How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety

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

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

Your Brain on Spirituality

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

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

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

3 Ways Faith Can Help You Fight Depression and Anxiety

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

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

1. Faith Offers Hope

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

2. Your Behaviors Evolve

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

3. Your Perception Changes

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

 

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

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

 

SOURCES

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

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

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

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1792140

4 Steps for Setting Academic Goals with Your Child

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

Step 1: Explain

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

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

Step 2: Brainstorm

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

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

Step 3: Track

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

Step 4: Celebrate

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

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

 

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

How to Help Your Child Balance School and Extracurricular Activities

There was a time when young kids went to school, came home and did a little homework, then went outside to play with their friends. Their schedules were open and easy for them to handle.

Nowadays, more and more young kids are involved in so many activities they don’t seem to have time to play in the backyard. On top of school, many kids are involved in two or three team sports, music lessons, and church activities. These kids often struggle to keep up with their school & extracurricular activity load and find themselves anxious and having trouble sleeping.

Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, believes that enrolling children in too many activities is a nationwide problem. “Overscheduling our children is not only a widespread phenomenon, it’s how we parent today,” he says.

“Parents feel remiss that they’re not being good parents if their kids aren’t in all kinds of activities. Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive.”

Kids Want to Please Their Parents

While we may think we are doing our kids a service by signing them up for activities we think they’ll enjoy and will build character and confidence, we must understand that they may not want or be able to handle so much.

Some of us may look back on our own childhoods with regret and dismay and vow that our kids will have more. These good intentions often turn into childhood nightmares for our kids. We mean well, but it’s just too much for them to handle.

Here are some things parents can do to help their children balance their schoolwork and extracurricular activities:

Lighten Up

Parents need to lighten up and remember that childhood is supposed to be fun! There will be plenty of time to be serious when they are adults. Try to put less pressure on your child to achieve something grand, and spend more time making happy memories together.

Understand the Benefits of Self-Direction

Independent work and play times are highly beneficial to the developing mind and ego. Alone time also helps children process their experiences and de-stress.

Talk to Your Child

You won’t know if your child is struggling to keep up with his or her activities unless you talk openly with them about it. If some activities need to be removed from the schedule, work with your child to figure out which one(s) to keep and which to let go.

 

Extracurricular activities like music, arts, and sports can definitely play an important role in your child’s development. Just make sure your child does not become overwhelmed by too many activities.

If you’re looking for an expert to help your child manage their stress and avoid becoming overwhelmed, please reach out to me today.

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200301/the-overbooked-child

https://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health/balancing-school-with-extracurricular-activities.aspx

https://childmind.org/article/finding-the-balance-with-after-school-activities/

5 Daily Self-Care Exercises for Survivors of Abuse

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

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

1. Quality Sleep

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

2. Meditate

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

3. Exercise

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

4. Positive Affirmations

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

5. Support

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

 

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

 

SOURCES

http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/nca-digital-media-kit/national-statistics-on-child-abuse/

What is Trauma and What Causes it?

Most of us won’t get through life without our own fair share of stress and heartache. But some people experience not just stress, sadness or grief, but actual trauma. This can be from events like being involved in a bad car accident, rape, a natural disaster, or war.

The result of experiencing such events is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where the mind is unable to process the event as it processes ordinary life events. The result is a brain that misfires information, causing the person to live much of their life distressed, as if the event were still happening to them.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms associated with PTSD, but the most common ones are:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks
• Psychological and physiological distress at reminders
• Avoidance of internal and external reminders
• Dissociative amnesia
• Negative beliefs about oneself and the world
• Distorted blaming of oneself
• Negative persistent emotional states
• Loss of interests
• Detachment from loved ones
• Hyper vigilance
• Exaggerated startle response
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Causes of PTSD

Researchers are not altogether clear on why some people experience PTSD and others don’t. What makes one soldier come home from war with PTSD and another one not develop the disorder?

The best we can guess is that development of PTSD is likely from a combination of complex factors such as neurological, stress, life experiences, personality, and genetics. It is also worth mentioning that pre-traumatic psychological factors (low self-esteem, for example) may increase the risk factor for developing PTSD.

How Can Trauma be Treated?

The most common form of treatment for PTSD is something called cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy involves meeting with a specially-trained therapist over a number of sessions to learn strategies and techniques that will reduce and/or eliminate symptoms of PTSD such as recurring thoughts, emotional numbness, sleep issues, and concentration problems. Beyond finding a trained therapist, it’s important to find one you and your family feel comfortable with, so make sure to interview a few candidates to see who might help you on your journey to wellness.

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to see how I may be able to help.

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/ptsd/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-causes/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/trauma

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stress-relief/201707/what-is-ptsd-exactly

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/trauma-focused-cognitive-behavior-therapy

Contemplative Spaces: The Connection Between Prayer and Mindfulness

In the frenetic, fast-paced world we live in, mindfulness has become increasingly important. When we talk about being mindful, we’re talking about the ability to be fully in the present moment, aware of our surroundings; where we are, whom we’re with, and what we’re doing. Mindfulness keeps us grounded, keeping us from overreacting or becoming overwhelmed.

By its nature, prayer helps us become and stay more mindful. By connecting in quiet reflection to something deeply spiritual and meaningful, we’re able to see our life and experiences from a broader perspective.

Increases Focus
Studies have shown that prayer, a type of meditation, helps to increase your focus. Prayer makes you better equipped to quiet your mind and avoid becoming lost in thought. With increased focus, you’re able to control mind wandering and stay in the moment.

Controls Impulses
According to a 2009 study on religion, self-regulation, and self-control by the University of Miami’s Department of Psychology, being a religious follower can promote self-control and self-monitoring.

