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Licensed Psychologist

"Shelter In" for COVID-19 Does Not Mean Sit Around

Link to an article written by Ashley Anderson, PsyD, CEDS In the wake of COVID-19, we have come to find our actions restricted slightly. It is possible that you live in one of the many states that have implemented some form of a “shelter in” plan, where public activities are limited to necessities and other essentials. While it may be easy to focus on what we cannot do, I encourage you to focus on things within your control and what you can do. Our routines have changed, temporarily. So it is important to create a new structure or routine, filled with various activities. Create a schedule, where each day has at least one different activity for the day. Work, school work, meals, social time, family time, individual time, creative/artistic time, relaxation time, and movement can all be worked into your weekly schedule. Blocking time for each of these helps reduce the likelihood that you will tire or get bored of an activity. Read the full article here...

The Power of Girlfriends

In an evening class at Stanford University the last lecture was on the mind-body connection - the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman; whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first, everyone laughed, but he was serious. Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality "girlfriend time" helps us to create more serotonin - a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. We share from our souls with our sisters, friends, and evidently that is VERY GOOD for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. There's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies; but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged. Not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very, very blessed! So let's toast to our friendship with our girlfriends (inc. grandmas, sisters, mothers, nieces, cousins, aunties...). Evidently it's very good for our health. Forward this to your girlfriends to stay in touch, just like I just did! Thanks to all the women in my life who have helped me stay healthy, and feeling very loved.

Couples Covid Resilience

These are trying times. Our lives have been upended. We’ve been mandated to stay at home and work from home; our social outings have been drastically reduced, as have our social interactions with others. We’re faced with 24/7 interaction with our partners. The result is a unique form of cabin fever, which when combined with the stressors of an invisible enemy), (covid 19) creates profound uncertainty (When will this end? How? Will it return? Will I or my loved ones get sick?), major changes to our routines, and economic concerns, and becomes a stressful burden on even the happiest couples. These are times that call for our best—but how can we be our best when the natural human response is an uptick in anxiety and/or depression levels? Most of us have “COVID-brain”: It’s hard to think clearly when we are so worried and scared or feeling like molasses from our blueness. There’s just too much going on! We’re living in unprecedented times, locked out from the outside world and somewhat locked out of ourselves; we are unable to digest and reflect. This lessening of our cognitive function can impact our ability to ride the choppy waves in our couple relationship. Cindy Baum Baicker PhD,a clinical psychologist, interviewed senior psychoanalysts and described 5 factors which can be guide posts for couples during this stressful period. Pragmatism: Now is not the time for minor irritations. Let things go.  If you have had some alcohol and are annoyed or angry at your partner, let it go and if you’re still angry the next day, bring it up for discussion. We’re myopic when we drink, and nothing good can come from conflict resolution when we’re in an altered state. Think existentially: Who do we want to be when all of this is over? What will it have meant for us? Balanced Paradox: We’re separate, and we’re attached. Allow for each of these realities in your relationship. Make space to spend time together and apart, even though you’re living in the same space. Cognitive-Affective Differentiation: Allow for difference! A couple’s resilience during this time will depend on the state of the two people who are in the relationship. Stress affects each one of us differently and we each cope differently. Affect Optimization: The act of naming your emotions has been found to benefit wellbeing. Let yourself experience the range of all that you’re feeling and share it with your partner. That said, wise relators allow for “emotional blend,” but have also learned to lean towards or focus on their positive emotions. These are difficult times and also times to deeply feel one’s gratitude for what one has, and perhaps even for who one is. Emotional Generosity: Kindness, patience, humility, and deep regard for the other are all aspects of emotional generosity that you can bring to your relationship. Find that olive branch if there’s a disagreement, and extend it. When asked what they thought was required for a good long-term relationship, these wise elder clinicians said one word more than any other: tolerance. During the COVID-19 crisis, when we can all get underneath each other’s skins a bit too often, remember that word. Tolerance. And while you’re at it, remember why you fell in love with that person in the next room or in the room with you, and reconnect with those feelings.

