Mediation & Mindfulness

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I bet by now you have heard that you should learn to meditate. You may have heard that it can be useful for your health, reduce your stress levels and that it can even make you happy. You may be thinking those are excellent benefits but how do I do it and what is it exactly?

The National Institute of Health has defined meditation as "a mind and body practice that focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior."  Despite the many types of mediation most include these four principals 1. A comfortable posture that can consist of standing, sitting, lying down or walking, 2. A location that is quiet with few distractions, 3. A focus of attention on an object, breath, mantra or word and 4. A nonjudgmental or open attitude, letting distracting thoughts go without assigning any emotion to the thoughts.  

 Many health studies show meditation can have a positive effect on our physical health. In a 2017 survey of adults, 55-75 years of age and brain functioning over an 8 week period were either using focus controlled breathe mediation or the control activity. After they were given tests to measure their attention and emotional control the results found that those who meditated had significantly better attention on the test and activation in the attention area of the brain over the control group.

Many other studies are suggesting that the practice of mindfulness for healthy people can reduce stress and can help people cope with pain, Anxiety, and depression that often accompanies chronic illness.    

If you need further convincing of the effectiveness of  mediation and health benefits, take a long look at a recent article by Jill Suttie entitled “Five Ways Mindfulness Meditation Is Good for Your Health.” Greater Good, Greater Good Center UC Berkeley, 24 Oct. 2018

10 steps to Meditation

1.       Start with 2 minutes. You can increase it in a week or two after you get comfortable.

2.       Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down with little to no distractions and close your eyes.

3.       Check in with your emotions; how do you feel right now? Whatever you feel is okay

4.       Start with breathing deeply in and slowly release.

5.       Thoughts will come and go, notice them and then focus on breathing again.

6.       If you have a mantra or a word say that to yourself as you breathe in and out.

7.       Don’t worry about doing it wrong; just do it as the Nike ad says.

8.       Have a feeling of gratitude or love as thoughts enter and leave you. They are a part of you.

9.       Stay with whatever comes up, then return to the breath. Don't fight the thoughts or give up.

10.   Try to meditate early in the day and do it every day. It's only for two minutes. 

Meditation may not feel comfortable at first, that is okay, keep trying. You can also try the guided meditation on this site if you need a bit more guidance. After you get the 2 minutes down add another minute or two. When you are done for the day, smile and be grateful that you had these two minutes for just you. After a few weeks, you will look forward to this practice. Remember that consistency is the key. If you feel you need more help, there are" APP for that," a few that my clients and I like include HeadSpace, InsightTimer, and Calm. These apps are available in the Apple Store or Google Play. There is also a biofeedback band that teaches you to meditate called Muse.  Muse is headband that you wear around your forehead, and it provides feedback as to your current brainwaves. It includes step by steps instructions as it encourages you along your journey.

The bottom line is it, not the program or equipment you use, what is important is that you are engaging in the practice of mediation for your mind, body, and spirit.


By Sheralyn (Sherry) Shockey-Pope, LMFT

Sheralyn (Sherry) Shockey-Pope, LMFT is the Chief Operation Officer and Co-Owner of Central Counseling Services. Sherry oversees the day to day operation of the practice in two locations Riverside and Murrieta, and she directly supervises associates, licensed therapists, and the support staff. Her practice consists of 23 clinicians and five support staff. Sherry has extensive teaching and speaking experience and presents on topics of depression, anxiety, child abuse, adoption, business performance, and mindset blocks. Although she is not taking new clients, she can help you find the perfect therapist fit from her hand selected and well-trained therapist team. In her spare time, Sherry enjoys being outdoors, water aerobics, swimming, hiking, gardening or sailing.

2019 Do You Need a Change?

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I noticed a lot of clients talked about changes they would like to make for 2019, but they did not have a starting point on how to make them happen. This led me to make a list of top 10 don’ts to begin 2019 on the right foot. This will allow you to unleash your potential, be open to allow positive changes to unfold and overall improve your life.  This is what we all want…right? Do remember that we are all works in progress, do not be disappointed in you if you can’t stay on track. Just keep trying and eventually you can do it. I see my clients making very small changes that lead to a large positive impact. Small changes are easier to do and stick with over time. Also make sure you do only one or two at a time as doing to many at one time can set you up to fail, however, by incorporating some of these changes in your daily routines you will see the change you desire. I hope you have the best year ever.

  1. Don't be afraid to follow your dreams. Dream big!

  2. Don't be a people pleaser.

  3. Don't spend time with the wrong people.

  4. Don't gossip about others.

  5. Don't live a life that others expect of you, live a life true to you.

  6. Don't start pointless drama because of your personal insecurities.

  7. Don't do anything that doesn't feel right.

  8. Don't be afraid to spend time alone.

  9. Don't compare yourself to others. You are only in competition with you

  10. Don't hold onto things you can’t control.

If these seem a bit too hard, I can help you develop a plan and help you stick to it. That is what therapy is for to help you with the hard stuff. Remember I believe in you. If you would like to work with me or one of my fantastic colleagues give me call. 2019 is too important to feel stuck.  

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by Regina Kennedy, LMFT

I became a therapist because I want to help people who want to change their lives. I am a compassionate, direct and interactive therapist. I value optimism, truth, and authenticity.

My therapeutic approach is warm, but always direct and honest to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address their treatment goals. I offer a highly personalized approach, tailored to each client's unique needs. My specialties include working with Adults, children and adolescents, families, crisis intervention, and substance abuse. I am Certified as a Substance Abuse Counselor.

Mindfulness with the Five Senses to Manage Stress and Anxiety

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I often have clients ask me how they can overcome anxiety and stress that feels overwhelming.  One thing I teach to them is the practice of mindfulness with the five senses.  This helps a person slow down and notice what is around them using sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.  When you do this, your mind gets a break from the stressors of life and allows you to slow things down.

Some examples of ways you can use mindfulness with the five senses are;

  • While you are cooking notice the smells, colors, textures, and tastes of your food.

  • Burning a candle, notice the aroma and watch the flame bounce around.

  • Watch a sunset and notice the sights, smells, sounds, and physical sensations you are experiencing.  Does it feel warm or cool?  Is there a breeze you notice?

  • While you are eating, hold the food in your mouth and notice the flavors and textures.  When you swallow, notice how you can feel the food move down your body.

Another way to use mindfulness with the five senses is through a guided visualization.  You may want to pre-record this guided visualization so you can use it again and again. 

Find a comfortable place for you to lay down or sit.  Close your eyes and imagine a place that is peaceful to you.  Imagine you are there now and take some time to focus on each of the five senses as you experience them.  What do you see there?  Notice the scenery, the colors, and the overall environment.  Pause and take in the view.  Now notice what your body is experiencing as you are there in your peaceful place.  Are you sitting or standing? Is it warm or cool?  Notice what you are touching as you are there now.  Pause and notice that.  Now move to sounds.  What do you hear there?  Can you hear sounds from nature or perhaps there are other people there.  Pause and notice what you would hear if you are in your peaceful place.  Now focus on the smells that would be there.  Are there smells from nature or foods? Pause and take a moment to take in the smells.  Now imagine that you are eating a food that you love while you are in your place of peace.  Notice how the flavors and texture feel as you imagine eating the food.  Take one last moment to notice all of your senses as you are in this place of peace.  Notice how your body may feel more relaxed or at peace.  Take a deep breath and take it in.

The wonderful thing about this guided visualization is that you can access it any time you have a moment to yourself. It can literally take only 5 or 10 minutes of your day.  Use this when you are already relaxed to allow your body and mind to incorporate this into your normal routine.  You can use this practice before going to sleep, when you are sitting in a waiting room, or on a break from work.

If you would like to learn mindfulness with the five senses or other techniques to manage anxiety and stress, please contact me Alicia at Central Counseling Services office to get therapy started today.


By Alicia McCleod, LMFT

I am passionate about helping people feel better and work through the barriers in their life. I completed my graduate work at the University of Phoenix and have been working in the helping field for the last 10 years. I've spent much of that time helping people overcome their depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, trauma, and relationship challenges. My approach is that of compassion, acceptance, and I create a safe space where you can explore those underlying issues getting in your way today.

Therapy with me is unique as I use EMDR, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, solution focused interventions, person centered strategies, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) methods to help reduce stress. I also have experience with helping individuals experiencing psychosis (hearing or seeing things others don't), trauma survivors, and people with ongoing mental health challenges. I work primarily with adults and also see teens and couples.

On a personal note, I do like to stay active and I practice mindfulness on a daily basis. I also enjoy hiking, trips to the beach, camping, reading, quilting, and spending time with my family. Please call my office today if you would like to schedule an appointment with me and get started on a healthier you!

The Healing Power of The Breath

Did you know that the simple act of breathing has many healing benefits? The power of the breath is often underestimated. When counseling clients I have often had clients with underwhelmed expressions when session time is spent discussing, modeling and practicing focused breathing techniques. Why? They can’t believe that something so simple and no cost can impact their well-being so dramatically.

The truth is, we have the internal mechanisms that can solve many of the issues that plague us. The reality is that chronic stressors along with mental and physical conditions impede many from utilizing these resources. Also, the normalization of stress in our daily living has made us less aware of the tension that plagues us. Focused breathing practices such as progressive muscle relaxation help us regain awareness of the tension and anxiety that is stored in our body.

My experience with focused breathing for stress, anxiety and panic symptom reduction is not simply based on evidence-based practice protocols but also on personal experience in managing stress, anxiety and panic. Clients outcomes improve dramatically when they have trusted and practiced focused breathing. Many have shared that after consistent practice they have regained a sense of control and empowerment over their symptoms in conjunction with CBT based treatment protocols.

4 Square Breathing is simple breathing technique that has over time proven to help first responders and others to integrate strong emotions and to decrease anxiety. This will help you too.

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4-Square Breathing

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four counts.

  2. Pause/hold your breath for four counts.

  3. Exhale through your mouth for four counts.

  4. Pause/hold your breath for four counts.

Points to remember:

  • Practice this breathing for 4 sets of breaths and least 3 times a day, until it becomes second nature.

  • Practice even if you are not stressed; in fact practice when your not stressed is better.

  • Breath in deeply (diaphragmic deep breaths) Think singer’s breath.

Image found on Pinterest uploaded by EveryDaySpirit.net

Image found on Pinterest uploaded by EveryDaySpirit.net

Why Is Focused Breathing Helpful?

Simply, most everyone automatically breathes. Your breath is magical. Practicing focused breathing techniques on a daily basis not only significantly improves your well-being but is the tool most often used for deescalating when an anxiety and panic attacks occur. Breathing naturally helps to trigger the "relaxation response" (Dr. Herbert Benson of the American Institute of Stress coined the term "relaxation response”).

According to Dr. Herbert Benson of the American Institute of Stress, “the relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension)".  The American Institute of Stress list the following effects as a result of focused breathing practices:

How to Integrate Focused Breathing into Your Life

These are some suggestions and resources for integrating focused breathing into your self care routine.

  • Explore and choose focused breathing techniques that work for you. There are many to choose from such as progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, meditation, prayer and mindfulness. Search GOOGLE or YOUTUBE for endless free resources. One of my favorite books and recordings to use with children when teaching them about focused breathing is:

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

  • Set a time and frequency - start with one session a day, preferably before bedtime.

  • Use technology - use apps such as CALM and headspace for on the go. There are versions of these apps for children too.

  • Exercise - choose exercises that use breathing in combination with body work such as yoga and Pilates.

  • Environment - create a calming environment by using aromatherapy or using ambient lighting. Try different comfortable positions such as being seated or laying in a comfortable space.

*Do not engage in focused breathing techniques while standing or driving due to risk of dizziness. If you have chronic medical conditions that put you at risk for falls or have a cardiac condition, consult your medical doctor before attempting. *


By Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW

If you are having issues with anxiety, panic and depression, I am here to help. We at Central Counseling Services Murrieta, look 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.

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.


MEDICAL EMERGENCY
If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately

All information, content, and material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not intended to recommend the self-management of health problems or wellness. It is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular type of medical treatment. Should any reader have any health care related questions, promptly call or consult your physician or healthcare provider. The information presented should not be used by any reader to disregard medical and/or health related advice or provide a basis to delay consultation with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider. You should not use any information presented to initiate use of dietary supplements, vitamins, herbal and nutritional products or homeopathic medicine, and other described products prior to consulting first with a physician or healthcare provider. Susana Anaya-Baca, LCSW disclaims any liability based on information provided.

Self-Care

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As a licensed therapist I noticed a lot of my clients were perplexed when I asked them about their self-care practices.  That led me to write this blog. Neglecting yourself doesn't make you better at caring for others, self-care does. It gives you the resilience and positivity necessary to pour into others without acrimony and antipathy.  Usually self-care brings up thoughts of extravagant vacations or spa days. I'm here to tell you that self-care is much easier than that.

Self-care is:

  1. Getting a good night’s sleep restores cognitive functions.

  2. Stop trying to please everyone.

  3. Setting boundaries and knowing that you are setting boundaries to protect yourself and not to benefit others.

  4. Exercising at least 3 days a week improves happiness.

  5. Eat well. Carbohydrates aid in the release of endorphins.

  6. Laugh more, it strengthens the immune system and boosts energy.

  7. Learn to sit with yourself, reading, watching Netflix, or listen to music.

  8. Disengage from toxic people and relationships.

  9. Cut out words or pictures from a magazine, write about the meaning to you in a journal.  Example a picture of a 2019 Lexus, this is my future car. Dream!

  10. Take time at the end of your day and write down what you’re grateful for.

I bet if you think about it you may have self-care skills that you do include in your life; sometimes. I am encouraging you to include self-care daily. Write down a few that your really enjoy. Maybe it’s that hot bath with lots of bubbles or that morning run. It doesn’t matter what you choose, it only matters that you do.

If you are having difficulty with your self-care or need help with other problems that are getting in the way of your self-care, call me or one of the therapists on my team and let’s begin the most important work for you.


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by Regina Kennedy, LMFT

I became a therapist because I want to help people who want to change their lives. I am a compassionate, direct and interactive therapist. I value optimism, truth, and authenticity.

My therapeutic approach is warm, but always direct and honest to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address their treatment goals. I offer a highly personalized approach, tailored to each client's unique needs. My specialties include working with Adults, children and adolescents, families, crisis intervention, and substance abuse. I am Certified as a Substance Abuse Counselor.

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 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. 

 

Do You Have High Functioning Anxiety?

Do You Have High Functioning Anxiety?

You often set you feeling aside or compartmentalize your feelings and you do not where your heart on your sleeve. You are an in-charge type person and often you friends call your “stoic.”  Inside however, that is simply not true, your feelings do get hurt but you push them away because you say to yourself “oh I’m just being a drama queen.”

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Happiness is an inside job

Happiness is an inside job

Happiness;  I have struggled with understanding this topic in my personal and professional life.  It is something that we all desire in our lives, but rarely seem to attain for long.  In my experience, happiness is felt more as tiny glimpses rather than long, drawn out experiences.  It can be upsetting for most people to accept that most of life is filled with more mediocre days than happy ones,

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What does it mean for me to be “diagnosed?”

What does it mean for me to be “diagnosed?”

Think of a diagnosis as a snapshot of who you are not a life sentence. 

During the course of our lives, it is safe to say that any of us can be identified as having a mental health diagnosis at one point in our lives.  The death of a loved one, job loss, relationship issues are all potential catalysts for concern and they technically may lead to a diagnosis.  This doesn’t mean that we are meant to carry a diagnosis forever or that we cannot recover or live fully functional lives.  A mental health diagnosis is identifiable and agreed upon a cluster of symptoms meant to describe a person’s experience at that moment in their life. 

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Mindfulness For All

Mindfulness For All

It is part of mindfulness practice to realize that suffering comes from believing that things should be other than they are in the given moment. If you are suffering in the present moment—oppression, discrimination, hunger, joblessness, etc— this may seem like a cruel statement, but it's actually not. It's solid advice, allowing you to take action and stay safe.

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Multitasking is a LIE

It's a Lie we tell ourselves...

We have all heard that multitasking is the best way to be highly efficient and it's the way smart people get things done. We are always trying to find a way to get more tasks accomplished within our 24 hours and multitasking seems to be the answer right? Wrong. We all have been sold a bill of goods; really, we have.  The word multitasking was first used in 1960 to described a computer’s ability to perform many tasks seemly all at once; ultimately, multitasking literally means multiple tasks alternately sharing one resource in this case a CPU. Due to a computer’s fast ability to read code it “looks like” it is doing more than one task at a time. However, even the CPU cannot read two lines of code at a time. What the CPU is actually doing is alternately reading and executing the code by switching back and forth between the codes until the tasks are done.

Multitasking

 

Overtime, this lie of multitasking became synonymous with people doing multiple tasks. Now I hear what you are saying “Hey wait a minute humans can multitask; we can walk and talk, or chew gum and walk, or even drive and listen to music all at the same time.” Yes, you are right those small tasks can be done simultaneously. However, not with equal attention and more importantly our attention bounces between the two tasks. If the tasks have greater focus the harder they are to complete together. Think about driving and talking on the phone. This activity is responsible for over 6000 deaths annually and is the number one cause of death in teens even over alcohol use. http://bit.ly/1LOfHPH Additionally,  I see people that come into my office stressed and feeling over whelmed and I will ask about their sleep schedule, their commute time, family time, personal (alone) time and about their working time. They tell me that almost every moment of their day is planned out and yet they still want to do more. They want to be able to add other things to their schedule or they feel they just can’t juggle anything more. They feel depressed, sad, overwhelmed and stressed, with little life satisfaction. They can’t understand why, “if only I could get more organized they say it would all work out.”  I am here to give you the freedom of doing one thing and doing it well.  No more multitasking; now doesn’t that feel good? So why is multitasking so bad for us? According to a 2009 study at Stanford University, multitasks pay a big mental price. The study found that:

  • Reduces the amount of information you can remember; decreased overall memory
  • Unable to filter out irrelevant information; so tasks actually take longer
  • Unable to focus on the goal at hand
  • Always thinking about  other things but not able to complete the task
  • Inability to concentrate for long periods of time  
  • We become less efficient as we lose time by switching between tasks
  • The stress hormone cortisol increase in the brain when we multitask
  • We actually lose 10 functional IQ points

World expert on divided attention and Neuroscientist, Earl Miller, at MIT states it this way...

                “Our brains are not wired to multitask well.” When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

 

 If you suffer from the “shiny object syndrome” or if you're still not convinced to give up multitasking I challenge you to just try for a day. Work on one project until it’s completion. Put the phone on mute, turn off the email pings and solidly work on the task. See if it takes you less time, you have more focus, if your brain is less fatigued and you may even have more energy and a bigger sense of accomplishment.     

17 Inspirational Quotes to Motivate YOU to Start Therapy Today

Contemplating therapy? Thinking about picking up the phone is the first step in your journey towards emotional wellness. Sometimes we just need a little something extra to help us become excited and invested in committing to change. We hope one of the following quotes will resonate with you and give you the courage you need to take the next step.

 

1. There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.--Maya Angelou

2. When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. - Fred Rogers

3. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. - Abraham Maslow

4. My potential is unlimited. - Success Mantra

5. You can't change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it. - Unknown

6. Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. - Carl Jung

7. Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy. - Wayne Gretsky

8. All great changes are preceded by chaos. - Deepak Chopra

9. When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. - Viktor Frankl

10. Nothing will work unless you do. - Maya Angelou

11. In any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

12. Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime's work, but it's worth the effort. - Fred Rogers

13. The future depends on what you do today. - Mahatma Ghandi

14. I'm not telling you it's going to be easy. I'm telling you it's going to be worth it. - Art Williams

15. Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.  - Robert Collier

16. The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. - Dan Millman

17. And you? When will you begin the long journey into yourself? - Rumi

We hope this has made it a priority for you to make some changes in your life, to make it the life you want to live. We are here six days a week to help you get there. Call us today.

 

5 Easy Depression Buster

Depression is often defined as a feeling of hopelessness, loss of energy that nothing matters or you’re not good enough.  For people that suffer mild depression engaging in the activities listed can help renew your energy and lift your spirits.

 

Even a simple walk can help with depression

Even a simple walk can help with depression

 

Top 5  Easy Depression Busters:

 

1.      Take a walk even as little as 10 minutes as been shown to increase one’s mood. Aim for 30 minutes every day.  Do have time? The good news is the minutes can add up so take three 10 minute breaks if you just can’t fit it all in at once.

2.      Watch a comedy. Laughter release endorphins in the brain that make you feel good and provide sense of wellbeing. Laughter also reduces stress and can even increase your immune system. Laughter also adds happiness and joy to our lives.

3.      Get enough sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep effects everything in our lives, it regulates hormone production, provides us with mental alertness, emotional balance and creativity.  Sleep is restorative to the body and helps with repairing cell damaged caused during the day.

4.      Spend time with friends and loved ones. Social interactions help us live longer and happier lives. Telling your best friend about your day reduces the stress hormones and promotes feelings of being supported and understood.

5.      Get a little light, sunlight that is. Sunlight is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Not enough can make the depression worse. We needs a little each day. So take your walk outside, enjoy a lunch with a friend in the garden a little goes a long way.

 

This may sound simple but little changes really do add up. Our body and mind are meant to move and the movement adds with hormones that make our bodies happier. Try the about for at least a two weeks and let us know what helped you.

Anticipatory Grief

Grief and loss doesn't start after your loved one has died. It begins when the realization becomes real that their death is approaching, whether far in the future from a long-term illness, or when a death occurs with little notice. In the ER, the ICU, at home… when that realization happens grief begins. It’s called “anticipatory grief” but, in reality, it’s grief, with all its emotion and sadness.

In the time before death occurs, there are things that need to be considered, both from the loved one’s perspective and to address your concerns. This will address the dying person’s needs. I’ll follow it with a blog about your needs as you support your loved one.

What Does A Dying Person Need at that point?

·       The need to “settle up” with the people so as to die in peace, with them and with myself.

Settling up emotional accounts

All of us have unfinished business left over from our years on Earth. Approaching death is the last time to make amends, check in, or say the things that have been left unsaid.

If someone can’t be reached, letters can be left, and even dictated. Elaborate isn't necessary. Peace for the person dying is.

·       An advocate for their end of life decisions

End of life decisions need to be written well in advance of the dying process. They aren't valid if you aren't of sound mind without a doubt.

Enforcing a living will or other decision making documents can be difficult if there is division in the family.

It’s hard to not provide hydration of nutrition if it’s been days or weeks. Someone has to ensure the dying person’s wishes are followed. That may have to be you.

·       The environment the dying person desires

Some people are extroverts, even when dying. Some are private, even if the family wants access. The dying person should have the kind of environment they lived with and following their wishes. And someone has to ensure it happens.

Things to consider:

  •  music 
  •   TV or movies
  •   Bedroom or living room 
  •   Home or hospital
  •  Family 
  •   Friends
  •  Pets
  •  Spiritual folks
  • Lighting
  •   Scents

·       A safe space to talk or a safe person to talk to about death

Family and friends are often reluctant to face up to the reality of the terminal illness and death: even if they are not, their experience is not the experience of the dying person. If they are still capable of talking, they may need someone to talk to about their fears and terrors, hopes and vulnerability. It may not be family. It may be a nurse, a friend… it’s up to the person who needs to do the talking. They don’t need their decision to create conflict. It’s their decision.

·       Spiritual support- or NO spiritual support.

Some find it comforting. Some find it presumptuous to assume they need spiritual support. Some do not have a faith they rely upon or believe. The dying person needs, and deserves, to have their needs followed at this point. If family needs to listen to religious music, say prayers, light incense… no matter- if it’s not something the patient wanted or participated in, it belongs outside the door. It’s the patient’s death- nobody else’s.

·       Pain management/comfort measures

A dying person deserves to have pain and discomfort resolved. They may not be able to tell you what they are feeling, but their body can to some degree. Blood pressure, fever, grimacing, tightened muscles, low oxygen saturation, irregular breathing. Those and so many more are indicators of the patient’s body being uncomfortable. Can you fix the breathing? Probably not. But you can add oxygen. You can administer pain medications and anxiety meds through sublingual administration. You can add a subQ IV to administer meds without adding fluids that could create respiratory distress. You can massage. Make the bed softer. Use a cool washcloth. Turn on a fan. Add a blanket.

Families tend to be especially distressed about morphine and other meds. They are not going to kill a dying person. They make the muscles relax so breathing is less stressed. They relieve pain. If your loved one has asked for comfort measures, they don’t want to die in pain. Allow the medical professionals to guide you. Ask questions.

·       Food? Fluids?

At the end of life, the body has a process of its own as the systems shut down. It no longer needs food. It doesn't thirst. The mouth may need moistening. Oral care is still necessary. But if a dying person says they don’t want food or fluids- believe them. It’s hard to watch. You are still hungry. You are still thirsty. They are not. Honor their body and their needs. Forcing fluids can cause choking and even pneumonia, hastening death.

·       Visions supported

Many people who are dying will report that they are seeing loved ones who died before now, or angels.  Don’t question or deny that. There have been studies that say they may be caused by hypoxia or changes in brain chemistry. The studies, however, cannot include dying people. We don’t know this experience. We do know it’s common and brings comfort. Tell them you are glad they are there.

o   Your voice

The last sense to die is hearing. If your loved one would want you there, talk to them. To the end.  

o   Permission

This is most likely the hardest of all. No matter the disease or the pain, very few of us really want our loved one to really die. The fact is they are going to die. Tell them it’s ok. Tell them you’ll be ok; you’ll take care of business they left behind; you’ll carry their memory. Tell them what you will miss most and how much you loved them. But tell them they can go.

 

It’s not easy to sit while someone you love is dying. It’s a gift if you can.