Blogs

10 Ways to Manage Your Anxiety During the Corona Virus Pandemic—We at Crossroads Counseling Center Here in Dubuque, Iowa Can Help!

Written By: Valerie Gill, LISW

TELETHERAPY CAN HELP!

As an outpatient mental health therapist, I have had the privilege of performing teletherapy online and seeing my clients face this pandemic with resiliency and courage.  In my humble opinion, it seems that during this crisis, if we had any behavior that was not balanced (overeating, overspending, etc.) it has been pronounced during this stressful time.  Though I prefer to see my clients in the office, teletherapy has been helpful to my clients to help them gain perspective and become more balanced.  Besides touching base with your therapist during weekly sessions, the below can also help you manage your anxiety during this stressful time.

  1. Set a schedule and be consistent with it. Do go to bed at a reasonable time.
  2. Dress in your street clothes. Do not wear your pajamas all day!
  3. Exercise every day. Be sure to get outside.
  4. Reduce your media intake (news, and FB). I recommend having a set time during the day for only 20-30 minutes. Do not consume news before bedtime.
  5. Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is generally not great for anxiety. Try warm decaffeinated teas like chamomile. Try to eat as healthy as possible (lots of fruits and vegetables).
  6. Set one small goal to accomplish per day to help you stay motivated and to feel accomplished.
  7. Lower your standards—do not expect your kids or yourself to be extremely motivated during this time. It is hard to maintain our normal energy and motivation standards without external stimulation.
  8. Be kind and patient with yourself. It is normal to experience intense emotions right now. You may experience depressed mood or lower energy. Some of this may be normal but do reach out to professionals if the depression persists.
  9. Practice reframing. Whenever you have a negative thought like “I will never get back on my feet financially” reframe it to “Maybe I will come out of this financially stronger”. Challenge yourself to be positive.
  10. Stay connected. Do reach out to at least one friend or family member per day. If you do not have people close to you, look to social media forums and online support groups.  Also, it is always good to walk outside and talk to your neighbors (while respecting social distancing).
  11. Focus on what you can control. While it is easy to feel out of control during this time, you can control how you spend your time, your schedule, your money, and your inner thoughts.
  12. Schedule “Worry time” every day. In this way, you are not worrying all day. Give yourself this worry time, schedule a teletherapy appointment with your therapist for extra emotional support during this time and then enjoy the rest of your day with gratitude for what is going well in your life.

Crossroads Counseling Center in Dubuque, Iowa has licensed and seasoned therapists that are only a click away. Have therapy sessions in the convenience of your own home to assist you during this stressful time.  Most insurances do cover our services.  Your mental health is important to us.  We are here to help!

Valerie Gill, LISW, MSW

A Parent’s Job Never Ends…

Written By: Ronda's Blog

Some folks think that parenting children ends when they turn eighteen and leave the nest. I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree. It has come to my attention that parenting is a FOREVER Job. Our children continue to grow in stature and wisdom throughout their lifespan, which means that our role as parents never end, it just changes. We may no longer change their diapers, but we may help change their minds. We may no longer pick out their clothes, but we may help pick out friends and/or life partners. We may no longer teach them to walk and talk, but we may still help them find their life path and the right words to say. All along the way, we will celebrate their triumphs and wipe away tears. We will hold them with hugs and watch as they journey forward. A parent’s job never ends.

Your relationship with your child will grow and change throughout their lifespan. Learning to change how you parent throughout each developmental stage will set the tone for future years of connection. How you choose to navigate your child’s teen years is one of the most important factors in how they learn to be an adult and how they learn to relate with you as an adult. You cannot successfully parent your teen the same way you parented them as a young child.

Navigating is an accurate term to describe parenting, especially parenting teens. The key to navigating a successful parenting experience with your teen is to remain connected while moving out of the driver’s seat of their life. It really is a journey. This new map of directing your teen is uncharted and develops as you go. Sure, there are experts out there giving advice, but that advice needs to be measured within the constructs of your relationship. So many factors need to be considered while you navigate this territory, and no two children are alike.

