General Articles

10 Simple Ways to Beat the Blues

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

shutterstock_158743448There are some days you just feel down. Sometimes you know why: a fight with a friend or spouse, financial troubles, difficulty with your kids. Other times a low mood can come out of nowhere.

But however or whenever these blue days come, it can make the entire day seem like one big long struggle to get through.

You may find yourself watching the clock, just hoping to get done with work or school, or waiting for your kids to go to bed, or waiting for your partner to come home. Time seems to drag on and on. Your energy may be lagging. It’s not depression as much as just feeling out of sorts.

There are countless ways to break out of that blue space. We’ve chosen 10 of our favorites.

The next time you have difficulty getting out of bed or you feel blah and low, try a couple of them out. We’d love to hear what you think.

  1. Reach out. When you feel low, it can seem like no one cares. That’s not necessarily true. When you feel out of sorts, it can change how you perceive others in your life. Take a moment to reach out to two or three people. Walk over to a coworker and ask how his weekend was. Call your sister up. Even say hello to the cashier at the grocery store. When you interact with people, you will feel less alone and less down.
  2. Take stock of your life. By this we mean think through what is going right and what you want to do differently. Think about positive relationships in your life. Make plans to take a class or trip. Allow yourself to dream about the future. When something negative comes to mind, acknowledge it and move on to something more positive.
  3. Do something good for your body. This could be eating a healthy meal, doing a few minutes of yoga, taking a walk or run, riding your bike, or drinking some water. Getting a massage is also a good option. Also see #9.
  4. Express yourself. Write a journal entry or a poem. Sketch. Paint. Color in …

How Memorized Words Improve Your Life

Monday, April 7th, 2014

shutterstock_154578533I was always the kid who memorized things.

When I was younger, it was the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson that I cherished. I would spend many afternoons swinging and reciting The Swing.

More often than not I would have one poem or another running through my head as I played in the woods or the creek or climbed trees. Children’s poems have a wonderful sense of rhythm and rhyme that made them easy to learn and entertaining to recite.

As I grew older my memory engulfed songs and lyrics. I always had words floating around in my head. The lyrics were a constant commentary to what was happening. If you were to ask me what music was playing in my mind, you would learn how I was feeling, what I was thinking about.

In Jr. High we had to memorize Shakespeare. Soon, quotes from Romeo and Juliet were jumping off my lips with a wonderful frequency. I challenged myself to learn Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.

As an adult, nearly all those poems, songs, and quotes are still there. When my best friend died while she was in college, my mind went to the words of sorrow and grief, and provided me a focus for my mourning. As I put my young daughter to sleep, I sing songs I learned as a child from my mother.

I can look up a quote in seconds on my phone. Endless literature is at my fingertips 24 hours a day. It may seem as if memorization has no place in our day and age.

But I’ve found that when I’m in the midst of grief or sorrow, or trying to calm a tired child, or even trying to get my mind out of a sad or angry place, that my mind turns to the words I know by heart. Like a psalm or mantra, they center me.

The phrases that I’ve deliberately filed away in my head are always there. I use them to focus, to be distracted, to find peace and to laugh.

My mind struggles with some types of memory; I have …


Transform Your Inner Critic

Friday, March 28th, 2014

shutterstock_133427858Your inner critic.

Everyone has one.

Most people want to shut up, destroy, annihilate, or otherwise quiet that voice in their head that says things like, that was a stupid thing to say, or you look so fat today, you’re dumb, you’ll never get anywhere in life. I’m sure you can add your own.

Your inner critic is the voice that monitors your every act, word, and thought.

When it’s out of control, your inner critic can rule your life and ruin your self esteem. It can fill your mind with fears and worse case scenarios.

But what would happen if instead of trying to shut your inner critic up, you would listen to it? I don’t mean listen as in taking its words as true. I mean listen as hear what it’s saying, think about it, and then make your own decision whether or not to believe it.

What would it be like if you viewed your inner critic not in the sense of negative critical messages that should be dismissed, but as a cautious voice that can be helpful if its understood?

How it works is this; your inner critic makes a remark like, “You’re going to mess up this presentation.” So instead of just dwelling on the negative thinking and giving it power, you spend a couple of minutes critically thinking about it. How would I mess up the performance? Is that something that could realistically happen? If so, what can I do to fix it?

You can view your inner critic as  a negative force weighing down on you, or it can be a tool that you use to discern your strengths and weaknesses.

There are two crucial points here.

The first is that your inner critic is neither good nor bad. It points out your insecurities, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s kind of like a coach. Sometimes it can have valid points, and sometimes it makes mountains out of mole hills.

The second is that the more thought and attention you give to a particular idea or internal message, the more power you imbue it with. Dwelling or ruminating on fears is draining …


When Your Teen is Being Bullied: 5 Things Parents Need to Know

Monday, March 24th, 2014

shutterstock_74330686No parent wants to find out that their child is being bullied. Yet this is a situation in which many parents find themselves, and it can be incredibly scary and confusing.

Teens are bullied over the same thing generation after generation: physical differences such as weight, acne and facial features, speech differences, mental abilities/disabilities.

Teens get bullied verbally, physically (tripping down the hall, book bumping), and through writing.

One significant difference that teens face now is the vast amount of technology available, which has changed the dynamic of bullying behavior.

Teens are attacked through social media such as Facebook, text messages are sent, photos are sent and become viral in seconds. Sexting is not uncommon.

When you were a teenager, pictures were physical. Notes were on paper. And while rumors could get around quickly, they were not recorded forever on the world wide web.

As a parent of a teen, you can make a difference when your child is being bullied.

Here are 5 things that all parents of teens need to know.

  1. When your child says they are being picked on or bullied, believe them. Your teen may act confident and happy while in your presence, but at school she may behave differently.
  2. Take action. This may be meeting with school administrators and being an advocate for your child. It may be getting him counseling. It may be brainstorming with him about ways to stand up to others if he feels comfortable with this.
  3. Know your school’s policy, and hold them to it. More than once I’ve had to write or meet with school administrators to advocate for a student. It is not your child’s job to ignore the bullies; gaining strength to deal with bullying behaviors may be something to be worked on but the school has a duty to protect your teen and make school a safe place. This could mean changing schedules, having a teen who is hurting your son or daughter attend counseling sessions, or discipline for them.
  4. Talk to your child about how she feels. Does she think about dying? Is she hurting herself? Who are her friends?
  5. Bullying can be a …

The Importance of Connection, Part 2: Making a Difference in Someone’s Life Will Make a Difference in Yours

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Humans are all about community. By connecting with others, we find support, meaning, reassurance, and joy. Even the healthiest among us feels lonely and isolated at times. For those who struggle with physical or mental disabilities, the isolation can feel even greater.

How to people do it?


The Importance of Connection, Part 1: How to Get and Stay Connected

Thursday, September 12th, 2013
Everyone needs to feel connected.

Everyone needs to feel connected.

When I first became a bird owner, I noticed that my cockatiel Sunshine would only eat when someone was near her.

Most birds are flock animals; they rely on the members of their community for companionship, safety, and parenting.

In the wild, Sunshine would only eat with her flock members there to watch out for her.

Like many other animals, humans have an inborn need for community that is crucial to not only our survival but also to our mental health and happiness.

Not everyone needs 40 friends, but everyone needs someone they can rely on to help them through the harshness of life.

WHAT KEEPS US FROM BEING CONNECTED TO OTHERS?

  • For some people, it’s depression. One of the key signs of depression is withdrawing from social situations. People who become depressed turn down invitations, fail to show up to gatherings, and limit phone calls and visits with friends.
  • Other times, it can be a change in life — a move, divorce, death in the family, or illness. Many adults I’ve spoken to have said that when they graduated from high school or college they found they had a hard time making new friends in the ‘adult’ or working world.
  • Many people are so afraid of rejection that they stay away from getting close to others.

Bad Relationship Advice: Our Top 10 List

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

shutterstock_127212401

There is a lot of relationship advice out there; friends, family, and coworkers are willing and eager to share their thoughts.

Over the years, I’ve heard and read some awful pieces of advice.

Here are the worst of them.

10. If you love her enough, you can get her to change.

  • ANY advice that has ‘change’ in it is bad news. You can’t make anyone change, and if you expect them to you’ll be met not only with resistance and frustration, but failure.

9. No one will ever love you as much as he does.

  • This is a phrase that is often used to keep an individual in an abusive relationship. Love comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It might be true that no one will ever love you exactly like someone else,  you will be loved again. Don’t allow this bad advice to keep you stuck in a harmful relationship.

5 Easy Ways to Overcome Negative Thinking

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

shutterstock_80347894This past weekend, I found myself 400 miles and 3 states away from home with $16 of cash, a half tank of gas, but no credit cards.

I pulled into a gas station and asked if they would take a check. Nope.

How about a credit card number phoned in from my husband? Nope.

My random gift cards were worthless here. I was worried.

I was desperate. I went back to my car where my young daughter sat and asked her if I could borrow the money in her coin purse. She had $2.38.

Digging through the crevices and corners of my car yielded another $1.03. I went inside and placed the pile of change in front of the cashier. The total amount was $19.41, a little less than 5 gallons of gas.

In my mind I was going through everything that had gone wrong. Why did I forget my credit card? Do hotels take checks from out of state? Do restaurants? What would I feed my daughter? Where would we sleep? How could I be so stupid???

I was going full force into negative thinking. I finally realized that my thoughts weren’t doing me any good at all. In fact, they were harmful. With my mind full of what if’s, there was no room or energy for realistic problem solving.

Once I slowed down I realized that my daughter wouldn’t starve, I could find a way to get some cash back from a store, and that I was resourceful enough to deal with this situation.

I did some mental arithmetic and discovered that I could keep my miles per gallon quite high if I used cruise control and didn’t rush. At 42 miles per gallon or more, I could possibly make it. And if I didn’t, I would be close enough to have someone come and get us.

Negative thoughts often sneak up when people are stressed, anxious, or depressed. And once they take root, they can impede more helpful, critical, and logical thinking.

Here are 5 simple and easy ways to manage negative thoughts when they appear.


Excuse or Explanation: Is There a Difference?

Friday, August 30th, 2013

shutterstock_43783042“It wasn’t my fault!”
“She made me do it!”
“Everyone else was doing it!”
“I’m sorry, but…”
“He started it!”

Do these sound familiar?

For some people, these phrases may bring back memories of their childhood, or they may have heard these statements from their kids.

Despite sounding childish, everyone has said something similar in their adult life to a spouse, police officer, family member, or friend.

In counseling sessions, I frequently hear how people struggle with the difference between excuses and explanations.

Some people hesitate to give any explanations; they see explanations and excuses as the same thing, and they don’t want to be seen as giving excuses.

Others go to the other extreme and take no accountability for his or her own actions, blaming everything from their upbringing, their stress load, their partner or kids, for their wrongdoing.

Although it can sometimes be unclear, there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation.

People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Excuses are often used to deny responsibility. People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Explanations help clarify the circumstances of a particular event. Explanations are less emotional and less pressured than excuses.

Sometimes, the only one who can really know if their statement is an excuse or an explanation is the one saying it. Telling the police who pulled you over that you are running late for work is a good example of this. If you were hoping to get out of a ticket or lying, it was probably an excuse. If the officer asked why you were driving 30 in a 25, and you answered honestly, it was an explanation.

Why does it matter?

Consider the following situation:

Your 14-year-old daughter has brought home a failing grade on her science report. You ask her what happens. She says:

  1. “It’s not my fault! The teacher wasn’t clear on what to include in the project. Everyone else got a bad grade, too.”                                               or:
  2. “I didn’t understand what the teacher said, and …

7 Things You Can Do NOW to Make Yourself Happier

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

 

 

Have you ever felt as if happiness is something that you have to wait to come to you?

Do you ever wonder why other people are happy, and you’re not?

The good news is that being happy is more of a choice than you might think.

Happiness doesn’t have to be an elusive idea that only some fortunate people are able to obtain. Here are seven simple things you can do to increase your happiness.


 

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Recent Comments
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  • Mokaman1: Some people have trouble with memorization; others seem to be very good at it. Wouldn’t the effect of...
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