How To Cope With The Psychological Trauma Of A Mass Shooting

When tragedies like mass shootings occur, most of us struggle to make sense of it. How could something so terrible happen? What would cause another human being to do such a thing? And how can we move on with the knowledge that this latest mass shooting most likely won’t be the last?

After a traumatic event, it is common to experience emotions such as shock, anger, sadness, and fear. Many people, especially young children, experience trouble sleeping and concentrating. While it may seem your life will never get back to normal, there are things you can do to cope and find emotional relief.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

During this time, it is important that you are honest with yourself about your feelings. Shoving them down may seem like the only way to function, but in the long-run, ignoring your emotions will only make things worse.

Take some time each day to connect with whatever it is you are feeling. Allow your reaction to your own feelings to flow through you and do not judge yourself.

Let Go of Your Need to Control

One of the reasons people have such powerful reactions after a major tragedy is because it reminds all of us that we don’t have as much control over our lives as we like to think we do. While it may seem counterintuitive, it is important to let go of this need to control every aspect of our lives. If we don’t, we end up feeling like failures on top of our other coping emotions.

Each day, try and practice what is called by many as “radical acceptance.” Accept and acknowledge that the world isn’t as safe as you’d like it. Accept and acknowledge that you cannot control every aspect of your life. When you do this, you feel a sense of calm and peace, as if you have just laid down a heavy weight and burden.

Try to Rely on Logic

After a tragedy, it is very easy to become so fraught with emotions that we lose all sense of logic and reasoning. Logic and emotion are like Yin and Yang. Logic balances out our emotions to ensure we are perceiving our reality as accurately as possible.

Our emotions tell us the world is a dangerous place and we or our loved ones may become victims of a mass shooting. But logic would remind us that there are millions more people who have never and will never be the victim of a mass shooting.

If you feel panicky, take a step back from your emotions and your natural “fight or flight” response and logically evaluate the likelihood of personal danger in your life.

Speak with Someone

It is not always easy to deal with our emotions. They can sometimes seem overwhelming and leave us feeling helpless against them. In times like these, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a trained counselor who can offer tools and insights to cope.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How To Cope With The Psychological Trauma Of A Mass Shooting

When tragedies like mass shootings occur, most of us struggle to make sense of it. How could something so terrible happen? What would cause another human being to do such a thing? And how can we move on with the knowledge that this latest mass shooting most likely won’t be the last?

After a traumatic event, it is common to experience emotions such as shock, anger, sadness, and fear. Many people, especially young children, experience trouble sleeping and concentrating. While it may seem your life will never get back to normal, there are things you can do to cope and find emotional relief.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

During this time, it is important that you are honest with yourself about your feelings. Shoving them down may seem like the only way to function, but in the long-run, ignoring your emotions will only make things worse.

Take some time each day to connect with whatever it is you are feeling. Allow your reaction to your own feelings to flow through you and do not judge yourself.

Let Go of Your Need to Control

One of the reasons people have such powerful reactions after a major tragedy is because it reminds all of us that we don’t have as much control over our lives as we like to think we do. While it may seem counterintuitive, it is important to let go of this need to control every aspect of our lives. If we don’t, we end up feeling like failures on top of our other coping emotions.

Each day, try and practice what is called by many as “radical acceptance.” Accept and acknowledge that the world isn’t as safe as you’d like it. Accept and acknowledge that you cannot control every aspect of your life. When you do this, you feel a sense of calm and peace, as if you have just laid down a heavy weight and burden.

Try to Rely on Logic

After a tragedy, it is very easy to become so fraught with emotions that we lose all sense of logic and reasoning. Logic and emotion are like Yin and Yang. Logic balances out our emotions to ensure we are perceiving our reality as accurately as possible.

Our emotions tell us the world is a dangerous place and we or our loved ones may become victims of a mass shooting. But logic would remind us that there are millions more people who have never and will never be the victim of a mass shooting.

If you feel panicky, take a step back from your emotions and your natural “fight or flight” response and logically evaluate the likelihood of personal danger in your life.

Speak with Someone

It is not always easy to deal with our emotions. They can sometimes seem overwhelming and leave us feeling helpless against them. In times like these, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a trained counselor who can offer tools and insights to cope.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

What To Do If Your Kid Is The Bully

Bullying has become a national epidemic. According to recent data, between 1/4 and 1/3 of school children say they have been bullied. And, according to surveys, roughly 30% of young people admit to bullying others.

