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Seasonal Blues, is this you?

sad womanSo much chaos in the world, yet, on the lighter side, do you realize that Thanksgiving is just a little bit over a week away. Then Hanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa are less than a month after that new shopping phenomenon call “Black Friday.” Yes, this truly is the season of giving thanks, spreading cheer, joining with friends and family in seasonal bliss.

However, this is also the time of year that my practice becomes very busy with overwhelmed and depressed clients. Why aren’t they out there enjoying the holiday season? Simply put, it’s the pressure, unrealistic expectations and seasonal blues that get in the way of the enjoyment.

Every year without fail, millions of us pull out the ornaments, prop up the trees, climb up the ladders to hang up the lights, roll out reindeers on the lawn (you know who you are). Let’s not forget the annual family letters that are written (still), cookies baked by the dozens and dozens, gingerbread houses artfully decorated with the kiddos. Then there are all the choirs, school, church and community festivities…oh my!

We are a busy society, did I forget to mention running around searching for this year’s must have gift! What about family visitors for the holidays, cleaning the house, buying all the food and having the carpets cleaned (and the dog needs to be groomed too). You see… seasonal blues!

If we don’t do it all we feel guilty. We look out the window at the neighbor’s house, their lights are up the minute the Thanksgiving turkey was finished.  These feeling create anxiety which in turn fuel what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder which is appropriately referred to as SAD This is characterized by apathy and a general feeling of lethargy. Yes, then comes the insatiable cravings for sweets (more brownies and fudge please) any carbohydrates will do! Naturally, your sleep becomes more excessive, concentration falls off, as does being able to collect your thoughts and sustain meaningful conversation.

All these symptoms lead you eventually to feeling sad, low and depressed. I find that for many of my clients the real triggers seem to centered on their present financial circumstances, or memories of holidays past compared with their sadness of the present season.

As we get closer to New Years, I see new clients who really have unraveled as they struggle with unrealized goals and too many opportunities never taken advantage of, so, their depression spirals. The good news is that all is not lost. The sun is a great disinfectant, tools can be learned that will help you cope and work through the seasonal depression. Therapy is a wonderful way to talk through your concerns and really get to the heart of your problems. So, don’t let the pain take away your holiday cheer this year, get help, and enjoy you!

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Fear or Not?

fear of heightsThe horror of the mass killings all over Paris this past weekend has literally paralyzed us. The media is awash in perpetuating what is around the clock fear. More information is coming out regarding the attackers and, as we all suspected, it is ISIS. Blame is being cast on the recent mass immigration of Syrian refugees to France’s rigid gun control laws.

Here in the United States, the Governors of both Louisiana and Texas have pushed back on President Obama’s effort to place up to ten thousand Syrian refugees in each of their states. Of course, this is strong reaction to the claims that thousands of radical Islamists have flooded into Europe under the guise of immigrants. The repercussions will be long lasting against the Muslim population as we will see as the weeks unfold. We did witness France take action by sending their air force to bomb Isis positions in the middle east. Across the world there was cry for solidarity as we mourned with the victims and their families in France.

Now, Isis is sending out threatening videos promising more attacks on the scale of those in France. Naturally,there is much fear and uncertainty in our populace and worldwide. Globally we are on high alert. I saw an article that described how this mass killing has now put the proverbial dagger in the heart of the liberal French society. Fear has taken over the mindset of the people. We are looking over our shoulder. If and when we see someone who looks or dresses like they are of the Muslim faith do we stare, become nervous, will our anxiety surge, will fear take hold. Now we are being told to be aware and report any suspicious behavior. Yes, it is really about fear!

Let’s look at why we fear. Of course, we need it at some level because it’s necessary for our protection from dangerous life events. Can you imagine sitting near a campfire and a spark touches your pant leg which then causes your pant leg begin to catch fire. Now, if you didn’t fear getting burned, you would burn to death, right? Again, protection and easy to understand. Fear creates a “fight or flight” mentality. Fear causes us to change our behavior, alter our routines, and diminishes our ability to trust. We become more cynical, suspicious and highly critical. Additionally, we become more prone to depression and anxiety. If we are not able to manage ourselves we may well spiral into an emotionally paralyzed state. Instead, let’s be more more cerebral about what types of fears there are and what we are dealing with. So educate yourself a bit with this article to determine your degree of fear and see if you’re slipping…There are 5 fears, which one are you suffering with…click HERE

 

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Depressed? I’m here for you.