That child that was once able to be convinced to do your bidding seems to wake-up one day a teenager. Everything changes. Emotions are alive and expressed. Worrying becomes as natural as breathing when their pants don’t fit ‘just right’. Without warning, you have entered the point of no return. Your child is no longer a child, but a teen. With this new development comes new rules of relationship.

Your job, parents, is to help your teen to become a caring, independent and responsible adult. This is a challenging expectation. Learning how to help guide your teenager into becoming a successful adult is a critical skillset. You and your teen are experiencing a difficult and confusing time of change. However, there’s plenty you can do to connect with your teen and encourage responsible behavior. Following are some useful ideas to include while navigating this uncertain season.

First and foremost, show your love for them by catching your teen doing GOOD. Giving positive attention is a must for teens, they need you to notice their worth. Show your love by spending quality time with them; it doesn’t have to be quantity. Quality time can be accomplished by showing interest in who they are becoming and showing that you care. You can show you care by simply listening when he or she talks. Always be respectful of their feelings, and never assume they know how much you love them! Say it often, and hug them even if they act like they don’t want or need affection. If your teen doesn’t seem interested in bonding, keep trying. Regularly eating meals together has been proven to be a good way to connect. Even eating one meal per week together has proven benefits. Try inviting your teen to help prepare the meal with you. On days when you’re having trouble talking to your teen, consider doing your own thing in the same space. Just being near each other may lead to a conversation.

Keep in mind that unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional approval. You can correct your teen while refusing to withdraw your love from them based on their behavior. After all, extending kindness and grace are wonderful characteristics to model. If you’re pointing out something that your teen could do better, keep your criticism specific to the behavior you are trying to correct rather than making personal statements about who they are intrinsically.

Set reasonable expectations and boundaries for your teen. Expect some push back, but stand firm because expectations and boundaries help your teen feel safe. Allow them to “fail” in your care. This is precisely where they will learn how to overcome rejection, loss, and the pain of missing their goal. Rather than focusing on achievements, such as getting straight A’s, expect your teen to be kind, respectful, honest and generous. Facilitate character building.

Remember that teens gain confidence through experiencing successes which help prepare them for the next challenge. As your teen takes on more difficult tasks, support him or her in determining their own level of difficulty. This step-by-step process of building their autonomy and independence can simultaneously build their self-confidence. If your teen fails to meet their goal, it’s important to react supportively and encourage them to not give up and try again. If you can offer praise and encouragement throughout the process, that can strengthen the connection between you.

Setting rules and consequences is critical for guiding your teen. Discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling your teen. To encourage your teen to behave well, discuss what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable at home, at school, and in public. Create fair and appropriate consequences for how your teen behaves. When setting consequences:

Avoid ultimatums:  Your teen might interpret an ultimatum as a challenge.

Explain your decisions:  Your teen might be more likely to comply with a rule when he or she understands its purpose.

Be reasonable: Avoid setting rules your teen can’t possibly follow. A chronically messy teen might have trouble immediately maintaining a spotless bedroom.

Be flexible: As your teen demonstrates more responsibility, grant him or her more freedom. If your teen shows poor judgment, impose more restrictions.

Remember that your job is to be the positive example you want your teen to follow. Teens learn how to behave by watching their parents. Just like when they were young children, they model your example. Your actions tend to speak louder than your words. So, show your teen how to cope with stress in positive ways and be resilient. Be a good model and your teen will likely follow your lead. These are formative years with your teen, hopefully you’re forming connections that will last a lifetime.

Ronda Jasper, M.A., tLMHC

2/25/2020

The Power of Relationships

Written By: Ronda's Blog

It was Queen Elizabeth II that said, “Grief is the price we pay for love”.  But isn’t love supposed to be full, and vibrant, and good? If all I have to look forward to is grief, then why invest in love in the first place?

Because connection is a gift. Having the ability to share your life, your interests, your experiences with another expands your existence. A healthy human relationship is a gift because connection helps support us while we manage stress, difficulties, and suffering.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, when you engage in healthy connections with others, you increase your chances of living a longer and happier life.  This phenomenon of connection works most effectively when an individual is strongly connected to self, partner, children, family, friends, and community. However, today, let’s focus on the power of romantic, intimate relationships.

