Connect with Yourself in Order to Connect with Others

May Blog Num 2                                      It’s probably no surprise to anyone when science shows us that having friends increases wellness and quality of life. However, in an increasingly complex and busy life, it can be hard to make meaningful connections and lasting friendships. While people may be quick to offer advice: “just get out there and talk to people!” “Join a group!” “Try speed dating!”, anyone who struggles to make friends knows that it’s not quite that simple. If this is you, may we suggest the following starting points instead:

Start by knowing yourself. Oftentimes, our struggle to make friends starts with a lack of confidence and low self-esteem, two prerequisites to connecting with others. If you don’t feel like “getting out there” right away, don’t force yourself. Instead, focus on changing your internal view of yourself. Avoid negative self-talk and focus on your positive qualities. Regular moderate exercise can also help build your self-esteem.

Find your passions. Just ‘talking to people’ doesn’t work because it presumes people are the prize to be won. The real prize is the connection you feel when sharing a passion or interest. Taking a class or volunteering for a cause are excellent opportunities to explore your interests. Do so with gusto and rewards will follow.

Invite people into your life: As you develop a strong self-image and interests in your world, you will gradually start to feel ready to connect and reach out. It’s at this point when getting out there, joining a group, or dating feel more natural and doable.

Above all, remember this is a process that takes time. Give yourself the breathing room and flexibility to evolve as you do. If you find that your feelings need more immediate attention  Beck Psychotherapy  offers  a screening at  http://www.beckpsychotherapy.com/Screenings.html .

Mindfulness – A Tune-up for Your Mind and Body

Experts recommend mindfulness for everything from  maximizing workouts to managing anxiety. But, you may wonder, what exactly  is mindfulness and how does one practice it?

Like a car that needs regular maintenance to run well, the mind works better with regular mindfulness maintenance. The vast majority of us hurdle through our days on cruise control, constantly bombarded by stressful thoughts and innumerable distractions. By taking just a few minutes each day in mindfulness, we can reset the mind’s electrical circuits, gain insight into why our engines are sputtering, and apply small mental tune-ups that increase health and happiness.

The practice of mindfulness involves maintaining a moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings and physical experiences. It can be done lying down, seated or even moving. For example, when walking mindfully, you focus on the feeling of your feet  touching the ground, the air on your face, the sights  around  you, and the sounds you hear. You notice thoughts that come and let them pass. You notice the emotions that arise, and let them pass.

Mindfulness can be a good way for someone to begin exploration of meditation, as it does not require that you completely “clear” the mind. Instead, you focus more carefully on whatever you are doing,  and that focus can take you out of feelings of anxiety and put you in a calmer state. With long-term practice, you can learn to dis-identify with your thoughts and worries and find a more consistent sense of peace.

If your negative feelings seem beyond what mindfulness has to offer,  Beck Psychotherapy  offers a screening  at  http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/beckpsych.

Four Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

Whether from work, parenting or other responsibilities, stress will always be a part of our lives. While stress is not universally bad, research shows that too much stress over time can harm our immune systems, raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart disease, increase vulnerability to anxiety and depression, and hasten the aging process.

It’s important to learn ways to cope with stress. The following are four simple techniques you can employ to reduce the negative impact of stress, and increase your health and enjoyment of life.

Physical activity
Physical activity can restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis. Just five minutes of brisk walking at a decent pace releases endorphins into your body, and neurotransmitters release chemicals into your brain that tell your body that things are good. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.

Relaxation Techniques
Each day, try to relax with a stress reduction technique. For example, find a quiet space, close your eyes, focus your breathing and transport yourself to your happy place for a few minutes. Research shows your body actually produces less of the stress hormone cortisol when engaged in meditation. There are many relaxation techniques to reduce stress so try a few and see what works best for you.

Healthy Eating
Choosing healthy foods when you’re stressed can have a positive impact on your mood, helping to relieve tension, stabilize blood sugar, and send your stress packing. Some of the best foods to eat for stress include dark leafy greens, turkey breast, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, fermented foods, and blueberries, and carrots.

A Good Night’s Sleep
A regular sleeping pattern is vital for managing stress. Experts tell us that we should be getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Rather than relying on medication, aim to maximize your relaxation before going to sleep.  Make sure that your bedroom is a tranquil oasis with no reminders of the things that cause you stress.  Avoid caffeine during the evening, as well as excessive alcohol if you know that this leads to disturbed sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work for as long as possible before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down. Going to bed at roughly the same time each day gives your mind and body the opportunity to get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

A journey to better overall health starts with less stress and improving your mental state. Find a confidential online assessment at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com to evaluate your mental health.

