Despite the excitement that comes with the winter months and associated holiday season, it’s normal for individuals to feel a bit down. The cold and darkness have a lot to do with the change in mood that many people feel. And while some may shrug it off as the “winter blues” or “seasonal funk,” there is more to it than that.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
A type of depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) typically comes and goes based on the different seasons. The condition often peaks in the dark, cold months of autumn and winter and then subsides in the warmer, brighter months of spring and summer. Regardless, it is a misconception that SAD is a “lighter” version of major depression. Rather this condition is a more specific kind or type of major depression. The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are simply experienced at a particular time of year – with the changing of the seasons – and then subside or go into remission.
The specific cause of SAD is yet unknown. However, research indicates that several factors may contribute to this type of depression. The change in hours of sunlight during the winter months interrupts the natural circadian rhythm, which, in turn, reduces levels of serotonin and melatonin in the body. These chemicals are responsible for regulating mood and sleep respectively and are major contributors to depression.
In most cases of SAD, symptoms start out mild and become more severe with the progression of the season. The most common symptoms include:
• A pervasive feeling of depression most days of the week
• A lack of interest in once enjoyable activities
• A general feeling of low energy or fatigue
• A reoccurring trouble sleeping
• Otherwise unexplained changes in weight or appetite
• A change in ability to concentrate
• A unspecified feeling of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
While it is less common, some individuals may experience the opposite pattern of the condition and have symptoms that peak in spring or summer. Regardless, the symptoms are typically the same, as is the progression of symptoms.
Who Is At Risk for SAD?
SAD can affect anyone; however, several factors have been found to increase one’s risk of the condition. The condition is typically diagnosed more frequently in women than men as well as younger adults versus older adults. Additionally, individuals are at an increased risk for the disorder if they:
• Have a family history of the SAD or another type of depression
• Have been diagnosed mental health condition, such as major depression
• Live far from the equator where the differences between winter and summer are even greater
What Are the Best Ways to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD can have a major impact on one’s productivity and day-to-day lifestyle, so it’s important for individuals to find effective ways to manage their condition:
1. Seek light.
As an obvious contributor to SAD, light is also an effective therapy for treating the condition. Because natural light is in such short supply during the winter months, though, a light box may be a necessary management tool. To get the most benefit, individuals should look for a light box that generates at least 10,000 lux of white or blue light.
2. Take vitamin D.
Most individuals get significantly less sunlight during winter, which also affects the amount of vitamin D produced in the body. Getting enough of this important nutrient can also help manage depression. Several foods are naturally rich in vitamin D; however, it is best for individuals struggling with the disorder to take a dietary supplement through the winter months.
3. Get active.
Maintaining a regimen of low-intensity exercise, even as little as 1 hour each week, can offset the fatigue and lethargy that are hallmark symptoms of SAD. Exercise not only boosts endorphins – the feel good chemicals in the body – but it also helps regulate the circadian rhythm and can support better day-night cycles in individuals struggling with SAD.
4. Seek help.
Often individuals struggling with SAD and other forms of depression are tempted to withdraw and avoid seeking personal interaction of any kind. One of the best things individuals struggling with seasonal affective disorder can do, though, is keep in touch with trusted family members and friends and seek help when they need it. This help may also include care from a certified professional who can help establish an effective plan for managing the disorder.
While it is normal to experience an ebb and flow of feelings, especially during the winter months, if it affects one’s ability to live life and maintain a normal routine, it’s a problem. At this point seeking care from a reliable mental health professional can make all the difference.
Though the temperatures are still scolding and the back to school bustle is lasting, the holiday season is just around the corner. Halloween is but a month away, Thanksgiving two, and Christmas three. Funny how time flies, isn’t it?
For plenty, the holiday season is eagerly awaited. Holiday décor is taken from stored away boxes and displayed among the home and work place, the air outside begins to feel cooler and clearer, family traditions are prepared and gatherings are scheduled. On the other hand, it is the family traditions and gatherings that can also bring stress for many. Let’s face it, no family is perfect. And if you ask some, they might declare “not perfect” as an understatement.
