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Date posted: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 16:28

One summer morning last year, I woke up feeling better.  Feeling better implies not feeling great and that is when I realized there was some depression lurking in my life.

I took a step back and saw what was going on.  I recognized  that there were losses and situations I had no control over.  There was only one event that I chose, and the others involved people dear to me.

I terminated a lifelong toxic relationship, a gift to myself when I hit a landmark birthday.  Even though I chose this path, I grieved the loss of the good parts.  

A couple I care deeply about separated and there is a very special child in the mix dealing with the fallout.  

Someone I love was depressed.  I was able to  listen and support but could not fix the situations they endured. 

I have an elderly parent who is bravely dealing with the frailties of a body that doesn’t do what it used to while having a sharp mind. My parent’s world has shrunk and this is frustrating to all. 

Accumulated losses can add up to depression, and I realized I was not invulnerable to this.  I was grateful I caught it before it deepened.  Taking corrective measures, including self care of many different varieties freed me up to to enjoy the rest of year.

Has this happened to you, a depression that took you by surprise?   

Date posted: Monday, March 2, 2015 - 13:13

 Creative Visualization 

One of my (and my clients') favorite tools to use when in a stressful situation is creative visualization.  Like any new habit or skill, this will require practice.  

You might feel anxiety in specific situations suck as:

  • being in a dentist's chair 
  • waiting on test results
  • getting lab work done
  • driving in bad weather
  • and many other "triggers"

Or you may feel anxious for no reason at all. 

Here are step by step directions for creative visualization.  

  • be in a quiet setting
  • be in a comfortable position
  • imagine your favorite place where you always feel safe
  • fill in as many details as you can 
  • use all your senses in your imagery
  • practice your safe, comfortable imagery five times a day for five minutes
  • notice how your body relaxes when you practice 

With regular practice, you will be able to draw on the image and then, the response will follow quickly.    Your anxiety level will come down. 

Is it really that...easy? Yes! Yes it is.

And don't forget to take a copy with you!

Date posted: Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 06:43

    A person called me recently and asked  if I worked with anxious clients and if I was familiar with cognitive behavioral therapy. She read on the Internet that CBT is the go-to method for anxiety reduction.  Here is some information to learn more about CBT.

    I am fluent in anxiety, both as an individual and as a therapist.  It’s literally in my DNA. Anxiety problems can have a genetic predisposition, waiting for some triggering event.   My event occurred when I was a small child.  I aspirated a peanut when I was two and a half.  Like any other child, I did not have the vocabulary to express my feelings, but I felt sheer panic.

    Forty years later  I faced some medical challenges and the feelings I had as a small child reemerged. This time around, I was able articulate the terror I experienced then and in the moment.  It was a breakthrough moment for me and I learned when I am encountering medical challenges, I could ask questions, ask for help, and accept that sometimes there are no answers…all concepts that my two and half year old self could not understand.   

    Anxiety is not a pleasant feeling.  No one chooses to be anxious, and learning coping techniques to navigate through an anxious time can be priceless.  Not judging yourself for being anxious is a gift I came to recently.   Anxiety is involuntary.  How your body responds to it, the physiological responses, can be moderated by exercise, belly breathing, and other techniques.  The anxious brain can be comforted by rational thoughts, reaching out to supportive friends, and a myriad of other techniques.  Observing yourself without judgment while anxious is the ultimate goal.

    My answer to the caller mentioned above was: Yes,  I work with anxious clients and use CBT, as well as  other strategies.

 

Date posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 12:30

Ten years ago, my life changed in an instant.  I fractured 3 bones in my right ankle, which required surgery, physical therapy and a long recovery.  To this day, I see the disfigurement of my ankle and the scars from the surgery.  I check YES on medical forms now when asked if I have any implants as I have a plate with several screws on my right side and two long screws on the other side of my ankle.  I could have these removed, but they don’t bother me any longer.

For several weeks, I was dependent on my husband to provide food, transportation, company. Using a walker or crutches, I was unable to carry anything in my hands.  I figured out if I put things on a chair with wheels and pushed that along, I gained some autonomy when it came to getting a cup of tea or a snack.

I missed driving more than walking.  The day I was told by my doctor that I should start physical therapy, I called a nearby facility and got in several hours later.  The receptionist laughed at my enthusiasm about it, stating most people dread the process.  I couldn’t wait to start as it meant I would regain my independence.  When I finally, after 2 months, graduated, my therapist assured me I would lose the limp.  I did.

For a couple years or more, my ankle would swell if I had a very active day.  It was a weather predictor for years.  It has settled down, surprisingly.  I was very ankle aware for a long time.

This year, I fractured my left radius bone in Alaska.  I lost my balance on a bicycle and stuck my arm out to break the fall. It’s a common kind of break, 20% of fractures of that bone occur from bike falls.  I can’t believe the difference in the recovery, pain level, and return to function between this fracture and an ankle fracture. I was able to lead a mostly normal lifestyle while I recovered. I was able to ambulate, drive and do most of the things I always did.  I was on a two month ‘do nothing with your arm’ protocol, which presented challenges.   Closing a car door, buckling my seat belt (driver side) were awkward acts, done frequently.  I couldn’t open a jar, cut my food, carry a laundry basket with both hands, etc.  I was told NO SWIMMING.  Guess what I did as soon as I got the all clear?  I have noticed the past few days some pain at the fracture site, but I know this is typical/normal of a fracture site, thanks to dealing with an ankle.  

