Is Meditation for Me?

As beautiful and joyous as life can be, it can also be plain ol’ stressful. Whether it’s hefty mortgage payments, killer commutes, or bosses who don’t give us the credit we deserve, stress can come at us from all different angles.

Surveys have uncovered some pretty disturbing statistics about stress. 33% of people feel they live with extreme stress, while 48% believe the stress in their lives has increased over the past five years. And a whopping 77% of people surveyed said they experience physical symptoms caused by stress.

What are some of these physical symptoms linked to chronic stress?

• Pain of any kind
• Sleep problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Digestive problems
• Skin conditions, such as eczema
• Heart disease
• Weight problems
• Reproductive issues
• Thinking and memory issues

How Meditation Can Help

There is now scientific evidence that meditation is effective against physical symptoms of stress such as IBS, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis. Meditation has been linked with improved immune response, reduction in pain sensitivity, and a shift from negativity to positivity.

Further, research has shown that meditation may physically alter the brain and how we are able to cope with chronic stress.

But what exactly is meditation? When many people hear that word, they have instant visions of people sitting in lotus position chanting, “Ohmmm.”

Mindful meditation is simply the practice of harnessing our attention to quiet our chattering minds. Instead of letting our brains run rampant like energetic puppies, sniffing one thought after another and another and another, mindfulness focuses our attention in the now.

The problem is because mediation is so deceptively simple, many people either feel it can’t possibly work in general, or they won’t benefit from it. And because we live in a society that seems to promote instant gratification, other people expect that after their first 20 minutes of meditating, all of their problems will magically dissolve.

But meditation is called a “practice” for a reason. Like anything else that is beneficial to your mind and body (sound nutrition and exercise), it takes commitment to reap those benefits.

Tips for Beginner Meditators

If you are interested in trying meditation for yourself, here are a few key tips:

• Get comfortable – you don’t have to sit in the lotus pose. You can sit in a comfy chair or even lie down. The trick is to be comfortable enough that your body sensations don’t distract you, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
• Don’t try and control your breath, just breathe naturally, simply staying aware of your breath.
• Start with just a few minutes and build from there.
• Don’t try to be perfect. There is no perfection in life or meditation, so just keep practicing every day.

If you find after you’ve been meditating for a little while that you could use some extra help dealing with the stress in your life, get in touch with me. I’d be happy to explore treatment options with you and talk about how I may be able to help.

Is Meditation for You?

As beautiful and joyous as life can be, it can also be plain ol’ stressful. Whether it’s hefty mortgage payments, killer commutes, or bosses who don’t give us the credit we deserve, stress can come at us from all different angles.

Surveys have uncovered some pretty disturbing statistics about stress. 33% of people feel they live with extreme stress, while 48% believe the stress in their lives has increased over the past five years. And a whopping 77% of people surveyed said they experience physical symptoms caused by stress.

What are some of these physical symptoms linked to chronic stress?

• Pain of any kind
• Sleep problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Digestive problems
• Skin conditions, such as eczema
• Heart disease
• Weight problems
• Reproductive issues
• Thinking and memory issues

How Meditation Can Help

There is now scientific evidence that meditation is effective against physical symptoms of stress such as IBS, high blood pressure, and ulcerative colitis. Meditation has been linked with improved immune response, reduction in pain sensitivity, and a shift from negativity to positivity.

Further, research has shown that meditation may physically alter the brain and how we are able to cope with chronic stress.

But what exactly is meditation? When many people hear that word, they have instant visions of people sitting in lotus position chanting, “Ohmmm.”

Mindful meditation is simply the practice of harnessing our attention to quiet our chattering minds. Instead of letting our brains run rampant like energetic puppies, sniffing one thought after another and another and another, mindfulness focuses our attention in the now.

The problem is because mediation is so deceptively simple, many people either feel it can’t possibly work in general, or they won’t benefit from it. And because we live in a society that seems to promote instant gratification, other people expect that after their first 20 minutes of meditating, all of their problems will magically dissolve.

But meditation is called a “practice” for a reason. Like anything else that is beneficial to your mind and body (sound nutrition and exercise), it takes commitment to reap those benefits.

