How To Prevent Seasonal Depression This Winter

seasonal depression, seasonal affective disorder, SAD

 

Many people find it hard to get going on a gloomy day. The covers feel extra cozy and that cup of hot coffee or tea, extra warm and inviting. The urge to stay in your pajamas and curl up indoors beckons you.

You may notice the weather can influence your mood. You might feel more tired or even down and blue. It might be hard to motivate yourself to get much done. Feeling subdued is nothing to concern yourself with if it happens for a day or two. Relax and put your feet up (as much as your schedule allows) and give yourself permission to chill out and indulge. The key is to soak up the laziness and enjoy, without shirking your responsibilities or feeling pulled farther and farther into hibernation.

This may be easier said than done. For some, seasonal depression is an experience that lasts all winter long.

What is Seasonal Depression?

Seasonal Depression is sometimes called “the winter blues” and psychologists give it the more formal title of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a set of depressive symptoms that occur with a seasonal pattern, typically emerging in the Fall, when the weather gets colder, and remitting in the Spring, with the more frequent sunshine. Occasionally, people experience the opposite, with symptoms during Spring and Summer.

Typical symptoms include having low energy, feeling tired, sad and sluggish, losing interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, and sleep/appetite changes. Additionally, with seasonal depression, you may experience irritability, agitation, anxiety, hypersensitivity, and conflict in getting along with others. Frequently, symptoms start out mild and can become more severe.

What causes Seasonal Depression?

A major cause of seasonally-based depression is biology. Your biological clock (or circadian rhythm) may be partly to blame.  Changing patterns of sunlight and less daylight affect your biological clock. Reduced sunlight can also cause decreases in serotonin, a neurotransmitter (chemical in the brain) which affects and regulates mood. Finally, the body’s balance of melatonin may be disrupted, which also affects mood and sleep.

Another cause of seasonal depression is vulnerability factors. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), vulnerability factors are described as circumstances that make you more vulnerable to experiencing intense, unpleasant emotions. These factors may include environmental stress, a diet that isn’t supporting your needs, sleep irregularities (lack of or too much sleep), lack of exercise (or too much or the wrong kind for you), and physical illness. During Winter, as the weather and winter colds and flu make you feel tired, worn down, and depressed, you may become even more vulnerable, less equipped to handle stressors and feel greater amounts of unpleasant emotions more frequently.  When vulnerability factors are high, intense emotions can follow, making you even more vulnerable.

How to prevent Seasonal Depression?

A gold-standard and evidence-based treatment (research shows it works) for any cause of depression is called Behavioral Activation. In short, this means that as soon as you suspect depression may be on its way (or has arrived), you make a plan to get active. In DBT, this is called Opposite Action.

Specifically, identify all of the depressive behaviors you might want to engage in (e.g., call in sick to work, stay in all weekend without socializing, watch more television). Then, identify their opposites (e.g., show up early to work, make plans ahead of time with friends and keep them, have your shoes and jacket by the door ready to go for a walk after work). Next, get busy doing the opposite behaviors that you feel like doing when you are depressed.

The key is to be clear and specific about what Opposite Action you are going to take (make plans with Joe to see a movie on Sunday afternoon, not vaguely: make plans this weekend), and then throw yourself in all-the-way. Don’t expect it to be easy. Combating depression is exactly that, combat. And, do not be discouraged. It is a battle you can win with persistence and encouragement.

When engaging in Opposite Action, do not suppress how you are feeling or your desire to stay home and put your head under the covers. Instead, allow yourself to feel how you feel AND, at the same time, throw yourself all-the-way into the Opposite Action you have identified and let the skill do the work. (Do not wait until you feel like doing Opposite Action. That day may never come, and it allows Depression to take even more of a hold.) Then, do it again and again until you have gone through your list of Opposite Action tasks and Depression has been sent on his not-so-merry way. If you find it hard to get started, pick one very small step you can take, and take it! Last (and definitely not least), remember to reinforce yourself for taking each step. Reinforcement is a powerful change agent. The more you use it immediately after engaging in desired behaviors, the easier those behaviors will become.

Another way to prevent seasonal depression is by managing your vulnerability factors. Identify what is making you more vulnerable to intense, unpleasant emotions. Although this step may seem obvious, we often do not realize the number of stressors present until we say it out loud to someone else or give it some intentional thought. Once you’ve identified your vulnerability factors (e.g., not sleeping well, feeling under the weather, nutrition has been off the past week), you can brainstorm some ways to attend to them and give yourself really good cold-weather care. For example, if you know that you need extra sleep during the winter and without it, you become quite irritable, see if you can brainstorm some ways to get even just a little bit more sleep each night. Your body and emotions will thank you.

