Licensed Psychologist

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.

Statement of APA President in Response to Mass Shootings in Texas, Ohio

WASHINGTON - Following is the statement of APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD, on the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio: "Our condolences are with the families and friends of those killed or injured in these horrific shootings and with all Americans affected every day by the twin horrors of hate and gun violence. “As our nation tries to process the unthinkable yet again, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic. Psychological science has demonstrated that social contagion — the spread of thoughts, emotions and behaviors from person to person and among larger groups — is real, and may well be a factor, at least in the El Paso shooting. “That shooting is being investigated as a hate crime, as it should be. Psychological science has demonstrated the damage that racism can inflict on its targets. Racism has been shown to have negative cognitive and behavioral effects on both children and adults and to increase anxiety, depression, self-defeating thoughts and avoidance behaviors. “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster. “If we want to address the gun violence that is tearing our country apart, we must keep our focus on finding evidence-based solutions. This includes restricting access to guns for people who are at risk for violence and working with psychologists and other experts to find solutions to the intolerance that is infecting our nation and the public dialogue.” For people who are suffering distress in the aftermath of the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, APA offers a variety of resources, including:

Boundaries

"Good fences make good neighbors." This famous quote by Robert Frost simple refers to the need for healthy boundaries in all relationships.  Boundaries are a separation indicating where you end and where someone else begins.  They reflect how you want to be treated in your relationships and they need to be vocalized. Is it OK to open your partner's mail?  Or go to his/her wallet?  Or read his/her e mail?  Your answer to these questions may be based upon the way that these situations were handled in the family that you grew up in.  For some of us such behaviors were commonplace, while for others of you they are taboo.  In fact, all of them are boundary violations. If you were used to not having your boundaries respected as a child, you may be more likely to ignore or put up with them with them as an adult. Setting boundaries is really an expression of valuing yourself and your needs.  Boundaries are an essential part of any healthy relationship.  When they exist, safe trusting relationships can be created.  In their absence there can be hurt and feeling of violation. It is important that they be stated clearly.  For example. One partner may say, "I need to get to sleep early so that I can get up early tomorrow morning."Or, "If you want to be with me, this is how I want to be treated or spoken to."Some people may view making this kind of statement as selfish.  They may worry that they will be rejected or abandoned if they do so. They may assume that their partner automatically knows their wants and needs.  Or they may expect others to feel the same way that they do. In fact, none of these are true. Healthy boundaries involve speaking up when we feel ignored and advocating for ourselves.  For example, "I feel disrespected when my privacy is ignored." Or, "I am not ok with you speaking to me in a condescending manner or being verbally abusive." Setting of boundaries is a constantly evolving process.  They must be stated and maintained.  When they are stated but blurred or ignored, a partner may feel less important,used or manipulated. Clear communication allows them to be understood.  When that is not the case, you may erroneously assume that the other person is not trying. Boundary statements need not be delivered harshly so that they are perceived as criticism. They can be stated simply. For example, "I need time twice a week to practice my music."  Or, "I want to have some quality time with you every evening."  Or, "I need to spend time with my children twice month. Or, "I want to have some of my own money." Some boundaries may be deal breakers.  For example, cheating is a boundary violation.  As people find a way to respect each other’s needs, they are setting themselves up for a more successful relationship or friendship.

Am I Too Fat?

We constantly receive messages from family, friends and even physicians implying that there is a correlation between weight and well -being. You will be happy, healthy, and successful if you are skinny. You must lose weight in order to live a good life. If you do not fit this mold, you may feel shame or be stigmatized. Unfortunately, this approach has not been successful. Most people who diet gain the weight back. People resort to sneak eating and are unable to enjoy the foods that they love. They may under-eat or over exercise. Periods of food deprivation only result in the body raising the set point and becoming heavier over time. Weight cycling has been shown to lead to poorer health. BMI has often been used as to assess a person’s health status. However, it has been found that people who fall into the obese category according to their BMI are often physically fit than those who are slimmer. Surprisingly, they have actually been shown to have half the mortality of people who are thin and more sedentary. A much better approach is to focus on wellness, encouraging people of all sizes to respect and take care of themselves. Physical activity could be encouraged for pleasure as well as for health benefits. Eating would be in response to hunger and satiety cues rather than a diet plan. Foods would not be labeled as “good or bad”. This approach would respect people of all sizes. They would not be judged based on their body size but instead encouraged to take care of their physical and emotional needs.

