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The Strengths and Stigmas of My Culure

As the son of Cuban immigrants, I was the first person in my family born in the United States. My mother’s family fled Cuba when she was six years old and my father came to the United States in his late-30s. They said goodbye to family and friends, learned a new language and assimilated into a totally different culture. My parents faced enormous adversity with the hopes of building better lives and the struggles they endured have allowed me to have a better life, despite my own challenges with schizophrenia.

The Power of a Morning Routine
It’s early. You don’t want to move, let alone get up and start the day. You feel drained. You’re cozy, all wrapped up in blankets. Thoughts about all that you should accomplish today floods your mind. You feel overwhelmed, so you hit “SNOOZE” one more time.

Uh oh, now you’ve overslept. You’re running late. Time to get up and rush into the day.

Sound familiar? Mornings are hard, right? Actually, mornings aren’t definitively hard—they can be made easier...Read More

Attention Spans In The Age Of Technology
It seems like kids today are not as good at concentration as we might remember being at their age. If your child seems to be having trouble focusing or finishing simple tasks without getting distracted, you may be wondering if it’s because of a mental health condition, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s natural to be concerned when you see your child struggling. Before jumping to conclusions, though, take some time to survey your child’s environment. Today’s world is vastly different from the one we grew up in....... Read More

Helping Children Learn How To Think Positively
According to Dr. David Burns, a researcher and author in the mental health field, everyone experiences unreasonable and/or irrational thoughts from time-to-time. Even children. For example: Let’s say your son receives a low score on a test. He believes that he got the worst grade in class and that he’s “the dumbest kid in school.” These thoughts cause him to feel sad, and he puts his head down on his desk and hardly pays attention the rest of the day...... Read More

Mental Health in the Workplace: The Value of Rest
Earlier this week, I found a scrap of paper while cleaning that stopped me in my tracks. On it, I had written “take a year off” followed by a short list of commitments in my personal and professional life. The list included things I had entered into with excitement—like training other people in my profession and organizing community events—but didn’t have the time or energy needed to continue..... Read More

Video Blogs
May 17th, 2017

What It's Like to Hear "Just Get Better"

It often feels like people who have never experienced a mental disorder, such as depression, are not always able to understand those who have a different mental structure. It seems like the most obvious solution in this case would be to tell them to “just get better.” However, BuzzFeed Blue (IRL) does a good job of providing a visual example of the mental blocks those with depression undergo when others around them are telling them to simply “have a better mentality” or that “they can do it.”

A Day in the Life of OCD

This video provides a visualization of how one young adult silently copes with his OCD, as well as how it influences even the smallest decisions and routines in his life—especially on his walk to school. Here, he wears a point-of-view camera so we are able to see what he sees and hear what he thinks.

How to Reach True Confidence

Do you sometimes wonder how you can become more confident in your everyday life? Maybe you wish for a little more pizazz in the way you carry yourself? This video goes in depth as to what you can do to reset your mentality and start becoming a confident you. “Just be yourself” takes on a clearer meaning as it is explained in this video how it is possible to reinvent yourself into a more assured being.

Happiness is All In Your Mind

Gen Kelsang Nyema, a Buddhist nun, explains how our own happiness can be found in our hearts and minds, and it all begins with the simple question: Are you having a good day? Here, she explains how external forces are often responsible for determining the quality of our day. Her serenity is immediately received as she begins this TedTalk with a simple, “Hello, my friends.” she leads the audience through a calm citation of how to rest the mind, audience members feel a collective relaxation flow into the room.

I Am Not Your Asian Stereotype

Canwen Xu breaks the stereotypical Asian image as she explains her inner conflict with expressing her history, culture, and heritage in a predominantly white environment after immigrating to the US at age 2. After a long while of pretending to be someone she wasn’t in order to fit in, she learns to accept herself and express her true individuality.

What Makes You Special

Everyone is different in their own way. Mariana Atencio talk about her experience as an immigrant and how she has been able to see differences and parallels between her life and where she lived, as well as others’ lives and where they lived. She became a journalist so she could document all that is happening in the world and how that affects us as a group of connected humans.


HUMAN TRAFFICKING CONTINUED; PUTTING A STOP TO THE PAIN
December 18, 2016

There are many different ways that a human can get pulled into the illegal trafficking market. Let’s take a look at the most prevalent reasons for a human to get trafficked into a dark world filled with pain and unhappiness. Being familiar with these reasons will allow for a deeper understanding of the issue and give clues to spotting this type of behavior in the surroundings within your own personal life.

Sex Trafficking
As we detailed above, the trafficking of humans for the purpose of sexual exploitation is the most popular of all forms of trafficking. Research shows that young girls and women are the most profitable of all humans to be trafficked. According to statistics, children as young as 6 years old have commonly been sold. These women and young girls are forced by their pimp to perform with the repercussion of non performance being death. According to reports a single working slave can earn her pimp $250,000 per year.

Drug Trafficking
You wouldn’t typically expect human trafficking to be involved in the drug trade, but they are. In fact many criminal organizations will purchase slaves in order to help move their product around their country. They will force slaves to bear the brunt of the criminal risk by selling the product, finding new customers, and acting as a camel to move it from one place or another. These slaves are typically ‘paid’ with drugs in order to keep them addicted and close to hand.

Organ Harvesting 
Perhaps the most uncomfortable type of slave to read about is the one that is sold for the sole purpose of organ harvesting. These slaves are needed alive and kept well in order for their organs to stay in good shape until they are ready for ‘harvest’.

Forced Marriage
Many young girls and women are sold to become wives for rich men. These girls have no choice in the matter and are threatened with violence if they were to protest or treat their new husband in a poor way. In pop culture these women are referred to as ‘mail order brides’.

Forced Labor
The second most common form of trafficking involves humans being sold for work. You may have heard of ‘sweatshops’ that exist in impoverished countries. These sweatshops purchase workers and work them the point of exhaustion and sometimes death for little to no pay. Giant American corporations like Nike and Gap have been caught using that sort of ‘labor’. Otherwise the duties that laborers are sold into are typically dangerous, dirty, and unlikable jobs.

Human trafficking takes the very essence of being alive and reduces it to a continual feeling of misery. Young girls that are bought and sold are typically pulled from home in their formative years, when their mind is still malleable. Growing up as a sex slave has obvious mental ramifications. Studies show that 70% of all slaves experience intense suicidal thoughts. Not only is the work grueling and dehumanizing, but the act of being trafficked means that they will be forced away from everything that they know. Most slaves are moved across international borders and are thus completely bereft of any sign of familiarity. Slaves that do escape the grips of their ‘owners’ are typically stunted mentally and thus struggle to ever make something of themselves in their life after enslavement. This means that the children of former slaves are likely not going to receive a proper education and will have reduced means of avoiding the same fate as their parents.

Human trafficking is more than a problem of simple slavery. Human trafficking is a problem of human empathy. The thirst and greed that humans experience always will outweigh the sound of their own conscience. Studies show that the average price of a human slave is $90. When that slave can earn their pimp upwards of $250,000 a year there is no reason for the pimp to stop trafficking. The only way to reduce human trafficking is to be aware of it and to try and stop it wherever it crops up. This means that illegal prostitution and drug rings need to be stamped out, first and foremost. Human trafficking is an issue that is very much still alive here in the year 2016 and as we enter 2017. Being educated on this topic, being an advocate for change and spreading the word is one of the best ways to create reform in this area. No daughter, no son, no grandchild should be forced into this type of dark world. Do what you can in your own community to increase awareness!


 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING; A MODERN WORLD EPIDEMIC
December 11, 2016

Human trafficking facts will dictate that we are experiencing prevalence in slavery, and the forced coercion of human trafficking, that is comparable to the heydays of slavery. So how is human trafficking different than slavery? The truth is that it really isn’t. Modern trafficking is a different type of slavery that requires the acquisition, transport, and trade of human beings against their will. A list of human trafficking facts 2014 and newer show that every single year 2.5 million people are ensnared into this dangerous web.

