coping

How to Really Help a Sick Friend

How to Really Help a Sick Friend

Having a sick friend is scary. The possibility of losing them can paralyze.  Many want to offer help and support, but struggle with how to do it in a meaningful and non-imposing manner. Gluck offers thoughtful ways to offer support to an friend or loved one with a serious illness.What to do—and what not to do—when someone you love gets a serious diagnosis

Spice It Up! Erotic Romance Books Good For Marriage

Spice It Up! Erotic Romance Books Good For Marriage

Intimacy is essential to the health and connection in a marriage. Sometimes differing sex drives or comfort with intimacy can be a challenge for a couple. One way to address this outside of couples therapy is to incorporate erotic reading. I was quoted in this article that discusses the possible benefits of reading erotic romance novels.

By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway, Posted: 05/27/2014

When I wrote my first erotic romance 20 years ago, it was sold in the secret back section of book stores, sex novelty shops, or by mail order, in a plain brown wrapper. How things have changed since Fifty Shades of Grey! These books are so much more accessible now due the advent of the e-reader, the convenience (and addictive nature) of technological wonders such as the Amazon "one click" buying method, and the explosion in self-published books in the erotic romance genre.

Today, women are proud devotees of the erotic romance novel and books in this category -- love stories with lots and lots of sex in them -- are regularly ending up on all the bestseller lists.

7 New Year's Resolutions To Stop Making + What To Do Instead

How often have your new year's resolutions failed? For a majority of individuals, the answer is most if not all. Often the problem has to do with the type of resolution you set and whether it is truly achievable. Unfortunately, many set unrealistic goals and once they "fall off the wagon" feel they failed.  This article discusses the most common resolutions and how to go about setting yourself up for success.

BY JINI CICERO DECEMBER 29, 2014 5:17 AM EST

Every January 1, millions of people make New Year's resolutions. Chances are, they won't stick around for too long. Why?

Because most resolutions are unrealistic, or even unreasonable. Here are seven outdated fitness and nutrition resolutions that are destined — and deserve — to fail, along with smarter options to make sure you follow through and succeed.

Silver Lining: Life’s disappointments offer great lessons to kids.

What do you do when your child is disappointed? How do you manage those moments so they become a learning opportunity. In this article I was interviewed on how to help your children learn and grow when they don't succeed. 

No one – including Supermom – can prevent kids from experiencing setbacks in life. Your daughter may miss the class field trip because she caught a nasty cold. Or she may come home crying when her science-fair project earns a less-than-hoped-for grade. Kids’ disappointments are no fun for parents to witness. But kids learn to lift themselves up when they get knocked down. Marriage and family therapist Christina Steinorth, M.A., author of “Cue Cards for Life” (Hunter House, 2013), says parents can help kids learn to bounce back from adversities by taking a teaching role. During tough times, aim to build your child’s coping skills and reinforce the value of persistence. Here’s how. 

Food-Mood Connection: How You Eat Can Amp Up Or Tamp Down Stress

Food is comfort. It is no surprise that when we are upset we turn to food to soothe ourselves. Turns out that there is growing research supporting the idea that different foods can help you feel less stressed. Read below for more information.

For parents, happiness is a very high bar

Why is parenting so difficult? What does it even mean to be a parent? This Ted talk frames these questions and puts present day parenting into context.

Link to Ted Talk

5 Things No One Ever Told You About Raising a Toddler (but You Need to Know)

Ever wonder why the terrible 2s are so terrible? This article goes into 5 reasons why toddlers are different and why it is important to nurture those differences. by  

Sometimes parenting books feel like they're a dime a dozen — a handful cross my desk each week promising to provide the definitive method for raising sweet, well-adjusted tots — spoiler alert: few actually do. But when I learned that Dr. Tovah Klein, a mother of three and the director of the Barnard College Center For Toddler Development in NYC who has been observing toddlers for over 20 years, would be speaking at my son's preschool PTA meeting, I made sure I was seated in the front row to hear her philosophy and learnings firsthand. Dr. Klein's recently released How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today For Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success ($19, originally $25) was already generating buzz, and after hearing her in person, I understand why.

Based on the philosophy that toddlers are not miniadults, that they're individuals fueled by a desire to know was just the beginning. In just 45 minutes Dr. Klein took us deep into the magical world of the toddler years and got to the root of many of our biggest frustrations with our tots. I learned a few fascinating philosophies about young kids that have already helped me better understand my child. I highly suggest you pick up a copy, but in the interim, here are a handful of teasers you'll find in the book.

1: Toddlers Have No Sense of Time

2: To Them, the World Is All About Power and Control

3: Happiness Doesn't Come From Trying to Make Them Happy

4: They Need to Stumble and Fall

5: The Qualities That Drive Us Nuts Now Are the Ones We'll Want Later

To read the descriptions and how to cope click on the Link to article below.

Link to article

Friends Wanted

The new year seems to trigger discussions about connections, loneliness and friendships. Perhaps a time for reflection or a reaction to all the expectations of gathering with others around the holidays. This article explores and explains the importance of social connections to our emotional and physical health. New research by psychologists uncovers the health risks of loneliness and the benefits of strong social connections.

By Anna Miller

Monitor Staff

January 2014, Vol 45, No. 1

Print version: page 54

New research by psychologists uncovers the health risks of loneliness and the benefits of strong social connections.

It took a trip to the hospital for Cathryn Jakobson Ramin, 56, to confront a nagging concern she'd had for years: She had no friends. "I didn't have one person who could pick me up," says the journalist in Mill Valley, Calif., who went to the hospital for a small medical procedure.

Ramin does have many friends — those she first met in childhood and in the four cities she's lived in as an adult — but they don't live nearby anymore. She also has a strong marriage, two grown sons and a successful career. But she has few local friends she can call on in a time of need — or for simple companionship.

"I like the sense of sitting in someone's kitchen with a cup of tea and cookies and just shooting the [breeze]," she says, admitting she feels a void. "That to me is a very important part of life."

Psychologists agree. While research on relationships has skirted adult friendships — tending to focus on adolescent friendships and adult romances — the importance of strong social connections throughout life is gaining scientific clout, having been linked with such benefits as a greater pain tolerance, a stronger immune system, and a lower risk of depression and early death.

"For years and years … people speculated that if you felt alone or you lived alone or you were alone a lot, you wouldn't eat good meals, you wouldn't exercise as much, nobody would take you to the doctor," says Laura Carstensen, PhD, who directs Stanford University's Center on Longevity. "But I think what we're learning is that emotions cause physiological processes to activate that are directly bad for your health."

Yet forging platonic relationships isn't always easy. Ramin's situation appears to be increasingly common: According to a meta-analysis with more than 177,000 participants, people's personal and friendship networks have shrunk over the last 35 years (Psychological Bulletin, 2013).

Combine that trend with the United States's rising age of first marriage, a divorce rate nearing 50 percent and a life expectancy that's at an all-time high, and you get "a demographic shift such that there are now [more] people who don't have a marital partner to supply the intimacy they need," says Beverley Fehr, PhD, a social psychologist at the University of Winnipeg and author of the 1996 book "Friendship Processes." "In light of those shifts, I think that friendships are more important today than ever before."