Helpful Thinking During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

From the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs: During the COVID-19 outbreak, you might have concerns about safety, feeling unable to cope, helplessness, guilt and anger. While it is understandable to feel this way, focusing on such negative feelings can make coping even more difficult. You may find it useful to become more aware of unhelpful thoughts and consider focusing on more helpful thoughts. Use the table at this link to identify thoughts you might be having now, and helpful thoughts you can try instead. Then, it's important to practice using more helpful thoughts as often as you can.

Advice During Coronavirus

As the coronavirus robs us of the life we cherish, a renowned therapist, Esther Perel has some advice. Anxiety, dread, depression — these are just some of the emotions that hit us as we shelter in place and as death tolls rise. The irony of the moment, is that in a time of unimaginable death we can be reminded how to live. Social distance doesn’t preclude our coming together. Ms. Perel counsels us to create moments of connection - whether by volunteering, picking up the phone or sharing a story that made you laugh. It is important, she says, to keep living - particularly in moments of grief.

Anxiety, Depression and COVID-19: Now's the Time to Feel Our Feelings - Here's 8 Ways How To

We are in an anxious time. We are worried. Fearful. And ill at ease. Things are changing. Our schedules and routines. The ways we engage with others. And things are staying the same. The exact same. Day after day. Without going to work and having social calendars to adhere to, we’ve all found ourselves with more time in the day. More time to relax. To think. To stand still. And stillness is exactly what we need. Stillness in our communities. In our households. In ourselves. For being still is when we learn the most. When we connect the most. To others and to ourselves. It’s when we’re still that we feel our feelings. When our feelings surface the most. Perhaps why some of us stay so busy. For it’s easy to avoid your feelings when you don’t have a free moment. When you don’t take the time to do nothing. And now that is exactly what we must do. We are being called upon to stop what we are doing and to listen. Listen to what our bosses tell us. To what our community tells us. To what our doctors tell us. To what the government tells us. So why not use this time to listen to what we tell ourselves. The truths and the lies. The things that we’ve refused to see. Now is the time to address our mental health. To address our feelings. To admit them to ourselves. To acknowledge them. Sometimes all a feeling needs is to be acknowledged in order to be released. For those who don’t like to address their feelings, I realize it can be uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels easier to hide our feelings. Even to ourselves. Tricking ourselves into thinking we’re okay. When we’re not. I know what it’s like to keep your feelings hidden. I used to be a master at hiding mine. But I’ve learned that it did much more harm than good. And that identifying my feelings and talking about them is part of what helped me understand them. To acknowledge them and to let them go. Be sure to take this time to talk to yourself. Yes, I said talk to yourself. Through journaling. Or heck, out loud. Why not. I do it all the time. Notice how you feel with each thing that you do. Take time to reflect on the day. On the week. On each interaction you have and how it makes you feel. What a TV show or a book brings to the surface for you. A conversation with a loved one. A correspondence with a coworker. And why. Why certain things make you angry, anxious or sad. What makes you feel good and brings you joy. We don’t always have the time to address our feelings. But we’ve been given time. Possibly for the first time. It’s a gift. So it’s only wise to use this time to connect back to ourselves. To what’s happening within us. To our feelings. Here are some steps to take to helping you feel your feelings:
  1. Spend time in silence. Even if you only take 10 minutes a day, spend time alone in silence. Silence yourself and the things around you. And let your mind relax. Daydream. Unwind. Observe your body. Your feelings. And pay attention to what messages you are receiving.
  2. Observe your experiences. Since everything has slowed down, we can take the time to be more present in what we do. To observe the world around us. To notice others. And to notice what feelings come up in ourselves when we interact with others.
  3. Pay close attention to the things you say to yourself. Are you telling yourself you’re anxious? Depressed? Angry? For whatever feelings come up, instead of feeding into them, stop and listen to them. Observe them. Identify why you are feeling the way you are and what you can do to make it better.
  4. Do non-screen activities. Read an actual book or magazine. Color (yes adults, you too). Put together a puzzle. There are so many things that bring us joy that we too often neglect to do because so much of our time is spent staring at screens. Start by committing to one non-screen activity a week. If you don’t enjoy it, stop. If you love it, do it again soon. Tangibly connecting to things helps us feel our feelings too.
  5. Be playful and move your body. When we’re playful, we allow ourselves to be free, which allows our feelings to surface. Movement unlocks feelings stored deep within our body’s tissues. Doing both every day helps us explore our feelings.
  6. Journal your feelings every day. It can be as simple as adding a note to your phone with inconsistent thoughts and incomplete sentences. But be sure to record what comes up for you each day. In order to help you explore all the things you feel. Read here for tips on journaling to improve mental health.
  7. Talk to a loved one or to a therapist. Hopefully you have someone you can trust to share your feelings with, but if not, find someone you can. While starting with a new therapist may not be possible right now, talking to one still is. For example, Psych Central has an Ask the Therapist page where you can ask therapists questions and see previously asked and answered questions. You could also join an online support group.
  8. Find a teacher. I realize we can’t literally go out and find teachers right now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have access to them. After you determine the feelings you’re having, and maybe even why you’re having them, conduct research. Find doctors, therapists and experts who have written and spoken about what is ailing you. Also keep in mind, anything can teach you what you need to learn. All you need to do is to observe, to listen and to acknowledge how you feel.
Remember to find the stillness in yourself: to connect to and to acknowledge your feelings and to heal the parts of yourself that need to be healed. I hope you are all safe and well. For those who are sick or who know someone who is suffering, may you feel better very soon.

