Can a relationship survive infidelity? Many do. This is a wonderful and insightful talk about the whys and hows of surviving infidelity.
Click on the Ted talk link to view Esther Perel's discussion of infidelity.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to change and children experience change frequently. This is a great article with useful and concrete phrases and strategies to help little ones with their worry and anxiety.
What is mindfulness and how do you start practicing? Being aware of the here and now, using all your senses to be present in the moment without judgment. Easy mindfulness exercises to start practicing include noticing everything when you shower or wash dishes, that first drink or bite of food.
Can therapy be as effective as antidepressants? A new study shows that mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MCBT) is more effective.
Are you pregnant or recently had a child? Are you feeling angry/irritated, numb, have brain fog, insomnia, and/or physical discomfort? These are all signs of postpartum depression. Read more here.
Can a relationship survive infidelity? Many do. This is a wonderful and insightful talk about the whys and hows of surviving infidelity.
Click on the Ted talk link to view Esther Perel's discussion of infidelity.
Your friend is sick? What to say can be truly stressful. You worry about whether acknowledging and bringing up their illness will remind them that they are sick or upset them. When people are sick, they don't forget. But saying something that is insensitive or invalidating can make it worse. Read on for some simple suggestions on what not to say to a sick loved one.
Do you practice any of these unproductive mental health habits? This article discusses the most common pitfalls that people engage in that hurt our mental health and why they are so damaging.
Depression is usually brought on by factors beyond our control—the death of a loved one, a job loss, or financial troubles. But the small choices you make every day may also affect your mood more than you may realize. Your social media habits, exercise routine, and even the way you walk may be sucking the happiness out of your day, and you may not even know it. Luckily, these behaviors can be changed. Read on for 12 ways you’re sabotaging your good moods, and what you can do to turn it around.
How we feel can affect the way we walk, but the inverse is also true, finds a study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Researchers found that when subjects were asked to walk with shoulders slouched, hunched over, and with minimum arm movements, they experienced worse moods than those who had more pep in their steps. What’s more, participants who walked in the slouchy style remembered more negative things rather than positive things. Talk about depressing.
Get happy now: Lift your chin up and roll your shoulders back to keep your outlook on the positive side.
Parents get conflicting information about what is best for their children's health and development. Screen time is no different. As a result, it is easy for parents to feel guilty for not following the strict recommendations of no screen time for children younger than 2 and an hour for kids older than that. This article discusses changes to these recommendations. Its not about the number of hours alone, but the quality of the interaction.
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.
This is an amusing Ted talk about positive psychology, a focus on resilience and strength. Dr. Shawn Achor shares insights into how we can become more positive and in turn become more productive and creative. There are simple steps you can take to reprogram your mind into a more positive frame of being and acting.
From Ted website: We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity. (Filmed at TEDxBloomington.)
Ever wonder what happens in the brain when you are curious? Why does being curious help you learn? In a new study on curiosity, these questions are answered.
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.
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.
"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.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
Does depression make quitting smoking more difficult? This study seems to find that treating depression does help people quit smoking. Read more to find out.
Sep. 19, 2013 — Studies have shown that people with depression are about twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as people without depression and they are less likely to successfully quit than smokers without depression. A new evidence review in The Cochrane Library finds that depressed smokers may stop smoking longer and benefit overall from mood management interventions after they quit smoking.
The researchers studied 49 randomized controlled trials, including 33 trials that focused on smoking cessation with a mood management element for those with current or past depression. The analysis compared both smoking cessation programs using psychosocial interventions, like counseling or exercise, and those using bupropion, an antidepressant to standard non-smoking programs.
When psychosocial components were added, smokers were able to stop smoking for longer periods. While bupropion was effective for those with a history of depression, it was not found to be effective for smokers with current depression.
Gregory L. Kirk, M.D., director of Rocky Mountain Psychiatry Consultants, LLC in Denver, who agreed with the review’s findings, emphasized that smokers with depression, past or present, have more medical problems from smoking and higher death rates from smoking-related illnesses.
“In a standard smoking cessation program, people with depression are more likely to have negative mood changes from nicotine withdrawal, but the non-depressed group can experience mood states as well. But when depressed smokers quit, depression symptoms may actually improve. This makes it all the more critical to understand this high-risk group of smokers and what helps them quit tobacco,” he said.
