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

May 11, 2020

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 […]

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.

Tips for Coping with Social Isolation

May 5, 2020

Humans are social creatures and we don’t do well in isolation. That’s exactly why state penitentiaries punish prisoners by putting them into solitary confinement. It causes them great mental anguish. Many of us have felt like prisoners in solitary confinement over the last couple of months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. And […]

Tips for Coping with Social Isolation

Humans are social creatures and we don’t do well in isolation. That’s exactly why state penitentiaries punish prisoners by putting them into solitary confinement. It causes them great mental anguish.

Many of us have felt like prisoners in solitary confinement over the last couple of months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. And many of us have been feeling our own mental anguish from this extended isolation.

Who knows how long this may go on? While none of us have control over what our governments do, we do have control over ourselves and our perceptions of the world. With this in mind, here are some tips for coping with social isolation, for however long it goes on.

Isolate Yourself from the Media

If you’re paying attention, it almost seems as if the media is trying to confuse us and cause panic more than report on actual news. Watching too much news doesn’t help anyone’s anxiety levels, so stay informed as best you can but don’t binge-watch.

Get Creative

Being isolated can get very boring very quickly so it’s important that you try and get creative with your time. This could mean painting the living room and rearranging the furniture or getting your husband and kids to learn a new language with you. It could mean experimenting with an old recipe or making up a game with your kids. Just have fun and think outside the box!

Reconnect

Now is a great time to reconnect with friends and loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. And technology like Skype and Facetime makes it incredibly easy to chat with someone no matter where in the word they are.

Stay Active

A lot of the anxiety we may feel comes from the fact we aren’t moving our bodies as much as we usually do. It’s important to stay physically active during this time. So get outside and get some sun. Go for a walk or ride your bike. Not only is exercise good for us physically, but physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel good mentally and emotionally as well.

Meditate

The world is a chaotic place right now and it seems we are being hit with noise and negativity from all sides. It’s important to make time each day for some quiet meditation.

If you’ve never meditated before, that’s okay. Just try it.

One of the easiest ways to meditate is through a listening meditation. Find a space in your house where you can be alone and get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out… and simply listen to the ambient sounds.

What do you hear? The buzzing of a light? A fly? Your dog’s collar rattling down the hall as he scratches. Expand your hearing to see what else can you hear outside your house. Birds? Lawnmowers? Traffic?

Simply breathe and listen intently for 5-10 minutes. When you listen, you can’t think at the same time, and so you will notice finally your thoughts go quiet. This is paradise!

If you find that the social isolation is really beginning to trouble you and you’d like to speak with someone, please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

5 Foods to Keep Your Immune System Strong

April 1, 2020

As the events of COVID-19 continue to unfold, many of us are focusing on how we can keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible. While social distancing and increased hand washing can be very effective at stopping the spreading of the Corona virus, it is equally important to keep our immune systems strong. […]

5 Foods to Keep Your Immune System Strong

As the events of COVID-19 continue to unfold, many of us are focusing on how we can keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible. While social distancing and increased hand washing can be very effective at stopping the spreading of the Corona virus, it is equally important to keep our immune systems strong.

With this in mind, here are some of the absolute best foods you can eat to help support your immune system:

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants. In fact, they contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can boost your immune system. A 2016 study found that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system. The researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get sick with respiratory tract infections and the common cold.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is the aromatic spice that makes curry yellow. It is also often used in alternative medicine thanks to its active compound curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to improve a person’s immune response because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

3. Spinach

Popeye knew that spinach would help him be stronger. But I wonder if he knew how good it was for his immune system. Spinach contains vitamin C & E, as well as beneficial flavonoids and carotenoids. Not only are vitamin C & E great for the immune system, but research shows flavonoids may help prevent common colds in otherwise healthy people. So, it stands to reason it may help protect against other viruses as well.

4. Citrus Fruits

Most of us, when we feel an illness coming on, reach for more vitamin C-rich foods. But what is it about vitamin C specifically that makes it so good for our immune systems?

Vitamin C is believed to increase the production of white blood cells. These are the cells responsible for attacking foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.

Some popular citrus fruits high in vitamin C include:

  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • lemons
  • limes
  • clementines

Unlike other animals whose bodies do produce vitamin C, humans must get their vitamin C from the foods they eat or through supplementation. So be sure to add more citrus fruits to your diet.

5. Red Bell Peppers

We can’t talk about vitamin C without mentioning that ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain even more vitamin C than most citrus fruits. So if you prefer veggies to fruits, then be sure to eat more red bell peppers.

While this is not an exhaustive list of immune-boosting foods, it will get you started eating right so you can stay healthy during this pandemic. It’s also important to stay hydrated and eliminate sugars and trans fats from your diet as well.


