ADHD & More: Lesser Known Benefits of Cannabis Use

In 1996, California passed landmark legislation that legalized the use of medical marijuana, also known as cannabis. In 1998, a few more states followed suit; within ten years, 11 of the 50 states had legalized medical marijuana. Over 20 years later, as of 2019, 33 states have legalized medical marijuana use, with ten states plus the District of Columbia fully legalizing its use.

The legalizing of marijuana began as its startling effectiveness in alleviating a variety of medical conditions became popularized. While marijuana’s effectiveness in alleviating pain, nausea, seizures and increasing appetite are well known, here are a few lesser known benefits of cannabis that may surprise you.

Improves Lung Capacity

According to a 2016 study on the Effect of Cannabis Smoking On Lung Function and Respiratory Symptoms for the NPJ Primary Care Respiratory Medicine Journal, marijuana smoking is associated with an increase in the lungs’ forced vital capacity. The cause for this is unclear, but may be due to inhaling and holding smoke in the lungs, as is commonly done by smokers of marijuana.

Increases Motivation

There is a growing number of people using cannabidiol (CBD) to manage symptoms of panic, anxiety, and depression. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has long been the most well-known cannabinoid in marijuana since it causes the infamous “high”. However CBD, another naturally-occurring cannabinoid in marijuana, doesn’t cause a “high” but does provide other positive effects to its users, including a decrease in symptoms of panic, anxiety, and depression, while providing an increase in motivation.

Helps Alleviate Symptoms of ADHD

For people with ADHD, it may be difficult to focus on tasks. People with ADHD may feel restless or have difficult sitting still. Marijuana use has been an effective treatment option for some sufferers of ADHD. The medications typically prescribed to people with ADHD helps correct the levels of dopamine in their brain, and marijuana is believed to have a similar impact on the brain as its prescription counterparts.

 

While there are a myriad of health benefits to potentially gain from the use of cannabinoids, nothing is risk-free. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Are you struggling with an ADHD diagnosis and looking for support and coping strategies? A licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

A Meditation Exercise You Can Do with Your Child

As a busy parent of a young child, you may find it challenging to find the time or space to meditate. One solution is to bring the two together, and have your child meditate with you.

Meditating with Young Children

For children five and under, it will be difficult for them to sit still for any length of time. Even a few seconds might be the most you can expect. Adjust your expectations and try to remain flexible in your approach. Most experts agree that by six years of age, children should be able to sit still for one minute per year of age, so age six would be one minute, age seven is two minutes and so forth.

Kids Will Be Kids

It’s important to be patient as you work on a meditation exercise with your child. It’s normal for children to have difficulty sitting still. They may not be able to keep their eyes closed, they may fidget or wiggle as they sit, and they might laugh or try to be funny because it’s awkward or difficult for them to remain still and quiet. This is completely normal, so maintain a sense of humor and take any challenges that arise in stride. It will take time to teach your child to meditate. If you’re overly strict or discipline your child too much, you will end up making this a negative interaction instead of a calming one.

Meditation Exercises for Children

You’ll want to start with a brief session and try to make it fun. A candle-gazing meditation is an easy way to start. For children, guided meditations are generally the best way to teach them to meditate. There are many guided meditations available for free online that are specifically for children. You can find them through a simple Google search or by searching on YouTube.

There are also apps you can use on your phone, tablet or smart TV that are also completely free. One example is Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame, an app intended for children under five which is available for the Android and iOS. Another example is Wellbeyond Meditation for Kids for iOS.

There are also classes available at some meditation centers that are specifically for children. Do a Google search for “meditation center [city, state]”, then check their online schedule or give them a call to find out if they have meditation classes for children.

 

Are you a parent looking for unique ways to cope with challenging parenting issues? A licensed therapist can provide the support and guidance you need. Give my office a call today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

 

 

5 Benefits of a Weekly Game Night for Your Mental Health

Our daily lives can get so busy. Obligations to work and family, as well as taking time to care for ourselves, can often make us forget to have a little fun. If the hustle and bustle of modern life has caused you to neglect your playful side, a weekly game night may be just what you need.

A game night will not only bring you laughter and enjoyment, but it will help you spend quality time with your friends and loved ones. But with so many commitments and so little time, you might be wondering if it’s worthwhile to take time out of your busy schedule to play? If so, read on for five ways a weekly game night will benefit you and your mental health.