I'm so lonesome I could die

A lack of friends isn't simply an inconvenience when you want a movie partner or a ride to the hospital. A sparse social circle is a significant health risk, research suggests. In one meta-analysis of 148 studies comprising more than 308,000 people, for example, Brigham Young University psychologists found that participants with stronger social relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive over the studies' given periods than those with weaker connections — a risk comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day and one double that of obesity. And the risks of poor relationships are likely greater, the researchers say, since the studies didn't look at the quality of participants' social connections (PLOS Medicine, 2010).

There's some evidence that more really is merrier. In one recent study tracking 6,500 British men and women ages 52 and older, psychologist Andrew Steptoe, PhD, of the University College London and colleagues found that both feeling lonely and being socially isolated raised the risk of death. However, only social isolation — measured in terms of frequency of contact with family and friends, and participation in organizations outside of work — appeared to be related to increased mortality when the researchers adjusted for demographic factors and baseline health (PNAS, 2013).

But contrary to Steptoe's findings, most research indicates that feeling isolated is more dangerous than being isolated, says psychologist John Cacioppo, PhD, co-author of the 2008 book "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection." In one 2012 study, he and colleagues looked at data from more than 2,100 adults ages 50 and older and found that feelings of loneliness were associated with increased mortality over a six-year period. The finding was unrelated to marital status and number of relatives and friends nearby, as well as to health behaviors such as smoking and exercise (Social Science and Medicine, 2012).

"It's not being alone or not" that affects your health, Cacioppo says. "You can feel terribly isolated when you're around other people."

In his ongoing Chicago Health Aging and Social Relations Study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, Cacioppo and colleagues have also linked loneliness with depressive symptoms and an increase in blood pressure over time.

Other research indicates positive social connections might accelerate disease recovery. In a study of 200 breast cancer survivors, psychologist Lisa Jaremka, PhD, and colleagues at the Ohio State University found that lonelier women experienced more pain, depression and fatigue than those who had stronger connections to friends and family. The more disconnected women also had elevated levels of a particular antibody associated with the herpes virus — a sign of a weakened immune system (Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2013).

Particular genes may play a role in explaining why our bodies are so attuned to our social lives, says psychologist Steve Cole, PhD, at the University of California, Los Angeles. In one study, he and colleagues including Cacioppo analyzed the gene expression profiles of chronically lonely people and found that genes expressed within two subtypes of white blood cells are uniquely responsive to feelings of loneliness. The cells — plasmacytoid dendritic cells and monocytes — are associated with diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer, as well as "first line of defense" immune responses (PNAS, 2011).

Cole says the most "biologically toxic" aspect of loneliness is that it can make you feel chronically threatened, an emotion that can wear on the immune system. "It's really that sense of unsafe threat, that vague worry, that's probably what's actually kicking off the fight-or-flight stress responses that affect the immune system most directly," he says.

Friends in adulthood

As researchers work to better understand the link between friendships and health, they're also helping to answer a question familiar to anyone who's ever moved to a new city, lost a spouse or otherwise found themselves feeling alone: How do you make friends as an adult? Here's what the research suggests might work:

  • Be a familiar face. The idea that familiarity breeds attraction is long-established by research, and was again supported in a 2011 study led by psychologist Harry Reis, PhD, at the University of Rochester. In the first experiment, same-sex strangers rated how much they liked one another after having several structured conversations. In the other, strangers chatted freely online. In both cases, the amount participants liked their partners increased with each exchange (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011).

Rachel Bertsche, a writer in Chicago, witnessed this phenomenon outside of the lab when she joined a weekly comedy class a few years ago. At first, she thought her classmates were strange. But she gradually changed her mind — and soon wound up joining the group for drinks after class. "Consistency is so important," she says.

Fehr agrees. She says sticking to a simple routine — whether it's going to the same coffee shop at the same time every day, joining a class like Bertsche or even just going to the office mailroom when it's most crowded — can help turn strangers into friends.

  • Divulge a secret. There are ways to make fast friends, too, psychologists say. Research by Stony Brook University professor Arthur Aron, PhD, showed that gradually increasing the depth of questions and answers between strangers can spawn friendships in just 45 minutes (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1997). Fehr and her team are building on this model by directing a couple of college buddies first to ask each other neutral questions, such as, "When did you last go to the zoo?" and slowly build up to more intimate questions such as, "If you knew someone close to you was going to die tomorrow, what would you tell them today — and why haven't you told them yet?"

So far, she's seeing men's friendships getting stronger. "When they do open up to each other, they feel closer to each other and they feel more satisfaction with the relationship," she says.

  • Realize it's in your head. Loneliness is a subjective experience that can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Cacioppo. "When people feel isolated, the brain goes into self-preservation mode," he says, meaning that they become preoccupied with their own — not others' — welfare. While the response is an innate one meant to protect us from threats, over time, it harms physical and mental health and well-being, and makes us more likely to see everything in a negative light. It can also make us seem cold, unfriendly and socially awkward. But recognizing what's in your head can help you get out of it, Cacioppo says.

In a review of interventions to reduce loneliness, he and colleagues found that those that encouraged participants to challenge their own negative thought processes — for example, by sharing a positive part of their day with someone else — were more effective than interventions seeking to improve social skills, enhance social support or increase opportunities for social contact. "It has a surprising effect," Cacioppo says. (Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2010).

  • Log on, with caution. Liz Scherer, a copywriter in Silver Spring, Md., used social media to forge friendships when she moved from New York City to Annapolis, Md., about 10 years ago at age 42. Through Twitter, she connected online with others in her business and met many of them in person at social media conferences. "I've made some really good friends who I talk to … every single day," she says. "They're good social supports and business supports."

Research suggests Scherer's positive experience with social media is most common among people who are already well connected. A review of four studies by psychologist Kennon Sheldon, PhD, of the University of Missouri, and colleagues, for example, found that more time on Facebook was linked to both high and low levels of connectedness. Psychologists posit this may be the case because Facebook supports relationships among those who are already highly socially connected, but might make those who are isolated feel even more so (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2011).

"If you rely on virtual relationships entirely, that's probably bad for you," Carstensen says. "But when you're using email and face time to supplement real relationships, that's a good thing."

  • Don't force it. If the pressure to forge new relationships is more external than internal, put away the "friend wanted" ad and focus on what and who does make you happy, says Carstensen. "If people are not very socially active and they aren't necessarily interested in expanding their social networks, and they seem OK emotionally, then you shouldn't feel alarmed," she says.

After all, being highly connected has its downsides, too, says University of Sheffield psychologist Peter Totterdell, PhD, who studies social networks in organizations. He's found that people with large work-based networks tend to be more anxious than those with fewer connections. "Possibly what's going on there is that you get more possibilities, more resources, but at the same time you've got more responsibility as well," he says.

And trying to change who you are can backfire, since people's likelihood to forge connections seems to be relatively constant throughout life, Totterdell says. "People may have a natural inclination, and to try to change that [may] make them uncomfortable with the results," he says.

The bottom line? Whether you're content with two close friends or prefer to surround yourself with 20 loose acquaintances, what matters is that you feel a part of something greater than yourself, Carstensen says.

"We shouldn't judge people who say, ‘I'm not a party goer, I don't want to make friends, I don't want to hang out in the bars or the clubs' — that's fine," she says. "There's a whole bunch of people who feel the same way."

