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5 Ways to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You

It’s tough trying to get your teen to talk. Science has shown that the teenager’s brain has yet to fully develop the frontal cortex, which is the area that controls our ability to reason, and to think before we act. As your teen’s brain develops, they’re also learning new things about themselves and their surrounding world; simultaneously, they’re dealing with hormonal changes out of their control.

For all of these reasons and more, it can be difficult to find ways to talk to your teen, or to get them to talk to you. Although it’s difficult, it’s not impossible; read on to find five ways to get your teenager to talk to you.

Learn to Listen

Take the time to listen to your teenager when they want to talk. Instead of saying you’ll talk to them later, step away from what you’re doing and listen to what they have to say. Don’t talk, interrupt or be quick to offer advice; just listen. Kids have thoughts and experiences that their parents don’t know about, and the best time to listen to them is when they’re asking to talk to you.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

As you listen to your teen, your knee jerk response may be to quickly resolve their issue, offer advice or maybe even dismiss their complaints or opinions. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes; think about how you would feel if your spouse responded to you the way you respond to them.

Watch for Signs

Everyone has a desire to be heard and understood. As you talk to your teen, mirror back to them what you hear them saying. Watch for signs that they’re not being heard or understood by you. They might roll their eyes, shake their head, wave their hand at you or interrupt. When they’re nodding and/or silent, you’ll know you’ve understood.

Ask Specific Questions

Ask your teen specific questions rather than general “how was your day?” questions. Ask questions about a friend you know by name. Ask about a sport they participate in or a teacher they like. Ask open ended questions such as, “What was Mr. Burton’s class like today?”, or “What was the best thing that happened today? What was the worst thing?”

Location, Location, Location

When and where you try to talk to your teen matters. One of the worst times to talk to kids is after school. Just like you do after work, they need wind-down time. Instead, ask questions around the dinner table. It’s casual, and there’s no pressure for eye contact. The car is another great place to talk to your teen (unless their friends are in the back seat); they feel more comfortable because you’re not looking at them.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teenager and need some help and guidance, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

4 Subtle Exercises to Calm Anxiety in Public

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults over the age of 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. If you are one of them, you know how difficult your life can feel most days.

When anxiety strikes, the world around us can become a sort of funhouse, only not that much fun. It’s important to be able to self-soothe in these instances. But how can you calm an anxiety attack subtly when you’re out in public?

 

Breath Work

As soon as you feel the anxiety coming on, focus intently on your breathing and nothing else. Begin to take slow… deep breaths. Inhale for a slow count of three… hold for a count of three… and exhale for a count of three. Slow deep breaths send a signal to our body that we are not under attack and everything is okay.

 

Talk to Yourself

In your mind, remind yourself that you are having an experience but that you are NOT that experience. While you feel that something is wrong, remind yourself that you are actually safe and all is well.

 

Visualize

Think of something that calms you. This may be your childhood bedroom or your grandparent’s home. It could be your favorite beach or your own bathtub. Simply put yourself IN that space. Use your full imagination to feel yourself there and allow the calm to settle over you.

 

Practice Listening Meditation

If you’ve never tried listening meditation, I highly recommend it for everyone. But it can be especially beneficial when you are feeling anxious, and here’s why. Listening requires you to stop thinking. Try it now. Stop reading and instead listen to all of the ambient sounds there in the room with you, outside the door and window.

What do you hear?

Let your sense of hearing grow and grow, picking up more subtle sounds. The buzz of the lights overhead… the noise of the ice maker… a bee at the window… your dog’s collar down the hall…

It’s actually a very fun exercise to do. And in order to REALLY GIVE SOUND YOUR FULL ATTENTION, you can’t think while listening. It’s a bit like trying to juggle while standing on your hands, it simply cannot be done.

Much of our anxiety comes from our anxious thoughts. It’s our reptilian brain trying to keep us alive by alerting us to all of the dangers around us. But when we meditate, this mind chatter goes away.

 

When an anxiety attack comes on, life can feel unbearable. The next time this happens to you in public, try one or more of these techniques.

And if you’d like to speak with someone about your anxiety, please get in touch. I’d be happy to explore treatment options.

How to Control Your Anger

Someone slides into the parking spot you had your eye on. A coworker takes credit for your work. Your spouse runs up $200 on the credit card without discussing it first. These are things that are apt to make you angry.

And that’s okay.

Anger is a natural response to many life events. Like other emotions, anger helps us understand our world and how we feel about it. When managed well, anger can provide a healthy release and be a motivator for transformation. But when we experience too much anger, to the point of becoming out of control, it can have lasting ramifications.