Human beings are driven to make meaning in their lives. We are able to self-reflect and self-evaluate our progress on the journey. We are highly social creatures who seek relationships with others. Some say to be truly happy in life, we must have healthy intimate relationships. But what does this look like? It looks like a journey we embark upon seeking to bond, to know, to ultimately LOVE another in a deep and meaningful way. We seek to truly matter to others in order to truly matter to ourselves. Being actively engaged in relationships produces joy, and joy changes the brain.  Our relationships help us to actively engage in the world around us and to truly find enjoyment in the interaction. In order to taste the sweetest rewards, we must be willing to invest in some hard work.

What work does a relationship require to produce stability and ensure that it thrives? Flowers et al. (2016) pulled together a list of six attributes that a healthy relationship must possess:

1. Meaning must be derived from the romantic relationship. While there may be fans of “catch and release” hook-up relationships; if a relationship is going to grow, it must provide a deeper sense of meaning, not just be a means for temporary gratification. Feeling safe in a trusting connection helps to develop meaning.

2. Personal growth actively engages partners in mutually rewarding relationships. Not only do you grow as a couple, you also grow as a person in a healthy relationship. Differentiation is the process of developing SELF in the process of developing as a couple. Knowing where you end and your partner begins is a crucial factor.

3. Goal sharing will arise naturally when a relationship grows into a deeper union of two independent individuals. There’s a huge difference between dependency and interdependence; however, without interdependence and shared goals, the couple won’t be able to generate an identity. The Couple’s Identity is an important entity through which the best of both individuals can be developed.

4. Relational giving requires that partners give and willingly accept from one another. If only one member of a relationship is willing to yield over time, talent, and treasures then the potential for long-term commitment ceases.

5. Expression of our true SELF is vital. If we are unable to be authentic, genuine, and honest with each other, then our relationship will never deepen into an intimate and substantial connection. Intimacy allows partners the safety to risk naked honesty.

6. Deep engagement in life and the world around you are refreshing rewards to be found in meaningful and intimate relationships. Engaging every part of your being to continuously discover and rediscover LOVE is a priceless life force.

How do you know if your relationship is going to take you higher or leave you mourning the time invested? Ask yourself the following questions, and if you answer No more often than Yes, you need to decide if you should be giving more to the relationship or simply grieving the loss:

1. Does this relationship encourage me to think beyond the now?

2. Does this relationship make me a better person?

3. Do I recognize the “us” when I think of my partner?

4. Am I able to recognize Who I am within this relationship?

5. Do I feel safe letting myself be vulnerable with this person?

Relationships are an investment that have a price. Sometimes it’s a short-term investment with little grief at the relationship’s end. Other times, it’s a long-term investment with many years of engagement and meaning; where the connection is so long and deep that the grief is unbearable when the relationship comes to an end. Either way, the investment to connect is always worthwhile for a healthier and happier YOU. Remembering that grief really is the price we pay for LOVE.

Ronda Jasper M.A., tLMHC

2/17/2020

How to Overcome The Season of SAD

Written By: Ronda's Blog

During this February season, individuals can sense a feeling of SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes can occur in the summer, but are much less common than winter episodes. However, today, I want to address another kind of SAD known as Single Awareness Day.

Single Awareness Day is a made-up term for singles aware of their singleness on and around Valentine’s Day. You know, that all-encompassing day of love and friendship covered in hearts and dripping in chocolate. Where the obligatory gift, romantic card, or cute & cozy stuffed animals get compared to each other for status. SAD makes sense, right? It’s like having a glaring spotlight on the fact that you are uncoupled.

But, do we have to accept our fate? Is it possible to be single and fabulous? I propose a quest for all singles to embrace their singleness, especially when society is so blatantly putting you on blast. But, how do we do that and really feel fabulous with ourselves?

I’m not talking about faking it, but truly embracing the journey and discovery of who we are without a mate. Who we are as we enjoy ourselves in every way from feeling comfortable and confident in the way we look, to exploring our autonomy in society while eating alone, or attending social gatherings alone, as well as feeling okay with curling up on a Friday night with a good book traveling terrains we can only travel in our imaginations.

If single is your identifier during this season of love and connection, I encourage you to take inventory of your abilities, your interests, your passions from every perspective and angle of yourself and begin to love yourself. Some of us are afraid to show ourselves love and kindness because, let’s be honest, we don’t always feel like we are worthy of love.