Link to article

Why Some People Respond to Stress by Falling Asleep

This is a great article about a counter intuitive phenomenon. How can you want to fall asleep when you are clearly upset. Mr. Wolfson explores the possible psychological and biological explanations in this article.
Fight or flight, or sleep
 

Last month, my wife and I found ourselves in a disagreement about whether or not our apartment was clean enough for guests—the type of medium-sized disagreement that likely plagues all close relationships. In the midst of it, there was a lull and, feeling exhausted all of a sudden, I got up and left the living room. In the bedroom, I immediately fell face down into the sheets. The next thing I knew it was 20 minutes later and my wife was shaking me awake. I hadn’t meant to fall asleep; I just felt so fatigued in that moment that there was nothing else I could do.

This wasn’t new for me. A few weeks earlier, I had come into conflict with an acquaintance over some money. We were exchanging tense emails while I was at my office, and I began to feel the slow oozing onset of sleep, the same tiredness that came on when, as a child, I rode in the backseat of the car on the way home from some undesired trip. A sleepiness that overtakes the body slowly but surely and feels entirely outside of your control.

Though this has happened many times before, my response to conflict still seems strange to me. After all, as everyone knows from 9th grade biology class, when faced with stress—an acute threat—our bodies enter fight-or-flight mode. It’s supposed to be automatic: the adrenal cortex releases stress hormones to put the body on alert; the heart begins to beat more rapidly; breathing increases frequency; your metabolism starts to speed up, and oxygen-rich blood gets pumped directly to the larger muscles in the body. The point is to become energized, to prepare to face the source of the conflict head on, or, at the worst, be ready to run away, at top speed.

Of course, you don’t actually want the stress response system to be too reactive. If you were constantly in fight or flight mode, constantly stressed, it could actually have long-term effects on your neurochemistry, leading to chronic anxiety, depression, and, well, more sleeplessness. Even so, it seems like a good idea to sometimes be on high alert when dealing with stressful situations.

But that’s not what my body did. My body shut down.

I asked around, and found out that many others experience the same thing. For example, Dawn, a family counselor in Columbus, Ohio, told me that her husband Brad often “starts yawning in the middle of heated discussions, and will even lie down and go right to sleep.” One time their toddler son fell down the stairs (he was fine), and Brad left the room and went to bed.  Brad has had this kind of stress response for all 24 years of their relationship; Dawn says she’s used to it by now.

Even though dozens of people told me similar stories, I began to wonder what was wrong with us—what was wrong with me. Why was my body, in the face of conflict, simply acquiescing? Where was the fight in me?

There’s a concept in psychology called “learned helplessness” used to explain certain aspects of depression and anxiety. It’s fairly old, having been firstrecognized and codified in the 1970s, but has remained largely relevant and accepted within the field. The name (mostly) explains it all: If, at a very early stage in development, a living thing comes to understand that it is helpless in the face of the world’s forces, it will continue to perceive a lack of control, and therefore actually become helpless, no matter if the context changes.

In the early studies, dogs were divided into two groups: The first half were subjected to electric shocks, but were given a way to stop the shocks (they just had to figure it out themselves). The second group of dogs received shocks but had no way to avoid, escape, or stop them. The experience, sadly, had long-term effects on the animals. When faced with stressful environments later on in life, the first group of dogs did whatever they could to try to deal with it; the second group simply gave up. They had been conditioned to respond to stress with acquiescence.

This type of learned helplessness isn’t limited to animals; many of the adults I spoke with all mentioned childhood anxiety stemming from uncontrollable situations.

“When I hit high school and stress levels became higher in my life (messy divorce between my parents and lots of moving), I began escaping into sleep,” says LeAnna, a 25-year-old from Washington state. “As an adult, I still have ‘go to sleep’ impulses whenever I feel overwhelmed.” Daniel, from Baltimore told me that “whenever there was any kind of ‘family strife’ I would just go to my room and sleep.” Daniel is now 51, and starts yawning any time he encounters a stressful situation.

My parents divorced by the time I hit high school, but before they did, they fought a lot, usually in the kitchen beneath my bedroom. What I remember feeling most was powerlessness—not anger or sadness, but a shrug-your-shoulders, close-the-door, shut-your-eyes type of response because what was I going to do? Tell them to break it up?

That coping mechanism worked for me back then. I was able to compartmentalize those stressful experiences and move on with my life. I stayed in school and kept my grades up; I had friends and was relatively well-rounded. Things went well.  But now, at 28, I still deal with interpersonal conflict by shutting the door and going to sleep. I act on feelings that are no longer relevant to the situation.

“Our feelings are always in the past,” says John Sharp, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. “This is something that’s really outlived its adaptive value.” As an adult I should have control over my current situation, but I don’t. Am I like those lab dogs, shocked into helplessness?

At first glance, sleep might seem like quintessential avoidance, like burying your head in the pillow is no better than burying your head in the sand.

But I don’t feel as though I am not helping myself. After all, going to sleep isn’t like turning the lights off; the truth is that there’s a lot still going on while your eyes are closed. While we might be able to temporarily stave the flow of conflict by falling asleep, we’re not really escaping anything. In fact, sleep in some ways forces us to not only relive the emotional experience but to process and concretize it—by going to sleep I may be making the fight with my wife more real.

If you’re like me, you probably imagine memories work pretty simply: you have an experience, it gets stored somewhere, and then you retrieve it when you need it. But that leaves out a key step, memory consolidation, and that’s where sleep comes into play.

Here’s how it really works, according to Dr. Edward Pace-Schott, professor at Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine: When an experience is initially encoded as a memory, it rests in the brain’s short term storage facilities, where it is fragile, easily forgotten if other experiences come along quickly. In order for the experience to last, it needs to go through a process of consolidation, where it becomes integrated into other memories that you have. That’s why when you think of, say the 1993 baseball game between the Yankees and Orioles, you also think of bright green grass, the smell of peanuts and beer, your dad, and Bobby Bonilla, and not thousands of random bits and pieces.

Of course, not every experience is worth remembering. Only the highly intense experiences—positive or negative—are prioritized for storage later on. “Emotions put a stamp on a memory to say ‘this is important,’” says Pace-Schott.  It makes sense: the color of the grocery store clerk’s shirt is significantly less essential than, say, your mother’s birthday.

If we didn’t shelve our memories appropriately, everything would be a jumble, and without consolidation, we would forget it all. Life would have no meaning, and more importantly (at least from an evolutionary standpoint) we would never learn anything—we’d be helplessly amorphous, easy prey.

Here’s the conundrum, though: the same experiences that are stamped as emotionally important can overwhelm your brain’s short term storage facilities. Dr. Rebecca Spencer, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Department of Psychology, likens it to a desk where “whatever is stressing you out is this big pile of papers, but there are also other memories piling up on you.” With more and more papers landing in front of you all day, you’ll never effectively get to them all. And emotionally rich experiences are all high priority messages, screaming to be dealt with right away. So what happens next?

“You can be driven to sleep simply by having a lot of emotional memories to process,” says Spencer. It takes sleep to provide the space needed to sift through the days’ experiences, and make permanent those that matter.

Studies show that sleep enhances your memory of experiences, and the effect is multiplied for experiences with the stamp of emotion. In fact, the memory-consolidation process that occurs during sleep is so effective that some scientists, including Pace-Schott and Spencer, have suggested that it could be used to treat PTSD.  Spencer posits that keeping someone from sleep following a traumatic event could be good in the long run. “If you force yourself to stay awake through a period of insomnia,” Spencer says, “the [traumatic] memory and emotional response will both decay.”

On the flip side, when it comes to the majority of the negative things we experience in life—the things that aren’t necessarily traumatizing like, say, a fight with your significant other—we want to go to sleep, because that protects the memory and emotional response.