Coronavirus - Keeping Your Smartphone Clean

We are all trying to take special precautions in light of the present pandemic. How many of you have given any thought to your mobile devices? Our phones are covered with bacteria and other germs. A study by the Journal of Hospital Infection found that strains of Coronavirus have the potential to remain on metal, glass and plastic surfaces for 2 hours to 9 days. According to the World Health Organization, the virus is unable to survive for long periods of time on packages or letters. Because our smartphones are potentially contaminated, I thought this article would be of interest to everyone.

10 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself This Winter

Winter can be a difficult time.  Here are some ways that you can care for yourself:

Self-care is always important

Self-care includes all the things we do to maintain or improve our wellbeing. We all know how important basic self-care activities such as adequate sleep, exercise, healthy eating, hobbies, and spending time with friends are. And we know that when we don’t prioritize self-care, we feel lousy. Our health suffers. We get sick. We’re irritable, lonely, sluggish, and unfulfilled.

Self-care for the winter

As the seasons change, we often need to change our self-care routines to accommodate the weather, amount of daylight, our schedule, and so forth. The winter months can be particularly tough on us both physically and mentally. We’re more prone to colds and flu. some of us suffer from seasonal depression (the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) because of the lack of sunlight. And it’s hard to get out and be active. So, we need some self-care activities to meet the specific needs we have in the darker, colder months. Below, you’ll find 10 of my favorite self-care activities that are well-suited to winter.

1. Write in a Journal

It’s the beginning of a new year and a perfect time to start writing in a journal. Journaling is great for your mental health. It provides a place to dump your feelings, process and reflect, and clear your head. Even if you’ve already got a journal, you may want to consider starting a new one. I hear from many avid journalers that there’s something uplifting about the fresh, clean-start feeling of a new journal.

2. Enjoy Nature’s Beauty

Yes, winter can be cold and dreary. But it can also be beautiful – fresh snow on the trees, icicles hanging from the roof, red cardinals at your birdfeeder, a full moon. When we’re mindful and take the time to look, there’s a lot to take pleasure in.

3. Go to Therapy

Have you been thinking about starting therapy? It can be daunting to find a therapist you feel comfortable with, get yourself there consistently, and pay for it – but most people find the results are well worth the effort. And since we’re already inside so much during the winter, it seems like a good time to start or resume therapy. And if the weather or transportation are significant barriers, there are more and more options for online therapy, as well.