Tips for Beginner Meditators

If you are interested in trying meditation for yourself, here are a few key tips:

• Get comfortable – you don’t have to sit in the lotus pose. You can sit in a comfy chair or even lie down. The trick is to be comfortable enough that your body sensations don’t distract you, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
• Don’t try and control your breath, just breathe naturally, simply staying aware of your breath.
• Start with just a few minutes and build from there.
• Don’t try to be perfect. There is no perfection in life or meditation, so just keep practicing every day.

If you find after you’ve been meditating for a little while that you could use some extra help dealing with the stress in your life, get in touch with me. I’d be happy to explore treatment options with you and talk about how I may be able to help.

5 Reasons Your Child Should Be in School Sports

If your son or daughter spends too much time at home with a glazed look in their eye and the glow of a smartphone in their face, you might want to consider signing them up for school sports. Getting your child off the couch and active will not only bring them immediate benefits but will have a positive effect on them for the rest of their lives. Wondering how that’s possible? Here are five ways playing school sports will benefit your child.

1. Academics
Numerous studies have shown that kids in sports do better in school. School policies that have grade requirements for sports participation show students that they need to take their education seriously in order to continue playing. Additionally, the lessons they learn in sports help them cultivate the tenacity needed to not only complete physically but to excel in their studies, as well. Kids in school sports are also less likely to drop out of school and are more likely to attend college.

2. Fitness
As childhood obesity rates continue to rise, having your kids spending an excessive amount of time playing video games or watching YouTube makes them statistically more vulnerable to unhealthy habits. Regular participation in sports activities will improve your child’s weight and body mass, while they reap the many benefits of physical activity such as improved sleep, mood, and brain function. They’re also less likely to participate in unhealthy or risky behavior.

3. Confidence & Character
When your child participates in sports, they’ll learn how putting effort and practice into something will reap rewards. As they gain confidence when they win and are successful, they will also build character as they inevitably experience a defeat. Learning to take a loss in stride and push forward is an important lesson to learn early in life, and one that will help them as they go through the world and experience inevitable ups and downs.

4. Social Skills
As your child interacts with their coaches, parents and other students, they will develop communication and social skills. They’ll learn how to communicate their needs, contribute ideas as well as listen and follow instruction. They’ll learn how to achieve goals as they work with others, a vital skill that will benefit them throughout adulthood.

5. Lifelong memories
Students that participate in school sports spend a great deal of time together, during and outside of school hours. They will have many unique and fun experiences with a close group of people, creating bonds that can last them a lifetime.

Participating in school sports is an activity that will benefit your child mentally, emotionally and physically, leaving a lasting and lifelong positive impact.

If your child needs guidance in making better choices and creating and reaching goals, please call my office so we can schedule an appointment.

6 Tips for Grieving a Loved One

Grieving for a loved one is very possibly the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. Understand that it will take time and effort to heal, but you will heal if that is what you want. (Holding onto the past and your anguish is an option, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.) While time will be the biggest factor in helping you heal – and unfortunately the amount of time is different for everyone – there are techniques and tips you can use to help yourself find your center and your inner happiness again.

Remember, grieving is not about forgetting the person you’ve lost, but instead is about coming to terms with the reality of your loss.

1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Always remember that it’s okay to be sad about the fact that the person you love isn’t around anymore. Allow yourself the freedom to explore the full range of emotions that may come up such as sadness, anger, and even happiness at the memories of your life together.

2. Do something special for your lover. The death of your lover doesn’t have to bring an end to the love you shared. You can do something special to honor them such as taking roses to their grave, writing a heartfelt love letter to them, or lighting a special scented candle in their memory. Expressing your love to them even after their demise helps you feel connected to them in a special way.

3. Give yourself a treat. Do something really special for yourself. Pamper yourself by going to the spa, having dinner at your favorite restaurant or sending yourself flowers. Indulge in your favorite hobbies. Taking time out to give yourself a cute treat will definitely lift your spirits. However, remember to recognize your limitations. Don’t force yourself to do an activity you don’t feel up to.

4. Do something nice for others. One of the best feelings is the sheer bliss that comes after doing something nice for someone who has nothing to offer you. You can volunteer somewhere, buy a homeless person food, or give blood.

5. Seek support. You don’t have to put on a brave face or go through your grief alone. Reach out to your friends or members of your family who you can talk to about how you feel without being judged. Tell them what you need, so they can help you in the best way possible.

If you’re having a really tough time coping with your grief over a loved one’s passing, it always helps to talk to a grief counselor or therapist. I offer counseling services and you can contact me to book a session.