What if I told you that it is possible to create and cultivate a loving relationship with yourself? Self-Compassion is an evidence-based practice for overcoming obstacles of shame, neglect, and disconnection from SELF through an expression of lovingkindness. This method may be instrumental in helping those of us who remain single by choice or by circumstance to truly connect with ourselves on a deeper, more loving level. This practice may open up an opportunity for self-love and self-acceptance as never before experienced.

With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same care and concern we would give a partner, our children, or a friend. Self-compassion develops emotional resilience. Research shows that increasing self-compassion can increase life satisfaction, as well as decrease depression, anxiety and stress. That is a pretty big discovery for those of us who can’t always muster the motivation to treat ourselves kindly.

What might happen, if instead of continuously judging and criticizing ourselves for our singleness, as well as our mistakes and failings in previous relationships, we chose to offer ourselves lovingkindness? Self-compassion means we are kind and understanding toward ourselves when confronted with personal failings; after all, who ever said we are supposed to be perfect?

At the New Year, many of us busy ourselves trying to make changes to become happier and healthier. Perhaps we can recognize that this is done because we truly care about ourselves and we deserve to be happy and healthy? We don’t typically look for improvement because we are worthless or unacceptable in our present condition, but because we want to live our best lives.

Having compassion for ourselves means that we honor and accept our humanness, including the gift of being single. We are willing to accept ourselves as unique individuals seeking connection with ourselves and others. Although we may be well-versed and quick to outline our many failures and flaws, we choose to extend the same grace and compassion to ourselves that we would extend to someone we care about. I’m not suggesting that we don’t recognize our need for improvement and change, I’m merely suggesting that we take a different approach in treating ourselves. Maybe we could treat ourselves better during this SAD time by extending the same lovingkindness to ourselves that we would extend to someone that we truly love?

Things may not always go the way we want them to go in relationships. We all encounter loneliness, loss of love and friendship, and fall short of our expectations. This is the human condition, a reality shared by us all. So, I’m asking you, what do you have to lose? Maybe a hard heart, but look at what you have to gain… The more we open our hearts to feeling and cultivating love for ourselves this Valentine’s Day, the happier and healthier we may feel moving forward into 2020.

Ronda L Jasper, M.A, tLMHC

2/11/2020

The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make

Written By: Valerie Gill, LISW

As an educator and therapist, I have found that students and clients crave discussion about relationships.  It is important to spend time on this topic because as I have told many a classroom—who you choose to spend your life with is more important than your career, where you live, or what house you buy.  It is essential to marry the person for who they are now and not their potential, or in other words, who you want them to be. A healthy partnership can help to make your life more fulfilling and easier.  An unhealthy partnership can cause you incredible grief and financial hardship—not to mention the toll it has on children.  Speaking of children, the best gift you can give your child is a healthy marriage (or partnership) with your child’s other parent.

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Dr. John M. Gottman is the founder and director of the Gottman Institute and an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington.  He is a leading research scientist on marriage and family.  By watching couples argue, he successfully predicts 90% of the time which couples will divorce.  He believes that certain kinds of negativity will prove lethal to a relationship.  He calls them the FOUR HORSEMEN of the Apocalypse.  They are:

CRITICISM

CONTEMPT

DEFENSIVENESS

STONEWALLING

Horseman 1: Criticism. Complaint and criticism are different.  A complaint focuses on a specific behavior.  “I am really angry that you did not do the dishes tonight. We agreed we would take turns.  Could you please do them now?  Notice it has 3 parts—how you feel (1), the specific situation (2), and what you need (3).  Criticism, on the other hand, is global and expresses negative feelings about a person’s character or personality: Why are you so lazy?

Horseman 2: Contempt. This arises from a sense of superiority over one’s partner.  (Have you ever met a person that needs to feel better than someone else?)  It is certainly a form of disrespect (and respect needs to be the foundation of a healthy partnership).  It can involve name-calling, eye-rolling, mockery, hostile humor, and facial smearing. “You are a lazy idiot and you do not even know how to wash dishes!”