Do you sometimes fee like your partner is wrong for you? This article explores whether this is exactly why they are right for you. by Alicia Muñoz, LPC
Recently, I met a friend for coffee. He and his fiancée had spent the last six months preparing for their upcoming wedding day, designing the invitations and menus, selecting flowers and photographers, mapping out the most dynamic seating arrangements for their guests. My friend had finally met a woman who gave him the space he needed to pursue his interests and dreams, but who also kept him close emotionally. She was uncomplicated and smart, passionate and kind, and they shared some important interests, including cross-country skiing, Sudoku puzzles, and gourmet cuisine. When I asked him how things were going, it was clear from the expression on his face that something was worrying him.
“I’ve been depressed,” he whispered, glancing furtively around the room. “Before you got married, did you get cold feet?”
“What exactly do you mean by cold feet?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, leaning closer but still whispering. “Suddenly, I’m not interested in hugging or cuddling or sex. It’s just – how can I put it? – my fiancée is boring.”
“Really,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m not sure I’m in love with her.”
“Well, it sounds like you’re right on track.”
“On track?” he said. “I feel awful. She’s wonderful and affectionate. She takes care of me. And I’m having these horrible thoughts.”
As a couples therapist, I have a different perspective on what might be considered deal-breakers or crisis moments in relationships. My friend was struggling with what virtually every couple I’ve ever worked with has had to deal with at some point, and for most couples, at many points in their relationship. I myself have certainly had my fair share of hands-on experience of the same phenomenon in my own marriage. It’s not so much “cold feet,” although plenty of research now proves that with time there is indeed a “cooling off” of the initial chemical love-rush that according to neuroscientists bears an uncanny resemblance to the high of synthetic drugs, activating the same regions of the brain associated with reward and euphoria. I think it’s more helpful to view what my friend was experiencing as the flip side of a projective process that goes hand in hand with falling in love.
When we commit to someone romantically, we can see our beloved as possessing positive traits we admire and perhaps even think we lack: patience, warmth, sensuality, spirituality, depth, strength, superior intelligence, charisma, worldly know-how. We amplify and focus exclusively on our beloved’s positive traits. This allows us to feel more complete, and perhaps less inadequate, when we are with them. Unfortunately, this idealization of our beloved also boomerangs in the opposite direction. Maybe it happens before the wedding, or maybe on the second day of the honeymoon when your wife snaps at you for misplacing the room key. Or maybe you get a longer grace period until the twins are born. The bottom line is, one day, you wake up next to Mr. or Mrs. Not-So-Right. He or she is stingy, insensitive, selfish, complacent, domineering, critical, negative, sloppy, arrogant, passive, or – as my friend had concluded about his fiancée a few weeks before they were scheduled to marry – boring. Your beloved can even seem a bit like the “enemy,” a hybrid version of people who have hurt you in the past: a critical mother, an absent father, an abusive aunt, or a shaming brother.
Of course people really do sometimes have major flaws, such as when partners are abusive or engage in destructive or dangerous behaviors, and if these problems can’t be worked through in therapy or with the assistance of other professional helpers, it may be best for the relationship to end. However, often the flaws we see have more to do with our own reactivity than with our partner’s inherent incompatibility with us.
In most couples therapy modalities being used in counseling offices today, an important part of the process of learning to resolve conflicts and find common ground involves understanding your own reactivity. This includes exploring how your past impacted what you view as good and bad ways of being in the world. If we can recognize and understand our judgments, we can admit they exist.
Engaging in this process is half the battle – or better said, half the healing. It can help with the shame couples experience about their feelings, or the terror that comes from thinking “I’ve made a big mistake.” It also offers partners an opportunity to reclaim their lost, denied, or disowned parts – the positive and negative characteristics and traits they unconsciously gave up in order to find acceptance within their families of origin and communities. When we explore the intensity of our reactivity to our partners, we often discover that the visceral revulsion we feel emotionally toward certain things they say or do is rooted not in them or even in the present, but in our own private history.
In other words, it didn’t really matter whether or not my friend’s bride-to-be was boring. Maybe she was; maybe she wasn’t. Her being boring or not boring wasn’t the point. What mattered was what being boring signified to my friend. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” By understanding what lies at the root of our judgments, we can put our reactivity in perspective and create enough space to love again with greater awareness.
“Come to think of it, being boring was a cardinal sin in my family,” my friend told me with a laugh. “I grew up surrounded by brilliant people: academics, artists, writers, musicians. You could be arrogant or self-destructive, you could even be a criminal and still belong. But you could not be boring.”
This put his feelings about his fiancée in a new light.
Ultimately, marriage and other committed relationships offer us the opportunity to see, make peace with, and embrace our full humanity. Our partners act as catalysts, bringing to the surface parts of ourselves we still reject and project onto others – the parts psychoanalyst Carl Jung conceptualized as the Shadow. The more we are able to understand ourselves with all our shadow impulses, fears, and desires, the more peace we can create in our marriages and relationships. This, in turn, extends out into our work as teachers, politicians, writers, executives, government workers, therapists, artists, poets, men and women in the military, pastors, nurses, doctors, and laborers of all kinds. Carl Jung believed that if we learn to deal with our own shadow, we are essentially activists shouldering a part “…of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” By no means an easy task, or one that can be perfectly accomplished, it’s a worthy aspiration and an ongoing spiritual practice.
References: Jung, Carl (1938). Psychology and Religion: West and East. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11. p.140
When you think about being bullied as a teenager, would you include your teachers as the culprits? I was recently quoted in an article exploring the negative impact of teacher bullying and how to cope. Publication: Girls' Life Author: Abbondanza, Katie Date published: August 1, 2013
"She said a 6-year-old could do better work."
"He criticized every little mistake I made."
"She called me stupid in front of the whole class."
As tough as it is to report, each of those statements came straight from GL readers discussing their very real experiences with bullies. But these bullies aren't fellow classmates - they're teachers.
We grow up thinking that teachers are kind, trustworthy and fair. And most are. But that's why the reports of educators singling out and berating students are troubling. This isn't girls being sensitive or overreacting to one-off comments. Teacher bullying is happening in classrooms across the nation. In fact, a 2012 study found that 45 percent of the 116 teachers surveyed copped to bullying a student. And the effects can be devastating to girls' self-esteem.
While it may seem harsh when your teacher doles out a detention after you flaked on the homework for the third time, if that's her rule for everyone, it's not bullying. Rather, teacher bullying is typically defined as using a position of authority to either manipulate or belittle a student past what's accepted as normal discipline, according to Dr. Stuart Twemlow, who has researched this topic.
It's important to remember that teachers are human, so they may lose their cool on a stressful day. But repeatedly lashing out or acting controlling is different. Name-calling, singling someone out, overreacting to the point that a student is afraid or physically intimidating or hitting a student all count as bullying or abusive behaviors.
Miranda H., 17, knows firsthand what it's like to be bullied by a person in power. During her sophomore year, she was harassed by her band instructor after a scheduling conflict didn't allow her to sign up for two periods of music.
Due to her other classes, Miranda, a talented saxophone player, had to take a seat in a less prestigious ensemble.
"I was one of his favorite students freshman year, but he made my sophomore year terrible," she says. "He would yell and be cruel, saying I was a 'disgrace to the band.'"
Just as scary, Miranda's teacher blamed her for his outbursts, a classic trait exhibited by abusers. He told her if she had just done what he wanted, he wouldn't have to call her out all the time.
"It was terrible," she says, adding that she'd go home in tears nearly every day. "I was constantly on edge, and I couldn't concentrate in my other classes."
Miranda's father talked with the band teacher at one point, but he denied any abusive behavior. And though she took all the right steps, his reaction made her feel like she was wrong, which is typical among bullying victims.
"If a teacher is calling you inappropriate names or repeatedly singling you out for minor mistakes [which are different from behavioral issues], know that you did nothing wrong," says Jennifer Musselman, a therapist who works with teens.
It's easy for students to feel powerless in these situations, but all the experts we spoke with stressed the importance of talking to your teacher before things escalate. In some cases, he or she might simply have high standards for you and be inadvertently treating you differently than the rest of the class. Regardless of the reason, you have to say something.
Where to start? Be direct. You should bring up exactly what's bothering you, whether it's the way your teacher ignores your hand when you raise it or how it hurts your feelings when she teases you, even if she's joking.
Mention that you've noticed it more than once. Maybe your teacher isn't aware her behavior is bothering you, and all it will take is a quick after-class conversation to get her to back off.
Of course, confronting your teacher doesn't always guarantee success. Maggie L., 17, had an eighth-grade art teacher who constantly singled out her work. She loved to draw, but her teacher always criticized her. One day, Maggie spoke up and asked what she could do to improve her piece.