While much research has gone into how we can prevent bullying, and many programs have been implemented and tested in schools, the results have been modest at best. These results leave many wondering if prevention must start at home.

Home Life Plays a Large Role in Creating Bullies

Research suggests that family life can increase the risk of someone becoming a bully. Certain home-life characteristics are more commonly found in youths who bully others compared to those who don’t. The following trends can serve as warning signs that trouble may lie ahead:

– Harsh discipline (shaming, insulting, physical threat or harm)
– Lack of warmth or tenderness between parent and child
– Excessive teasing from siblings
– Domestic violence between other family members
– Drug and alcohol abuse
– Prejudice or hatred against others shown by parents or other family members
– Emotional neglect
– Excessive pressure to meet expectations or perform well in the world

The hopeful news is that research has shown that intervening to prevent or end these risk factors in the home can greatly reduce bullying and other youth violence.

Communication

If another parent or teacher has told you your child is being a bully, the very first thing to do is sit down and talk with your child. Don’t scold them right off the bat, but rather tell your child you would like to hear their side of the story.

Depending on how old your child is, he or she may open up and admit to the bullying and also offer an explanation, such as they want to fit in and be liked. Many children with low self-esteem bully to feel empowered and noticed.

Some children may not be able to express their thoughts or feelings easily. This is particularly true of younger children who may be struggling with anxiety or other mental health issues. If you find you are having trouble communicating with your child, consider seeking the guidance of a child psychologist who has experience evaluating behavior.

Remain Vigilant

If your child is a bully, changing their behavior won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. But remaining vigilant is important.

Continue to build an open channel of communication with your child. This will help you recognize signs of trouble. Check-in with them daily and ask about their day – what they have planned, something that happened that they enjoyed, and something that happened that they didn’t enjoy.

Laying this foundation of communication is vital. Once kids know they are expected to share details of their lives on a regular basis, they become more comfortable opening up even into adolescence.

If you or someone you know is the parent of a bully and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I might be able to help.

Parenting An Angry Teen

Raising a teenager can be one of the most challenging experiences a parent will go through. Teenagers are in an awkward stage, dealing with hormonal changes that are out of their control and a developing brain. They’re awakening to new realizations about themselves and the world around them.

Teenage rebellion is a natural phase, however, handling it as a parent is anything but natural. If you’re struggling with raising an angry teen, here are some strategies that can help.

Keep Your Cool

It may be difficult to keep your cool when your teen is yelling at you, but as the adult, it’s important that you maintain control. Refrain from yelling, cursing, or name-calling your teen. Verbal abuse will only escalate the argument and will have a long-term impact on your child and your relationship. If your child is being verbally abusive, apply consequences to their behavior and speak in a calm, matter-of-fact tone.

Accountability, Not Control

Rather than trying to control your teen and their behavior, make them accountable. Set clear boundaries, and establish rules and consequences.

Listen

It can be difficult to listen when your child is yelling or angry. Your initial reaction may be to defend yourself or criticize. Rather than offering advice or judgment, actively listen to your teen. Be silent as they express themselves, and ask questions to better understand how they’re feeling. You can also calmly express that it’s difficult to listen to them when they’re angry and yelling. By genuinely trying to listen and understand them, you can teach them how to control their emotions and express themselves calmly.

Give Them Space

When your teen is angry and wants to storm off, let them go instead of following them and trying to continue or resolve the argument. It’s healthy for both of you to give each other space and time to cool off so you can revisit the discussion when you’re both feeling calmer.

Pick Your Battles

Your teen is going through a difficult phase, and needs empathy. Remember back to the times when you were a teen to help you empathize. There will be times when your teen is making a bigger deal of something than it needs to be, and as the adult it’s your job to know when to stand your ground, and when to let things go. Talk with your spouse to set boundaries and determine priorities of issues that can be compromised, and issues that are non-negotiable.

If you’re having difficulty with your angry teenager and want some help and guidance, call my office today so we can set up an appointment to talk.

