Archive of ‘Priorities’ category

5 Categories of Self-Care

Self-care is a buzz word in today’s culture. Sometimes we don’t know where to being when trying to take care of ourselves in our busy world. Below are 5 categories of self-care to help you start out. The great thing is that the act of trying with self-care is a form of taking care of yourself. Take a look at the list and see what you are able to try this week.


Hydrating your body with water has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It is recommended by nutritionists that a person drinks half their body weight in ounces of water each day. So that means if a person weighs 150 pounds, they are recommended to drink 75 ounces of water each day.


Nutrition is all about balance. Every human body has different nutritional needs. Becoming aware of what your body needs with nutrition will help your body function better, your mind to think clearer, and overall your ability to care for yourself increases.


The category of sleep can be divided into bedtime routines, how long a person sleeps, and quality of sleep. Looking into how you put yourself to bed can shed light on how you are preparing your body for a good night’s rest. It is recommended that screen time is turned off at least 30 minutes before bedtime. How much sleep and the quality of sleep a person can get is dependent on a lot of factors. Take time to look at how this can be improved for your body, because your sleep pattern is unique to yourself. If quality of sleep feels beyond your control, contact your doctor to get more information.


Activity is an important category of self-care because of how quickly it addressed both physical and mental health. Activity can be defined as any movement that is more than your body’s resting position. For myself as a therapist, I spend most of the day sitting. Activity for me can be something as simple as standing. When activity turns into exercise this is when your brain pumps all of the happy hormones, like endorphins. Any form of activity is welcomed when trying to add more self-care.


Social activity for self-care is based on what a person needs. Taking time to listen to your body will help you decide what kind of social interactions you are needing. Sometimes a person needs alone time away from the social scene to recharge. Other social needs could be knowing if you need to spend time with friends who are fun and are going to make you laugh, or if you need to spend time with friends who are able to listen and comfort you. Before making plans, take a moment to pause and listen to what your body needs before making a social decision.

Written by: Julie Smith, LMFT-A supervised by (Supervised by Kirby Schroeder MS, LMFT-S

Why is Sleep Important?

This question deserves much more time and energy than I can give it. I cannot stress enough the idea that sleeping is the elixir of life. It is the most important pillar of a healthy and prosperous life. Every single system in the body is affected by sleep. EVERY SINGLE ONE.

The first reason sleep is important and maybe the most critical one…sleep is the time in which our body gets better at everything we do. The brain identifies areas of weakness and reorients them. If we are trying to learn a new behavior, our body recognizes this and puts resources into learning the behavior. During sleep, our brain processes problems 20x faster than when we are awake.

Now, let’s talk diet! Regardless of your diet goals, sleep is vital for keeping your body running at an optimal level. Sleep is involved in fat loss, digestion, hunger, and even insulin sensitivity. When we are sleep deprived, 70% of the weight we lose comes from our muscle; the body chooses to store fat because it is a more efficient energy source. Our digestive system slows down, and we become more sensitive to insulin spikes, which leads to the body storing more fat cells. When we are sleep deprived, the body increases production of a hormone called ghrelin and decreases the production of leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells us that we are hungry and leptin is responsible for inhibiting hunger. Which means we are lead to eat more food and feel less full.

Mood or emotional well being is handled partly by REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep or otherwise known as dream sleep. During REM, the prefrontal cortex of our brain shuts off. This is the “prison guard” of the brain, it regulates between rational and irrational thought processes. During REM  sleep, our brain can take memories and sort through them without the guidance of rational thought. This is where the idea “sleep on a problem” comes from or as the French like to say “sleep with a problem.”

Lastly, it’s important to consider recovery and performance, whether it be physical or mental. To operate at an optimum level, we must recharge our batteries and let our body recovery with quality sleep. During non-REM sleep is when our physical bodies are given the time necessary to recover. This is a time for body and metabolism replenishment. Sleep deprivation turns on genes that signal inflammation in the body and turns off genes that inhibit inflammation. As a result, our immune system suffers. We are more likely to get sick, we have less energy, and our decision making becomes affected. Another feature that sleep provides is this sort of sewage system for the brain. Our brain builds up sticky toxic proteins that slow down processing. Sleep is the time for our brain to clean out all these sticky proteins. It is a time for a brain to get a proper cleansing. If we are sleep deprived this process does not happen which leads to that worsening feeling of brain fog.

4 Tips to Help You Sleep Better


Establish a regular sleep schedule. That means go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (even weekends). If you stay up late the night before, still wake up at your regularly scheduled time the next morning and accept that it will be a rough day. In times like these, it is ok to go to sleep a little earlier than your regular time. A quick note on regularity, it is safer to always wake up at your regularly scheduled time rather than sleep in to offset going to bed late.


Our bodies sleep better in the cold. The ideal temperature for your room is 65 degrees. The brain needs to drop a few degrees below our average body temperature to prepare for sleep. The key here is helping your body lower its core temperature. A quick hack for decreasing core body temperature is to take a hot bath right before bed. When we rapidly heat our bodies we have a rapid cooling process immediately after, its this cooling process that makes you feel sleepy, not the hot bath.

Decrease Exposure to Light

Blue light, yellow light, red light, green light, ALL LIGHTS! We have all heard stop looking at your phone, tablets, and computers before bed because of the BLUE light. I am here to tell you that it is ALL LIGHT that affects sleep. Minimize your exposure to all light at least an hour before bed. Remove all the light in your room. The most beneficial way to sleep is in complete darkness.

Walk it Out

If you are having trouble falling asleep after you have gotten in bed, wait 30 minutes and then get out of bed don’t continue to lay there tossing and turning. Our brains are powerful associative devices. We can train our brains to associate our beds with sleep as well as being awake. After about 30 minutes of wakefulness in bed get up and read a book (a real book, not an electronic book), do some breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga; anything that will prep your body for sleep. DO NOT eat food, read emails, play Candy Crush, or watch TV. Wait to get back into bed until you are feeling sleepy.

Myths About Sleep

Myth 1: “I only need about 5-6 hours of sleep a night.”

Most people need five sleep cycles a night. Each sleep cycle consists of REM Sleep and Non REM sleep. To complete a cycle your body and brain us go through each stage of sleep. Our sleep cycles take on average 90 minutes, so five cycles X 90 minutes = 7.5 hours of sleep. I could write an entire blog on why sleep is essential, and how dangerous to sleep deprivation is. However, for the sake of time, I will leave you with a quick fact about sleep deprivation. After one night of poor sleep, our testosterone levels drop by 20%. Men who are chronically sleep deprived have testosterone levels of a man ten years his senior. To put it another way, chronic sleep deprivation can age you by ten years.

Myth 2: “You can sleep when you are dead.”

Adopting this as a life philosophy or suggesting it to friends is straight lousy advice unless you want a short life. The scientific literature has shown that people who are chronically sleep-deprived live shorter lives. Those of you who believe sleep is a waste of time might want to reconsider your philosophy on productivity.

Myth 3: “A nightcap helps me sleep better.”

Alcohol! Those of us who drink know that having a few drinks before bed makes it easier to fall asleep. Why isn’t this a good thing? Alcohol puts us in a sedated state, not a sleep state. Alcohol inhibits our ability to reach REM sleep and causes sleep fragmentation, so we are never able to experience deep sleep fully.

By: Josh Killam, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Susan Gonzales, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Family Time in the School Year

girl swinging pic

It seems like the middle of summer but the next school year is right around the corner. As you stock up on pencils, paper and other supplies, it is a good time to set family goals and have important conversations about finding balance this year.

School often brings with it extracurricular activities, homework, endless laundry, and large to do lists. It is easy for family time to be replaced with children playing sports, studying, and attending birthday parties and other social events while parents hustle to run errands, keep up with housework and their career, and shuttle their kids from place to place.

Because there are only so many hours in a day, something has to give. And all too often, it is family time together. Uninterrupted, device-less, quality time is a precious commodity these days. But maybe this year, you and your family can be intentional about making it a necessity.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider it:

  • Children whose parents are involved are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and are more likely to do better in school.
  • Families are better able to adapt to challenging situations if they are emotionally close.
  • Children whose mother communicates frequently with them (listening, answering questions, and talking) are more likely to perform well academically.
  • Children whose father spends time with them doing activities tend to have better academic success, as well.
  • Adolescents whose parents are involved in their lives tend to exhibit fewer behavioral problems.
  • Youth who participate in activities with their parents and have close relationships with them are less likely to engage in violence.
  • Eating dinner together frequenting reduces the risk of substance abuse for teens.
  • Adolescents whose parents are home with them after school and during the evening hours are less likely to experience emotional distress.

Spending time together doesn’t have to be costly or elaborate. Often, it is more about the frequency of checking in, talking with one another, eating meals together, playing games or playing outside with one another, and other low-stress activities that help family members bond the most. Now is a good time, before it all begins again, to sit down and talk about setting up regular rituals and routines for connecting with one another and committing to make family time a priority this year.

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