10 Steps to Better Sleep

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We all know that a good night’s sleep can make you feel like a million buck. Sleep provides us with energy, cell regeneration, keeps our body and mind strong and can even help us lose weight. We all at times have nights when we just do not get enough sleep. However, when not sleeping or poorly sleeping becomes the norm, it's time to take some action. Here are ten steps you can do today to help increase your sleep.

  1. Music can help you sleep by encouraging relaxation. Look for music that has 60-80 beats per minute. Start with songs that are 80 beats per minute and end with songs 60 beats per minutes. Look for songs with steady rhythms that make you feel good. 

  2. Keep your bedroom cool to 68 degrees or cooler. Sleeping in a cooler room is linked to deeper sleep and decreased insomnia. 

  3. Bedrooms should be dark to allow for deeper sleep. Your brain releases more sleeping hormones when the room is dark.

  4. Avoid naps if you have sleeping problems. Taking a nap can be refreshing but if you have disrupted sleep napping can have a negative effect.

  5. Avoid blue light. Blue like tricks the body into thinking its daylight. Blue light is emitted by tech devices like smartphones, computers and TVs. Turning off these devices about an hour to 2 hours before bed will allow your body to create more melatonin the relax/sleep hormone.

  6. Ditch the coffee. Coffee has caffeine and while caffeine can help with energy boosts, focus and sports performance drinking it late in the day can prevent you from relaxing. Caffeine elevates the blood for 6-8 hours.

  7. Don’t drink alcohol especially right before bed. Alcohol is known to reduce melatonin production, increase sleep apnea, snoring and unsettling sleep patterns. 

  8. Get Wet. Taking a warm bath or shower can help you relax and enhance sleep.

  9. Get regular exercise. Exercise helps keep our body on schedule which helps with or sleep wake time.

  10. Like the ocean? On YouTube you will find hours of relaxing waves sounds some even include seagulls. Here is one I enjoy when I can’t sleep. Sleepy Ocean Sounds (8hrs)


If you still are having sleep problems, please see your physician to rule out any physical concerns. A therapist can also help you by eliminating worrisome thoughts, teaching you deep relaxation and meditation techniques. Call today for a better night’s sleep.

The Rise in Bipolar Disorder Diagnoses

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Over the past decade, Mental Health Therapists have noticed a significant increase in clients seeking help for Bipolar Disorder. Prospective clients often call for a therapy appointment after being put on medication and receiving a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder from their Doctor. The good news is that Doctors are reinforcing the need for therapy along with medication for the best treatment outcomes for their patients. Many Mental Health Clinicians wonder, however, if this trend is a result of environmental or biological changes, or if there is something else causing this increase in Bipolar Diagnoses.

One study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry basically found a huge, 40-fold increase in the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children and teens over the past 10 years. In the study, researchers analyzed office visits that focused on doctors in private or group practices. According to Author John M. Grohol, Psy.D., in PsychCentral, “The key is that these are regular doctor’s offices- Not mental health professionals- Not professionals who are trained and experienced in diagnosing mental disorders, which often rely more on a clinician’s experience and expertise in asking the right questions to differentiate a disorder from something else. It may be that since these were regular medical doctors, and not mental health professionals, their diagnoses were simply more, well, wrong”.

Dr. Grohol went on to say, “I suspect that such general practitioners are more likely to diagnose a mental disorder, not out of any necessary ignorance or such, but because it is often the easiest thing to do than to try and get a parent a referral to a mental health specialist (such as a psychiatrist or child psychologist), and then ensure they follow-up with their appointment."

The problem with Doctors (who do not have specialized training) diagnosing Bipolar Disorder is that there are too many other conditions with symptoms that look like Bipolar Disorder. Senior author and psychiatrist Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., told Psychiatric News that “the symptom overlap between ADHD and bipolar disorder increases the clinical challenge of distinguishing the two conditions”.

“Some symptoms, such as distractibility, pressured speech, and irritability, can be seen in ADHD as well as mania,” he said. “Because of the risks of inadvertently treating bipolar disorder with stimulant it is especially important to conduct a thorough assessment.”

As a Mental Health Therapist for over 25 years, I strongly urge my clients to get a medication evaluation from a Mental Health Specialist (i.e.- a Psychiatrist, Doctor, Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, who have specialized training in Mental Health Treatment).  There is research that shows doctors who receive specialized training in specific disorders’ diagnosis and treatment do a better job of screening and diagnosing such disorders (Hata, 2005). Most of us expect to be referred to a Specialist for a heart condition rather than having our General Practitioner treat us. In fact, most patients are referred to a Podiatrist for a foot problem. So it seems ludicrous that patients aren’t automatically referred to a Mental Health Specialist to treat something as intricate as brain chemistry and diagnoses of Mental Health conditions. Getting an accurate mental health diagnosis and the right medication is crucial in patients having a successful treatment outcome.


