5 Ways to Recharge Your Energy After a Rough Day

Few things zap your energy the way a stressful day can. Stress is known to reduce our levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play an important role in our mood, energy and motivation. After a difficult day, you might be tempted to lounge on the couch watching TV until it’s time to go to bed. Although it might feel good in the moment, it won’t give you the mood and energy lift you need after a rough day. Here are five simple ways you can recharge yourself.

1. Unplug

After a stress-filled day, you need to unwind—and that means turning off your phone for some much-needed “me” time. It can be tempting to sit on the couch with your phone all night, checking emails, responding to texts, or getting lost on Facebook or Instagram.

Unplug. Turn your phone off and put it in a drawer in a room in your house that’s out of the way, or leave it in your car. Don’t touch it again until after you’ve had a good night’s rest.

2. Go Outside

If the sun is still out after your rough day, put on your comfy shoes and go for a quick walk. Exposure to the sunlight will help your brain release serotonin, which will boost your mood and help you feel calm and focused. Exercise is also one of the best ways you can improve your mood, helping you relieve stress and sleep better at night. Even if the sun is down, a walk outside will still help, as the exercise and fresh air will help you feel invigorated.

3. Refresh Yourself

After a tough day, take the time to refresh yourself by taking a 45-minute nap. A quick 5 or 10-minute meditation session can also help lift you up. Use your phone to find a guided meditation on YouTube, or play some relaxing music while you meditate quietly for a few minutes. You can also pamper yourself with a bubble bath, or if you need something more uplifting, take a quick shower. Before you get out of the shower, splash some ice cold water in your face; the chill will refresh you and wake you up.

4. Eat Healthy

A healthy dinner or snack is just the thing you need after a rough day. Avoid comfort foods that will leave you feeling sluggish. Instead, fuel your body with protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, and you’ll likely get a mental boost as well from the feel-good result of eating healthy.

5. Make Plans

Looking forward to something is a great way to boost your mood long-term. Plan a vacation, a weekend getaway, or just a day trip. Even planning a special meal, or a visit to a new bar or restaurant will help; give yourself something to look forward to.

 

Are you struggling to maintain your energy levels? Is stress causing you to feel tired, anxious or depressed? A licensed therapist can help you find ways to manage stressful situations. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Creating a Safe Home Environment After Rehab

If you or a loved one have gone through a program in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center, you know that much of the time spent in rehab focuses on preparing you for your move back home. This can be a dangerous and scary transition if you’re unprepared. Although throughout your stay in rehab you’ve accomplished many things and overcome serious and difficult hurdles, the toughest challenges lie ahead.

Returning home will make you want to settle into familiar routines, which would be a perilous mistake. When you consider that most relapses take place only weeks after leaving rehab, you can value the importance of making immediate changes to accommodate your new, healthier lifestyle.

Clean Up

If possible, have a friend or loved one remove all drugs, alcohol and paraphernalia from your home before you return. If this isn’t possible, recruit a sober friend or your sponsor to help you clean up as soon as you get home. There may also be other reminders or triggers of your former lifestyle in your home. Throw or give these away. Take the time to clean your home and make it comfortable and cozy. Rearrange furniture or change décor to refresh your place as much as possible.

Locate a Support Group

There are lots of sources for continued support for your life after rehab. Seek out an individual therapist you can meet with on a regular basis, find support groups with like-minded individuals, or start attending a local 12-step meeting.

Find New Friends

Immediately delete contacts of friends from your former way of life. It’s vital for those in recovery to make new, sober friends. The temptations and cues to use will drop if you’re surrounded by other sober people. To maintain your sobriety, it’s also important to identify and cut out negative or toxic people from your life. Recovery means creating a more positive and healthy life for yourself, and that includes choosing the people you surround yourself with.

 

Recovering from addiction will probably be one of the most difficult challenges you’ll ever face. This is a lifelong process and commitment and one that’s not without bumps along the road. But by taking it one day at a time, you’ll acquire strength from every passing moment of sobriety.

If you need help staying on a sober path after rehab, a licensed professional can help. Give my office a call today so we can schedule a time to talk.

