, we tell our subconscious mind over and over that we do not matter. If you are a people pleaser, get into the habit of saying no to others and yes to yourself more often.

Do What You Love

Maybe when you were young you wanted to be a painter or singer or photographer, but an adult “talked some sense into you.” Well there is no reason you can’t explore these passions as a hobby now. Doing what you love is one of the best ways to love yourself more.

Speak Your Truth

When you constantly tell other people what they want to hear instead of telling the truth, you silence yourself. This, in turn, kicks your self-worth to the curb.

Don’t be afraid to always be authentic and truthful. Sure, you’ll sometimes have to find graceful and tactful ways to share your truth with others, but it’s the best way to love yourself.

Get Help

When our self-worth is low or non-existent, attempting to love ourselves can feel impossible. If you suffer from self-esteem issues, speaking with a therapist can help you recognize where these issues came from and how to work through them to truly love yourself.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help you get your spark back.

Do You Have C-PTSD?

You have most likely heard the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – also known as PTSD. It is used to describe the mental and emotional anguish suffered by those who have experienced sudden trauma. PTSD is often experienced by soldiers as well as those who have been victims of rape and other crimes, and even victims of house fires and car accidents.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) describes a condition that very much presents like PTSD, the difference being the sufferer experienced prolonged periods of abuse or neglect. This could happen as a result of childhood neglect or the abuse suffered at the hands of a narcissistic partner.

Diagnosing C-PTSD

Diagnosing C-PTSD is tricky because the symptoms are usually not very unique. That is to say, someone who is suffering from C-PTSD may be experiencing anxiety and lethargy, but these symptoms match other mental health issues.

But it is very important to accurately diagnose C-PTSD because of the necessary treatment measures. The main difference between C-PTSD and other mental health issues  say, bipolar disorder  is that C-PTSD is a result of things that were done TO an individual, and not an intrinsic problem. In other words, someone suffers from C-PTSD because of abuse and neglect at the hands of another and not because of genetically determined brain chemistry.

To help correctly identify C-PTSD, a therapist must uncover an accurate history to understand if:

  • The individual has experienced multiple prolonged traumas that have lasted for months (or even years)
  • The traumas were caused by someone the individual had a deep interpersonal relationship with and/or someone who was part of their primary care network (most commonly a parent or caregiver)
  • These traumas were experienced as permanent features of life, with the individual unable to see any end in sight
  • The individual had no control or power over the person traumatizing them

Symptoms of C-PTSD

As I just mentioned, the outward symptoms of C-PTSD may match other mental health disorders. Those symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks and nightmares in which the trauma is relived.
  • Avoiding people, places, and situations that remind them of the trauma.
  • Dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma.
  • Hyperarousal. This is a state of high alert and one they often lived in.
  • A belief that the world is a dangerous place.
  • A loss of trust in self or others.
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.
  • Being startled by loud noises.

Treatment for C-PTSD

There are a few different treatment options for people suffering from C-PTSD:

Psychotherapy

Therapy can take place on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. The focus will be on addressing feelings, improving connections with others, and dealing with anxiety and flashbacks. Many therapists have had success using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helping people cope with the symptoms of C-PTSD.

EMDR

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This is a process that uses eye movement to help a person desensitize their reactions to a specific traumatic event. The result is the person can eventually recall the memory but have no emotional reaction to it.

Medication

Some individuals may need to be on medications for a while to reduce their anxiety. A therapist can work with you to determine if this is the best course of action.

 

If you believe you are suffering from C-PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a major depressive disorder that occurs during the same season each year. Also known as the “winter blues,” SAD typically comes on in the fall and winter, when the light is diminished.

SAD is believed to affect nearly 10 million Americans and is four times more common in women than men. Many people experience symptoms that are severe enough to affect their quality of life.

Though not everyone will experience the same symptoms, here are some of the most common:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • A change in appetite and developing a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • A drop in energy level
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Thoughts of suicide

Treatments

If you suffer from SAD, here are some ways you can alleviate your symptoms:

Light Boxes

By far the greatest relief, according to research, comes from the use of lightboxes. Lightboxes emit high-intensity light between 2,500 to 10,000 lux. Compare this to a normal light fixture that emits only 250 to 500 lux.

Lightboxes closely mimic the sun’s natural rays, helping our brains produce the right amount of neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may only need to use the lightbox for 30 minutes once a day. For more severe symptoms, people have found relief by using the box for long periods of time and can often feel true relief in as little as two weeks.

Some insurance providers will cover the cost of lightboxes, but not all do, so be sure to speak with your provider.

Exercise

While it may feel counterintuitive, if not downright impossible, to get up and get moving when you’re feeling depressed, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood. Exercise not only reduces stress and tension, but it releases those feel-good endorphins. Studies have also found that one hour of aerobic exercise outdoors (even if the sky is overcast) has the same positive effect on mood as 2.5 hours of using a lightbox.

Eat Well

It’s common to turn to junk food when you’re feeling the winter blues. High-sugar foods tend to give us a temporary boost in energy levels and mood. But then we come crashing down and feel even worse. A better choice is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, opting for complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and whole grains.

Speak with a Therapist

If your symptoms are very severe, and if you are having any thoughts of harming yourself, then it is important to speak with a therapist who can help you navigate your depression and offer coping tools.

If you or a loved one are currently suffering from SAD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Relationships can only be healthy when both people have the space to be themselves and maintain their personal integrity. Sadly, many people find themselves in relationships, romantic and otherwise, with people who do not respect boundaries and feel entitled to have their needs met regardless of the other person’s. These people most likely grew up in households that were unsafe and unstable, and where there was a constant invasion of personal boundaries.