Other treatments for seasonally-based depression address the physical causes. To help combat decreases in natural light, you might use Light Therapy. This works with specially designed light therapy boxes, and research shows it can help. Some people also elect to try vitamins and supplements (in consultation with their health provider) as an alternative to psychotropic medications, such as anti-depressants.

If you have noticed that your mood shifts as the season changes, you may find it helpful to seek out therapeutic support in learning to manage it. Therapists can teach you how to send depression into remission, and then prevent or drastically reduce the likelihood of a relapse. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is one helpful approach. DBT offers techniques to help you identify your unique vulnerability factors, engage in self-care to reduce and manage them, and notice earlier when they may be affecting you so that you can take steps to mitigate depression. If you think DBT may help you, contact a qualified therapist and start shifting from surviving to thriving today!

 


Where Does Anxiety Come From?

We’ve all experienced stress, worry, and anxiety from time to time. For some of us, or at certain times in life, it occurs frequently and can feel overwhelming. At its worst, anxiousness can even impair daily functioning. A lot of factors work together to cause the experience that we call anxiety. Let’s take a look at some specific ways that it develops:

From Chronic Stress Conditions 

Most of us equate stress with anxiousness, and oftentimes, these two do go together. However, when we talk about anxiety as opposed to a passing stressor (a stressful life event that comes and goes rather quickly), there is a lot more to it than just feeling stressed. Some people grow up or live in incredibly stressful environments (e.g., low-income households, experiences of neglect and abuse), and these long-term stressful conditions can make people more vulnerable to anxiety, and in some cases, weaken their ability to handle stress. If your system is already taxed by dealing with chronic, daily stress, your ability to manage more stressors thrown your way will very likely be compromised. A buildup of chronic stressful situations that do not go away quickly can lead to an experience of anxiety.

From Reinforcement

Have you ever heard someone say, “You don’t need to worry,” and you want to answer with, “I do need to worry!”? When we are experiencing anxiety, we often believe it’s helpful, because it gets reinforced. When we feel anxious about something and spend time ruminating and worrying, often everything turns out just fine. We can then believe that anxiety helped achieve the desired outcome. There is an old quote by an unknown author that goes, “Worrying works! 90% of the things I worry about never happen.” We continue to feel anxious and sometimes become almost fearful that if we are not anxious, things will not work out. Most of the time, this isn’t even a process we choose. The cycle gets reinforced, and the brain keeps it going without our intent. Reinforcement is brain food; when a behavior is reinforced, it is likely to occur again.

 

Anxiety, anxious, anxiousness, worry

 

From Avoidance

One function of anxiety is that it helps us to avoid other issues. This can be the most puzzling reason for anxiety. Most of us hate the experience of anxiety, and at first glance, it does not make sense that we would use anxiety to avoid anything. Rather, we want to avoid anxiety! Think of it like this: Anxiety gives our mind something to chew on. We may not like it, and it may not feel pleasant, but it occupies us, nonetheless.

Anxiety tells us that something is wrong and we need to fixate on it, wring our hands, figure it out, look up facts, check out others’ opinions, etc., and it keeps us very busy. Sometimes it keeps us so busy that we can’t focus on much else. If we are having an uncomfortable emotional experience or find ourselves in a painful situation that cannot be solved (e.g. a job we cannot quit, the death of a loved one), sometimes we are so overwhelmed that anxiety jumps in to try to give relief. We may prefer (on some level) the experience of spending our time figuring out an unfixable problem than sitting with the feeling of grief or helplessness.

 From Other Emotions

Another function of anxiety is its ability to hide other, more difficult emotions, because it is a secondary emotion. Anxiousness (or any secondary emotion) happens when the primary emotion is not sufficiently experienced and processed. In other words, your anxiety serves as an avoidance (see above for more explanation on this). When we experience it, we don’t feel the underlying emotion. Our way out of anxiety is to feel this primary emotion. When we resolve a primary emotion, the secondary emotion regulates.

 From Itself

One of the most unpleasant aspects of anxiousness is that once we are aware of it, we can start to feel anxious about our anxiousness. The more we work to avoid it, ignore it, fight it, or self-criticize it, the more space it takes up in our mind. We end up feeling anxious about having anxiety and sometimes anxious about the rare times we do not feel anxiety. We may also experience additional concern about others noticing or criticizing our anxiousness.