Have you seen those commercials where two women are sitting at a table in one of their backyards, or walking side by side in a public park? Well, the conversation plays out like this, one women says to her friend, “Tom and I just found out Jenny has been doing drugs,” then comes the awkward pause. Her friend finally says, ” oh it’s probably just a phase, she’ll grow out of it.” Pan the camera to Jenny’s mother, yep, she has a stunned look on her face. The other scenario in the park plays out in a similar manner. As I said, they are walking, but then one woman stops and says (with a painful look on her face) ” We discovered that Jimmy(her son) has been stealing Bob’s(her husband) pain medication.” Again, the awkward pause, then her friend leans in and hugs the woman (who is not sure what is happening). The commercial ends with her friend awkwardly continuing their stroll without saying a word.

The above commercials, which are quite dated, serve to illustrate my topic. “Learn what to say to people who are depressed.” The above scenarios related to learning how to talk about drugs. I wish to address how we need to speak to coworkers, friends, and family members who are dealing with or we suspect are depressed. It seems that the stigma continues with regard to depression, however, as more celebrities come forward, the public appears to become more comfortable about discussing this topic and recognizing its effects.

Let me just say that depression is a battle. I treat a lot of depressed clients. I equate depression to a psychic blow that is so intense and emotionally paralyzing that you cannot fully understand unless you have been depressed. Sensitivity is critical, so, as my title illustrates let those you care about suffering with depression that you are there for them. Depression causes the sufferer to feel isolated, lonely, (and depending on their depth of depression) numb as they have lost interest in the world around them. Suicidal thoughts begin to be more common in their everyday thoughts. Remember, if you say it, be there for them. So, check in because it matters to them.

Do you get stuck sometimes? Not sure what or how to encourage someone who is depressed…click HERE

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Trauma Equals Violence?

Police OfficersI was cruising thru Hulu a few nights ago and clicked on the CNN app, a video of a South Carolina high school incident grabbed my attention. I was drawn to it. To my shock and utter amazement, I witnessed  a police officer forcefully attempt to remove a female student from her desk, but in the process violently turned the desk over on top of her. He then proceeded to pull her out and continued beating her. This was all taking place as her classmates were watching (I’m guessing stunned, yet, some with their iphones catching it for posterity). What I also found distressing was that the principle and the student’s teacher were watching from the sideline this incident taking place.

Compounding this horrendous and violent situation, the officer was white and the female student was black. The nature of how this started and escalated to this violent degree is really incomprehensible. However, CNN was helpful enough to replay it nine (9) times for me in a matter of two (2) minutes. I think the media is so savvy at fueling our emotions and raising our anxiety, I could feel my anxiety really increasing to a point that I had  to click away.

My point is that for an officer of the law to act in a manner that is so violent, atrocious, and really inhumane with very little provocation is unnerving. As a clinician, I immediately recognized an underlying mental health illness at play (of course, after I had calmed down). As this story gained national attention, it was revealed that this particular officer had two (2) previous violent incidents similar to this one. He was summarily put on leave and days later he has now been fired from the police force. I hope he gets help.

Trauma is not just confined to our brave and courageous men and women of the military, it is anyone who has suffered sexual or physical abuse, been in a serious accident, or life threatening situation. It is estimated that eight (8) million americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Many law enforcement officers suffer in silence with PTSD, as they are the front lines of protecting and upholding the peace. They witness and experience horrible things in our society that impact them dramatically. This is not an excuse for bad behavior, however, it does warrant better understanding of what goes on..

 

Do you want to know more, read on HERE

 

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Sex Works for Both

sexualissuesSex in marriage who wants it more? This is always a point of conflict in every couples counseling sessions that I hold. It is always fascinating for me to discover that the person with the least desire for sex controls the frequency of intimacy in the relationship. Think about your own relationship, which one of you is more sexual, do you see the correlation?

Sex is critical to closeness, emotional stability, and physical satisfaction. If you think that you cannot find some common ground or are you unwilling to compromise, the prospects aren’t good. Both men and women, who continually feel unsatisfied in the bedroom, eventually seek out others who will fulfill their needs. Sadly, this is reflective in the divorce ever increasing divorce rate.

I really believe we need to be realistic with our expectations for sex. If you are the one who is highly sexual, that’s fine and good, if not, ok too. However, sex is a gift and you have to do it for each other!

