Personal Responsibility

The Importance of Personal ResponsibilityPersonal Responsibility Article

How often have you been driving and thought: “If that car in front of me would just move out of the way, I could get where I’m going faster?”

These kinds of thoughts cross my mind often. If that car would move, or if that person would stop using that tone with me, or if so-and-so wouldn’t put me in an awkward position or “make me feel” a certain way, life would be grand!

All of these statements, however, communicate to your brain that your wellbeing is dependent upon someone else.

Let’s break this down… When I say that I want someone else to change their behavior, I am really saying that I don’t like how I feel – and I don’t know what to do about it. I want someone else to change so I can feel better.

Essentially, I have taken all of my “power chips” and handed them over for someone else to manage my life. Let’s look at an example:

I was recently at an airport, and the people in front of me in the security line were taking for-ev-er. One person took a shoe off and gently placed it on the conveyer belt – so slowly that I wondered if she ever intended on having the other shoe join its mate. The gentleman behind her agreed with this pace…

With all of us in line waiting, he leisurely drank his water before proceeding with the security routine. Man, did I have judgments! My head (and facial expressions) were screaming, “Have you never been in a security line?! We are all waiting! How rude! Hustle, hustle, hustle! Knees to chest, people! Get moving!”

I was so invested in their obvious-to-me socially unacceptable behavior that by the time I got through the line, I was huffing and puffing, wondering what could ever possess people to be so inconsiderate. Because of them, I had a stressful experience, and had to rush to my gate despite arriving at the airport in what I thought left plenty of time. I was irritated, and I placed all of the blame on the other people in the security line.

In short, what I believed at that moment was:

If they changed their behavior, I could feel better.

Wow, that is a loaded statement! By going down this train of thought (with my emotions quickly following), I just invested in the belief that someone else is responsible for how I feel.

Ugh, no wonder I was frustrated and felt powerless. In this experience, I believed I had fallen victim to someone else’s ignorance. Notice those words? Powerless. Victim.

Now, you might think that this was such a minor incident, how could this really affect how I feel about myself or my place in the world? You also might agree with the judgments I made about the slow-movers at the airport and share my frustration…

Well, the beliefs that we invest our time, thinking, and behavior into are important. They inform the blueprint of how we see ourselves in the world, and how we show up for life… And here’s the rub:

When you expect others to take care of you:

  • You cheat the relationship, and you cheat yourself
  • Your confidence dwindles
  • You begin to believe you cannot do hard things

When you expect others to regulate themselves so you feel better, you burden the other person with the expectation that it is their responsibility to make you feel differently than you do Deep down, nobody wants this responsibility. It is an unwelcome gift. Even if the recipient saddles up and takes responsibility for how you feel, resentment is likely to build. The other person has just received a weight that is too heavy for them to bear.

They have also received the inferred message that you are unable to meet your needs and regulate yourself – so you subtly lose some of their respect.

When you hand over your feel-good expectations to someone else, you cheat yourself by giving yourself the message that you can’t handle the responsibility. Someone else needs to ride in on a white horse and rescue you, all because you are not whole enough to handle things on your own.

When you use phrases such as, “so-and-so made me feel [fill in the blank with a favorite icky-feeling emotion],” it is like a slowly dripping faucet of self-disrespect. You may not feel the impact of the first drop, but eventually, the sink fills up, and you’ve got a big, sloshy pool of belief that others hold the power to “make you feel” – and you become a victim to their behavior.

Talk about a confidence buster!

When you repeatedly tell yourself that others are making you feel a certain way, or thinking that if others would behave differently, that would solve your distressing emotions, you are also telling yourself that you cannot do hard things.

This is one of the most dangerous messages for you to believe! Resilience is built upon knowing that you can do hard things, that you can roll with whatever life throws your way, and that you know as long as you are in your own corner, you’ve got this life thing!

When you start to lose sight of this fact by hoping others will change their behaviors to “make you feel” better, you are in serious trouble.

On the other hand:

When you look for (and accept) your responsibility and volition in all situations, you gain:

  • A sense of empowerment
  • More mutually rewarding relationships
  • Self-confidence and self-respect

If, in the airport, I had noticed my thoughts, “Damn these people for making me anxious and uncomfortable!” here’s how I could have responded:

“Uh-oh, did I just say someone else is ‘making me feel?’ Okay, it’s time for me to get to work here.”

STEP 1: NOTICE AND LABEL when you have just handed over the responsibility for how you feel to someone else.

STEP 2: FOCUS INWARD and QUESTION. Questions I might ask myself include:

  • “What am I feeling in my body?”
  • “What emotion is this I’m feeling right now?”
  • “What about this situation is making me uncomfortable, instead of the many other situations I’ve been through today that I haven’t focused on this intently?”
  • “What interpretation am I having of others’ behaviors in this situation?”
  • “Are there other possible perspectives here?”

This inward focus immediately grows your sense of self-respect and responsibility for your own experience. First of all, you receive the message (from yourself) that you are worth paying attention to – and that your experience is significant enough for you to focus all of your attention in this moment.

Second, by observing yourself in this way, you unglue from your interpretations and reactions and start getting reflective, leading you to other possible experiences. Third, this step is hard – and when you practice turning toward yourself in this way, you learn that you can do it. You gain confidence in your ability to tackle your unchecked reactions.

While you are building all this empowerment, self-confidence, and self-respect, you are also improving your relationship with the other people in the situation!

If I had put this into practice in the security line, I wouldn’t have glared, sighed, rolled my eyes, and in general, treated others with contempt. Perhaps I could have let others have their experiences and I mine, and focused on what I needed in that situation, which brings us to…

STEP 3: IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS and RESPOND. If I had asked myself what I needed in that moment, regardless of others’ behavior, I probably could have used some deep, slow breaths, stopped fidgeting (which was fueling my frustration), and maybe talked to someone or texted a friend for a brief distraction.

Maybe all I needed was to acknowledge that I felt frustrated, that my interpretation was that I was being disrespected, and I would have been able to let it go. Perhaps I would have decided to ask for the people in front of me to move more quickly, or request they let me go in front of them. The point is that I did not ask myself what I needed, so I did not receive the message that I cared about what I needed… And I certainly was not able to provide it for myself.