Our Brain on Anger

When anger reaches a very high level, our pre-frontal cortex, that is the part of the brain responsible for cognitive thought and reasoning, becomes hijacked. The amygdala, our primal emotional/instinctual part of the brain that induces the “fight or flight” response, takes over and we are no longer capable of rational thought.

When aroused to anger, our brains can no longer take in new information. This means if our partner or loved one is trying to talk sense into us and explain something, we CANNOT hear them. All we are aware of is that we must defend ourselves as if our very life depends on it. We feel under extreme attack and are ready to fight back.

How to Control Your Anger

Now that you know how your brain responds, it’s time to learn some techniques to manage your extreme anger.

Take a Breather

You know that the hotter you get, the more your brain shuts down and becomes unable to process any information. There is no sense in you continuing to talk/argue with someone. Your best course of action is to put the fire out before it begins to rage by calling a time out and taking a breather.

Exercise

The body’s “fight or flight” response releases powerful hormones that are intended to help us fight or run. Without this physical release, they can linger in the body and cause health problems. Going for a walk, run or lifting weights can be a great way to burn through these hormones and release soothing endorphins.

Seek Out Counseling

Managing extreme anger can be very challenging, especially in the beginning. A mental health professional will be able to share coping strategies and techniques to control outbursts.

If you or someone you love has anger management issues and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Somatic Experiencing for Treatment of PTSD Symptoms

Traumatic events such as war, rape, and severe accidents can lead people to suffer from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What we have recently discovered is that any event that is experienced as threatening can generate PTSD-like symptoms and negatively affect a person’s quality of life.

Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) was developed by psychologist Peter A. Levine to address the effects of trauma. Levine developed this modality after noticing that prey animals, whose lives are constantly under threat in their natural habitat, are able to recover quickly by releasing stressful energy accumulated during the event.

Human beings don’t have this same capability of processing trauma. We tend to override this natural way of regulating our nervous system and instead feel emotions like fear and shame. Somatic Experiencing helps people move past the trauma.

What is Somatic Therapy Exactly?

Somatic therapy combines psychotherapy with physical therapies to bring about the holistic – or whole-person – healing. This modality focuses on the mind-body connection and uses talk therapy along with physical therapy techniques to release pent-up tension in the body that is negatively impacting a person’s health and well-being.

Somatic therapy can be very beneficial to people who have suffered trauma or abuse, as well as people who suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, grief, and addiction. This technique can be used in individual and group settings and may prove effective when other traditional forms of treatment have not delivered results.

What to Expect from Somatic Therapy

During a session, a therapist uses talk therapy to help their client revive past memories of traumatic experiences. The client then pays attention to any physical responses. Physical therapy techniques such as deep breathing, relaxation, and meditation are used to help relieve symptoms. Other adjunctive physical techniques that may be used with this therapy include yoga, dance, exercise, or other types of movement and massage.

How to Choose a Somatic Therapist

Somatic therapy can easily be integrated into other counseling practices. You’ll want to begin by looking for a somatic therapist that is licensed and experienced in somatic therapy techniques. In addition to looking for someone with the right skills and background, it’s also important that you find someone you feel comfortable with.

Somatic experiencing is an excellent way of getting rid of what is stuck and holding you back from experiencing joy and peace in your life. If you’d like to explore this treatment approach, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy discussing how I may be able to help.


SOURCES:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201503/somatic-experiencing

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/somatic-therapy

https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-why-somatic-experiencing-works/

https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/somatic-experiencing

Recognizing the Signs of Postpartum Depression and Getting Help

The birth of a child is a wondrous and glorious thing. Until you bring that baby home and are responsible for keeping it alive on zero sleep for weeks and weeks. Add to this already trying scenario is the hormonal cocktail the new mother is living with and you understand why some new mothers don’t feel so blissful.

While it’s normal for every new mother to feel some stress and irritability in the weeks after giving birth, it is estimated that  9 to16 percent of moms, through no fault of their own, will experience postpartum depression (PPD).

What makes some women more susceptible to PPD than others? It is believed that a combination of things including hormones, genetics, predisposition, support (or lack of), and stress all create a perfect storm to experience PPD.

As if experiencing PPD isn’t hard enough, there are actually a few myths surrounding the condition that can make a new mother feel even worse. Let’s dispel those myths right now:

Myth #1: PPD starts after a woman has given birth.

PPD can actually start while a woman is still pregnant. In fact, it is believed that in 50% of moms experiencing PPD, the symptoms began during pregnancy.

Myth #2: PPD starts immediately after giving birth.

In those instances where PPD does begin after a new mother has given birth, it is not uncommon for symptoms to begin well beyond the first four weeks. This can often take the new mother by surprise.

Myth #3: PPD is the only postpartum illness a new mother may experience.

The truth is, there is an entire collection of postpartum illnesses besides PPD that a woman may experience such as postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and rarely, but sometimes experienced postpartum psychosis. These are all challenging disorders new moms experience.

Now let’s take a look at some of the common symptoms of PPD so you know what to be aware of.

  • Guilt – You feel like you should be handling the situation better. Many women feel worthless in the role of mother.
  • You Can’t be Comforted – With baby blues, mothers feel overwhelmed but can be comforted by encouraging words from their partner or loved ones. But with PPD, reassurance feels like a lie.
  • You Fantasize About Escaping – While many new moms think about wanting to just get away for a week or two to get some rest and feel human again, women with PPD fantasize about leaving and never returning because they think their families will be better off. NOTE: If you have thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek help immediately.
  • You’re Angry and Irritable – You snap at your partner, at the baby, at the dog. You no longer feel in control of your own emotions.

Not every woman will experience every symptom. But if you are experiencing any of these it’s important that you get help. PPD is very treatable, so it’s important that you recognize the signs, understand that you’re not a bad mother, and reach out for the help you need.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you during this time.

 

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Knowing When to End a Relationship

Relationships can enrich our lives, but they can also cause damage. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or significant other, any relationship comes with its share of challenges. And more often than not, putting in the effort to resolve relational issues can and does result in a healthier bond.

But there are those relationships that, no matter the amount of work and goodwill put into them, will never bring a return on your time or heart investment. These relationships are toxic, and they need to be ended in order for you to heal and move on.

3 Signs the Relationship Needs to End

There are More Negative Interactions Than Positive Ones

Every relationship has its good interactions and its not-so-good ones. But there are those relationships that seem like every interaction is tense and filled with negative emotions. When communication becomes difficult or impossible, the relationship is beyond fixing.

Vastly Different Needs

In the beginning of a new friendship or romance, it’s easy to try and compromise with one another, making certain both person’s needs are being met. Over time, some friends or couples realize their needs are too different.

For instance, in a romantic couple, someone may need more sex than the other. Someone may need to always be in control or have a need to lie. These kinds of clashing needs are a red flag for any relationship.

A Blatant Lack of Respect

Respect is essential in relationships. But sometimes there are those individuals that seem incapable of respecting the other person, their needs, their boundaries, their wishes, etc. These people tend to be on the narcissistic spectrum and are incapable of having empathy or respect for others’ needs.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of signs, but these three are some of the most common and problematic signs.

Letting Go and Moving On

Once you know it is time to end the relationship, you may find that your head and heart waffle back and forth, wondering if you are making the right decision. This is why it’s always a good idea to have someone in your corner you can rely on to give you honest feedback, sound advice, and clarity.

Sometimes you can find this champion in your network of friends and family, but other times it might be best to find a totally neutral third party. Someone you never have to wonder whether they are “just saying that” because they love and care about me.

A therapist can help you navigate your intense emotions and make the best decision for your happiness and peace of mind.

If you are currently struggling in a relationship and would like some help navigating it, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

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What is Mindful Eating?

In recent decades, mindfulness meditation has taken the West by storm. As a result, more and more people are experiencing less stress and more fulfillment in their life by “staying in the moment.” Well, mindfulness can be applied to any area of your life, including eating!

You may have heard of mindful eating before and assumed it had something to do with eating more slowly and chewing your food longer. And while these two considerations are part of the practice, they only scratch the surface.

Guidelines for Mindful Eating

You may be wondering why you should even begin to explore mindful eating. Well, the main reason is that the practice can help you to lose weight and easily maintain a healthy weight. This of course helps you to prevent the development of certain chronic diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Health benefits aside, mindful eating also puts a lot of joy in your life. Most people no longer savor their meals but instead wolf them down while mindlessly watching TV or surfing the Internet. Mindful eating reminds you to savor your food and, in reality, savor every moment of this delicious life!

If you’re interested in mindful eating, here are some guidelines to help get you started:

  • Refrain from eating because “it’s time” or because you are feeling intense emotions. Instead, become aware of hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions on when to eat.
  • Be mindful when creating a shopping list, choosing those items that have real health value.
  • Start with a small portion, you can always have second helpings if needed. But you may be surprised how often those second helpings aren’t needed when you eat slowly.
  • Enjoy each bite of your food. Taste all the flavors and feel the different textures of your food. Eating this way not only adds joy and sensuality to your life, but it helps you to eat more slowly so you don’t overeat.

Mindful eating makes dieting a thing of the past and empowers people to make better food choices through common sense and enjoying the experience of eating. I encourage you to give mindful eating a try and see if it can’t benefit your health and overall well-being.

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Body-Positive Weight Management

Body positivity is a movement started by the idea that all human beings, regardless of their size, should feel good about themselves. Body positive advocates encourage others to celebrate their bodies and accept themselves the way they are, instead of trying to squeeze themselves into a physical mold that society has deemed “attractive.”

But is it possible to be body positive and still manage your weight? The two concepts appear, at first glance, to be contradictory. 

I am of the belief, and I share this belief with many others, that it is completely possible to have a body-positive mindset and still be cognizant of your weight. The key is understanding the impetus behind your desire to manage your weight.

Healthy Reasoning Behind Weight Loss and Management

Do you want to lose weight so that you look like a fashion model – a body that has been deemed “attractive” by society? Or are you wishing to lose weight because, if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t feel great? You don’t have a lot of energy, your joints ache, and your hormones are out of balance, causing a variety of unpleasant symptoms.

It is great to love yourself however you look. But it is equally important to ensure that you are as healthy as you possibly can be. At a certain point, excess weight can and often does cause health issues.

When it comes to being body positive and managing weight, there is one major rule of thumb I recommend you follow:

Focus on Health

It’s a good idea to focus your energy on healthy behaviors. Mental health and physical health are both important to our overall well-being. So love yourself fully by making choices that are healthy for you.

Try eating intuitively and mindfully. Make sure to get enough sleep. Go for walks with friends. Make choices that make you feel good. When you do this, you will love yourself, truly and totally.

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Infertility’s Impact on Women’s Mental Health

Infertility is a condition that refers to an inability to become pregnant or to take a baby to term after one year of trying. This is a heartbreaking reality for many women across the globe. In fact, it is estimated that in the United States alone, roughly 6 million women suffer from infertility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What Causes Infertility?

Infertility can be caused by a variety of health issues. The most common is Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is a hormonal disorder that negatively impacts ovulation.

Other disorders that cause infertility in women are:

  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Uterus deformities or abnormalities

And finally, one of the primary reasons for infertility is a woman’s age. Nearly one-third of all women over the age of 35 experience fertility issues. 

Infertility and a Woman’s Mental Health

Infertility is a very stressful issue to deal with and it can greatly impact a woman’s mental health. Research published by the North Carolina Medical Journal found that common mental health concerns of fertility patients are symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Patients frequently report that each month’s cycle becomes a tumultuous storm of emotions ranging from anger, sadness, fear, and guilt. And the more demanding and intrusive the fertility treatment protocols become, the greater the emotions felt.

Much focus is given to the physical aspects of not being able to conceive. But it is important for women to recognize that their mental health may be impacted and to get help.

If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety or depression because of infertility issues, please feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to discuss treatment options with you.

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The Importance of Independence in a Relationship

When we first fall in love with that special someone, we want to spend all of our time together. In fact, we seem to feel better when we are with our significant other.

This is the infatuation stage, and admittedly, it feels really good. But enduring relationships move past this stage and into a place of mutual respect and care. This will require each partner to give the other space to be their own individuals.

Why Individuality and Independence are Important in Relationships

First, what does it really mean to be an independent individual? It means you know how to be your own person, whether you are single or in a relationship. It means while you make the effort to make your partner happy, you also ensure that you continue to do the things you enjoy that bring you happiness.

The following are just some of the reasons why there should always be independence in a relationship:

No One Likes Clingy

When you lack independence and don’t have a solid sense of yourself, you can come across as “clingy” or needy. If you want to be around your partner 24/7 and they are wanting space, your neediness can drain their energy.

Mutual Growth

When the two of you stay independent, you give each other the opportunity to grow as individuals, which then can lead to growth as a couple. 

Mutual Support

Independent people are strong people, and strong people can be counted on when it matters most. When you are both strong individuals, you can lend that support when the other needs it.

Need Help Getting Your Independent Spirit Back?

Most of us demanded our independence when we were in our teens and early 20s. But life happens, and we can often lose that independent spirit and lose our own identities. If you need some help reconnecting with yourself so that you may one day enjoy a beneficial partnership, please get in touch with me. I’m more than happy to discuss how therapy can help.

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