A brief glance at the facts on human trafficking will show you that the problem impacts people from all backgrounds. We tend to think that it would be impossible to get involved with trafficking unless you put yourselves into a situation that lends itself to happen more often. The facts are pretty glaring when you look closely at them. According to statistics there are almost 800,000 people trafficked across borders every single year. Of that 800,000 almost 70% of the people are female. That would never happen where we are from though, right? Human trafficking only happens in third world countries, right?

Human trafficking isn’t reserved for the dirty streets of a poor Indian village and nor is it completely exempt from happening in the middle of Brooklyn. The facts are clear: human trafficking affects anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With that being said, there are certain groups of people that find themselves more at risk and there are many reasons for that heightened level of risk. Let’s take a look at the different ways certain groups are at risk.

Adult Males
This group of people is at risk most often to be abducted and sold into jobs that require heavy labor. Human trafficking in the United States facts show that illegal immigrants and undocumented refugees are often the target of labor oriented human trafficking. The fact that these illegals need to work without papers means that they often have to resort to relying on unsettling people.

Children
Children are the most unprotected group on this human trafficking fact sheet and they tend to suffer the worst while being involved. Children are typically picked up to work labor positions that relate to the agriculture, fishing, and textile industries. Little girls and little boys suffer very different fates, however.

Women and Young Girls
Women suffer a very different fate than men do when it comes to being trafficked. Young girls are typically pulled away from their homes before they turn 12 in order to be sold into the sex industry. Whether they are turned into sex slaves or prostitutes, the outcome is the same. Older women are often trafficked into labor positions all over the world. Whether they are forced to work the hard labor jobs alongside men, or to care for the homes and possessions of their ‘master’, the degradation is the same.

Now that we are starting to understand that human trafficking is a very real problem in the world today, let’s look at just how insane the industry is. We will start by referencing a list of human trafficking facts 2013 supplied to us. In order to put modern human trafficking into the proper perspective we will refer to the following facts:

  1. According to the U.S. State Department there are almost 1 million people forced into the human trafficking industry every single year.
  2. org reports that of that 1 million people, almost 70% of those victims are women and young girls.
  3. The National Coalition against Domestic Violence reports that almost 80% of all human trafficking victims will be forced into some sort of sexual exploitation.
  4. An article by NewsMax reports that of this 80%, almost 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die each and every year from abuse.
  5. As of this writing, UNICEF researchers estimate that there are more slaves today than ever before in the history of the world. Estimates show that there are 27 million adults currently embroiled in the illegal trade and an additional 13 million children.

Join us next week as we continue the education of the issue of human trafficking and what can be done to put a stop to this world wide issue


 

THE NAME CALLING BATTLE
November 27, 2016

“Butthead!" four year old Alex screams at his father, when his dad refuses to carry him on his shoulders. His father turns shades of red and purple, while passers by on the street wear appalled expressions. Their raised eyebrows seem to imply, “What kind of perverse child are you raising? Do you speak that way at home?”

Though a parent feels shocked and embarrassed when a child uses these choice words, it is helpful to know that name-calling is part of a preschoolers natural development. Sure, she may be repeating phrases she heard on television, but in her everyday experience she also stumbles upon a secret. Language can give her power. One day, when one of her friends, cousins or siblings angrily calls her, “Butthead,” your child does not even know what it means, but it renders her speechless. She then turns around when she is angry and uses this term on others, and lo and behold, they freeze. Now she has got the power. Enjoying this new found control, she proceeds to use charged expressions over and over again. Peepee, doodoo, penis, vagina, stupid, idiot, and shut up are her favorites. Preschoolers often sit around saying these words to one another and giggle, (the terms excite them and make them feel like one of the crowd.)

When he is angry because you will not let him watch television, he may say, “I'm going to cut you up in a million pieces” or “You're stupid.” These phrases and others are actually the equivalent of saying, “I'm mad.” Here are some approaches that you can take when your child is angry and calls you names.

Set a limit. It's important to teach children not to use verbal aggression. You can tell her,”When you are mad, you need to talk about your anger and not call people names."

Educate your child about the affect of his words. You can explain that calling someone names hurts the person's feelings. It's like a physical hurt. Remind him of the times when someone called him names and talk about how he felt. Pointing out these concrete examples from his own experience will help him to build empathy.

Acknowledge your child's emotions. You can say,“I can see that you got very angry because you wanted Daddy to carry you. You really love to be on his shoulders.

Give her a reason for the refusal. You're heavy and Daddy cannot always carry you.

Teach him a phrase that you desire him to use. You can tell him, “When you're angry, say, 'I'm angry', or I am disappointed, and I'll help you.'”

Distract her. Young children get stuck in distress and it is good to move them along by finding something else that is fun to do. For instance, “Look your favorite swing is free. Let's run over there and I'll push you.” She will then be excited and let go of the conflict.

Avoid shaming him for his choice of words. Parents often react angrily to phrases such as, “I hate you”. They commonly use phrases such as, “How could you say such a thing” or “What’s the matter with you?” The problem with these remarks is that they give a child a bad feeling about himself and communicate that his feelings are not acceptable. Our goal with children is to be accepting of their anger and to set a limit without harming their self-esteem.

Listen to your words. As we can see young children mimic what is said around them. Make sure your family is choosing positive words at home when angry, otherwise your little child will be saying these words very soon.

Never respond in kind. Sometimes parents are so hurt that they respond in kind: “You're dumb too.” Though it may be a natural urge, it has a negative impact on children. It actually can cause them to doubt your love. “You say you love me. How could you hurt my feelings like that?”. If these words do slip out, it is therefore crucial to apologize to your child and say that you were feeling upset.

The best approach to take with your child is to encourage your her not to hide her feelings, but to teach her how to express herself in the most positive way. Talking about her emotions and dealing with them effectively, will help her to have a happier life.

Give him a place to express himself. You might allow your child to repeat his beloved phrases in his room or the bathroom to his heart's content, but not around the family.

Make sure not to laugh at your child's new pet expression , say it is cute or show visible shock. These reactions are an invitation for him to continue.

Most experts agree that the best response is a calm one. Some parents will say to their child, “What does that mean?” or explain the term to their child to neutralize the shock waves and the fun, so the child has no need to go on. If you remove or forbid the use of these words, these expressions will take on a new thrill and multiply. Sometimes name callingcan take on a personality of it's own; TLC can step in to help you and your child to get back on track and continue living a healthy life style. Give us a call, lets talk about it!


 

MARRIAGE; 7 REASONS TO SEEK COUNSELING CONTINUED
November 13, 2016

We have already discussed reasons such as negative communication, affairs and occupying the same space as reasons to seek counseling but what other reasons may warrant the use the a marriage and relationship counselor?

4. When the partners do not know how to resolve their differences. I remember watching GI Joe as a kid. Every show ended with the phrase “now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” For me, that phrase comes to mind with this situation. When a couple begins to experience discord and they are aware of the discord, knowing is only half the battle. Many times I have heard couples say, “We know what’s wrong, but we just don’t know how to fix it.”. This is a perfect time to get a third party involved. If a couple is stuck, a skilled clinician may be able to get them moving in the right direction.

5. When one partner begins to act out on negative feelings. I believe what we feel on the inside shows on the outside. Even if we are able to mask these feelings for a while, they are bound to surface. Negative feelings such as resentment or disappointment can turn into hurtful, sometimes harmful behaviors. I can recall a couple where the wife was very hurt by her husband’s indiscretions. Although she agreed to stay in the relationship and work things out, she became very spiteful. The wife would purposefully do things to make her husband think she was being unfaithful even though she wasn’t. She wanted her husband to feel the same pain she felt, which was counterproductive. A skilled clinician can help the couple sort out negative feelings and find better ways to express them.

6. When the only resolution appears to be separation. When a couple disagrees or argues, a break often is very helpful. However, when a timeout turns into an overnight stay away from home or eventually leads to a temporary separation, this may indicate a need for counseling. Spending time away from home does not usually resolve the situation. Instead, it reinforces the thought that time away is helpful, often leading to more absences. When the absent partner returns, the problem is still there, but often avoided because time has passed.

