The Benefits of Online Therapy

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in innumerable ways. But, as stressful as this lockdown has been for most of us, we have learned much about ourselves as individuals and as a nation.

Another silver lining that has emerged from this crisis is a new awareness and embracing of treatment tools that have been available for some time. Telehealth (or telemedicine) and online therapy have been around for decades but are now experiencing a surge in popularity because of the mandatory quarantine.

Once life gets back to normal, will these virtual tools fall by the wayside? It’s doubtful because they simply offer too many benefits to patients and providers.

Here are some benefits of online therapy and why you may want to start making the switch:

Better Access to Care

In some rural areas of the country, it’s not easy to find qualified mental health therapists. Online therapy would provide access to care to anyone that needs it, regardless of where they live.

Better Integration

Online therapy would allow for the integration of behavioral health care and primary care. This will ultimately lead to better outcomes for the patient.

Privacy

Despite the progress we’ve made over the last couple of decades, there is still a stigma attached to mental health treatments. This stops many people from seeking the help they need. Online therapy means an individual can receive help from the comfort of their home without anyone knowing.

Convenience

How often do patients cancel appointments or show up late because of other family and/or work responsibilities or traffic jams? Access to online therapy would reduce many of these scenarios.

Safety

We are currently seeing a situation where it isn’t safe to be around other people. And yet, should a person lose access to mental health care because of illness and disease? Certainly not.

What about unsafe weather? In many parts of the country, there are snowstorms, icy roads, and hurricanes that make it impossible to travel safely.

Online therapy allows people to receive the help they need, regardless of any unsafe conditions.

Access for Disabled Populations

Oftentimes the people who need therapy the most are the very people who find it difficult to leave their homes or navigate the outside world. Online therapy allows bedridden patients and those with debilitating chronic illnesses access to the help they need.

I offer online therapy to patients because I want to help as many people as I can as safely as I can. If you’d like to explore this style of treatment, please get in touch with me.

 

SOURCES:

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay because it will be.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. What can you do with the extra time that isn’t being used to drive an hour or more each day in commuting? Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Tackle them now, you’ll feel great about it later.

 

If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via Skype, so you won’t even have to leave your home if your state is in lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf

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.

How to Deal with Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. For many people that means celebrating with their spouse or partner and showing them extra love and attention. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a sad reminder that they are single or are perhaps grieving the recent loss of their significant other.

If you are celebrating it alone this year, here are a few ways you can alleviate your sadness this Valentine’s Day.

Give Yourself a Break

It’s bad enough to feel lonely, but it’s even worse to scold yourself for doing so. Loneliness is not an indication that you’re doing anything wrong or that there is something wrong and unlovable about you.

Even people that are in relationships can feel incredibly lonely. Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life. It’s not a sin to feel this way, so stop scolding yourself.

Take Yourself on a Date

How many times during the year do you make a real effort to show yourself love? If you’re like most people, you don’t really think much about how you treat yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself a party of one, try and make the best of it by focusing all of your love and attention on yourself. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Or, if you don’t like the idea of sitting at a table alone surrounded by couples, then order in your favorite food and watch your favorite movie.

Take a nice long bath. Listen to your favorite band. Buy yourself a little gift on the way home from work. Use this Valentine’s Day to commit to showing yourself more love and kindness throughout the year.

Show Your Love for Others

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show love. No one says that love must be shown in a romantic way.

This is a great time to show your affection and appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Get your best friend a box of chocolates or your mom a bouquet of flowers. Put a card on your neighbor’s windshield and your coworker’s computer monitor.

You can be filled with love by being loved, and you can be filled with love by loving others. The more love YOU show this holiday, the more love you will feel inside. And you would be amazed at how the loneliness quickly slips away when you are full of love.

Don’t let the commercialism of the holiday make you feel alone and isolated. You really can have a lovely Valentine’s day if you love yourself and others.

3 Steps to Self-Compassion

“God, you can be so stupid sometimes.”

“Why would he be attracted to YOU?”

“You’re just going to screw this up.”

These are things you would probably never say to another human being unless you’re a real jerk. But how many of us have that inner critic that says these kinds of things all the time.

Most of us treat ourselves far more harshly than we would anyone else. And that’s a shame. In my experience, so much of the depression and anxiety my clients feel stems from a dysfunctional relationship they have with themselves.

But every day is a chance for you to develop a loving relationship with yourself. And the best way to do that is to practice self-compassion.

If that concept seems foreign to you or you are even uncomfortable with the idea of showing yourself compassion, then please keep reading to learn some simple but profound ways you can begin to practice self-compassion as a way to connect lovingly with yourself.

1. Become More Mindful of Your Feelings

Self-compassion is the pathway to emotional healing. But to begin, you must become more aware of your own emotions, especially as they relate to yourself.

Try to be more aware of when you are emotionally struggling with something. Perhaps you are feeling confused, desperate, or inadequate. Ordinarily, in these moments your inner critic may strike. But now, try and offer yourself kindness instead.

You may say something to yourself life, “I know you’re disappointed. And I also know you did your best. And I am so proud of you.”

If you are at a loss for the right words in these moments, simply talk to yourself as you would a friend, or better yet, a small child.

2. Monitor Yourself

Until you become used to being compassionate toward yourself, you’ll want to monitor the language you use. You are most likely so used to criticizing yourself that it will be far too easy for the wrong choice of words to come out. That’s okay. In these moments you certainly don’t want to scold yourself. Just be aware and make a compassionate correction.

3. Get Physical

There’s a phrase that says, “get out of your head and drop into your body.” This is a perfect way to begin the ritual of self-compassion.

Begin to use kind physical gestures with yourself. This could be gently stroking your cheeks and temples when you’re stressed, holding your hand over your heart when you’re sad, or holding your own hand when you feel lonely. Any physical gesture, so long as it’s loving, will help you show yourself true love and kindness in those moments.

For some people who have very low self-esteem, showing themselves compassion may prove to be incredibly difficult. In these cases, it’s a good idea to speak with a therapist who can help them uncover where the feelings stem from and how they can change their thoughts and behavior.

If you are interested in exploring treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to see how I may be able to help.

5 Warning Signs It’s Time to Try Couples Counseling

When you first fell in love, you could never imagine that someday the sound of your partner chewing could make you want to scream. It’s inevitable that once we are out of our honeymoon phase and reality sets in, we realize that all relationships take work and compromise. But while some couples may hit bumps in the road every so often, other couples find themselves in bigger trouble, with neither party knowing exactly how to fix things.

If you are in a relationship that is no longer feeling healthy, here are 5 warning signs that it may be time to try couples counseling:

1. There is No Longer Healthy Communication

Once you have a communication breakdown, you are unable to rationally share thoughts, feelings, and concerns with each other. Beyond this, unhealthy communication tends to leave one or both partners feeling depressed, angry and hopeless.

2. Trust Has Been Broken

When there has been infidelity, it is very difficult for the couple to rebuild trust and repair the damage. While there is no magic pill to recover from an affair, a therapist can offer tools and strategies to rebuild trust.

3. You’re More Like Roommates

If you and your partner act more like roommates than romantic partners, this indicates a lack of intimacy and a potential need for professional help.

4. One or Both of You Has Begun Acting Out

You try to mask your real feelings for as long as possible, but then you start to act out the hurt and resentment you may be feeling. For instance, if your partner has been unfaithful and you have agreed to stay in the relationship and work things out. But over time you find yourself lashing out, acting rude and trying to make them believe you are having an affair so they will feel the same kind of hurt. This acting out is unhealthy for both people and is a BIG indicator you need to seek some help.

5. When the Only “Solution” Seems to be Separation/Divorce

A break from negative energy can be very helpful to the relationship. But when a temporary break leads to more and more time away from home and someone renting their own apartment, this indicates a need for counseling. Spending time away from home usually doesn’t lead to any real resolution, just more distance.

 

If you and your partner are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Find Friends as an Adult

You may remember growing up, meeting your best friend on the playground or making friends in French class. As adults, we don’t have systems built in to make friends like we did as children. We can’t even reach out to loved ones for help, because while it’s socially acceptable to say “I’m looking for a boyfriend”, its not socially acceptable to say “I’m looking for a best friend.” If you want to find a friend as an adult, it’s going to be a lot like finding a romantic partner.

Envision Your Friend

Think about what kind of person your friend would be. Think back to your childhood friends and what made them fun to hang out with. Should your friend be extroverted or introverted? Should they love the outdoors or be a movie buff? Look for qualities in your friend similar to the way you’d look for qualities in a partner.

Go Where Your Friend Would Be

Now that you know what kind of person your friend would be, think about what that person would be doing. Where are they on the weekends? Where do they shop or like to go out to eat? Go to those different places. If you’re an outdoorsy person and want an outdoor-loving friend, find outdoor meetups. Try a hiking or walking group, or sign up for a new fitness class. Keep in mind as you test the waters that you won’t find your friend on your first outing. Just as when you’re looking for a partner, it takes more than just one try. It will take a bit of time and searching.

The Big Ask

When you’re ready to ask out your potential new friend, a great way to get a “yes” is to invite them to a favorite, or to something new. For example, invite your friend to go watch your favorite sports team or over to your house to cook your favorite recipe. You can also invite them to play a new board game, or out to watch a new movie.

Stoke the Fire

You’ll need to nurture your budding friendship by spending more time together. Just as in dating, take it slow and steady, and don’t take anything too seriously at first. Too much too fast could set you up for a friendship that’s not going to work, or might make the other person feel smothered.

You can deepen the friendship by working on goals together. Find out what your friend dreams about. How can you help them meet their goals? How can they help you with yours? Maybe they can help you get ready for a summer swimsuit, and maybe you can help them organize their garage. Find ways to work on things together.

Do you find yourself struggling in social situations? A licensed therapist can help you overcome shyness and improve your social interactions. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

5 Ways to Effectively Manage Anxiety

If you suffer from anxiety, you know that awful feeling when heart races, you start to sweat, and you feel like you just want to run. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States, affecting roughly 40 million adults. While anxiety can feel debilitating, there are ways you can manage it.