1. Improves Relationships

Playing games with people you care about will not only improve relationships because you’re spending quality time, but it will actually strengthen those relationships through biochemistry. As you spend time close to loved ones, your body releases oxytocin, a hormone that creates feelings of trust and intimacy, strengthening your relationships.

2. Relieves Stress

Playing games induces laughter, and as the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” Laughter is a very simple way to help your body produce endorphins, a neurotransmitter that will reduce your perception of pain and lead to feelings of euphoria, modulating stress and anxiety.

3. Relieves Anxiety and Depression

Spending time with friends or loved ones can make you feel significant and more important; this causes your serotonin to flow more. Serotonin will boost your mood, helping to regulate any anxiety or depression.

4. Improves Sleep

As you enjoy yourself with friends around the table, laughing and interacting with them, you will naturally reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, reducing stress and helping you sleep more soundly. You’ll also exert energy as you play, which will tire you out at the end of the day and help you fall asleep faster.

5. Makes You Happy

Having fun releases your natural “happy chemicals”, or hormones, that impact your mood. When you’re laughing and having fun, your body releases dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. These hormones will naturally make you feel happier, both in the moment and in the long-term.

 

As you plan out your week with teacher conferences, work meetings, and lunch dates, make sure you schedule in a little time for fun. You’ll be glad you did.

Are you looking for guidance and encouragement to make your life more fulfilling and meaningful? A licensed mental health counselor can help you make changes and work towards achieving your goals. Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Swiping Left: Tips on Dealing with Unwanted Romantic Attention Online

Many of us are all too familiar with this uncomfortable scenario: someone initially catches your eye, but for one reason or another you lose interest. After letting them know you’ve changed your mind and are no longer interested, they keep messaging you. Or perhaps you’ve never been interested in someone, but they seem to think you’re wrong about your own feelings and keep trying to persuade you otherwise. Dealing with unwanted romantic attention online can be annoying, anxiety-inducing, and harrowing in many ways. Here are some precautions you can take to do the best you can to avoid these kinds of interactions.

Look for Friends

If you’re just looking for friendships to start off, then make it clear from the beginning that you’re not looking for a relationship. Any woman can tell you that this doesn’t always work to dissuade a persistent harasser, but it’s a great place to start covering your bases.

Start Out Incognito

Don’t give out your cell phone number to anyone you haven’t met in person. Use a Google Voice number or use another messaging app that doesn’t show your phone number and has a blocking feature just in case. You can also get a special email address just for dating.

Don’t tell people where you live or where you work. You can tell them what you do and what city you live in but keep the details to yourself.

Go Somewhere New

When you meet, don’t take them to your favorite spots. Take them somewhere you’re unlikely to return so you don’t run the risk of bumping into them if you have to break things off.

If You’re Just Not Interested

If things aren’t going well and you need to break it off, it’s important that you’re very clear with the person that you’re not interested in pursuing anything romantic with them and don’t want to talk to them anymore. Don’t try to “drop hints” or sugar coat your message. All this does is create wiggle room for the perpetrator to start thinking that “maybe there’s a chance.”

Instead, be direct, and be honest with how you feel. As you’re letting the person know you’re not interested, make sure your message ends with a “final goodbye” at the end. “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested at all,” or “I don’t see this going anywhere romantic. Good luck.” Attempts to take the sting out of your message with emojis or compliments will only muddy the waters and your suitor might take this as a cue to amp up his pursuits.

Stop Responding and/or Block

If they keep responding to you, ignore them as best you can despite how tempting it is to respond negatively. Don’t agree to be friends. If they continue to pester, block their number. Do not answer calls, respond to texts or agree to meet for closure, to return items, or any other reason.

 

It might seem cold or cruel, but it’s not. It would be cruel to both of you to continue any sort of relationship out of guilt or a sense of duty. It’s better for both of you to move forward and find the right match.

Are you searching for a relationship and need help navigating the single life? A qualified mental health professional can help. Call me today and let’s set up a time to talk.

Are They an Online Pest, or an Online Stalker? Knowing When to Get Help

Online stalking and harassment is becoming more common. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2017 Online Harassment survey, 41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behavior online, and an even larger number (66%) has witnessed these behaviors directed at others.