If you can relate, chances are you have a hard time creating healthy boundaries to create the life experience you wish to have. Here are some ways you can begin to do so:

Identify Your Limits

You can’t set boundaries unless you discover where it is you personally stand. You’ll need to take a bit of time to recognize what you can and cannot tolerate. What makes you happy and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed? Only until you have made these discoveries can you move on to the next steps.

Don’t Be Shy

People who have similar communication styles are easy to engage with. These people will quickly understand what your new barriers are. But people who have a different cultural background or personality may not easily understand your boundaries. With these people, it’s important to be very clear and direct.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

People who have a hard time setting boundaries don’t often allow themselves to acknowledge their own feelings because they’re usually too busy worrying about everyone else’s.

You’ll need to start recognizing how people make you feel in order to know whether your new boundaries are being crossed or not. When you’re with someone, make mental notes, or even jot down in a journal how that interaction made you feel.

If, after spending time with someone, you feel anger or resentment, this is a sign that the person may be overstepping your boundaries. Reiterate to this person what your boundaries are. If they continue to disrespect you and them, you will want to cut yourself away from further interactions.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Put yourself and your needs first. This may feel strange and even somehow wrong if you’ve spent your entire life taking care of others. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and get what you need to feel happy and well.

Speak with Someone

If you’ve spent an entire life with a sense of low self-worth, you may find setting boundaries quite difficult. In this case, it’s important to speak with a therapist that can help you discover where these feelings are coming from and how to change your thought patterns and behavior.

If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you on your journey toward self-care.

How to Deal with Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. For many people that means celebrating with their spouse or partner and showing them extra love and attention. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a sad reminder that they are single or are perhaps grieving the recent loss of their significant other.

If you are celebrating it alone this year, here are a few ways you can alleviate your sadness this Valentine’s Day.

Give Yourself a Break

It’s bad enough to feel lonely, but it’s even worse to scold yourself for doing so. Loneliness is not an indication that you’re doing anything wrong or that there is something wrong and unlovable about you.

Even people that are in relationships can feel incredibly lonely. Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life. It’s not a sin to feel this way, so stop scolding yourself.

Take Yourself on a Date

How many times during the year do you make a real effort to show yourself love? If you’re like most people, you don’t really think much about how you treat yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself a party of one, try and make the best of it by focusing all of your love and attention on yourself. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Or, if you don’t like the idea of sitting at a table alone surrounded by couples, then order in your favorite food and watch your favorite movie.

Take a nice long bath. Listen to your favorite band. Buy yourself a little gift on the way home from work. Use this Valentine’s Day to commit to showing yourself more love and kindness throughout the year.

Show Your Love for Others

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show love. No one says that love must be shown in a romantic way.

This is a great time to show your affection and appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Get your best friend a box of chocolates or your mom a bouquet of flowers. Put a card on your neighbor’s windshield and your coworker’s computer monitor.

You can be filled with love by being loved, and you can be filled with love by loving others. The more love YOU show this holiday, the more love you will feel inside. And you would be amazed at how the loneliness quickly slips away when you are full of love.

Don’t let the commercialism of the holiday make you feel alone and isolated. You really can have a lovely Valentine’s day if you love yourself and others.

How to Spot Passive-Aggressive Behavior

There was a time when the phrase passive-aggressive was rarely uttered among non-psychologists. But it’s a phrase that is mentioned often these days.

The problem is, passive-aggressive behavior is almost so common, that it’s hard for people to pinpoint what that behavior looks like exactly.

Do you know any passive-aggressive people? Chances are you do. But do you know the real behaviors to spot? If not, keep reading to find out.

They Won’t Say No

Passive-aggressive people love playing the part of the victim and martyr. Therefore they’ll never just come out and say “no” to something. Instead, they’ll go along with others’ plans and needs, and then sigh, shake their head and roll their eyes because they didn’t get their own way. Do you know anyone like this?

They are Chronic Complainers

Every other sentence out of their mouth seems to be some form of complaint. They are usually low-grade complaints as again, they try to consistently mask their real feelings. It’s always a guessing game with these people.

Backhanded Compliments

“That dress looks so much better on you than the last one that made your hips look big.” Suppressed resentment is their currency and it tends to come out with backhanded compliments.

They Sabotage Other’s Efforts

Do you have a coworker who resents that they weren’t assigned to head your project? Do they show up to work late? Work at a snail’s pace? Take long breaks? When passive-aggressive people don’t get their way, they will throw their brand of a tantrum so everyone suffers.

They Love Getting a Reaction Out of Others

If pushing buttons were an Olympic event, the passive-aggressive person would bring home the gold, silver AND bronze medals. Once they know what annoys you, they can’t help but push, push, push.

They “Accidentally” Withhold Information

Have you ever had a roommate, colleague or romantic partner take a call that you had been waiting for and then “accidentally” forgot to give you the message? Whoopsie! This is to teach you a lesson: don’t ever ask me to do anything for you again.

They Appear to be Brilliantly Absent-Minded

Have you ever known someone who seemed brilliant in so many instances, and yet, in a second, they become the Absent-Minded Professor? They suddenly forgot where they placed the very important documents you need for the board meeting? Or where they put your purse (why did they even touch or move your purse??!!). Again, these are instances of someone who has deep-seated anger and resentment, but who can’t just come forth and confront you in a mature and direct manner.

Dealing with passive-aggressive people is never fun. But if you know what signs to look for, you can steer clear as much as possible!