Even so, I still have…

STEP 4: REFLECT. Although I am not proud of my behavior in the airport, and it is not a representation of how I wish to walk through the world, I can still face it and move forward.

Notice your ineffective behaviors in retrospect, and walk yourself through what went wrong. Thinking about how it could go differently the next time, as I just did, facilitates change. After this exercise, I can tell you with 99% certainty that the next time I am frustrated in a security line, I will think of this example. When you wake up to the moment, you have a chance to make a choice and do things differently.

 

Here is a practice for what to do when you believe someone is making you feel a particular way:

A PRACTICE IN PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

(Listen to this practice on YouTube)

First, let’s take a moment to settle into this present moment. Let’s put our attention on a few things that are right here, right now, starting from the outside in. First, take a look around you, noticing the shapes, colors, light, and dark. Take a moment to notice where you are, using a beginner’s mind, and take in the environment around you.

Now, turn your attention toward sounds. Place your attention on your ears and notice any sounds or silence that floats through your attention.

Now, can you notice your body? Perhaps you can notice the bottom of your feet on the floor, the parts of your body touching another object, like a chair or your clothes. Begin to notice parts of your body in contact with other objects.

And finally, bring your attention to your breath. You do not need to alter or change your breath. Simply notice that you are breathing, in and out. Notice the quality and length of your breath, knowing there is no way your breath is supposed to be in this moment, and just allow your breath to flow, however it is occurring right now.

Now, shift your attention to a recent time you believed someone “made you feel” a particular way. It could be that you were annoyed waiting in a line or sitting in traffic, or perhaps you had an argument with a loved one. Whatever the situation, bring it as vividly as you can into your mind’s eye.

Now, pay careful attention. Focus on the point when you had the experience that this person was “making you feel” a certain way, or thought that if this person changed their behavior, you would feel differently. Say to yourself, “Ah, I just handed over responsibility for how I feel to someone else.” That’s STEP 1. You just practiced the skill, NOTICE AND LABEL. Instead of being a slave to your reaction, you’ve gained some wiggle room for a different experience to emerge!

Let’s practice STEP 2: FOCUS INWARD and QUESTION. First, put on your curious, nonjudgmental cap and start investigating. This is the part where you act like a scientist and explore what was going on for you, in your body, in the moment that you gave responsibility for yourself away. If you’d like to pause here and give yourself some time to reflect or write, please do so!

Some questions you can ask are:

  • “What am I feeling in my body as I am recalling this moment?”
  • “What emotion am I feeling?”
  • “What about this situation made me uncomfortable?”
  • “What interpretation am I having of others’ behavior in this situation?”
  • “Are there other possible perspectives here?”

Another helpful practice during STEP 2 is to write out just the facts on one side of a paper, and your interpretations, opinions, and evaluations of the facts on the other side of the paper. This is an exercise in separating the facts from your personal experience.

You may decide to pause and spend some more time on STEP 2. It is important to understand your experience with some clarity before you are able to move on to STEP 3: IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS and RESPOND. Given your new, more complete understanding of the experience by completing STEP 2, you can now ask yourself what you needed in that moment.

A helpful way of asking can be, “Given everything as it was in that moment, and given that I cannot change others’ behaviors, what did I need?”

You can ask yourself, “How may I have responded to myself if I were able to attend to my needs and take care of myself in that moment?” Now, your job is to listen. Give yourself the space to hear about your needs.

By engaging in this practice, you have already completed STEP 4: REFLECT. By taking the time to reflect on this situation, you have set the stage to do it differently next time. By engaging in this exercise, you have given yourself the message that you matter and are worth the time.

You have also taken a stand. You will engage with yourself and others with integrity. Don’t expect it to be perfect… That’s life! It’s an eventful journey of learning. You can keep practicing, and you will start to notice your relationships, both with yourself and others, shift for the better.

Come back to this any time you need it – and please, keep practicing!


Validation is Good for Your Health

Why Validate?

Everybody craves validation. Even babies need to be responded to as though their experiences are valid and have their needs met. To be told that you matter, and your experiences make sense is a deeply regulating and nourishing experience.

What is Validation?

When you validate, you are NOT saying you agree, approve or condone. In fact, you can validate someone you completely disagree with (more on this later). You can also learn to validate your own experience even when you have self-judgments, such as thinking you “should feel differently.”

Validation is not a compliment or an insult. Validation means expressing that the person you are validating (yourself or someone else) has an experience that makes sense. Science tells us there is a cause-and-effect process to your emotions and behaviors, meaning that if you feel or act a certain way, there is a reason. In other words, your emotions and actions make sense. They come from somewhere.

To complicate things a bit, everyone does not feel validated by the same words and actions. Different people and situations require diverse ways of validating. Sometimes, simply saying, “How you feel makes sense,” can be enough. There are also situations that require spending some time listening and asking questions before the other person feels they have been heard.

Read on for tips on how to validate and understand the benefits to your health.

How to Validate

Give verbal responses to show you are engaged and listening.

This can be “um-hum” or “ah” or “I see” or “keep talking” or “I’m interested in what you are saying” or “tell me more.” You can also ask follow-up questions, “Then what happened?” or “How did you feel about him saying that to you?” Respond with whatever feels natural to illustrate that you are following along and giving attention to what the other person is saying. The key here is to be genuine. If you are rolling your eyes or sighing with boredom while at the same time verbally expressing your interest, this can be experienced as confusing or invalidating.

Express that you are listening with body language.

Instead of slouching back in your chair, looking at the wall, or fidgeting with a pen, look at the person speaking. Watch their expressions and listen as though you are interested. This is a time to practice putting down your electronic devices and silencing them. You can lean your body slightly forward or sit forward in your chair toward the person speaking. This indicates interest and can be reinforcing for many.

validation is good for you

Verbalize you are listening by saying it.

Validation is about recognizing and expressing that what a person is experiencing matters and is real. You can show this by simply saying it. Phrases such as, “I can understand why you feel this way,” or, “It makes sense you would be frustrated,” or, “I think anyone in your shoes would feel this way,” can communicate validation.

Search for the kernel of truth.

If you are trying to validate but disagree and so do not know how to validate the person, the remedy is to get curious. You must take a stance that even if you cannot see it, this person’s experience makes sense and then throw yourself into discovering “the kernel of truth.” In other words, you do not have to agree to validate. You can even disapprove of another’s point of view and still validate. A common type of conversation for this difficulty to arise is in political conversations when you have one point of view and the other person has an opposing view. Or, perhaps your friend tells you about an argument and you agree with the others person’s stance and disagree with your friend. The thing to do here is let go of the content (specifics of the conversation) for a moment and try to identify and make sense of the other’s emotion. While you may disagree with your friend’s political stance, you can still validate that he feels passionate about it or frustrated or whatever the emotion is at that moment. Here, you are communicating, “I may not agree with you, but I still think you make sense and that your experiences are valid and worthwhile, even if we never see eye-to-eye on this.” Through this validating stance, you are accepting how a person feels or perceives a situation. That’s it. You are not approving or condoning; you are simply accepting their experience for what it is.

Validating those you disagree with is an advanced practice. It requires that you let go of framing it in your mind as wrong, illogical, insane, or any other judgments. This exercise further requires you accept that somehow this person makes sense, even if you cannot understand why in this moment. Practice this in less intense situations first until you get the hang of it, then apply it to more emotionally tricky situations. Experiment with validation and investigate the effects it has on your relationships. (Warning: You may experience less conflict and even get your own needs met more frequently.)

Validation is Good for Your Health

If you only learned one skill to improve your relationships, I would cheerlead for that to be validation. Validation is extremely effective in reducing conflict and increasing the bonds between people (this means increased endorphins and all the pleasant-feels and chemicals in the brain and body). Validating others also releases you from the trap of thinking you must tell them what to do, how to feel, what you would have done or otherwise, how to problem-solve their situation. Letting go of the desire to guide or critique others who are perfectly capable of doing that for themselves is a release of perceived responsibility for you, which can be an immense stress reliever. Less stress means lower cortisol levels (regulates your ability to relax and sleep) and often, regulated serotonin (mood regulator).

So far, you have read about validating others. Validating yourself is just as crucial to your health and well-being. People who have a history of chronic invalidation and learn invalidating self-talk suffer profoundly. Chronic invalidation, including self-hating thinking, can lead to depression and symptoms such as binge eating and other behaviors destructive to your health. Your ability to validate yourself is a major strength and allows you to trust your own decisions and wisdom. Building confidence in what you believe, feel and think brings a sense of calm and centeredness that is impossible to attain when you do not trust yourself. Self-validation can promote your general well-being as well as harmonious relationships. Use this short Self-validation Handout/Worksheet to help you practice.

For help validating yourself or others, or learning more techniques and strategies that can enrich your life, contact Dr. Bando today and shift from surviving to thriving!


Do You Have a Sugar Addiction?

 

Can you tell yourself before dinner that you won’t be eating sweets, even all the way up until you order, and then your mouth spontaneously orders dessert? Or you tell your friend “no thanks” for a cookie, and then find one in your hand, on the way to your mouth? If so, you are not alone. And you may have a sugar addiction.

If you are not sure about the use of the word “addiction” in relation to sugar, chew on this: Recent research is not using the word lightly when it finds that sugar IS biologically addictive in the same sense as heroin. On top of that, studies are finding many more reasons to avoid sugar that we previously have only suspected.

 

addicted to sugar, sugar addiction, health psychologist

 

We now know that sugar poses a threat to your heart health, impairs your ability to feel full, damages your liver, contributes to obesity and you can be genetically predisposed to overuse it. There are numerous important reasons to address sugar addiction, and seemingly no benefit to high sugar consumption. If you find yourself eating or drinking sugary foods and beverages often, it is essential to your health to question if continuing this way is in your best interests.

High-sugar foods and drinks are easily accessible today. It is often quicker and cheaper to find high-sugar foods than it is to find food containing fresh, whole ingredients. Sugary desserts are available in convenience stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and at every company or family party. It feels like the stores and manufacturers are telling us sugar is what most of our diet should be. In short, sugar is hard to quit!

What Can You Do About It?

NONJUDGMENT and REINFORCEMENT

Stop telling yourself that sugar is “bad,” you are “bad” for eating it or otherwise flogging yourself for having sugar in your life. Why? Because punishment is the least effective way to create lasting change. Judging and shaming (punishment) yourself for eating sugar, even after you have committed to calling it quits, may just make it harder to stop.

The brain pairs unpleasant or pleasant experiences with the situations that caused them. If, for example, you try to curb your sugar intake and then end up eating ice cream at the end of the day, your brain will remember what happens next and catalog it for future use. If punishment occurs, the behavior will be harder to change. If you mentally beat yourself up for not succeeding, your mind associates your efforts to limit sugar with this mental punishment and essentially, starts to give up. When you try to put further efforts toward decreasing sugar in your diet, you will find it increasingly hard to motivate yourself, and your brain will tell you, “What’s the use?” while throwing its hands up in the air and then reaching for dessert.

If, however, you end up eating ice cream at the end of the day and instead sigh, acknowledge this behavior is not in line with your goals and your stomach feels uncomfortable (nonjudgmental honesty), you are starting on the path to change. Then turn your mind towards noticing that you turned down that donut earlier in the day and say, “That was fantastic! Good for me. I want more of that.” (reinforcement). Now you are greasing the wheels of change and your brain will remember this too. (Reinforcement is very powerful in creating change and there can be some nuance to it. Check out some of my other articles specifically related to reinforcement for clarification.)

In short, when you find yourself being harshly judgmental about a behavior you want to change, stop, notice what you are doing, and describe it nonjudgmentally, in terms of cause-and-effect (e.g., if I do this, then I suffer that consequence). Then, turn your mind towards a behavior you have recently engaged in that is in line with your goals (or find a behavior in line with your goals to engage in in that moment) and reinforce (reward) yourself. If you are used to being critical toward yourself, you may have to lower your standards here. It is perfectly acceptable to reinforce the smallest of steps, even if you just thought about taking steps to change, the fact that you thought about it can be reinforced.

THERE ARE NO SMALL STEPS

As mentioned above, in our society sugar is practically shoved down your throat and is in almost everything that comes in a package, including savory food. Recovering from an addiction, especially one that is in every store and restaurant across America, is difficult. Don’t expect it all to change overnight. Take small steps and reinforce them (see the NONJUDGMENT and REINFORCEMENT section above). For example, you might start with just reducing (not eliminating) the amount of sugar you put in your coffee or tea or decreasing the amount of soda you drink just by leaving a few sips behind. Reinforce these seemingly small steps and you will gain momentum and watch these steps add up.

ASK FOR SUGAR ADDICTION HELP

If, despite your best efforts, you cannot curb your sugar intake and are experiencing problems as a result, ask for help! You may want to contact your healthcare professional or reach out to a health psychologist, such as myself. Health psychologists help people make sustainable changes to their health. We take the guesswork out and help you move toward your goals in a way that is streamlined and rewarding.

If sugar is causing a problem in your life, take one of the steps mentioned about today and start shifting from surviving to thriving!


What Happens When You Stop Depressant or Anxiety Medications?

Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications work to alter your brain chemistry and support a more balanced mood state. Since psychotropic medication changes your brain chemistry and may also come with side effects, deciding to take medication should not to be made lightly.  It’s helpful to understand how the medication you are prescribed works and what to expect when discontinuing it before deciding to stop. It’s always advised to be under the supervision of a doctor who can ensure your safety and help minimize any side effects before discontinuing psychotropic meds.

(Please skip to the last section of this article if you would like to consider alternatives to psychotropic medication and discuss your options with your prescribing doctor and other healthcare professionals.)

Psychotropic medications, taking medicines, psychotherapist

Why Take Psychotropic Medications?

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety in a way that is significantly affecting your life, your doctor may recommend anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medications. Medications are also sometimes prescribed to alleviate symptoms, making therapy more helpful and useful. When feeling burdened by emotional overwhelm, at times it can be impossible to participate in your therapy in a way that promotes the change you need or motivate yourself to follow up on homework in-between sessions. When this is the case, your doctor may recommend psychotropic medication to help you engage in therapy in the way that you need to give you some relief from the symptoms you are experiencing.

Current-day research supports the use of both psychotropic medication and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to treat diagnoses associated with depression. Medication may help you be fully involved and benefit from therapy. CBT will help you make the chemical changes in your brain for the long-term so that if you decide to taper off your medication at some point, you can maintain the brain changes you have worked to achieve in therapy.

In other cases, psychotropic medications may be prescribed to address chronic forms of depression and anxiety. Some people suffer from depression and/or anxiety for years. Despite trying many approaches, they struggle with symptoms on a daily basis. In these cases, medication may be a helpful option. Some people choose to maintain their medication regimen for a lifetime because when the medication is withdrawn, symptoms quickly return. Sometimes, even when engaging in all the behaviors necessary to support your health, the chemical components of the disorder you suffer from are just too strong, and medication is an essential part of your health routine. Each person is unique, as are the type, dosage and length of time prescribed medication works best.

It is very important to note that psychotropic medications may be contraindicated for some anxiety disorders and interfere with treatment and prognosis. Evidence-based treatments for anxiety require that you are able to experience the anxiety to its fullest extent in therapy in order for the treatment to be effective. If you are taking medication to decrease your experience of anxiety, in some case, this may interfere with your therapy. Talk to your treatment provider so that you can collaborate about the most effective treatment for you.

 

How Do Psychotropic Medications Work?

Different anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication work in distinctive ways. Some medications stimulate the brain to produce more neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that regulate mood and other processes). Some help the brain by blocking the effects of neurotransmitters. Others, affect the brain by encouraging it to hold onto extra neurotransmitters. Because it takes some time for these medications to affect and balance the neurotransmitters in the brain, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications need to be taken for a minimum period of time before results are noticed. Your prescribing doctor can advise you the time needed to experience the affects from your medication.

 

Why Stop Taking Psychotropic Medications?

People often decide to stop using their medications once they start to feel better. This can be a mistake. It is important to carefully consider this decision and preferably, discuss your desire to discontinue medication with your healthcare professional. Often, it’s wise to wait a while after feeling better before discontinuing your prescription. When people quit taking their medication too soon, symptoms can return and sometimes the medication does not have the same effect or potency on mood symptoms the next time around. It is often preferable to wait until you have made changes in your health behaviors and maintained them for long enough where they have become habits. Once you have made the changes needed to support your sustained mental health, you’ll want to make sure they are engrained and part of your life so that you will continue to be supported in this way after your medication has stopped. Other times, people may find the medication they are taking no longer works and they may need to stop one type of medication to start another. Additionally, people may need to discontinue using their medication due to some other health concern (possible side effects, drug interactions, or in cases of pregnancy).

 

What Happens When You Stop Anti-Depressant or Anti-Anxiety Medications?

If you are taking an anti-depressant medication and suddenly stop, it can cause unpleasant symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, nightmares, and paresthesia (unpleasant sensations in the skin). If you are taking an anti-anxiety medication (or anxiolytic) and suddenly stop, symptoms could include nausea, vomiting, seizures, sweating, weight loss, heart palpitations, migraines, muscle pain, insomnia, and even suicidal thoughts. Specific side effects are unique to the medication and the person who is taking it. In either case, you may experience a rebound of psychological symptoms.

Because suddenly stopping anti-depressant or anxiety medication can cause unpleasant side effects, it is very important to consult with a doctor before you stop taking prescribed medications. A doctor can help to assess whether this is the right choice. They will also help you slowly reduce your dosage so that you are weaned off the medication safely, which helps to prevent uncomfortable side effects.

When you start or stop medications, it can be helpful to also seek the services of a qualified therapist who can help you address thoughts, feelings and emotions that may be affecting your mental health. A Dialectical Behavior Therapist (DBT) can provide specific education and skills to help you naturally cope with life’s ups and downs, without medication in some cases. A frequently used DBT slogan is, “Skills over pills.” This means that with learning and practice of DBT skills, often people can reduce or eliminate medication and lean on the DBT strategies they have learned to help them function effectively. The most important thing is to work together with your doctor and therapist to find the healthiest and most effective treatment solution for you.

 

Alternatives to Psychotropic Medications

Taking any type of prescribed medication is a personal choice. While doctors can advise you and make recommendations, ultimately, the decision whether to take psychotropic medication is up to you. Many times, making lifestyle changes can significantly impact your mood and decrease the need for prescription use. However, making these changes can be difficult and requires work. Only you and your wisdom can decide whether you are in a position and have access to the support needed to make these changes, or if now is not the time and medication is a worthwhile option.

If you are interested in making changes to your health behaviors to support a more balanced and stable mood, consider consulting with a Health Psychologist, such as Dr Bando. Health Psychologists are trained to understand all the factors maintaining the ineffective behaviors you are engaging in and help you directly target and change those behaviors to better support you. A good therapist can take out the guesswork and help you move toward your health goals with ease and precision.

Whatever your choice, please consult your wisdom and be gentle with yourself. In a time of difficulty (like experiencing depression or anxiety), increased self-compassion is needed.

Take action today and start shifting from surviving to THRIVING!


Feeling Over-“stuffed”: 4 of 4

How to Focus on What Matters During the Holidays (and Keep Yourself Feeling Merry).

Part 4 of 4 of the Holiday Stress Survival Guide

Overeating during the holidays is a shared experience. Everywhere you go seems to be ripe with opportunities to stuff yourself. Cookies, cakes, desserts, and rich meals abound. If you already struggle with overeating, this time of year can feel like a nightmare. Even if overeating is not typically a problem for you, many people gain weight during the holidays and pay with colds, flu and feeling sluggish, and tight clothes in the months following. Read on for some ideas on eating in a way that makes you feel proud of your behavior and connected to your body.

 

AM I HUNGRY?

During the holidays, our self-care behaviors can be on automatic pilot. There is a lot to pay attention to and noticing how we are feeling or what our body needs may not be on the top of the list or even make it on our radar.

 

It may seem obvious, but asking yourself the question, “Am I hungry?” can change your relationship with food and the choices you make about eating. Here’s how to practice: Take a breath (or three) and notice where in your body you feel your breath. Now ask yourself the question, “Am I hungry?” and notice what your body tells you. Put on a curious hat here and notice. Does your mind come up with words? Do you notice sensations in your body? What happens when you ask yourself if you are hungry?

 

Advanced: You can extend this practice and further ask yourself, “How do I know I am hungry (or full)? Where do I feel it in my body?” Try to notice and describe this to yourself.

 

Extra Credit: While eating, pause now and then to take a breath (or three) and ask yourself these questions again. What do you notice now?

 

Why this works: Taking a few breaths and moments to notice what your body is feeling in relation to food and nourishment can help you connect in, be aware of what your body needs or wants and give you some intention before eating. Eating is designed to be enjoyable, nourishing and deeply satisfying. It is a basic need we all share. Practicing connecting with your body in a nonjudgmental, curious way before and during a meal, can change what you eat, the quantity, or how you feel about it. Experiment and notice what happens!

 

Over eating Therapy, Califorinia Psychologist, online therapy

SELF-COMPASSION

I am trying to come up with one person I know who does not have judgments in relation to food. I can’t think of anyone. Our society breeds food and body judgments: good vs. bad, right vs. wrong, fat (bad) vs. thin (good), worthy (thin and fit) vs. unworthy (fat and unfit). We see people on TV commercials celebrating weight loss through packaged food that really doesn’t taste very satisfying. Probably 99% of actresses or actors do not exceed a certain weight limit. We are given the impression that if we just eat “right,” we should be able to look like these characters and the role our genetics play in body shape and size is minimized. We all, to varying degrees, develop a complex about food, size, and worth. Ironically, food is a basic need that must be satisfied to survive. How strange to be taught guilt, shame and judgment about fulfilling a survival need.

 

Most of these judgments are an intellectual and heady experience that has little to do with the body. While reading labels on food and trying to eat healthily are worthwhile pursuits, it leaves out understanding how the body feels and our ability to respond to the body’s needs. I have clients who thrive while eating mainly a plant-based diet and others whose bodies sing while eating animal products. Others feel great and lose inches and bloat on a high-fat eating plan. Some people have food allergies. Every body is different. Every body has its own, unique experience with food. So, doesn’t it make sense to ask how our body is feeling about eating and respond accordingly?

 

Rather than think about a “good” food to eat, practice asking your body what it needs. See what your body says and how it feels during and after eating. This is a much more compassionate and nurturing way to feed yourself. This process also gives you information. What does your body want and when? What happens when you give this food to your body? Do different quantities of this food affect how your body feels?

 

This approach urges you to develop a supportive relationship with your body, kind of like giving yourself the gift of good parenting. This is especially important if you did not receive nurturing parenting or your body has long been deprived of sweet, gentle compassion. When babies are fed, it is a soft, quiet experience, often followed by sleep. Preferably, soothing tones are spoken, and a gentle touch is given. Imagine feeding yourself in this way. Imagine letting go of judgments, giving your body what it wants to eat in the amount that feels right. Checking in and adjusting type or quantity of food as your body calls for it. What a different experience!

 

In addition to practicing asking yourself if you are hungry, try offering yourself some gentle compassion at your next meal. Maybe place a hand on top of your other hand, as a reminder to bring loving awareness to the experience. Perhaps nourish yourself with a deep breath or words of encouragement such as, “This can be hard. Let’s go slow and see how this feels.” Practice calling up the image of someone you love dearly and while you eat, treat yourself with the love and gentleness you would treat this person. Feed yourself compassion with every bite and see what happens to your relationship with food.

 

REMEMBER, CHANGE IS A PROCESS

My Zen teacher reminds me often, you cannot force change. All you can do is practice. Keep practicing, every day, until one day it becomes who you are.

Happy Holidays! Wishing you a gentle, loving, compassionate experience with yourself and the food you eat.

Please remember, life is too short just to survive. Use these practices to help you THRIVE!

 

Read the whole series

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 1: Holiday Stress

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 2: Navigating Relationships

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 3: Loneliness

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 4: Overeating

If you use any of the practices suggested, please feel free to share your experiences and send your comments to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, your comments and feedback help inform future posts.


Feeling Over-“stuffed”: 3 of 4

How to Focus on What Matters During the Holidays (and Keep Yourself Feeling Merry).

Part 3 of 4 of the Holiday Stress Survival Guide

 

The holiday season is filled with so much extra stuff – packed schedules, gifts to buy, errands, food (more on that in Part 4), and people! You may feel over-“stuffed” yet still experience loneliness. Feeling sadness or struggling to enjoy the holiday season is a common experience. Many people find the holidays a stressful time of year. As mentioned, sometimes you may feel lonely (even in a room full of people), have a history of disappointing holiday memories, or have experienced a loss associated with the holiday season (such as the death of a loved one). It can feel like everyone around you is enjoying time with loved ones and the warmth of the season while you feel left out in the cold. If you find this a particularly difficult and lonesome time of year, take heart and read on for some ideas for finding comfort.

 

MAKE MEANING

Research shows us that even in the direst situations (being held in a concentration camp, surviving 9/11, or losing a loved one) people who are able to make meaning have a better quality of life and report more happiness overall in the years following that event. I mention these heart-wrenching examples because when you are down in the dumps and someone tells you, “everything happens for a reason” or some other encouragement geared toward making meaning, it can often feel invalidating and infuriating. The skill of making meaning or purpose in the midst of a painful experience can get you through and help you thrive. Research with survivors of tragic historic events shows us this is true.

 

Here’s what meaning-making is not: Making meaning out of pain is not forcing a smile and pretending everything is okay. It is not people-pleasing and making everyone else happy and comfortable while you suffer inside. It is not telling yourself that this situation happened for a reason or you must have deserved it.

 

What making meaning does involve, is finding a way to derive some purpose, something you can gain, out of the suffering you are in. In other words, how can you play the terrible hand of cards you have been dealt in the most beneficial way possible? Here is an example: I know a woman who has struggled with infertility and it is not possible for her to have children. This is very painful for her and every time the holidays come around, she aches to have a family. Every ornament that is hung and tradition experienced reminds her that she will not be passing any of this on to her own children. She feels pain. Although at times, she may be angry and want to scream how unfair this is, what brings her the most peace is finding meaning through her own spiritual and meditative practices, which she believes she would not do if she had not been met with so much sadness about something she cannot fix. She views her situation as driving her closer to practicing her spiritual beliefs and, as a result, extending increased compassion toward others. This does not make the state of affairs or her pain go away. What this meaning-making practice does, is help her focus on her values and find something of worth in the midst of her circumstances. When she feels lonely, sad, hopeless, she turns to her spiritual practices and finds comfort. This is making meaning.

 

Meaning making is a skill taught in the Distress Tolerance module of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Distress Tolerance skills are designed for getting you through the moment when you cannot immediately solve the problem or source of your pain. At times, the holidays can be painful and because of the circumstances, we cannot completely change this. We feel pain, sadness, and loneliness. Making meaning can help us get through until, as with everything in life, this pain too shall pass. There will come a day that you smile and laugh and find pleasure. Remind yourself of this. Don’t let holiday loneliness get to you. Here are some tips to cope with Holiday Season sadness.

 

Online therapy. Loneliness, DBT, video therapy, California psychlogist

 

ENJOY JUST A MOMENT

Another DBT skill, this time from the Emotion Regulation module, is to engage in pleasant activities. The reasoning is that if you don’t have pleasant activities in your day, you cannot have a pleasant life. Sometimes, when you are very low, as you may feel during the holiday season, it feels like nothing gives you pleasure or joy. This is where you must get creative.

 

Instead of looking for bliss, try adjusting your expectations and finding one small thing that you can somewhat enjoy for a few seconds. Some examples are your first sip of coffee, those first few moments of getting into bed after a long day, taking a moment to inhale the delicious aroma of the food you are about to eat, or stopping to notice a beautiful flower. When times are rough and we cannot feel sustained happiness, it does not eliminate our need to be nourished with joy. When we start to notice the little things, even for a few seconds, we begin to build our emotional bank account with some pleasant experiences.

 

Think about having an empty bucket of loneliness or sadness. Every time you notice something even a little bit pleasant, like the moment you take off your shoes when arriving home, you are filling the bucket with a drop of pleasure. Of course, one drop does not make a big difference in a large, empty bucket. If you keep it up, drop by drop, over time, the bucket fills. Although it can feel like a slow process, every single time you turn your attention towards something even a little bit pleasant, you are a drop closer to filling that bucket. When you have accumulated many pleasant events, you will build the ability to feel more pleasure and happiness. Don’t force it. Just keep practicing and it will happen.

 

TAKE TIME TO REMEMBER

If your holiday season is a sad time because of loss and grief, you can make remembrance and the celebration of a loved one’s life a part of your holiday tradition. My grandmother used to make pies during the holidays. She would roll out the extra pie crust, spread it with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, and make special cookies for me to nibble while the pies baked. Now, whenever I make a pie, I use my grandmother’s fabulous pie crust recipe and say a little “thank you” to her for creating this memory for me. My husband now sometimes joins in, and instead of feeling sadness and lack, it has become a bonding experience that brings up nostalgia and gratitude. Rather than trying to push your pain aside or focus only on the positive, you may find a more authentic and touching experience when you take a few moments to remember those you have lost and commemorate this, even with a little “thank you.”

 

I hope that these strategies and activities make the holiday season a lot more enjoyable. If, however, your holiday blues are more severe or do not seem to reduce even after taking steps to help, then you may want to consider visiting a therapist. Therapists trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can be particularly helpful in dealing with the realities of the holiday season and finding effective coping strategies. Get in contact with a therapist to find out how they can provide that extra support to help you get through the holiday season, and perhaps feel even better about it.

 

Happy Holidays! Please remember, life is too short just to survive. Use these practices to help you THRIVE!

Read the whole series

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 1: Holiday Stress

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 2: Navigating Relationships

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 3: Loneliness

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 4: Overeating

If you use any of the practices suggested, please feel free to share your experiences and send your comments to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, your comments and feedback help inform future posts.

 

 

 

 


Feeling Over-“stuffed”: 2 of 4

How to Focus on What Matters During the Holidays (and Keep Yourself Feeling Merry).

Part 2 of 4 of the Holiday Stress Survival Guide

 

The holiday season is here, and along with this time of year comes a lot of “stuff”! Yes, “stuff” can come in the form of things, objects, presents, toys, etc., but there is also a lot of emotional “stuff” that gets stirred up this time of year. If you are feeling over-“stuffed” and want to loosen the button on your emotional pants, read on for ways to cope. Part 2 of this four-part Holiday Stress Survival Guide focuses on relationships.

 

RELATIONSHIPS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

The holidays are a time when relationships come front and center. We often spend more time than usual with family members or those who are like family. We can find ourselves in a cocktail of a lot of face-time with people with whom we have a lot of history, and high stress, all while feeling rundown during these cold months and at the height of cold-and-flu season. Maybe not a mixture we would like to order often, but during the holidays, this is what we have on our plate.

California Online Therapist, holiday stress, relationships

 

SKILLS FOR INTERPERSONAL CONFLICTS

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well-researched therapy offering lots of skills that you can put into practice in real-time to get true results. There is a whole module in DBT focusing on Interpersonal Effectiveness. Here are some quick tips for applying some of my favorite Interpersonal DBT Skills to ward off (or decrease the likelihood of) interpersonal conflicts during the holiday season.

 

Be skillful, and ask for what you want, DEAR. DEAR is an acronym used in DBT that gives us a template for what to say when we would like to ask for something we want. It goes like this:

 

D – Describe just the facts, without judgment. This orients the person to what you would like to discuss.

Example: I’d like to talk about who is making each dish for Christmas dinner this year.

E – Express how you feel about the situation. Explicitly tell the other person how you feel. They may not know if you don’t say the words!

Example: Nobody has committed to bringing a dish yet, and since I am hosting, I’m feeling overwhelmed.

A – Assert what you want. Say precisely what you are asking. Don’t leave it up to guesswork. Be specific, direct and clear.

Example: I would love if you could tell me two dishes you will bring and let me know by this Friday.

R – Reinforce the person in advance for giving you what you want. Here, you are answering the question, “What do they get out of giving me what I am asking for?”

Example: If you tell me by Friday, you can choose whatever is your favorite to bring, and I will be much less stressed the next time we talk! (Don’t be afraid to use a little humor and an easy manner to loosen up the conversation.)

Practice writing out your DEAR ahead of time and then rehearse a few times before you deliver it. The beauty of this skill is that only four little sentences are needed to ask for what you want in a direct and assertive way. You can also use this skill to refuse a request, like a dinner invitation. Use the same steps but instead of “Asserting” a question, say “no” to the request. Try it!

 

VALIDATE (yourself and others)

Validation may be the most powerful interpersonal skill. Use it wisely! When used effectively, validation opens the doors of communication and closeness. Make sure that is what you want and you’re ready. I have seen validation break down walls that have taken years to build. It may be the most potent tool to affect change.

 

People often misinterpret what “validation” means. Validation is not a compliment, agreement, or approval. Telling someone you like something about them or think they are “right” is not validation. Validation is exhibiting that the other person (or yourself) makes sense. We display validation in many ways: paying attention, nodding, asking questions to clarify, making statements such as, “I understand why you feel that way,” or, “That makes sense.” In other words, validation is treating someone as though they make sense whether or not you agree with them or like what they are saying.

 

Validation of either ourselves or others is a mighty technique in diffusing conflicts. Once any of us feel understood and like we matter, we calm down and are less defensive. If you’re interested, check out my quick steps and worksheet for practicing self-validation. You can use the same steps on someone else.

 

Happy Holidays! Please remember, life is too short just to survive. Use these practices to help you THRIVE!

Read the whole series

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 1: Holiday Stress

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 2: Navigating Relationships

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 3: Loneliness

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 4: Overeating

 

If you use any of the practices suggested, please feel free to share your experiences and send your comments to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, your comments and feedback help inform future posts.


Feeling Over-“stuffed”: 1 of 4

How to Focus on What Matters During the Holidays (and Keep Yourself Feeling Merry).

 

The holiday season is marketed as being the “most wonderful time” of the year. For many of us, this is not always the case. Our to-do lists get longer: we have gifts to buy, trips to book, decorations to hang, cards to send, and on it goes. Many of us deal with stressful family dynamics that also like to come along for the sleigh ride.

 

All this busy-ness during the holidays can divert us from getting to the heart of what really matters. Everyone may have a slightly different idea about what they value most, but all of us typically want some sense of inner peace, satisfaction, happiness, and connection with those we love. Read on for Part 1 of my four-part Holiday Stress Survival Guide; it contains helpful tips to stop “stuff”ing yourself with all the things the holidays bring – gifts, lists, endless tasks, and yes, food – and ease through the season with a strong connection to whatever is deeply important to you.

 

Peaceful, grounded holiday season, online therapy, counseling

UNREALISTIC HOLIDAY EXPECTATIONS

Holiday movies often set the stage for unrealistic standards. With a funny or heartwarming story centered around family, they sell us the message of a season with fantastic holiday décor, impeccably wrapped gifts, chef-quality meals that magically appear, and relationship snafus ending in a hearty laugh and a hug. This all happens with full hair and makeup, flawlessly styled outfits, and no lint or wrinkles in sight. The media (and retail shops) create pressure to make the holidays shine with the perfect gifts.

 

Social media can also create pressure. Have you ever been at an event that was chaotic and not-so-fun, only to discover a friend post a picture of that same event looking charming and lovely? You wonder what happened to the screaming, running children, dog pee in the middle of the room, turkey that fell on the floor and all the grumbling guests.

 

The point here is that pictures and videos, whether they are professionally laid out ads who employ a full-time staff to capture one perfect-looking moment or a friend’s Facebook post, are typically not representative of how the in-person moment honestly feels. People are putting their best foot forward, and we don’t see the behind-the-scenes struggles. Have you heard that old saying, “Don’t compare your insides to others’ outsides?” You will almost always come up short.

So, what do we do?

Take control and set your own expectations!

 

STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR OWN VALUES

As always, take a deep breath (or three), and center yourself. Acknowledge that you have access to your wisdom and call on it to come forth and take over for a moment. Now, define a couple of values that you would like to take through the holiday season and jot them down or save them somewhere. Some ideas are below. Pick a few or come up with your own. Make sure to select value-words that resonate with you right now. Do not choose any words that come with the idea that you “should” value them. Only pick the values that sing to you in this moment.

 

ACCEPTANCE — ADVENTURE — BEAUTY — CARING — COMFORT — COMPASSION — CONTRIBUTION — COOPERATION — CREATIVITY — ECOLOGY — FAITHFULNESS — FLEXIBILITY — FORGIVENESS — FUN — GENEROSITY — GENUINENESS — GROWTH — HEALTH — HUMOR — INTIMACY — LOVING — MINDFULNESS — MODERATION — OPENNESS — PASSION — PLEASURE — PURPOSE — ROMANCE — SELF-ACCEPTANCE — SELF-COMPASSION — SIMPLICITY — SPIRITUALITY — TOLERANCE — TRADITION

 

STEP 2: PRIORITIZE

If you chose a bunch of values, take a moment to pick just one or two that stand out most to you. Check in with yourself and make sure it feels right – that if this value carries you through the holiday season, you will feel pride in your actions and as though you are living in your integrity.

Make the holidays easy, telehealth online therapy California

STEP 3: MAKE IT EASY

Nobody needs extra work during the busy holiday stress season. Instead of setting hard-to-reach goals about behaving in particular ways according to your values, let up a bit and create something gentler that will permeate and be effective.

 

I suggest putting the couple words you chose in the places that you will see them often. Some ideas: post-its on your computer screen, your bathroom mirror, in the car; notes with reminder bells on your calendar; a love note to yourself with these words placed in your packed lunch or on your nightstand to read just before bed and upon waking. You get the idea – put these meaningful values places that you will see them often. When you see them, you can just walk on by, and let them sneak in through your periphery. Sometimes, when you have the minute to spare, you can use the words as a reminder to take a breath (or three) and focus on your desire to bring these qualities into your life.

 

STEP 4: DON’T FORGET SELF-COMPASSION!

Want to turn it up a notch and ensure these values powerfully appear in your life? Offer them to yourself! Try a short, little practice daily, and you may be amazed at what starts to happen. Find a ritual that you engage in every day: brushing your teeth, making coffee or tea, putting on your shoes. Tie this ritual to the value-words you have chosen and offer these values to yourself. For example, if you selected the values of “comfort” and “health,” while brushing your teeth (or whatever activity you choose) say to yourself, “May I receive comfort. May I receive health.” Repeat the statements over and over again. Do it again the next day and the next. It does not matter whether you feel their impact or reject them totally. Keep saying the statements over and over. Let the statements do the work and seep in on their own time.

 

Happy Holidays! Please remember, life is too short just to survive. Use these practices to help you THRIVE!

 

Read the whole series

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 1: Holiday Stress

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 2: Navigating Relationships

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 3: Loneliness

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 4: Overeating

 

If you do partake in any of the holiday stress relieving practices suggested, please feel free to share your experiences and send your comments to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, your comments and feedback help inform future posts.

 

 


Telehealth vs. In Person Therapy: Which is Better?

You may be familiar with the image of counseling taking place in a psychologist’s office, client and therapist sitting opposite each other, or perhaps the client lying down on a couch. While this model is well known, our current-day communication technology makes it possible to access psychological services in the comfort of your own space.

Therapy has changed over the years, as has the consumer. As more information about psychological health has become readily available, those seeking treatment have become savvy customers. You value your time, money and energy and want gold-standard care. In therapy, this translates to more people looking for skills-based treatment delivered efficiently. Replacing the tradition of a therapist asking you to lie on a sofa and talk about your childhood, are therapists who view themselves as expert consultants, able to teach you the techniques and strategies needed to get what you want out of life. Therapy has become solution-focused and results-oriented, making video sessions an ideal platform for counseling.

In today’s busy world, many people find it difficult to schedule an hour plus commute to their therapist’s office on a weekly basis. Others do not want to sit in traffic, add another appointment to their day, or may want to see a specialist who is not located in their neighborhood. Telehealth provides a convenient solution.

Telehealth can provide greater ease and flexibility, and research shows it can be just as effective as traditional therapy. So which option should you choose?

How is Telehealth different from In-Person therapy?

In-person therapy means face-to-face in the same room or office with your therapist. The therapist provides the office space for your therapy session. Telehealth services are provided remotely, meaning that you and your therapist could be miles apart. Your sessions are assisted with HIPAA-secure technology, such as phone, video conferencing, email, online chat platforms, and even texts. In this model, you are responsible for making sure your space is private and confidential, and you feel comfortable enough to speak freely and be able to benefit from the session in the environment you have created.

Telehealth offers the advantage of making therapy services accessible to anyone, anywhere. This makes it easier to access the treatment you need. If the distance to travel to a therapist or the desire to see a specialist who is not in your area has held you back from therapy before, Telehealth might be a viable option to explore. If you want clear, directed, results-oriented therapy this can be easily delivered over Telehealth and help you reach your treatment goals quickly and effectively.

Teletherapy session, Telemedicine therapy, telehealth appointement

Who can benefit from Telehealth?

Anyone who is looking for results-focused treatment, in which the therapist serves as a teacher to help you gain the skills, techniques, and confidence to apply new strategies to your life and see the changes you want, can be a good match for Telehealth. In short, treatments focusing on helping you build skills to effect change are easily delivered via Teletherapy. Treatments such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can help you with anxiety, depression, emotion dysregulation and interpersonal problems in an online format.

Clients who succeed with Teletherapy have the ability to provide a private, confidential space that allows them the focus needed to gain the benefits from their online sessions. Practical considerations such as having a strong internet connection, making sure your space is soundproofed enough so that you can express yourself freely, and having pen and paper handy, will ensure you get the most from your Telehealth treatment. With an online session, you do not have to lug your notebooks, writing materials, etc., to your therapy appointments. Everything you need is already at your fingertips.

Telehealth also allows you the luxury of sitting in your space, taking notes, and thinking or processing after the session has ended. Many people who have experienced face-to-face counseling know how abrupt it can feel to end a session after exploring vulnerable topics and then head out into the busy world again. With Telehealth, you have the opportunity to slowly absorb what you have learned, perhaps make a plan for optimizing your week ahead, and at your pace, slowly transition back into the outside environment.

Telehealth can also help people utilize counseling when they otherwise could not access services. This is especially true for people that live in rural areas or overseas, where they may not be able to find a therapist in their area with the expertise they need. People who have limited mobility due to health problems, age, or chronic illness can also find Telehealth helpful. Busy professionals and parents who may not have access to childcare can find Teletherapy an ideal choice. The goal is to access help with more convenience.

Does Telehealth really work?

When Telehealth was very new, there was some initial concern that it might not work as well as traditional therapy. However, research has found that remote therapy can be just as helpful as in-person treatment, with equivalent patient satisfaction scores. The benefits of convenience and accessibility make Telehealth the ideal solution in our increasingly busy and technology-driven world.

To find out if Teletherapy could be the right fit for you, speak with a therapist who specializes in Telehealth services and start shifting from surviving to thriving today!


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!

 


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

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando