Archive of ‘Healthy Habits’ category

The Power of Pausing

In a world that constantly tries to make you feel like you’re not enough, resting can be a very brave thing.

A few weeks ago, I visited Montana to spend time with my family and friends. As I sat in the cabin on vacation, I was uncomfortably aware of the texts and emails popping up on my phone and going unanswered (first lesson: turn off your email notifications when you’re on vacation).

As our worlds become more and more virtual, the ability to take work with us wherever we go becomes more and more possible. We go on vacation, but why not bring the laptop and work while we’re there? We can be productive anywhere these days, even in a secluded cabin.

There seems to be an unspoken expectation to remain accessible. Always. I mean, who doesn’t have a smartphone these days?

The email notifications pop up. The text messages roll in.

Usually, they’re not all that urgent. And, usually, we attend to them as if they are.

As I pushed away the inner urge to pick up my phone and laptop during the trip (and failed a few times and succeeded a few times), I had several realizations:

Resting can feel awkward and foreign.

Not being readily available to others can feel uncomfortable.

Being present with people in real-time is good for our souls.

Most things can wait.

Yet, we live in a society that hasn’t normalized or encouraged rest and pausing.

And so, even when we find ourselves in remote locations surrounded by peaceful nature, it can feel strange to unplug – like we’re breaking some unwritten rule and wasting our week away in the land of unproductivity. 

Here is a case for pausing and why it’s more important than rushing to respond to that text: 

1. Your nervous system gets a break.

In 6 Ways to Give your Nervous System a Break, Crystal Hoshaw writes, “The nervous system truly craves space and silence. Every activity is a little stimulating. Truly giving our nerves a break means we’re feeding them the minimum amount of stimulation possible and maximizing rest and rejuvenation.”

2. You get to connect with yourself.

When we pause, we create space for reflection and tuning into how we feel. This leads to less knee-jerk reactions and more thoughtful responses.

3. You get to connect with so many other things:

nature, your meal, your breath, your family.

You take some of your power back.

Taking time to pause helps rewrite the story that says you have to be available to everyone all the time. That’s not true, not healthy and extremely draining.

You give yourself an opportunity to find meaning in more than achieving. 

I won’t pretend unplugging is easy. Here are a few small ideas that still have the power to add up to big shifts: 

A walk around your neighborhood or in nature without your phone

Putting your phone on airplane mode as you begin or end your day

Taking five minutes to close your eyes and breathe. Even one minute!

Making a conscious decision to respond to non urgent emails and texts at one designated time each day vs scattered throughout the day.

All of these acts allow us to become more intentional with our energy, more grounded in our bodies, and, frankly, more relieved.

You are more than what you do.

I felt that as I listened to the rushing river and the chirping birds. As I stared at the magnificent mountains. As I sipped a cup of tea and tuned into the conversations that were happening right in front of me.

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


How Blue Light Affects Sleep and Ways to Create Healthy Sleep Hygiene

It is no surprise to all of us that electronic devices play a fundamental role in our daily lives and even more so with the pandemic. We use electronics so much in our day-to-day including, but not limited to, communicating with friends and families, online gaming, virtual school, and work meetings. Nonetheless, technology is here to stay. However, one of the most concerning parts of electronic use is how it interferes with our sleep. Research shows that 90% of Americans report using a computer or smartphone device in their bedroom within an hour of trying to fall asleep. 

Blue Light 

Not only can electronics impede the amount of sleep we get per night, but these glowing screens also emit blue light. “Blue light is a short wavelength type of light that promotes alertness and performance” as noted by the Sleep Foundation. This blue light can also suppress production of melatonin, which is responsible for feelings of sleepiness. Being exposed to blue light during the day can provide energy, improvements in mood, and concentration. Yet the opposite effects occur when we are exposed to blue light in the evening and nighttime as our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) is disrupted causing us to feel less sleepy than normal at bedtime. 

Sources of Blue Light 

  • Fluorescent lights 
  • LED lights 
  • Smartphones 
  • Televisions 
  • Computer Screens 
  • Tablets 
  • E-Readers 
  • Video game consoles 

What is Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene focuses on healthy sleeping habits during the day and when you go to bed to promote consistent and uninterrupted sleep. What you do during the day, not just an hour before bedtime, affects how well you sleep. Improving your sleep hygiene, can also positively impact your physical and mental health, productivity, and daily habits.  

Creating Healthy Sleep Hygiene

  • Minimize day time naps 
  • Cut down on caffeine during the afternoon and evening 
  • Wake up at the same time no matter when you fall asleep
  • Set up your bedroom for sleep (comfortable pillows/ mattress, cool temperatures, block out light, noise machine, essential oil diffuser) 
  • Be careful what you watch on TV and how that affects your stress level before your fall asleep
  • Unplug electronics at least 60 minutes before bedtime 
  • Wind down and do something relaxing an hour before sleep 
  • Only use your bed for sleep, if you aren’t asleep within 30 min, get out of bed and do something relaxing 
  • If you want to change your sleep times, make gradual adjustments by an hour or two as to not disrupt your schedule 

Sleep hygiene is not the same for everyone so make gradual adjustments to see what works best for you. Improving sleep hygiene will not fix all sleep disturbances. If you are someone who experiences sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, better sleep hygiene in conjunction with other treatments are likely necessary so talk to your doctor to see what is the recommended course of treatment. 

Written by: Geetha Pokala LPC-Associate Supervised by Kirby Schroeder LPC-S, LMFT-S


Tips For A Successful Transition To Summer

The temperatures are climbing, school dismissal bells are ringing, and sandals are reclaiming their rightful place as a wardrobe go-to. Summer is around the corner! While summer is usually associated with fun in the sun, it’s not always popsicles and rainbows. Summer is also a big time of transition for kids and their families. The change in routine and lack of schedule can be challenging for some people. However, this is also a great season for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation – especially after a tough school year like this one has been! Here are some of my favorite ways to make the most of your family’s transition to summer. 

Maintain A Routine

One of the toughest challenges I see is the change in routine for kids and their families. Within a matter of weeks kids go from a structured, time oriented lifestyle to a very loose and non-directive day. This shift in expectations and routine can be tough for kids and teens who thrive on structure, routine, and activity-based schedules. 

Consider maintaining a routine for summer that helps provide some parameters for everyone’s day to day experience. A great way to start this conversation is by hosting a family meeting. Bring the family together to discuss appropriate boundaries for wake up & sleep time, chores, and screen time during the summer. Ask each family member for input and find ways to meet everyone’s needs in agreement. Once or twice a month, consider revisiting this conversation in another family meeting to make adjustments as needed. As the months go on, the needs of the kids may change (and potentially yours will too!) This will help ensure a steady transition from spring to summer, and may make the transition from summer into fall easier as well. Find a local Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator to learn more about the benefits of family meetings and how to incorporate them into your routine. 

Let’s Go Exploring!

One of the highlights of summer is the gift of time! Less time spent in school means more time for extracurricular activities and interests. It can be really hard to weave in hobbies and new activities during the school year. Use this time to get in touch with your inner explorer! 

I encourage families to find ways to try new things over the summer to break up the monotony of long unstructured days. It’s a great time for kids to explore new interests they may have. Ask your children if they have any new sports or hobbies they want to try over the summer and enroll them in a class or interest group. It’s an easy way to meet new friends with common interests and help encourage new neural connections in the brain. Another easy way to introduce new things is planning a Staycation in your own city. Maybe there are some cool new restaurants you’ve been wanting to try, or a local park you haven’t had a chance to visit. Take some time to collect ideas of different places or activities and write them on popsicle sticks. Take one or two sticks out of the jar each Sunday to see where the week will take you!

Keep Up With Your Therapy

The kids are out of school, children are taking breaks from our regular routine of after school activities, and adults are taking time off work for fun vacations and day trips. Without the regular stressors of everyday life, keeping your regular weekly therapy may feel a bit unnecessary, right? Actually, it may be the furthest from the truth! Summer is the best time to jumpstart progress and growth, especially for kids and teens. Less stressors means more opportunity for the brain to stay grounded, attuned, and ready for processing. This is a great time for teens to work on emotion regulation, peer relationships, and overall exploration of their mind, body, and soul. It’s so important to model the prioritization of mental health year round, and maintaining regular sessions over the summer is a perfect time to model this self care for yourself and others. 

In addition, summer is a great time to schedule appointments with other practitioners to help coincide with ongoing therapeutic treatment. Summer is the perfect time to explore new treatment modalities or complete in depth psychological assessments. The extra time off from school allows for time for kids to adjust to new medications, build relationships with collaborative practitioners, and develop a plan for success for the upcoming school year. Ask your therapist if they have any recommendations for collaborative care in your ongoing treatment plan. Your therapist should have a list of referrals available for local psychologists, psychiatrists, and dietitians who are ready and able to help work together to create the best treatment plan for you or your child. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, summer is my favorite season. With these tips (and a good amount of Air Conditioning!) it can become yours, too! Incorporating these areas of growth into your life will help ease the transition from season to season, and prepare you for an amazing and bright few months ahead. Consider reaching out to your favorite therapist for support in making summer 2021 the best one yet! 

Written By: Sara Balkanli, LPC-Associate Supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S


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