Seasonal Depression, also known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) affects nearly 15 million adults in the U.S. SAD is a form of depression that comes from seasonal weather changes. Most often, you can expect to experience these dips in your mood beginning in the fall months and continuing throughout the winter.
The symptoms that you may expect to see in someone suffering from SAD include the following:
-Feelings of depression that last nearly all day, every day
-Losing interest in activities
-Having thoughts of hopelessness, guilt, or even death
-Decrease or increase in appetite
-Feeling sluggish and having low energy
-Weight changes, either loss or gain
So, what causes SAD? Are there particular risk factors that make one more prone to it? SAD can be caused by a disruption in your circadian rhythm, meaning the reduction of sunlight can disrupt your internal clock. Additionally, this reduced sunlight can decrease serotonin levels making you more prone to feelings of depression. Finally, the change in the seasons can affect your balance of melatonin, which in turn will affect your mood and sleep patterns.
How does one cope with SAD? What can you do to improve seasonal depression or even prevent it from happening?
Common treatments include light therapy, medications, and psychotherapy. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is an activity where you sit near a light box, exposing your mind and body to bright light immediately after you wake up. Light therapy can work by mimicking sunlight, therefore, altering brain chemicals linked to feelings and mood. Medications, specifically antidepressants, can help alleviate symptoms caused by SAD.
Lastly, psychotherapy is an effective treatment option for SAD. Many professionals use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which is a form of psychotherapy, to help their patients through SAD by working to identify and then change the distressing thoughts that are causing their SAD symptoms. You may be encouraged to take part in activities that relax the mind and body such as Music therapy, Yoga, Meditation, or Art therapy. Utilizing techniques that can allow you to feel grounded can be beneficial in alleviating symptoms of SAD.
While SAD can be challenging, it certainly does not have to consume your life. SAD is a disorder that can be diagnosed and treated, like most other mental health disorders.
Emotional abuse occurs when a partner engages in behavior to embarrass, insult, or instill fear in their partner. Emotional abuse is a tactic used to make someone feel weak which leads to the abuser gaining control. Emotional abuse can occur in a variety of relationships such as parental, romantic, friendship, or even professional.
The following are signs that you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship:
Your partner uses coercion and threats:
ex: threatening to leave
ex: threatening to hurt themselves
ex: forcing you to drop charges or engage in illegal activities
Your partner uses intimidation:
ex: making you feel afraid by choosing violence
ex: abusing pets
ex: destroying property
Your partner uses emotional abuse:
ex: making you feel bad about yourself
ex: name calling
ex: embarrassing you
ex: making you feel guilty
Your partner isolates you:
ex: your partner limits your outside activities
ex: your partner controls who you talk to, who you see, and what you do
Your partner minimizes, blames, and denies:
ex: making light of the abuse
ex: not taking the abuse seriously
ex: denying that any abuse happens
ex: blaming you for the abuse happening
Your partner uses your children:
ex: using children to communicate messages
ex: threatening to take your children away
Your partner uses male privilege:
ex: making all the decisions
ex: defines the men and women’s roles
ex: treating you like a servant in the home
Your partner uses economic abuse:
ex: preventing you from keeping your job or obtaining one
ex: preventing you from reaching your professional goals
ex: making you ask for money or giving you an allowance for your basic needs
If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, there are ways to get help. It is important to acknowledge that the behavior is not your fault and the abuser most likely won’t change their toxic behaviors.
When you leave an emotionally abusive relationship, it is crucial to accept help and support from your friends, family, and a mental health professional.
The Real Sleep Remedy: Sleep Hygiene— 7 Steps towards getting the best night’s rest so you can dream deeply!
1.) Use a sound machine: Sound machines help to block out distracting noises. Most sound machines produce relaxing sounds such as waves, rain, crickets, and white noise. By blocking distracting noises and producing soothing sounds—this enables the most perfect environment to drift peacefully into sleep.
2.) Create a sleep routine: Try to create more structure for your evening routine. Structure can include taking a soothing bath before bed, getting into bed at a certain time, and/or meditating for 10-20 minutes before bed. Additionally, consider reading before bed, listening to a sleep story(Calm app), or having a cup of decaffeinated tea. These light activities can help soothe the mind and body. The routine of getting into bed and giving yourself enough time to transition from your daily activities is essential for dreaming peacefully.
3.) Put away all screens at least an hour before bed: Unfortunately it’s the nightly routine for so many of us-- hop into pajamas, put the lights down, get comfortable in bed and then… reach for the cell phone. It’s the way of our current culture, especially while we are constantly using our screens to connect with the world. If you can, try putting your phone on “do not disturb” mode or silent when you go to bed and face your phone down on the table--screen first. It is recommended to cut off screen time 1 hour before bed. Try this with all screens including TV’s and computers as well.
4.) Try to make your bed as comfortable as possible: Being comfortable is known to help you fall asleep faster. When you are comfortable, your body can unwind and you can fall asleep with ease. Being comfortable means your body can relax. If you are uncomfortable, you will constantly be readjusting to find the right position hence disrupting your sleep. Comfort has a direct affect on the quality of your sleep, the relaxation of your thoughts, and can affect the tone of your dreams.
5.) Try not to eat at least an hour or more before you go to bed: An increased metabolism may be caused by a pre-bedtime meal. According to research, an increased metabolism causes the brain to become more active which can possibly lead to nightmares. If you notice that you have more bad dreams after having a late-night snack or meal, try setting a goal to avoid snacking and heavy meals right before bed.