The incredible popularity of social media sites and apps make it all too easy for people to stalk others online. If you’re being harassed by someone online, you might wonder: are they just a pest, or are you being stalked?

There is some less sincere online pestering that can be shrugged off or ignored. Sometimes name calling or attempts to embarrass you can be stopped by simply reporting the individual’s behavior, blocking them, or both. However, if you feel like it’s more than annoyance and is starting to cross the line, trust your gut. Here are some signs that your online bully is taking things way too far.

Follows Your Social Media

Stalkers will want to watch everything you’re saying and doing online. They might reply to comments, share your tweets, or like your posts. Pay close attention to see if there’s anyone in particular who spends too much time following your every move.

Unwanted Repeated Contact

Someone who’s stalking you may send repeated emails, messages, calls, or texts that are notably more frequent or numerous than what would be normal. This could also include calls that disconnect when you answer or other ways of forcing you to act or respond, whether or not the person explicitly communicates with you during the event. Repeated contact from someone you don’t see or talk to on a regular basis, or who you don’t know very well, is a classic red flag.

Unwanted Gifts

If someone you don’t know well or are not interested in is sending you unwanted flowers or gifts despite the fact you’ve made it clear the gifts and attention are unwanted, this is a sure sign that they’ve developed an unhealthy interest in you.

Finds Your Private Information

Stalkers will be obsessed with finding out more about you, and can find personal information on you by paid searches on the internet or searching public records.

Shows Up in Public Places

If your online pest suspiciously keeps turning up at places you’re going to, this is a very possible sign that you’re being stalked. They could be scrutinizing you or your family or friend’s social media accounts in order to learn where you’re going and what you’re doing.

Threatens You

A stalker may threaten you, your loved ones, your property and/or your pets if you fail to give them the attention or affection they desire. However, even stalkers who do not make any threats or seem to be an obvious sort of danger are, in fact, incredibly dangerous. Because a stalking situation can turn ugly in the blink of an eye and when you least expect it, it’s important to take every stalking situation seriously.

 

If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you feel you’re being stalked, don’t communicate with your stalker. Keep all evidence and maintain a log showing the date, time and how you were harassed. Notify police and consider getting a court order to keep the stalker away from you if necessary. Remember, you should always take threats or stalking of any kind seriously; inform authorities as well as your family, loved ones, and anyone else that may be in the stalker’s line of sight so appropriate precautions can be taken.

Are you being stalked or harassed, and need the advice and support of a licensed mental health professional? Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

 

SOURCES

Online Harassment 2017

5 Replacements for Your Old Smoking Habit

The decision to quit smoking is not an easy one – but it is one that will help you live longer. The toxic chemicals in cigarettes, including nicotine and carbon monoxide, are not only responsible for causing high blood pressure and heart disease but they’re also the number one cause for lung cancer, as well as cancer of the larynx, oral cavity, and esophagus. Not to mention, secondhand smoke puts your loved ones at risk for developing cancer and other diseases.

“But everyone needs a vice. What will I do if I quit smoking?” you might be asking. Well, what if instead of smoking, you formed some new habits; ones that were good for you?

Here are 5 great replacements for your old smoking habit.

1. Exercise

Instead of taking a 15-minute smoke break at work, spend 15 minutes walking around the block. It’ll be much better for your lungs, and the money you’ll save from not buying cigarettes can go toward something that’s actually good for your health, like a new gym membership.

2. Meditate

Meditation is an easy and enjoyable way to center yourself and recharge your batteries. And you can do it in only a few minutes. There are many different ways to meditate so do some research and pick a technique that gels with your personality. You may want to try using a meditation app since there are quite a few good ones now.

3. Get Organized

Take those five or ten minutes you’d use to smoke a cigarette and work on your to-do list. Staying organized will help you accomplish more in your day and feel great about yourself.

4. Listen to Music

Listening to calming music has been shown to lower a person’s blood pressure. While classical music tends to be the best for putting a person into a calm state, any soothing music will do.

5. Think Positively

Why not take a think break instead of a smoke break? Spend a few minutes thinking about all the things in your life that make you happy and that you are grateful for. If you do this multiple times throughout the day, you should notice your overall perspective of things begins to change.

 

Quitting cigarettes won’t be easy, but it is truly the best thing you can do for yourself. And your loved ones will be so thankful.

