Take Care of Yourself This Holiday Season

The holiday season brings with it a lot of exciting activities but time for self care isn't often among them. But how much better would your year end be if you made it a daily priority?

During these festive times, we often focus our energy on our children, partners, friends and extended family. However it's important to take stock of what kind of relationship you have with yourself. Do you grant yourself permission to take time for yourself when you are exhausted or need to rejuvenate? Do you allow yourself moments to pause or reflect? When we identify what is important to ourselves, it can allow us to have more fulfilling relationships with the people in our lives.

I invite you to do the following:

  • Explore ways to re-energize yourself: Whether it's going on a long walk, taking your dog to the park, catching up with friends over lunch, find what revitalizes you.

  • Ask yourself how often you give yourself permission to do the above.

  • How might it change your relationship with yourself and others, if you took some time out each day to do one of those acts?

  • Which one of these can you build into your daily schedule starting today?

  • And lastly consider doing something non-traditional. Take a trip to a place you've never visited, explore your own city as a tourist or hire a caterer to reduce your workload.

Remember you ARE WORTH investing in yourself. And only YOU can create the change you want in your life. This holiday season take the steps that leave you feeling energized and proud that you took care of you. That is the best gift we can give ourselves and in the end; our family still benefits from you being the best version of YOU.

When the Holidays are Bright.... with Anger

People have become more aware how heightened emotions can be around the holiday season. There is a plethora of articles and thinkpieces today discussing how to handle depression, anxiety and grief during end of the year events and festivities.

But many people, especially those with existing difficulties managing their anger, often believe their waves of rage are unique only to them.

That is most definitely NOT the case but thinking that no one understands your trigger and/or response can exacerbate your negative emotions and cause you to escalate.

Spending time with relatives you have not seen for months or years, seeing co-workers outside of the office combined with the financial strain of gift giving can create feelings of anxiety, shame, guilt and obligation. Managing your boundaries and identifying your emotions take practice and the holidays are not always the ideal place to begin. Here are a few tips on ways you can control these emotions before you end up seeing red.

1. Practice mindfulness - When you start to feel overwhelmed, take a walk around the neighborhood, find a quiet place where you can be alone and clear your head (even if it's in the car), or just focus on your breathing. This is a great way to hit the reset button before your emotions take over.

2. Make plans for yourself - If you are staying with family, make time to go out on your own. This is where you have to foresee your needs and prepare to communicate your needs. Before your visits or trip, identify a friend to call, identify a person (buffer) that you can provide a code word for escape.

3. Don't rise to the bait - No one knows quite how to hit your buttons and focus in on the things you feel most insecure about like your family. Understand that this is not about you and don't provide more fuel by engaging in the unhealthy conversations. Remember, you get to choose, you CAN control the pace of the conversation and you have the capability to change the topic.

4. Don't overdo it! - The holidays have a built in "should" which is often what contributes to negative thinking and emotions. It's a natural reaction when dealing with stress to revert to old behaviors and poor coping skills. Be mindful of your alcohol intake as well as other substances that can contribute to escalating negative responses. The best intentions can sometimes get out of hand.

Don't second guess yourself for knowing what you need. I encourage you to be motivated to advocate for yourself and say "NO" when you need to. Be mindful of where you are in managing your emotions and take care of you. Your negative thoughts and emotions are yours - own them and protect yourself so that you too can have a pleasant experience in this season.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This month marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, raising awareness of one of the most under reported crimes around the world.

Many people automatically associate the term domestic violence with images of physically battered women but it is incredibly important to understand abusive intimate partner relationships take many forms and impact people of all genders, ages, socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

Sexual assault or coercion, emotional abuse and financial control are also ways in which people damage their partners.

Adolescents who are not cohabitating, including young teens, are not immune from intimate partner violence. Neither are men or people who are in same sex relationships.

While many relationships can cause changes (for example, your non athletic friend has a new found love of a sport their current partner likes), sudden and severe differences in personality and temperament can be warning signs of an unhealthy dynamic. This is particularly true if it is coupled with the breakdown of other important relationships in a person's life. Abuse can run rampant when people are isolated from their support network.

If you are worried that a friend or loved one may be in an abusive relationship and notice them becoming distant and hard to reach, encourage them to seek help. Be supportive and non-judgmental. Remember that ultimately this is their decision to make, so don't pressure them to leave their relationship immediately if they are not ready.

Once they do decide to leave, help them develop a safety plan.

You can research local resources here for more information.

As a society we have made some positive strides around the issue of intimate partner violence but we still have a long way to go in supporting vulnerable people in need and giving them safe alternatives to the very real dangers they face.

6 Ways You Can Help Reduce The Mental Health Stigma

 The stigma for mental health clients continues to negatively impact communities of all kinds. The taboo of being mentally unwell crosses all socioeconomic levels, age groups, races, religions and professions. Similar to a physical health diagnosis; some people simply do not want to know, they are ashamed or in denial of their symptoms and self medicate. Whether you are the potential client or close to the potential client I believe the general consensus is, having a mental health crisis can be scary for everyone involved.  As a therapist, my goal is to discuss mental wellness with as many people as possible to help normalize seeking treatment for mental health and wellness. What better time to have an open dialogue about mental health than now with the many changes in our healthcare system. It would be ideal if everyone could set aside their assumptions, fears and negative perspectives about mental health. We can help those around us seek help without the fear of labeling and minimizing with a few tips. Below are a few ways to help someone that appears to need help achieving mental wellness.    What Can you Do....    Get educated . Learn the facts about symptoms you experience or observe in someone else. Mental health needs are not the same in everyone and can manifest differently for each person. Everyone will not need a diagnose, hospitalization or medication.    Know who to call and when . There is only so much self medicating once can do before the symptoms become too much to manage. Simply talking about mental health will not give a person any ideas. Sometimes, someone initiating a discussion can break the ice and start the process. Know the resources in your community and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department when the symptoms appear unmanageable.    Be supportive.  If you are struggling with providing support, connect with someone that is empathetic to you and can possibly lead you in the right direction. There are a number treatments available and it takes courage to seek the help. The difference between someone seeking help or silently fighting can be the support of one helpful individual.    Be aware of your own judgements and prejudices . We all have them; and unfortunately many come from other uneducated individuals passing on poor information. Be honest about your own shame and guilt about mental health so that you can be an active participant in ending the stigma.   Listen, listen, listen.  Whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not - we all want to be heard. We all want to know that someone is listening to us and/or trying to understand what we need. Just because you don’t understand the symptoms does not mean you are not able to help.    Support mental health organizations and providers.  Many organizations close due to funding and lack of community support. Volunteering your time and/or money goes a long way to provide resources for those in need of services. You may not know who you helped specifically but your contribution can help other professionals and volunteers with ending the negative stigma.   Mental health care and treatment is a universal issue and awareness is one of the critical pieces to making treatment available. 

The stigma for mental health clients continues to negatively impact communities of all kinds. The taboo of being mentally unwell crosses all socioeconomic levels, age groups, races, religions and professions. Similar to a physical health diagnosis; some people simply do not want to know, they are ashamed or in denial of their symptoms and self medicate. Whether you are the potential client or close to the potential client I believe the general consensus is, having a mental health crisis can be scary for everyone involved.

As a therapist, my goal is to discuss mental wellness with as many people as possible to help normalize seeking treatment for mental health and wellness. What better time to have an open dialogue about mental health than now with the many changes in our healthcare system. It would be ideal if everyone could set aside their assumptions, fears and negative perspectives about mental health. We can help those around us seek help without the fear of labeling and minimizing with a few tips. Below are a few ways to help someone that appears to need help achieving mental wellness. 

What Can you Do....

Get educated. Learn the facts about symptoms you experience or observe in someone else. Mental health needs are not the same in everyone and can manifest differently for each person. Everyone will not need a diagnose, hospitalization or medication. 

Know who to call and when. There is only so much self medicating once can do before the symptoms become too much to manage. Simply talking about mental health will not give a person any ideas. Sometimes, someone initiating a discussion can break the ice and start the process. Know the resources in your community and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department when the symptoms appear unmanageable. 

Be supportive. If you are struggling with providing support, connect with someone that is empathetic to you and can possibly lead you in the right direction. There are a number treatments available and it takes courage to seek the help. The difference between someone seeking help or silently fighting can be the support of one helpful individual. 

Be aware of your own judgements and prejudices. We all have them; and unfortunately many come from other uneducated individuals passing on poor information. Be honest about your own shame and guilt about mental health so that you can be an active participant in ending the stigma.

Listen, listen, listen. Whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not - we all want to be heard. We all want to know that someone is listening to us and/or trying to understand what we need. Just because you don’t understand the symptoms does not mean you are not able to help. 

Support mental health organizations and providers. Many organizations close due to funding and lack of community support. Volunteering your time and/or money goes a long way to provide resources for those in need of services. You may not know who you helped specifically but your contribution can help other professionals and volunteers with ending the negative stigma.

Mental health care and treatment is a universal issue and awareness is one of the critical pieces to making treatment available.