Signs Your Partner Is Addicted to Pornography

All addictions negatively impact a relationship, and pornography addiction is certainly no exception. The adult entertainment industry generates billions of dollars annually, and with an estimated 40 million Americans visiting porn sites regularly, pornography addiction is a problem for many families.

With an estimated 28% of women viewing online pornography versus 72% of men, pornography addiction isn’t a problem specific to men; women can also become addicted. If you’re concerned that your partner has developed an addiction to pornography, here are some signs to look out for.

They spend a lot of time on the internet

The porn addict will spend hours, and sometimes even days, online viewing pornography. If your spouse spends an increasing amount of time alone, either with a phone, laptop or tablet, he or she may be developing an obsession with pornography.

They’re critical of you

Porn stars are typically young and attractive, often times surgically enhanced. The more your partner watches pornography, the more negatively you may be compared to the models he or she is watching. Porn addicts tend to objectify their partner, and as your spouse spends increasing amounts of time watching porn, they may start to become critical of your body.

Unusual spending activity

Checking your bank or credit card statements, you may find unexpected or unexplained charges. Adult entertainment websites will often mask the charges to benefit the confidentiality of their customers, so you may have to do a Google search or make some phone calls to uncover the source of the charges.

Your sex life has changed

When someone is addicted to pornography, they may no longer have the drive or desire to maintain a sex life with their partner. Conversely, some addicts become more demanding. They may want to engage in acts you’re not comfortable with. As a person becomes more and more addicted to pornography, they will have to watch increasingly unusual material. This may result in your partner becoming more rough or aggressive.

So what can you do if you suspect your partner is addicted to porn? First, know that his or her addiction is not your fault. People become addicted as a way of coping with unwanted feelings and emotions, or as a way to avoid real life stress or difficulties. Second, seek support from trusted loved ones and find a therapist who can help you both on the road to recovery.

Is your relationship suffering because of pornography addiction? A trained, licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

The Signs of Opiate Addiction

Watching your local news or checking your social media feed, you’ve probably heard about the opioid epidemic, the nation’s current public health crisis. As death tolls from the crisis continue to rise dramatically every year, this is not an issue to be taken lightly or ignored.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 42,000 people died from an opioid-related overdose in 2016. Nationwide, 45 states have seen a 30% increase in opioid overdose from July 2016 to September 2017.

What Are Opiates?

Commonly prescribed to alleviate severe pain, opiates include prescription pain killers such as oxycodone, dilaudid, codeine, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, among others. The illegal street drug heroin is also classified as an opiate. Opiates are highly addictive, and it’s possible to become addicted to them unintentionally.

Signs of Opiate Addiction

As someone begins to abuse their opioid prescription, they will develop a tolerance to the drug. They will need increasingly larger doses to experience the same benefits. As their tolerance grows, they will become physically dependent on the drug; they will experience the unpleasant feeling of withdrawal when they aren’t taking it. If the opiate abuse continues, they will develop a psychological dependence that will cause cravings for the opiates, at which point they are in the throes of opiate addiction. Below are some signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one may be abusing their prescription.

Drowsiness: Nodding off at inappropriate times, or appearing drowsy or sedated is a sign of physical addiction to opiates
Change in sleep habits: As a person abuses opiates, they may sleep for longer periods of time. If they’re experiencing withdrawal, they may be unable to sleep.
Weight loss: Opioid addicts tend to lose weight due to metabolic changes brought on by the drug abuse.
Mood swings: Irritability, dramatic shifts in mood, or emotional outbursts.
Social withdrawal: An addict may isolate or socially withdraw. They might also start spending less time with family, and more time with people you don’t know.
Flu-like symptoms: Opiate withdrawal can cause flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fatigue.
Doctor shopping: An opiate addict will go to several doctors in order to obtain multiple prescriptions. Multiple prescriptions will result in extra pill bottles; an addict may attempt to hide them in the trash.

Finding Help

If you’re concerned that a loved one may be abusing their prescription, speaking to an addiction specialist or health care professional is an important next step. They can provide you with the referrals and direction necessary to ensure that your friend or family member receives the appropriate help as quickly as possible.

Are you or a loved one struggling with opiate addiction and need help? Call me today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

How Sports Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Suffering from depression can cause you to feel hopeless, worthless, irritable and tired. You may have difficulty falling or staying asleep, and your disrupted sleep patterns will increase fatigue and negatively impact your already low mood. Your depression will have you believing that there’s no hope in sight, but help may be right outside your front door.