Certain family dynamics, histories, damaged relationships and unresolved feelings are an absolute reality of family. And with this, the degree of severity for each ranges. During the regular year, most are able to maintain their daily lives without being greatly affected by their family affairs. During the holiday season, however, individuals are placed in the same room with their lingering stress. They are forced to face what has been disregarded for quite some time. And as one might imagine, this can be difficult.
Usually the question “How do I act like everything is okay when it is not?” surfaces. And as a result, the focus of the holiday season becomes the answer to this question, rather than the holiday season itself. And what we all understand deep down, is that the holiday season stands for far more than the resolution of conflict. It stands to bring us together with the ones we love, whether we are in conflict or not. It stands to embrace tradition. It stands to create fun and excitement. It stands to initiate a step outside of our day to day routine. And more than anything, it stands to build memories for the remaining years of our lives.
So, I know what you are thinking. It is “not that easy” to set aside differences for the sake of the holiday season. But let me state, that is not what is being proposed to you. The challenge being proposed, is rather that you hold onto the joy of the holiday season. It is that you do not replace your joy with a tense effort to heal all wounds and mend all fences. Instead, you hold onto your joy despite all circumstances and dedicate an outside time to the healing of wounds and mending of fences.
In other words, you do not allow yourself to lose sight of what the holiday season truly stands for. And when this challenge appears bigger than you, remember it is not. Remember that you are capable of all things, and that also means holding onto joy when it is not easy. So, believe in yourself, believe in the spirit of the holidays, and believe in the notion that time is precious. As are you. And with the time that is given to you, believe that wounds will be able to heal, and fences will begin to mend.
According to research, anxiety affects as much as 10 percent of children today, making it one of the most common psychiatric conditions affecting today’s children. While no studies have currently been done to determine what portion of those children struggle with school-related anxiety, many experts believe it’s an issue on the rise, even in children as young as preschool-age. That said, more parents than ever before are being faced with the challenge of helping their children cope with school anxiety. It’s no easy task, but understanding the issue and having a few tips to help them manage can ease the burden for everyone involved.
What Is School-Related Anxiety?
Feelings of anxiousness are normal and even expected in children headed back to school. New teachers, new peers, different routines, and pressure to perform are just a few of the stressors that today’s school children face. It’s no wonder that children feel apprehension as a new school year looms near.
However, school anxiety goes a step further than the typical “unease” about the start of school. Anxiety affects the child’s ability to cope with the everyday scenarios and may even become so extreme that the child is unable to perform, attend school, or function as a typical school-age child.
What Are the Types of Anxiety in School-Age Children?
School anxiety generally manifests in one of three ways:
• School refusal – The child refuses to attend school regularly or may have trouble staying in school. Refusal may be accompanied by actual physical symptoms including headache, stomachache, nausea, and diarrhea.
• Test Anxiety – A type of performance anxiety, the child is unable to take tests or perform well on assessments despite adequate preparation and knowledge of the material. Test anxiety may be accompanied by physical, emotional, and behavioral/cognitive symptoms such as headache, stomachache, fear, helplessness, and difficulty concentrating.
• Social Anxiety – The child fears social or performance situations with peers to such a level that he or she may chronically avoid feared situations and/or exhibit behavioral aversions to such situations including tantrums, crying, and shrinking away. The anxiety is severe enough to affect everyday life and lasts longer than six months.
What Causes School Anxiety?
The specific cause of school anxiety is typically tied to the type of anxiety the child is experiencing. However, several common causes of anxiety have been identified including:
• Separation anxiety
• Fear of failure
• Stressful life events
• Social stressors
• History of being bullied
• Lack of sleep
• Academic challenges
• Lack of preparation
What Are the Best Ways to Help a Child Manage School Anxiety?