Horsemen 3. Defensiveness. Defensiveness escalates the conflict. Defensiveness is a way of blaming your partner.  People often take the victim stance. “Why are you picking on me?  Don’t you think I am tired when I get home from work?  What about all of the yard work I do on the weekends?  I can never please you!”

Horsemen 4. Stonewalling.  With criticism, contempt, and defensiveness, eventually one partner tunes out. Instead of interacting, an unhappy partner may come home and watch TV or go in another room and play on a computer.  Usually, the less responsive a partner is, the more the other one yells and tries to get their attention.  One may disengage to avoid conflict, but this is also avoiding the marriage.

If you notice you and your partner engaging in these types of behaviors, it is important to seek professional help.  Crossroads Counseling Center has qualified therapists to help you with your journey.  Also, there are many readings and resources (please see our resource section on our webpage) that you can utilize in the privacy of your own home.  With commitment, hard work, and the right help, relationships can improve.
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References:

Gottman, John (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (2nd ed.). New York: Harmony

 

Dr. John Gottman You Tubes:

4 Horsemen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o30Ps-_8is

Making Marriage Work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKTyPgwfPgg

4 Negative Patterns That Predict Divorce:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=625t8Rr9o6o

 

Restructuring Your Holidays (and Your Mind!)

Written By: Valerie Gill, LISW

While the holidays can certainly be stress-filled, it is often our thoughts that contribute most to our negative emotions.  This holiday, give yourself the gift of change and restructure your thought process to prevent depression and stress.

Avoid “Should” Thinking: This thinking causes one to act out of guilt and obligation which can Christmas1lead to depression, stress, and frustration.

“I should feel good and happy “or “I should give or receive the perfect gift” or “I should work out every day after the holidays”.

Avoid “All or Nothing” Thinking: This is thinking in terms of black or white or in extremes.

“I will probably eat too much at the holiday meal so there is no point in trying to eat healthy during the rest of my holiday break.”

Avoid “Specific to General” Thinking: This can lead to depression and anger.

“My mother will get drunk and Christmas will be ruined!”

Magnification (or Catastrophizing): This type of thinking exaggerates negative details of an event and overemphasizes your own imperfections and fears, making things into a much bigger deal than they actually are.

“No one loves me and I am never going to have a happy holiday!”

Negative thoughts (cognitions) such as the examples above produce physiological reactions in our body such as increased blood pressure and negative emotions such as anger.  These in turn may lead to regrettable behavior, stress, and depression. Our thoughts are connected to our feelings which are related to our behaviors.

Thoughts———-Feelings———-Behaviors

The Good News

We can control our thoughts.  We can restructure our thinking and change negative patterns. All of the therapists at Crossroads Counseling Center are trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  Your therapist will help you in a step-by-step process identify, evaluate, and replace your thoughts.  However, there are some things you can do on your own.

1. Calm Yourself

At the heat of the moment, focus on your breath, count in your head, and/or remove yourself from the situation that is upsetting you.  For long term, practice yoga, meditation and/or mindfulness.  All of these practices can help you to become more aware of your emotions and create more peace.

2. Challenge Your Thoughts:

Replacing your overly negative thoughts with more realistic statements can inspire you to take positive action, which is the key to creating the kind of life you want to live.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Is this thought true and accurate?

Is this thought helpful in the long term or is it distressing?

What would you say to your best friend in this situation?

In what ways would your life change if you stopped believing in your negative thoughts?

3. Decastrophize:

Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I survived this or something similar like this before?

What is the worst thing that could happen?  How likely is it that it will happen?

 4. Engage in problem solving (a therapist can be helpful with this exercise):

  1. Identify challenges
  2. Brainstorm solutions
  3. Identify the best solution
  4. Practice the solution (role-play)
  5. Implement the solution
  6. Evaluate the solution

Identify your Core Values:

We tend to act out on our moods not our values.  If you become stressed or depressed this holiday season, remind yourself of your values of being a loving and caring person to help you behave from your values and not from your moods.

Crossroads Counseling Center Wishes You a Joyous Holiday Season!

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Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. 
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. 
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. 
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. 
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.

