Archive of ‘Health’ category

5 Ways to Find Peace When So Much is Changing

For nearly six months, our world has been swirling in a lingering state of uncertainty and change. Our normal routines were swiftly pulled from under us, and we’ve quickly had to navigate changes in our homes, our work, our income, our social interactions, and on and on.

Many of us are not moving as much these days, working from home and not driving as often.

So, why do we feel so exhausted?

Our Physiological Response

I came across a meme by Chani Nicholas the other day that read, “I’ve never done so little and been so tired.

She continued with this quote from Emily Baron Cadloff:

“Nancy Sin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, says that in stressful situations like this, there are physiological responses in our bodies. ‘Our stress hormones increase. We prepare to fight or flee,’ said Sin. And as this pandemic continues and isolation drags on, ‘we’re having a lot of these physiological adaptations, each time we feel stressed, each time we feel worried. And over time, these repeated hits, physiologically and psychologically, can accumulate.’ That accumulation is called the allostatic load, essentially the damage on our bodies when they’re repeatedly exposed to stress. And while it feels like I’m doing nothing most days, my brain is still dealing with the anxiety and strain of this pandemic. I’m exhausted not because my body is working hard, but because my brain is.”

Uncertainty is Exhausting

While our bodies might not be as physically active at this time and while we might not have as many places to be, we are feeling the stressors of having to quickly adapt to so much change, while simultaneously holding the truth that we don’t know when this is going to end. 

Our brains are frantically searching for certainty so we can feel safe again:

When will work go back to normal?

What will school look like for the kids?

When will I have more freedom?
When will I be able to gather with friends again?

When can I relax at the coffee shop like I used to enjoy?

When will I be able to get on an airplane to visit family without worrying?

When will it all go back to normal and will things ever be the same?

That’s a lot to carry on a daily basis without getting any clear answers.

So…

First, we need to acknowledge the immense amount our brains and bodies are holding and have compassion for ourselves. This is a lot to navigate.

Second, we need to admit that self-care is not only a good idea, but essential at this time.

What might that look like?

Here are five nourishing self-care ideas aimed to decrease anxiety and increase feelings of calm and safety.

Be mindful of the energy in your home environment.

We are all spending a lot more time at home these days. Do you enjoy your home? Is it clean? Is it comforting? Does it feel like your own personal sanctuary (or at least do pockets of it)? I currently see clients from home and have been spending the majority of my day in this house of mine. As a result, I have been mindful of treating it differently. I clean my home more often. I use a diffuser that sprays essential oils into the air. I’ve purchased some new plants to fill my space. I want my home to feel ultra peaceful and comforting. I know this isn’t always possible and can be more challenging if you have young ones at home, but are there small changes you can make to create a more enjoyable home environment?

Intentionally create personal space.

BOUNDARIES are so important right now. Before quarantine, many of us had boundaries naturally carved into our lifestyles. We’d go to work and leave the home. The kids were at school for a large majority of the day, which meant parents had some time for themselves. So many of our normal boundaries have disappeared. This means less personal time to recharge. It is so much easier when our boundaries are automatically set for us. But when you are at home with everyone ALL the time, setting boundaries can be hard. Are you able to say no to your children or partner when you need personal time? Have you found new ways to create space for yourself? This is a group effort and may require creating a new calendar with new agreements. Maybe Mom decides she is not available to the family on Tuesday afternoons. She will be in her room with the door closed because she needs to take a bath or work on her own projects. The kids know that Dad is available for them at this time. Guilt can rear its head here. “Shouldn’t I be available to my kids all the time? Will they think I don’t love them?” This is about understanding that rest and personal space are necessary in order to recharge and be able to show up well for the people around you.

Double up on support.

Be proactive about creating consistent avenues for receiving support. We all need places where we feel like we can lean back and be held. Maybe this looks like meeting on a friend’s porch for coffee and conversation, going for a morning walk in nature, or finding a therapist or therapy group where you can be vulnerable. Aim for weekly support like this (the more the better).

Get in touch with your senses.

Be mindful of bringing activities into your life that feel nurturing and grounding. Anything that helps you get out of your brain and back into your body. More cuddling. Taking a slow evening to cook a homemade meal. Preparing a candlelit bath. Going swimming. Committing to morning stretching. Getting your hands in the soil and gardening. Getting in touch with our senses is beneficial on so many levels. It slows us down, brings us back to the present moment, and regulates our nervous systems.

Connect with something deeper than circumstance.

If we look to the state of the world to determine how safe we feel right now, we’re not really setting ourselves up for success. The chaotic nature of society is not going anywhere anytime soon. This period of time is asking us to find safety in something deeper than circumstance. It is asking us to find safety in our relationships with ourselves and our relationships with others. How can you become more connected to yourself during this time? How can you be kinder to yourself? Maybe this looks like developing a meditation practice or starting to journal again or practicing any of the self-care activities I’ve mentioned here. How can you become more connected with others? Can you be more vulnerable with the people you love? How can you improve the communication in your household and find new ways to work together as a team? Are you able to find joy in the simple things again, like movie night with the family? There is beauty in this opportunity, and a lot of potential for growth as we learn new ways to be there for ourselves and others. 

No doubt, this is an unexpected time that none of us saw coming. So much change inevitably brings fear, grief, anger, stress, and fatigue. 

My hope is that you’ll acknowledge all you’ve had to navigate over these past six months and show yourself more love and compassion. Be proactive about creating the support you need right now. It’s essential, and you deserve it.

Looking for more ways to practice self-care during the pandemic? Check out this blog!

Written by: Jamie Alger, LPC-Intern Supervised By Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

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!


Are You in Sleep Debt?

Andrew Wade, LMFT-Associate Supervised by Nadia Bakir, LMFT-S

Andrew Wade, LMFT-Associate
Supervised by Nadia Bakir, LMFT-S

Sleep: A Casualty of Technology

Harnessed electricity is so ubiquitous in our culture it takes a robust act of imagination to picture a world without it. It’s hard to believe that only a hundred fifty years ago, a mere blip in human evolution, people still relied primarily on sunlight by which to see during the day and for the fortunate few, candles by night. For most people, nighttime was for sleeping. What an ancient world that seems to be.

One of the most significant yet frequently unacknowledged adjustments we have made to widespread, inexpensive electricity involves changes in sleep. No longer constrained by darkness, we now face virtually unlimited alternatives to sleeping at night. Some of us work the night shift, others use the nighttime to catch up on work from the day, to send emails and communicate with people online, while others play games, see movies or socialize at bars and clubs. In all of these cases, it’s most often the quantity and quality of sleep that suffers.

Sleep Debt Defined

Most of us are carrying what scientists call a sleep debt. For example, let’s say you require 8 hours of sleep a night to feel rested and alert. If you sleep for seven hours, you carry one hour of sleep debt. For every hour of sleep debt you carry, the steeper the cost to your health. Oh, and by the way, these hours are cumulative! They don’t simply vanish over time. The only way to reduce your debt is to sleep more. Many studies have been done to evaluate the effects of sleep debt and the results are compelling, though not surprising. Our cognition suffers, as does our physical and psychological health. Insufficient sleep tends to exacerbate symptoms of psychological distress and compromises our ability to tolerate stress. By sleeping less, we may have more time to engage in alternatives, but they won’t be as rewarding or successful as they would be without sleep debt. You can measure your level of sleepiness and establish your ideal window of sleep by taking the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

Managing Sleep Debt

How do we take back our sleep? One easy and highly effective tool I extracted from the book, The Promise of Sleep, by William Dement, M.D. is to maintain a sleep diary. In studies asking people to report how little or how much they slept the night before, people’s answers were far less accurate than they predicted. (p 336) That is not surprising given the fluctuating states of consciousness one experiences at night. Maintaining a simple sleep diary to record variables like hours slept, number of times waking up, and number of trips to the bathroom provides a richer, far more accurate understanding of your specific sleep patterns and habits that need attention. You can use this sleep diary template published by the National Institute of Health.

There are a variety of applications available for download on your smart phone that monitors your sleep in much the same way a sleep diary would. Many of these apps purport to measure when and whether you were sleeping and how deeply you were sleeping throughout the night. It is beyond the scope of this article to assess the accuracy of these claims, but given the pace of technological advancement and the scale of our society’s sleep problems, these apps represent an exciting shift in how we understand and prioritize sleep.

sleep debt


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