If you struggle with anxiety, consider seeking therapy. Therapy can help you safely address and resolve unrelenting anxiousness. A therapist who practices Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a good choice. DBT can help you build skills to address any vulnerabilities you have, to identify and cope with primary emotions, and to make more effective choices than avoidance. They can also teach the skill of Radical Acceptance, which is learning how to accept things that cannot be changed, rather than adding to your suffering by fighting it or feeling more anxious. If you could benefit from these skills, contact a qualified therapist and start shifting from surviving to thriving today!


How To Get The Most Out Of Your Therapy Session

If you are seeking a therapy session, it is likely because you want something in your life to change and you would like expert support and guidance through the process. You want a skilled professional to help take out the guesswork and help get you to your goals.

In the past, this has meant that on top of the stress or problem(s) for which you are seeking help, you must find the time, during business hours, to leave your home or office and make it to a weekly therapy session. Packed schedules, work requirements, and congested commutes present valid obstacles to taking over an hour out of your day every week to drive to your therapist’s office. Not to mention the trouble if the expert you’d like help from lives far away from you. In today’s busy world, many people are turning to TeleHealth or TeleTherapy sessions. These video therapy sessions use HIPAA-secure formats that function similar to Skype or Facetime to make therapy more accessible.

Whatever format you select for your therapy session, your success depends largely upon the work you put in, not just on the effort of the therapist. When attending therapy, your active participation in the process will help you to get the most out of your therapy appointments and ultimately, achieve the results you want.

Treat Therapy As A Collaborative Process

We often view therapists as the expert in the room. Therapists do bring a great deal of knowledge about psychology and new ideas for how to help you. However, you are also an expert in the room. You know best about your history, what you have tried in the past, and what is happening in your present.

A therapy session will be most successful if you work collaboratively and come prepared with what you want to work on in each session. Then, work with your therapist to set goals, explore information, make discoveries, and learn how to apply new skills to your life. Ultimately, you decide what to take away from the therapy session.

 

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Apply What You Learn Outside Of Session

As you and your therapist work together, you will understand yourself better and identify new, more effective ways of behaving. It is essential to apply these new skills outside of session. Whenever possible, ask for homework and then do it. If it is too challenging (usually this is the case when you find yourself not doing the homework), ask your therapist for help. It is your therapist’s job to help you generalize the skills that you learn in the therapy office to making real-time changes in your life. This means the therapist must use their expertise to assign homework in a way that not only challenges you but also is likely that you will engage with and complete the practice(s) they’ve suggested.

Remember to communicate with your therapist about any barriers you face putting the new skills into action. Trying a new skill once and never again will not help you get to that point of lasting change. Every new skill takes practice to become a new habit, and you are paying with your time and money to get help. Use it to your advantage!

Talk To Your Therapist About Your Therapy

When people go to therapy, it is often because they want to address some concern or problem in their life. You may be focused on discussing that problem and finding solutions, which makes sense. In addition, therapy works best when you also talk to your therapist about your therapy.

This means you can reflect on what is working and share those thoughts with your therapist. If you like a new skill, let your provider know. If you are unhappy about something, talk to your therapist about it and see how the two of you can navigate this situation. Giving your therapist this feedback allows them to respond by adjusting their interventions to be more appealing to you or more relevant to your treatment goals.

Find Therapy That Fits Your Lifestyle

Nowadays, most people don’t want to travel to get to therapy appointments or lie on a couch in the room with a therapist. And you don’t have to do these things to get results. With TeleHealth therapy, you can benefit from the skilled, focused attention of a therapist when and where you need it. Even within the comfort of your home, you can access professional therapy with TeleTherapy services via video calls. Making therapy easier to access means you are more likely to stay engaged and on track with your goals.

Once you have started therapy, use these tips to get the most out of your sessions, get the results you want, and start shifting from surviving to THRIVING.


6 Most Common Questions About Therapy Answered

Going to therapy for the first time can be daunting when you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes, even if you have been to therapy before and have not received the results you wanted, you may have questions about how to return to therapy and achieve a different outcome. The answers to these frequently asked questions can help you wisely invest your time and money in therapy to achieve the success you want.

  1. Why Should I Go To Therapy?

If you’ve never been to therapy before, you might wonder why you should take the step to get treatment. Every therapy experience is different, so defining your personal goals can help to guide both your motivation to go to therapy, as well as your choice of therapy type and therapist. If you wisely choose a change-oriented therapist, treatment can be fruitful as a growth experience or to help you navigate a stressful life situation or relationship. Many people visit a therapist to discuss a specific issue or diagnosis, but you don’t need to have that all figured out before reaching out to a new therapist. Just knowing that you want help is enough. A skilled therapist can help you define your treatment goals and decide what changes you would like to see in your life for therapy to be deemed successful.