Let’s Go for a Walk: How Daily Exercise Can Aid Mental Health

By now, most of us know that exercise offers numerous health benefits. From maintaining an ideal weight, to reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis, moving our body every day improves the length and quality of our lives.

But not all of us recognize just how important exercise is to our mental health.

Beyond Hormone Release

Most of us have had that rush after a hike or trip to the gym. We feel energetic and even happy after we exercise. Of course, we now know that when we exercise, our body releases “feel-good” hormones such as endorphins and enkephalins. These hormones instantly improve our mood and outlook on life.

But is that all exercise is good for? A quick fix? An instant mood pick-me-up via a hormonal rush? Or can exercise effect our brains and mental health on a fundamental level?

A study conducted by researchers from Duke University compared the antidepressant effects of aerobic exercise to the popular antidepressant medicine sertraline, as well as a placebo sugar pill. After four months the researcher found that those subjects who exercised regularly experienced the greatest antidepressant effect.

In other words, exercise was scientifically proven to be just as, if not more effective than prescription medications at relieving symptoms of depression.

How is this possible?

It turns out, regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions through better blood supply and an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that exercise leads to the creation of new hippocampal neurons, the hippocampus being incredibly important for learning, memory creation, and emotion regulation.

So, How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Psychiatrist Madhukar Trivedi of UT Southwestern Medical Center has shown that three or more sessions per week of aerobic exercise or resistance training, for 45 to 60 minutes per session, can help treat even chronic depression. The key here is regularity, so it’s important to focus on the kind of exercise you do.

If you don’t like going to the gym, then find another activity. Hike, bike, swim, or dance. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get your body moving for around an hour a few times per week and you do so consistently.

In order for all of us to be entirely healthy, that means physically as well as mentally healthy, it’s important to incorporate exercise into our every day life.

Should I Go Gluten-Free if I Don’t Have Celiac Disease?

Starting about five years ago, gluten-free diets became all the rage. People who weren’t even sure what gluten was were cutting it out of their diet, most likely to be trendy or fashionable.

But maybe these people were onto something? Is it possible that we should all be giving up gluten, even if we don’t suffer from celiac disease?

Go with Your Gut

A study done by researchers at Columbia University and published in the medical journal Gut, found that even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten protein from wheat, rye, and barley can trigger an immune system response that causes similar symptoms to the disease.

This is why so many of us complain of bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and/or “brain fog” when we eat wheat products. The researchers determined that while only a certain percentage of the population has celiac disease, many of us have gluten sensitivity. This means when we eat gluten, damage occurs to the epithelial cells that form the tissue lining the gastrointestinal (GI) tract as well as activation of the immune system in response to microbes that originate in the GI tract. (Did you know that 80% of the immune system is in the GI tract?)

The Link Between Gluten and Depression

Beyond gut health, it seems that gluten may also impede our mental health.

In a study, patients diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity were put on a gluten-free diet for a few days. Then they were asked to eat a food item containing wheat gluten.

The results?

While the subjects did not complain of any GI upsets, a whopping 90% of participants reported feeling more depressed after incorporating the gluten into their diet.

While the researchers aren’t exactly sure why gluten effects the mood to this extent, some are suggesting the protein somehow depletes the brain’s stores of serotonin.

Certainly more studies are needed, but for now it would appear that gluten can have a significantly negative impact on gut and mental health even for people who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease.

 

Are you or a loved one suffering with depression that is not related to gluten sensitivity? If you’d like to explore treatment, please be in touch so we can discuss how I may be able to help.

Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks! Tips for Starting a Later-in-Life Hobby

Most of us, when we were growing up, had hobbies. Some of us collected stamps or coins, others rode horses, and still others liked to draw or bake. But then we grew up and our world became filled with work and family responsibilities, and we had little time to do the things we once loved.

And that’s too bad, because hobbies are essentially a way for us to play as adult. We don’t pursue needlepoint to become famous or to make millions of dollars (if only!), we partake in hobbies for the pure pleasure they bring to us.

