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Mood and Midwest Winters

As a mental health practitioner living in the midwest, each year I find myself seeking new ways to implement a skillful approach to managing the physical, emotional, and mental shifts that may come with the arriving winter season. Though we can anticipate this seasonal shift each year, we cannot always anticipate the ways our mood may be affected. In addition, so often we are faced with unexpected life stressors such as a job loss/transition, relationship changes, physical health changes, the loss of a loved one, financial strain, or the reminder of old wounds. When these stressors are compounded by the decrease in sunlight, drop in temperatures, and increase in weather-related barriers, it can be difficult to know how to best attend to your mental health needs. The term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often gets used to make sense of these changes in mood throughout the winter months. Though SAD is not considered a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5, it can provide helpful validation for these experiences, as well as an opportunity to practice acceptance and change. According to the 2015 review of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Sherri Melrose states “as the acronym so aptly illustrates, those afflicted experience feelings of sadness and loss of energy, especially during December, January, and February, around the winter solstice, when the days are shortest.” Existing research on effective treatment for SAD symptoms include increasing Vitamin D, light therapy, counseling, physical exercise, and/or medication management*. 

 

So, what else might be helpful in managing this fluctuation in mood as we prepare for spending more time indoors? Recently, I was introduced to the Danish term “Hygge” (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) that roughly translates to creating a sense of “coziness” or “comfort.” What intrigued me about this popularized term, is its invitation to embrace the insulation of these winter months, and to promote a sense of connection with yourself and others. Knowing that the busy demands of work, home, and family don’t subside with the season, finding ways to slow down and feel present may seem nearly impossible. With so many books, apps, and gadgets out there offering new and helpful ways to practice greater balance in life, I recognize it can be difficult to create or sustain these recommended daily routine/habits when SAD-related symptoms seem loud and in charge. Which is why the concept of “Hygge” is so interesting. To me, it offers permission; Permission to find comfort within the moment; Permission to experience the feeling of being ‘cozy’ which can connect us to a child-like comfort; Permission to share connection with others in its simplest form; Permission to simply be, and to be reminded that there is light within the darkness of this season. Tending to this awareness can offer an opportunity to practice mindfulness as a way to help recharge when we frequently feel more depleted. As you navigate the ebbs and flows of this winter season, I encourage you to give yourself permission to practice “Hygge” – whether it’s wrapping up in a blanket, drinking a warm beverage, engaging in a creative outlet, lighting a candle, snuggling with a pet, or connecting with a loved one. Embracing “Hygge” may not extinguish your SAD-related symptoms completely, but it will hopefully offer the important reminder that you are resilient and deserving of coziness and comfort. 

 

A few reminders:

 

-*Please contact your Primary Care Doctor if you have questions about exploring medication treatment. 

 

-If SAD-related symptoms are feeling difficult to manage, please reach out for support from a doctor or mental health professional. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: an overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression research and treatment, 2015.

 

Labeling our Emotions

Emotions- the reason many people initially decide to go to therapy is so often rooted in this part of our day to day functioning that can sometimes feel so great and other times… not so much. What we consider the “positive” side of this- happy, joyful, optimistic, serene, amused, hopeful, satisfied- most of the time these feelings bring, to some degree a level of contentment or gratification. These positive emotions may be experienced differently and may last for varying lengths of time for everyone, but overall carry the perception of being “good”. The other side of this or what we consider to be “negative emotions” are those that we, as human beings, consider emotions that may not be as pleasurable to experience as those listed above. Sadness, anger, frustration, distrust, annoyance, and loneliness are just a few. In this post, the main goal is to understand that while these emotions may be considered negative, that does not mean that they are “bad” and how to begin the coping process around these emotions. 

In an article published earlier this year from verywellmind.com, Elizabeth Scott, a health and wellness coach describes the experience of emotions by stating “When we talk about so-called negative emotions, it’s important to remember that these emotions, in themselves, aren’t negative as in “bad,” but more than they are in the realm of negativity as opposed to positivity. Emotions aren’t necessarily good or bad; they are just states and signals that allow us to pay more attention to the events that create them” (https://www.verywellmind.com/embrace-negative-emotions-4158317). Does an example come to mind here for you about a time something happened and you immediately classified that you were feeling something “bad”? Perhaps there are things in life that bring you anxiety, a presentation at school or work, a comment made by a friend or co-worker that makes you feel uneasy, or days where you feel particularly on edge, easily frustrated or annoyed. It is so easy to then jump to increased frustration with yourself or these feelings as they can be very uncomfortable and at times feel intolerable. As a therapist and a fellow human being, I am here to validate that this can be extremely distressing and you are not alone in feeling this! Here are a few ways that may help to cope with these negative emotions:

  • Understanding how you label the emotion: Are you able to name and understand what you are feeling and where this feeling may be coming from? Being able to engage in this activity may help you to trace back to what brought on the negative emotion and problem-solve around the situation. Labeling the emotion also applies to what is talked about above. Are you immediately labeling an emotion as “bad”? This may be a moment to remind yourself that this emotion is trying to tell you something about what you are experiencing!
  • Before responding, check the evidence!: What has happened in the past when I have felt this way? I know I may feel that this feeling may last forever, but is that true? In an article from positivepsychology.com entitled “What are Negative Emotions and How to Control Them”, writer Elaine Mead shares the idea “When exploring negative emotions, it’s also important to know that they are not the only source of information you have access to. Before you act upon any emotion you should also seek to explore your previous experiences, stored knowledge and memories, personal values and desired outcomes for any given scenario”. (https://positivepsychology.com/negative-emotions/)
  • Re-regulating your physiological systems: Many emotions, especially those that are in the “negative emotions” category bring a response to your body. For example, accelerated breathing, flushed cheeks, feeling overly warm, tensed muscles just to name a few. In these moments, focus on re-regulating our body can help decrease the intensity of the emotion we may be feeling. Try to notice what is happening in your body and try exercises such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation techniques to bring your body back to baseline!
  • Mindfulness Activities: When distressed, overwhelmed, angry or sad, it can be helpful to bring yourself back to the present moment by focusing on your senses and the world around you. A way to begin this practice may be placing your feet directly on the floor, and acknowledging where you are in this moment. What do I hear, smell, see, or physically feel around me. This can bring your mind back to the present and these physical sensations and can also support the physical re-regulation discussed above.  

Last but not least, and in my mind, most importantly!

  • Having patience with your emotions: Easier said than done right? One of the greatest things I have ever learned is to be patient with what you are feeling. While I think it is a wonderful thing to name, and to understand as a concept, this is something that can be very important to work on with your therapist in sessions! When an emotion enters and we judge it to be bad or negative, our patience with ourselves can go right out the window. Allowing ourselves grace and understanding in difficult moments can be a tremendous step on the journey to healing.

Nature and Mental Health

When we stop to think about tit, we all know being outside feels good. Living in Minnesota, enjoying the warm weather, especially after a frigid, snow-covered winter, we bask in the sun and soak up the feel-good energy of the sun. But now, science has something to say about this. 

In a massive research study that included 19,806 people, researchers found that being outside for just two hours a week were “significantly more likely to have good health and higher psychological wellbeing” than those who didn’t. This is incredible. With just two hours of outdoor time – whether split up or all at once – people can not just feel better, but actually be healthier. Nature, as many before including Hippocrates knew, has the power to heal. From mental health to physical health to soul health, being in nature has the power to transform. Interestingly, however, the “threshold” of two hours was important. Researchers found “individuals who spent between 1 and 119?mins in nature in the last week were no more likely to report good health or high well-being than those who reported 0?mins.”

Here’s a link to the original study

Remember to get outside, enjoy the summer, and bask in the healing of the sun! 

News of the Good

This week in news of the good, how one man is working to change the lives of many. 

Mr beast, Jimmy Donaldson, a YouTuber, with some 19 million followers, became famous for his “attention grabbing stunts.” The “stunt” that caught my attention this week is nothing short of miraculous: Mr. Beast bought the entire contents of a supermarket, ALL OF IT, to donate to homeless shelters. Take a look at the video below and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face.

This YouTuber bought out an entire supermarket to feed the homeless ??

Posted by Vocativ on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

 

Economic hardship and insecurity are one of the leading causes of stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide. A recent look at cab drivers in NYC by the NYT shows this most dramatically. While Mr. Beast clearly has the funds to make an impact on thousands of people, what if each of us helped just two other people? And then imagine if each of those people helped two other people. Just think how quickly the world could change. If that happened, where each person helped two people and those people helped two others, in only 33 rounds of that the entire population of the world would be affected. Can you imagine? That’s astonishing. And if that interconnectedness were used to say, donate a can of food or a dollar, imagine the impact. 

Take a moment and see if you can harness the power of your social network to lift a single person and to pay it forward. 