And Pace-Schott points out that sleep disruption may prevent consolidation of potentially therapeutic memories, sometimes termed 'fear extinction' memories. These are memories that can dull the effect of a traumatic experience by creating more positive associations with specific triggers.] This means that improving sleep quality following traumatic events may be crucial to preventing PTSD.

Ever wonder why little kids nap so much? Researchers believe that it’s not just because they’ve been running around all day—it’s also due to the fact their short-term memory storage space is so small, and they constantly need to unload experiences and consolidate memories more often. One recent study, in fact, found that “distributed sleep” (a.k.a. napping) is critical for learning at an early age. The nap that follows a 4 year-old child getting burnt on a hot stove should help him learn from the experience.

Similarly, the nap following a fight with my wife should, ideally, teach me how to better manage interpersonal conflict. The benefits of sleep on memory don’t go away.

When we wake up from sleep, we feel different. It's not just that time has passed; we've undergone a real chemical response. When we sleep, all the stress systems in our body are damped down, letting it relax, so that tenseness you felt, the sickness in your stomach, the frayed nerves, will all be gone in the morning. “It’s almost like we are different people when we wake up,” says Pace-Schott.

One particular neurochemical, called orexin, may hold the key to the puzzle. Orexin, which was discovered only about 15 years ago, is unique in that it plays a very clearly defined dual role in the body. First and foremost, it’s a crucial element in your daily sleep/wake rhythm. You get a boost of the stuff when you wake up, and it drops before you go to sleep. Studies in rats show that if you take all of an animal’s orexin away, it can no longer effectively control sleeping and waking. Since its discovery, orexin has become one of the key diagnostic criteriafor determining narcolepsy—those with the sleep disorder essentially have none of the neurochemical.

And then there’s the second function: It’s part of the stress response system.

“The orexin system is absolutely hardwired into the sympathetic nervous system,” says Philip L. Johnson, a neuroscientist at the Indiana University School of Medicine. If everything is working normally, when you are faced with a stressful situation, your orexin system kicks in and triggers the stress responses that you expect: fight or flight.

In other words, the same exact neural pathway that handles wakefulness (we can’t even get out of bed without orexin kicking in) also handles a key aspect of our stress response.

Think about this: while narcoleptics do sometimes just nod off randomly, strong emotions are, most often, connected to onset of sleep. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true, says Johnson. For many narcoleptics, strong emotions associated with stress can cause a complete collapse.

Of course, this should sound familiar—it’s not so different than what happens when Brad, LeAnna, Daniel, I, and so many others go head to head with stress. The science on this is still in its infancy, and it remains unclear exactly what’s going on at a chemical level here, but there does seem to be some connection.

In the meantime, sleep doesn’t seem too bad. The problem may still be there when you awake, but you’ll have a better understanding of it, and hopefully, a clear slate to handle it.

Link to article

Brain's Stress Circuits Undergo Profound Learning Early in Life, Scientists Find

Can stress in the earliest days of our lives set us up for how we cope and our preferences to eating comfort food? This study finds evidence for this.

Apr. 7, 2013 — Researchers at the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute have discovered that stress circuits in the brain undergo profound learning early in life. Using a number of cutting edge approaches, including optogenetics, Jaideep Bains, PhD, and colleagues have shown stress circuits are capable of self-tuning following a single stress. These findings demonstrate that the brain uses stress experience during early life to prepare and optimize for subsequent challenges.

The team was able to show the existence of unique time windows following brief stress challenges during which learning is either increased or decreased. By manipulating specific cellular pathways, they uncovered the key players responsible for learning in stress circuits in an animal model. These discoveries culminated in the publication of two back-to-back studies in the April 7 online edition of Nature Neuroscience.

"These new findings demonstrate that systems thought to be 'hardwired' in the brain, are in fact flexible, particularly early in life," says Bains, a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. "Using this information, researchers can now ask questions about the precise cellular and molecular links between early life stress and stress vulnerability or resilience later in life."

Stress vulnerability, or increased sensitivity to stress, has been implicated in numerous health conditions including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and depression. Although these studies used animal models, similar mechanisms mediate disease progression in humans.

"Our observations provide an important foundation for designing more effective preventative and therapeutic strategies that mitigate the effects of stress and meet society's health challenges," he says.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Calgary, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Babies Born to Stressed Mothers More Likely to Be Bullied at School

Can the stress mom's experience while pregnant impact their children into adulthood. There is growing evidence that a baby's wiring and predisposition is strongly influenced by the emotional health of their mother. Read on to discover how.

Nov. 14, 2012 — Children whose mothers were overly stressed during pregnancy are more likely to become victims of bullying at school.

New research from the University of Warwick shows stress and mental health problems in pregnant women may affect the developing baby and directly increases the risk of the child being victimized in later life.

The study has been published in theJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and is based on 8,829 children from the Avon Longtitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Professor Dieter Wolke, Professor of Developmental Psychology at University of Warwick and Warwick Medical School headed up the study.

He said: "This is the first study to investigate stress in pregnancy and a child's vulnerability to being bullied. When we are exposed to stress, large quantities of neurohormones are released into the blood stream and in a pregnant woman this can change the developing fetus' own stress response system.

"Changes in the stress response system can affect behaviour and how children react emotionally to stress such as being picked on by a bully. Children who more easily show a stress reaction such as crying, running away, anxiety are then selected by bullies to home in to."

The research team identified the main prenatal stress factors as severe family problems, such as financial difficulty or alcohol/drug abuse, and maternal mental health.

Professor Wolke added: "The whole thing becomes a vicious cycle, a child with an altered stress response system is more likely to be bullied, which affects their stress response even further and increases the likelihood of them developing mental health problems in later life."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

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Young Adults Are The Most Stressed Generation: Survey

Being young does not mean carefree.  Survey finds young Americans, aged 18-33, are among the most stressed. By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Young Americans between 18 and 33 years old -- the so-called millennials -- are more stressed than the rest of the population, according to a new report from the American Psychological Association.

What's stressing them out? Jobs and money mostly, said Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association, during a Thursday morning press conference.

On a scale of 1 to 10, the millennial generation stands at 5.4 stress-wise, significantly higher than the national average of 4.9, the association found after surveying more than 2,000 Americans.

"Clearly there are a number of pressures facing young people that might account for this increase in stress," Anderson said. "These individuals are growing up in an era of unprecedented economic upheaval. This coincides with the time they are finishing school and trying to establish themselves in society."

Getting a job, starting a family and repaying student loans are all stressful, he added. "They have great difficulty finding jobs because of the higher unemployment and underemployment rates," Anderson said.

These young adults also don't feel they're getting support from the health system. Only 25 percent of millennials give the health care system an A grade, compared with 32 percent of the rest of the population, according to the report, Stress in America: Missing the Health Care Connection.

In addition, 49 percent said they aren't managing their stress well, and only 23 percent think their doctor helps them make healthy lifestyle and behavior changes "a lot or a great deal." Only 17 percent think their doctor helps them manage their stress.

"When people receive professional help to manage stress and make healthy behavior changes, they do better at achieving their health goals," Anderson said.

On that measure, the United States falls short, he said. To lower the rates of chronic illnesses and reduce the nation's health costs, "we need to improve how we view and treat stress and unhealthy behaviors that are contributing to the high incidence of disease in the United States."

Those who get support for stress from their doctor fare much better than those who don't, the researchers said.