7. When a couple is staying together for the sake of the children. If a couple feels it is wise to stay together for the sake of the children, it may help to involve an objective third party. Often couples believe that they are doing the right thing when staying together actually is detrimental to the children. On the contrary, if the couple is able to resolve issue and move toward a positive, healthy relationship, this may be the best decision for all involved.

In our opinion, children should never be the deciding factor when couples are determining whether to stay together. Children are generally very intuitive and intelligent. No matter how couples may think they are able to fake their happiness, most children are able to tell.

All marriages are not salvageable. In the process of marriage counseling, some couples may discover it is healthier for them to be apart. However, for those relationships that can be salvaged, and for those couples willing to commit to the process, marriage counseling may be able to remind them why they fell in love and keep them that way. Call TLC today if you think that your marriage could benefit from the help of a trained therapist in this area. You never know what can happen by the positive things that counseling can offer!


 

STRESS AROUND THE HOLIDAYS; 5 TIPS TO HELP YOU COPE WITH THE CRAZINESS
October 30, 2016

Many people look forward to holidays such as the 4th of July, Labor Day, Christmas, and the start of a new year. It often provides an opportunity to spend quality time with family, take a few days off from work, or go on a summer or winter getaway. While holidays can be a fun and joyous time, it can also be very stressful. The combined effort of shopping, attending social events, and entertaining guests can quickly become too much to handle. A poll by the American Psychological Association shows that 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress over holidays throughout the year. In some cases, the increase in stress and anxiety may even lead to depression. The Mayo Clinic reports that depression is often an unwelcome guest during the holidays. Though the holidays can sometimes be a difficult and stressful time, there are several ways to minimize stress and anxiety so you can thoroughly enjoy the festivities that at one time were the cause to much of your pain.

Holidays and spending go hand-in-hand. Between buying gifts for your children, spouse, and relatives, you can drop hundreds of dollars, especially between Black Friday and Christmas Day. A 2015 Galllup poll reported that shoppers around the United States were planning to spend an average of $830 on gifts over the holidays. Many times families love a holiday so much, such as the 4th of July, that they constantly feel the need to “go all out” on decorations so they can “one up” themselves from the previous year. Although spending money during some holidays may be unavoidable, you can control how much you spend. Some of the stress you feel over some holidays may have a lot to do with financial pressure, especially during those summer months when you have a wedding to attend nearly every weekend. To help prevent stress over money, plan ahead, review your finances, and come up with a realistic budget for gifts. Buying gifts shouldn’t affect your ability to pay your bills, nor should it result in costly credit card debt.

When you’re running around right before a major holiday, exercise might be the last thing on your mind. What you may not realize, however, is that being active can elevate your mood and help you cope with stress. Exercise and other types of physical activity stimulate the production of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are brain chemicals that function as a natural painkiller. They can trigger a positive feeling in the body, boosting mood and reducing feelings of anxiety and stress. Understandably, you might be busy and have little time for physical activity during the time period of a holiday. However, it doesn't take much time to maintain a calm mental state. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a minimum of three times each week. Find an activity that works for you and your lifestyle. You may want to consider activities that anyone can do nearly anywhere such as walking, jogging, biking, playing a sport or aerobics.

Holiday times can be particularly stressful when you have too much on your plate. This might be the case if you're welcoming out-of-town guests and hosting family festivities. You don’t necessarily have to cancel your plans, but make sure you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Get your family involved and delegate. For example, instead of taking on the responsibility of preparing an entire meal alone, ask everyone to bring a dish. Or, if you feel that hosting an event at your home is too much, don't feel obligated to entertain relatives and friends. Know your limitations and learn how to say “no.”

Setting aside time for yourself is another great way to cope with stress during holidays. With so much happening, you might not have a moment alone. However, it’s important to make time for yourself so you can take a breather and clear your mind. Even spending as little as 15 minutes alone might make a world of difference. Doing activities you enjoy can help you maintain your sanity as you juggle family obligations, social events, and holiday shopping. You can try going a walk, listening to relaxing music, or getting a massage to take your mind off your to-do list.

Being in close quarters with some of your family members for long periods of time can be stressful in itself. You all have your own personalities. Because of your differences, it may be easy to rub each other the wrong way. Remember that if you let every remark get under your skin, you’ll be miserable and stressed out the entire time. Set aside your differences, and agree to disagree. This is easier said than done. But if you can learn how to let go and pick your battles, you’ll have less anxiety. Don’t let the actions of others rob you of your joy.

Even if you’re a calm and collected person, the holiday season can still be a trying time. Your stress level can still skyrocket. These practical tips may minimize your stress and anxiety, and help you cope. However, don’t be afraid to speak with a doctor or mental health professional if you’re having a difficult time. They may help you improve your coping skills so you can get through the holiday season with a smile on your face.

Holidays can be both a joyous time as well as a stressful time for many of us. Knowing ways to decrease this stress and help you cope with the craziness will allow you to enjoy holidays without the added stress of feeling like you want to pull your hair out. Save the strands of hair; come to TLC and lets talk about it!


 

THE 8 SIDES OF SELF DISCOVERY AND HOW THEY CAN POSITIVELY IMPACT YOUR LIFE
October 16, 2016

SELF-AWARE
Learning about yourself comes with guarantees way beyond money and success. When you are self-aware, you are a force to be reckoned with in this world because you are already ahead of the game. Most people have no idea who they are, and you can easily tell by their attitude and life-choices. Becoming self-aware means becoming more sure of yourself by setting standards and understanding exactly what you want.

SELF-DRIVE
The game of life has proven to be a survival of the fittest, and because you are your biggest asset, you have to know yourself entirely. It's like learning how to drive a car in order to get to the mall because you want to go shopping. You learn to drive your mind and body to get you the things you yearn for. And if you don't know what it is that you want, you will learn about that, too.

SELF-WORTH
Getting to know one's self is a beautiful never-ending discovery that will help you advance in every aspect of your life. When you know your self-worth, for example, you will have healthier relationships with friends and in love. Knowing what you like and don't like will drive you towards the right people, the same way that it will make you drive past those who you know are no good for you.

SELF-REALIZATION
They teach you about ethics in school, but solidifying your values and what you stand for is a whole new lesson. In life and at work, you will not agree with everyone, so it is important that you stand for something, or, like the saying goes, you will fall for anything. Values, dedication and passion will drive you to the job of your dreams, so learning about what you love and what strikes a fire in you will lead you to a career that is fulfilling and rewarding.

SELF-TRUST
You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we're ready to see it. In learning about yourself, trust your gut and your inner GPS to guide you. No one can do for you what you can do for yourself. So when you ask for advice, you actually already know what you should do by your gut intuition; however, we seek the opinions of others to change our minds. You have all the answers; learn to read the signs, which your subconscious wants you to be conscious of.

SELF-HATE
The hardest part of getting to know yourself entirely is learning about your flaws. You will learn about your bad qualities and avoid letting them surface so that no one can use them against you. You will learn what you aren't so good at, so you can move on to better things. You will learn who you've hurt, so you can make amends. You will face all the negative things that clouded your judgment before, so you can accept them and move on.

This process might make you unsure of yourself for some time. You might not like who you have become, but as you look at yourself in the mirror and recognize your flaws and seek to correct them, you will also accept them. Break yourself down so that you can build yourself back up to be the best version of yourself. After all, life is too short to spend it at war with your own mind.

SELF-LOVE
Although the journey of self-discovery never ends, you'll know you've reached a good place when you've developed self-pride. You will be proud of the person you are and even the ugliest things about you will bring a great sense of pride and fulfillment because, without them, you wouldn't be you.

The most important lesson you can teach yourself is how to accept and love yourself for you who you are, no matter what you've been through and what you've learned. Acceptance makes all the difference in your confidence and self-esteem. Love is loud and infectious; it stands out. Love yourself and others will follow, but no matter who comes along, just know that no one will love you like you love yourself.