How Sports Can Help

When you’re feeling depressed, the last thing you want to do is to get out and move around or spend time with people, and yet, that’s the very thing you need to do. Participating in sports will not only help you get some much-needed sunlight, fresh air, and exercise, but you’ll meet new friends and have fun doing it.

Improved Mood

For some people, exercise alone can be an effective treatment for their depression. Along with the many health benefits provided by regular exercise, your mental health will also benefit. Regular exercise releases the body’s endorphins, which help to relieve pain while inducing feelings of pleasure or euphoria. Exercise also improves your mood by reducing the activity of the stress hormone cortisol, which, when in excess, can make you more susceptible to stress and impairs your brain’s ability to function properly.

Better Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, just 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous activity a week will cause you to have a deeper sleep. Better sleep will improve your mood during the day and cause you to feel more alert and increase concentration.

Social Interaction

Depression can often cause you to withdraw from friends and family, isolating yourself. But we all have a profound need to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging. Making the effort to interact socially through sports activity can help distract you from your worries while you have fun and make new friends.

How to Get Started

Think back to when you were a kid and the fun activities you used to do to find inspiration for sports you’d like to participate in as an adult. Look for yoga, water aerobics or workout classes, or sign up for a neighborhood softball, basketball or flag football league. You can also look into dancing classes or dance groups, such as line dancing. Check the sports category on Meetup.com to find a sport that’s fun and familiar, or new and unique. You can even make a post on your neighborhood app to start a group of your own.

More Research Needed

Although many studies point to the countless health benefits of sports participation, further research is still needed on the impact of exercise on depression. Exercise alone may not be enough to treat your depression. If you’re struggling with depression and need some help, please give me a call today so we can set up an appointment to talk.

5 Reasons You’re Spending Too Much Money

“Too much month at the end of the money” is a phrase many of us find funny and relatable. But serious financial problems are no laughing matter. Finding yourself eating rice and beans until payday because you spent too much on electronics or the latest fashion trend might seem like no big deal, but what about the big picture? What happens when an emergency comes up? What happens when it’s time to retire?

A 2016 report on financial capability by FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that about 60% of Americans spend about equal or more than their income. And, a GoBankingRates survey in the same year found that 70% of Americans have $100 or less saved for retirement[1]. Not only are most Americans retiring without a savings, they’re retiring in debt.

With statistics like these, you may be ready to start making more responsible money decisions. Here are five reasons you’re spending too much money, and what you can do to change your mindset.

I can’t wait!

There’s nothing quite like instant gratification. But indulging in that impulse buy will either blow your budget, lower your cash flow for the month, or put you further in debt. If you save the money to make that purchase in cash instead, you’ll not only find out over time if you still want it, but you’ll also save potentially hundreds of dollars in the interest you would have paid if you bought it with credit.

It’ll make me feel better.

People often use “retail therapy” to give themselves a mood boost. If you’re feeling down or depressed, find other sources of comfort like a bubble bath, a cup of tea and a book, or a walk in the park.

I’ll be getting more money soon.

Too often, we overestimate our potential for earning money, and underestimate future expenses. If you’re looking to create a comfortable nest egg for yourself, you need to focus on rising future expenses to avoid buying something you really can’t afford.

It’s a special occasion.

Everyone likes to spend a little extra money on a special occasion, but unfortunately, special occasions seem to roll around more often than most of us can afford. Curtail your special occasion spending by setting a cap for the year, then budgeting by month. Save money by planning ahead or handcrafting gifts.

I earned it!

If you just finished a complex project or landed a big client, you might be tempted to overspend to reward yourself. Of course, you earned it, but making responsible financial decisions means you’re making choices not just for your happiness and comfort today, but for decades into the future.

Are you struggling with finances and need help becoming a better money manager? Call my office today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

[1] 2016 GoBankingRates survey (https://www.gobankingrates.com/saving-money/data-americans-savings/)

5 Ways to Reignite the Spark in Your Relationship

‘The spark’ is a phrase that’s used a lot when it comes to romantic relationships. In fact, you might have felt ‘the spark’ in the beginning of your relationship, and as a result, the early days were very exciting for you and your partner. However, like every other flame, ‘the spark’ needs to be kept alive by both partners. When you think of intimacy, you probably imagine physical attraction, and sexual relations, however, intimacy is so much more than that. It encompasses both the physical and the emotional.

