FAMILY / DEPRESSION – 5 Tips for Supporting a Depressed Parent

Dealing with a loved one who is depressed is always tough. When that loved one happens to be a parent, the roles flip and you become responsible for their mental health care. Older people get depressed for a variety of reasons such as declining physical ability, a chronic physical illness (e.g stroke), friends and family dying, history of anxiety/depression, and dissatisfaction with how they lived their life. For example, they may feel like they didn’t accomplish enough.

A lot of seniors are flippant about depression, equate it to weakness, and refuse to talk about their mental health for fear of burdening their loved ones. How can you support a depressed parent? Here are some helpful tips.

1.  Look out for the symptoms– Older people are unlikely to bring up their mental health struggles, so you need to be very observant. Look out for the following, they are signs that your parent might be depressed.

  • A sudden change in eating or sleeping habits
  • A visible struggle with getting older
  • A struggle with a physical illness
  • Frequent talks about death or an expressed desire to self-harm

2. Encourage them to see a therapist– Gently suggest that your parent see a therapist to discuss the symptoms they are experiencing. Make sure you suggest it in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad or weak. Schedule an appointment on their behalf and go with them the first time. Monitor them to make sure they attend sessions regularly and take their medication (if this applies). 

3. Offer your love and care- Make a greater effort to be there for them and do things that will make their lives easier. For example, you can help them get groceries and do laundry. Make sure you offer help in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they aren’t capable of taking care of themselves. For many elderly people, admitting that they’re depressed and need help can be difficult.

4. Talk to them about their feelings– Have open and honest conversations about how they’re feeling. Make sure you listen to them and honor their emotions. Listening offers direct support and comfort.

5. Watch out for suicidal signs– If your parent displays any sign of suicidal thinking such as talking about death often and giving away family heirlooms or other important possessions, you need to get them immediate help. Contact their therapist, call a suicide hotline, or take them to your local psychiatric emergency room to prevent tragedy.

Watching your parent suffer from depression can be heartbreaking. It’s natural to want to force them to get help, but being pushy can cause them to withdraw from you. Take a gentle approach that makes them feel respected and like a competent adult. Practice patience, offer emotional support and ensure that they follow their therapist’s advice.

If you have a depressed parent and you’re looking for a therapist who is experienced in geriatric issues, contact me to book a session.

COUPLES – 6 Great Ways to Deepen Your Relationship Bond

Love is a beautiful thing, and there’s nothing more amazing than feeling the bond you share with your partner get stronger. If you’re in a happy relationship, you can keep it that way by introducing a few new things into your relationship. Here are 6 evidence-based approaches that will help you enjoy a more fulfilling connection.

  1. Listen- Listening is a great way to boost intimacy. Make a sincere effort to always listen to your partner, especially when they’re talking about something that relates to your relationship. Listen to understand what they’re saying not just to give a response. This helps your partner feel like you value the relationship and care about them deeply.
  2. Appreciate your partner- Think about something your partner does that makes your life easier, especially something you view as their responsibility, such as paying their share of the bills. Thank them sincerely for it. This might feel weird since it’s something they should do anyway, but it makes them feel good and your relationship more satisfying. So take 5 minutes to say something like ‘I appreciate you for working hard so you can afford to help pay the bills’ and watch out for the huge smile on their face afterwards.
  3. Schedule quiet time– In today’s world it’s incredibly hard to focus on one thing. At least once a week, turn off all electronic devices and participate in an activity you both enjoy. You could watch your favorite movie, massage each other, or play a board game. This gives you time to enjoy each other and connect on a deeper level.
  4. Do random acts of kindness often- Do things that will make your partner feel important and loved often. It can be as simple as making their favorite breakfast, creating a playlist or sending them a love note via email. Research shows that these little ways of showing affection accumulate and have a bigger impact on couple happiness than infrequent grand gestures.
  5. Show empathy- Always take your partner’s feelings seriously, even when you feel like they’re irrational. When you find it difficult to empathize, take a deep breath and remind yourself that their feelings are important.
  6. Communicate healthily- Communication is key. Good communication skills help your relationship thrive. This means, asking your partner what they need, and telling them what you need as well. Check in with them regularly to ensure they’re feeling good, and learning to argue in a way that doesn’t hurt your relationship further.

If you would like to improve your relationship and strengthen the bond between you and your partner, even more, you can book a relationship counseling session with me.

DEPRESSION – 6 Reasons Depressed People Can’t Just ‘Get Over It’

When talking about depression, a lot of people forget that depression is an illness that requires proper attention and treatment. If you’re depressed, it can be incredibly frustrating to hear things like “Just get over it”, “You’re being really dramatic”, “You have to be strong”, “Learn to deal with it”, “Happiness is a choice”. You might start to think of things like ‘Why can’t I just get over it’? We can stop ourselves from doing destructive things like putting our hand in a fire, but when it comes to depression, it’s a bit difficult to just ‘stop’. There are a number of reasons why ‘get over it’ statements like this don’t help. Here are some of the best reasons why.

  1. It’s an illness– Depression is an illness, an illness that you have little control over, just like any other illness. Nobody tells people with broken bones to get over their pain. So why should depressed people be forced to ‘get over’ theirs? Always remember that your pain is valid, and as long as you’re getting help by speaking to a mental health professional, you’re on the path to healing.
  2. The brain is in control– Studies have shown that people experiencing depression have symptoms controlled by an unconscious emotional process that is usually beyond their control. Remember that depression is an incredibly complex disease caused by a combination of biological, psychological and sociological factors.
  3. The symptoms can be debilitating– Depressed people exhibit both physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms include things like nausea, headaches, restlessness, fatigue and insomnia.
  4. You can’t wish it away– Nobody likes being depressed. Just because you want to feel better doesn’t mean you can wave a wand and get rid of it. You can desire to feel better, but until you work with a therapist, there is no magical route to getting better.
  5. You can’t always pretend– People always act like depressed people should plaster a huge smile on their face and pretend like everything is perfect. You can’t just shove your emotions down and pretend like they don’t exist. The mind keeps replaying them. This is its way of reminding you that you have an ongoing issue that needs to be handled by a professional.
  6. Depression isn’t ‘one size fits all’– People experience depression in different ways and exhibit different symptoms. Just because they can go about their daily activities efficiently doesn’t mean they’re not ill. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Depression changes everything and there’s no universal treatment. A therapist can help you find a treatment perfectly suited to you.

Depression is real and painful. Just because you can’t see or touch it doesn’t make it any less real. If you suffer from depression or know someone who does, working with a therapist is a good start to overcoming your depression. I am available to help. Contact me to book a therapy session.

GRIEF – Coping With Grief Through Meditation

Dealing with grief is one of the most devastating things in life that we must unfortunately experience. The finality of losing someone we love can cause us to feel angry, anxious or depressed.

When dealing with grief, it may feel like you can’t move forward, or you don’t know how you can continue living in a world without your loved one in it.

To help deal with these intense and overwhelming emotions, turning to meditation can help. Meditation is a practice of calm and silence, where the frenetic thoughts and worries in your mind are quieted for a moment of reflection or mindfulness. Through meditation, you can begin to calm your emotions, assess your feelings, and come to a place of acceptance and peace.

A Meditation to Cope with Grief:

  • Choose a quiet, comfortable space to sit where you can be alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Play some soft ambient music if you like.
  • Close your eyes and begin by taking slow, mindful and natural deep breaths: in through the nose, then slowly exhale.
  • Try to push away any thoughts or worries and concentrate only on being in this moment.
  • Think of the face of the person you’re missing, and imagine them before you, now. You can imagine that their spirit is there with you, or you can simply envision their face.
  • Express anything you’d like to them. Focus on making the conversation loving and compassionate. If you’d like, you can reimagine a memory. Put yourself back in time with your loved one and imagine experiencing everything in that moment.
  • Thank your loved one for coming to visit you. Imagine a peaceful and gentle goodbye.
  • Slowly bring your awareness back to the room. Feel the energy of yourself from the top of your head to your toes as you take slow and natural deep breaths.

Try this meditation any time you feel the need to do so.

There are apps you can download for your smartphone or tablet to help guide you through different meditations; just search for “meditation” in the App Store. You can also search YouTube for “meditations for grief” and try the guided meditations available there for free.

There is no one way to grieve; everyone grieves differently. There’s also no time table or deadline. The journey of grief is a very personal one, and the only way to get through it is to deal with the emotions you’re experiencing as they come.

If you’re having trouble moving forward after losing someone you love and would like some help, please give me a call today so we can set up an appointment.

FAMILY – Healthier Families Through Better Co-Parenting

Moving forward after divorce is difficult for everyone, and trying to figure out how to co-parent complicates things even further. Here are some tips to help you co-parent with your ex.

Put Your Child First

Putting your child first is an absolute necessity for successful co-parenting. Always consider their wants and needs above your own.

Putting your child first doesn’t mean that you stop taking care of yourself. Your child also deserves a parent that’s happy and healthy. Self-care is vital, so be sure to rest, eat healthy, exercise and make time in your busy schedule to do something special for yourself. This way, you give your child her parent at their very best.

The Golden Rule

The best co-parenting relationships have the best communication. To practice the golden rule, share the information you would like, and expect, to have shared with you. Neglecting to share information could risk unintended negative consequences for your child.

For example, if you get your child immunized for school and don’t tell your ex, your ex might also get your child immunized for school. This could have unintended consequences for your child.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your ex in person or by phone, try text or e-mail.

Be Consistent

Children need structure to feel safe, secure and loved. Therefore, it’s important that you and your ex create a united front for the sake of your child and try to keep schedules as similar as possible. Resist the urge to give in to demands out of guilt: it’s familiarity and routine that will make your child feel loved and cared for.

Accept Differences

Even with the best of intentions, things will not be as perfect as we would like. If your ex lets your kids eat sweets or stay up late, you must learn to accept the different ways your homes are run. If you let go of control you’ll put less anxiety on your children, and relieve yourself of the stress of trying to control something you can’t.

Respect Each Other

Regardless of what happened in your personal relationship with your ex, your ex is still your child’s parent. To that end, you must respect your ex for the sake of your child. Don’t speak ill of your ex in front of your child, and don’t talk to your children about issues or difficulties with your ex.

Although your relationship with your ex didn’t work out, your relationship as co-parents of your child is forever. Let your child feel the love from both of her parents without feeling like she has to choose. A stable home and positive role models will help ensure your child grows up to be a happy, productive adult.

If you need help developing better and more positive communication with your ex, give me a call today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

ABUSE – Talking to an Abused or Neglected Child

For many of us, we remember our childhood fondly with images of birthday parties, family holidays or playing in the park with friends. But for approximately 6 million children in the United States this year, their childhood will also include memories of abuse.

It’s impossible to understand why anyone would want to harm an innocent child, yet every year approximately 3 million cases of child abuse and neglect are reported in the United States. When you’re in contact with children, whether they’re children of your own, children in your extended family or children you interact with through the course of employment or volunteer work, a child that’s been a victim of abuse may decide to divulge to you their experience of abuse or neglect.

Listen

As the child is talking to you, be silent and listen. Let them talk freely. When they pause or stop talking, your calm silence and attention may prompt them to say more.

Calm

As the child is talking, it’s important to stay calm and steady, yet caring. Don’t cry, get upset or display any negative emotion as they may feel they’re being punished or shamed. It’s natural for you to feel upset or angry, but be sure to express your anger or upset to the appropriate people.

When you speak or ask questions of the child, be aware of your tone. Ask questions for the purpose of reporting pertinent details to the proper authorities, and avoid leading questions. Open-ended questions are best.

Believe

Believe the child’s report, and let them know they are believed. Now is not the time to assess validity, determine details or do detective work. You might want to say something such as, “I believe you. It’s good that you told me.”

Reassure

Re-establish safety with the child by reassuring them that they are loved and cared for, and that they did nothing wrong and are not in trouble. Free them from self-blame by letting them know it isn’t their fault. You can say something such as, “Nothing that happened is your fault” or “You did nothing to make this happen.”

Don’t restrict the child from play or fun activities unless necessary for their safety. They may see restrictions as punishment.

Get Help

Do not alert or confront the alleged offender. Call the local police or Child Protective Services/Department of Children and Family Services in your area as soon as possible to make a report.

Above all, it’s important that the child receives support and assistance immediately. If your child or a child you know has been the victim of abuse and you need the help of a licensed professional, please contact me today to set up an appointment.

FAMILY – The Traumatic Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

Young children are full of wonder and awe and a lot of energy! They are also full of innocence, which is why it’s important that adults protect them from dangerous situations and unnecessary heartaches.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to divorce. Children of parents who decide to divorce can feel like their entire world has been turned upside down.

But how does divorce affect older children? When the children in question are adults themselves, it’s assumed they’ll be unaffected by the news; that somehow because they flew out of the nest and no longer live under the same roof as their parents, they won’t feel their world has been turned upside down.

In the past, the effects of divorce on adult children were not discussed much, but that is now changing. Susan L. Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, conducted a study that revealed the divorce rate among people 50 and older has doubled over the past 20 years.

The Effects on Older Children

While adults may be “older” in years, when it comes to child-parent dynamics, most of us never really grow up. We still need our moms and dads for support and we still need our moms and dads to love each other. What happens when that love goes away, or changes significantly?

We call everything we once believed into question.

The strength of our parents’ marriage is a big factor in shaping our young lives and minds. If their relationship wasn’t as strong as we thought it was, what does that mean about relationships in general? What else about our childhood that we thought was true is not true? And what does this mean about our own marriage and relationships? Our we destined to fail at it as well? Is splitting up somehow in our DNA?

For those adult children whose parents waited until they were grown before divorcing, they may now feel guilty that their parents were miserable for so many years on their behalf. Carrying this guilt around, whether justified or not, can feel overwhelming.

It is assumed that our parents will grow old together and take care of each other during their golden years. Once they split, then what happens? Who takes care of them? In many cases, that falls to, you guessed it, the adult children.

And what about the grandchildren? Not only do adult kids have to deal with their own grief and sadness, they also must help their children come to terms with the fact grandma and grandpa are divorcing.

Seek Guidance

If you’re an adult whose parents have split or are currently in the process of getting divorced and you’re having a hard time coping, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Age has nothing to do with feeling sad or lost.

The best thing you can do at a time like this is to speak with someone who can help you sort out your feelings. A family therapist can help you alleviate any guilt and angst you may feel and understand that history doesn’t have to repeat itself. You have the power to make different choices in your own life and relationships.

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 cope during this confusing and overwhelming time.

GENERAL – 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 common symptoms 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 have needs, 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.

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