"Well, if I were you, I'd throw it out and start over," the teacher told her, even though she was almost done with the entire assignment.
"Sometimes, her comments hurt my feelings." Maggie confessed. "Teachers are in such a powerful position. No matter if you like them or not, their opinion of you really matters. It's very different from classmates being judgmental or not liking you."
Maggie's thoughts get to the heart of why teacher bullying is so troublingand why girls have to continue to defend themselves even after that initial chat with their teacher.
"[If a teacher's behavior is] starting to affect your self-esteem or your grade, it's time to take your concerns to a trusted adult like your mom, dad, school counselor or another teacher," says Jennifer. She recommends documenting the day, time and what the teacher said so you can have a record of what happened.
"Be very clear on what the teacher is saying or doing that is causing you to feel this way," she says. "If possible, list any classmates who can vouch for you."
Ask your parents to talk to the teacher with you, and give them your written list of concerns and incidents. They might decide it's time to talk with the principal or the vice principal, who will hopefully remedy the situation. In the meantime, focus on your work and, if necessary, ask for extra help from a friend or school counselor.
Truth is, just one semester with a toxic teacher can negatively influence your life for years to come, which is why it's extra important to deal with the damage before it's too late.
Miranda, the one-time band star who was bullied, ended up quitting her instrument altogether by the time junior year rolled around.
After having her teacher read her English paper out loud and then call her stupid, Nina J., 14, is now afraid to make her presence known in class. "I never raise my hand in class anymore, because I'm afraid she will make me feel dumb," she admits.
Nina's case may be extreme, but the psychological effects of dealing with a toxic teacher can linger long after class is dismissed. Dr. Nerina GarciaArcement, a clinical psychologist, says to put your feelings down on paper - either by journaling or writing a letter to your teacher that you don't send. Talking with a school counselor also can help sort through the issue.
A Fresh Start
If all else fails, know you can remove yourself from the situation if you and your parents talk with the school's administration. "If the teacher doesn't change, it may be time to transfer out of that class," says Jennifer.
Take Emily M., 15, who eventually decided to take it one step further. She switched schools after her former school's only drama teacher picked on her endlessly.
"He'd say I'm obnoxious and ugly and annoying and stupid. That there was no way I'd ever be an actress," Emily says.
In the end, Emily made the tough decision to transfer, opting for a fresh start. "As hard as it was to leave, it would have been even harder to continue to deal with that teacher," she says. "I'm finally back to my old cheerful self. I'm a lot happier as a person now."
But even if the cruel comments cease or you remove yourself from dealing with critical remarks by changing classes or schools, check yourself for any persistent habits you may have picked up during that time period - like not speaking up in class or thinking you're not good at a certain subject - just because a bully teacher told you so.
"Try to figure out, 'How did this impact me?'" says Dr. GarciaArcement. And then, if you realize you're scared or are avoiding something you used to love, figure out a plan to get involved again - away from the watchful eye of your toxic teacher.
Miranda, who quit playing saxophone because of her experience, could form a jazz band with some friends outside of school. Maggie, who stopped believing in her artsy abilities, could take a lowpressure drawing class at a ree center.
And remember, while it's unfair that you have to deal with a bullying teacher, know that most educators are supportive, professional people who want to see you go far. So for every toxic teacher in this world, there are hundreds of others out there ready to guide you in the right direction. Keep an eye out for the ones who will truly help you shine.
Meditating doesn't just reduce anxiety, it can make more aware of your surroundings and the needs of others.
Apr. 1, 2013 — Scientists have mostly focused on the benefits of meditation for the brain and the body, but a recent study by Northeastern University's David DeSteno, published in Psychological Science, takes a look at what impacts meditation has on interpersonal harmony and compassion.
Several religious traditions have suggested that mediation does just that, but there has been no scientific proof -- until now.
In this study, a team of researchers from Northeastern University and Harvard University examined the effects meditation would have on compassion and virtuous behavior, and the results were fascinating.
This study -- funded by the Mind and Life Institute -- invited participants to complete eight-week trainings in two types of meditation. After the sessions, they were put to the test.
Sitting in a staged waiting room with three chairs were two actors. With one empty chair left, the participant sat down and waited to be called. Another actor using crutches and appearing to be in great physical pain, would then enter the room. As she did, the actors in the chair would ignore her by fiddling with their phones or opening a book.
The question DeSteno and Paul Condon -- a graduate student in DeSteno's lab who led the study -- and their team wanted to answer was whether the subjects who took part in the meditation classes would be more likely to come to the aid of the person in pain, even in the face of everyone else ignoring her. "We know meditation improves a person's own physical and psychological wellbeing," said Condon. "We wanted to know whether it actually increases compassionate behavior."
Among the non-meditating participants, only about 15 percent of people acted to help. But among the participants who were in the meditation sessions "we were able to boost that up to 50 percent," said DeSteno. This result was true for both meditation groups thereby showing the effect to be consistent across different forms of meditation. "The truly surprising aspect of this finding is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous -- to help another who was suffering -- even in the face of a norm not to do so," DeSteno said, "The fact that the other actors were ignoring the pain creates as 'bystander-effect' that normally tends to reduce helping. People often wonder 'Why should I help someone if no one else is?'"
These results appear to prove what the Buddhist theologians have long believed -- that meditation is supposed to lead you to experience more compassion and love for all sentient beings. But even for non-Buddhists, the findings offer scientific proof for meditation techniques to alter the calculus of the moral mind.
Practicing mindful meditation lights up the parts of the brain that control thinking emotions such as worry are activated. Anxiety levels are reduced.
June 4, 2013 — Scientists, like Buddhist monks and Zen masters, have known for years that meditation can reduce anxiety, but not how. Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, however, have succeeded in identifying the brain functions involved.
The study is published in the current edition of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.
For the study, 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety were recruited for the study. These individuals had no previous meditation experience or anxiety disorders. All subjects participated in four 20-minute classes to learn a technique known as mindfulness meditation. In this form of meditation, people are taught to focus on breath and body sensations and to non-judgmentally evaluate distracting thoughts and emotions.
Both before and after meditation training, the study participants' brain activity was examined using a special type of imaging -- arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging -- that is very effective at imaging brain processes, such as meditation. In addition, anxiety reports were measured before and after brain scanning.
The majority of study participants reported decreases in anxiety. Researchers found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings by as much as 39 percent.
"This showed that just a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help reduce normal everyday anxiety," Zeidan said.
The study revealed that meditation-related anxiety relief is associated with activation of the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex, areas of the brain involved with executive-level function. During meditation, there was more activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls worrying. In addition, when activity increased in the anterior cingulate cortex -- the area that governs thinking and emotion -- anxiety decreased.
"Mindfulness is premised on sustaining attention in the present moment and controlling the way we react to daily thoughts and feelings," Zeidan said. "Interestingly, the present findings reveal that the brain regions associated with meditation-related anxiety relief are remarkably consistent with the principles of being mindful."
Research at other institutions has shown that meditation can significantly reduce anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety and depression disorders. The results of this neuroimaging experiment complement that body of knowledge by showing the brain mechanisms associated with meditation-related anxiety relief in healthy people, he said.
Support for the study was provided by the Mind and Life Institute's Francisco J. Varela Grant, the National Institutes of Health grant NS3926 and the Biomolecular Imaging Center at Wake Forest Baptist.
Co-authors are Katherine Martucci, Ph.D., Robert Kraft, Ph.D., John McHaffie, Ph.D., and Robert Coghill, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist.
How do you grow your client base? I was recently quoted in an article on expanding your business with confidence.
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.”
Want to be more creative? Practice open monitoring meditation. Apr. 19, 2012 — Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University, published 19 April in Frontiers in Cognition.
This study is a clear indication that the advantages of particular types of meditation extend much further than simply relaxation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we think and how we experience events.
Two ingredients of creativity
The study investigates the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity: divergent and convergent styles of thinking.
Analysis of meditation techniques
Colzato used creativity tasks that measure convergent and divergent thinking to assess which meditation techiques most influence creative activities. The meditation techniques analysed are Open Monitoring and Focused Attention meditation.
Different types of meditation have different effects
These findings demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. After an Open Monitoring meditation the participants performed better in divergent thinking, and generated more new ideas than previously, but Focused Attention (FA) meditation produced a different result. FA meditation also had no significant effect on convergent thinking leading to resolving a problem.
Work place holiday parties can be a time to connect with co-workers in a different friendlier setting. Yet for many it can also be stressful and awkward. Stressful because individuals are familiar with their workplace expectations, they have scripts or rules they follow on a regular basis, yet holiday parties create the opportunity for a different social interactions that does not follow familiar rules. It is a blending of expectations that can create stress and uncertainty about how to behave. One common way to cope with stress or anxiety is drinking alcohol, sometimes to excess. Some drink as a way to numb or avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, yet it can lead to problems if done at work. Over drinking at the holiday party can create problems in the workplace if you behaved inappropriately while drunk. Although this is a "party" it is still work related and those rules of conduct still apply. Sober and drunk behavior reflects upon who you are as an employee.
If you tend to over drink at holiday work parties, here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from overindulging.
1. Explore what triggers you to drink. Such as: Do you feel anxious when you walk into the party alone? Do you worry about having to speak to certain co-workers? Do you find it difficult to say “no” when encouraged to have another drink by coworkers?
2. Prepare yourself before the event by engaging in stress reduction activities. If you know that interacting socially with co-workers is stressful or anxiety provoking try activities such as deep breathing, imagining yourself in a peaceful place, reading a chapter of a favorite book, and/or progressive muscle relaxation.
3. Create a plan to managing your feelings and triggers before and during the party. Recognize your triggers and walk away from them or surround yourself with positive supportive coworkers that don't encourage excessive drinking.
5. Invite a friend to attend with you or shorten the length of time you stay at the party if you know the party is a trigger and difficult to manage by yourself. You are not expected to stay for the entire time.
If you are concerned about how stressed and anxious you feel when faced with an invitation to a social gathering or that you over drink when at parties, then you ought to consider speaking to your primary care physician or a mental health provider to evaluate if these actions are a sign of a more serious problem such as depression, an anxiety disorder, or substance abuse disorder.
Psychologists are helping young couples stay afloat financially in increasingly turbulent economic waters.
By Rebecca Voelker
October 2012, Vol 43, No. 9
Print version: page 48
Troubled young couples who see Brad Klontz, PsyD, in his Kapaa, Hawaii, psychology practice often end up talking about more than their relationship with each other: They find themselves discussing their relationship with money, too.
"Some of the symptoms bringing them in—feeling depressed, feeling anxious, having panic attacks—they may not know how much the role of money is playing in those symptoms," says Klontz, a clinical psychologist and certified financial planner.
Unprecedented levels of student debt, high credit card debt and a dismal job outlook have presented some young couples with financial challenges their parents and grandparents didn't have to face. These days, more psychologists are stepping in to help couples tackle their financial burdens. Money stresses are nothing new for couples just starting out, but trying to resolve them in therapy is.
"There is a much greater awareness now among general psychologists that this is a very important issue to explore," says Philadelphia psychologist Maggie Baker, PhD, also an expert in financial issues.
To respond to the growing need for psychologists to talk to their clients about money management, Atlanta financial psychologist Mary Gresham, PhD, is spearheading an effort to launch an APA division of financial psychology. She's circulating a petition supporting its creation, and financial planners welcome her efforts.
"A trained, educated psychologist is a necessary component in certain financial planning relationships," says Paul Auslander, president of the Financial Planning Association. Some couples can benefit from behavior modification techniques to curb runaway spending or make spending compromises, he says. "But I suspect that there aren't enough financially trained psychologists to help couples coping with recession repercussions."
A common scenario that brings on financial turmoil for newlyweds is that although they may have lived together before marriage, they failed to discuss their financial union before they said "I do," says Gresham. "They had operated under the roommate plan, where each one pays half of the expenses or one pays one set of bills and the other pays another set," she explains. But as they settled into married life, neither spouse knew what was going on with their partners' money. "Then they can't figure out how to collaborate, how to mix the money together."
Gresham looks at four issues with every couple: "math," values, emotions and process. To begin helping couples work through these issues, Gresham asks the couple to take an objective look at how they spend their money, using tracking software so they can see how their income is distributed among rent or a mortgage and other commitments. Baker takes a similar approach in beginning her work with couples. "It's important to get facts into the room," she says.
Seeing how much cash disappears in a $4 latte or a meal out can be a sobering experience. "The emotions start to come in all through this process," says Gresham. That's when she probes more deeply, asking couples about how their perceptions of money growing up affects them as adults. For example, children of cash-careful families may hoard their money as adults, while free-spending families may have kids who later on can't hang on to a paycheck. The reverse can happen, too.
"If a spender marries a hoarder, over time there's bound to be conflict," says Baker. "The spender loves the immediate gratification of spending, but for a hoarder it's almost painful to spend money."
In Hawaii, Klontz is conducting research to understand couples and their finances, surveying 422 adults ages 18 to 80, with varying levels of income, education and net worth. His research, published last year in the Journal of the Financial Therapy Association, shows that younger adults are more likely than their parents or grandparents to have potentially damaging "money scripts"—subconscious beliefs that drive their financial behaviors. He found that adults 30 years old and younger were most likely to be "money avoiders" who become anxious, fearful or even disgusted when the conversation turns to money. Younger adults also were more likely to equate net worth with self-worth and to believe that the more money they have, the happier they will be.
These beliefs, Klontz says, are linked with lower income and net worth. People with these views may set themselves up for financial failure by simply ignoring money issues, giving assets away, gambling excessively or compulsively buying things they want but can't afford. "Very often in my work with couples, conflicts over money are really the result of conflicting money scripts," he says.
He uses a psychodynamic approach to examine clients' experiences with money in childhood. Living with a workaholic parent who pursued an ever-bigger paycheck but never was at home or being in a family that neglected life's necessities because parents hoarded cash could trigger present-day money troubles. "The more emotional the experience, the more rigidly these beliefs become locked in place," Klontz says.
Healing begins, he says, when a couple can open up to each other and be empathetic. "They may have very different attitudes about money, but if they can hear each other and respect each other, then they can come to a compromise" about sound money management.
"They become a money team instead of money adversaries," Gresham adds.
Life transitions are difficult for all involved. This article addresses the struggle of letting your child grow and become independent, while still being a concerned parent. I am quoted on common illnesses college students experience and how to help while letting your child gain independence. By Vanessa McGrady
So your baby’s grown up and gone away to college. You’ve packed her full of good advice and loaded her up with enough technology so that you could find her at the bottom of the sea, if it came to that. But no matter how independent college students become, nearly every parent gets that call home at some point: “Mom, I’m so sick.”
It’s a helpless feeling, and you might wrestle with a decision to go visit or bring your child back. Typical ailments for college students include viruses, gastrointestinal infections or "stomach flu,” mononucleosis and food poisoning. A university health service also fields cases of sexually transmitted diseases and injuries from accidents—some which involve alcohol. (These of course, happen only to other people’s children.)
You can’t drop everything to tend to each new boo-boo, but there are things you can do to help prevent trips to the clinic.
“It is very common for college students to get colds and the flu. This happens most often around midterms and finals season. Stress lowers the immune system and makes it easier to ‘catch bugs,’” says Nerina Garcia-Arcement, a licensed clinical psychologist at New York University School of Medicine.
RELATED: College Prep: Communication
You can’t drop everything to tend to each new boo-boo, but there are things you can do to help prevent trips to the clinic and, in the worst-case-scenario, the emergency room.
“Parents can help by offering support, reminding their kids to practice stress management, socialize to reduce isolation and increase social support, eat well and exercise. Care packages that encourage this are encouraged,” says Arcement.
A big part of preparation for college is to make sure your kids have the basics of self-care down, says Dr. Claudia Borzutzky, Lead Physician at University Park Health Center for University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. That includes:
RELATED: Coping With College—as a Parent
Borzutzky says it’s also important to make sure kids understand their new campus's student health center hours and what kind of care they can access there. They should have a copy of their health insurance card and know what to do in an urgent medical situation.
You’ll also want to ensure that your kids' vaccinations are all up to date, including meningococcal vaccination, HPV vaccination (now recommended for both women and men), and annual influenza vaccination or the “flu shot,” especially for those with asthma or other chronic medical conditions.
One thing that may frustrate you, as your college student grows into adulthood, is that while you can always provide information about your child’s health to his doctor, you no longer can request information without your child’s written permission. If your child is under 18, privacy laws for issues such as mental health, drug use and reproductive health vary depending on the state.
“Learning to deal with minor illnesses without a parent close by is part of the separation and maturation process older adolescents need to go through as they approach young adulthood,” Borzutzky says, “However, in the case of more significant or prolonged injuries or illnesses, students will need to use their own best judgment about their ability to cope on their own without extra support, and parents and family are, of course, an essential part of their care and recovery when that is not the case.”