9 Tips for calming

Life is stressful. For all of us, life can be overwhelming, chaotic, hectic. To that, imagine that you’re a person whose experienced trauma, either attachment or event trauma. Imagine how this might affect your experience of the world. As a result of the trauma, you won’t feel safe, your nervous system will be activated daily, your body will feel like there’s always a looming danger. While your brain realizes no such danger exists, your body doesn’t have the same experience. This is an extremely effective safety mechanism. The human body has evolved to think of sticks as snakes, rather than snakes as sticks. The difference has kept people alive for millennia. While confusing snakes and sticks was necessary at some point in history, it is less so now. Instead, we now have to worry about actual and/or perceived threats from our surroundings, things like people, places, and thoughts, these are our snakes. And when we feel stressed, activated, angry, and irritable, our body is attempting to protect us; protect us from that perceived or real threat. This is the time that we “turtle up.” That’s when we feel protected and shelled. This is done by the vagus nerve. This is the nerve in the body that runs from our brain stem to every organ in our body, including our stomach. Knowing this, that it touches literally every organ in our body, gives us real control. What it means is that there are things we can do to help us calm our bodies when we feel overwhelmed. 

Social engagement: Reach out to a loved one, a safe person, or a safe animal. Remember safety is relative. The safety of the person or animal has to be safe for you. Make eye contact with someone. Touch someone. Hug someone. And for that matter, hug yourself. 

Name it: Naming your stress, threat, fear, anxiety helps to understand and calm. 

Safe space: Find a place that is calming, that is safe, that is known. 

Voice: Sing, hum, speak softly, chant, lullabies. Activating your vocal cords activates the system to calm.

Aroma: Whatever is calming to you. Things like the smell of your child, essential oils, and spices. 

Breath: The power of breathing has been known for millennia. The best breath work is 4-7-8: inhale for 4, hold it for 7, and exhale for 8. The exhale is the part that calms the vagus nerve. 

Listening: Listen to others, put down your things, and listen to what they say. Also, listen to music, any type of music that helps make you feel calm. 

Posture: Standing or sitting straight sends signals of well being. 80% of the messages in our body run from our body to our brain. Doing things to our body can make us feel safe and, as a result, calm. 

It’s not personal: our body feels under threat and remembering that this isn’t personal, but an unconscious response to a perception of a threat that is long-standing. 

Mood and Midwest Winters

As a mental health practitioner living in the midwest, each year I find myself seeking new ways to implement a skillful approach to managing the physical, emotional, and mental shifts that may come with the arriving winter season. Though we can anticipate this seasonal shift each year, we cannot always anticipate the ways our mood may be affected. In addition, so often we are faced with unexpected life stressors such as a job loss/transition, relationship changes, physical health changes, the loss of a loved one, financial strain, or the reminder of old wounds. When these stressors are compounded by the decrease in sunlight, drop in temperatures, and increase in weather-related barriers, it can be difficult to know how to best attend to your mental health needs. The term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) often gets used to make sense of these changes in mood throughout the winter months. Though SAD is not considered a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5, it can provide helpful validation for these experiences, as well as an opportunity to practice acceptance and change. According to the 2015 review of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Sherri Melrose states “as the acronym so aptly illustrates, those afflicted experience feelings of sadness and loss of energy, especially during December, January, and February, around the winter solstice, when the days are shortest.” Existing research on effective treatment for SAD symptoms include increasing Vitamin D, light therapy, counseling, physical exercise, and/or medication management*. 

 

So, what else might be helpful in managing this fluctuation in mood as we prepare for spending more time indoors? Recently, I was introduced to the Danish term “Hygge” (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) that roughly translates to creating a sense of “coziness” or “comfort.” What intrigued me about this popularized term, is its invitation to embrace the insulation of these winter months, and to promote a sense of connection with yourself and others. Knowing that the busy demands of work, home, and family don’t subside with the season, finding ways to slow down and feel present may seem nearly impossible. With so many books, apps, and gadgets out there offering new and helpful ways to practice greater balance in life, I recognize it can be difficult to create or sustain these recommended daily routine/habits when SAD-related symptoms seem loud and in charge. Which is why the concept of “Hygge” is so interesting. To me, it offers permission; Permission to find comfort within the moment; Permission to experience the feeling of being ‘cozy’ which can connect us to a child-like comfort; Permission to share connection with others in its simplest form; Permission to simply be, and to be reminded that there is light within the darkness of this season. Tending to this awareness can offer an opportunity to practice mindfulness as a way to help recharge when we frequently feel more depleted. As you navigate the ebbs and flows of this winter season, I encourage you to give yourself permission to practice “Hygge” – whether it’s wrapping up in a blanket, drinking a warm beverage, engaging in a creative outlet, lighting a candle, snuggling with a pet, or connecting with a loved one. Embracing “Hygge” may not extinguish your SAD-related symptoms completely, but it will hopefully offer the important reminder that you are resilient and deserving of coziness and comfort. 

 

A few reminders:

 

-*Please contact your Primary Care Doctor if you have questions about exploring medication treatment. 

 

-If SAD-related symptoms are feeling difficult to manage, please reach out for support from a doctor or mental health professional. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: an overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression research and treatment, 2015.

 

Labeling our Emotions

Emotions- the reason many people initially decide to go to therapy is so often rooted in this part of our day to day functioning that can sometimes feel so great and other times… not so much. What we consider the “positive” side of this- happy, joyful, optimistic, serene, amused, hopeful, satisfied- most of the time these feelings bring, to some degree a level of contentment or gratification. These positive emotions may be experienced differently and may last for varying lengths of time for everyone, but overall carry the perception of being “good”. The other side of this or what we consider to be “negative emotions” are those that we, as human beings, consider emotions that may not be as pleasurable to experience as those listed above. Sadness, anger, frustration, distrust, annoyance, and loneliness are just a few. In this post, the main goal is to understand that while these emotions may be considered negative, that does not mean that they are “bad” and how to begin the coping process around these emotions. 

In an article published earlier this year from verywellmind.com, Elizabeth Scott, a health and wellness coach describes the experience of emotions by stating “When we talk about so-called negative emotions, it’s important to remember that these emotions, in themselves, aren’t negative as in “bad,” but more than they are in the realm of negativity as opposed to positivity. Emotions aren’t necessarily good or bad; they are just states and signals that allow us to pay more attention to the events that create them” (https://www.verywellmind.com/embrace-negative-emotions-4158317). Does an example come to mind here for you about a time something happened and you immediately classified that you were feeling something “bad”? Perhaps there are things in life that bring you anxiety, a presentation at school or work, a comment made by a friend or co-worker that makes you feel uneasy, or days where you feel particularly on edge, easily frustrated or annoyed. It is so easy to then jump to increased frustration with yourself or these feelings as they can be very uncomfortable and at times feel intolerable. As a therapist and a fellow human being, I am here to validate that this can be extremely distressing and you are not alone in feeling this! Here are a few ways that may help to cope with these negative emotions:

  • Understanding how you label the emotion: Are you able to name and understand what you are feeling and where this feeling may be coming from? Being able to engage in this activity may help you to trace back to what brought on the negative emotion and problem-solve around the situation. Labeling the emotion also applies to what is talked about above. Are you immediately labeling an emotion as “bad”? This may be a moment to remind yourself that this emotion is trying to tell you something about what you are experiencing!
  • Before responding, check the evidence!: What has happened in the past when I have felt this way? I know I may feel that this feeling may last forever, but is that true? In an article from positivepsychology.com entitled “What are Negative Emotions and How to Control Them”, writer Elaine Mead shares the idea “When exploring negative emotions, it’s also important to know that they are not the only source of information you have access to. Before you act upon any emotion you should also seek to explore your previous experiences, stored knowledge and memories, personal values and desired outcomes for any given scenario”. (https://positivepsychology.com/negative-emotions/)
  • Re-regulating your physiological systems: Many emotions, especially those that are in the “negative emotions” category bring a response to your body. For example, accelerated breathing, flushed cheeks, feeling overly warm, tensed muscles just to name a few. In these moments, focus on re-regulating our body can help decrease the intensity of the emotion we may be feeling. Try to notice what is happening in your body and try exercises such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation techniques to bring your body back to baseline!
  • Mindfulness Activities: When distressed, overwhelmed, angry or sad, it can be helpful to bring yourself back to the present moment by focusing on your senses and the world around you. A way to begin this practice may be placing your feet directly on the floor, and acknowledging where you are in this moment. What do I hear, smell, see, or physically feel around me. This can bring your mind back to the present and these physical sensations and can also support the physical re-regulation discussed above.  

Last but not least, and in my mind, most importantly!

  • Having patience with your emotions: Easier said than done right? One of the greatest things I have ever learned is to be patient with what you are feeling. While I think it is a wonderful thing to name, and to understand as a concept, this is something that can be very important to work on with your therapist in sessions! When an emotion enters and we judge it to be bad or negative, our patience with ourselves can go right out the window. Allowing ourselves grace and understanding in difficult moments can be a tremendous step on the journey to healing.