By Christine Janse, LMFT

Christy works well with Challenging Adolescents, Phase of Life/Adjustment concerns, Couples issues, Addiction, Eating Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Depression and Anxiety.  She uses a variety of techniques to promote thought, growth and wellness along with other theories to help her clients feel better and function healthier in everyday life. Christy looks forward to meeting you. Christy is located in our Murrieta office, to schedule an appointment with Christy please call 951-778-0230

You too Can Create a Healthier Brain

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When I was growing up the general thought was that you had a finite number of brain cells and once, they died, that was it, there was no hope for your brain to regenerate. But in the last decade, research has found those old ideas are simply incorrect. There is real hope that there are many things that we can do to create a healthier brain, even if we have made poor choices earlier in life. So, how does that work? Through something called Neuroplasticity. Neuro-plas-ti-city

Neuroplasticity is the lifelong ability of the brain to create new neural pathways based on new experiences. Contrary to previous assumptions, in recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain continues to have the ability to create new neural pathways into adulthood. Below are some highlights about how neuroplasticity works in the brain.

  • When does neuroplasticity occur in the brain?

  • At the beginning of life: when the immature brain organizes itself.

  • In case of brain injury: to compensate for lost functions or maximize remaining functions.

  • Throughout adulthood: whenever something new is learned and memorized

  • Neuroplasticity has a clear age-dependent determinant.

  • Although plasticity occurs over an individual’s lifetime, different types of plasticity dominate during certain periods of one’s life and are less prevalent during other periods.

  • Neuroplasticity occurs in the brain under two primary conditions:

  • During normal brain development when the immature brain first begins to process sensory information through adulthood (developmental plasticity and plasticity of learning and memory).

  • As an adaptive mechanism to compensate for lost function and/or to maximize remaining functions in the event of a brain injury.

  • The environment plays a key role in influencing plasticity.

  • In addition to genetic factors, the brain is shaped by the characteristics of a person's environment and by the actions of that same person.

Another factor that impacts brain regeneration is neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the birth of new neuronal cells. Recent research demonstrates that neurogenesis continues into and throughout adult life. Ongoing neurogenesis is thought to be an important mechanism in neuronal plasticity. New techniques will be able to direct neurogenesis in other areas of the brain. This would enable the brain to repair damage and enhance mental functioning.

New neurons in the human brain have been found in the ventricles of the forebrain as well as the hippocampus. The cells that become neurons travel to the olfactory bulbs. Researchers have speculated that neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus since this area is so important in memory and learning. Other researchers have attempted to discover if neurogenesis occurs in other areas of the brain and spinal cord but have not yet found conclusive evidence to support this hypothesis.

There are several factors that impact neurogenesis, including physical activity, environmental conditions and even hormones/neurotransmitters. Here is a brief explanation of these factors and how they affect neurogenesis.

  • Physical activity

    • Has been shown to affect proliferation and survival of neurons.

  • Environmental conditions

    • Increase neurogenesis and neuronal survival has been shown in crayfish raised in an enriched environment when compared to siblings raised in an impoverished environment.

    • Hormones

    • Estradial and testosterone have been shown to influence the rate of neurogenesis.

    • http://www.macalester.edu/academics/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/stemcells/bird_five.html

    • Serotonin was found to affect the survival of neurons. Serotonin helps to synaptic connections in the cortex and hippocampus.

    • Lack of serotonin in the hippocampus has been associated with such disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, why would regular exercise, being in an enriched environment (physically nourishing and mentally stimulating) and the presence (or absence) of certain neurotransmitters impact the brains’ ability to generate new cells?

In his book “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science”, Norman Doidge discusses the case of a surgeon in his 50’s who suffered a stroke. The surgeon’s left arm was left paralyzed. During his rehabilitation, his good arm and hand were immobilized, and the doctor is set to cleaning tables. The task is at first impossible. Then slowly the bad arm remembers how to move. He learns to write again; and then to play tennis. The functions of the brain areas killed in the stroke ultimately transfer themselves to healthy regions!

His brain eventually compensates for the damaged areas by reorganizing and forming new connections between intact neurons. In order to reconnect, the neurons need to be stimulated through activity. The use of activity is one of the most important directions that therapeutic intervention for brain injury has ventured in the past decade. As horrible as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been, one of the positive outcomes is the discovery of using activity as a therapeutic tool to recover from traumatic brain injury.

If you would like to learn more about neuroplasticity, here is a link to a fascinating video on neuroplasticity and how different conditions can affect neural pathways. What do you think about the prospects of neuroplasticity and what this means in terms of what we once thought about the death of brain cells?


By Lisa Tobler, LMFT

Lisa Tobler, LMFT passion is in helping people recover from traumatic events.  She has advanced training in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) to treat trauma and EFT (Emotion Focused Therapy) to assist couples to heal their relationship.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

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September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with September 10 being World Suicide Prevention Day. It is with this purpose that the following is shared to further awareness and continue with the prevention efforts.

 “To anyone who has had suicidal thoughts this past year, I am glad you are here. Keep holding on” - unknown.

According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States

  • Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide

  • For every suicide, 25 attempts

  • Men die by suicide 3.53x more often than women.

  • On average, there are 123 suicides per day.

  • The rate of suicide is the highest in middle age.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides the following statistics specific to age, race, ethnicity and suicide methods.

Suicides by Age

In 2016, the highest suicide rate (19.72) was among adults between 45 and 54 years of age. The second highest rate (18.98) occurred in those 85 years or older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2016, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 13.15.

Suicide Rates by Race/Ethnicity

In 2016, the highest U.S. suicide rate (15.17) was among Whites and the second highest rate (13.37) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives (Figure 5). Much lower and roughly similar rates were found among Asians and Pacific Islanders (6.62), and Black or African Americans (6.03). White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.

Suicide Methods

In 2016, firearms were the most common method of death by suicide, accounting for a little more than half (51.01%) of all suicide deaths. The next most common methods were suffocation (including hangings) at 25.89% and poisoning at 14.90%.

Causation

What leads an individual to ultimately make the decision to commit suicide can be summarized as being the loss of hope. The therapists’ main goal is to instill hope in our clients. We do this in various forms based on chosen theoretical frameworks. The altruistic uniting factor that we share for our clients is the simple act of being a non- judgmental presence. Present to journey along and guide clients throughout the other side of the despair that is depression.

“Despair is the price one pays for self-awareness. Look deeply into life, and you’ll always find despair”- Irving D. Yalom.

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3. MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5 years old. It is more prevalent in women than in men. Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year (about 3.3 million American adults). Only 61.7% of adults with MDD are receiving treatment. The average age of onset is 31 years old.”

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) list the following as risk factors and protective factors for suicide. They clarify that there is a “combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide—they might not be direct causes”.

Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide

  • Family history of child maltreatment

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)

  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression

  • History of alcohol and substance abuse

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of personal dilemma)

  • Local epidemics of suicide

  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people

  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment

  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)

  • Physical illness

  • Easy access to lethal methods

  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts.

Protective Factors for Suicide

Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. To date, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or rigorously as risk factors. Identifying and understanding protective factors are, however, equally as important as researching risk factors.

Protective Factors

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders

  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking

  • Family and community support (connectedness)

  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships

  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes

  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self preservation (U.S. Public Health Service 1999)

 “Sometime even to live is an act of courage” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Resources Local to Murrieta and Surrounding Areas

If you or someone you love are having a psychiatric emergency call 911. 

24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care

24 hour/7 days/365 urgent care mental health screening and assessment services and medications.

Locations:

Riverside: 9990 County Farm Rd. Riverside, CA 92503 (951) 509-2499

Perris: 85 Ramona Expressway, Suites 1-3 Perris, CA 92571 951-349-4195 Main

HELPLINES

HELPLine - 24 Hour Crisis/Suicide Intervention
The HELPline is a free, confidential Crisis/Suicide Intervention service. Operated by highly trained volunteers, the line is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Phone: (951) 686-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Phone: (800) 273-TALK (800-273-8255)

Spanish line: (888) 628-9454

TTY: (800) 799-4TTY (4889)

Veterans Crisis Line 
The Veterans Crisis Line is a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) resource that connects Veterans in crisis or their families and friends with qualified, caring VA professionals.

Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Phone: (800)-273-8255 Press 1

The Trevor Project Lifeline
National organization providing crisis and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) Youth

866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)

EMERGENCY PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITALS AFFILIATED WITH RUHSBH

Riverside University Health System Medical Center Emergency Treatment Services (ETS) 
Provides psychiatric emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all ages, which includes evaluation, crisis intervention, and referrals for psychiatric hospitalization, as needed for adults, children, and adolescents. Consumers may be referred to the Inpatient Treatment Facility (ITF) or other private hospitals. 

9990 County Farm Road, Ste. 4

Riverside, CA 92503

Phone: (951) 358-4881

Se Habla Español

*Resource list compiled by Riverside University Mental Health System-Behavioral Health

We at Central Counseling Services Murrieta are looking forward to journey with you on your path to mental wellness. For appointments I may be contacted at 951-778-0230. We are located at 29970 Technology Drive #116 Murrieta, CA 92563.


By Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW

Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW joined Central Counseling Services as a therapist in 2018. She is a graduate of California State University Long Beach School of Social Work where she earned her Master in Social Work with a concentration in older adults and families (OAF). She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW#69056) and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in California since 2015. She is fluent in Spanish.

Ms. Anaya-Baca has experience working with a wide range of individuals and settings. Prior to entering private practice, she practiced as a clinical medical social worker with individuals and families facing life-limiting illness in the area of home health, palliative care and hospice. Susana is a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

“Positive Approach to Brain Change” with Teepa Snow

As an occupational therapist with 40 years of clinical practice, Teepa Snow is one of the leading educators on dementia and the care that comes with it.

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My colleague and I had the privilege of attending a whole day seminar with her recently in Claremont, and were very impressed with all the information provided.  Not only is Mrs. Snow very knowledgeable about the decline in brain functioning of people with dementia, I was personally intrigued by her practical tips about how to take care of people with dementia in a respectful way.  Something as simple as ‘Greet before you treat’, can go such a long way.  The same with ‘asking your client/patient for permission’ before starting to touch them, adjusting their clothing, etc.

Teepa Snow is very direct in her approach in teaching others, so at times I was a little startled with her directness, but she made sure we understood her message, no doubt about that.

We were reminded that all humans have 5 basic needs:

  • Nourishment and drink/liquids

  • Wake/sleep cycle

  • Elimination (in every sense: sweat, saliva, snot, pee and poop)

  • Seeking comfort

  • Being pain free

So when people with dementia ‘act out’, they probably are in need of one of the basic needs but have trouble communicating what it is exactly they need since ‘their brain is dying’.  One of Mrs. Snow’s many tips was to repeat what the patient/client says since they are unable to talk and listen to themselves.  When a caregiver repeats, they are able to agree or correct their message.

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It is important to understand that dementia is not only a memory problem, there are many changes in structural and chemical function because the brain is failing.  Another example/tip from Mrs. Snow was not to stand in front of the patient/client but rather to their side.  Mrs. Snow explained the reason: the patient/client’s vision has changed to tunnel vision (pretend to look into binoculars with your hands in front of your eyes), and when standing in front of the patient/client, they can feel blocked in (no way to escape), which might result in some physical altercation.

We were fortunate to learn first handed from an expert.  Hopefully you can find some tips in this article.

You can find more info and some educational (link to) video’s at: http://teepasnow.com/

For extra support as caregiver, you can always attend our Dementia Support Group, each Third Saturday of the month at Pacifica Senior Living, 6280 Clay St. in Riverside, CA. If you would like to talk more, or in need of individual counseling, please don’t hesitate to contact our office Central Counseling Services (951) 778-0230. We have counselors available 7 days a week in two locations (Riverside and Murrieta). 

Ilse Aerts, M.S., LMFT#96211

Any struggles you might have today, you don’t have to conquer them alone.  My personal, professional and volunteer experience will help shine a different light on your struggles of grief and loss, parenting struggles, life’s challenges.  Coming from a different culture myself, I understand the adjusting challenges you might come across (different rules and expectations, different language,...).  By offering guidance and support, together we can rediscover your own inner strength to work through those challenges.

I look forward to meet people of all cultural background, beliefs and ages on Tuesday and Thursdays.

I earned my Master degree in Clinical Psychology from Vrije Universiteit Brussel.  I am a member of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and California Association for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, let’s make it…… (great/worthwhile/count/awesome/wonderful) ....... it’s up to you.

School Blues

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Summer is known for many happy moments. We celebrate the 4th of July, being off of work or school, National Watermelon Day (August 3rd), and having those lazy days by the pool that help us to unwind after a long week of work.

One thing that is so important about summer is all the smiles we see. Living in Southern California is not always “chill” but we do have beautiful weather that allows us to visit the beaches and swim in the pool. Growing up in socal can be wonderful and, every summer, we see kids and parents with smiles because summer time is the best time to stay connected with family.

Many children start school at a young age and, when summertime comes, they may lose interest or focus when they eventually start school again in August or September. Others may not like being without the school atmosphere for so long and may have behavioral issues. Both school and summertime are needed but, can a child have school in summer?

Parents may still work in summer and are forced to bring their children with them to work or send them to a family member or baby sitter which could lead to boredom, irritation, annoyance, and even depression. To keep your child occupied and interested during summer by trying some of these easy-designed summertime tips:

  • Make structure: children tend to like to have a plan of what is going on for the day/work- this provides a sense of relief or safety because they know what to expect. Start by making calendars, create a daily routine, and have special nights every once or every other week that involves them making decisions.

  • Help the child to find extra-curricular activities: find camps and day programs that help the child to both physically and mentally stretch. Learning new skills and meeting new people can help the child to have a sense of belonging. Meeting current friends and setting up play dates can also help the children to feel a sense of belonging. Also, family vacations or days away from home help too.

  • Listen: Many times, children just want you to listen. If they are sad are having a hard time adjusting to the changes, sit down and talk with them.

  • Give them purpose: As much as older children despise chores, they are still needed. This gives kids a sense of purpose and that they are contributing to the home or “team” as you might say. Also, let your children come up with creative ideas. You do not need to entertain them 24/7. They have minds, let them wonder. Volunteering is also a good way to show purpose especially if you do it with them.

  • Have fun: Remember to make time for your child and you to just have fun and to be with one another. Life gets busy, but children grow up faster than you know.

Make some summertime memories with these fun tips and your child will forever remember how fun and awesome it was to be with mom or dad while also staying both mentally and physically active. They will be prepared and ready for school after having an amazing summer!

 

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Janna is currently a paraprofessional at a charter school based out of Chino and is also a volleyball coach in Corona. She just graduated from Grand Canyon University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and is currently on her way to earning her Master’s degree in Education and hopes to keep pursuing her dream of working with children and families and eventually becoming a mother herself one day in the future.

"The Martial Therapist"

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I got home that night full of bruises, tired as hell, and I noticed a growing pain in my wrist…

Have you ever just woken up in the morning and decided, “No, not today”. Well if you’re like me, then that happens more often than you’d like. I think at some point that happens to all of us. We just wake up and for whatever reason (you could be tired, stressed, lonely, overwhelmed, hungry, etc.) you decide that today is just not going to be your day and there’s nothing anyone or anything can do to turn it around. The funny thing about those days is that they tend to come out of nowhere (Ugh, so frustrating!) and the feelings that come along with those days tend to grow out of control quickly. I want to tell you about one of my bad days so that I can (hopefully) show you how I was able to turn it around.

I’m a therapist that practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT for short. So I’m basically equipped to handle any situation…good, I’m glad you caught the sarcasm there! But in all seriousness, I make my living showing people that they have the ability to help themselves feel better by teaching them simple tools and strategies. So it’s obvious that I should be perfect at doing those things, too…right? Well I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. I’m not as good as I would like to be. The cool thing about being a therapist is that I am trained how to use all of these wonderful self-help tools, so when I end up not using those tools myself, I get to add an extra serving of guilt to my day. Remember, no matter how hard your therapist works for you, they are working just as hard making sure they have their personal life in order as well. In essence, they have to put on their oxygen mask on before assisting you with yours!

Well that morning, I did not feel like getting up and going to work. I thought to myself, “How the hell am I supposed to help anyone when I feel like this?”. I was slow in every step of my morning routine. I slept in until I absolutely had to get up. I took too long on the toilet. I lingered in the shower…you get where I’m going with this. I did NOT want to do anything and my behavior was telling me as much. Often, when we are feeling off, our behavior will change in subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) ways. I we can clue ourselves into these changes, we have the chance to head off the storm! My response was “Screw that”. I was feeling crappy and I wanted to! I knew in my mind that I was doing things to keep myself low, but I just wanted to feel low for a bit and forget all of my training as a therapist. The problem is that little voice in the back of my head nagging me to stop being such a hypocrite. I wondered to myself as I was taking way too long to pack my lunch, “If I was my own client what would I do to help solve this problem?”

The answer is frustratingly simple. Two words…Behavioral Activation. This terribly simple concept can solve so many issues. But when we need it most, it’s the last thing we want to use. Ridiculous, I know. What is Behavioral Activation? Translated into human speech, Behavioral Activation boils down to this…

 If you’re feeling crappy, do more stuff and you won’t feel as crappy.

                                                                OR

When you engage your body and mind in pleasurable activities, you tend to feel better.

So I did what any begrudging therapist who is aware of their own self-sabotage would do, I made a plan to go beat up my friends that night after work.

I know what you’re thinking (Okay, maybe I don’t really know). But you might be thinking that I’m nuts for saying that and that maybe I should be reevaluating my profession for having these thoughts. I swear, things will make sense soon. You see, every week I go to a self-defense martial arts class that teaches me to use my body as a lethal weapon in case I ever find myself surrounded by some seriously menacing dudes who want to beat me up. I go to the gym and spend two hours every session using my body in ways that I would never dream of using toward another person in my outside life. But for those two hours when I’m in class with the rest of my group, I am free from everything that weighs me down. Let me give you a taste of what a normal session looks like.

We start out by partnering up and hardening our bodies by striking each other on our arms, legs, and stomachs. This is so we can get used to the pain of getting hit by another person. Then we do some light warm up exercises, you know practicing how to apply a choke for maximum effect or which body parts provide the least resistance to breaking. You know, normal, typical, everyday kinda stuff. After that, we usually train some new way to apply pain as a defensive strategy. After that we do some intensive aerobic and strength exercises to make sure that we’re good and tired for the night and so that our bodies will feel something if the hitting somehow didn’t do it.

Now you might be thinking, is that what all therapists do to relieve tension? Do they all just want to hurt other people? No…at least not me. Here’s the thing, when I go to these classes, I am completely free from everything that bothers me. It’s hard to worry about your day when you’re dodging a punch. I can’t be thinking about my stressors and be effective in my fight at the same time, so the stress just has to go. When I go to class, I train with other people who are there to get better and have similar interests to me. I have built a network of friends that are motivated to work hard and are glad for me when I improve. I consider myself lucky to have these people in my life. Each time I go I am working toward something bigger than me and using my body to the point of exhaustion so that when I’m done, I have nothing left but the satisfaction of a job well done (and a few extra bruises and scrapes).

That morning I noticed my behavior had changed, I was mindful of how my thinking was keeping me down, and felt the sting of knowing that I could do something about it. I decided that I would go train that night even harder than normal because I needed to get out of my funk. I messaged my group ( so they could hold me accountable if I didn’t go) and exercised my body and mind.

I got home that night full of bruises, tired as hell, and I noticed a growing pain in my wrist…

…but the only thing I had the energy to do was smile to myself and say “You did it”.

9 Signs Therapy Is Actually Working

Experts break down what progress looks like.

Nicole Pajer On Assignment For HuffPost

eek after week, you may walk into your therapist’s office and pour out your anxieties, hopes and dreams, or you might cry or get angry. Does any of this mean the process is actually working?

According to experts, there are definite signs that show you’re on the right track. If you are experiencing any of the following, it may be safe to say that your weekly counseling sessions are paying off:

1. You’ll look forward to your therapy appointments

Revealing your innermost thoughts in a session can be daunting. But if you get to the place where opening up becomes more comfortable, you may have experienced some breakthroughs, according to Rachel Dubrow, a licensed clinical social worker in Northfield, Illinois. Dubrow said her clients often make the connection that their treatment is working when they no longer feel nervous before appointments.

“They also tell me that they start to feel lighter and better after a session,” she said.

2. You’re not as “in your head”

“I’ve had clients tell me that when they begin to feel better, they aren’t as ‘in their heads’ anymore,” said Christy Doering, a therapist with Sage Counseling in Plano, Texas.

According to Doering, constant rumination over anxieties, listening to your “inner critic” or berating yourself for past regrets takes up valuable real estate in the brain.

“When people start to get well, they give that space to something better. It’s often a new appreciation for the present moment, or more interaction with family and coworkers, but it builds upon itself and contributes to overall wellness pretty quickly,” she said.

3. You’re having fun again

Anhedonia ― which is the inability to experience pleasure from activities that people used to find enjoyable ― is one of the hallmark symptoms of mood disorders like depression.

“If a person loves to sew, fix cars, read or exercise, then when he or she is depressed, those things will stop bringing joy,” Doering said. “But when people are improving, they will one day wake up and realize they feel like doing those things again, and often those things bring even more joy than they did in the past. It’s like having a stomach virus and feeling like you will never want to eat again, but then after it’s over, everything tastes wonderful.”

4. You are focusing on the present

“Instead of worrying about whether or not your first grader will get into college ... or feeling guilty over enjoying that bagel you had for breakfast, you are being mindful of the here and now and tending to the things you are in control of at the moment,” said Kayce Hodos, a licensed professional counselor in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

So rather than stressing about the future, you are focusing on work tasks, listening to a friend over margaritas, taking a walk on your lunch break or enjoying your favorite band’s new album.

5. You’ve changed your standards on who you swipe right for on Tinder

Sheri Heller, a New York City-based psychotherapist, noted that effective therapy may make you shift your focus toward more stable partners. Additionally, it may help you seek out healthier friendships and romantic partnerships.

“As clients work through core wounds rooted in relational traumas and betrayals, their healing is evidenced in using discernment and discrimination with who they bring into their lives,” she said. “Often these new partnerships are completely contrary to the sort of toxic traits they found themselves gravitating toward in the past.”

6. Self-care becomes a priority

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According to Hodos, noticing that you are beginning to pay attention to yourself is a great sign of improvement. This could be as simple as booking a weekly massage, journaling about your thoughts and feelings or asking your boss for that overdue raise.

“Regardless of how it shows up for you, you are positively including some much-needed self-care in your routine, and a bonus is you are enjoying it with no, or at least less, guilt,” she said.

7. You’ve started applying your therapist’s suggestions ― and they’re working

“I know that therapy is working for my clients when they are able to transfer what we have been working on in the therapy room to their lives,” said Sheralyn Shockey-Pope, co-founder of Central Counseling Services.

She cited a couple on the brink of divorce that she treated as an example. “They began to come into sessions with statements like, ‘I remembered that he was hurting, too, and when things got too intense at home we took a timeout, just like we did in therapy,’” she said.