Regardless of the type or cause of school anxiety, there are several steps parents, caregivers, and even school personnel can take to help children cope with school-related anxiety.
1. Prepare the child early.
Preparing the child in advance can go a long way toward easing fears and reducing anxiety. Preparation may involve talking frequently and positively about the upcoming school year, visiting the school ahead of time, and exposing the child to school-like scenarios.
2. Discuss the child’s concerns.
Anxiety is another one of those instances in which “knowledge is power.” The more a parent or caregiver knows about what is causing the child anxiety, the more he or she can do to help ease the concern. Discussions about the child’s specific fears and concerns can better prepare everyone to face the upcoming school year.
3. Monitor sleep.
Partiularly at the start of the year, lack of sleep can play a significant role in anxiety. Establishing a school sleep routine early and monitoring sleep to ensure the child is getting enough sleep is an effective way for a parent or caregiver to help his or her child proactively manage anxiety.
4. Make a daily plan.
Knowing the plan is important for children with anxiety. Parents can help ease concerns by establishing and sharing the daily plan with the child each morning. The plan should include who will pick be at pick up and drop off as well as any additional plans for the day.
5. Ask for help.
If a child’s anxiety is increasing despite measures to manage it, outside help may be the next step. Parents can speak with the child’s pediatrician or school psychologist for suggestions on how to proceed.
A certain level of anxiety related to school is normal in children. When that anxiety interferes with school attendance and/or performance, though, parents may need to utilize effective strategies to help their children cope. Additional support from school personnel and mental health professionals can also be helpful in easing the child’s fear and helping him or her thrive in the school setting.
Summer 2018 has come and gone within the blink of an eye. For some, it was filled with free time to read or catch up with friends, for a few more, it consisted of family trips and pictures at the park, and for others, it was a mere continuation of to-do lists and organization of schedules. Whichever summer best describes your own, it is now time to welcome the Fall. And the Fall season can look different for all of us as well. Whether it be the beginning of something new, or the return to a familiar routine, it is a transition. And what we can all recognize about transitions, is that they affect us in one way or another. Perhaps it is our sleep schedule that changes, our daytime schedule that shortens or lengthens, our responsibilities that evolve, or beyond. Undergoing any transition is meaningful in that we must recognize the change at hand, adapt to it, and continue moving forward. I don’t know about you, but “going with the flow” of change has never been my strong suit. In fact, I resist change pretty strongly. I remember my senior year of high school when I was accepted into Abilene Christian University, and for weeks during the summer I could do nothing but strut all of my ACU t-shirts and eagerly plan my next four years of independence and adventure. Then, the night before we were planned to make the road trip, I almost got sick in my suit case. When circumstances become unfamiliar, or simply transform, it is challenging for me. I appreciate consistency and knowing exactly what to expect of not only my day, but my future. And once I become comfortable with my circumstances, I desire to stay that way. Some individuals unlike myself, handle transitions miraculously. They are “go with the flow” kind of people, and at times will even seek out change in their lives. In any case, no matter what type of individual we are, change happens. The seasons transition and so must we. What I have learned is that the survival of change does not lie in controlling it, but accepting it. And if it is overwhelming, breathing through it. Much like a relentless migraine, the more tense you become resisting the pain, the more intensely you feel it. But if you relax into the pain, it does not overpower you. As you welcome the Fall season, do not let the transition overpower you. Rather, accept the new season with all it may possess, and take each step with an even deeper breath. There is no rush to any finish line, nor any judge to please. All there is, is the present you have to live in, and your duty to yourself to live in it happily. There is power in your outlook, so look forward with fresh eyes. Say goodbye to Summer, and hello to Fall! And remember all the while, some seasons bring the most beautiful change of all.
In an effort to be more health conscious I found a really yummy homemade blueberry muffin recipe. No, normally blueberry muffins are not usually healthy, but these are made from almond flour, organic blueberries, and gluten free sugar replacement that also tastes really good. Other than the taste, I noticed on the packaging a seal that said “Autism Approved”. This got me to thinking about how the way we eat significantly impacts our bodies as well as our minds. There are many ways that we can improve our mental health by limiting or restructuring the foods that we eat. Here are 3 ways that we can improve our minds while making our mouths happy.
1. Limit sugar.
As my wonderful sugarless sweetener explicitly stated, natural sugarless alternatives can be helpful in ameliorating symptoms of Autism and ADHD as well as behavioral issues. Low-glycemic foods do not usually produce a spike in blood sugar and make it easier to control behaviors, such as repetitive movements. Surges in blood sugar have also been correlated with hyperactivity. Limiting artificial sugar intake also encourages higher levels of doublecortin, which is a protein associated with newly developed neurons. Try reaching for a natural sugarless alternative for your favorite recipe the next time you visit the grocery store. Some parents reported a behavioral child with this switch in as little as two weeks.
2. Reduce gluten.
Poor gluten. Gluten has gotten a bad rap for the past couples of years. With more recent prominent research on the way that gluten impacts ADHD symptoms as well as other behaviors many people have started grabbing gluten free alternatives. Gluten is a protein substance found in most grains (think wheat, barley, and rye). Foods created from these grains (we’re talking cereals, breads, processed and packaged foods) are a significant part of our typical everyday diet. However, those that are gluten sensitive have difficulty processing this protein, which can lead to lower executive functioning among other things. What exactly is executive functioning? It’s essentially our powerhouse in our brain. It’s the area that controls short term memory, planning, and controlling behaviors. Individuals with ADHD that have cut down (or out) on gluten in their diets report feeling more mentally sharp and having emotional clarity. Talk with your doctor about ways to test for gluten sensitivity.
3. Lay off of the dyes.
All of those pretty colors that come in cereals, juices and other products can be really fun to look at, but what is hidden underneath? Studies have found that some children with mental health diagnoses might be more affected by additives than others. The artificial food coloring and dyes have a hyperactive effect in children with ADHD as well as other diagnoses. This is a tough one! Those dyes are in most products that we can purchase to make and serve to our families. Consider a cereal that does not have the artificial dyes or juice that is clear in color. If all else fails read the Nutrition Facts and see what dyes exist in your daily indulgences and look for less colorful alternatives.
Ultimately, my muffins turned out to be really good. While it has taken some adjusting to get used to these changes, I know that they are changes that will impact my family and me physically as well as emotionally. What change are you open to trying?
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a nutritionist or a medical doctor. I’m just a therapist that has found some alternative methods to help the people I enjoy working with. You should always consult your doctor or your child’s pediatrician when considering dietary changes.
It's normal to feel a little stressed out about a test, but some teenagers have such severe test anxiety that it interferes with their life. Many people think that test anxiety is just an excuse and that anxious teens need to "toughen up." Unfortunately, teen mental health issues are often stigmatized. However, teen test anxiety is a major problem and needs to be taken seriously.
How is test anxiety different from regular stress?
Most teens want to do well in school, and tests are big events. Expressing concern about an upcoming test, staying up late to study, and acting tenser than usual the morning of an exam is normal. Extreme psychological distress, "blanking out" on all the information studied, and believing you're a failure if you perform poorly on one test is not normal.
Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. The symptoms may begin before the exam, but they typically reach a peak while taking the test. The psychological symptoms are often accompanied by these physical symptoms:
In severe cases, test anxiety can even lead to a panic attack, which may feel like a heart attack. Panic attacks are sudden and intense bouts of anxiety even though there is no real danger.
How can I help my teen overcome test anxiety?
The first step in helping your teen overcome their anxiety is recognizing it. Many people who experience test anxiety are embarrassed to talk about it because they don't think others will understand. Even if you don't relate to their experience, it's important to listen and empathize with your teen. Honest communication is the best way to help you and your teen figure out what they need to do to overcome their anxiety.