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  1. How Do I Find A Therapist?

Common ways of finding a therapist are through recommendations from family and friends, online directories, your insurance company, online reviews or often, a web search. Searching the web allows you to define exactly what you are looking for, and get to know prospective therapists through their websites, before deciding who to contact. A benefit of our technological age today is that you can choose TeleHealth, or online therapy sessions, for location independent therapy when and where you need it.

  1. How Do I Choose A Therapist?

Choosing the right therapist involves either identifying a problem you want help with or the type of therapy you want and evaluating whether the therapist is the right match for you. Some therapists have individual specialties or areas of interest that may appeal to you, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) or Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Ask for a phone consultation with your potential therapist to see if this is someone you feel comfortable opening up to and working with.

  1. How Will I Know If A Therapist Is A Good Match?

You want to find out if your therapist’s goals match your goals. Is this clinician results-oriented so you can focus on moving forward (not just talking about moving forward) and from therapy eventually? Can they identify your main problem areas, as well as an action plan to work on them? Can they develop a treatment plan and treatment goals with you, and help you project how long you will need therapy within the first few sessions? Therapy is a collaborative effort, and it is important to ensure your goals and vision match those of your therapist.

  1. How Do I Monitor The Progress of Therapy?

You probably want to heal, grow and progress through therapy, and it is important to know how to measure that. An experienced, results-oriented therapist will understand how to monitor progress according to the goals you set. Progress monitoring is essential because you want to make sure therapy not just helps you feel better, but also helps you get better. Using psychological measures to track your progress can help you and your therapist know whether treatment is working, how fast it is working, and whether the treatment plan needs to be altered to receive better results more quickly.

  1. I’ve Never Been To Therapy Before, What Do I Need To Know?

While it’s natural to feel nervous before your first therapy session, understand that your therapist is a professional who is trained and experienced in helping you face problem areas in your life, and promote growth, healing, and change. If you have put the time and research into choosing the right therapist, you should feel comfortable and at ease in therapy within the first few sessions. Stay open minded, and if you experience that things are not going as planned or the therapist is not meeting your needs as you had hoped, feel free to discuss this with the clinician, or to try a different therapist.

Therapy can promote profound, impactful change to your life. It is important that you are empowered to get the right help for you. Hopefully, the tips in this article will boost your confidence about starting or revisiting therapy with these frequently asked questions answered. Take a step towards the life you want today, and start shifting from surviving to thriving!


4 Tips for Handling an Argument

Arguments are an inevitable part of life. If you ever have a relationship with anyone, it is very likely that at some point, you will disagree. Disputes are a normal and expected part of intimacy – whether you argue with your spouse or partner, business colleague or boss, or friend or even acquaintance, arguments are part of how humans connect, understand each other, and sometimes even bond. If, however, you find yourself getting into frequent arguments, your arguments get more intense than seems effective, or you struggle to resolve disputes, try these 4 Tips for Handling an Argument, to improve your communication and increase the probability you get the results that you want.

  1. Use “I Feel” Statements

If you are rolling your eyes because you’ve heard about “I” statements in therapy mumbo-jumbo self-help books before, please suspend your judgment and read on. “I” statements are not about being mushy-gushy, “I’m okay, you’re okay,” and only using language to appease the other person. Used correctly, “I” statements function to reduce the other person’s defensiveness and help you to get your point across clearly. Often, arguments are started or sustained by miscommunications and misinterpretations. Making statements such as, “you are a [fill in the blank with your favorite accusation]” or “you make me feel” put the other person on the defensive and make them unable to hear and understand you, let alone meet your needs. These kind of “You” statements can leave the other party feeling confused, criticized or blamed. That is a recipe for that person putting up their dukes and fighting back. Now, both of you are unhappy, and the argument is unresolved. Being mindful of your language and using “I” statements help you to communicate your experience without blaming the other person, greasing the wheels for their willingness and understanding. Start with “I feel” or “I want” or “I don’t like” and then describe the situation without judgment. (See past blogs on my website for more information about what Nonjudgment is and how to use it.)

