The Mental Health Dangers of an Over-Stuffed School Schedule

For their children to succeed as adults, many parents think they’ve got to be involved in numerous extracurricular activities. Perhaps we believe this abundance of activities will foster a sense of pride and accomplishment. But is this excessive involvement in activities doing more harm than good?

According to a study published in the journal “Sport, Education, and Society,” the social demands of an extracurricular-heavy schedule are not only placing an unprecedented strain on families, but also potentially harming children’s development and well-being.

The researchers interviewed 50 families of primary-aged children and found that 88% of the kids were involved in extracurricular activities four to five days a week. These activities were the central focus of family life, especially in households with more than one child. As a consequence, families were spending less quality time together and children were exhausted.

The researchers from the journal “Sport, Education, and Society” were quick to warn parents of the potential negative impact of an over-stuffed school schedule: “Raising awareness of this issue can help those parents who feel under pressure to invest in their children’s organized activities, and are concerned with the impact of such activities on their family, to have the confidence to plan a less hectic schedule for their children.”

Helping Your Child Find a Balance

In order for extracurricular activities to do more good than harm, parents have to make sure family time takes precedence. Here are some ways you can help your child find a balance:

Let Kids be Kids

Make sure there is enough non-structured time for kids to express themselves in creative ways. This freedom allows children time for the joy of self-discovery. Adult-organized activities can restrict this natural inclination.

Recognize the Importance of Family Time

As I mentioned, the study found that too many kid activities lead to a major strain on family time. Other studies have shown the importance of family bonds to a child’s development and well-being. While you may initially feel hesitant in taking your child out of some of their activities, just remember the benefits of spending more time as a family.

Talk to Your Child

Don’t decide which activities stay and which go without first getting input from your child. He or she should be able to help decide the activities that bring them the most benefits and joy.

 

Nowadays, kids and adults can find themselves juggling way too many responsibilities. It’s important for all of us to slow down, relax, and spend as much time as we can as a family. If you’re looking for an expert to help your family come together again, please reach out to me today.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/05/15/too-many-extracurricular-activities-for-kids-may-do-more-harm-than-good/135388.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/12/01/parents-should-not-put-too-much-pressure-on-kids/113269.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200301/are-we-pushing-our-kids-too-hard

Why EMDR is a Helpful Treatment for Sexual Abuse Survivors

In the United States, one in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). When sexual abuse happens, many people don’t know how to cope with the event or express their feelings in a healthy way. The result is a life of feeling fear and shame as well as experiencing depression and anxiety. NSVRC reports that 81% of female victims and 35% of male victims will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is EMDR and How Can it Help?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a psychotherapy technique that has been successfully used to treat people who suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, and other emotional issues. Before EMDR, these issues would be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy alone. While this treatment can be successful, it often takes many, many sessions for maximum relief.

EMDR, on the other hand, has been considered a breakthrough modality because it can bring quick and lasting relief from a variety of emotional distress.

When we experience trauma, such as sexual abuse, the natural coping capacity of our brain becomes overwhelmed and we experience the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Through EMDR therapy, people can reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disturbing to them or disruptive to their lives.

What is a Typical EMDR Therapy Session Like?

While EMDR will use an integrative approach to therapy, it also focuses on some unique techniques. In particular, the patient will perform a series of lateral eye movements while, at the same time, focusing on various aspects of the traumatic memory.

These left – right eye movements form a “bilateral stimulation. The therapist may use other bilateral stimulations including alternating bilateral sound using headphones and alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of the patient’s hands.

It is believed that EMDR induces a fundamental change in the circuitry of the brain, similar to what happens during REM sleep. This helps people integrate and understand memories within a larger context of their own life experiences.

But EMDR is more than a set of techniques. It is a way for all people to understand their own human potential. Beyond the reprocessing of traumatic events, EMDR also allows individuals a glimpse of any limiting false beliefs they may be holding onto, such as “I’m not good enough.”

In this way the therapy not only helps people move through big, traumatic events in their past but also smaller chronic ones that color their perception of themselves their world. This can ultimately lead to significant positive change in their lives.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse and is interested in exploring EMDR treatment, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how this technique may be able to help you.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somatic-psychology/201303/trauma-childhood-sexual-abuse

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/complex-trauma-emdr-can-help-but-its-no-quick-fix-0425165

https://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/

 

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.