5 Signs You Aren’t Practicing Self-Care

Self-care is complex. Anyone can tell you to do it, but only you can bestow the gift of self-care onto yourself. But before you can begin bestowing, you’ve got to first recognize that you are worthy of caring for yourself as you do others.

How do you do this? By noticing the ways in which you are currently not taking very good care of yourself.

Here are 5 signs you aren’t practicing self-care. If any seem familiar, it is time to make more time for yourself:

1. You Get Sick More Often

When we don’t take proper care of ourselves, our health takes a big hit. Lack of proper sleep and nutrition can lead to a taxed immune system, which in turn makes you vulnerable to infections, colds, flu, and other immune-related medical problems.

2. Increased Moodiness

What happens when a child does not get the care and attention they deserve? They begin to act out in order to get any attention. In much the same way, a lack of self-care and feeling of unimportance can lead to increased irritability. Leaving this unchecked can result in personal and professional relationships being negatively affected.

3. Unpleasant Physical Symptoms

What can start out as unpleasant (and even scary) physical symptoms, can be a sign of poor self-care. Symptoms may include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, headaches, and fainting spells. All of these symptoms should be checked out by your healthcare provider immediately.

4. A Feeling of Isolation

When you feel you don’t deserve to care for yourself, you naturally feel unworthy of enjoying other aspects of life, like socializing and a true connection to friends and family. This can lead to a detachment of others and a sense of isolation.

5. Depression

Feelings of worthlessness can snowball into feelings of hopelessness and depression. If you have noticed yourself slipping farther and farther into a depression, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional. They can help you recognize where the darkness has come from, and how to break through back into the light.

If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, or would simply like some help practicing self-care, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

7 Tips for Getting Through a Breakup

No breakup is ever easy, but some breakups can make you feel like you’ve been sucker punched. And during those times, it can become sincerely difficult to see a way forward. Maybe your friends and family don’t seem to understand why you’re struggling so much, but you have every right to your feelings and your personal journey of mourning. (Because yes, you are allowed to mourn over a relationship!)

I know that things may feel dark right now, but I’ve got two great pieces of news for you. One, you’re not alone – your struggle and experience is valid and difficult, but you can take strength knowing that many other men and women like you find a way to fight through similar tough experiences all the time. And you can too.

The second piece of good news is that you have the power to make yourself feel better. Now, I’m not trying to say you can snap your fingers or simply make a mental decision, and suddenly you’ll feel better. However, you are strong and capable, and there are many things you can do to help yourself climb out of this hole and back towards your personal “normal.”

Let’s get you started with a handful of solid first steps you can take.

1. Practice self-care.Instead of wallowing in your misery, distract yourself by indulging in something you truly enjoy after all self-love is the most important love! Do something you’ve always wanted to do, take yourself on dates or buy yourself a present. It will definitely help you feel better.

2. Use social media smartly.You might want to stay off social media during this period. Seeing pictures of happy couples on your Facebook or Instagram feed might unnecessarily trigger you. Remember that nobody’s life is as perfect as it appears to be on social media.

3. Rely on your support system. Nobody should have to go through a breakup alone. Calling your BFF and crying it out on the phone can be extremely cathartic, plus you get to hear someone you love remind you of how awesome you are. Allow your friends and family to be there for you.

4. Find a good therapist. Talk therapy can help you with some much-needed evaluation. It can help you see what went wrong in the relationship, what you really need in a relationship, and who you really are.

5. Seek your passion.Find something that you’re really happy doing, and spend a lot of time doing it. That way, you have something positive to channel your emotions to, and you’d be too busy having fun to think about your ex.

6. Practice gratitude. Think about all the other people in your life who love you completely, and be thankful for them.

7. Focus on becoming a better person for YOU. Now is a great time to do those things you’ve always wanted to do. Start exercising, eat healthily, learn a new skill, and travel somewhere new. Grow in as many ways as possible and watch yourself flourish.
Remember, grieving the loss of a relationship is completely normal. Give yourself the time and space you need to get through the breakup. Seeing a professional therapist is a great step towards healing. If you need someone to help you through your breakup, please reach out to book a session with me.

Food is Not A Reward, and 3 Other Food Habits to Avoid

Growing up, how often were you rewarded – or bribed – with food for good behavior?

“Clean your room and we’ll go out for ice cream.”

“You got an A? Well, that calls for a cookie!”

