Archive of ‘Depression’ category

Tips from a Therapist: Ways to Adjust to Life in Quarantine

Quarantine Zoom Call

“We’re all just making this up as we go along”, a very dear friend told me recently regarding the quarantine. These resounding words have stuck with me not only in my personal life, but my professional life as well. All of my clients, regardless of their circumstances, are making this up as they go along. All of us collectively are leaning into a huge amount of vulnerability, not knowing what the rest of the year will look like.

In lieu of social distancing and the extension of the quarantine, staying at home way more than leaving has become a new norm. We have become accustomed to isolating ourselves with our living partners. We have also been deprived of the external stimulation we were experiencing the first two months of 2020 (especially in Austin where there is external stimulation galore!!).

Through months of hard experience as well as the beautiful stories of hope my clients give me, I have made a list of tips for us to do in order to better cope with the harsh reality of quarantine. As a society, we are perhaps more in need of healthy connections, self-reflection, and coping strategies now more than we ever have been. Below are five helpful ways to adapt to social distancing so that we are alone but not lonely. 

Take Time for Ourselves (TV, gaming, “you” time)

What does this look like for you? Taking time for myself means watching my favorite movie or bingeing a favorite TV show. My partner is a huge gamer and self-care for him looks like playing his favorite game. The point is to DISCONNECT. Disconnect from work emails, news sources, endless desk time that our bodies were not made for. Disconnecting from the “outside world” gives your mind and body a much-needed pause and recharge. 

Zoom or FaceTime a Friend or Family Member

What does your social support look like in these strange times? We have all become so isolated with social distance. But the thing to remember with social distancing is: Just because we are social distancing does not mean we should emotionally distance. Check on a friend you have not talked to in a while. Call a family member you are rekindling a relationship with. Facetime a former coworker you had a great relationship with! Our friends and family need to be checked in on just as much as we do.

Re-Evaluate Your Mental Health

Realistically, most of us have been struggling long before the pandemic. Whether it has been anxiety, depression, relationship issues, bipolar, ADHD, any kind of mental struggle has undoubtedly been exacerbated by staying quarantined. Being deprived of the things that have brought us joy our whole lives will bring some kind of sadness, grief, or anxiety. Our mental health matters more so now than it ever has. If you need a therapist, by all means reach out to Austin Family Counseling! We have virtual counseling to ensure the safety of all of our clients.

Re-Evaluation of Self-Care

What does self-care look like for you in quarantine? We have been forced to change our methods of taking care of ourselves. Things like going to the gym, going to concerts, going to your favorite museum (some self-care methods I used to engage in prior to the pandemic), are now changed, and we are having to be very creative. Things like going for a run, discovering new bands, and watching live concerts online all have become my new norm as they are the safest and most socially distant alternatives to my former ways of self-care.

Adopt an Animal

Studies show that having an animal improves our overall happiness and quality of life. In times like these, life quality improvement is an absolute must! There are so many animals in Austin that need homes. And if we are stuck at home most of the time, why not have a furry human to keep us company?! Austin Animal Center, Austin Pets Alive!, and Austin Humane Society are all places that are open during pandemic and are actively allowing pet parents to adopt and foster pets!

By: Ian Hammonds, LPC, LMFT

Social Media & Mental Health

If I were to have 20, 50, or even 100 people in a room and asked them all if they had a social media account, chances are all (or most everyone) would say “yes”.  Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., (you get the point), social media has become (and has been for years) a fundamental component of people’s lives.  By definition, social media is a website and/or application that enables users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.  While this is an accurate definition, it oversimplifies everything that social media represents in society today.  Social media is a way to stay connected with others and it creates opportunities for new ideas & inspiration, however, it can also create avenues for self-loathing, cyberbullying, and envy.  While it’s certainly not all good or all bad, it’s important to be mindful of the impacts social media can have on mental health. 

How Social Media is Beneficial

  • Enhanced Connectivity
    • It has become easier for us to connect with business people, family and friends and maintain relationships that may otherwise have not been sustained. 
  • Encourages Creativity & Innovative Thinking
    • Social media sites are all about content in a variety of forms. From written content to photos and graphics, there are many ways for users to participate, engage, and show off their creativity.
  • Using Social Media for the Greater Good
    • Social media offers easy ways to show support for (or condemn) an issue, raise money, promote a charity event or spread an important message. People can be encouraged to get involved in philanthropic and altruistic causes via social media.
  • Social media can benefit people already dealing with mental health issues by helping them build online communities that provide a source of emotional support. 
    • This can be invaluable for people with various health conditions to know they are not alone and to know there are sources of support.  These individuals are often one of the most vulnerable in society and can help reduce the stigma attached to seeking treatment.

Potential Detrimental Effects of Social Media

  • Social Media Use Can Lead to Feelings of Depression & Loneliness
    • Ever heard of FOMO (fear of missing out)?  Social media is a platform for people to showcase their best selves (and best version of their lives).  It’s all-too-easy for someone to peruse through a friend’s social media account and feel lonely (because they’re left out)—which could lead to feelings of depression.  This phenomena has been referred to as Facebook Envy
  • Worsened Body Image (particularly for young women)
    • When people, especially women, follow pages/accounts/media that depict attractive women’s photos, it can cause adverse effects on body image and decrease self-esteem.  When people interact with family members on social media, this does not happen. 
  • Worsened Attention Span
    • Because social media provides a means of constantly giving into the temptation of instant, easy-access entertaining, this ultimately means people can (and do) become more easily distracted. 
  • Poor Sleep Habits
    • Checking your phone ONE more time before bed is a habit that many people have created.  Doing this can create anxiety or envy—which ultimately keeps the brain on high alert and prevents people from falling asleep.  Additionally, having light from a mobile device inches from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel tired.

What to Do About It

  • Turn off your notifications for at least a few hours each day.  This can be accomplished by putting your phone in “Airplane” mode or “Do Not Disturb”
  • Delete apps that contribute to unhealthy body image or feelings of inadequacy. 
  • Add apps or follow pages that help you feel better about yourself or inspire you to engage in healthy behaviors.  Some of our recommendations include:
  • Take a day off from social media to focus on other things.  We recommend doing this on a day that you don’t have school or work so you can use that time to participate in other activities you enjoy 
  • Make a plan with a group of friends to spend more time hanging out in person and less time interacting via social media.
  • Set boundaries or only certain times when you can check your notifications.  This can be done by setting screentime limits. 
  • If you are a parent wanting to learn more about how to limit your child or teenager’s social media use, check out these additional tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ultimately, using social media, screens, anything like that is not ALL bad and shouldn’t be banished, however, it’s important to be mindful of the detrimental effects and be intentional about how much time you do (or do not) allow yourself & your children to be on social media. 

By: Julie Burke, LPC

Follow her on Instagram for some positive social media posts!


Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

By: Susanna Wetherington, LPC

Since the birth of the psychological field, there have been dozens of therapeutic approaches that have been developed to help individuals work through their struggles. One therapy that is relatively new, at least in relation to how long others have been around, is known as a therapy called EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I’m going to tell you a little bit about what EMDR is and how it can be used in therapy to treat a wide array of difficulties.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a therapy developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989. In 1987 Dr. Shapiro stumbled upon the observation that eye movements can lessen the intensity of disturbing thoughts and used this observation to fuel research that led to her publication in The Journal of Traumatic Stress, establishing EMDR as a therapy used to treat post traumatic stress. Since then researchers have gone on to show how EMDR is not only very effective in treating trauma and PTSD, but can also treat other difficulties such as:

  • performance anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • body dysmorphic disorders
  • painful memories
  • phobias
  • complicated grief
  • dissociative disorders
  • personality disorders
  • pain disorders

How Does EMDR Work?

There is no way to know how any psychotherapy works on the neurological level, but there are some things we do know. When a person is very upset and under duress, the brain cannot process information as it would under normal conditions. (See my previous blog about how trauma affects the brain). So parts of the memory get stored separately and “frozen in time.” When the memory is then activated, it can feel very much like the person is experiencing the memory as if it is currently happening: the same feelings, thoughts and body sensations can resurface with the same intensity as when the event occurred because those things never processed through adequately and thus remain unchanged. These memories interfere with the way a person reacts to and views the world and others.

It appears that EMDR has an effect on how your brain processes information and allows the “frozen” material a chance to process through in a functional manner. Once the memory has been processed adequately, it no longer has the same effect on the person. Many individuals come away feeling neutral about the memory. By using bilateral stimulation (meaning both the left and right hemispheres are alternately stimulated), that’s where the eye movements come in, these “stuck” memories get activated and normal information processing can be resumed. This is similar to what happens naturally in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the cycle of sleep in which information taken in through the previous day is processed and sorted into short-term and long-term memory networks. If you have ever observed someone during the REM sleep cycle, you may have noticed that their eyes are darting back and forth underneath the eyelids. So really this is different from other therapies that work toward the same goals because it works on the physiological level.

Why Choose EMDR Therapy

So, Why Choose EMDR Therapy?

In short, EMDR therapy is optimal because it can usually achieve the same goal as similar therapies with fewer sessions. It can also be useful when talk therapy has not proven to be effective. Since some experiences seem to get “frozen” in the memory networks, talking about them may not be enough. EMDR works on the neurological level to access those memories in a way that talk therapy may not be able to, so then the memory can be worked through. Survivors of trauma have also reported that EMDR therapy was optimal because it is not necessary to talk in detail about the traumatic event in order for EMDR to be effective. That doesn’t mean that it may not still be painful and difficult to bring up, but the whole narrative does not need to be given and once the memory is activated the person can move through the process with less difficulty. The brain moves towards healing just like our bodies do. If you cut your hand, your body works to heal itself. The brain does the same thing, and EMDR helps remove those barriers so it can.

This has been a brief description of what EMDR is and how it works. EMDR has been shown to be effective with children, teens, and adults. I hope it has been helpful and I hope you will consider EMDR therapy for yourself and your loved ones in the future! If you would like more information on EMDR you can visit http://www.EMDRIA.org and http://www.EMDR.com.


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