  1. Lower The Intensity

If you have heard the phrase, “fight fire with fire” you may know it refers to the idea of responding to a fire by lighting another one.  Sometimes in an argument, we instinctively want to “fight fire with fire.”  We want to be the winner that convinces the other party to change their opinion, agree to our demand, or simply say those magic words, “You are right.”  The problem is that as you each raise your intensity to be the winner, it escalates the dispute, the argument can get out of hand, and no one wins. Next time you argue and observe yourself becoming more intense (louder voice, bigger mannerisms, harsher words), STOP. (This is a DBT Skill that encourages you to Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed Mindfully.) Take a deep breath in the moment, take a break from the discussion if you need to calm down (and use Willing Hands or Half-Smile, some other DBT Skills that come in handy during an argument), and lower your intensity.  Ask the other party to do the same.  E.g., “Let’s both lower our voices. I’d like us to get through this together calmly and respectfully.” Then it can be possible to talk calmly as equals, hear each other, and respond effectively, working to get everyone’s needs met.

handling an argument, therapy, behavior change

  1. Take a Break

There is an old saying, “never go to bed angry.”  Although this statement probably intends to help resolve an argument, it can convey that when we argue, we must keep arguing until we resolve the disagreement.  This is simply not true, and it is not the most effective way to handle an argument.  If you are in an argument, sometimes the very best solution in that moment, is to take a break to calm down.  However, just walking or storming off can make the argument worse.  Instead, as calmly as you can, let the other person know that you need a break from the discussion.  Taking a break can give you each time to reflect, give your nervous system a chance to calm down, and help you to come back more clear-headed.  Negotiate a time to resume the discussion later.

  1. Practice Acceptance

Some arguments happen because we have different points of view.  You can get wrapped up in trying to make another person agree with your outlook.  Perhaps you even want them to adopt your opinions.  However, there are times you must “agree to disagree.” In other words, sometimes no matter how long or skillfully you talk, you will continue to have a different opinion from the other person. In those moments, you can practice the skill of acceptance. (Radical Acceptance is another DBT Skill useful in the midst of an argument.)  You will be accepting that the other person has a different viewpoint and that you may not be able to change it. Acceptance does NOT equal approval.  You do not personally have to approve of or adopt their perspective. Acceptance means that you accept the reality of the situation, even the parts of it that you don’t like. You let go of trying to change things that won’t change.

 

With these 4 Tips, you can practice handling arguments differently. Start with small, low-intensity disagreements and move to more emotional arguments once you’ve mastered some of these skills. If you often get into arguments, struggle to communicate, or feel unhappy in your relationships, you might seek the support of a professional therapist to help improve your communication and get more of your needs met.


What is DBT and How Can It Help Me?

Seeking help and going to therapy can be stressful. Choosing the right approach can ensure you get the care you need to make the changes you want. In this article, I’m going to give you introduction to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a treatment that may be helpful if you want more balance in your emotional life. DBT has become a popular technique used to help individuals cope with the stressful challenges life throws their way, and the intense emotions that can follow. The scientific research for this treatment is strong. Individuals often report huge, impactful, positive life change as a result of DBT. DBT focuses on helping people change their reactions and behaviors to create more resilience in life. Understanding what Dialectical Behavior Therapy is and how it works can help you decide if it is the right approach for you.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that was initially developed for people suffering from chronic suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. However, implementing DBT revealed that it is helpful for people in a range of situations having difficulties managing emotions, and can help to reduce anxiety and improve coping mechanisms under stressful circumstances. DBT teaches you coping techniques and strategies to deal with difficult emotions without being caught up and swept away in them.

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What Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Involve?

DBT is best administered by an experienced therapist, with a history of training and supervision in DBT by experts in the field. Full program DBT involves weekly individual therapy in addition to attending a weekly DBT Skills Group. Treatment length varies by person and treatment goals.

DBT includes –

  • Collaboration – working with a skilled therapist can help you identify what you want out of life and obstacles getting in your way. Bringing awareness to both your goals and challenges in a specific, systemized way is a key step toward making the changes you want.
  • Learning skills – one of the most important aspects of DBT is learning specific skills to incorporate into your everyday routine for growth, happiness, and fulfillment.
  • Practice – DBT is a behavioral therapy. This means that new behaviors must be practiced for change to occur. Practice, practice, practice, and then some more practice, is a common mantra in DBT.

The Four Modules Of DBT Skills

The four areas of skills learned in DBT are designed to help you better understand your thoughts and feelings, and change your behaviors to better achieve and support the life that you want. These modules include:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Distress Tolerance
  3. Interpersonal Effectiveness
  4. Emotional Regulation

Who Can Benefit From DBT?