You should also help set your teen up for success on their exams. Try not to stress them out or be too overbearing, but support them and help them develop good habits. The more confident and prepared they are before the exam, the less likely they are to experience anxiety. Good habits to promote include:
Another option is to suggest some relaxation techniques. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation are all great ways to physically and mentally relax. Your teen can take these skills into school with them and even practice them during the exam to calm down if they start to feel anxious.
If your teen's test anxiety is causing serious distress and affecting their performance in school, you may want to seek professional help. It's often possible to overcome test anxiety on your own. However, a therapist or counselor can work with your teen to develop better skills to tackle their anxiety. Even just a few therapy sessions can make a big difference and can help your teen keep a calm and clear mind at school.
In spite of what many people tend to believe, infidelity can and does happen, regardless of gender. That being said, both men and women struggle with it. As they go about their day, they encounter a number of temptations. Whether it’s an attractive coworker or a secret, online lover, the result is always the same. Initially, infidelity may be difficult to overcome; however, it’s certainly not impossible. There are several ways a person can get over this age-old problem, as long as they're willing to make some changes.
Discuss What Took Place
A man or a woman can stray for one reason or another. In most cases, however, it means that something’s just not right. In other words, the person isn’t getting his physical or emotional needs met in his current relationship or marriage. Thus, infidelity may be caused by one or more of the following:
A person can make huge improvements by simply being open to change. First of all, they should attempt to discuss the occurrence with his spouse. Doing so will give them the opportunity to get a better idea of what’s happening on the other end.
It can be incredibly difficult for a person to empathize with someone, who’s unwilling to express their own feelings about something that’s had an effect on them. Too often, the opposite party will keep their emotions all bottled up inside and show their unhappiness through indirect ways. This tends to be extremely counterproductive, however. In order to successfully overcome infidelity, the person will need to know how their actions affect the other party.
Spend More Time Together
What else can a person do to get rid of his tendency to be unfaithful? Start going out of their way to spend more time with their spouse. In doing so, the goal should be to establish a better connection with their partner. If they're able to feel love and care for their spouse, they're much less likely to engage in behavior that’s hurtful.
Seek the Help of a Knowledgeable Therapist
Finally, they should seek out marriage therapy. Sometimes, a situation’s progressed so far that professional assistance is needed for a successful recovery. The therapist will be familiar with the typical underlying causes and the setbacks that only serve to get in the way. Getting professional help could very well save the couple’s relationship or marriage.
In this day and age, there are so many obstacles that make recovery a challenge. Consequently, more and more couples are finding it hard to remain faithful to each other. Working on the relationship at home and with a skilled therapist will get a person who struggles with infidelity back on track in no time.
If you’re anything like me, you’re the first to admit that you are an imperfect human. Humbling ourselves, to put it kindly, is a solid preventative measure for letting other people know that we are aware of our flaws…so they do not need to bring attention to or remind us of what they are. Why pick at the wounds, right? The problem is, over time, we fail to notice the continual energy that we are putting into what we describe as the most negative parts of ourselves. We are presenting our defects, justifying them if we can, and even going as far as to apologize for them. But where is the balance? I cannot think of a single encounter where I have heard another human tell me what they like, or even venture to love about themselves in equal passion. I don’t blame them, it is far too easy in this day and age to be judged and labeled as “conceited” or “arrogant” if we dare speak of our positive qualities. I mean, we’re not in the middle of a job interview. So, I get it. I am more than guilty of never speaking of what I like about myself. I certainly never speak of what I love about myself. But do you know the honest reason why? Sure, as I said, I worry like any other human about being labeled “conceited” or “arrogant.” But more than that, I hardly remember what I like or love about myself. The downfall of always focusing on what brings us far from perfect, is we forget what also makes us special, what makes us worthy and valued, and above all what makes our imperfection so uniquely ours, and so distinctively beautiful. We all know the truth: there is no such thing as perfection. So rather than apologizing to each other in every opportunity for that, why don’t we begin taking comfort in it? I challenge you to balance your daily efforts for growth with outright acknowledgement and praise for the parts of yourself which you love. For example: “Today I challenge myself to not be short of temper, as I know it can impact my day and the day of those I interact with negatively. And I praise my selfless heart, as it yearns for me to create happier days for myself and others.” There is no right or wrong way to do this, the challenge and the praise do not have to be a perfect fit. The point is that in doing this, you are remembering what you like, and even love about yourself. Do not be ashamed! Self-growth is something we should all continue to strive for, it steers us away from complacency and feeds our spirit the spark it needs to become exactly whom we want to be. But without this balance along the way, we will only be endlessly reaching for the gift we are already denying ourselves – the gift of self-love.
