Archive of ‘Social Media’ 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 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

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