DBT has been shown to be successful in a number of different areas and for those suffering a range of issues including:

  • Relationship problems
  • Low self-esteem or shame
  • Weight management
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Borderline Personality Disorder

DBT can also be used in many other situations, even where a specific diagnosis may not be defined. Under the guidance of an experienced and well-trained DBT therapist, you can learn life-changing skills to make a profound impact on your well-being.

DBT is an inspiring treatment method that can help change your life for the better. Talking with a DBT therapist can help you determine whether DBT is the right therapy approach for you. Contact me today if you may be interested in finding out more about DBT and shifting your life from surviving to thriving!


4 New Perspectives To Free You From The Guilt And Shame Drain

Guilt and shame can hold you back from the happiness and freedom you desire, draining your energy and burning you out. Sometimes it can feel like shame is eating away at you from the inside, and you can’t even bear to face family and friends.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to be free from the guilt and shame drain, starting today. Working one on one with a skilled Dialectical Behavior Therapist is a key way to begin letting go of these painful emotions to live a happier, more fulfilling life. As a part of DBT, you will learn specific techniques to shift your perspectives and see things in new light.

  1. Recognizing Guilt and Shame is the First Step

If you recognize your feelings and are able to label them as guilt or shame, you’ve already begun the journey to cope skillfully with these emotions. Just bringing attention and mindfulness to when you are feeling guilt or shame is a powerful step. When you realize that guilt or shame is what you are feeling, gently label and make a note of it internally, without trying to change or modify it. This act of mindfulness and recognition of emotions works into the further stages of DBT where you can learn to welcome pain and skillfully cope with it, rather than pushing it away, which often increases emotional distress.

  1. Your View May Not Be What Others See

One of the tricks that guilt and shame play on your mind is creating thoughts that things are all your fault or that everyone is blaming you. One of the first steps DBT teaches is to recognize and unglue from your thoughts. This step involves working with a DBT therapist to carefully review how you may be automatically coming to conclusions about situations and staying stuck in a rut. When you are feeling guilt and shame, take a closer look at your thoughts and interpretation of the situation that brought up these painful feelings. Recognizing these biases in interpretation is a first step to using DBT to tap into your wisdom and let go of worry thoughts.

  1. Take A Short Break From Your Feelings

When you are feeling guilt and shame, it can be easy to get stuck in a cycle of self-blame and anger. It is important to give yourself permission to give yourself a break from what can be an endless cycle. Do this intentionally, not to avoid the problem-solving process, rather, just to give yourself a break so you can come back to solve the problem at a different time. Take time off to do an activity you enjoy, to help others, or to just do or think about something else for a while. Taking a break from the intensity of emotions can give you the chance to refresh and gain a new perspective on the situation.

  1. Remember That Emotions Are Temporary

Always remember that “this too shall pass” and nothing lasts forever. Mind states and emotions – no matter how powerful – are  temporary and we can ride them out. (If emotions feel never-ending and do not feel temporary to you, a DBT therapist can help with that!) This doesn’t mean you should avoid problem-solving when necessary. Still, you may not need to treat every thought and emotion as though it is very serious and must be solved immediately. Training the mind is a process. The mind is always changing, and we can learn to let thoughts and emotions come and go gracefully.

An experienced DBT therapist can equip you with essential skills and techniques so you can learn to be free from the guilt and shame drain. Contact me today to work with me on creating a happier and more fulfilling life.


Mindfulness Made Simple

As part of my practice as an action-based psychologist, I teach skills for emotional health and well-being. All of these skills start with the foundation of MINDFULNESS – purposeful awareness in the present moment.

My full definition of mindfulness is: The PRACTICE of adopting a curious, nonjudgmental, and gentle stance while cultivating awareness in the present moment by bringing one’s attention to an intended focus in an effective way.

That’s a dense definition. Let’s just concentrate on the PRACTICE part of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice. No one, no matter how much they have meditated or read or talked about mindfulness, can ever make the declarative statement, “I am now mindful.” Mindfulness is a practice, and we slip in and out of this state. When practiced on a regular basis, we build the skill of mindfulness, a first and crucial step to peace, happiness and emotional freedom. When we strengthen our mindfulness skills, we can be more aware and awake in our lives and make conscious choices more often.

Intentionally bringing awareness to yourself and your environment is the first step to building your mindfulness muscle. One way to practice is through a simple daily meditation. Meditation does not have to be complicated. Placing your attention on three breaths as you inhale and exhale can reap benefits.