At the beginning of your relationship, you just can’t seem to get enough of your partner. You want to see them all the time, and they are constantly on your mind. Naturally, romance blossoms and intimacy is high and effortless.

However, as time goes on, life sort of gets in the way. Routine and the stress of everyday living makes it almost impossible to sustain high levels of intimacy without effort. It takes practice, time and effort to keep intimacy levels high in any relationship.

Here are 5 ways to strengthen the intimacy in your relationship, and keep your flame burning hot.

1. Do exciting things together- As your relationship develops, you are bound to form a routine. However, routines become boring. Shake things up by making an effort to do really exciting things together, such as climbing a mountain, going on a vacation, taking a special class together or going bungee jumping! It will provide a much-needed breath of fresh air in your relationship and help you discover new things about each other.

2. Have deep meaningful conversations– Talk about your relationship, your current lives, plans for the future and your emotional state. Try as much as possible to be vulnerable with your partner and let them see the real you. Lack of communication and bottling up negative emotions can lead to resentment. Explore the things that make your relationship work, and strengthen your commitment to each other. Having a therapist facilitate these conversations can make them really fruitful and rewarding.

3. Be thoughtful – Intimacy isn’t always about the grand gestures. Something as simple as writing your partner a love letter or stocking up on their favorite snack can make them feel incredibly loved and appreciated.

4. Make couple time- It can be really hard to focus on one thing in today’s digital world, and sometimes we unconsciously pay more attention to our gadgets than to our lovers. At least once a week, turn off all electronic devices and participate in an activity you both enjoy. You could watch a movie, cook together or massage each other. This gives you time to enjoy each other and connect on a deeper level.

5. Express gratitude- Every night, before bed, express gratitude for one thing your partner did during the day, no matter how small or random.This will help them feel loved and appreciated.

If you would like to improve intimacy in your relationship and strengthen the bond between you and your partner, please book a relationship therapy session with me.

Common Signs Your Kid Is Being Bullied

For many parents, bullying brings up memories of the schoolyard. You may have memories of yourself or a friend being bullied in the classroom or on the school bus.

But today, social media has created a whole new realm for bullying, expanding the problem and making it easier for children to be harassed.

If you’re concerned that your child may be being bullied, look for these signs.

Difficulty Sleeping

Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or tiredness in the morning could be a sign of bullying or depression. Your child may be too anxious to fall or stay asleep; they may be crying themselves to sleep or having nightmares. Wetting the bed is another sign of fear or anxiety in a child.

Unexplained Injuries

Does your child come home from school with bruises, scrapes, cuts or torn clothes? When you ask your child about the injury or ruined clothing, do they appear nervous or avoid answering your questions? Attempt to assess if these are normal injuries as a result of play, or a sign of playground bullying. Ask them open-ended questions such as, “What happened at recess today?”

Avoids Social Situations

If you notice your child has lost friends or has developed a reluctance to spend time with them, this may be a sign of bullying. You may also notice your child is afraid to ride the bus or avoids school entirely by skipping classes or feigning an illness. They may go to the school nurse with a mystery ache to get you to pick them up early from school. If you’re beginning to notice a pattern, try talking to them about it. “I’m starting to notice you’re feeling sick a lot lately. Is everything okay at school?”

Changes in Eating Habits

If you notice your child’s eating habits are changing, such as skipping meals or binge eating, this can be a sign that something’s wrong. If your child comes home from school very hungry, it could be because they didn’t eat lunch. They could be too nervous during lunch time to eat, getting their lunch or lunch money stolen, or possibly avoiding the cafeteria entirely because of bullying or harassment.

Changes in Social Media Habits

When a child is being bullied online, they may start spending too much time on their devices or avoiding them entirely. Monitor their social media sites by friending or following, and if you suspect bullying, check their phone for harassing messages. You may also want to look into parental control and monitoring apps.

If you believe your child is being bullied at school, contact their teacher, the school principal or the school counselor or psychologist. You can also visit StopBullying.gov for more help and resources. If you or your child need professional help to deal with a bullying situation, please call my office today so we can schedule an appointment.