If you’re like most people, food – particularly sweet food – was used as a treat or reward when you behaved well or accomplished something. Maybe it was even used as a comfort mechanism when you got a scrape or cut.

Unfortunately, these seemingly benign gestures from parents or grandparents set many of us up for a lifetime of using food as a reward. “I aced my final exams, time for pizza.” “Yes, got that promotion! I feel like going out for beer and wings.”

And while using food as a reward may feel innocent enough, it can lead to weight gain, health problems, and depression.

One way to tell you have a food/reward issue is to take a little test. The next time you celebrate with eating your favorite foods (perhaps your guiltiest pleasures), take notice of how you feel afterward.

Do you feel euphoric at first, but then remorseful? Do you feel physically uncomfortable or even ill from the kind or amount of food you chose to eat? Do you feel shame, regret, or self-loathing?

If you feel bad after rewarding yourself with food, I encourage you to become more aware of your food choices and think of other, healthier ways to celebrate or treat yourself for a specific achievement. Think of ways you can indulge without feeling bad.

Emotional Eating

It’s natural for people to want to treat themselves to something special after a hard day or challenging experience. If you just finished a grueling 12-hour shift, maybe you and some co-workers want to hit the local greasy spoon. After a funeral, it’s traditional that loved ones gather to eat.

It’s when eating becomes a daily coping mechanism for the stressors in life that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. While comfort foods may seem to offer relief and even give us a little high, eventually we end up feeling worse than we initially did.

To overcome emotional eating, it’s important to get in touch with your emotions. What are you trying to cope with or stuff down with food? Becoming comfortable with your emotions will make you less likely to avoid them with food.

Also, find healthier ways to support yourself during times of stress and grief. Go for walks, take hot baths, or maybe spend a day at the spa.

Mindless Eating

A study out of Cornell University illustrates mindless eating perfectly: moviegoers were given extra-large containers of stale popcorn, yet they still ate 45% more than the moviegoers who were munching on piping-hot-fresh popcorn out of smaller containers.

For many of us, if the food is there we will eat it when our mind is distracted with something else. And this is a BIG problem in this country, where portion sizes have increased exponentially over the past 30 years.

It is incredibly important to pay attention to what you eat and how much of it. Stop eating in front of the computer or television and sit down as a family. Really smell and taste each delicious bite.

Eating Too Fast

Akin to mindlessly eating, eating too fast causes many of us to eat too many calories. We don’t realize we’re full and keep stuffing it in. Some studies have even suggested eating too fast messes with our GI tract and may even lead to insulin resistance.

A simple solution? Chewing each bite fully. Go ahead, count those chews. However many times you find you normally chew your food before swallowing, double that number. You will be amazed at how much more pleasure you get from your food. You will also be amazed at how little it takes for you to become full. And when you feel full, stop eating.

If you feel you have a food addiction problem and would like to speak to someone, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to discuss treatment options with you.

How to Lovingly Parent a Depressed Child

Being a parent is the hardest job on the planet. But being a parent of a child with a mental illness can feel unbearable at times.

All parents want to do what’s right for their kids, but when your child is sick, either physically or mentally, the desire to “get it right” becomes even more intense.

If you are the parent of a child with depression, know there’s isn’t one “right way” to parent them. Having said that, here are some ways you can support and show you love your child on their way back toward the light.

Accept Your New Reality

For many parents, accepting that your child has a mental illness is extremely difficult. It is natural to want to deny the truth and pretend that everything is the way it was before the diagnosis. But invalidating reality will only make your child feel shame. Accepting the truth will help your family take the necessary steps to getting the right help.

Communicate Openly

Your child needs you now more than ever. They need to feel that they can talk to you when their world feels dark. Sit your child down and tell them they can come to you at any time for any reason. Let them know you could never be angry at them for how they feel. When they are ready to talk, listen closely and with an open mind and heart.

Help Their Body

It’s a fact that an unhealthy body effects the mind, especially with a mental illness in play. Help your child’s recovery by encouraging healthy eating habits. Limit sugar, bad fats, and caffeine intake. Make sure they get plenty of exercise. Invite them to go for a hike or bike ride with you. And finally, help them get enough sleep each night by setting firm bed times.

Talk to Them About Suicide

It’s a conversation no parent ever imagines they’ll have to have. But for the parent of a depressed child, the risk of suicide is a sad reality. Start the conversation with your child. Ask if they’ve ever thought about suicide. Asking these questions in an objective way allows your child to speak candidly with you and share their true thoughts and feelings with you.

