I am offering appointments using telehealth video-conferencing during the current pandemic.
Licensed Psychologist

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.

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.

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.

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:

How Do I Know If I Need Therapy?

Originally Published by the American Psychological Association Most of us face struggles at some point in our lives. These struggles may include stress at work, difficulty with a romantic partner, or problems with a family member. Alternatively, struggles may include emotional symptoms such as depression or anxiety, behavioral problems such as having difficulty throwing useless items away or drinking alcohol too often, and cognitive symptoms such as repetitive upsetting thoughts or uncontrolled worry. Sometimes, life's struggles can be eased by taking better care of yourself and perhaps talking about the issues with a supportive friend or family member. But there may be times when these steps don't resolve the issue. When this happens, it makes sense to consider seeking the help of a qualified licensed psychologist. How do you know if therapy is needed? Two general guidelines can be helpful when considering whether you or someone you love could benefit from therapy. First, is the problem distressing? And second, is it interfering with some aspect of life? When thinking about distress, here are some issues to consider:
  • Do you or someone close to you spend some amount of time every week thinking about the problem?
  • Is the problem embarrassing, to the point that you want to hide from others?
  • Over the past few months, has the problem reduced your quality of life?
When thinking about interference, some other issues may deserve consideration:
  • Does the problem take up considerable time (e.g., more than an hour per day)?
  • Have you curtailed your work or educational ambitions because of the problem?
  • Are you re-arranging your lifestyle to accommodate the problem?
A ‘yes’ response to any of these questions suggests that you might wish to consider seeking professional help. Remember that sometimes a problem might be less upsetting to you than it is to the people around you. This does not automatically mean that you are in the know and your friends or family are over-reacting to you. Rather, this situation suggests that you may wish to think about why the people who care about you are upset. Clearly, the decision to enter into therapy is a very personal one. Numerous advances have been made in the treatment of psychological disorders in the past decade and many therapies have been shown scientifically to be helpful. As you think about whether therapy might be helpful to you, remember that many psychological problems have been shown to be treatable using short-term therapy approaches. Learning more about different approaches to therapy might also help you to discern if one of them sounds like a good fit with your personality and approach to life. Given the range of therapeutic options that are available, you don‘t need to continue to struggle with a problem that is upsetting and/or getting in the way of other parts of your life. Help is available.

Sorry I Worried You

A funny thing happened after I posted "Bad News." When I wrote this blog, my intention was to increase your awareness of the fragility of life. I wanted to remind you to treasure each day and live life to its fullest. After this posting, I began to receive emails and phone calls asking about my health. I was really surprised and puzzled. Why were they worried about me? As the only child of a very anxious, overprotective mother, I learned at an early age to carefully minimize and understate any problems or concerns that I might have. Never would I write in a way that I thought would create anxiety or upset others. Yet, totally unaware of the impact that this blog might have on some of you, create worry is exactly what I did do. The reactions of those who expressed concern about me reminded me of my mother who projected her own feeling of inadequacy on to me. My mother immigrated to this country as a young teenager. A foreigner, unable to speak English, she had many reasons to feel vulnerable and insecure. She was close to forty years of age when I was born, healthy, but weighing only 5 pounds. Mom felt guilty and was ashamed by my low birth weight which she saw as another personal failure. As I grew up, my mother's anxiety and overprotective behavior was troubling. As a child trying to develop my own sense of confidence and competence, I perceived Mother's fears and doubts as a lack of confidence in me. I must confess I was not very sympathetic. We never spoke about the very real origins of her worry. I was unable to empathize with her issues or realize that they came from her childhood which was quite different from my own. Perhaps if we had spoken more, I would have known that those issues did not belong to me and would have been able to say "I am sorry to have worried you." Too often I see couples who fall into the same trap because they do not communicate effectively. Expectations of each other can vary by each one's emotional needs or even differing role models from the past. Painful misunderstandings develop when they cannot speak about the differences between them. For example, one partner may expect to be taken care of while the other partner may value a more independent relationship. Different financial or sexual expectations may result in a partner feeling undesirable or like a failure. They desperately need each others' emotional support. Instead, they become more distant or antagonistic and less likely to empathize with one another, or say, "I'm sorry I hurt you."

Mind Body Connection

Your emotional, social, and spiritual state has been proven to have a significant impact on your physical health. Stressful events like birth of a new baby, retirement or loss of a job, money problems, divorce, or the death of a loved one often seem linked with the occurrence of physical symptoms. We hear about people who have heart attacks soon after retirement or the development of serious illnesses following a major life change. Students cramming for final exams frequently get sick. Our immune system is weakened and we are more susceptible to illness during those times when we are feeling anxious or upset.

Research has demonstrated that the use of stress reducing techniques can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, relieve pain and improve immune functioning. Mind Body medicine has also improved clinical conditions such as HIV, cancer, insomnia, anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is even preliminary evidence that muscles in the body can be toned and strengthened through mental exertion.

You can learn to use your thoughts to positively influence some of your body's physical responses, thus reducing your level of stress. Research has shown that when a person recalls or imagines a happy experience his body and mind tend to relax. On the other hand, when she recalls or imagines a frightening experience, her heart beats faster, her hands may become cold and clammy, and she may begin to sweat.

Below are some relaxation exercises that can help you use the power of your mind to reduce anxiety and promote an increased sense of well being. They do not take the place of needed medical treatment, but they do have powerful psychological benefits.

Relaxed Breathing

Sit or lie down in a comfortable place. Slowly take a deep breath through your nose, hold it, and then slowly, breathe out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing and breathe in a regular rhythm counting from one to five each time you inhale and exhale. Practice this relaxed breathing for 5 minutes two times a day or whenever you feel stressed.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation
 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation involves sequentially tensing and then relaxing specific muscle groups in the body, one at a time, and progressing throughout the entire body.

  • The key to this exercise is to tighten a specific muscle group for at least 5 seconds until you feel the tension, and then release the muscles for 10 seconds, noticing the difference in how the muscles feel before and after the exercise.

  • You can start by relaxing the muscles in your legs and feet, working up through each muscle group to your neck, shoulders, and scalp.


Mind Relaxation

Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose. As you exhale, say a word or phrase such as "calm" or "I feel peaceful." Continue for 10 minutes. If your mind wanders, remind yourself to think about your breathing and the word that you have chosen. Keep your breathing slow and steady.

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There are many other tools that trained professionals utilize to help calm you and help you deal with pain and stress. Exercise, yoga, massage, meditation, and guided imagery can also be used to enhance the mind-body connection.
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