35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget

Originally posted at www.becomingminimalist.com/35-gifts-your-children-will-never-forget Own less. Live more. Finding minimalism in a world of consumerism. “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” – Kahlil Gibran I have countless holiday memories. Most of them center around faith, family, and traditions. Very few childhood memories actually include the gifts I received. I distinctly remember the year that I got a blue dirt bike, the evening my brother and I received a Nintendo, and opening socks every year from my grandparents. But other than that, my gift-receiving memories are pretty sparse. Which got me thinking… what type of gifts can we give to our children that they will never forget? What gifts will truly impact their lives and change them forever? To that end, here is an alphabetical list of 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget.
  1. Affirmation. Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. So make sure your children know how much you appreciate them. And then, remind them every chance you get.
  2. Art. With the advent of the Internet, everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to…
  3. Challenge. Encourage your child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.
  4. Compassion/Justice. Life isn’t fair. It never will be – there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, I want my child to be active in helping to level it.
  5. Contentment. The need for more is contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is an appreciation for being content with what they have… but not with who they are.
  6. Curiosity. Teach your children to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that should never leave a parents’ mouth.
  7. Determination. One of the greatest determining factors in one’s success is the size of their will. How can you help grow your child’s today?
  8. Discipline. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. Instead, it should be consistent and positive.
  9. Encouragement. Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that you choose to speak today can offer encouragement and positive thoughts to another child. Or your words can send them further into despair. So choose them carefully.
  10. Faithfulness to your Spouse. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. Guard your sexuality daily and devote it entirely to your spouse. Your children will absolutely take notice.
  11. Finding Beauty. Help your children find beauty in everything they see… and in everyone they meet.
  12. Generosity. Teach your children to be generous with your stuff so that they will become generous with theirs.
  13. Honesty/Integrity. Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.
  14. Hope. Hope is knowing and believing that things will get better and improve. It creates strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.
  15. Hugs and Kisses. I once heard the story of a man who told his 7-year old son that he had grown too old for kisses. I tear up every time I think of it. Know that your children are never too old to receive physical affirmation of your love for them.
  16. Imagination. If we’ve learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world tomorrow looks nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.
  17. Intentionality. I believe strongly in intentional living and intentional parenting. Slow down, consider who you are, where you are going, and how to get there. And do the same for each of your children.
  18. Your Lap. It’s the best place in the entire world for a book, story, or conversation. And it’s been right in front of you the whole time.
  19. Lifelong Learning. A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home. So read, ask questions, analyze, and expose. In other words, learn to love learning yourself.
  20. Love. …but the greatest of these is love.
  21. Meals Together. Meals provide unparalleled opportunity for relationship, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. So much so, that a family that does not eat together does not grow together.
  22. Nature. Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them. As a parent, I am frequently asking my kids to keep their rooms inside the house neat, clean, and orderly. Shouldn’t we also be teaching them to keep their world outside neat, clean, and orderly?
  23. Opportunity. Kids need opportunities to experience new things so they can find out what they enjoy and what they are good at. And contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t have to require much money.
  24. Optimism. Pessimists don’t change the world. Optimists do.
  25. Peace. On a worldwide scale, you may think this is out of our hands. But in relation to the people around you, this is completely within your hands… and that’s a darn good place to start.
  26. Pride. Celebrate the little things in life. After all, it is the little accomplishments in life that become the big accomplishments.
  27. Room to Make mistakes. Kids are kids. That’s what makes them so much fun… and so desperately in need of your patience. Give them room to experiment, explore, and make mistakes.
  28. Self-Esteem. People who learn to value themselves are more likely to have self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. As a result, they are more likely to become adults who respect their values and stick to them… even when no one else is.
  29. Sense of Humor. Laugh with your children everyday… for your sake and theirs.
  30. Spirituality. Faith elevates our view of the universe, our world, and our lives. We would be wise to instill into our kids that they are more than just flesh and blood taking up space. They are also made of mind, heart, soul, and will. And decisions in their life should be based on more than just what everyone else with flesh and blood is doing.
  31. Stability. A stable home becomes the foundation on which children build the rest of their lives. They need to know their place in the family, who they can trust, and who is going to be there for them. Don’t keep changing those things.
  32. Time. The gift of time is the one gift you can never get back or take back. So think carefully about who (or what) is getting yours.
  33. Undivided Attention. Maybe this imagery will be helpful: Disconnect to Connect.
  34. Uniqueness. What makes us different is what makes us special. Uniqueness should not be hidden. It should be proudly displayed for all the world to see, appreciate, and enjoy.
  35. A Welcoming Home. To know that you can always come home is among the sweetest and most life-giving assurances in all the world. Is your home breathing life into your child?
Of course, none of these gifts are on sale at your local department store. But, I think that’s the point.