Own yourself, your thoughts and your mind, and there’s nothing anyone can do or say that can take you away from YOU.


 

SELF DISCOVERY: BEING THE BEST AND MOST AUTHENTIC YOU FOR A FULFILLING LIFE
October 2, 2016

We spend the best years of our lives going to school to learn how to be something. We're not always sure what that something is, but we still go to class, do homework and study for tests; though some try harder than others, we all try.

In the real world, books won't lead you out of the woods. You can't look for answers in the dictionary, and a map will never lead you where you ought to go. All the education and intelligence in the world can't make you whole. Credentials don't come with a purpose. You can have straight A's for life, but they will never tell you who you are. School teaches you nothing about yourself. The discovery of the self is the most valuable lesson you were never taught.

Self-reflection is a powerful tool for cultivating a fulfilling, meaningful life. When you dig deeper, you can discover what it is you know, what you think [and] how you want to be in the world. When you know yourself, really know yourself, you can live according to your values and passions, make a positive contribution to the world and simply have more fun in general.

It also influences our connection to others. When we get to know ourselves, we are more open and loving toward others, because we see their humanity and the gifts that they bring.

In other words, once you know your priorities and perspectives, you can make deliberate decisions based on those things, intentionally creating a more connected life that is true to you.

Join us next week as we discuss the 8 sides of self discovery and how they can positively impact your life.


 

CYBERBULLYING: TIPS FOR TEENS AND PARENTS
September 18, 2016

If you are targeted by cyberbullies, it's important not to respond to any messages or posts written about you, no matter how hurtful or untrue. Responding will only make the situation worse and provoking a reaction from you is exactly what the cyberbullies want, so don't give them the satisfaction.

It's also very important that you don't seek revenge on a cyberbully by becoming a cyberbully yourself. Again, it will only make the problem worse and could result in serious legal consequences for you. If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online.

Instead, respond to cyberbullying by:                                

Saving the evidence of the cyberbullying, keep abusive text messages or a screenshot of a webpage, for example, and then report them to a trusted adult, such as a family member, teacher, or school counselor. If you don't report incidents, the cyberbully will often become more aggressive.

Reporting threats of harm and inappropriate sexual messages to the police. In many cases, the cyberbully's actions can be prosecuted by law.

Being relentless. Cyberbullying is rarely limited to one or two incidents. It's far more likely to be a sustained attack on you over a period of time. So, like the cyberbully, you may have to be relentless and keep reporting each and every bullying incident until it stops. There is no reason for you to ever put up with cyberbullying.

Preventing communication from the cyberbully, by blocking their email address, cell phone number, and deleting them from social media contacts. Report their activities to their internet service provider (ISP) or to any social media or other web sites they use to target you. The cyberbully’s actions may constitute a violation of the website’s terms of service or, depending on the laws in your area, may even warrant criminal charges.  

In some cases, Cyberbullying can amplify and turn into such a extreme situation where therapist's, teachers, parents and even the police need to get involved. In any scenario, TLC is here to help clients through these issues and find resolution as quickly as possible.


 

CYBERBULLYING: HOW IT IS REALLY IMPACTING OUR KIDS
September 4, 2016

Any type of bullying can make you feel hurt, angry, helpless, isolated, even suicidal, or lead to problems such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. In many cases, cyberbullying can be even more painful than face-to-face bullying because cyberbullying can happen anywhere at any time, even in places where you normally feel safe, such as your home, and at times you'd least expect, such as at the weekend in the company of your family. It can seem like there's no escape from the taunting and humiliation.

A lot of cyberbullying can be done anonymously, so you may not be sure who is targeting you. This can make you feel even more threatened and can embolden bullies, as they believe online anonymity means they're less likely to get caught. Since cyberbullies can't see your reaction, they will often go much further in their harassment or ridicule than they would do face-to-face with you.

Cyberbullying can be witnessed by potentially thousands of people. Emails can be forwarded to hundreds of people while social media posts or website comments can often be seen by anyone. The more far-reaching the bullying, the more humiliating it can become.


 

CYBERBULLYING: WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT CAN HARM
August 21, 2016

Cyberbullying occurs when a child or teen uses the Internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms, or other digital technology to harass, threaten, or humiliate another child or teen. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying doesn't require physical strength or face-to-face contact and isn't limited to just a handful of witnesses at a time. Cyberbullies come in all shapes and sizes—almost anyone with an Internet connection or mobile phone can cyberbully someone else, often without having to reveal their true identity. Cyberbullies can torment their victims 24 hours a day and the bullying can follow the victim anywhere so that no place, not even home, ever feels safe, and with a few clicks the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online.

If you or a loved one is currently the victim of cyberbullying, it's important to remember that you're not alone. As many of one third of teenagers have suffered from cyberbullying at some time in their lives.

The methods kids and teens use to cyberbully can be as varied and imaginative as the technology they have access to. It ranges from sending threatening or taunting messages via email, text, or IM to breaking into your email account or stealing your online identity to hurt and humiliate you. Some cyberbullies may even create a website or social media page to target you.

As with traditional bullying, both boys and girls cyberbully, but tend to do so in different ways. Boys tend to bully by "sexting" (sending messages of a sexual nature) or with messages that threaten physical harm. Girls, on the other hand, more commonly cyberbully by spreading lies and rumors, exposing your secrets, or by excluding you from emails, buddy lists, or other electronic communication. Because cyberbullying is so easy to perpetrate, a child or teen can easily change roles, going from cyberbullying victim at one point to cyberbully the next, and then back again.


 

BACK TO SCHOOL CONTINUED: 5 STEPS TO COPE WITH BACK TO SCHOOL ANXIETY
August 7, 2016

Step 1; Take care of the basics: Ensure your child is getting enough sleep, eating regular meals and healthy snacks and has daily exercise. When your child’s mind and body are nourished, tackling school worries is easier. Plus, your child will be more likely to listen to you, and cope better when you insist on school attendance, if s/he has had a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast.

Step 2; Provide empathy: Listen to your child’s concerns. What is s/he worried about? Why does s/he expect that to happen? Let your child share his/her fears and talk about what’s on his/her mind. There may be good opportunities to simply listen to your child when you are in the car, standing in line at the store, at bath-time or during dinner. For some kids and teens this “casual” method of talking feels less intense and makes it easier for them to express themselves. For others, a private time with undivided attention feels better.

Step 3; Problem solve: Once you know what’s bothering your child, you can start to develop a coping plan. Anxious youth are often poor problem solvers and doubt their ability to cope. Addressing your child’s fear head on, by creating an active plan with concrete solutions, will significantly reduce the worry. For example, “If (the worst) happens, what could you do?” or “Let’s think of some ways you could handle that situation.” This gives you the opportunity to coach your child on how to cope with (and interpret) both real and imagined scary situations.

Step 4; Focus on the positive aspects:  Once you have an understanding of what your child is afraid of, and a coping plan to address these fears, you can encourage your child to re-direct attention away from the worries towards the positives. Ask your child, "What are three things that you are most excited about on your first day of school?" Most kids can think of something good, even if it's just eating a special snack or going home at the end of the day. Chances are the fun aspects are simply getting overlooked by repetitive worries.  

Step 5; Pay attention to your own behavior: For parents of younger children or children starting at a new school, it can be anxiety-provoking for parents to hand over care and responsibility of their child to teachers. Children take cues from their parents, so the more confidence and calm you can model, the more your child will believe s/he can handle this new hurdle. Be supportive yet firm. When saying goodbye in the morning, say it cheerfully – once! Ensure you don’t reward your child’s protests, crying, or tantrums by allowing him/her to stay home. Instead, in a calm tone, say: “I can see that going to school is making you scared, but you still have to go. Tell me what you are worried about, so we can talk about it.”  

Now that we know more about ways to deal with these common back to school worries, next week we will discuss a back to school preparation timeline to help your child get back into the routine to allow a smooth transition on the first day of school.


 

BACK TO SCHOOL CONTINUED; PREPARATION TIMELINE TO BEAT THE JITTERS AND KICK BUTT ON THE FIRST DAY
July 31, 2016

Returning back to school at the start of the year can be stressful for any child, especially if they are attending a new school. 1 to 2 weeks before the start of school you should gradually return your child to a school-day sleep and wake routine. If your child has been going to bed several hours later than usual and sleeping in during the holiday, roll the clock back by 15-30 minutes daily. For example, instead of going to bed at 11pm, help your child get to bed by 10:45pm on day 1, by 10:30pm on day 2, etc. Do this until your child is in bed and asleep at a reasonable time, and is able to get up and out of bed at the expected morning time, consistently. You may also need to ask everyone in the family to adjust to the new schedule, so your child isn’t the only one making changes.

Older children may appreciate you including them in the preparation. Ask your child to help plan school lunches for the first week. You can go to the store together to shop for these items. Creating a list of school supplies together and planning a fun shopping trip can transform a anxious situation into a fun experience. For younger children, go to the schoolyard and play a few times before the first day of school. This can help your child feel more comfortable in his/her surroundings, making the transition back to school a familiar one.

2 to 3 days before school we recommend that you go to school several times – walking, biking, driving, or taking the bus. For young children taking the school bus, describe and draw out the bus route, including where the bus goes and how long it takes to get to school. Talk about bus safety. For new students, take a tour of the school. Most schools are open a few days before the official first day as teachers are setting up their classrooms. “Peek in” and ask for a quick look around.  Show your child the classrooms, the cafeteria, and the bathrooms. If possible, meet your child’s teacher with your child present.

The day before the first day of school can be anxious for anyone. Together with your child, pack up the schoolbag the night before, including a special toy or comfort item for younger children who are nervous about separating. A reassuring note in a child’s lunch can also help ease separation anxiety. Ask your child to help choose what s/he wants to wear on the first few days. By bringing this up ahead of time this will decrease your child’s chance of experiencing anxiety in the first few days of school when your child is still transitioning. By being by your child’s side while picking out each days outfits, this will allow your child to use you as social support when they are looking for acceptance of a particular outfit.

The big day has arrived; the first day of school. Begin this day by preparing a favorite breakfast to make the morning more fun. Decide who will take your child to school if this is an option. Having your child go to school with a friend for the first couple of days may feel less scary, or driving your child for the first week until s/he feels confident to take the bus is another great option. These decisions should be based solely on that individual child and what would make them feel most comfortable. Allowing older children to choose what they prefer is also a great option. If your child has a history of separation anxiety in other settings, be sure to notify the teacher of this ahead of time. Most teachers are experts in this area and have years of experience!

Most importantly, praise and reward your child for brave behavior. You might plan a fun meal at the end of the first day or week to celebrate your child’s success of returning back to school. Use this time to listen to all your child has experienced in his/her first day/week and be there as social support for any of their needs. Back to school time can be scary for any child; we can help decrease their fear and anxiety by taking a few mindful measures in order to help them smoothly transition.


 

BACK TO SCHOOL: COPING WITH THE FIRST DAY JITTERS AND ANXIETY
July 24, 2016

Anxious feelings are normal and expected in children and teens returning to school, changing schools, or for first-timers starting kindergarten. This transition can be stressful and disruptive for the entire family. In the days leading up to school, your anxious child may cling, cry, have temper tantrums, complain of headaches or stomach pains, withdraw, plead or bargain, and become irritable or angry. Worries are Common. Anxious children and teens worry about many different school-related issues, such as teachers, friends, fitting in, and/or being away from their parents. Some common worries include: “Who will be my new teacher and what if s/he is mean?, Will any of my friends be in my class?, Are my clothes OK? Who will I sit with at lunch? I can’t remember anything I learned last year!”.

Although it is normal for your child to have worries, it is crucial to have your child attend school. Skipping school will only increase your child’s fears because s/he never gets a chance to find out if his/her worries are valid. Furthermore, when children and teens stay home because of anxiety, they miss valuable opportunities to develop and practice social skills, important chances for success and mastery, being acknowledged and praised for talents, fostering close friendships with classmates, and learning basic skills like reading, writing, and mathematics.

Back to school anxiety can be tough for any student to deal with. In an effort to decrease these fears in both the student and the parent, join us next week for our 5 steps to deal with these back to school worries to allow your student, and yourself, to transition smoothly into this new academic school year.


 

YOGA & YOU CONTINUED; DOWNWARD FACING DOG TO DECREASE DEPRESSION AND PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS
June 12, 2016

Numerous studies have shown yoga to be of benefit for those with depression as well. One study on participants with major depression found that 20 sessions of yoga led to an elevation of mood and reduction of anger and anxiety. Another study on young adults with mild depression found that biweekly yoga classes resulted in improved mood and reduced anxiety and fatigue. Yoga compares favorably in its effects to other mind-body techniques. When compared to visualization and breathing exercises, those who practiced yoga felt more alert, energetic, and had a more positive mood. The increase in GABA from yoga that helps anxiety also ease the symptoms of depression. One study found that practicing yoga 12 minutes a day for eight weeks decreased inflammation, a risk factor for depression. Yoga increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that acts like fertilizer for the brain, stimulating the formation of new brain cells. BDNF has natural antidepressant effects. It is an indicator of brain plasticity which is linked to reduced depression. Beginner poses for depression include corpse pose, easy pose, and upward facing dog.

Research published in The Journal of Psychiatric Practice suggests that yoga may help those with Bipolar Disorder manage their symptoms. When more than 100 bipolar patients were asked to rank how yoga impacted their lives, 20% called the practice “life changing.” Harvard Mental Health Newsletter reported some remarkable effects of yoga on a variety of psychiatric disorders. One study examined the effects of a single yoga class on psychiatric hospital inpatients with bipolar disorder, major depression, or schizophrenia. After the class, average levels of anger, tension, hostility, fatigue, anxiety, and depression dropped significantly. Another study focused on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who drank alcohol heavily and took antidepressants. A five-day stress reduction program that included yoga poses and breathing techniques reduced their symptoms from the “moderate to severe” category to “mild to moderate.” These benefits were still evident at a 6-month follow-up. Finally, a group of women suffering from severe emotional distress took twice weekly yoga classes. At the end of three months, these women reported significant improvements in depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, perceived stress, sleep quality, and well-being.

Americans spend an astounding 10 billion dollars annually on yoga-related products, but a pair of stretch pants and a mat or rug are all you need to get started. If you are brand new to yoga, I recommend you take at least a few yoga classes. Proper instruction will assure you get the most from your sessions and, while injury is unlikely, a good teacher will assure that you don’t get hurt. One of the most popular styles of yoga is Hatha yoga. It consists of assuming yoga postures and learning to control your breath and to quiet your mind. It’s an excellent beginner’s yoga due to its slow pace and relatively easy poses. Finding yoga classes should be easy. You can search for yoga studios near you at YogaFinder.com. Other places to find yoga classes are at fitness clubs, community centers, schools, or your local YMCA. Don’t be concerned that you can’t do yoga because you are too overweight, inflexible, out of shape, or old. There are yoga poses suitable for every level. Some can even be done at your desk or while sitting in a chair. But be forewarned that yoga can often be a “gateway” practice — one that leads you on a path to a generally healthier lifestyle!


 

MARRIAGE; 7 REASONS TO SEEK COUNSELING
June 12, 2016

Marriage rates supposedly are on the decline. While it’s an oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years. Divorce rates also vary with the partners’ level of education, religious beliefs, and many other factors.

But when divorce does happen, it results in difficulties for adults as well as children. For adults, divorce can be one of life’s most stressful life events. The decision to divorce often is met with ambivalence and uncertainty about the future. If children are involved, they may experience negative effects such as denial, feelings of abandonment, anger, blame, guilt, preoccupation with reconciliation, and acting out.

While divorce may be necessary and the healthiest choice for some, others may wish to try to salvage whatever is left of the union. When couples encounter problems or issues, they may wonder when it is appropriate to seek marriage counseling. Here are seven good reasons.