Even when your mind is very busy this practice is effective. You can attempt, as best you can, to notice yourself breathing for three inhalations and exhalations. When your mind wanders, as minds do, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Do this as many times as is needed during those three inhalations and exhalations. When you bring your mind back after it wanders, it is like doing a rep with your mindfulness muscle. Think of your mind wandering as something that is supposed to happen, and the act of bringing your mind back to your breath, even if only for a second, is like lifting a heavy weight with perfect form and building this focused muscle.

The more you practice (even if it is three breaths once a day), you will start to notice more about your experiences sooner and sooner. For example, you may observe that you are somewhat stressed earlier in the day before it turns into being overwhelmed. Knowing and recognizing what is going on is a powerful tool to allow you to begin making changes.  See video below to practice.

As with anything, reading this article will not change your life. What will? TAKING ACTION! Here are two options for something you can do today:

  1.  Pause, right now, in this moment and notice where you feel your breath in your body. You do not have to change or alter your breath, simply become aware of what your breath is doing right now. Attempt to place your attention on feeling your breath in your body for the next 3 breaths, and when your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Notice the effect this has on you in the moment and the rest of your day.
  2. PRACTICE with my short, guided introduction to mindfulness.

 

LIFE IS TOO SHORT JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

Thank you,

Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Questions or comments? Email them to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, she may address your question(s) or comment(s) in a future newsletter.


3 Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills You Can Use to Transform Your Life Now

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is designed to help you better understand your feelings and emotions and free you from feeling trapped by them. Rather than simply analyzing your problem, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches specific skills that can be used in everyday life to give you greater happiness and wellbeing. So many people feel that they know what’s wrong, they just need the clarity and skills to work with the issues. DBT empowers you to do just that, with the ongoing support of a therapist’s guidance.

The skills learned in DBT fall under four umbrellas – Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Emotion Regulation. Here we look at three skills you can learn in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and that you can use right now to bring real change to your life.

Identify and Label

Mindfulness is the ability to know and be aware of what is going on around you and within you. With the distractions and busy-ness of modern life, this is not as easy as it sounds. Consciously and intentionally bringing awareness to ourselves and our environment is the first step to building our mindfulness muscle.

When we are beginners, one of the most effective ways to do this is through meditation or a mindful activity like slow walking. Meditation does not have to be complicated. Placing your attention on three breaths as you inhale and exhale can reap benefits. (Remember, when your mind wanders, as minds do, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Do this as many times as is needed during those three inhalations and exhalations.) As you do these mindful activities, notice what you feel, physically and internally, and identify these qualities by giving them a name, like ‘step,’ ‘breath in,’ ‘breath out’; or even ‘anger,’ ‘worry,’ and ‘self-criticism.’ As you become more skilled at doing this, you can extend it to everyday situations, like driving to work, being in a meeting or having an argument. Simply knowing and recognizing what is going on is a powerful tool to allow you to begin making changes.

Accept Things As They Are (even if you want them to change)

Once you’ve learned to recognize and understand what is going on inside and around you, it is easier to work with these feelings. In some cases, you may identify things you can change. For example, every time you walk past the bakery, you notice a craving for cookies, so you can choose not to take that route anymore. To make that decision to change your course, you had to be aware that this caused a craving in you and accept this reality. If you spent effort pushing away and denying that this craving was a problem for you, or you were not aware this desire increased when you passed the bakery, you would not have been able to apply the solution of walking a different route.

Working skillfully with our feelings is also about recognizing what we can’t change, and accepting rather than fighting against them. One way to do this is to cope with a distressing moment by having a one-mindful focus. Learning to focus on one point, like your breath, a candle or flower, or sounds, can draw your attention to this one-pointed focus and give you time to calm down. Your Dialectical Behavior Therapist can work with you to develop a range of different coping skills to help you walk through difficult moments that will inevitably arise.

Taking Care of Yourself to Regulate Emotions

When you feel angry, hurt, or another painful emotion, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. You might even feel like your emotions are out of control. Fortunately, Dialectical Behavior Therapy can teach you how to manage emotions, so you feel more in the driver’s seat of your experience. A first step you can take, even before feeling a painful emotion, is to manage your vulnerability factors.

Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, resting and taking time off when you need it can all help. By taking care of your body and health needs, you are making yourself more resilient to challenging situations. Imagine being cut off in traffic when you are well-rested, have had enough nutritious food to eat, are wearing comfortable clothing and had a nice walk out in the sun earlier that day. Someone cutting you off probably won’t have much of an impact. Now imagine someone cutting you off and you are sleep deprived, hungry and haven’t had any exercise. If you’re like most people, being cut off will have much more impact, and you will be more likely to experience intense emotions. Although life circumstances prevent us from always taking care of our bodies in an ideal way, the more we can do our best to take good care, the more emotionally resilient and better able to ride out life’s difficult moments we will be.