People suffering from chronic illnesses report even less support for stress and lifestyle management than Americans without a chronic condition, according to the survey.

Despite seeing their doctor more often than most people, only 25 percent of those with a chronic illness say they get "a great deal or a lot" of stress management support from their doctor. And 41 percent of these chronically ill people said their stress level had increased in the past year, the researchers found.

The disconnect between what people need to manage stress and what the health care system delivers is evident at all ages, the survey found.

For example, 32 percent of respondents said it is extremely important to talk with their doctor about stress management, but only 17 percent said that happens often or always.

Fifty-three percent said they get little or no help with stress management from their doctor, and 39 percent said they have little or no support for other lifestyle issues. Those who felt unsupported were more likely than others to say their stress had increased during the previous year.

This problem is worse for the 20 percent of Americans who consider themselves extremely stressed, the researchers said. Among these people, 69 percent say their stress increased in the past year. Thirty-three percent, however, never discussed their increasing stress with their doctor, according to the report.

The report did find that many people know that controlling stress is important for good health. But for more than one-third of Americans, stress levels are on the rise, they noted.

More information

For more information on stress, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

 

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How to Use Social Jujitsu To Snag New Business

How do you grow your client base? I was recently quoted in an article on expanding your business with confidence.

By: ANN BROWN
Monday, January 7, 2013

Jujitsu philosophy in the workplace Some executive leaders are born with it; other develop it. “Social Jujitsu” is the charisma that draws people and potential clients to you like a magnet. In the martial arts world, at its base the Japanese martial art of Jiujitsu is a method of defeating an opponent without a weapon. "Ju" is usually translated as "gentle, supple, flexible, pliable." And "Jitsu" is translated to mean "art" or "technique." Some experts say you can use the philosophy of jujitsu in the business world as the way to woo and win over colleagues and new business. But as with any art form, you have to develop and master the techniques.

Become more of who you are

The worse thing is to pretend to be someone you aren´t. So don´t fake it. “You don't develop a winning personality. You have one. Don't try to be someone you're not. The trick is letting it out,” says Mike Schultz, president and founder of RAIN, who is also a second degree black belt in Seirenkai Jujitsu. Adds Shari Goldsmith of Shari- Life Coach for Women, “Be you; true-to-you-authenticity is attractive. People can spot dishonesty a mile away.” The basics matter

Don´t throw common courtesy out of the window. Be polite and engaging. “Smile, offer a firm but not death grip handshake and open body language. Light touch is an HR no-no, but it's connecting,” Schultz points out. Do your homework

All clients appreciate knowing you have taken the time to study their company and their needs. They will be more attracted to you and what you are offering. “Know that you are offering your client something they need. Be aware of how you perceive your product or services. You are not simply asking for something from them but potentially solving a problem they have. Inquire about what they want to improve in their lives or business and explain how you can help them,” says Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nerina Garcia-Arcement, Clinical Assistant Professor at Dept. of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine and of the Williamsburg Therapy and Wellness.

Be all ears

Merely rattling off a sales pitch is an empty gesture. Listen to what is being said to you, what is being asked of you. “Listen more than you talk, but don't make it all listening,” says Schultz.

Apply the personal touch

You don´t need to tell a complete stranger or a potential client your life story, but sprinkle in personal bits into your conversation. “Don't be afraid to talk about personal things,” advises Schultz. “When you let your personality and personal life shine through, it can be very comforting to people who care about the same things. You have to find mutual areas of connection to build rapport.” Goldsmith agrees. “People want to do business with people that they like and trust. Focus on letting others see the real you and be consistently kind and honest,” she adds.

And, when you share, seek out information about your client. “Don't see people as just potential clients, see them as individuals you can get to know on a personal basis. Be friendly, look for potential connections and common interests.  This will help everyone feel more comfortable. For example, you both might have small children or enjoy the same sport,” stresses Dr. Garcia-Arcement. “Once you know your clients on a more personal level, this aids in breaking the ice at the next meeting. Inquire about their family, their favorite sport or recent trip. This will help everyone feel like they are doing business with a friend instead of a stranger.”

Throw out bias and discriminatory tendences

Never make assumptions. Not only is it a good rule in life but business as well. “Treat everyone the same, no matter what their station in life. You never know where your future business is going to come from. Don't judge,” says Goldsmith. Dare to be different

Being cookie cutter is boring. You want people to be excited about doing business with you, about having you around. “Be unique--know what makes you different and play it up,” says Goldsmith.

Do unto others..

The “me” generation has come and gone. When possible, help someone on a project. “Help others succeed. Focus on helping others succeed at their goals, and it will come back to you,” says Goldsmith. Confidence is dynamic

If you're timid about or unsure of yourself, your product/services, then how can you expect a customer to be eager to do business with you? “Feel confident in your product or service. Know why the product is worth selling. If you know the virtues of the product or services, it will show in your sales pitch,” advises Dr. Garcia-Arcement.

On call As a small business owner, you´re always on call. You have to be ready to tell someone about your product at a moment´s notice—and with passion. People tend to respond to this approach just because of the sheer enthusiasm. “Prepare the proverbial elevator speech. This speech is best if you don't have a lot of time and want to get the client's attention. What would you say about the product you are selling if you only had a few moments with a client? If you have that prepared and memorized, it will reduce your anxiety the next time you approach a client,” says Dr.  Garcia-Arcement.

Martial arts mindset

Martial arts philosophies can easily be applied to business and business situations. “As far as jujitsu, the best conversation and connection application is a concept called kuzushi. Kuzushi literally means unbalancing, and it's applied as a redirecting of energy from one direction gently but specifically to another,” explains Schultz, author of the bestseller Rainmaking Conversations. “If you know where you want to go in a conversation, you can gently move it down to that path from wherever it's going. But do it subtly. For example, if you want to talk about an exciting project you're working on, don't just start talking..Just ask the other person, 'What's the most exciting thing you're working on.' They'll share, and then they'll ask you. At the same time, they're thinking 'what a great conversationalist,' and you got them to do what you wanted without forcing it.”

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Bounce Back from Setbacks - Help Kids Handle Disappointment

How do you handle disappointment and how are you teaching your child to manage setbacks? I was recently quoted on how to help kids learn to manage when they feel disappointed. Written by Heidi Smith Luedtke, Ph.D.; Photo: PhotoXpress.com

No one – including Supermom – can prevent kids from experiencing setbacks in life. Your daughter may miss the class field trip because she caught a nasty cold. Or she may come home crying when her science-fair project earns a lower-than-hoped-for grade.

Kids’ disappointments are no fun for parents to witness. But kids learn to lift themselves up when they get knocked down. Marriage and family therapist Christina Steinorth, M.A., author of Cue Cards for Life, says parents can help kids learn to bounce back from adversities by taking a teaching role. During tough times, aim to build your child’s coping skills and reinforce the value of persistence. Here’s how.

Acknowledge emotions – Family and art therapist Erica Curtis, MFT, says kids’ setbacks may feel intensely personal to parents. When our kids hurt, we hurt too. “Parents need to clarify their own feelings about the situation,” she says. “A parent may be more disappointed – or may assume the child is more disappointed – than the child actually is.”

Research shows we are biologically wired to catch others’ emotions through a process called emotional contagion. Mirroring others’ feelings promotes and preserves social connections by allowing us to feel empathy. But there is a downside: It’s easy to forget whose feelings you’re feeling. When that happens, you may overreact or respond with ways that amplify your child’s distress instead of helping them regroup.

It’s important to get an accurate read of your child’s feelings about what happened. Sometimes kids share intense bad feelings with parents then move on quickly. Other times, kids may feel truly and utterly devastated. Pay close attention to your child’s words, body language and behavior. All of these things provide insight into kids’ feelings and give clues about how effectively they are coping.

Accept your child’s emotional reaction, even if it seems overblown. “Parents need to be able to tolerate kids’ bad feelings,” says Curtis, even if they are uncomfortable. Take a deep breath and remind yourself parenting is hard. If needed, step back and tend to your own emotions first, so you can give generous comfort and support to your child.

Build coping skills – Start by giving your child a safe place to share their experiences. “The most important thing a parent can do is to listen actively. That means nodding, paraphrasing back what you’ve heard and asking questions instead of offering solutions,” says Curtis. If your child reports, “I wanted our team to be called the ‘Crushers’ but the other guys didn’t listen,” mirror his feelings by responding, “It sounds like you really wanted the team to choose the name you suggested.” This shows you are listening and validates your child’s point of view.

As your child describes the situation in greater detail, “encourage her to identify and label her feelings,” says clinical psychologist and mom Nerina Garcia-Arcement, Ph.D. Assigning specific emotion words to feelings helps kids address them more effectively. A child who says, “I feel angry because my best friend blabbed my secret to everyone else,” is ready to explore potential responses. One who just cries and moans, “It’s awful,” is not. Labeling emotions gives kids a sense of control and composure and decreases the chance they’ll act out in harmful ways to express their feelings.

As your child explains what happened, prompt them to identify potential reasons for the setback. For instance, you might ask, “What do you think got in the way of you running a faster race?” Instead of letting them focus on one or two obvious reasons, encourage your child to come up with more. There is usually a range of factors, both personal and situational, that may have affected an unhappy outcome.

Explore each reason with your child to identify ways they could do things differently next time. This helps your child move from feeling bad to doing better. For instance, noting they felt tired before the race started might lead your child to come up with ideas about eating a snack before the track meet or going to bed earlier. Specific action steps empower kids to bounce back on their own terms.

Encourage your child to write down their intended actions, so they’ll remember the plan. This also reinforces their commitment to change. Offer your support by asking what you can do to facilitate your child’s goals. “Parents have to commit to making changes along with the child,” says Garcia-Arcement. If your child says they need more practice to make first chair in the clarinet section, you may need to tweak the afterschool routine to find more practice time or designate a music-practice space in your home. Bottom line: Do what you can to create a supportive environment.

Pay it forward – After the pain has passed, talk with your child about what they learned. Focus on knowledge gained and skills developed. Perhaps your child learned how to speak up for themselves. Or maybe they built project-planning skills – such as goal-setting and task-scheduling – that they can apply to other endeavors. If your child can’t articulate what they learned, share your own observations. And don’t forget to tell them you’re proud of their improvement. Kids need to know parents notice.

When the next setback happens, remind your child how they handled previous situations and encourage them to apply past learning to present challenges. Be a confidant and a sounding board. Help your child find their own way forward. Then step back and watch them grow through adversity. Responding to disappointment with confidence, grit and good humor is the key to being a happy, successful person.

Heidi Smith Luedtke, Ph.D., is a personality psychologist, mom of two and author of Detachment Parenting. Learn more at heidiluedtke.com.

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Mental Illness and Marriage

I was interviewed on how mental illness affects marriage and how to cope. Listen to the podcast.

What kind of impact does mental illness have on a marriage?

In today’s society, it’s becoming more and more common for individuals to be living with some sort of mental health condition or illness like anxiety or depression. And while there are many issues and conditions that present themselves in different, unique ways, oftentimes the effects on a marriage are very similar.

In addition to anxiety and depression, some people suffer from more extreme conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems. When these issues creep in without the proper treatment, their impact on a marriage and the individual can be fundamentally problematic. In some situations, the partner without the condition will have to pick up the slack for the other. And in many cases, couples will begin to suffer from tension and exhaustion within their marriage.

Our guest today is Dr. Nerina Garcia, a clinical psychologist with Williamsburg Therapy and Wellness in Brooklyn, NY. Nerina is here to give us some advice about how couples and individuals can learn to cope with mental illnesses within marriages while building a network of support.

To find out more about Nerina and her practice, visit her website or call (917) 816-4449.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

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What Can I Do to Help? 5 Things You Can Do for Someone With Cancer

I was quoted regarding how to help and offer support to a loved one with a cancer diagnosis.

2 0 1 2Aug13

What Can I Do to Help? 5 Things You Can Do for Someone With Cancer

Posted by Staff

When it comes to a loved one being diagnosed with cancer, it can be hard to know the right things to do for them. Everyone has different preferences and ways of dealing with hard times, but there is always something you can do! Here are the best tips and pieces of advice from those who should know best!

1. Send letters, care packages or gift cards that offer a little extra support and help.

My coworkers went together and got me a very generous Visa Giftcard that we could use anywhere to help offset some of our gas, medication and other miscellaneous costs. This was incredibly nice and generous of them and really came in handy at a time when we needed some relief. -- Laura Ybarra, currently undergoing chemo for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Choose gifts that are personal and useful that they will appreciate. My favorites are an e-reader that can be downloaded with books by that person's favorite author or an iPod shuffle that can be loaded with their favorite music. These are great welcome distractions during the long hours of chemo or waiting in a doctor's office. -- Lisa Lurie, cancer survivor and co-founder of Cancer Be Glammed.

Visits may be too much for someone who is severely ill or weak from treatment. If that's the case, get some greeting cards and mail one each day to the patient. Yes, snail mail -- it brightens someone's spirits to know they're thought of. Include jokes, affirmations, inspirational sayings and cartoons. -- Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author.

2. Think of the other family members and caregivers. They need support, too!

If the person has children, schedule a few outings or daytrips with them. The parent can rest and recover at home, knowing that the kids are safe and having fun. -- Stacey Vitiello, breast cancer physician and radiologist.

Reach out to the spouse, parent or significant other to ask them what you can do to help. They will know best. Offer to bring a meal, do grocery shopping or any other errand with which they may need assistance. -- Helen Szablya, Peritoneal Carcinomatosis survivor.

If you’re not the main caretaker, ask that person how they’re doing. Offer them support. Give them a break. Bring over a dvd movie, a piece of fruit, some cookies—something for the caretaker alone, or that they can share. Give the caretaker has a few hours of “me time” while you stay with the patient. -- Claudia Mulcahy, breast cancer surivivor.

3. Keep things as normal as possible by being yourself and doing activities together!

I needed to live everyday as though my cancer was not there. Even if it is just doing one activity that the person loves and can handle. Let them decide to a degree to what they can handle as well.-- Laura Ann Tull, breast cancer survivor.

Be yourself and be present. Don’t shy away and disappear and don’t try to be another person. They want the person you were BEFORE the cancer diagnosis. -- Susan Bratton, Chief Executive Officer of Meals To Heal.

Encourage them to get out of their home. Come over and take a walk with them, drive them around the block or simply sit outside with them. -- Nerina Garcia-Arcement, Ph.D Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

4. Ask, don’t assume.

Instead of assuming what they need, simply ask. Many friends and family of patients think that they should already know what they need, and what they should be doing for them. They will appreciate your straightforwardness. -- Molly Tyler, Director of e+CancerHome.

Ask if the patient wants to get phone calls, and then call within the acceptable hours to give news, or to listen, but don't make the patient do the talking unless he or she wants to. -- Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and author.

5. Suggest support programs and websites.

Encourage the cancer patient or their support team to create a website so they can post the progress and not receive a million calls each day. -- Helen Szablya, Peritoneal Carcinomatosis survivor.

When someone is going through treatment for an illness, it’s hard for them to answer the phone and stay in touch with all the people who want to talk to them. Caring Bridge is a great service that they can use to keep everyone informed about how they are and in addition people can send them good wishes. -- Lisa Lurie, cancer survivor, co-founder of Cancer Be Glammed.

Encourage your friend or family member to join a cancer support group, this form of social support can extend their life. -- Nina Garcia-Arcement, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist.

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Organizing Your Life

I was recently on the Colin Lively Show, discussing how to declutter your mind.  The entire show was filled with helpful tips on how to better organize your home, office and mind. The description for the show is below:

Oh lord, if this show wasn’t sent from on-high, than it was Hildamae’s dying wish coming true: get Colin to clean his room! So, there it is, the cat is out of my Birkin bag: I can be rather messy. But aren’t we all? Whether it be in mind, life, schedule, desk, purse, closet, or your inbox, somewhere you are a little messy; and a little messy can lead to a great deal of stress. It is, as Dawn Falcone put it, “stuck energy.” For me, Consuelo un-sticks my stuck energy four times a week, but that doesn’t cover all my bases: I still need to go to Dr. Feldheim, my therapist, and Dr. Koplowitz, my psychiatrist, to get my mind in order.

I was stunned to learn that our outer world is very much a reflection of our inner world. For instance, a messy desk can be a sign of a stressful work environment or chronic work overload. It is important to create systems that keep our lives orderly and neat. We do not need to be neat freaks, but organization is one of the keys to happiness. Growing up, we polished the silver under the iron fist of Hildamae, she said the harder we scrubbed the more we would feel her love. Boy was she right! Three hours of polishing spoons made my wrist feel so loved that they were practically stuck in an arthritic state until my mid-40s. “Sheets tight enough on which to bounce a quarter,” she would demand. By the time I went to college, I had had enough Old Dutch Cleanser, Clorox and Bon-Ami running through my blood that I vowed never to clean again. And I have not touched a mop since!

This week I will be speaking with three personal organizers and a psychologist, and we are going see how we can change our state of mind with a Swiffer, or two, or forty-seven.

This week I will be speaking with three personal organizers and a psychologist, and we are going see how we can change our state of mind with a Swiffer, or two, or forty-seven.

Dawn Falcone is not only passionate about organization, she knows it has a HUGE impact on personal sanity, success, and overall stress level. She emphasizes the point that reducing clutter and chaos will ultimately bring reward in the form of clarity, serenity, and time. She works closely with her clients to design spaces that reflect their personality and spirit. Dawn is a proud member of the (National Association of Professional Organizers) and is a certified interior environmental coach. Her work has appeared in many publications including: Real Simple, Woman’s World, Home And Garden Television, and Apartment Therapy.

Bonnie Joy Dewkett is the founder of The Joyful Organizer and is an organizing expert, author, motivational speaker, and radio personality – oh and she is an expert in time management! Boy oh boy does she know how to block-out a day!

Andrea Brundage of Simple Organized Solutions (S.O.S.) offers personalized hands-on organizational solutions to help small-to-medium sized business owners and homeowners function in efficient and organized environments. In partnership with its clients, S.O.S. creates “sensible solutions for your organizational needs.”

Dr. Nerina Garcia-Arcement is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Clinical Assistant Professor, in the Dept. of Psychiatry, at NYU School of Medicine. She specializes in challenges associated with life transitions, stress, anxiety, and depression.She provides a holistic therapeutic session by using a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and insight oriented/psychodynamic techniques to identify current problems, develop individualized strategies to ease stress, and gain insight into understanding one’s patterns in behavior. Dr. Garcia strongly advocates the act of self exploration, which helps us understand the way we think and act, it will also help shed light on our behaviors that worked in the past but are not effective any longer.

Link to podcast/show

Organizing Your Life

How Are You Coping With the Recent Mass Shootings?

I was quoted on the important topic of PTSD and typical reactions to mass shootings and trauma. In this I share tips on how to cope after a trauma.

By Rheyanne Weaver  |

The two mass shootings in the last couple of months have been on the minds of many Americans, especially because they took place in seemingly safe places -- a movie theater and a temple. Experts have suggestions for how the general public and victims can cope with such saddening and scary events.

Nerina Garcia-Arcement, a licensed clinical psychologist, said in an email that she previously worked with 9/11 survivors. “Unfortunately many people do not seek help for mental health problems following a trauma and most people wait an average of 10 years to seek mental help,” Garcia-Arcement said.

“A majority of my 9/11 clients sought help six to 10 years after 9/11. By this point many were isolated from all social support, had difficulties working as they avoided public transportation and public spaces, and suffered from chronic stress due to fear of the ‘next terrorist attack.’"

She hopes that victims of recent shootings get help from mental health professionals sooner in order to cope with trauma. There are a plethora of mental health issues that could result from being a victim of a shooting.

“The closer the person was to the event, the more emotionally impacted they are likely to be,” Garcia-Arcement said.

“For people directly affected by the recent shootings, it is common to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety (including panic attacks, generalized anxiety and phobias related to the attack, such as social phobias or fear of the dark) and depression symptoms.”

“It is a normal reaction for people to re-experience or remember the event, have nightmares, feel sad and scared, be hypervigilant, avoid reminders of their trauma and isolate from people,” she added. “This is the mind trying to process and make sense of what happened.”

“Survivors of the [Colorado] shooting will find that things like the smell of popcorn, popping sounds, the dark, being in crowded spaces or watching a movies might trigger reminders of their experience,” Garcia-Arcement said.

“These are normal reactions that can be managed with deep breathing, relaxation exercises and positive self talk (i.e., ‘this is just a reminder, it is not happening again. I am okay. I am safe.’). For many survivors, those in the theaters and injured, survivor's guilt is common.”

People who were not directly involved in the shooting can still suffer from slight mental health issues as well, such as “sadness, horror and anxiety,” and avoidance of reminders of the shootings.

Here are some tips from Garcia-Arcement to help people cope with the recent shootings:

1) “Offer each other social support, as individuals and as a community.”

2) “Remind yourselves that this was an isolated horrible event that happened to good people. It was not their fault.”

3) “My strongest recommendation is that survivors and the general public do not avoid reminders of the trauma and do not isolate. It is instinctive for people to avoid things that remind them of their trauma. Unfortunately once they begin avoiding going to movies or spending time in crowded spaces, it often escalates to avoiding more and more things. They begin to misinterpret the fact that they are safe simply because they avoided going to the movies, instead of forcing themselves to go to the movie and realizing they are safe.”

4) “A person should seek mental health support if they are feeling overwhelmed by their reactions to the shooting. If after a few months they find they are still experiencing PTSD, anxiety or depression symptoms, they ought to seek a therapist that could help them process their normal reactions.”

Robin Zagurski, a licensed clinical social worker, works with adults and teens who have gone though traumatic experiences. She said in an email that a major indicator that professional mental health is needed after a mass shooting is if people are unable to function in their daily lives.

She suggested keeping the same daily routine in order to distract from thinking about the recent shooting, and taking care of one’s overall health and well being.

She said that it’s difficult to plan for rare shooting situations, but to be aware of any “leakage” statements, where a future shooter may tell someone or post on the Internet what their plans are.

Don’t assume these statements are merely threats. Reporting this to authorities could potentially save lives.

“Think ... of maintaining your safety in all environments, especially for hazards that have a higher likelihood,” Zagurski said.

“For example, always know where the exits are in any building in case of fire. Practice evacuations so that you know how to get out safely. If someone talks to you about hurting themselves or others, report it to authorities immediately.”

 

Link to article

Social Anxiety Can Be a Hidden Problem in College

I was quoted on the topic of social anxiety, its causes and how to cope or treat the symptoms. by Rheyanne Weaver |

Public speaking is generally not a favorite activity of most people—in fact many people seem to fear public speaking or at least avoid it when they can. But most people are also not crippled with embarrassment or anxiety when they have to present in front of a class or when they are called on to answer a question. For students with social anxiety, being put into the spotlight occasionally during class presentations or participation is enough to make them avoid those classes altogether.

New research from the University of Plymouth and University of the West of England (UWE) Bristol looked at the impact of social anxiety in higher education, and psychologist Phil Topham estimates that “10 percent of university students experience significant social anxiety,” according to a news release from UWE Bristol.

Social anxiety disorder or social phobia is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) as “a marked and persistent fear of social or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur.” There are several other diagnostic criteria, including that “the social or performance situation is avoided, although it is sometimes endured with dread.” People are only diagnosed with the disorder if their life is significantly negatively impacted.

Out of over 1,500 students who were surveyed, some students experienced “frequent anxiety in learning situations that involved interacting with students and staff.” To cope with this anxiety, students would not participate in lectures and presentations or would even skip class. Other students wouldn’t take any classes that involved presenting at some point, according to the news release.

The researchers conclude that students who experience social anxiety “could be missing out on learning opportunities and may be distracted from attending to academic information by excessively focusing on their anxieties.”

Although the researchers don’t believe students should be treated as potentially fragile and coddled, there needs to be more support available for students with social anxiety without further stigmatizing these students or making them feel like their “flaws” are exposed. The researchers even give some suggestions for support in the university, including “not singling out students for questioning in lectures or setting assessed presentations in their first term,” and “sensitive appreciation of the shame and conflict caused in students by the desire to succeed and the fear of failure.”

Basically, college professors need to take into consideration the styles of all college students—some love the spotlight, others have social anxiety, so it’s best to ease students into participating and presenting during class.

Mental health experts have some tips on how to succeed in high school and college despite having social anxiety.

Nerina Garcia-Arcement, a clinical assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine and a licensed clinical psychologist, gave one major suggestion in an email to help students who are experiencing social anxiety.

“Do not avoid what you fear,” Garcia-Arcement said. “The more you avoid, you are creating evidence that it is more comfortable to not do something. Instead, if you face what you fear you can slowly prove that your worst fears will not be realized.”

She also suggests that students follow these four steps to take control of their anxiety:

  1. Stop and evaluate what you are feeling (i.e., butterflies in your stomach, sweating, trouble breathing, heart racing).
  2. Stop and evaluate what are you thinking (i.e., “people will laugh at me,” “I will fail,” “I will look ridiculous.”)
  3. Practice activities that will reduce the physical symptoms, such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation exercises and imagining yourself in a safe place.
  4. Challenge your negative thoughts by stopping the critical belief and instead replace it with a positive thought such as “people have never laughed before,” “I can do this,” “looking silly is the point of this activity, and if I do look silly so what.”

There are effective treatment options for students who have access to a mental health professional.

“Talk therapy is extremely effective for social anxiety, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. Medication can be taken in severe cases, Garcia-Arcement said. “Learning to manage the physical anxiety symptoms and stopping and controlling the negative thoughts is essential to controlling social anxiety. Sometimes people can do it on their own, sometimes they need help with monitoring thoughts and feelings and figuring out what gets in the way of using these new skills.”

She has three other tips for students who are trying to decrease their social anxiety:

  1. Practice deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and exercise. These help manage and control anxiety.
  2. Ease into social activities, first with smaller groups and eventually, as you feel comfortable, with larger groups.
  3. Practice what you fear in a controlled environment. First practice the presentation or talking to a stranger in front of a mirror, later practice in front of someone you trust such as a friend or parent, then go into the real situation.

Scott Carroll, a child psychiatrist who works at the University of New Mexico, said that part of the problem can be that some students don’t realize they have an issue that needs to be worked on.

“Many people with social phobia … often just think they are shy and don’t realize they may have a treatable condition,” Carroll said. “Also, if someone has been anxious their whole life, they may not realize they are significantly more anxious than other people.”

Once students do realize they have a disorder, they have a variety of treatment options available to them, including individual psychotherapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), social skills therapy groups, and multiple types of medications.

Carroll has two other coping methods for college students who have social anxiety disorder: positive self-talk, in which you reassure yourself that it’s okay to talk or say hello, can be helpful with milder forms; and repeated exposure, which leads to decreased anxiety, like joining Toastmasters to get comfortable with public speaking.

Jeffrey Gardere, a contributing psychologist at Healthguru.com, said in an email that it’s beneficial for students with social anxiety to have friends they can rely on to come along with them in situations that could cause more anxiety.  Sometimes self-help books can be useful as well.

“The young person with social anxiety may also want to stay away from stimulants such as energy drinks and caffeine in order to avoid becoming even more nervous,” Gardere said. “And certainly [try] to avoid liquor, marijuana or any other chemical that is a self medication in order to feel relaxed, simply because they may be more at risk for possible addiction.”

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Coping While You Wait For Medical Test Results

In this article I am quoted on typical reactions to the unknown, such as stress and anxiety, and how to manage your feelings and cope with the uncertainty. By Rheyanne Weaver  |

Waiting for the weekend to come or a long-desired vacation can bring excitement, but what happens when you’re waiting for something nerve-racking, like medical test results and a potential diagnosis?

Experts explore the connection between fearing the unknown (which can happen when you’re waiting for medical test results), and provide tips for how you can keep positive in a potentially negative situation.

Nerina Garcia-Arcement, a licensed clinical psychologist and a clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, said in an email that fearing the unknown is something we all experience at some point in life.

“Fear of the unknown (especially when [the] outcome can be negative) is a normal human reaction,” Garcia-Arcement said. “That is why many avoid going to the doctor to begin with. They fear hearing that they are ill or whatever they imagine.”

Besides the common fear and anxiety that can be associated with waiting for medical test results, there are other emotions and thoughts that people can experience.

“Other common emotions are numbness ... worry, sadness and guilt (that they didn't go sooner and now might be ill) and concern about how this might impact their lives, plans and families,” Garcia-Arcement said.

So now that you’re waiting for medical test results, how can you cope with some of these negative emotions you may be experiencing?

“[The] best way is to acknowledge what they are feeling, normalize it/know that it is normal to feel that way, and then use healthy coping strategies to deal with what they are feeling,” Garcia-Arcement said. “If they are anxious and worried, do breathing exercises, distract themselves with activities and people they enjoy, do visualization exercises or any other type of self-care activity that will help them ‘get through’ until they receive their diagnosis.”

If you’re almost positive that the medical test results you’re waiting for will lead to a diagnosis of some kind, there are some ways you can prepare yourself for this potentially devastating situation.

“I have my patients imagine worst case [scenarios],” Garcia-Arcement said.

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