Additionally, when studying the effects of meditation on the brain, brain-imaging studies have shown that meditation increases frontal cortex activity. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for, among other things, emotional expression, problem solving, and judgement.

More Gratitude
Gratitude is a feeling of gratefulness for gifts and blessings. By practicing gratitude, we’re sharpening our attention towards the good in our lives. We see and appreciate everything around us that’s positive.

Prayer helps you maximize gratitude by helping you reform your thoughts, much in the way that mindfulness does. We can surmise that regular prayer for religious followers may help them feel more clear-minded and able to concentrate on what’s positive.

Gratitude is also a feeling that we choose; we can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful. By utilizing prayer to concentrate on blessings or mindfulness to concentrate on the good in our lives, we help keep our mind distracted from negative thoughts. Both techniques help you appreciate the moment in which you’re living.

When your life is busy with work and family, it can feel impossible to make time for either mindfulness meditation or prayer. But even five minutes a day will make a difference over time, as your steady practice of quiet contemplation will help you learn to redirect your thoughts and focus your attention.

 

If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to become more mindful through prayer, give our office a call today. One of our specially trained staff will be more than happy to help.

How to Fit Romance Back into Your Scheduled Sex Life

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

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

Listen More

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

Touch Often

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

Try New Activities Together

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

Revisit the Past

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

 

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

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

Breaking the Ice: Tips on Making Female Friends at Work for Women

When we’re school aged, it’s easy to make friends. But as adults, women can sometimes feel on-guard around other women, especially in the workplace, and friendships can be harder to foster. Not only does this lack of friendship make going to work each day feel more challenging, but studies have found friendships, or a lack of friendships, has a big impact on our overall health and well-being.

Here are some ways you can foster real friendships with other women at work.

Make it a Priority

It’s easy to tell yourself you’d like to make friends with the women you work with but following up on that impulse takes real effort. The journey of friendship is one you must commit to and nurture. Ask a coworker to lunch, compliment someone on the fine job she did, and invite others into the discussions you are leading. Each day make it a priority to build a closer relationship with the women you work with.

Focus on Quality Not Quantity

Depending on how many female coworkers you have, you most likely won’t be able to make real and lasting friendships with all of them, and that’s okay. This is not a popularity contest where you try to get everyone to like you. This is about seeking out women with whom you have a connection and putting in the effort to form a lasting bond.

Expect Some Rejection

The truth is, there’s not a whole lot of difference between romantic dating and platonic “dating.” You may feel a connection with another woman at work and ask her out to lunch. She may say no and say it again and again.

Don’t let any form of rejection stop your efforts. Just as no one at work really knows your inner life and feelings, you don’t know anyone else’s. Some women may simply be in a bad space in their life and don’t have the energy to connect with a new person. That’s okay. Move on and keep trying. Eventually you will make a true and lasting connection.

Keep the Momentum Going

Once you’ve had that initial lunch or get-together, keep the momentum going. Building a relationship is like building a fire. It takes a bit of work to get that kindling to catch, but once it does, the bigger flames come.

Like anything else in life, friendships require our time and attention, but when you consider the value and meaning they bring to our life, they are worth the extra effort.

 

If you’re looking for some expert guidance on navigating the unique stressors of your work or personal life, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/03/04/women-report-increased-discrimination-from-workplace-queen-bees/133258.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/working-btches/201308/why-are-some-women-nasty-other-women

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201605/10-ways-make-and-keep-friendships-adult

5 Exercises & Tips to Lower Your Anxiety Before a Big Exam

For many of us, college was absolutely the best time in our lives. The freedom and friendships made those four years incredibly special. But college isn’t all sparkles and unicorns. For others, college is a completely different and often negative experience.

As fun as it can be, it’s also incredibly stressful, especially when it comes time to take an exam. The bigger and more important the exam is, the more we tend to suffer from anxiety, and the less likely we are to do our best.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar to you, then use the following tips and exercises to help lower your anxiety before the next big exam you take:

1. Breathe Deeply

When we feel fear, our body can go into an adrenaline-fueled panic mode. This chemical and physical reaction is how our ancestors survived numerous threats. But in this state, our minds do not function properly. In fact, they often go completely blank.

When we take slow, deep breaths, we help our bodies go from the survival response to a relaxed response. This helps the blood flow back into our brain and helps us focus on the task at hand.

2. Change Your Perspective

Most of us think of tests as something designed specifically to trick us. The truth is, if you have studied and are totally prepared, then the test is actually an opportunity for you to show off how much you know.

The other truth is your professors WANT you to pass. When you pass, they look good. So stop going into the exam with a negative attitude and go in feeling confident and knowing your teachers want you to do well.

3. Start Strong

To set the right tone for the test, scan it to find those questions you are 100% sure about and answer those first. This will help you feel confident and put your mind into a free-flow thinking state.

4. Be Realistic

What is your history of taking exams? Have you generally done well in the past? Are you a good student that makes an effort? If so, remind yourself of these facts. It’s easy to have dramatic and unrealistic ideas floating around in your head right before an exam. Thoughts like, “I’m gonna fail and then I won’t pass the class and I won’t get my degree and will end up working at Starbucks the rest of my life if I’m lucky.”

This likely won’t happen so don’t make an already stressful situation worse by being unrealistic.

5. Exercise

Exercise the morning before your exam. This will not only release built-up tension in your muscles (make sure to stretch after your workout), but it will also release “feel-good” endorphins that will put you in a better frame of mind.

 

If you would like some extra help handling the stressors of academic life, please reach out to me today to schedule an appointment.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/9-ways-to-reduce-anxiety-right-here-right-now/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201502/test-anxiety-quick-tips

https://www.onlineschoolscenter.com/20-effective-ways-to-calm-your-nerves-before-an-exam/

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.