With children, therapy does not have to be the stereotypical activity that we often see in movies and on television. In fact, there is an amazing type of therapy that allows a child to grow into themselves, discover the world around them, and freely express their emotions without restriction. This type of therapy is known as "Play Therapy".
What is Play Therapy?
Play therapy is a type of therapy often given to children ages 3 to 12 that allows the child to play in a playroom while interacting with the therapist. Through the way that the child plays and interacts with objects around the playroom, the child learns more about who he/she is and the therapist is given the opportunity to see into the child's world.
Children who might be given this therapy include those on the autism spectrum, children who are currently dealing with traumatic events in their lives, and children who have behavioral disorders or mental illnesses. The ultimate goal of play therapy is to help children learn healthy coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills, to teach them how to be more respectful and kind to the people around them and to themselves, and to help them overcome the problems that they are currently going through.
Why Does Play Therapy Work?
The most important question that people ask is, who is play therapy for? That's a great question! The answer is that play therapy is great for any child and it is sometimes practiced with teenagers and even adults on occasion. All you have to do is find the play therapist that will be best for your child and their needs!
To say that relationships are like cars is so cliché, but they kind of are. Think back to when you bought your first car. Was it your favorite color? Did it look just like you wanted? Over time the car gets dirty, needs maintenance, and we fix it. We tend to our vehicles to keep them running smoothly and to last us as long as they can. But what about our relationships? Our relationships constantly need tending to in order to continue to run smoothly and bring the same happiness they did when we first started them. Here are 4 quick ways to give your relationship that much needed tune-up!
1. Start with “Hello.”
How did you initially greet your partner in the early stages of your relationship? Did you get up from what you were doing and greet them at the door? Did you seek them out to ask how their day was? Was there a physical display of affection? Think about how you currently greet your partner. In most relationships greetings change over time as couples become more comfortable. Taking the little initiative to greet your partner in the way that you used to can help to rekindle some of those old flames. Give it a try!
2. Focus on you.
I know, that seems wrong, but you should keep your focus on you in certain situations. When we have a disagreement, we are inclined to think about what the other person did wrong. We often begin the blame game and point out the other persons’ short comings versus thinking about ways that we could have improved the situation. Focus your energy on yourself when in a disagreement. Think about what you could have done differently to bring a better outcome to the situation. During the next disagreement focus on improving your response.
This seems simple, but it can be quite a difficult task. I often ask couples “who wins if neither of you is willing to give?” The answer is usually “no one”. Try to compromise in situations big and small with your partner. Think about ways that both of you can feel like winners. Compromising puts you back on the same accord.
4. Be in the present.
It is natural to use your past experiences as a point of reference for future decisions. In relationships, this often leads to one or both partners focusing on the past and having difficulty letting go to move into the future. Focus on the present. Think about what your partner is saying and doing and evaluate it within that moment. Try not to bring anything from your past to your present.
If you’ve tried to make changes and are having difficulty consider professional couples counseling. Like most vehicles, with a good oil change, tune up, and maintenance check you can get your relationship back on the right road.