4. Get More (Sun)Light

Exposure to light (sunlight or artificial light) improves your mood and energy. So, if you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter, you’ll probably feel better if you spend an extra 20-30 minutes outside when it’s sunny. Even opening the curtains and turning on the lights in your office or home can help.

5. Relax and Get Cozy

On a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing better than staying home in your pajamas, cuddling up with a good book (or your significant other or your cat!), sitting in front of a fire, or binge-watching your favorite show. Occasionally, give yourself permission to stay home and just relax.

6. Connect with Friends

We all need to socialize, connect with others, and feel like we belong. And yet, spending quality time with friends or your spouse may end up at the bottom of your to-do list. How about meeting this self-care need by planning a game night, potluck dinner, or hosting a party to watch the Oscars with your friends? Not only is spending time with friends good for our mood, doing so may encourage us to relax, laugh, do something active, or try something new. And again, if it’s hard to get out and do things in person, have a virtual coffee date on FaceTime or Skype, or schedule a time for an old-fashioned phone call.

7. Enjoy a Hot Drink

A hot drink on a cold day is so comforting – a true simple pleasure. I’m a big coffee drinker, but I can easily overdo it. So, I try to mix things up with a collection of herbal teas and homemade sugar-free hot cocoa (just warm milk and a little cocoa powder and your favorite sweetener).  Maximize this self-care practice by slowing down. Instead of gulping it down in the car, take a few minutes to sit and relax and savor your drink. This is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to pamper yourself.

8. Get a Flu Shot

Getting a flu shot isn’t necessarily enjoyable, but that’s true of a lot of self-care. It’s something you do for your health. And it’s not too late in the season to get one. So, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about whether a flu shot is a good choice for you.

9. Exercise

Many of us need to change our exercise routine or physical activities to accommodate winter weather. If you don’t have a regular exercise plan for the winter months, consider adding some winter sports (skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, winter hiking) to your routine. Alternatively, there are lots of indoor exercise options such as yoga or dance classes, exercise equipment at a gym or home, or using exercise videos on YouTube or television. Don’t let winter weather be an excuse – you know you’ll feel better if you get a little movement into every day.

10. Encourage Your Creative Side

If you’re stuck inside, tap into your creativity. Did you know that arts and crafts are good for your mental health? Benefits such as reduced stress, depression, and anxiety, a sense of accomplishment, increased confidence and self-esteem have been reported. Crafts are nice because they can be done alone or in a group. And there’s something for everyone – everything from painting, scrapbooking, knitting, quilting, woodworking, jewelry making, and more. Pull out an old favorite or try something new this winter!

Put self-care on your calendar

Now that you’ve got a few ideas for your winter self-care, it’s time to put it on your calendar. Self-care (like most things) is much more likely to happen if you create a plan for when and what you will do to take care of yourself. Where will you begin? Perhaps, just add one new self-care activity to your schedule this week.

Natural Disasters

Hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas and is anticipated to move up the east coast of the U.S. Some of you may be directly affected. Others may be reminded of past traumatic experience in natural disasters. Feelings of fear and powerlessness or overwhelming worry of being trapped may well be elicited.Even though you may not personally experience physical injury, it is not uncommon to have strong emotional reactions. Understanding your responses to these disturbing events can help you cope with your feelings, and thoughts and help you along the path to recovery. The American Psychological Association has described common reactions and responses to disaster. Initially people may feel stunned and disoriented. Once these initial reactions subside, it is common to feel anxious and overwhelmed or more moody than usual. You may experience vivid, repeated memories of the event. They can occur for no apparent reason and may lead to physiological reactions such as rapid heartbeat or sweating. You may have difficulty concentrating or making decisions. You may find yourself more irritable or become more withdrawn than usual. Your sleep and eating patterns may also be disrupted or you may find yourself oversensitive to loud sounds smells or other environmental sensations which may serve as triggers. Fortunately, research shows that most people are resilient over time. Talking with friends and family about the event can reduce stress and help you feel less alone. Do not repeatedly watch or read news about the event. Get plenty of rest and exercise and eat properly. Make time for activities that you enjoy: read a good book, take a walk, or go to the movies. Do something positive. Helping others can give you a sense of purpose in a situation that feels out of control. Do not turn to drugs or alcohol. In the long run, they only create additional problems. If your feelings do not go away or continue to interfere with your daily functioning, join a support group or seek help from a licensed mental health professional. Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.