If you’d like to explore cognitive behavioral therapy as a way to finally kick the habit, please reach out. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/lib/help-for-quit-smoking-now/

https://www.nicotinell.co.uk/how-to-quit-smoking/succeeding-at-quitting-smoking/smoking-at-lunch.html

https://www.verywellmind.com/things-to-do-instead-of-smoking-2824746

What’s the Difference Between Tic Disorder and Tourette Syndrome?

Many people confuse a tic disorder with Tourette syndrome. While both have a connection to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and while treating OCD can have a profound effect on symptoms of tic and Tourette’s, each disorder has its own unique set of symptoms and treatment modalities.

Diagnosing Tics

Tics are sudden repetitive twitches, movements or sounds that happen relatively involuntarily. I say relatively because they are not like a reflex, but more like a deep urge or desire that cannot be ignored. So for example, someone presenting with a motor tic might blink there eyes repeatedly, someone else may shrug their shoulders repeatedly. A person with a vocal tic may clear their throat or grunt.

To be diagnosed with a tic a person will have had these symptoms for less than a year. They will have either one or more motor tics or vocal tics but not both. The tics will not be a result of another disease or medications or illegal drugs.

Diagnosing Tourette’s

People with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) have both motor and vocal tics that have been persistent for at least 1 year. TS patients typically have two or more motor tics (blinking, shrugging) and at least one vocal tic (humming, grunting). These tics may or may not happen at the same time.

In TS, people have bouts of tics throughout the day, nearly every day. The tics have started generally before the age of 18 and, like a tic disorder, are not a result of any other medical condition (i.e. seizures, Huntington disease), drugs, or medications.

Treatment for Tics and Tourette’s Syndrome

Many people live with tics and TS without much difficulty. They can go about their days without their symptoms getting in the way of work/personal life. For those who find their symptoms do negatively impact their life, medications and behavioral therapy are available.

While medications will help to reduce severity of the tics, behavioral therapy teaches people how to manage their own symptoms. Therapy can help reduce the number of tics and severity of tics, the impact of tics, or a combination of all of these.

If you or a loved one are living with tics or Tourette’s Syndrome and would like to discuss treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/lib/ocd-tics-and-tourette-syndrome/

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/tourette/diagnosis.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201203/got-tics-environmental-adjustments-can-help-0

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/tourette/treatments.html

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.

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.

What Causes Insomnia? 15 Key Culprits

If you’re someone who spends most of the night tossing and turning and checking the time on the clock, you’re definitely not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, close to 20% of Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. That’s a lot of people walking around cranky and groggy!

Symptoms of Insomnia

People troubled by insomnia experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting back to sleep when they wake up at a very early hour. These sleep disturbances cause stress and anxiety, and make every day activities like working, remembering, and thinking clearly very challenging. Insomnia also typically causes irritability and fatigue. Persistent insomnia may also be a contributing factor of depression.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is a complex condition that is still being studied. So far we do know that there are certain conditions that make people more prone to insomnia:

– Age – people over 60 are more susceptible

– Gender – females, on average, are more susceptible

– A history of depression can make you more susceptible

 

The main culprits of insomnia are:

– Jet lag

– Shift work

– Anxiety

– Grief

– Depression

– Stress

– Stimulants like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol taken too soon before bed

– An overactive thyroid

– Steroid use

– Certain prescription medications (if you’re currently taking any, speak with your doctor about insomnia side effects)

– Restless leg syndrome

– Menopause and hot flashes

– Gastrointestinal conditions such as heartburn

– Conditions that make it hard to breathe like asthma and sleep apnea

– Chronic pain

As I mentioned, depression is one of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. In these cases, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help. CBT targets the thoughts and actions that are disrupting your sleep night after night. This therapeutic strategy encourages good sleep habits while relieving anxiety.

Some therapists may use a combination of relaxation therapy and biofeedback to reduce anxiety in clients. Others may employ different strategies like breathwork and positive thinking.

Therapists recognize that each client is an individual with individual needs. One-on-one talking therapy will help a therapist determine the specific causes – in some cases there may be multiple culprits – and put together a comprehensive strategy for relief.

If you are suffering from insomnia and would like to explore cognitive behavioral therapy, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help you get the rest you need.