And understand that there is no danger of a person planting a thought of suicide in someone else’s mind if it’s not already there.

Get Help

Though you can be a big support in your child’s life, you’ll need the help and guidance of a trained mental health therapist. Talk to your pediatrician for a referral. You can also get a referral from local support groups and friends and family.

If you or a loved one has a child suffering with depression, you are not alone. Please contact me to discuss treatment options.

5 Signs You’re in an Abusive Relationship

At some point in life, most of us have experienced being in a toxic relationship, whether we’re aware of it or not. People of all ages, nationalities and sexual orientations can find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, confused as to how they got there, or perhaps even unsure the situation is unhealthy.

While physical abuse is obvious, mental and emotional abuse can be subtle. It can also be particularly hard to notice things are wrong when you suffer from low self-worth. Abusive behavior can seem right to those who don’t know their own value.

Here are 5 signs you’re in an abusive relationship.

1. Undermining
When you try to speak with your partner, do they refuse to hear your side? Do they deny everything you say to the point of questioning your sanity? Do you question your own? Having disagreements is normal, but a partner who refuses to have an open conversation is problematic.

2. Isolating You from Others 
If you feel you need the love, support and energy of close friends and family, but your partner isolates you from them, this is a sign of abuse. It could be subtle, pretending to be sick or in a funk to get you to stay home with them instead; or it could be more obvious, as in forbidding you to see certain people.

3. Put Downs
Saying something you know will be hurtful to someone is a form of verbal abuse. You are intentionally causing them pain. Though it may be said in jest, the humor may simply be a cover for cruelty.

If your partner is constantly putting you down or intentionally pushing your buttons, this is a sign of disrespect and even hostility.

4. Using the Guilt Card
Much abuse comes in the form of manipulation, and guilt is one of the easiest ways to manipulate another’s emotions to get them to do what you want. If you feel you are being manipulated through guilt to the point where you’re ready to give up any power you have in the relationship, this is a sign something may be going on. For instance, it is natural and healthy for a person to need time alone. Does your partner guilt you into spending your alone time with them?

5. Controlling Your Behavior
This could mean a broad range of things, from controlling how you dress to what you say and where you go. Again, it may be subtle. Maybe they buy you clothes often and tease you about your sense of style, or lack thereof. Maybe they tease you and say that you sound “silly” not knowing what you’re talking about regarding politics. This is disrespectful and abusive.

How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship

Learn how to spot controlling behaviors so you can be clear about what is happening to you.
Become your own greatest strength and support by beginning to trust your instincts, thoughts, and feelings.
Surround yourself with those who love and respect you and want the best for you.

You may also want to seek guidance from a trained counselor. They can help you see reality clearly and offer strategies to extract yourself from the relationship so you can begin to heal.

If you or a loved one is in an abusive relationship and are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may help.

4 Healthy Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural dialogue between our mind and body. It’s a red flag that something might be going on in our surroundings that requires our attention.

For most of us, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times. For some, anxiety may be more present and color more of their daily life. And for still others, anxiety is a constant torture; a nightmare they can’t awaken from.

Depending on your level of anxiety, there are some healthy coping strategies you can use to manage it. Here are 4 I recommend:

Mind Your Mind

How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Our thoughts tend to bubble up from our subconscious without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening, although the majority will not be based in reality.

Start to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings. Instead of thinking the worst will happen, challenge the thought. What is the realistic likelihood the worst will happen on a scale of 1 – 10?

The more you do this, the more you will retrain your mind to process life differently.

Remind Yourself What Anxiety Is

Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you are dying.

But you’re not.

You are having a physical response to an irrational fear or thought. Remind yourself of that ancient dialogue your mind and body are having and know that, in reality, you are okay.

Learn Your Triggers

Once you learn to pay attention to your thoughts and remain calm knowing you are having a natural reaction to what you perceive as a threat, find the threat. Observe your surroundings to find the potential trigger that activated your reaction. If there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger. Do they seem uneasy or concerned in the least? Chances are they don’t because the threat is not real. Store this information away so eventually your subconscious mind will stop thinking of the trigger as a threat.

Breathe

Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being. Don’t underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.

If you find you need a bit more help controlling your anxiety, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss treatment options with you.