— Chinese proverb

References:

Holland, Emily “Retrain Your Brain: How To Reverse Negative Thinking Patterns” 2018

https://chopra.com/articles/retrain-your-brain-how-to-reverse-negative-thinking-patterns

Mulder, Jennifer ”The Beginner’s Guide to Changing Negative Thoughts” 2018

https://thehealthsessions.com/changing-negative-thoughts/

 

 

SUICIDE RATES ON THE RISE

Written By: Valerie Gill, LISW

imagesAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.

Reasons Why?

A suicidal person may feel hopeless and trapped. It is important to look at stress through a developmental lens, because stressors are different in teens than in older adults. Teenagers often lack the ability to see that life can get better. Researchers found that more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Relationship problems or loss, substance misuse; physical health problems; and job, money, legal or housing stress often contributed to risk for suicide.

Warning Signs

People often verbalize their thought of suicide. For example, they may say they have beenSuicide_prevention-DOD thinking of dying or that they think they are better off dead. As a therapist, it has been my experience that suicidal people often minimize their importance to others. It is essential to listen and take talk about suicide seriously. Suicidal people may have changes in energy and mood and show signs of visible stress. They may also engage in destructive behaviors such as substance abuse and non-suicidal injuries like cutting themselves.

Prevention

CDC data from 2006 to 2016 reported that roughly 218,000 Americans killed themselves using a firearm. If someone is suicidal and owns a firearm, it is essential to remove the weapon from their home. Guns and ammo should always be stored separately. Also, medication that could prove lethal should be removed from medicine cabinets, poisons should be removed from under the sink. Especially for young people, having a number on their phone to call in a time of crisis can be significant. There are also some apps that may prove helpful.

Get Professional Help

It is important to seek professional help to prevent suicide and help alleviate the life stressors that are contributing to the suicidal thoughts. If you know someone is suicidal, listen to them, downloadkeep them safe and connect them with the right help.

At Crossroads Counseling Center, our experienced therapists are trained to deal with these life-threatening situations. Our mission is to join with each person to create an emotionally secure environment through safe exploration to help our clients find inner peace. Suicide can be prevented.

 

 

 

 

References:
CDC Violent deaths report 2015: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/index.html
#BeThe1To: http://www.bethe1to.com/bethe1to-steps-evidence/
Laurio, Allison. “Suicide Rates on the Rise.” Social Work Advocates Oct-Nov 2018.

 

Becoming Addicted or Tricked into Addiction?

Becoming AddictedBecoming Addicted or Tricked into Addiction?!

 

Most of us have come to the realization that staring at our phone for hours on end cannot be good for us.  We can observe the effects it is already having on our children.  They engage less with us, and more with the device glued to their hands.  It is also interesting to observe the way they interact with their peers…I think we can agree that “it is different than when we grew up”.  Yep, that is definitely true.

 

I happened to watch 60 minutes.  Their message regarded the software that technological companies use to compete to try and make their games/apps the most exciting, in order to keep people engaged.  The individuals they interviewed work for technological companies, one company in particular, Google.  

 

They have researched the brain to determine which excitement centers to target, especially targeting the dopamine receptors.

 

There are also companies who research through individual’s phones to determine:

  1. What you like, or interests you.
  2. What time of day you are most likely to be on your device.
  3. Your body’s algorithm to determine when to give you a “hit” of pleasure to keep you hooked to the app or social media site.
  • For example, regarding “likes” on Instagram; the site will delay sending you a notification for a “like” and wait until you have accumulated a few likes, then sends them to you all at once.  This provides you with a “hit” of pleasure.
  1. Our ability to focus.

 

 

SCARIER:

Research is unable to determine (yet) if there are any long lasting effects from smartphones/social media/apps.  It is concerning that in adolescence, brain development explodes.  An adolescent brain is rapidly developing, more so than any other time in one’s life, hence the difficulty of regulating emotions and behaviors.

 

Basically, our brain is being trained to become addicted to want more and more.  It does not appear that this will change anytime soon according to one interviewee.  

 

 

Before we go pulling our kids’ devices, we must look at ourselves.