Statement Of APA President In Response to Texas Church Shootings

Calling it a 'mental health problem' distracts from finding real solutions to gun violence, Putente says WASHINGTON – Following is the statement of APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD, in response to the shootings at a Texas church that left at least 26 people dead and 20 others wounded, and President Trump’s assertion that the attack was a “mental health problem”: “The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent. A complex combination of risk factors, including a history of domestic violence, violent misdemeanor crimes and substance use disorders, increases the likelihood of people using a firearm against themselves or others. “Firearm prohibitions for these high-risk groups have been shown to reduce gun violence. The suspect in this case, Devin Patrick Kelley, exhibited several of these red flags. “Gun violence is a serious public health problem that requires attention to these risk factors, as well as more research to inform the development and implementation of empirically based prevention and threat assessment strategies. Calling this shooting a ‘mental health problem’ distracts our nation’s leaders from developing policies and legislation that would focus on preventing gun violence through a scientific, public health approach.”

Obesity and Cancer

Obesity and inactivity could someday account for more cancer deaths than smoking if current trends continue, a leading cancer expert says.  As the rate of smoking decreases, other unhealthy habits threaten to offset the progress in reducing cancer deaths, says Richard Wender, a physician and chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society (ACS). A study in the New England Journal of Medicine last fall found 13 types of cancer were linked to excess body weight.  There's no guarantee that obesity and inactivity will surpass smoking as a cancer cause, Wender says, but the possibility is startling. "Who would’ve thought we’d ever see the day where what you eat (and) exercise, could account for more cancer deaths than smoking?” he asks.  The connections between smoking and too much exposure to the sun and cancer are well known, but the connections between nutrition and exercise and cancer are less known and harder to determine. Calculating cancer's link to obesity is difficult in part because of an overlap in cancer risk factors, says ACS' Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of ACS' surveillance information services.   Siegel comments that 20% of cancers are caused by poor diet, alcohol consumption, a lack of physical activity and/or excess weight.  However, that 20% cannot be combined with the 30% of cancer deaths caused by cigarette smoking since poor people are more likely to be obese and to smoke than those who are more affluent people.  A striking 50% of all cancer deaths could be prevented by following the basics of a healthy lifestyle, says Wender. That includes diet and exercise and having regular cancer screenings and getting the HPV vaccine that helps prevent cervical cancer and likely oral cancer and for Hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cancer.

The Changing Reasons Why Women Cheat on Their Husbands

A link to an article on CNN.com. One of the more interesting facts in Esther Perel's new book, State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, comes near the beginning. Since 1990, notes the psychoanalyst and writer, the rate of married women who report they've been unfaithful has increased by 40 percent, while the rate among men has remained the same. More women than ever are cheating, she tells us, or are willing to admit that they are cheating -- and while Perel spends much of her book examining the psychological meaning, motivation, and impact of these affairs, she offers little insight into the significance of the rise itself. Read the full article...
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