Nature and Mental Health

When we stop to think about tit, we all know being outside feels good. Living in Minnesota, enjoying the warm weather, especially after a frigid, snow-covered winter, we bask in the sun and soak up the feel-good energy of the sun. But now, science has something to say about this. 

In a massive research study that included 19,806 people, researchers found that being outside for just two hours a week were “significantly more likely to have good health and higher psychological wellbeing” than those who didn’t. This is incredible. With just two hours of outdoor time – whether split up or all at once – people can not just feel better, but actually be healthier. Nature, as many before including Hippocrates knew, has the power to heal. From mental health to physical health to soul health, being in nature has the power to transform. Interestingly, however, the “threshold” of two hours was important. Researchers found “individuals who spent between 1 and 119?mins in nature in the last week were no more likely to report good health or high well-being than those who reported 0?mins.”

Here’s a link to the original study

Remember to get outside, enjoy the summer, and bask in the healing of the sun! 

News of the Good

This week in news of the good, how one man is working to change the lives of many. 

Mr beast, Jimmy Donaldson, a YouTuber, with some 19 million followers, became famous for his “attention grabbing stunts.” The “stunt” that caught my attention this week is nothing short of miraculous: Mr. Beast bought the entire contents of a supermarket, ALL OF IT, to donate to homeless shelters. Take a look at the video below and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face.

This YouTuber bought out an entire supermarket to feed the homeless ??

Posted by Vocativ on Wednesday, June 5, 2019

 

Economic hardship and insecurity are one of the leading causes of stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide. A recent look at cab drivers in NYC by the NYT shows this most dramatically. While Mr. Beast clearly has the funds to make an impact on thousands of people, what if each of us helped just two other people? And then imagine if each of those people helped two other people. Just think how quickly the world could change. If that happened, where each person helped two people and those people helped two others, in only 33 rounds of that the entire population of the world would be affected. Can you imagine? That’s astonishing. And if that interconnectedness were used to say, donate a can of food or a dollar, imagine the impact. 

Take a moment and see if you can harness the power of your social network to lift a single person and to pay it forward. 

9 Tips for calming

Life is stressful. For all of us, life can be overwhelming, chaotic, hectic. To that, imagine that you’re a person whose experienced trauma, either attachment or event trauma. Imagine how this might affect your experience of the world. As a result of the trauma, you won’t feel safe, your nervous system will be activated daily, your body will feel like there’s always a looming danger. While your brain realizes no such danger exists, your body doesn’t have the same experience. This is an extremely effective safety mechanism. The human body has evolved to think of sticks as snakes, rather than snakes as sticks. The difference has kept people alive for millennia. While confusing snakes and sticks was necessary at some point in history, it is less so now. Instead, we now have to worry about actual and/or perceived threats from our surroundings, things like people, places, and thoughts, these are our snakes. And when we feel stressed, activated, angry, and irritable, our body is attempting to protect us; protect us from that perceived or real threat. This is the time that we “turtle up.” That’s when we feel protected and shelled. This is done by the vagus nerve. This is the nerve in the body that runs from our brain stem to every organ in our body, including our stomach. Knowing this, that it touches literally every organ in our body, gives us real control. What it means is that there are things we can do to help us calm our bodies when we feel overwhelmed. 

Social engagement: Reach out to a loved one, a safe person, or a safe animal. Remember safety is relative. The safety of the person or animal has to be safe for you. Make eye contact with someone. Touch someone. Hug someone. And for that matter, hug yourself. 

Name it: Naming your stress, threat, fear, anxiety helps to understand and calm. 

Safe space: Find a place that is calming, that is safe, that is known. 

Voice: Sing, hum, speak softly, chant, lullabies. Activating your vocal cords activates the system to calm.

Aroma: Whatever is calming to you. Things like the smell of your child, essential oils, and spices. 

Breath: The power of breathing has been known for millennia. The best breath work is 4-7-8: inhale for 4, hold it for 7, and exhale for 8. The exhale is the part that calms the vagus nerve. 

Listening: Listen to others, put down your things, and listen to what they say. Also, listen to music, any type of music that helps make you feel calm. 

Posture: Standing or sitting straight sends signals of well being. 80% of the messages in our body run from our body to our brain. Doing things to our body can make us feel safe and, as a result, calm. 

It’s not personal: our body feels under threat and remembering that this isn’t personal, but an unconscious response to a perception of a threat that is long-standing.