Happiness isn’t just nice to feel, happiness actually makes us healthier and live longer! A study found that older people who are happy have a 35% lower risk of dying over a five-year period than unhappy people. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But I’m Too Old to Pick Up a Hobby

Rubbish.

Did you know that Winston Churchill didn’t start painting until he was in his middle years? He absolutely fell in love with it. In a small book called Painting as a Pastime, he wrote:

“… There is no subject on which I feel more humble or yet at the same time more natural. I do not presume to explain how to paint, but only how to get enjoyment.” [and then later in the book] “We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box…”

Whether it’s painting, ceramics, photography, Italian cooking, writing poetry, or scrapbooking – or something else entirely – pick something you’ve always wanted to do and just try it.

Getting Started

Okay, let’s set you out on your new journey of growth, discovery, and joy! Here are some steps you can take to get started.

1. Brainstorm – If you aren’t exactly sure what kind of hobby you would enjoy, spend some time making a list of things you have enjoyed in the past. Maybe you like music or you’ve always liked being outdoors.
2. Research – To narrow your list, do some research on things like cost and time needed for these hobbies. This is good to know before you dive in.
3. Don’t listen to others – Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re foolish for wanting to learn to Salsa dance or kayak “at your age.” These people are to be pitied, not listened to.
4. Be honest with yourself – Maybe you’ll love the hobby you choose and maybe you’ll want to try something else. The idea here is to play and explore yourself.

It is never to old to begin a new journey. I wish you an exciting one!

It’s Okay to Take a Break! Tips for New Moms on Asking for Help

As a new mother, you’ve probably noticed that taking care of yourself and a new baby at the same time is next to impossible. How are you supposed to make sure you are getting what you need to thrive when you are on call 24/7, responsible for keeping a new human being alive and happy?

It’s no wonder that so many new moms feel emotional and completely overwhelmed. You know you need a break, but then you feel guilty about even needing one.

Relax.

It’s very okay to ask for help. And here are some ways you can do it:

Be Realistic

Yes, you’re a mother now, but you are still an individual that has her own needs. Recognize that being a great mother has nothing to do with being a superhero. Never feel you have to go it alone. Be realistic and understand that everyone needs help now and then.

Be Honest

Stop trying to be the greatest mother who has ever lived and do everything by yourself. When a family member or friend asks how you’re doing, be honest with them. Let your loved ones know you are feeling exhausted and stressed and could use some help.

Have someone watch your baby for an hour so you can get out of the house. Or have them watch the baby so you can simply clean the house.

You may also want to keep a list of household tasks posted somewhere, such as laundry, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, and have your loved one pick something from the list to take off your plate.

Be Flexible

When asking others for help, make it known that you appreciate others are busy and you would be happy to get their help whenever works for them. If this means the recycling doesn’t get packed up and taken to the center until Wednesday afternoon, that’s fine. If you’re the one asking for help, you’ll have to be a bit flexible with WHEN you receive it.

Be Safe

If you are suffering from postpartum symptoms it is incredibly important that you ask for help. Lingering feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and hopelessness need to be addressed.

If you or a loved is suffering from postpartum depression and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Making New “Glory Days”: How to Stop Obsessing About Youthful Successes

“Ahh, the good ol’ days.” How often have we heard or uttered this familiar phrase? It can be a source of great pleasure and amusement to reminisce on a time when we were younger, remembering a special event or activity. We tend to look at our past experiences through a filter that magnifies the positive while diminishing the negative. While there’s no harm in basking in a memory, it can be harmful if you spend so much time looking at your past, that you neglect your present and future.

If you’re someone who spends too much time thinking about the “glory days” of your youth, you might think it’s because your life has become dull and monotonous. With the carefree days of your youth behind you, you might long to be back in that time period to escape your present. But if you take a closer look and examine your life, you may be surprised to notice that you look back not because your past was so great, but rather because your present is not. The more time you spend reminiscing, the worse your current life becomes, neglected by daydreaming of the past instead of imagining new heights to which you can aspire.

Get Rid of Unneeded Memorabilia

Sometimes a memento is a special memory of a special time, and sometimes it’s just an object that’s imprisoning you in your past. Getting rid of an excess of items associated with the past will help you stop living in days gone by, and free you to live in and enjoy the present.