Is Casual Sex Good or Bad for Your Mental Health?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 data, the average age of marriage in the country is at its highest: men’s average age at first marriage is 29.8, while women’s average age at first marriage is 27.8. As the gap between adolescence and marriage widens, uncommitted sexual encounters are on the rise.

Call it a one-night stand, a hookup, “friends with benefits,” or “Netflix and chill” – all these terms are synonymous with a casual sexual encounter, which according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Sex Research has had a modest increase in frequency since 1988. As casual sex grows in popularity, the question of its effects on an individual’s mental health are a subject of debate and conflicting data.

Several studies conducted over the last 10 years have shown inconsistent results. Some studies indicate that most individuals report an increase in self-confidence and a decrease in depressive symptoms after casual sex, while other reports indicate the exact opposite. The only consistent findings in these studies has been that, despite what might be commonly believed, women were not more likely to be negatively impacted by casual sex encounters than men.

While there are no clear indicators on whether casual sex is good or bad for your mental health, there are several factors that may play a part in how it could affect you individually.

Religious Beliefs & Upbringing

If you were raised with a strict upbringing or with strict religious beliefs that have resulted in your association of sex with shame or guilt, you may be negatively impacted by a casual sexual encounter.

Motives

If your motives for casual sex are, for instance, to get back at an ex or to please another person, this may result in a negative impact. On the other hand, if your motive is for the pleasure or fun of it, or to explore your sexuality (in other words, for your own sake), you may be less likely to have negative feelings afterwards.

Consumption of Drugs or Alcohol

Consumption of drugs or alcohol can lower your inhibitions and potentially cause you to make regrettable decisions such as participating in unsafe sex, or choosing a partner that you otherwise would not choose. It also can cause you to have gaps in your memory of the experience, or not remember it at all.

 

There is no definitive right or wrong answer on how a casual sexual encounter will affect your mental health. Every individual is unique and complex, and how your mental health may or may not be affected is exclusive to you. It’s up to you to decide what will or won’t work best for you.

Do you find yourself questioning your sexual behavior, and need someone you can talk to about your thoughts and feelings? A licensed mental health professional specializing in sexual issues can help. Call my office today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

4 Steps for Setting Academic Goals with Your Child

When children are taught how to set and achieve goals, they learn that decisions have consequences and that hard work earns rewards. As your child sets and works towards academic goals, their self-confidence will grow, and they’ll take pride in themselves and their achievements. They will learn how to focus, how to prioritize, and ultimately how to make better decisions.

Step 1: Explain

To take advantage of all that goal-setting has to offer, start working on this with your child as soon as they’re old enough – typically around age eight.

Explain to your child what goals are. Describe how people achieve goals as a result of a great deal of hard work. Help them understand the long-term importance of academic success, no matter what field they should choose to go to in the future.

Step 2: Brainstorm

Your child may or may not be aware of their own academic strengths and weaknesses. When setting goals, remember that it’s important to keep them specific, realistic, and attainable. Academic goals can include achieving certain grades in certain subjects, staying focused in class, or completing homework at a certain time.

Be sure to stay as quiet as possible while brainstorming, allowing your child to come up with their own ideas. If their goals are unrealistic, steer them toward something more achievable. If their goals are too big or long-term, help them break it down into a first step toward the long-term goal.

Step 3: Track

As author Harvey Mackay once said, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” Once your child has decided on a couple of goals, write them down and track their progress. You may wish to break each goal down into achievable, specific steps, each step with its own deadline. Set aside a block of time on a weekly or monthly basis to check-in on your child’s progress. Make the check-in is special to help your child stay motivated and focused. For example, you can take them to lunch at the park or a favorite restaurant. Discuss their progress, help them with any difficulties they may have and remind them why they set their goals.

Step 4: Celebrate

Celebrate when your child achieves a goal. It can be an outing, their favorite meal, or a small gift. Then, work with them on setting the next set of goals. Even if your child didn’t meet their goal, likely they learned some lessons and made some progress along the way.