Bipolar Disorder

College can a time of exciting changes and new experiences. It’s also a time when those at risk are likely to experience a first episode of bipolar disorder.
This relatively common mental disorder is associated with severe mood swings, difficulty sleeping and loss of touch with reality. But, because episodes are not predictable and there are many symptoms that are connected to bipolar disorder, it can be challenging to recognize bipolar disorder in oneself and others. Accurate diagnosis is an important step to finding the right treatment.
While the cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood, stress, substance abuse, biological conditions and genetics may all play a role in its development.
The experience of bipolar disorder can be lonely and frightening, but mental disorders in college students are not as uncommon as you might think. Studies show that one in three college students report having prolonged experiences of depression, and one in four students have suicidal thoughts or feelings.
Though only about half of those with bipolar disorder receive treatment for their condition, help and effective treatment is available. So, this March 30, World Bipolar Day, why not take a free, brief online screening to learn if symptoms you or someone you care about may be consistent with bipolar disorder and find some resources where you may be able to get treatment. Beck Psychotherapy offers the screenings at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.

It’s 3 a.m. and You’re Wide Awake. Is it Insomnia or Something Else?

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Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Yet, experts estimate as many as 68 percent of adults experience insomnia, which means they either can’t get to sleep, can’t stay asleep, or the quality of their sleep is poor.

Excess stress and lack of exercise are two common contributors to insomnia, so finding effective methods to manage stress and get more exercise are often key to reducing insomnia. Other tips to help you get a better night’s sleep include:

1. Go to bed at a consistent time every night, even on weekends, and avoid day-time naps.
2. Practice simple relaxation-inducing stretches shortly before bedtime.
3. Take a hot bath or shower 30 minutes before bed.
1. Practice prayer or meditation.
2. Eat foods that have a calming and cooling effect, such as chamomile tea, peppermint, pears, and watermelon.
3. Check with your doctor to make sure you are getting enough vitamins D, B12 and iron. Insufficient amounts of these nutrients are associated with poor sleep.

For convenience, many people turn to sleep medications. But sleeping pills can have side effects that may be just as bad as insomnia. Therefore, over the long term you may find it much more effective to change your lifestyle habits than to turn to medications.

If you are suffering from insomnia and think it may be related to a common and treatable mental health disorder such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder, you can take a free and anonymous mental health self-assessment at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.

Be Kind — It’s Good for You!

February 17 is Random Act of Kindness Day. What does being kind mean to you? Perhaps it is helping a stranger carry a heavy bag. Or, maybe you define it as making sure you call family members who want to hear from you. No matter what act of kindness you perform, you’ll be making someone feel good and doing something good for yourself, too.

Studies show that the simple act of showing another person that you care about them makes you feel emotional warmth, which releases oxytocin, the body’s “feel good chemical.” Research has also shown that performing acts of kindness can lower your blood pressure and be good for your heart.

Some days, performing a kind act can seem like a monumental challenge. If you are feeling so emotionally taxed that you can’t be kind to anyone, be kind to yourself by checking in on your mental health. Beck Psychotherapy free and anonymous mental health screenings at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com. Take one today.

Are My Eating Habits Healthy?

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Managing work, family and other obligations can make maintaining a healthy weight particularly challenging. Sometimes, the effort to lose weight, maintain weight, or meet some standard of ideal weight can lead to eating disorders.
The most common eating disorders are the following:
• Anorexia nervosa, characterized by someone seeing themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves often, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
• Bulimia nervosa is characterized by someone who, while often maintaining relatively normal weight, practices ‘binging and purging’, where they frequently eat unusually large amounts of food followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors.
• Binge-eating disorder occurs when a person goes through periods of binge-eating but does not purge afterwards.
A commonly held view is that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice. They are actually serious mental illnesses that can seriously compromise a person’s health, including lowering the heart rate, causing muscle weakness, loss of bone density, and – too often- death.
While untreated eating disorders can be tragic, the good news is that they are treatable. If you or someone you know is preoccupied with food and weight, you may have the symptoms of an eating disorder. Take a free and anonymous self-assessment at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com and find local resources. February is Eating Disorders Awareness Month, so share the news about this free resource with friends and loved ones.

Recognize MLK Day with A Mental Health Screening

Each January, we recognize and consider the works civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. His name has become synonymous with quietly standing up for one’s beliefs and forging change. What many people don’t realize is that MLK fought his own demons – namely depression.

People who worked with Dr. King have told the stories of his depression. His demeanor went from ebullient to morose; he was constantly exhausted, and often worried that the civil rights movement would fail. Some historians point to the intense stress he was under as the reason for his depression.

However, mental health experts suggest that stress later in life does not explain the suicide attempts he made as a youth, or the periods of hospitalizations he had for being “exhausted.” Historians now surmise that he struggled, undiagnosed, with depression for many years. The very fact that many people are not aware of Dr. King’s history point to the stigma associated with depression.

We’ve come a long way since then towards reducing the shame surrounding depression, but must continue to work towards making talk about mental health as straightforward and open as is talk about physical health. With that in mind, http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com, has resources you can share with family and friends, including a mental health screening.

A New Year’s Resolution with Extra Benefits: Help Yourself by Helping Others

January is time for a fresh start. It’s a new year and you’re probably loaded with resolve to do as well as possible in 2018. Did you know that one of the best things you can do for yourself is to help others? Finding a cause and community really does bring its own benefits, including:

• Decreasing symptoms of depression. Some 40 studies show that volunteering can decrease depression symptoms, and one survey of more than 3,000 volunteers showed that 94% of them reported an improved mood.
• Making social connections improves physical health and psychological well-being. Social connection strengthens our immune systems, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen life. Conversely, studies have shown that a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.

But where to start?

You can begin by recognizing that you don’t need a particular skill set to become a volunteer. Rather, think about what causes you care most about and who you would feel most happy to support. Look online for organizations that are local to your area and then pick up the phone can call, or send an email to inquire about volunteer opportunities. Many nonprofit organizations need various types of help. Still stumped? Look online at organizations such as volunteermatch.org that are specifically designed to help connect volunteers to organizations that need support. If you think your mental health needs more than the benefits of volunteering, check it at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.

Family is FundaMENTAL

Your family is (hopefully) your built-in support system. They cheer on your accomplishments and encourage you when you are struggling. They listen to you when it seems like no one else cares what you have to say. Family is your first social connection when you enter the world and will continue to be there as others come and go.

The mental health benefits of a strong support system are vast:

● Studies show that social support helps fight anxiety and depression by lowering stress.

● Talking about personal problems with a trusted family member helps you understand your own emotions. You are then able to brainstorm solutions together.

● Individuals are more likely to learn about and access treatment options in their community when people close to them introduce them to services

As with any relationship, it is important that you nurture your bond with your family if you want it to flourish. Just because you live with someone does not mean that you are spending quality time with them; in fact, you might be less likely to make plans with family members because you feel that they will always be there for you.

Make an effort to set aside designated family time when you can put everything else aside and focus on each other. Take a hike, go for a bike ride, or just watch a movie together. Strengthen those roots! As a supportive family member, you can also encourage your parents, children, and siblings to take an online mental health screening. If someone in your family seems like they could use a little help and support, direct them to http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com and they can take a free and anonymous mental health screening and find local resources.

Stay Ho Ho Hopeful

The winter holidays are not always merry and bright if you struggle with your mental health. Family stress, social pressure, and the temptation of festive food and drink often intensify current issues and may incite new ones. The holidays are particularly difficult for those who have suffered a recent loss or who cannot be near their loved ones.
Things to remember this season…
The holidays are not a competition, even though social media may make them feel like one. They are not about who got the nicer gift or whose family light display uses the most bulbs. Focus not on the material or aesthetic elements of your holiday celebration, but rather the bonds and memories that make this time of year so special.
December is one of twelve months and does not need to be the “most wonderful time of year” for you. If you expect absolute holiday magic, you are bound to be disappointed. Take the pressure off the season and enjoy whatever comes.
Consider all that you have to be grateful for. There will always be someone who has more than you, but that is not what is important. Keeping this in perspective may help you appreciate the uniqueness of your holiday experience.
The holidays can be trying for many reasons, but if the bad starts overwhelming the good it might be time to take a step back and evaluate your own health. Take a brief online screening at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.

Let’s Talk Turkey

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, and with the holidays comes food, food, food. With all the pies, gravy, and mashed potatoes around, making healthy eating choices can be extra challenging. On top of this temptation is the social pressure to indulge and the mentality, “Holiday calories don’t count, right?” (Unfortunately, they do.)

Beck Psychotherapy has some Dos and Don’ts for making it through the festival buffet:

● DO indulge a little. Part of healthy eating is allowing yourself the room to enjoy the more delicious, less nutritious options from time to time. Restricting yourself completely will only lead to frustration and a higher likelihood to binge later on.

● DO eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. A table laden with food makes it easy to eat more than you normally would and to continue eating as long as the food is in front of you. Don’t make yourself sick – there will be leftover turkey tomorrow.

● DON’T skip meals. Even if your sleeping clock is off during holiday break, your body still needs the same amount of food to function properly. Not eating will make your thinking foggy and may lower your mood.

● DON’T let eating be the focus of a holiday gathering. There is so much more to the holidays—even Thanksgiving—than the spread. Catching up with friends and spending time with family will take your mind away from temptation. Social interaction also helps fight mood disorders and gives you a sense of support.

If the holiday temptations don’t subside after the holidays are over, or if you find yourself restricting too much, you may want to evaluate your eating habits. Check in with yourself at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.