Tuesday, April 9, 2019

GET GOOD SLEEP


What is a quality night of sleep worth to you?  I’ve asked myself this question many times in the last few months and it seems to be a common issue for many of us. Life is busy! We have so many demands. In a world filled with work, family, children, and school obligations that dictate our every waking minute, it is very easy to take good rest for granted. The following are some easy-to-follow tips provided by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) to attain quality sleep.


Create a “Zen” Bedroom by focusing on a peaceful and calming space. Use earplugs or a white noise machine to maintain quiet.  The noise should be consistent, not variable. Sleeping with the television on is sure to interrupt your sleep.
Avoid bright light. Use lower wattage bulbs in the bedroom.  The NSF recommends dimming all lights in your home 30-60 minutes before your bedtime.  Studies have recently shown that even the light from your cell phone or TV can distract you from falling asleep.


Keep a consistent schedule. Going to bed each night and waking at the same time each morning reinforces our natural sleep cycle.


Develop a bedtime routine in which you create set habits to alert your mind and body that it is time for rest.  Many studies show that a hot bath 30-60 minutes before bed is especially beneficial. Skipping naps during the day also contributes to a better night’s sleep


Additionally the NSF recommends staying away from caffeine and stimulants at night. Alcohol and nicotine have been found to alter quality sleep.  Food and exercise also impact the quality of sleep. Timing and intake should be monitored throughout the day.


Just remember that you are in control of your sleep! Create a routine that works for you. Sometimes minor adjustments to your daily schedule can make significant changes.  If you have concerns about your sleep habits consult your healthcare professional. Here’s to a healthy night’s sleep!


Brittany Ohman, LMSW

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Electronic Screen Syndrome


Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, Fortnight, Super Smash Brothers, Minecraft......what's the harm? It keeps them occupied and out of making messes right?  And, in the meantime, what's going on inside the child's brain?

    During interactive screen time the child's brain become overstimulated and excited---on fire!  The nervous system shifts into high gear and settles there while the child attempts to master different situations, strategizing, surviving, accumulating weapons, and defending their turf.  The heart rate increases from 80 to nearly 100 beats per minute, and the blood pressure rises from a normal 90/60 to 140/90. They're ready to do battle, except they're just sitting on the couch not moving much more than the eyes or thumbs.  The bright screen sends signals to the brain like "It's bright daylight, out, nowhere near time for bed!"  Levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine rise in the brain, sustaining interest, and keeping them focused on the task at hand and elevating the mood.  The intense visual stimulation and activity flood the brain, which adapts to the heightened level of stimulation of shutting off other parts it considers nonessential.  The visual motor areas of the brain light up.  Blood flows away from the gut, kidneys, liver, and bladder and towards the limbs and heart--signaling they’re ready to fight or escape!  The reward pathways in the brain also light up and are reinforced by the flood of dopamine.  But what happens when the child's game gets interrupted for some reason, or mom or dad say "It's time to start getting ready for bed?”  

    Often we hear "Get out of my way!" or "I have to get to the next level..."  We might see rage, and with the primitive brain fully engaged, our relatively calm child now turns into an enraged animal ready to fight off all challengers.  Why would a seemingly normal, loving child become so enraged and difficult after playing video games?  

   Playing video games mimics the kinds of sensory assaults humans are programmed to associate with danger.  When the brain senses danger, primitive survival mechanisms swiftly kick in to provide protection from harm.  This response is instantaneous; it is hardwired in our genes and necessary for survival.  The heart rate increases, the stomach twists into knots, and the limbs tense; all poised to react.  When this instinct gets triggered, our nervous system and hormones influence our state of arousal,  jumping instantly to a state of hyperarousal---the fight or flight response.  If and when the flight or fight response occurs too often, or too intensely, the brain and body have trouble regulating themselves back to a calm state, leading to an experience of chronic stress. Once chronic stress sets in, brain function suffers.  With children, whose nervous systems are still developing, this sequence of events occurs much faster than it does for adults, and the chronically stressed child soon starts to struggle.  If your child is experiencing behavior issues, falling grades, mood swings, problems socializing, or other chronic difficulties, it is fairly safe to assume that his or her nervous system is being subjected to stress on a repeated basis.  In today’s environment, our children are under nearly constant assault from electronic screen devices, and they react in the same way as they might to any other danger, resulting eventually in distressing symptoms and dysfunction.  This has now been labeled as Electronic Screen Syndrome.  Whether or not your child has other stressors present, electronic screen media heightens stress states, and therefore all mental, neurological, and physical symptoms worsen as well.  Our child can end up in a vicious cycle of electronic screen stress and stress reactions influencing each other over and over again.  Mood dysregulation is one of the end products of a child who is chronically hyperaroused.  Mood dysregulation is characterized by poor frustration tolerance, tearfulness, irritability, mood swings, and meltdowns or aggression.  Anxiety symptoms are also a common manifestation of ESS, including obsessive-compulsive behavior, nightmares, panic attacks, and excessive worrying. 

   Emotion dysregulation and negative behaviors both socially and at home are common reasons that children engage in therapy services. Parents can work with the therapist to better understand the effects that screen time may be having on their child. Eliminating interactive screen time for at least 3 weeks, and then having screen limits solidly in place thereafter,  has been proven to help the child’s brain to rest, rejuvenate, and reset back to a more integrated, organized, and whole state.  Going screen-free can produce benefits almost immediately, and long term changes can be profound in terms of social, emotional, and cognitive development.  To get more information on Reversing the effects of electronic screen-time, refer to the book “Reset your child’s brain” by Victoria L. Dunckley, MD

Blog written by Cindy Quinn, LCSW

Monday, February 4, 2019

Obtaining Goals


It is very common for people to find themselves struggling to set and reach goals. If this is you don’t worry… I would like to share 4 steps on how to achieve your goals. 

1. Align your Goals with your Purpose
2. Keep your Goals Visible at all times
3. Get an Accountability Partner or System of Accountability

4. Don’t Give Up


Brett Hampton LCSW

Monday, December 17, 2018

Self Care



This October I attended The Association for Play Therapy conference in AZ where I took a few sessions about compassion fatigue/burnout. One of my biggest take away from those sessions was how no matter who we are, what we are doing in life: we will at some point in our lives deal with compassion fatigue and/or burnout.

What is compassion fatigue and burnout? Webster defines compassion fatigue as this: “Feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by suffering or misfortune, companied by a strong desire to alleviate the pain or remove its cause.” Burnout is defined by Webster as:“exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

People can experience either one in various ways and it is up to you to know what that looks like for you. Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today that gives examples of what burnout could look like. Some of the examples that she states are; chronic fatigue, not being able to sleep, anger, and isolating yourself from those around you. With compassion fatigue, you will have some signs that are similar to burnout. The difference between the two is that compassion fatigue is evident earlier than burnout. 

Check out the link to find more information on compassion fatigue: http://www.compassionfatigue.org/index.html

There are many ways you can work to overcome compassion fatigue and/or burnout, however, the first step is to realize you are normal. When I say realize you are normal, I mean that the reactions/symptoms you are experiencing are normal reactions that many people in the world experience. Also becoming aware that you are struggling with either one is another important step. When we are not aware that we aren’t operating at our best, we are unable to make the necessary changes. I’ll list below different links that have ideas for self-care items.  


Carmen Stites, LPC

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

GRATITUDE



 November.  This month seems to turn our thoughts towards being grateful.  Many of my friends list on social media what they are grateful for and it seems as if there are even gratitude challenges during the month of November.  I feel that gratitude is a powerful component in my life but then I began to wonder what the benefits of being grateful are.   I found an article in Forbes magazine that listed the following scientific proven benefits of being grateful. 
     Gratitude will open the door to more relationships.  It stated that showing appreciation can help us make new friends.  Gratitude also improves our physical health.  “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people.”   Gratitude also improves psychological health.  The article stated that gratitude actually reduces a multitude of toxic emotions.  Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.  Grateful people sleep better.  The article suggests writing down a few grateful sentiments before bed.  Gratitude improves self -esteem by reducing social comparisons.  Lastly, gratitude increased mental strength.  A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
     We all have the choice in life to be grateful or have an attitude of gratitude.  I feel that developing an “attitude of gratitude” can be one of the easiest ways to improve our lives. 


April Moedl, LCSW

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

TRAIN, or TRY?


We learn many tools in counseling.  I have had clients learn a skill and then try it once during the week and come back to let me know that this skill doesn’t work for them.  While I am glad to see that they tried the skill and put in at least that much effort, I have come to learn that there is a difference between training and trying something.  I was reading a book called “I am More Than Enough” By Dr. Robert Jones and Bryce Dunford.  In this book, they had a great analogy that helped me explain what I was seeing when client’s I worked with did this.  I am going to paraphrase that analogy here.

Let us say that your gym is having a contest. In four weeks, they will draw a couple of names for the people that are going to be able to win $100,000. There are many names in the jar but you choose to add yours along with the others.  Now once your name is drawn there will be a date set and if you can bench press 100 lbs. by that date, you could be a winner. 

Four weeks pass, and along with another person, your name is drawn.  The date for the big lift is set for two weeks.  Ecstatic (as any of us would be) at a chance to win that kind of money, you find yourself obsessing about it.  You plan how to spend the money and what you will be doing with it once you have won the money, and then at last the day of the big even arrives. 

The News is there to cover this event and you feel the pressure to do well.  Here is your moment.  If you can lift the weight just twenty-four inches away from your body you win. You feel that weight rest on you as two men steadily place it there.  Next to you is the other person that got their name picked. The next ten seconds will tell your future. 

You begin to exert all your best physical and mental effort to lift the weight.  You can’t move it off of your chest.  It might as well have been three hundred pounds for all that matters.  You simply can’t budge it.  Next to you, the person is slowly lifting the weight and you see that they are going to win the money. 

Two men come and finally lift the barbell off you and a T.V. personality shoves a microphone in your face and asks how you felt.  You responded that you are very disappointed, and don’t know what happened.  You tried as hard as you could.  You guess it just wasn’t meant to be.  Your partner in the lift reports that he is grateful for the chance he had and is excited to see that all of his training and hard work in the last six weeks has paid off.

The same principal applies to mental health skills.

If we don’t take the time to train our brains, so that we can create the neuropathways that it needs, we won’t be able to implement a skill when we need it.  We can try once, and not see results, or we can practice the tools we are learning and use therapy to train, learn, and get better.  In the end, you are only going to get out what you put in.  Are you going to TRAIN, or TRY?

By Kristy Goodson, LMSW

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Acceptance


What does it mean to cultivate an acceptance attitude?  Have you ever been faced with a situation that seemed unfair and fought the reality of the situation without actually solving the core of the unfair situation? Certain situations sometimes call for a good fight, but we often reject reality by fighting and throwing tantrums without actually looking for healthy solutions to resolve the core issue being presented. Radical acceptance is a skill used when faced with painful and unfair situation. The following behaviors can be used when cultivating an attitude of acceptance:

  1.  First identify the situation you are rejecting.
  2.   Focus on reality as it is and stick to the facts. Also identify the events that caused the painful situation (every event or situation has a root cause).
  3.  Recognize that rejecting reality and facts will not change reality, therefore, changing reality means to first accept reality.
  4.  Recognize that pain cannot be avoided; its nature’s way of signaling that something is wrong.
  5.  Practice acceptance with the mind, body, and spirit by surrendering. Use self-acceptance talk; use mindfulness of your breath and awareness of your thoughts and behaviors.
  6.  Practice engaging in activities that act opposite of negative emotions and list all behaviors you would do if you did accept the facts. Act as if you have already accepted what has already happened. 
When practicing acceptance, also recognize that the path out of misery is through hell. You cannot avoid the pain of reality, but acceptance is the first step towards healing and focusing on healthy solutions to cope with distressing situations.


Stephanie Shirley, LCSW


Lineham, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed. pp. 342-344). New York; London: The Guilford Press.