Remind your child that failure is something every person experiences in life: we don’t always achieve the goals we set. Sometimes our biggest success comes by learning from mistakes and trying again. Encourage your child to never give up on dreams that are important to them.

 

Does your child need help achieving academic success? One of our trained professionals can help them accomplish their goals. Give our office a call at your earliest convenience to set up an appointment.

How to Keep Your Child from Obsessing Over Academic Success

Almost everybody in America knows what a GPA is. The Grade Point Average, a standard of measuring academic achievement in the United States, unfortunately tends to be seen as a definition of a student’s intelligence and potential. What is meant to measure achievement can be a destructive and discouraging system for many students. If your child is obsessed with getting good grades, this can be harmful to their creativity, their individuality, and their mental health.

Why Do Kids Get Obsessed with Getting Good Grades?

Many times, kids are obsessed with getting good grades to please their parents. You may have had a reward system for when your child got good grades – you may have celebrated their good grades or punished them for not meeting your expectations. Naturally, a child wants their parent’s love and approval.

If you can in good conscience say that your child’s obsession with getting good grades has nothing to do with your influence, there may be other factors at play. She may have unrealistic ideas about what is needed for her to pursue a specific career. There may be a culture of grade obsession in her classroom or at her school. Talk to your child to see if they can identify reasons why they’re striving for high grades.

How Can You Stop Your Child from Obsessing Over Good Grades?

Help your child refocus by emphasizing the development of a good work ethic and a positive attitude. Teach your child that hard work in the end is what counts; so that regardless of the grade they receive, they can never be disappointed knowing the effort they expended.

Of course it’s important to teach your child to work hard and always do their best. While grades are an important factor in their academic success, it doesn’t define them or their abilities. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as to think.”

 

Every person has their strengths and weaknesses, and tests and grades aren’t always the best measure of one’s knowledge or potential. Remind your child that it’s not about what they know, but who they are as a person that truly matters.

If you or your child need help making the best of their educational experience, a specially trained professional can help. Call my office today to schedule an appointment.

How to Fit Romance Back into Your Scheduled Sex Life

It’s the natural course of things in any romantic relationship: as time passes, the “newness” and “butterflies” gives way to routine. You always know what to expect from your partner, and you’ve heard all their stories. While your love for your partner has grown and matured along with you and your relationship, it’s not uncommon for what was once a fiery passion to have fizzled out over the years.

All areas of a relationship takes work, and romance in your relationship is no exception. If you’re looking for ways to stoke the fire of romance with your spouse or significant other, below are some tips that can help.

Listen More

It’s always more difficult to hear than to be heard. You might feel like you know everything there is to know about your partner, but people change. Make an effort to ask more questions, and really listen to your partner’s responses with interest. Ask them how their day was, probe them about their interests, and talk to them as you would if you were getting to know a new friend.

Touch Often

Research has shown that physical touch is a form of non-verbal communication that satisfies the desire for a physical connection. A lack of physical touch is often construed as a lack of physical affection, which can greatly decrease relationship satisfaction. Show your partner affection by making an effort to touch your partner’s skin through a hug, a touch of their arm, hand or back. Hold hands and kiss more often.

Try New Activities Together

No matter how long you’ve been with your partner, there are bound to be things you’ve wanted to do together that you haven’t gotten around to. Or perhaps there are things you’d love to try that you never thought of before, if only you could discover them. Whether it’s joining a hiking group, trying a new wine bar, or exploring your sexual fantasies, enjoying new and different activities together is sure to help bring back the spark that may be missing from your relationship.

Revisit the Past

Take a weekend trip to your honeymoon spot, revisit the place where you had your first date, where you got engaged or your old stomping grounds. Revisiting familiar places when you were just getting to know each other will help remind you both of the how’s and why’s of your love story.

 

Keep in mind that relationships are never perfect, and that it’s natural to have ups and downs with your partner. If you’re going through a difficult time, know that things can improve. With love, trust, and hard work, you can get your relationship with your partner back on the upswing.

Are you and your partner struggling in your relationship? A licensed therapist specializing in marital and couple’s counseling can help you both work on improving your relationship. Call my office today so we can schedule a time to talk.