1. Communication has become negative. Once communication has deteriorated, often it is hard to get it going back in the right direction. Negative communication can include anything that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. This can also include the tone of the conversation. It is important to remember that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.

Negative communication can also include any communication that not only leads to hurt feelings, but emotional or physical abuse, as well as nonverbal communication.

2. When one or both partners consider having an affair, or one partner has had an affair. Recovering from an affair is not impossible, but it takes a lot of work. It takes commitment and a willingness to forgive and move forward. There is no magic formula for recovering from an affair. But if both individuals are committed to the therapy process and are being honest, the marriage may be salvaged. At the very least, it may be determined that it is healthier for both individuals to move on.

3. When the couple seems to be “just occupying the same space.” When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may indicate a need for counseling. This does not mean if the couple isn’t doing everything together they are in trouble. If there is a lack of communication, conversation and intimacy or any other elements the couple feels are important and they feel they just “co-exist,” this may be an indication that a skilled clinician can help sort out what is missing and how to get it back.

Join us next week as we discover other reasons why (and when) you should seek marriage counseling.


 

YOGA & YOU; INCREASING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH WITH YOGA
May 29, 2016

Yoga is a practice of poses and breathing techniques designed to strengthen and balance the body and the mind. Typically looked at as a form of exercise, this 5,000 year old practice has helped many people lose weight and increase their physical health. Currently, 15 million Americans practice yoga regularly and every year that number grows by 20%! Why the sudden explosion in interest in this 5,000-year-old practice?

It could be because of the many proven general health benefits of yoga — improved strength and flexibility, weight loss, and management of pain and chronic illnesses. But quite possibly the interest in yoga is due more to its mental health benefits since its meteoric rise in popularity coincides with skyrocketing rates of stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other common mood disorders. More than 90% of people start a yoga practice for stress relief or physical health benefits, but they stay with yoga for emotional or spiritual reasons.

All kinds of physical exercise reduce stress, but yoga may be one of the best. Yoga modulates perceived stress and anxiety by slowing down rapid breathing and heart rates, lowering high blood pressure, and increasing heart rate variability. Exercise of all kinds increases “feel good” neurotransmitters but yoga stands out as a proven GABA booster. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is one of your main inhibitory neurotransmitters. It puts the brakes on brain activity, enabling you to relax. When you are low in GABA, your brain gets stuck in the “on” position — it’s like driving a car with a brick on the accelerator and no brakes! This understandably can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and overstimulated. Just a single one-hour session of yoga can increase GABA levels by 27%. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, easy yoga poses to try include fire log pose, cow pose, lotus pose, salutation seal, upward salute, and cat pose.

Yoga can have a positive impact on stress but what about other issues of mental health? Join us next week as we uncover more on the art of yoga and why many of us could use a daily dose of the downward facing dog pose


 

EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH; 13 BENEFITS OF WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE ACTION
May 24, 2016

Many people hit the gym to improve cardiovascular health, build muscle, and of course, get a rockin’ bod. Surprising to most, working out has above-the-neck benefits too! For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how exercising can boost brain function. Regardless of age or fitness level (which includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathon runners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits to. Get inspired to exercise by reading up Huffington Post’s most unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.

Reducing stress: Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!

Boost Happy Chemicals: Slogging through a few miles on the ‘mill can be tough, but it’s worth the effort! Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, docs recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly the gym rat type — getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.

Improve Self Confidence: Hop on the treadmill to look (and more importantly, feel) like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth. How’s that for feeling the (self) love?

Enjoy The Great Outdoors: For an extra boost of self-love, take that workout outside. Exercising in the great outdoors can increase self-esteem even more. Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it’s rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe or just taking a jog in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun (while wearing sunscreen, of course!) can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Why book a spa day when a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise) can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness?

Prevent Cognitive Decline: It’s unpleasant, but it’s true — as we get older, our brains get a little... hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.

Alleviate Anxiety: Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety — a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity. And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!

Boost Brainpower: Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.

Sharpen Memory: Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness (take that, recess haters!). But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. Even if it’s not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults

Help Control Addiction: The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food and sex). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term). Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can’t fall asleep (or stay asleep) without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.

Increase Relaxation: Ever hit the hay after a long run or weight session at the gym? For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.

Get More Done: Feeling uninspired in the cubicle? The solution might be just a short walk or jog away. Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.

Tap Into Creativity: Most people end a tough workout with a hot shower, but maybe we should be breaking out the colored pencils instead. A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. Supercharge post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interacting with nature (see benefit #4). Next time you need a burst of creative thinking, hit the trails for a long walk or run to refresh the body and the brain at the same time.

Inspire Others: Whether it’s a pick-up game of soccer, a group class at the gym, or just a run with a friend, exercise rarely happens in a bubble. And that’s good news for all of us. Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerances for pain. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving!

Working out can have positive effects far beyond the gym (and beach season). Gaining self-confidence, getting out of a funk, and even thinking smarter are some of the motivations to take time for exercise on a regular basis. What inspires you to stay fit?


 

EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH CONTINUED; BOOSTING BRAIN POWER WHILE BEING A BEAST IN THE GYM
May 15, 2016

Last week we began discussing what exercise can offer to our mental health. Knowing that exercise can have a positive impact on our mental health, can exercise also positively impact issues such as anxiety, addiction, memory and overall brain power? Surprising to most, the answer is ABSOLUTELY!

Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety; a warm bubble bath or a 20-minute jog? You might be surprised at the answer. The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise (intervals, anyone?) can reduce anxiety sensitivity. And we thought intervals were just a good way to burn calories!

Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, which is believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed!

Get ready to win big at Go Fish. Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness (take that, recess haters!). But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. Even if it’s not as fun as a game of Red Rover, working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.

The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food and sex). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term). Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can’t fall asleep (or stay asleep) without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.

In conclusion, we have uncovered that exercise has many benefits for our mental health. Still unknown to much of society, by making these healthy changes within our families we are able to help increase the mental health of the younger generations that may be living in our household. Helping ourselves while helping our children through the use of exercise offers more benefits than we even had time to mention; so it’s imperative to make these conscious lifestyle decisions early in our children’s lives so that they can continue with them throughout their own lifetime. Physically working out also helps us to mentally work out some of the issues deeply rooted within our inner self so know that when you are pushing weights in the gym you are also pushing out some of the negative mental aspects that you may be struggling with.


 

EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH; BUILDING MUSCLE AND BOOSTING BRAIN FUNCTION
May 1, 2016

Your doctor has always reminded you about getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to remain healthy. We assume that our doctor just wants us to stay in top physical shape and lower our risks of diseases and illness. But is that all that exercise is good for? Just our physical health? For the past decade or so, scientists have pondered how (and even if) exercising can boost brain function and improve our overall mental health. Regardless of age or fitness level (yup, this includes everyone from mall-walkers to marathoners), studies show that making time for exercise provides some serious mental benefits. Get inspired to exercise by reading up on these unexpected ways that working out can benefit mental health, relationships and lead to a healthier and happier life overall.

Rough day at the office? Take a walk or head to the gym for a quick workout. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!

Slogging through a few miles on the ‘mill can be tough, but it’s worth the effort! Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, docs recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Don’t worry if you’re not exactly the gym rat type — getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.

Hop on the treadmill to look (and more importantly, feel) like a million bucks. On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth. How’s that for feeling the (self) love?

It’s unpleasant, but it’s true — as we get older, our brains get a little... hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t “cure” Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45 Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.

Want the rest of the scoop about how exercise can help our mental health? Tune in next week as we uncover the secrets that exercise has to offer our brain!


 

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION VS BABY BLUES
April 24, 2016

Postpartum Depression does not last forever but can feel like an eternity to those affected. In many cases, mothers may not even recognize that they are affected so deeply by child birth being as society brushes off the severity of these depressive symptoms and attributes them to the “Baby Blues”. Postpartum Depression and “Baby Blues” have much different symptoms and understanding these differences could be beneficial in spotting symptoms of each condition and taking measures to better help yourself and even people you may know who seem to struggle after child birth.

For starters, the feelings women have who experience Baby Blues in comparison to Postpartum Depression are quite different. If suffering from the Baby Blues, you may feel weepy (crying "all of the time"), emotional and/or profoundly vulnerable. You also might experience mood instability, depressed mood, sadness, irritability, anxiety, a lack of concentration and/or feelings of dependency. Some women describe it as feeling like "very bad PMS”. These symptoms tend to last about two weeks after giving birth. 70-80 percent of new moms are affected by the baby blues so it is something that many women expect before symptoms even begin to show up.

Postpartum Depression is a little different. You might experience feelings of anxiety, sadness (crying a lot), depression, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or yourself, rumination, obsessions, loss of interest in usual activities, feeling worthless, incompetent or inadequate to cope with your baby, fatigue and/or excessive worry about the baby's health. As you can see the symptoms are similar to the Baby Blues however are much more severe and interfere with functioning. Additionally symptoms of Postpartum Depression last longer than two weeks after giving birth; symptoms can last for months. Typically Postpartum Depression emerges over the first 2-3 months after childbirth but may occur at any point after delivery.

Generally the rule of thumb is if two weeks go by and the symptoms of anxiety and depression persist, the woman needs to contact her doctor for an evaluation by her ob-gyn. Your doctor will then follow you or refer you to a specialist/therapist for possible treatment, which most commonly can include psychotherapy, medication therapy, some combination or other types of treatment. You know your body best so it’s imperative to seek treatment when you know that something abnormal is happening. The healthier we can be, the healthier our babies can be; TLC is here for you every step of the journey.


 

KNOWING THE CAUSE & PERSONAL RISK FACTORS OF POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
April 4, 2016

Experts don’t know exactly what causes Postpartum Depression. Because of this reason, the importance in the recognition of Postpartum Depression, screening for this depression and also treatment options are all things that new mothers must take into consideration. Many mothers feel as if they did something wrong in order to cause Postpartum to occur, however this is not true. Researchers believe it could be caused by hormones in a woman’s body that change during pregnancy and affect her brain’s chemistry. After she gives birth, the amount of estrogen and progesterone in her body is dramatically reduced, which may cause sensitive individuals to react by developing Postpartum Depression. Another possibility is that women with Postpartum Depression may have an underlying problem with an underactive thyroid gland after delivery. This issue is easy to treat if it is detected. Currently, researchers are studying other biological or social problems that may cause postpartum depression. This type of depression is most likely linked to other forms of depression, since women who have suffered previously from depression of any kind are more likely to develop depression after giving birth.

You may be at risk for postpartum depression if you have had a similar episode before. If you suffered from postpartum depression with the birth of your first child, for example, it is more likely that you will have postpartum depression again after the birth of your second child. If a woman has ever been depressed, her risk of developing postpartum depression increases from approximately 10 percent (women with no history of depression) to 25 percent. Women who suffer from manic-depressive illness or bipolar disorder also may need to be more careful after giving birth. These women have a very high risk of developing postpartum major depression. Other factors might indicate a risk for postpartum depression. Some of these include depression during pregnancy, significant premenstrual symptoms prior to pregnancy, and relatives with bipolar disorder or depression. Stressful situations can also put a woman at a higher risk of developing postpartum major depression after she gives birth.

Knowing the causes of Postpartum Depression can put your mind at ease by realizing that this is not something that mother’s do to themselves or their babies. Postpartum depression can come more naturally to some women as opposed to others based on their individual history. Being aware of your personal level of risk can help you to determine when to seek help in order to find resolution to this issue. You know your body best so in many cases, you will know when some feelings are more normal than others. One major thing to keep in mind as a new mother is it is OKAY to ask for help; no one expects you to have all of the answers and it’s totally acceptable to admit that you don’t know all of the answers and need help. Asking for help is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your baby. Rest assured that there are many people here to help you when you are in need. Turning Leaf Counseling is dedicated to helping clients continue on with life in the most positive light. Feel free to call TLC anytime to schedule an appointment; we want to help you in any way we can in order to make the experience of motherhood as rewarding as possible while helping you feel your absolute best.


 

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION & THE SCENARIO OF THE MISSING BINKY
March 28, 2016

In the midst of welcoming a new baby into the world, most mothers are instinctively more concerned with the health of their child than that of themselves. Ensuring that this new bundle of joy is reaching all of the milestones within the proper time period, constantly calling the pediatrician to receive answers to random questions that pop up throughout the day and enlisting the help of more seasoned mothers to obtain tips and advice about the things they never seem to write about in all of these baby books; these are just a few ways that mothers go above and beyond to make sure the health of their sweet new baby is right where it should be.  In the hustle and bustle of the first few weeks at home with baby, mothers are so overwhelmed with this new adjustment to life that the needs of mommy are undoubtedly placed on the backburner. Add in romantic relationships, other children, and the responsibility of needing to return to work, of course any person would feel pulled in all directions. With the help of previously completed studies and new recommendations from the US Preventative Services Task Force, mothers are encouraged to step outside of their normal Monday as a Mom and asked to take a look at themselves, and their health, in an objective way so that we can bring to surface the need for mothers to take care of themselves just as much as taking care of their new beautiful baby.

The US Preventative Services Task Force began to take a much closer look at the health of mothers as a result of two previous recommendations, taking place in 2002 and 2009 which were brushed off by the medical world. The realization of how detrimental the effects of depression can be on the mother and the baby surprised researchers and caused for extreme concern. Evidence shows that depression in new mothers can be accurately diagnosed and successfully treated in the event of a mother receiving a proper depression screening. Postpartum Depression, being defined as a severe and long lasting form of depression after child birth, is a condition affecting the lives of thousands of women in America. If this depression goes untreated or undiagnosed, perhaps due to the fact that a depression screening never occurred, it will not only harm the mother but her child as well. Knowing the risks to a child’s health in the event that the parent is suffering from untreated depression, the Task Force came together to form a panel in order to create this recommendation. This was done to enforce the need for understanding and acceptance in both the medical world and general society in order to form a path for the government to recognize this issue in hopes of funding for all expectant mothers.          

Serving as just an introduction to the need for depression screening in all new mothers in the first section of this Postpartum Depression web series, we would like to urge our audience to simply allow this next scenario to sink in;  the scenario of the lost binky. It’s 10:00am on a busy Saturday morning at the mall. Your mind is going a mile a minute between your never-ending shopping list, trying to remember exactly what size pants you need to purchase for yourself now that you are no longer pregnant, making a mental to-do list in your mind of all the things that need to get done at home, all while your sweet little baby is feeling a extremely cranky. Shopping is typically your muse and something you like to do, even if this means just window shopping. Knowing that your bundle of joy just ate and was changed an hour ago, you know that one of the only things to calm your baby down is their favorite binky. In the midst of this busy morning at the mall, you frantically rummage through the diaper bag only to discover that you forgot the binky at home. Suddenly you feel worthless and so guilty that you forgot the binky because now your baby just can’t seem to calm down. Thoughts race through your mind about what kind of mother you feel you are and how you never should have left the house to go shopping in the first place. You decide that your child’s discomfort is solely your fault and would have been solved if you had only stayed home that day. After racing home and finally soothing your baby with the once lost binky, you are suddenly too exhausted to make lunch for yourself. You are too exhausted to rock your baby to sleep. The exhaustion is so bad that you don’t even want to get off of the couch to answer the telephone. Now fast forward a month and envision feeling the same guilt, fatigue and worthlessness that you first did the day at the mall when the binky was lost. Every single day for the past month you have felt completely inadequate as a mother and rarely have enough energy to bathe your baby, much less yourself.  Sometimes you feel so negative about yourself and day to day life that you spend several hours crying. At what point will these feelings subside and finally feel like yourself again? Join us next week to uncover more information about Postpartum Depression and how to help people we love, and even ourselves, get back on track with normal day to day life while living the best life possible.


 

KEEPING THE MOMENTUM GOING FOR MENTAL WELLNESS
March 7, 2016

As our Mental Wellness five part web series comes to a close we have not only been able to have a deeper understanding for mental wellness as a whole, but we have now been able to brainstorm tools to utilize in order to increase our own personal mental wellness status in an effort to be the best that we can be.

In order to keep the momentum going with increasing our mental wellness, individuals must constantly take care of their spirit on a day to day basis. You can think of spirituality as connecting to whatever you consider meaningful and holy. You can find it in God, in yourself, in other people, in nature, art or kindness. Whatever you focus on, spirituality offers many possible benefits, including better mood, less anxiety and depression-and even fewer aches and illnesses. Organized religion, meditation and connecting with your deepest self can all provide ways to achieve this. Taking care of your spirit also entails the ability to better deal with hard times. At some point in our lives, most of us will face times that are extremely stressful or that even shake us to our core. At those times, having strong coping mechanisms can make a huge difference in our mental wellness and how equip we are to deal with these issues. The list of these coming strategies is endless but some of the most recommended strategies include writing it out, tackling problems one at a time, shifting your thinking and getting support so you can actively deal with this present issue.

To wrap up our discussion of tools that can be used to increase the current standing of our mental wellness is the tool of knowing when "enough is enough". At a certain point you may find yourself still unable to find any positive increases in your mental wellness even after taking all of the precautions and using the tools we have learned thus far. You may even find yourself unable to take any steps at all in order to better increase your overall mental wellness. Perhaps you simply feel like you are totally unable to change the situation that you are in so there isn't any point in trying. It is in these moments when it is extremely crucial to seek professional help when you need it. If the problems in your life are stopping you from functioning well or feeling good, professional help can make a big difference. And if you're having trouble, know that you are not alone; one in four adults in this country develop some kind of strain on their personal mental health in any given year. Some of these problems can be very minimal in the sense of just needing someone to talk to and help you better focus your thoughts. In other circumstances these problems with mental health can be much more profound and require true medical treatment. In both situations, professionals can help with any and every area of need in life. From problem solving to true mental illness, professionals are there to help when you are ready to ask for it.


 

"ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY": BUT WHAT ABOUT MENTAL WELLNESS?
February 22, 2016

We have all heard the term "Rome wasn't built in a day". Similar to Rome, our high mental wellness also isn't built in one day. Some can spend a lifetime trying to reach their desired mental wellness status while others may only spend a few weeks fine tuning their lifestyle so that they are able to see positive changes in their overall mental wellness. In this forth section of our five part web series, its important to know that mental wellness includes multiple factors such as our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental wellness is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Many people can receive great joy and satisfaction from simply helping others. These tools go hand in hand in many ways but work together to increase our mental wellness status.

Research indicates that those who consistently help others seem to experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer! Much research within the field also points to helping others as a way to increase mental wellness. Volunteering in your community or with a organization you feel passionate about can offer happiness and support to many people. You don't have to go out in your community to help others, however. Sometimes it may be as small as calling a friend to see how they are doing or offering to keep your elderly neighbor company on a rainy day. Helping other's certainly does not have to be a taxing duty, you can help others in your own back yard if you so choose. It is truly wonderful to know that by helping others we can also help ourselves.

Experts say good feelings can boost your ability to bounce back from stress, solve problems, think flexibly and even fight disease. Creating joy and satisfaction within yourself has so many positive benefits! Studies show that laughing decreases pain and reduces anxiety. Studies also show that positive emotions can decrease stress hormones and build emotional strength. In some times in our lives, creating joy and satisfaction can seem difficult to achieve. The key to this is to find something that truly gives you joy; funny books, concerts, a certain song or dance. Many choose a hobby that offers a lot of joy or even a sense of relaxation. By participating in these activities our bodies can naturally unwind to allow our inner most self to finally feel some sort of joy, even if it is small. Small steps in a positive direction will undoubtedly lead to a big step toward a better mental wellness status!  Take it just one step at a time.


 

MENTAL WELLNESS; FEEL GOOD TO DO GOOD
February 15, 2016

Now in the third portion of our five part web series, we have been able to understand the general meaning of mental wellness but how exactly can we help our mental wellness in order to reach a increased level of productivity? Mental wellness isn't as cut and dry to achieve as most would expect. There are several components that you must achieve in order to have your full mental health and wellness status in good standing. Many different tools can be utilized in order to reach this mental status. Getting healthy and achieving adequate amount of sleep are two major aspects of a high mental wellness status.

We have all heard the phrase "when you look good, you feel good". But when you feel good, you do good!  Not only does physical activity increase your energy but it also can have a positive impact on your mood and offer a decreased level of depression. Mom was right; you've got to eat well to function well. Don't worry, your mom wasn't crazy like you always assumed. There are studies that can actually support this finding! Studies show that eating well can boost your energy, lower the risk of developing certain diseases, counteract the impact of stress on your body, and positively increase your mood. Eating well can be difficult for some. Our every day fast paced life styles can put a big speed bump into our motivation to eat healthy. Luckily the use of modern day technology (hint hint, the Internet!) can provide us with endless tips and ideas on how to better your eating. From work out videos to blogs and even outlets that meal plan for you, there is an endless supply of free information to help us in times of need. Using your local nutritionist can also help you to begin the journey on the healthy eating path.

For many of us, Monday morning's are not the favorite morning of the week. Many times we are still recovering from the weekend's activities and seem to have misplaced our weekend plan of getting plenty of sleep. Feeling sluggish and exhausted is no way to start a long week ahead. As we all know, its difficult to function on a lack of sleep. Not only can we not mentally function but we are also negatively affected physically, emotionally and intellectually. Sleep is extremely important because of the role it plays in stress specifically. Sleep naturally combats some parts of stress to make stress easier to deal with. Decreased sleep equals increased stress. Increased stress equals decreased mental wellness, which is not something we are trying to achieve. This cycle of cause and effect continues until an event occurs to either totally deplete our mental capabilities which can send us into total mental haywire. The importance of our mental wellness isn't just in regards to decreasing our chance of mental illness but it is also important for overall human survival.


 

MENTAL WELLNESS & MAKING CONNECTIONS
February 1, 2016

In this second part of our five part web series, lets better understand what exactly mental wellness is. According to the World Health Organization, mental health and wellness is defined as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." One way to increase our mental wellness is connecting with others and staying positive.

Humans are social animals: We crave feeling supported, valued and connected. Many times when we are going through something in our lives we tend to move toward those who do support us; parents, siblings, friends, spouses, coaches, mentors. It is that simplistic feeling of knowing that you don't have to go through something alone that really helps us cope. There are many benefits to social connection. The major benefits associated with these connections are increased happiness, better health and a longer life. Negative thinking can have a huge impact on our mood, actions and even health. For this reasons, staying positive is essential in achieving high mental wellness. Many of us hear that we "must stay positive" but exactly how can you stay positive when it feels like the cards are stacked against you? There are several ways to stay positive such as fostering optimism, practicing gratitude, and avoiding negative thinking.


 

MENTAL WELLNESS VS. MENTAL ILLNESS; WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
January 25, 2016

To begin this five part web series, we beg our audience to envision a mental representation of themselves. What does healthy look like? Are you what you would describe as healthy? What about mentally? Can we truly be mentally healthy? What is it about yourself that causes you to believe that you are or are not mentally healthy? What can you do to increase your overall level of health beyond the normal exercise and eat well regimen? In today's society we are sometimes bombarded by the newest findings in mental illness and the statistics of those who are affected. From new clinical trials being conducted to treat a specific illness all the way to first hand accounts of living with a mental illness, the world of Psychology is constantly buzzing about mental illness as a whole. These discussions are being had after the illness occurs but what about having a discussion before any illness is even present? Is there truly something that can be done to increase our overall health status in a way to create a better mental wellness standing while decreasing the potential of mental illness ?

There absolutely IS something that we all can do individually to help positively increase our overall well being in life. The month of January is Mental Wellness Month, which serves to promote overall mental wellness in all human beings. We are all well aware of what mental illness is, but what about mental wellness? Here's one hint; the big deal with mental wellness is it's ability to lower the chance of mental illness. Stay tuned for more!