Dubrow agrees, adding that she loves seeing patients gain a sense of pride over properly applying techniques she has armed them with. “They’ll come back and report that what they did felt challenging at first but that they were successful in the end,” she said.

8. You may start to go backwards

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.

“As you work on dismantling old, unhealthy thought patterns and coping habits, feelings of distress and unwanted behaviors sometimes have a surge before they go away,” said Rachel Kazez, a Chicago-area licensed clinical social worker. “Without those things masking the feelings, people might feel stronger and urges to act in unwanted ways might feel stronger or more necessary.”

Jenmarie Eadie, a licensed clinical social worker in Upland, California agreed, adding that anger in a session is a perfectly valid ― and sometimes wanted ― emotion.

“For me, a sign therapy is working is when the client gets mad at me,” Eadie said. “It’s usually because he [or] she is working through the issues with a safe person who won’t retaliate, dismiss, or abuse his [or] her emotions. For my kid clients, this usually means a crayon or two is going to be thrown my way!”

9. You realize you are only responsible for your problems

“It becomes clear to you which problems are actually yours to own and which ones you’ve been taking on that have nothing to do with you,” Hodos said.

For instance, you might learn to lovingly support your husband and listen to his job complaints without frantically updating his resume for him, or you proactively text your mom to let her know you will not be available for your usual Tuesday night chat, sans guilt.

Therapy is a very personalized journey and what works for some is different than what may benefit others. But any of the above changes signify you’re headed down the right path. 

 

Having a ‘Scent’sual Valentine’s Day with Essential Oils!!

 

In addition to being a mental health therapist, I am also a Wellness Advocate for dōTERRA Essential Oils. Some of the blends that are mentioned in this article refer to oil blends that are produced by dōTERRA.

Essential oils have been used for millennia to enhance sensual pleasure. They are well known for improving sensuality and libido. Today, essential oils are used in perfumes and colognes to enhance sexual attraction. Oils can be used in a variety of ways to heighten one’s libido. Essential oils can be applied directly to the skin when combined with a carrier oil. They can be used as a lubricant, for a nice, relaxing massage, or used in an essential oil diffuser to inhale the scent of the oils to “set the mood” before intimacy. A diffuser is a device that is used to disperse the essential oil molecules into the air. Most diffusers are relatively inexpensive to purchase and can be found at many retailers.

When oils are applied to sensitive areas of the skin, they should be diluted with carrier oils (such as Almond Oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil, Shea Butter or Grape Seed Oil). When you apply essential oils to the skin, never touch the nose, eyes, ears, or mouth with the essential oil blend. Mucus membranes are very sensitive to direct contact from essential oils. If you accidentally get essential oils in your eye, you can use Fractionated Coconut Oil to dilute the essential oil.

When choosing essential oils that will be used topically, please be certain that the brand you choose is free from fillers or contaminants that can be harmful. Many brands that state that they are “pure” or “therapeutic” add fillers or synthetic materials to make their products less expensive. It is very important to know whether the oils you are using are of the highest grade and quality.

If you have sensitive skin, care should be taken when applying a new essential oil or oil blend. It is always advisable to perform a skin patch test on the inside of the forearm before using a new essential oil in the bedroom. Dilute the oil, apply to the forearm, and wait a day to see if there are any allergic reactions. (We don’t want any skin reactions on Valentine’s Day, right?!) Remember that essential oils are concentrated, so you only need a small amount to have a big impact.

Essential oils can be used topically to enhance the sexual experience. You can apply a couple of drops directly to the abdomen, the back of the neck, or when diluted with carrier oils, they can be used as a lubricant.

When using essential oils on sensitive areas, be sure you use a carrier oil to dilute the essential oils so that you avoid skin irritation. Some essential oils, such as Cinnamon or Peppermint can be more of a skin irritant when undiluted than others. When diluting an essential oil, try using 7 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of your carrier oil of choice, or 1-2 drops per tablespoon of carrier oil.

Essential oils can help with libido in several ways. They can be used to enhance sensation, improve mindset, reduce anxiety, and change body temperature. For example, Cinnamon, Clove, and some citrus oils, such as Bergamot or Wild Orange, create a warming sensation. Peppermint creates a cooling sensation. Rose helps to reduce anxious feelings and has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac. For females, if libido is low because of hormonal changes, Clary Sage is often found to be helpful. Researchers have found that the “inhalation of Neroli oil helps relieve menopausal symptoms, increase sexual desire, and reduce blood pressure in postmenopausal women,” (Choi, SY, Kang, P., Lee, HS, & Seol, GH, 2014). 

Ylang Ylang is often used as an aphrodisiac for both men and women, and nearly everyone enjoys its soft, floral scent. Geranium is known for increasing circulation by enlarging capillaries. It is also excellent for reducing anxious feelings. Women often respond positively to using Citrus Oils such as Bergamot or a dōTERRA blend called Citrus Bliss to enhance pleasure. Men often find the warmth of cinnamon oil pleasurable. These essential oils can be used topically to create a warming sensation.

For many people, the everyday stressors of life can reduce libido. Essential oils can be used to assist with relaxation and to improve emotional well-being. The following libido boosting blend can be diffused, or diluted for topical application. Blend the following oils with the carrier oil of your choice to create a sensual massage blend or a natural lubricant.

  • 2 drops of Neroli (or Wild Orange)
  • 2 drops Jasmine
  • 2 drops Ylang Ylang

Feeling down or overwhelmed is another factor that can inhibit sexual desire. There are many essential oils that assist with mood. Frankincense and Wild Orange oils are great for lifting the mood so that libido can be sparked.

The following essential oils are known to be natural Aphrodisiacs. Make your own aphrodisiac blend with the scents that you like.

  •  Neroli
  •  Rose
  •  Ylang Ylang
  •  Geranium
  •  Clary Sage
  •  Rose
  •  Jasmine
  •  Bergamot
  •  Sandalwood
  •  Patchouli
  • Geranium
  •  Cinnamon
  •  Wild Orange
  • Clove
  •  Passion Emotional Blend (a dōTERRA blend) contains Fractionated Coconut Oil, Cardamom Seed, Cinnamon Bark, Ginger Rhizome, Clove Bud, Sandalwood, Jasmine, Vanilla Bean, and Damiana Leaf.

Damiana leaves have been used by indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America to boost sexual potency and as an aphrodisiac. Mayans, as well as other Central American people groups, used the Damiana herb to help improve female and male sexual dysfunction, decrease depression, and help with impotence problems.

Create your own blends. For a fun Valentine’s Day gift, you can try some of these suggestions.

 

Women’s Aphrodisiac Blend

  •   6 drops Ylang Ylang
  •  6 drops Neroli
  •  3 drops Rose
  •  3 drops Sandalwood
  •  1 oz. Fractionated Coconut Oil

Men’s Aphrodisiac Blend

  •  5 drops Ginger
  •  5 drops Ylang Ylang
  •  5 drops Black Pepper
  •  5 drops Helichrysum
  •  1 oz. Fractionated Coconut Oil

 Luscious Lubricant

  •   5 oz. African Shea Butter
  •  5 oz. Coconut Oil
  •  30 drops Peppermint
  •  30 drops Bergamot
  •  25 drops Cinnamon
  •  15 drops Lavender
  •  15 drops Helichrysum

Body Massage Butter

  •  ½ cup Coconut Oil
  •  ½ cup Unrefined Organic Shea Butter
  •  20 drops Ylang Ylang
  •  20 drops Geranium
  •  60 drops Bergamot
  •  40 drops Peppermint
  •  20 drops Clove

Please note: This post does not provide medical or counseling advice. If you’re experiencing significant problems related to sexuality, please talk with a physician or professional therapist. Sexual problems often stem from intimacy, attachment and other relationship issues that are best addressed with a comprehensive approach.

Lisa Tobler, LMFT sees a variety of individuals and couples in our Riverside Office. She helps people overcome intimacy and communication difficulties. You can get in touch with Lisa at 951-778-0230

 

 

Am I a Fraud? How To Stop Anxiety from Taking Over.

This Is What I Know

Episode 1 – DECEMBER 4, 2017

LOL… I sat down to express myself and stared at the laptop screen for… well… a while.  I’m calling this venture “This Is What I Know” and nothing was coming out!  Soooo… does that mean I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING?   What if that’s the case??  I REALLY don’t like the idea of disappointing, or coming up short, or screwing up, or bombing out, or flaking out, or COMING UP SHORT!  So… what if I AM EMPTY-HEADED and any second everyone in my world will find out that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING???  What if they realize that I’M A FRAUD, mutter to themselves about having wasted their time, TURN THEIR BACKS on me… and just walk away????  WHAT IF…  

STOP!!!! 

BREATH!!!

BREATH Again!!

Now… THINK IT THROUGH!

OMG!!! There IS something in my head after all.  I just had to stop, breath, think it through, and wadda-ya-know… what I needed came to me.  I am so GLAD because… well… you know why! But, hey, it turns out I wasn’t failing after all!  I just had to… you know…

STOP!!!!

BREATH!!!

BREATH AGAIN!!

THEN… THINK IT THROUGH!

 

Christopher Marsh, AMFT is a specialist in working with anxiety, children, and parents of special needs children. He has immediate openings in his schedule, to see Chris give us a call. (951-778-0230) or Email us to set up an appointment

© 2017-2018 Central Counseling Services

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