5 Daily Self-Care Exercises for Abuse Survivors

Unfortunately, being a survivor of trauma or abuse is exceedingly common. According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. And according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2017 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

While it is challenging to be a survivor of abuse, the journey to a place of peace and acceptance can be an empowering one. No matter if the abuse you endured was recent or long ago, a daily self-care regimen will help you cope with what still affects you today.

1. Quality Sleep

Ensuring you have adequate sleep on a nightly basis is an essential component of maintaining optimum physical, mental, and emotional health. Fundamentally, your body needs regular rest to operate properly. A good night’s sleep will uplift your mood and energy, improve your memory and help keep stress levels at a minimum.

2. Meditate

Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus, and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Find an easy or beginner meditation to follow with a Google search, smartphone app, or the free meditation exercises available on YouTube.

3. Exercise

Finding some forms of enjoyable exercise will help you feel more energized. Exercise is also a great physical outlet to release pent-up emotions you likely have as a result of your abuse or trauma. Try taking up walking, jogging, yoga or anything you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to do anything wholly unpleasant or push yourself too hard; exercise is an act of self-care, not a punishment.

4. Positive Affirmations

It’s all too common for abuse survivors to feel shame about it and blame themselves; for that reason, it’s important to program yourself with positive thoughts and beliefs. You can tell yourself, for example: “I am valuable,” “I am worthy,” “I am capable,” “I am strong,” “I am intelligent.” Pinpoint negative self-talk and counter those thoughts with positive affirmations.

5. Support

Engage your support system by calling a friend or family member, joining a support group and/or finding a therapist. If your support system is lacking, use a smartphone app or the Meetup website to find a local, like-minded group and make some new friends. Sharing your struggles with people who understand and care about your well-being is an important aspect of your healing journey.

 

Are you a survivor of trauma or abuse? A licensed mental health professional can help you so you don’t have to go through this alone. Give our office a call today so we can set up a time to talk.

 

SOURCES

National Statistics on Child Abuse

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

How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety

It has long been believed that having faith is key to getting through some of life’s greatest challenges. A spiritual practice can often give people the strength and confidence to push through obstacles and make positive changes.

But can faith have a positive effect on depression and anxiety? According to new research, it can.

Your Brain on Spirituality

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, meditation or any other form of regular spiritual practice (such as prayer or religious contemplation) has been linked to a thickening of the brain cortex. The study, which was the first to investigate whether there is any physical evidence in the brain linked to the protective effects of faith against depression, looked at 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history.

At the end of the study, magnetic resonance was used to view participants’ brains, and the images clearly showed thicker cortices in those participants who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not.

But even more significant was the fact that the thicker cortex was found in exactly the same regions of the brain that had shown thinning in people with a high risk for depression.

3 Ways Faith Can Help You Fight Depression and Anxiety

Every individual requires unique treatment methods to combat their symptoms of depression. While cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medications work well for many people, many others may be helped by embracing a spiritual practice.

If you are suffering with depression, here are three reasons why you may want to focus more on your faith:

1. Faith Offers Hope

A belief in a loving power greater than ourselves can help us feel hopeful, even in our darkest hours. Faith turns wishful thinking into great expectations. And when we start to expect goodness in our lives, we naturally feel hopeful for our future.

2. Your Behaviors Evolve

Whether it’s through praying, meditating, or attending some sort of spiritual service or gathering, faith-filled people tend to experience positive changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Where once you may have had a knee-jerk emotional reaction to a situation, you might now be able to center yourself instead and face situations with calmness and clarity.

3. Your Perception Changes

Faith has a way of helping us see ourselves and our lives differently. Problems turn into opportunities, enemies into friends, and impossibilities into possibilities.

 

While it may take some time before you feel relief from your depression or anxiety, by embracing faith, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression or anxiety and would also like to explore treatment options, please reach out. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-the-questions/201603/4-powerful-ways-spirituality-can-ease-anxiety-and-depression

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/07/31/for-many-with-severe-mental-illness-spirituality-plays-role-in-well-being/137462.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/19/how-spirituality-protects-the-brain-against-depression/64698.html