SOURCES:

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322412

How to Address Your Partner’s Sexist Behavior or Comments

March 18, 2020

One of the serious issues women face in life is sexism; sadly, we’re not taught how to see it, react to it, or correct it. For heterosexual women, sexism is a problem they will likely face throughout their relationships. Being raised in a patriarchal society, women are taught that they are inferior to men through […]

How to Address Your Partner’s Sexist Behavior or Comments

One of the serious issues women face in life is sexism; sadly, we’re not taught how to see it, react to it, or correct it. For heterosexual women, sexism is a problem they will likely face throughout their relationships. Being raised in a patriarchal society, women are taught that they are inferior to men through countless direct and indirect cultural and societal cues.

Even if you were raised in a feminist household, you still grew up in a society where men are predominantly the ones in power; they are even largely in control of what you can and can’t do with your own body.

As a heterosexual woman, you may sometimes feel unease with your partner’s comments or behavior, and you may wonder how to address these issues without driving a wedge between the two of you.

First, it’s important to note that your partner also grew up in a patriarchal society. More than likely, your partner is not purposely trying to oppress, control, or offend you. For him, this is just “how things are,” it’s neither good nor bad. It’s up to you to identify the specific problems, and articulate how it affects you and your relationship with your partner.

There are several issues in relationships that must be navigated, such as sex, finances, housework, meals, and disagreements, among others. When problems surface that you believe are rooted in antiquated gender roles, for example you are always expected to prepare meals, challenge those expectations. Let them know that cooking and meal preparation needs to be equally divided.

When addressing sexist comments and discussing the issue of sexism, it’s important use a tone and language that your partner will respond best to. You know your partner well, so do your best to remain factual and sincere while being diplomatic. It will be awkward to discuss, but keep in mind that your relationship needs to be a strong and equal partnership. You should both feel comfortable talking to each other about problems in order for your relationship to succeed.

While these discussions are never easy, how your partner reacts to these difficult topics will tell you everything you need to know about their character. It’s vital to the success of your relationship, and to your mental health, that you’re able to negotiate mutual respect and understanding with your partner.

 

Are you in a relationship and having trouble communicating with your partner? Our specially trained staff can help you find ways to improve communication and better your relationship. Call our office today to set up a time to talk.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

March 5, 2020

Relationships can only be healthy when both people have the space to be themselves and maintain their personal integrity. Sadly, many people find themselves in relationships, romantic and otherwise, with people who do not respect boundaries and feel entitled to have their needs met regardless of the other person’s. These people most likely grew up […]

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Relationships can only be healthy when both people have the space to be themselves and maintain their personal integrity. Sadly, many people find themselves in relationships, romantic and otherwise, with people who do not respect boundaries and feel entitled to have their needs met regardless of the other person’s. These people most likely grew up in households that were unsafe and unstable, and where there was a constant invasion of personal boundaries.

If you can relate, chances are you have a hard time creating healthy boundaries to create the life experience you wish to have. Here are some ways you can begin to do so:

Identify Your Limits

You can’t set boundaries unless you discover where it is you personally stand. You’ll need to take a bit of time to recognize what you can and cannot tolerate. What makes you happy and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed? Only until you have made these discoveries can you move on to the next steps.

Don’t Be Shy

People who have similar communication styles are easy to engage with. These people will quickly understand what your new barriers are. But people who have a different cultural background or personality may not easily understand your boundaries. With these people, it’s important to be very clear and direct.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

People who have a hard time setting boundaries don’t often allow themselves to acknowledge their own feelings because they’re usually too busy worrying about everyone else’s.

You’ll need to start recognizing how people make you feel in order to know whether your new boundaries are being crossed or not. When you’re with someone, make mental notes, or even jot down in a journal how that interaction made you feel.

If, after spending time with someone, you feel anger or resentment, this is a sign that the person may be overstepping your boundaries. Reiterate to this person what your boundaries are. If they continue to disrespect you and them, you will want to cut yourself away from further interactions.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Put yourself and your needs first. This may feel strange and even somehow wrong if you’ve spent your entire life taking care of others. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and get what you need to feel happy and well.

Speak with Someone

If you’ve spent an entire life with a sense of low self-worth, you may find setting boundaries quite difficult. In this case, it’s important to speak with a therapist that can help you discover where these feelings are coming from and how to change your thought patterns and behavior.

If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you on your journey toward self-care.

4 Ways a Healthy Sex Life Supports Good Mental Health

February 26, 2020

Every person has essential human needs. When we don’t get those needs met, our mental and sometimes physical health can suffer as a result. When we think of fundamental human needs, food, shelter, and water come to mind. However, a healthy sex life is also an important component to create a full and happy life […]

4 Ways a Healthy Sex Life Supports Good Mental Health

Every person has essential human needs. When we don’t get those needs met, our mental and sometimes physical health can suffer as a result. When we think of fundamental human needs, food, shelter, and water come to mind. However, a healthy sex life is also an important component to create a full and happy life for many people.

While it’s not physically or psychologically unhealthy for someone to live an asexual or celibate life, for people that crave the intimacy of a sexual relationship, a healthy sex life is a vital part of a full and happy life. Sex is not only part of a fulfilling life for many people, it also supports good mental health in many ways.

Boosts Serotonin

Low serotonin can cause you to be unable to create or act on plans and strategies. If you have low serotonin, you might have difficulty finishing tasks. You might also become easily agitated, feel a bit down in the dumps, or be unable to control your impulses.

Sex boosts serotonin, which helps improve your mood and fight off depression. Additionally, one of the hormones released during orgasm is serotonin, leaving you feeling soothed from stress and anxiety.

Boosts Self Esteem

A lack of sex can be harmful, causing your self-worth and confidence to plummet. When you have sex, the feelings of intimacy with your partner, as well as feeling nurtured and desired boosts your self-confidence and overall well-being.

Leads to Better Sleep

Sex also improves how you sleep. It’s very common to fall asleep after sex because your body releases prolactin, a hormone that helps you feel rested and relaxed. The orgasm also releases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Since a lack of sleep can worsen a mental health disorder, or increase your risk for developing one, better sleep promotes a healthier, more refreshed you.

Makes you happy

The cuddling and physical intimacy of sex also gives a boost to your happiness. Endorphins are one of the many chemicals released in the brain during sex. Endorphins are the neurotransmitters associated with the feeling of happiness, causing your mood to brighten overall as it helps lift depression.

Are you struggling with depression or anxiety and looking for guidance and support? A licensed therapist can help you find ways to boost your mood, and work with you to develop a plan to improve your quality of life. Call my office today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

Pets Are Better Than Medication

February 24, 2020

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.” – Thom Jones For many of us, our home is just a house unless there is something with four legs and a tail sharing the space with us. Our pets are not only cuddly […]

Pets Are Better Than Medication

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.”

– Thom Jones

For many of us, our home is just a house unless there is something with four legs and a tail sharing the space with us. Our pets are not only cuddly and cute, they give us unconditional love.

But it turns out our pets actually offer us more than “just” unconditional love; they seem to also have the ability to help our physical and mental well-being.

Research has found that the bond we share with our animals can do everything from improve our cardiovascular health to lower our cholesterol and decrease our blood pressure.

Beyond these physical health benefits, our animal companions can help our mental and emotional life as well. Here are some ways your pet is better than medication.

Our Pets Teach Us Mindfulness

Have you ever just watched your dog or cat find a swath of sun as it streams into your house in the afternoon? They seem to luxuriate in the warmth and energy of the sun in those moments. Nothing else matters to them but enjoying the feeling of the sun on their body.

Our pets can teach us how to be more mindful and enjoy every moment of our life if we let them. Studies have shown that mindful meditation, which simply means to be fully in the present moment, helps alleviate stress and anxiety.

Let your pets be an example and try and spend more time just “being” instead of “doing” so much.

Pets Relieve Stress

Let’s face it, each of us faces our fair share of stress in life. But research has shown that our dogs and cats act as de-stressors. This is why a growing number of companies such as Atlantic Health System, Mars Inc., Amazon, and Etsy, to name a few, are allowing employees to bring their dog to work.

College students are a segment of the population that also feels a lot of stress. When the University of British Columbia brought therapy dogs on campus, allowing a group of 246 students to pet and cuddle them, the students reported their stress levels decreased significantly after the interaction.

Pets Offer Empathy

There are numerous accounts of war veterans who, when they experience pain and agitation, are comforted by their service dog who will run into the room, somehow sensing their need for empathy.

Recent findings from the University of Vienna suggest that dogs can sense emotions and even differentiate between good and bad ones. There are numerous reports of cats living in nursing homes, sensing when someone is about to pass and going to lie on their bed.

The long and short of it is, when we are feeling tired, scared, sad and alone, our pets are there to remind us that we are not alone and that they love us very much. For those of you who have pets, hold them tight and show them your appreciation. For those of you that don’t have pets, it may be time to take a trip to the local shelter.

 

3 Steps to Self-Compassion

February 21, 2020

“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 […]

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.

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

February 19, 2020

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 […]

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 to Fit Romance Back into Your Scheduled Sex Life

February 17, 2020

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 […]

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.