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Licensed Psychologist

Tips to Fall Asleep Naturally/Common Heart Tests

Tips to Fall Asleep Naturally

Get the nightly rest you need with these smart strategies.

Sleep has many important health benefits: It cleanses the brain, allows memories to consolidate, helps the immune system to function optimally, and restores and rejuvenates tissues. Not enough sleep impairs judgment and physical function. And let's face it, when tired, most of us can be rather irritable and grouchy. Serious health problems can result from poor sleep, including feeling more depressed and increasing the risk of falls. Read the full article...

Common Heart Tests

What these tests reveal and when you might need one.

In broad terms, the heart mainly consists of a plumbing system and an electrical system. There are two pumps: one uses arteries to push oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body; the other pump uses veins to usher blood back to the heart and into the lungs to get re-oxygenated. Your pulse, or heartbeat, is controlled by the heart's electrical system. These systems can be measured with various tests to check for abnormalities. Given that heart diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined, it might seem logical to get all the common heart tests possible as a preventative measure. But that's not what experts recommend. Read the full article...

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.

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

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.

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.”
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