 

  1. Have we become addicted?
  2. Do you become anxious after a period of time when not using your device?
  3. Has your usage increased over the last year? How much?
  4. Has it cut into your time of being emotionally present with your child?
    1. Ex:  do you work on your computer at the same time your child is speaking to you and just respond, “yeah, yep, uh huh..”?
  5. Make it a family mission to stop the addiction process which is unknowingly occurring.
  6. Maybe someday they will have a warning: “If you download this game it could become addictive!”   Or “Parents, if you allow your child to play this game it could create addictive tendencies”.

 

Obviously, there are positives and negatives that come along with smart devices, technology and apps.  It appears to be the old adage, “moderation”.

March Madness

Written By: Grace Ashbrook

March Madness

In like a lion and out like a lamb! That’s the saying, right? MARCH MADNESS

March is supposed to be the glorious transition from the dark, cold winter to a sunny spring.  It is supposed to be synonymous with joy and hope.  In fact, many people look forward to spring with the expectation of it bringing happiness – and with that the resolution of their depressed mood.

Well, it turns out all those April showers bring more than flowers.  Spring is also responsible for bringing an abundance of mental health symptoms! Over the last several years researchers have been exploring the connection between spring and the “springing up” of depressed mood, mania, and anxiety.  It appears there are two primary culprits of this unfortunate correlation.

Spring Fever

Or less dramatically, allergies. Allergies often leave sufferers feeling miserable. Many of you are familiar with mother nature’s connection to congestion, runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing.   Lesser known, however, is the clear connection between pollen count and depression.

This connection is believed to be related to our immune system’s chemical messengers known as cytokines. Cytokines are released when allergies attack and are responsible for inflammation. Studies have demonstrated that high levels of cytokines are linked to fatigue, appetite changes, and social/environmental isolation – strikingly like symptoms of depression.

Then, if that weren’t enough, illness interferes with our sleep schedule which further contributes to irritability and depressed mood.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

When most people think of Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) they envision the depression that often accompanies winter months. Surprisingly, SAD is much more complex and not limited to the winter.  Many SAD suffers (1 in 10) will feel better in the winter months and find their symptoms returning as the warm weather is reintroduced. This occurrence is often referred to as reverse SAD. Common symptoms of reverse SAD are difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor appetite and restlessness.

Additionally, as many people start to shed their seasonal moodiness others may continue to feel trapped in their sadness. Comparisons of self to others who exude happiness as the seasons change can worsen depression in those who do not find relief.

Whatever the reason may be, don’t be surprised if you are noticing an increase in mental health symptoms as the weather turns nice. Please remember you are not alone and help is readily available!

Happy Go Lucky

Written By: Grace Ashbrook

Happy go Lucky!

With St. Patty’s day just around the corner, there has been an abundance of 4 leaf clovers to remind us of the good ole’ “luck of the Irish.”  It got me thinking about luck and its connection to happiness – as we often see these two go hand in hand.Happy Go

Luck has an immense impact in our life. A few seconds of bad luck can change our perspective and negatively affect days, weeks or years of our lives. Similarly, good luck can result in lifelong success and happiness. Luck, as it seems, has a lot of power to change our lives.

The good news is (lucky us!) that according to Richard Wiseman’s book The Luck Factor; The Four Essential Principals, luck is related to the way we think and behave – meaning luck is something that can actually be learned!

Richard Wiseman introduces four principals that are essential for learning luck:

  1. Creating Chance Opportunities
    1. Lucky people tend to be extroverts who have increased the chance of being lucky by establishing a strong network
    2. Lucky people have many irons in the fire, or haven’t put all their eggs in one basket. Maximizing the chance they will be successful offers more opportunity to be “lucky”.
  2. Thinking Lucky
    1. Listen to your instincts! Your intuition is the result of subtle clues that your subconscious has put together. Following these hunches might lead you to creating a chance opportunity (meeting new people, applying for a new job, etc…)
  3. Feeling Lucky
    1. The expectation that you will be lucky often precedes success. Expectation of luck inspires a confident attitude that is often perceived by others as desirable and attractive.
  4. Denying Fate
    1. If you accept a failure as bad luck you will likely stop trying. If we look for the “bright side” we are less likely to see things as a failure and more of an opportunity to try something different and improve what we are doing. This again encourages us to create  more opportunity for luck.

So there you have it! You don’t have to be Irish to be lucky!