A skilled therapist can help you develop the DBT skills that work best for you to give you greater freedom and happiness in life. You don’t have to live each day as a struggle – talk to a therapist who uses Dialectical Behavior Therapy to learn more about these life changing skills today.


How do I Handle This?

 

How can we prevent crippling anxiety or depression? We need LOTS of practice welcoming in and feeling unpleasant emotions like sadness, fear, and anger. We need to lay out the red carpet for resentment, despair, and even hopelessness at times, because when we do, these emotions pass. If we open the door wide and set out the welcome mat, these emotions typically dissolve more quickly than we expect. We also don’t cling to these emotions – we feel them and let them go. Depression is that massive cloud of weighted bleh following you around. That cloud is made up of emotional buildup: thick, dense, burdensome emotions that have not been processed.

We forget that we can handle pain. In fact, we can cope with a lot of pain, often more than we expect to survive. Women engage in natural childbirth for hours on end and make it through. We survive break-ups, deaths, personal and societal tragedies, lost jobs, fever, and sickness. Through it all, we survive and usually gain self-respect in the process.

We breathe in-and-out and a new day comes. Sometimes the pain is so great all we can do is focus on just this one breath. Right here, right now. And then you know what happens? The next breath comes, and the next, and the next, and pretty soon we feel differently, and our thoughts change and shift. We welcome a new experience.

Us humans do a lot to get in the way of this process. We push away, avoid, ruminate, argue, distract, anything to not feel what is taking place in our body. (Remember, emotions are a physiological experience and happen in our physical body.) If my friend says something to me and I feel hurt, how do I process this?

  • I could avoid feeling it by thinking about it over and over (ruminating)
  • I could talk with numerous other friends about it to no end
  • I pretend it didn’t happen
  • I choose to ignore my friend hoping for an apology
  • Fill in your favorite way to deal by not dealing here ________________.

Instead, if I want emotional freedom, I could meet HURT at the door laughing and invite him (or her) in. I could treat this guest, HURT, honorably. How would this look? I might do a little self-talk that goes something like this:

“Ugh, I feel kicked in the gut. Where do I feel that? How do I know I feel HURT? What in my body is telling me HURT is here? (Take some breaths and notice sensations in my body.) I feel like the center of my chest is sinking. I almost feel out of breath. (Take some more breaths while paying attention to these sensations in my body and any other feelings that arise.) I think I feel HURT. (Some more breaths while paying attention to sensations in my body. When my mind wanders, or I zone out, I ask myself, ‘Now what is happening in my body? What do I notice?’)”

After maybe a few minutes pass, I gently decide what is most effective for me to do next. Is it to drink a glass of water? Talk to my friend about what they said prompting me to feel hurt? Continue breathing into these feelings and sensations? Get to work and put this aside until later? The key here is that I calmly ask my Wisdom what is most effective, rather than ducking, hiding and getting rid of that emotion as soon as possible. Personally, I sometimes like to set a timer for three minutes. When I do, this means that I have committed to throwing myself into feeling into my body (paying attention to sensations) for three minutes and will gently evaluate what is next when that time is up.

 

Remember, HURT is a guest, and if we want emotional freedom, we treat each guest honorably. I pour HURT a cup of tea, sit down with him, ask how he’s doing, pay attention when he talks, and we have a visit together. When he’s ready, HURT will decide to go. I won’t rush him out or even turn my back as he leaves. I will thank him for coming, and gently open the door and watch him go, letting him know he is always welcome. I may even thank him for his visit (emotions are very informative). I feel at peace.

When we push away what is uncomfortable, we create stress and even more unpleasant emotional intensity. When we welcome in our emotions and treat them honorably, we may experience pain, discomfort, aching, and we also give ourselves the gift of peace.

As with anything, reading this article will not change your life. What will? PRACTICE, of course! The next time you are feeling a painful emotion and would like help welcoming it in, listen to this short, three-minute, guided meditation to help you along. [Insert meditation link here] In fact, you can use this recording as a daily practice if you’d like to regularly engage in a skill to mitigate emotional buildup. (If you’d like to practice for a little longer, listen to this 8-minute meditation at the end of my article, The Guest House .

LIFE IS TOO SHORT JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

Thank you,

Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.


© 2017 Amanda Gale Bando Phd · Designed and Developed by D-Kode Technology

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando