4 Subtle Signs of Trauma: When You’re Dealing with More Than You Think

When you think about someone experiencing trauma, incidents such as a violent or sexual assault or a terrible car accident might come to mind. But there are other, subtler forms of trauma that can negatively affect our lives and hinder our relationships.

Emotional trauma is often overlooked and minimized, and we may think we’ve “gotten over” some emotional pain that we’ve simply buried, and not dealt with. A break up, being passed over for a promotion at work or even a simple but negative childhood experience can cause emotional trauma. Read on to see if you recognize any of these four subtle signs of trauma in yourself.

Overwhelm

Anxiety and stress may develop in the aftermath of trauma, causing you to feel overwhelmed in numerous ways. You might feel out of control, like there is too much to do, or that people in your life are taking up too much of your time and attention. If you often feel as though your life has become unmanageable, this could be a sign that you have some unresolved emotional trauma.

Overreacting

Emotional overreactions are a common symptom of trauma. A victim of trauma might redirect their overwhelming emotions towards others, such as family and friends. Because these undealt with emotions are always bubbling under the surface, any incident that brings feelings forward can unleash these pent-up emotions. If you can recall times when you’ve overreacted, and perhaps have even been surprised at your own reactions, this may be a sign of trauma.

Shame

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from emotional trauma to have feelings of shame and self-blame. If you have feelings of shame because of a traumatic event, you may devalue yourself or see yourself as weak. You might feel a stigma from what you endured, and this may prevent you from admitting that you may be traumatized, or prevent you from seeking help.

Daydreaming

Another subtle sign of trauma is “zoning” or “spacing out.” You might feel disconnected from others or have difficulty staying present in social situations. Emotional trauma can cause you to slow down internally, numbing your emotions or causing you to feel exhausted. Because of the trauma you experienced, you may be averse to the expression of painful emotions, so you turn those emotions off. As you withdraw, your relationships with others suffer, causing you further psychological pain.

If these signs seem familiar and you believe you may be suffering from trauma, help is available. A caring, licensed professional trained in trauma treatment can help. Take the first step by giving me a call today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

How Meditation Can Help Manage Symptoms of Trauma

Meditation offers practitioners powerful benefits, yet many people are confused as to what exactly those benefits are. In a nutshell, meditation focuses attention in a deliberate manner, taking you from a state of noisy mental chatter to calm and quiet inner peace. And isn’t that something most of us could use?

While meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in the east and – more recently – west as a way to grow spiritually, modern medicine is now finally extolling the numerous health benefits that meditation offers.

Meditation has the ability to reduce stress hormones by calming the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. These systems are what activate our main panic responses (“fight,” “flight,” “freeze,” or “friend”) to stressful situations. Because of this, meditation can be a wonderful coping strategy for those suffering with trauma.

Is Meditation Better than Medication

Historically, people battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been given medication to help alleviate unwanted and unpleasant symptoms. But a new study has found that regular practice of meditation enables some active duty service members battling PTSD to reduce, or even eliminate their need of psychotropic medications and to better control their often-debilitating symptoms.

This is great news for service men and women, and anyone who is battling PTSD. Not only can meditation help to calm your nerves and rewire your brain, it can also reduce the risk of developing negative side effects to many psychotropic medications used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. Beyond memory loss and erectile dysfunction, one of the biggest side effects of these medications is depression. That’s the last thing a person suffering from PTSD needs.

How to Begin a Meditation Practice

If you are suffering from the effects of trauma and would like to try meditation, here are some steps you can take to get started:

Find a Group Practice

If you’re completely new to meditation, you may want to join a group meditation course that meets every week. You can usually find groups in your local area through online communities such as Meetup.com.

Be Open Minded

Meditation has long been associated with new age movements. But you would be amazed at the different kinds of people that now practice meditation. If you tend to be a skeptical person, try to have an open mind as you begin your practice.

Be Patient

It’s called a practice for a reason. You won’t “get” meditation overnight. You’ll have to keep at it before it becomes natural for you and you really reap the benefits. Try to have patience and just keep at it.

 

If you or a loved one are suffering from trauma symptoms and would like to speak with someone who can help, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss the treatment options that would work best for you.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/meditation-reduces-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-symptoms

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/how-does-meditation-reduce-anxiety-neural-level

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/01/13/transcendental-meditation-shown-to-ease-veterans-ptsd/131167.html

Balance Your Mood With Food: How Good Nutrition Supports Mental Health

Our brains are magnificent machines: while the brain controls rudimentary yet complex functions like your heartbeat, breathing and motor functions, it also controls a multitude of other complicated tasks such as creating your thoughts and feelings. A machine this advanced, that runs 24/7, clearly requires fuel to run. The fuel you supply to your hard-working brain is none other than the food and drink you consume.

Like any other machine, the quality of your brain function is relative to the quality of the fuel you put in it. Foods rich in nourishment such as complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help stabilize blood sugar levels while increasing your brain’s energy. When it comes to feeding the brain, you get back what you put in.

Selenium

Selenium is an important mineral that your body relies on to perform many of its basic functions. Studies have shown that people with a low amount of selenium in their diet have an elevated rate of depression, irritability, and anxiety. While too little selenium causes health problems, too much can be toxic. According to the National Institute of Health, 55 mcg of selenium a day is the sweet spot for adults 19 years of age and older.

Brazil nuts are by far the most selenium-rich food available. An ounce (about 7 or 8) of brazil nuts contains 544 mcg of selenium per serving, so two or three brazil nuts a day is more than sufficient to get your RDA of selenium. You can also get your 55 mcg a day with 3 to 4 ounces of halibut, roasted ham, or shrimp. Cottage cheese, roast chicken, oatmeal, and eggs also contain moderate amounts of selenium, around 10 to 20 mcg per serving.

Folate (Folic Acid)

Studies have shown that an increased intake of folate or folic acid is associated with a lower risk of depression. Folate is found in a wide variety of food, with spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and brussels sprouts containing the highest levels. You can also get your recommended 400 mcg of folate with avocado, peanuts, orange juice, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, and whole grains, among many other foods.

Omega-3

Dopamine and serotonin are chemicals in the brain that are produced by nerve cells. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer, and dopamine controls your feelings of pleasure and reward. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in them, and they effect the transmission of dopamine and serotonin. Omega-3 also has a role in brain development and function, with the ability to stabilize moods. Omega 3 foods include salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and chia seeds.

There are many other nutritious foods that will serve as prime fuel for your brain, helping you perform, feel and be at your very best. Using this list to help change your eating habits for the better is a great step in the right direction.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and would like some support and guidance to live a more balanced life, contact my office today so we can set up a time to talk.

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

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

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

Beyond Hormone Release

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

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

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

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

How is this possible?

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

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

So, How Much Exercise Do You Need?

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

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

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

5 Ways to Recharge Your Energy After a Rough Day

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

1. Unplug

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

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

2. Go Outside

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

3. Refresh Yourself

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

4. Eat Healthy

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

5. Make Plans

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

 

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

Coping with Depression During the Holiday Season

During this time of year, radio and TV ads would have us believe we should all feel merry and bright. Sadly, that’s not always the case. According to the National Institute of Health, many people experience depression during the holiday season.

Some of the most common reasons people experience depression during this time of year are:

  • Financial hardship – ‘Tis the season to be jolly, unless your bank account is overdrawn and your credit cards maxed out. Not having a budget to buy loved ones presents, especially our children, can feel devastating.
  • Stress – It’s easy to become overwhelmed from the added stress of shopping, planning and travel. Studies have found this is particularly true for women.
  • Grief and loneliness – Many people feel incredibly lonely during the holidays. Whether it’s from being single, recently divorced, or having just lost a loved one, the holidays are often a reminder of what we don’t have but wish we did.

If you can relate and are looking for some relief, here are ways you can cope with your depression this holiday season:

Feel Your Feelings

If you are grieving a loss, it’s important that you’re honest about your feelings. Your instinct may be to put on a brave face for friends and family, but forcing yourself to be happy for the sake of others will only make matters worse. Sadness and grief are a part of life, no matter the season, and it is 100% okay for you to feel your feelings.

Give Something Besides Money

If a lack of finances is the primary source of your mood, look for other ways you can give to others. You can volunteer at a local charity. Are you a good cook? Offer to cook for friends and family. If your talent is writing, write your kids a bedtime story or, if it’s painting, paint a beautiful mural on their wall. At the end of the day, thoughtful gifts from your heart will leave the greatest lasting impression.

Focus on Self Care

It’s important that you care for yourself during the holiday season. Eat right, drink filtered water, exercise, and get plenty of rest. While these steps are important for everyone throughout the entire year, they are particularly important for those suffering from depression during the holidays.

Seek Help

Depression is nothing to take lightly. If your depression has lingered, is getting worse, or you’re having suicidal thoughts, it’s imperative that you seek help from a qualified mental health professional. They will be able to help you navigate your overwhelming emotions and offer tools to manage symptoms.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. You don’t have to suffer alone. I would be more than happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Get Some Sleep! 5 Tips for Busting Through Your Insomnia

If you find yourself struggling to fall or stay asleep, you’re not alone. Insomnia, the chronic inability to get sufficient sleep, is a common problem affecting millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 study, more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a daily basis.

With a lack of sleep at the root of serious medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease, getting a decent amount of sleep on a regular basis is crucial to a long and healthy life. Here are five things you can do to change your routine and start getting to, and staying, asleep.

1. Just Two Things in Bed
Make sure that your bed is used only for two things: sex and sleep. By using your bed almost exclusively for sleep, your body will associate your bed with rest and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep.

2. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular exercise (the recommended thirty minutes a day, five days a week) will help you promote healthy sleep habits. Your post-exercise temperature may promote falling asleep, and exercise in general will help eliminate insomnia by decreasing arousal and anxiety.

3. Naps, Caffeine, & Alcohol
Short naps are helpful for some, but for others it impacts their ability to fall asleep. If you’re struggling with insomnia, avoid naps during the day. Caffeine, a known stimulant, may keep you up longer than you’re aware. You may need to avoid caffeine entirely if it prevents you from falling asleep. And, while alcohol is a sedative, it can disrupt your sleep; so if you have trouble staying asleep, avoid alcohol.

4. No Screens Before Bedtime
Screen time, such as computers, smart phones and television, prevent you from falling asleep due to cognitive stimulation. Too much light at bedtime affects your melatonin production, giving your body the impression that its staying awake, not ready for sleep. Help your body get ready for sleep by eliminating screen time at least two hours before bed.

5. Create a Nighttime Routine
Creating a regular nighttime routine will help your body get into the habit of winding down and relaxing as it prepares for sleep. Create a nighttime routine an hour or two before bed. Maybe have a glass of warm milk, brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and read a book every night before bed. Make sure you go to bed around the same time every night too, including weekends.

Changing old habits and establishing a new routine is never easy. But as you make changes and sustain new practices, it will get easier. Before long you’ll have a new set of healthy habits, and you can finally settle in for a good night’s sleep.

Are you struggling with insomnia and need help maintaining healthy sleep habits? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.

5 Tips for Making Friends in Midlife

For many people, middle age is the catalyst to take stock of life. The kids have flown the coop and there’s more time to reconsider your likes, dislikes, goal, and dreams.

Middle age is also the time we tend to look around at our social circles. Are our friendships still there? Have we lost friends due to illness, a move, or divorce? Do we want something different out of our friendships? As we age, we tend to have less tolerance or energy for fluff friendships. We want substance and real, genuine connections.

But making friends when you’re older is not always that easy. It was simple in school or during those early days in our first job – you saw the same people every single day. You were surrounded by friend candidates. But once you hit middle age, it becomes more difficult to meet new people.

The good news is, while challenging, it’s very possible to make new and lasting friendships. Here are some tips to help you make new friends in midlife:

1. Don’t Feel Embarrassed
There is no reason to feel embarrassed about being lonely or friendless. It is far more common than we are led to believe from the media. So, don’t feel bad, and get ready to put yourself out there.

2. Volunteer
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share your values. As an added bonus, studies have shown that people who volunteer are healthier and live longer!

3. Take a Class
Do you have a passion for dance? Painting? Photography? Taking a class is a great way to learn more about something you already love, be engaged, keep your brain young, and meet people with similar interests and hobbies.

4. Reach Out to Acquaintances
How many times have you run into someone you “sort of know” at a work function or at your local Starbucks. Every time you have a conversation with this person you think, “Gee, I wish we were friends.”

The next time you see this person, ask if they’d like to have lunch. Get their contact information and follow up. You never know, it could be the start of something worthwhile.

5. Get into the Habit of Being Social
By midlife we’ve gotten into some pretty significant habits. Some good…some not so good. If you’ve never been a social butterfly – but instead someone who is used to staying home with the kids or simply staying in because it’s easier – putting yourself out there will probably feel weird. However, it’s important to try to be social daily. This could mean simply taking a walk around your city or neighborhood and saying hello to friendly faces or calling up an acquaintance for a chat.

Good relationships are important for our overall health and the quality of our lives. While it may seem intimidating to build new friendships in midlife, these can actually be some of the most lasting and profound connections we end up making.

 

Do you believe you lack social connections because of fear, grief, or a low self-esteem? If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to talk about how I may help.

Dresses & Ties: How to Come to Terms with Crossdressing Desires

Societies like to make the complex simple. They insist on taking gray situations and ideas and making them black or white. In this way, people and situations can be more easily controlled and predicted, and the normal order can reign supreme.

Except, that isn’t realistic. We all know that human beings are very complex creatures and that life isn’t black or white. While others may like to put us in a box to make things easier for them, some of us simply don’t fit.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know quite a few crossdressers through my practice. They have come to me with feelings of guilt and confusion over their desire to wear the “wrong” clothes, the clothes that only the opposite gender is “supposed” to wear. Though they tried on their own to handle these desires and even conquer them, the majority felt powerless to stop.

Before we discuss “dealing” with your crossdressing desires, however, we need to make sure we are talking about the same thing.

Crossdressing vs. Transgenderism

Transgender refers to a person who identifies with a gender that does not match their biological sex at birth. While a person may have been born a female with a female anatomy and female chromosomes, that person identifies as a “he” in their daily life and may even choose to have gender-corrective surgery at some point.

People who crossdress often have a gender identity consistent with their biological. For example, a heterosexual man may identify as a male and be attracted to only females and still take pleasure in cross-dressing in women’s clothing. (In fact, you’d probably be surprised by how common and truly normal that situation is.) He does not wish to be female and he is not attracted to men, but he has a strong desire to explore his own femininity and feel beautiful.

Are Crossdressing Desires Really Something You Need to “Deal” With?

That’s not an easy question to answer, as everyone’s situation is different. What’s really important is to feel good about yourself and accept yourself for who you are. If you have feelings of shame or guilt, it’s important to talk to someone about those.

You may feel perfectly happy with yourself, but your partner may not like the fact that you crossdress. What do you do in that situation? Leave the relationship, or stop a behavior that makes you happy and is harmless to others?

The best advice I give my clients is to take some time to figure out what cross-dressing means to you. What value does it bring to your life? How does it affect your relationships? Does it negatively or positively impact the connection you have with others?

Though society would like to put you into a box, you are a unique individual and your journey in life is yours alone. Only you can decide if cross-dressing is right for you.

If you’d like to discuss your cross-dressing desires, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

4 Tips for Making Friends in Your Golden Years

Though young people seem to dread getting older, the truth is, many things get better with age. We tend to have more self-confidence, more money in the bank, and more time to explore our goals and dreams.

But in some ways, getting older can be difficult. We tend to lose connections with friends and can find ourselves feeling alone and isolated. And it’s not as easy making friend in your 60s, 70s, or 80s as it was in your teens and 20s.

Human beings are social creatures. We become depressed and anxious when we become isolated. And studies have shown that we age better and are healthier when we surround ourselves with friends.

Though it can feel challenging to make new friends in your golden years, it is very possible to do so and here are some tips to get you started:

Commit to the Process

Making new friends will take a bit of work and commitment on your part. You can’t expect to give it one week and find 5 new close friendships. Just commit to the process knowing it is, in fact, a process.

Change Up Your Routines

You can’t expect new people to come into your life by doing the same old thing day after day. You’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone and try new things, visit new places and explore new hobbies and opportunities. The good news is, while it may feel a little uncomfortable at first (especially if you’ve gotten very comfortable in your daily routines) the payoffs – those amazing new connections with wonderful new people – will be entirely worth it.

Be Open Minded

Be open to friendships you may have never been open to in the past. If you don’t think you could ever be friends with someone from a different political party, economic background, or someone younger, think again. A new person with different life experiences can greatly enrich your life and perception of the world. That’s a beautiful thing!

Lose That Fear of Rejection

A fear of rejection is one of the biggest we humans face each day. Yes, you are going to feel vulnerable putting yourself out there, and yes, not everyone you feel a connection with will necessarily feel the same. But here are a few other truths you should remember:

– Most people feel the need to connect with others and are happy to make new friends.

– We all feel awkward with small talk and the beginning stages of any new relationships.

– All of your most meaningful relationships you’ve ever had started with you getting to know a stranger. Even your own children were strange new beings that you had to get to know.

 

Don’t allow yourself to become lonely and isolated. There is a big world out there with wonderful friendly people who are just waiting to get to know you! And if you are suffering from social anxiety and would like to speak to someone about that, let’s talk about how I may be able to help.