What I came to fully realize after all of this was---life can change in an instant.  These events stopped me in my tracks, and forced me to live in the moment.

Worry, on the other hand, is thinking about what could happen in the future, which, as we know, is completely out of our control.  I never worried about breaking bones.  And, things I have worried about haven't happened.

So, I'm left with the question..."why worry"?

Date posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 12:27

 

 

What do you do when you feel your life has gotten out of control?  What self care activities do you enjoy?

 

You  can feel low energy, depressed, lonely despite being busy.  What is that about?  My working theory is you may not have carved time for you in your  schedule.  It’s important to find the balance between care for others and care for yourself.

What is self care?  It’s simply  taking care to meet your needs-spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  How this plays out is up to you.  Be in the moment of self care, stop thinking of what you need to do or ‘should’ do.  Take that time just to be you, for you.

Here are some ideas for self care:

 

exercise

get a massage

spend time outside

read

arts and craft activities

go to a museum

listen to music

nap

 

 I went swimming today, just for me!  What self care activity will you be doing today?

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Date posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 17:49

Old man winter has his grips on us this year.  It seems once the snow melts from the last storm, a fresh layer of snow appears.  Schools in my town have been canceled frequently the past few weeks, either due to the extreme cold temperatures or the snow which makes driving hazardous. Feeling cozy and warm at home can turn to cabin fever when the weather seems to be one endless storm after another.

I’ve heard grumblings from clients and friends about how this winter is brutal. Activities of all sorts are canceled or postponed. Parents scramble to arrange child care or have to make arrangements to stay home with their children.  Some people are getting depressed from the short days, which often are overcast. Sun in our neck of the woods is an infrequent visitor.  

How you look at winter can affect your mood. Complaining about the weather creates more negativity, so what else is there to do? 

People who live in the far northern climates handle the cold, snowy weather differently, in a more positive light. We can change how we look at winter by examining their lives/attitudes. 

They embrace it. They go outside and play in it.  Just taking a ten minute walk in the middle of the day can turn around a bad mood. Preparing for the cold can help make winter more user friendly.  Dressing in layers, warm socks and boots will help keep you comfortable outdoors. Don’t forget your mittens, hat and scarf!

Skiing, either cross country or downhill are activities to explore in the region.  Snowshoeing is something you can do right out your front door. Playing outside with your children can be a great  cold weather family activity. Sledding, building a snow family or even a snowball fight are all fun ways to burn off some energy and spend some time together. 

If you have children that are home from school and restless, set up baby sitting exchanges with your friends who are in the same boat.  Find creative ways to be indoors with your children by doing  arts and crafts, games and cooking with your children.  

Spring will be here before you know it and you may find yourself looking forward to next winter’s snow!

 

Date posted: Friday, January 17, 2014 - 17:50

Is exercise important to your mental health?

One of the questions I ask my clients is if they do any exercise on a regular basis.  Sometimes, clients are engaged in a disciplined  exercise  practice, but most of the time, exercise is not in their repertoire of activities.

Clients tell me a variety of reasons they don’t exercise:  I have no time to workout, I don’t like to sweat, it hurts my muscles after I workout,  everyone will look at me at the gym, it’s too hard, I don’t like to exercise. 

I strongly encourage my clients to begin an exercise regimen. A recent article in the New York Times described exercise as potent medicine.  Here is the link to the article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/11/exercise-as-potent-medicine/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0 

From personal experience, I can assure you that it is impossible to be anxious when you are lifting weights, it is also impossible to be depressed when you are on the elliptical.  The endorphin release from exercise is addictive-a healthy addiction! 

 We live in our heads in our culture.  We are disconnected from our bodies and exercise is a way of linking your mind to your body.  We need to maintain and take care of our bodies so we can live a more healthy and satisfying life.

Sometimes, if a client does exercise and is battling some mild depression, I’ll tell him to double up on the exercise.  If a client doesn’t exercise, I will assign taking a five minute walk daily, building up the time and distance as conditioning allows.  Movement helps alleviate  a myriad of problems, and it can enrich your life. 

Date posted: Friday, January 3, 2014 - 10:38

How do you decide when it is time to see a therapist?

This is a common question-and the answer is both simple and complex. Some people are more open to getting help from a complete stranger and others may not be comfortable with this.  It takes courage to contact a therapist and an important first step on your road to wellness. 

These are some things I have I heard from clients when I ask them:  why did you decide to come in for help now?

  • My family and/or friends have suggested that I talk to someone
  • I feel like my family/friends have heard more than they want to know about  my problems and I don’t want to burden them
  • No one knows I am thinking about seeing a therapist, not even my spouse, I don’t know how to talk about my problems with them
  • We have tried everything and nothing has helped.
  • I was in counseling when I was a teenager and I think it’s time to get more help.
  • We fight all the time
  • I can’t stop crying
  • My kids are driving me crazy!
  • I figured out I am gay and I don’t know how to tell my family
  • When I talk about my problems, I want to be listened to and my friends try to fix me.

It’s time for counseling when you need someone to listen to you without judgment or expectation.  It is your time, to talk about you.   I’ll help you find new ways to look at your problems. Together, we’ll tease out the complex and tangled up issues and make sense of them.

When your problems get in the way of your every day life, and you feel that your usual support systems have become overloaded by your problems, that’s when to find a therapist.   It is a gift you can give to yourself.