Fully Appreciate Each Day

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” One way to stop living in the past is to enjoy and appreciate each day. Start keeping a journal and jot down three things you’re grateful for each day. Take a walk, or cook a special meal. Enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of every day.

Make Future Plans

Nothing can keep you from looking to the past quite like looking to the future. Plan a vacation or create a goal you want to reach in the near and distant future. Maybe you want to learn a new language, start playing the piano, or read all the classic novels. There’s a lot of life waiting to be lived, so make the most of it.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with a moment of nostalgia, it’s important to live in the present, and spend your time enjoying your life as you live it. If you make the effort to create a better life for yourself today and in the future, you’ll not only bring yourself great happiness and satisfaction, but you’ll create many more memories to relish in the days to come.

If you’re struggling and looking for support and guidance to create a better, more satisfying life, a licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Is My Anger Normal, Or Should I Seek Help?

Life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. And when our buttons get pushed, it’s completely natural to feel angry. In fact, anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately.

But for some people, managing their own anger is challenging. Usually these people are the last to know they even have what others may describe as “toxic” or “out-of-control” anger. That’s because their loved ones have gotten used to regulating their anger for them by hiding their own feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on egg shells, all in an effort to “keep the peace.”

Common Reasons for Intense Anger

If you are uncertain whether or not you may have anger issues, read the following common reasons for intense anger and see if any of them ring true for you.

Anger as a Way to Self-Soothe

Self-medication, as a way to deal with life’s pain, is very common. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle and often.

One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a fit of anger is called norepinephrine, which acts as an analgesic, or pain reliever. When we are triggered, often that trigger digs up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.

Becoming angry in the moment releases a powerful brain chemical that numbs our emotional pain so we don’t feel vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. But as with any drug, a person can become addicted to their own anger because they become addicted to the chemical reaction of it.

Self-Empowerment

Another chemical released by the brain during a fit of anger is called epinephrine. While norepinephrine acts like a pain reliver, epinephrine acts like an amphetamine, allowing us to feel a sudden surge of energy throughout our entire body.

This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness in the moment, or maybe in our life in general. How seductive is that? Many medical experts will tell you that epinephrine is every bit as addictive as alcohol and cocaine, so it’s no wonder so many people are addicted to their own anger.

“Safe” Attachment

Some of us don’t feel safe in a relationship without a safe bit of distance. This is typically a response to a parent or caretaker being unavailable, unresponsive, or untrustworthy in our past. The adult children of these types of parents feel the need to cultivate a certain emotional detachment in their relationships, and anger is a very effective way of doing that.

Tips for Managing Anger

1. Recognize the problem – As with a substance addiction, it’s important to recognize and admit you may have a problem.

2. Monitor your behavior – Keep an anger journal and log behavior you noticed or you were accused of by others. Note the incident, trigger, and the intensity of your anger from 0-10. Often just seeing your anger on paper will offer some insights into where it’s coming from.

3. Feel your anger but don’t act on it – Bottling up emotions is never the answer. It’s important for us to feel our feelings, ALL of them. But it’s equally important to regulate our actions. Walk away from potential fights and don’t send that angry email.

4. Get some help – Speaking with someone about your anger can often help. By uncovering the emotions underneath the anger, you can diffuse it and begin to heal from past traumas.

If you feel you may have an issue with anger and would like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

 

How to Help Your Child Athlete Through a Loss

Kids love playing sports. And parents love that their kids can get all of that excess energy out while learning the benefits of hard work and comradery.

But with the thrill of competition comes the hard reality: that sometimes you lose. Some children are barely affected by a loss. They are truly happy just running around on the field or court with their friends. Other children, however, can be almost devastated by a loss.

There are a few things you can do if your child seems to struggle after losing a game:

Listen

Don’t assume you know exactly what is bothering your child. Before you provide any advice, listen to how and what they are feeling so you know how best to address the issue.

Ask Questions

Some kids, especially very young ones, may have a hard time processing their feelings. They know they feel bad, but they can’t express exactly what it is that is bothering them. Consider asking questions like:

• What part of the game was the most and least fun for you?
• Were you satisfied with your efforts?
• What did you think you did well, and what could you work on for the next game?
• What was something important you learned from today’s game?

Don’t Deny Reality

There is no point in telling your child that it doesn’t matter (when it does to them) or that they did great (if they didn’t). They know the truth and if you’re denying it, they’ll have a hard time believing anything you say in the future.

Instead of denying reality, be open with your child while gently guiding the conversation toward future strategies for positive outcomes.

Don’t Try to Protect Your Child

Many parents try to shield their child from feeling any negative emotions. While you may think you are protecting your child, the fact is, disappointment and loss is a part of life. Losing a game is actually a pretty good life lesson.

Disappointment and sadness feel bad, but you don’t want to teach your child to avoid bad feelings. These feelings play a key role in your child’s emotional, intellectual and social development. It is important for your child to learn to deal with setbacks now so they don’t derail them as adults.

Avoid your instinct to “protect” your child from disappoint. Instead, guide them through their emotions and help them learn to cope.

 

If your child has a particularly hard time dealing with loss and disappointment and you would like to have them talk to someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss treatment options.

How Meditation Could Help You Defend Against Dementia

A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s is often a terrifying event for the patient and their family. Slowly losing one’s memories to the point of not recognizing loved ones is a future none of us want to experience. But science is now finding that these cognitive diseases may be preventable through the practice of daily meditation.

Prescribing Meditation

A recent study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has found that meditation can dramatically slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Adults between the ages of 55 and 90 were divided into two groups. One group received regular care while the other group also practiced meditation and yoga for at least two hours each week.

The researchers found that the group who practiced meditation and yoga each week had significantly less atrophy in the brain, as well as better brain connectivity, than the control group.

In another study, an international team of scientists looked at the brain scans of 50 American men and women who meditated regularly along with brain scans of 50 Americans who did not practice any form of meditation. The findings were startling.

The brain scans of those Americans who did not meditate showed a brain age the same as the person’s actual age. However, the brain scans of those people who regularly meditated were, on average, 7 years younger than the person’s actual age. Researcher Christian Gaser from Jena University Hospital in Germany said of their findings:

“These findings suggest that meditation is beneficial for brain preservation, with a slower rate of brain aging throughout life.”

Other Benefits of Meditation

While the findings of meditation’s impact on the progression of dementia are fairly recent, the brain boosting benefits of meditation have been shown consistently over the last 20 years. Science now suggests that meditation has the ability to:

• Increase protective tissues in the brain
• Prevent atrophy in the hippocampus
• Alleviate stress and anxiety
• Help seniors feel less isolated and lonely
• Increase grey matter in the brain as well as cortical thickness, which is associated with memory and decision-making

Tips on Getting Started with Meditation

Meditation comes easier to some than others. And that’s okay. To get started, there are simply three things you need to understand:

It’s a Practice

They call meditation a practice because there is no perfection involved here. You simply commit to meditating each day and you do the best you can do. It’s not easy quieting all of the mind chatter, as you’ll learn. Just keep at it and you will have your breakthroughs.

Start Slow

You don’t need to start off meditating each day for 20 minutes. In fact, I would recommend that you don’t do that, as you’ll more than likely find it very hard to quiet your mind for that long and you’ll become frustrated. Start with 3 minutes each day. That’s it. Slowly move the time up as you become more comfortable with your practice.

Meditation Should be Fun!

Meditating shouldn’t feel like a chore or something you are forcing yourself to do each day. You should look forward to this quiet time.

The mistake many beginners make is thinking there is only one way to meditate, and that is focusing on your breath. But that’s simply not true.

Yes, many practitioners do focus on their breathing (called mindfulness breathing), but some people focus on the sounds in the immediate area, others gaze at an image or into the flame of a candle, and still others take meditative walks, focusing solely on the movement of walking.

Do some experimentation and find what works best for you and is the most fun.

As we age, it becomes more and more important to take care of our brains. Meditation may be one of the most important things you can do!