There is a great TEDx talk inside here 

 

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Doubt your Doubts!

woman low esteemSomeone compared low self esteem to driving thru traffic with the emergency brake on. Are we guilty of this? The truth is we all, at various times, suffer with low self esteem. What causes it and more importantly how do we overcome it? To answer these questions we have to first look at the causes, or better yet, the triggers, that cause us to feel less about who we are and what we can do.

First, we really need to clear out the negativity that clutters our mind, a sort of rewiring if you will. Too often, we listen to that parasitic inner voice that points out all our imperfections and lists all the reasons why we are not good enough to do or achieve what we want in our lives.  Once we have identified these self defeating thoughts, they must be replaced with thoughts that uplift and inspire us. These may be favorite quotes, inspirational songs, motivational goals that have been set (be creative). The idea is to replace the dread of self doubt with the light of hope and promise of something much better to strive for. In other words this is how we are able to change our complete mindset.

Remember to avoid the pitfalls and ugliness of unhelpful guilt, those fluctuating or persistent thoughts of failure,  the anguish of trying to be a perfectionist, and playing this, ” I wish I had done this, or, if I had done that, my life would be better now, regret game over and over in your head. These self destructive habits will only paralyze you emotionally and you too will become the walking dead. So, don’t be an oxygen thief…

Do you you want to know more, then read HERE

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“I’m sorry, did you want a conspiracy?”

EvilThe “Blood Moon” is rising, as is our collective anxiety, and so is Donald Trump who has started an unexplainable movement across America, much to the dismay of Megyn Kelly and the rest of the liberal media. Oil prices are crashing, (at least it means lower gas prices at the pump for us), robots may well be taking over our jobs, driving our cars, flying our planes. Let us not forget the in upcoming election shenanigans that will take center stage in 2016 and all the allegations that will be revealed against whomever is left standing. WAIT, STOP! This all points to the conspiracy theorists running wild with their outlandish propositions and fear mongering ploys.

Yes, there have been times when I was younger that I too succumbed to their enticings, like the supposed end of the world in the year 2000. Wow, was I really sucked into that one believing that the world would just shut down. Of course it didn’t. However, I have learned quite a bit about conspiracy theorist since that time. Also, we need to recognize how they can get into your head (if you let them). Interestingly, fifty percent (50%) of Americans believe in at least one (1) conspiracy theory, just saying.

Unless you operate in the world of psychology, you would not really be familiar with the term cognitive dissonance. It really fits in well as we discuss the psychological impact that conspiracy theories can have on our thought process. Let me break it down, you see cognitive dissonance is the scientific word that describes the internal discomfort that we experience when we are faced with two (2) or possibly more conflicting ideas, values, or beliefs. Does that make sense?

Ok, so let’s apply this to conspiracy theories. We so desperately want to hold on to all our beliefs, even the attitudes that have shaped us throughout our lives. We want to avoid any and all pain and discomfort that any new idea, belief, or new evidence might yield like the ebola virus. So what do we do?  Too often, we buy the misinformation, believe the lies, and passively look pass the fraud. Why? It takes effort to question, research and really look, examine and dissect the evidence. It’s just easier to buy into it…

I’m not really buying what he’s selling, well then click HERE

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Bigger is Better?

Jump for Joy

Jump for Joy

Here is a a little riddle for you, what do Chris Jenner (not referencing the media circus of the family), the Duggars (despite the recent scandal), and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have going on that other families don’t? I’m thinking, I’m thinking, okay…. that’s right each have large families, huh? Yes, it’s true if you want to be a happy parent(s) a large family needs to be in the cards.

Think you can’t do it, oh yes you can! When I was a young husband contemplating with my young wife the prospect of having children, I remember thinking, how can we afford to have children especially more than one? Another pressing concern was when was the right time to start having these little “sleep robbers.” Well, I sought the answers from wise fathers. First, they said, “You can never really afford children, but, if you wait till you think you can you’ll be retired and alone. Second, There is never a “right time to have children and when you’re there on the day they burst into this world, you’ll know what I mean.”

I joke with people who are surprised at the amount of children I have (6) that the odds are in my favor that at least one of them will take care of me when I’m old. It’s tough, I won’t candy coat it. We had four children under the age of five at one point. I changed diapers for a decade (that is 10 years for those of you who are numerically challenged like me). Then there were the 2 a.m. feedings and having to be at work by 6 a.m.. The lack of sleep for both of us was daunting. Our last was a premie (1 lb) arriving four (4) months early then spending 100 agonizing days in the NICU. My incredible wife drove 99/100 days for 3.5 hours round trip each day to be at that NICU with our baby. That was eight years ago, wow time flies and our little girl has blossomed, but not without a lot of health challenges of her own (forgive for being so personal).

There are many joys as well. Seeing them pull together, become independent, make good choices, they have stayed away from the pitfalls of drugs, alcohol, and porn addiction through much instruction, love, and attention. It take tremendous effort, time, sacrifice of your hobbies, time with the guys, and can be so draining, however the results produce happy parents and happy children.

Don’t believe for a second that I haven’t stumbled, tripped, fallen down, and been overwhelmed by the responsibility many times just trying to be a father of a large family. Thankfully, my wife has been our anchor, the stabilizing force through it all. She has taught me so very much! Still, if you are considering a large family, take heart, you can do it and the joy will be immeasurable!

See what science says about large families HERE

 

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F E A R, Why?

what do you fearDo you fear the walking dead? What about the prophetic blood moon that will be rising very soon? Maybe, your fear is about losing your freedom, or quite possible it’s being left alone? How does that quote go, “something about the only thing to fear is fear itself.” Let’s be honest here, the stomach wrenching pain we all feel is that of failure, or is it?

So why do I bring this up? Every thing that I read seems to be preying on our fears. Consider for a moment the mass hysteria that is shaping up in Europe with the mass migration of refugees fleeing from their war torn countries for safety and security. Now, it’s turning from a humanitarian crisis to an ethnic fear of overpopulation and potential fears of terrorism. Another fear that is gaining significant traction is with technology becoming so advanced, experts are now projecting that 35% of all jobs will be managed by robots within twenty (20) years. So, the follow up question becomes, what to do with all the displaced workers? Ah yes, then there is the impending stock market bubble, so here we go again 2007-08, right! Fear perpetuating more fear paralyzing more to fear, ugh!

I believe that fear can be used to motivate us (small doses please). However, let’s put fear in it’s proper light. If you’re religious, or spiritual fear can be tempered with healthy amounts of faith in a trusted higher power that empowers the individual to press forward knowing that “this too shall pass.” Now, if spirituality or organized religion are not your thing, then fear is probably more of a logical emotion best understood in your own terms and dealt with in a very singular, personal, rational way by you. Naturally, I certainly cannot try to explain it here, but you know what I mean. So what follows is a look at what we as humans really do fear. I believe that each of us can say, “yes that’s me.”

S0, I ask you again, “What do you fear?” Not sure, you really need to read HERE

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Live Your Life Not Your Kids!

over protectiveWell, school is back in session, homework assignments are being stuffed into backpacks daily, and here in California the dreaded “mission projects” are already being planned and very soon a due date will be given out too. Add in play dates, soccer, baseball, music, dance, karate etc.. and the days just slip away. The children are exhausted and we are too! Uh oh, their homework still isn’t done, but showers need to be taken, lunches packed, stories read, tuck in time (multiple times). Now, that is just an illustration of the elementary age child. We can probably apply this, with a few tweaks and modifications, to our middle schoolers and high schoolers, right?

My point here is that with the business and busyness of of parenting we have a tendency to “over parent,” don’t we. Oh, I say we, but, you know the mom and dad that I’m referring to, right. They make their high schooler’s lunch, they do his/her laundry, and they personally deliver their child’s doctor’s note to the PE teacher so little Jimmy won’t have to run (my apologies to all the Jimmies reading this).

What these parents may not realize they are doing is incredibly damaging, though they mean well? Overparenting, or, overdirecting, or overprotecting each produce the same problem for the child. They struggle to become independent of the parent. Is it any wonder so many millennials still live with their parents well into their twenties? We like to attribute it to finances, however, more likely it’s the chronic hand-holding that prevents them from understanding what to do and how to do it.

This really starts from an early age as we all have witnessed the parent reliving their youth through their child. This was all too often the case when I coached football. It was so painfully obvious, hard to watch, and I honestly felt sorry for the child and the parent. This always reminded me of what Carl Jung had to say about this type of parenting, that the greatest harm to their child was the parents own unfulfilled dreams.

There are two terrific books worthy of your time and energy that cover “over parenting” and allowing your child to fail (it’s not as bad as it sounds). If you’re curious read HERE

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