Resources:

  • Mental Health America, 2019, Kevin Rowell, PhD, and Rebecca Thomley, PsyD
  • Bonanno, G. A., Galea, S., Bucciarelli, A., & Vlahov, D. (2007). What predicts psychological resilience after disaster? The role of demographics, resources, and life stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75 (5), 671. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.5.671
  • Bonanno, G. A., Papa, A., & O'Neill, K. (2001). Loss and human resilience. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 10(3), 193-206. doi: 10.1016/S0962-1849(01)80014-7
  • Butler, L. D., Koopman, C., Azarow, J., Blasey, C. M., Magdalene, J. C., DiMiceli, S., ... & Spiegel, D. (2009). Psychosocial predictors of resilience after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197 (4), 266-273. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31819d9334
  • Silver, R. C., Holman, E. A., McIntosh, D. N., Poulin, M., & Gil-Rivas, V. (2002). Nationwide longitudinal study of psychological responses to September 11. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 288 (10), 1235-1244. doi: 10.1001/jama.288.10.1235
  • Bonanno, G. A., Galea, S., Bucciarelli, A., & Vlahov, D. (2007). What predicts psychological resilience after disaster? The role of demographics, resources, and life stress. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 75 (5), 671. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.5.671
  • Bonanno, G. A., Papa, A., & O'Neill, K. (2001). Loss and human resilience. Applied and Preventive Psychology, 10(3), 193-206. doi: 10.1016/S0962-1849(01)80014-7
  • Butler, L. D., Koopman, C., Azarow, J., Blasey, C. M., Magdalene, J. C., DiMiceli, S., ... & Spiegel, D. (2009). Psychosocial predictors of resilience after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197 (4), 266-273. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31819d9334
  • Silver, R. C., Holman, E. A., McIntosh, D. N., Poulin, M., & Gil-Rivas, V. (2002). Nationwide longitudinal study of psychological responses to September 11. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 288 (10), 1235-1244. doi: 10.1001/jama.288.10.1235

Perfectionism

“Your slip is showing.” With these words a client of mine gleefully entered my office. While I was not particularly concerned, my fashion mishap had clearly made her day. What was going on? I certainly do not see myself as a perfectionist but compared to her somewhat disorganized life style I must have given that impression. Wikipedia defines perfectionism as a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding the evaluations of others. A perfectionist refuses to accept any standard short of perfection. For most people, this is an impossible goal. We all know people who always look put together or have the most immaculate desks, cars or homes. At first glance, we may envy or admire them. Certainly, it is good to have high standards, and they can lead to accomplishments, but pursuing excellence doesn’t require perfection. In fact, living by excessively high standards may not be worth the cost of maintaining them. To quote Maria Shriver “Perfectionism doesn’t make you feel perfect, it makes you feel inadequate.” Excessively demanding standards, or striving for flawlessness can actually hold you back and result in procrastination, low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.People who fixate on what they messed up instead of what they have accomplished are no fun to work with or be around. They are self-critical, never satisfied; there is always more to be done and no room for mistakes.They create unnecessary stress for themselves and those around them. For them, life becomes an endless report card. If you recognize yourselves in the above descriptions, try allowing yourself to make mistakes. Begin to give up the self-abuse of those unrealistically high standards and expectations of perfection for yourself and others. Create realistic goals and challenge your inner critic. Focus on self-care. You may be surprised at the relief and self-acceptance that you will feel as you release this self-imposed psychological burden. You may even like yourself better.
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