Slow Your Breathing

When we feel anxious, our breathing becomes quicker and shallower. This way of breathing, in turn, makes us feel even more anxious. It’s a vicious cycle.

When you feel the anxiety start to come on, start to focus on your breath and begin to slow it down. Breathe in slowly and deeply for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, then exhale slowly for a count of 4. Repeat this cycle three to five times until you feel yourself begin to calm.

Limit Caffeine 

Drinking or eating anything with caffeine in it can exacerbate your anxiety. Studies have even shown that caffeine can trigger an anxiety attack, so try and avoid or greatly limit consumption.

Exercise

Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of exercise can reduce symptoms of anxiety. Not only does exercising make you feel good about yourself, it actually floods your body with feel-good endorphins, which can totally turn your mood around.

Make a List

One of the worst parts of feeling anxiety is the feeling that you are out of control. One simple exercise to turn this around is to make a to-do list of small, easy-to-manage tasks. Crossing these tasks off your list will actually empower you and make you feel in control again.

Remind Yourself of Reality

When the plane of a nervous flyer hits turbulence, that nervous flyer must remind themselves that the plane is okay, and it is just a normal occurrence to hit turbulence. People who experience anxiety may also have to remind themselves that they are actually okay when an anxiety attack comes on. Simply tell yourself that you are experiencing anxiety but that you are, basically, okay, you are not going to die.

It can also be very beneficial to talk to someone about your anxiety issues. A therapist will be able to offer more tools and advice on how to cope and manage your anxiety.

If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Talk to a Loved One About Getting Treatment for Their Mental Health

Just about every family has a “black sheep”; someone who’s always causing trouble, or maybe is more of a free spirit. Sometimes however, the “black sheep” of the family is someone with a serious mental health issue. If you have a loved one who you believe may need mental health treatment, there are things you can do to try and convince them to seek help.

Family and Friends are First Responders

You should see yourself as a type of “first responder” for your loved one. Teachers, employers and even medical professionals that interact with your loved one aren’t likely to do anything to intervene if it appears they need mental health treatment. As their friend or family member, you are their first line for help.

The Importance of Early Intervention

Early intervention is key to improving your loved one’s quality of life. The longer a mental illness goes untreated, the shorter the intervals between the troubling episodes and behavior that’s drawn your concern. As the intervals shorten, the relapses increase in severity; and as their mental illness becomes more severe, the more resistant it will be to treatment. Intervening as early as possible will change the course of your loved one’s life, putting them on a positive trajectory.

Talking to Your Loved One

Prepare your loved one for this conversation by letting them know that you want to have a talk. Let them know it’s because you love them, and that the topic is very important. Make sure they know it’s nothing negative or scary. Set a date and time, and choose a neutral location where they will be most comfortable.

Keep the conversation in the context of your relationship with this person. Make sure they know you’re not rejecting or judging them, but that you love them and are concerned. Don’t attempt a diagnosis, such as “I think you’re bipolar”; leave diagnoses to the professionals. Talk about your feelings and be specific when you’re describing concerning behavior. Instead of vague statements like “you need help”, or “you’re acting strange” give specific examples. “It frightened me when you were yelling the other day,” or “You missed work four times in the last two weeks.”

The Goal of the Talk

Your goal in talking to your loved one should be for them to get a one-time evaluation. Offer to make the appointment, to pay for it, and/or to drive them.

Talking to someone you love about seeking mental health treatment is difficult and awkward, but it is important. Be prepared for them to have an angry response, and if they do, maintain your composure and stick to the theme of your love and concern. It may take multiple attempts to get your loved one to seek help. Don’t be nagging or harassing, but do be persistent.

If you or a loved one are in need of mental health treatment or a comprehensive evaluation, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Most of us from a young age are taught how to be kind, considerate and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. As they say, we’re our harshest critic. But what if it self-compassion could change that?

What is it?

Self-compassion refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. This is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.

But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves?

It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals beat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion. Essentially it means be nice to yourself.

Why is this important?

When we engage with practice this, it helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize the value of being nice to self also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Being kind to yourself also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

So you know the what and why, now let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child

Would you harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself? Probably not. You would only want to help and love that child. You would want to be nice to that child and have fun with them. You would give them the benefit of the doubt. You would allow them to make mistakes without penalty. When you begin to treat yourself this way, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness you would a small kid.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. Many of us have scripts or a stream of messages running in our minds 24/7. These messages have a tendency to run our lives. They insist we do certain things and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to pay attention to what we are telling ourselves.

Here’s some easy steps to incorporate mindfulness:

First, be mindful of the thoughts we have by paying attention to them. Then, we have to identify the negative statements and messages. Next, evaluate if they are true or not.  Many times negative thoughts we have about ourselves are not true. We believe they are true but when we look for evidence of them we find they’re actually not true. Finally, we need to replace them with positive true thoughts.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a deliberate act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and it sucks. We can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, click here. W’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy may help.