6.) Avoid drinking caffeine post 3PM: Caffeine stimulates your nervous system which explains why we love it to start the day. Unfortunately, It also hinders the neurotransmitter called Orexin that tells your brain when you should feel sleepy, explains Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine
(http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/science/how/neurophysiology) The research shows that caffeine directly stimulates brain activity, even during sleep, which can lead to nightmares. If you experience nightmares, consider easing up on the caffeine intake especially in the afternoon and evening.
7.) Imagine the type of dream you would want to have: Lastly but most importantly-right before you go to bed, think about relaxing thoughts such as playing in a field or feeling loved and at peace. Studies have shown that if you try to focus on calm-lighthearted images before bed, you will dream more peacefully.
Agoraphobia is a DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed.) diagnosis assigned to individuals who have a disproportionate fear of public places, often perceiving such environments as too open, crowded, or dangerous. An anxiety disorder, agoraphobia can manifest in symptoms of distress and panic, disrupting sufferers’ everyday lives. Agoraphobia can be caused by a variety of factors, such as associated health conditions, genetics, and your environmental stressors. More specifically, you are at higher risk for developing agoraphobia if you already suffer from panic disorder or have another phobia.
How you handle panic attacks and stress can have a direct correlation to you being at risk for developing agoraphobia. Do you have an anxious or nervous personality? While this does not guarantee you will become agoraphobic, it does put you at a higher risk. In addition, it is important to note the risks of being agoraphobic. Due to the limit on your life’s activities and socialization, agoraphobia can be linked to depression, substance abuse, and other associated mental health disorders. Accepting treatment will be a huge step but can ultimately change the trajectory of your life.
The most common treatment for agoraphobia is a combination of psychotherapy such as Exposure therapy and medication. I find that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, is very helpful in reducing fears. The skills in which you teach a client will help them to learn how to tolerate their anxiety and challenge it in a way that gives them the power to return to the scenarios that once frightened them. The medications that are used in conjunction with psychotherapy are often either antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. You do not have to use medication alongside psychotherapy in the treatment of agoraphobia. This will depend on the severity of the case and the patient’s clinical symptoms and physical history.
Agoraphobia is a phobia, which means it is occurring in your mind. Like other phobias, this is something that can be worked with. While it may be challenging and come with assorted struggles, this phobia does not have to rule your life. With proper treatment and care, this is something you can overcome.
Below are 10 texts to send to a stressed-out partner:
1. What happened to set this off? Do you want to talk about it? If you want to be left alone, I understand and respect that too. Never forget that I am always here to listen and help you through any challenge.
-This message shows that you are genuinely interested in why your partner is stressed and willing to give them what they need.
2. I am sorry you are going through this. What can I do to help you through this?
-This message shows compassion and the eagerness to help and support them.
3. Let us go take a walk when you get home if you’d like. It may be useful to let off some of this steam brewing.
-This gives your partner something to look forward to. Knowing they have an outlet to release their emotions may help them get through the day.
4. Take some deep breaths in and out, in and out. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 4 seconds, and then release for 8 seconds. If you’d like, I can do this with you until you feel a bit more relaxed.
-This gives them a physical way of relieving the stress. This message is important because it is giving them an activity to try and something to redirect their mind towards.
5. I want you to try and put your phone down and your computer away. Disconnect for an hour and let your mind calm down.
-This message showcases the importance of disconnecting from electronics which could be possibly adding to their stress.
6. Have you talked to your boss about the stress you are experiencing regarding this project? Perhaps you can find a solution together.
-This text is useful if the stress is coming from work. If your partner is unsure how to approach the problem, you may be able to help them through that.
7. I know things have not been easy for us, but I believe we can overcome this. Why don’t we sit down this evening and have an open and honest discussion about this?
-If your partner is stressed from a personal issue, this type of message shows that you are acknowledging the problem and address it head on.
8. Remember that time you slipped on the banana peel? Life can be that silly and carefree again. This will pass.
-Sometimes, humor and a good laugh can relieve stress. Feel free to fill in the example to make someone laugh. Distracting someone might help them in the moment.
9. If I have done anything to add to the stress, please talk to me about it. Let’s work through this together as one solid unit rather than two pieces alone.
-Similar to other examples, it is important to show your support and empathy while your partner is going through this struggle.
10. Why don’t we plan a nice day together this weekend? How do you feel about going to the nature preserve?
-This message can lead to a longer conversation about making fun plans, which can distract them from whatever they are feeling stressed about.
Challenges are placed in your life to help you grow. If life was simple and easy, would you ever be challenged to change? Probably not! Change happens when you are uncomfortable and forced out of your comfort zone. Challenges are there to provide you with an opportunity to expand your horizons, open your comfort zone, and thrive in ways you never could have imagined.
Another way to view challenges is to think about it in this way: Have you faced challenges in the past? Have you been able to successfully overcome them? After you answer these two questions, look back on these challenges and remind yourself what has positively changed because of it. What have you since been able to accomplish? Are you a stronger person now? Finally, remind yourself that you have survived challenges before, and you can do it once again. You are strong enough to overcome whatever life throws at you because you have developed the skills needed to do this. Do not be afraid of challenges- they are only there to help you.
After a long day of work, many people often wonder what they can do to relieve stress and relax. I find that these 10 tips are the most helpful to my clients:
1. Take a warm bath with essential oils and calming music
2. Dance and/or sing it out to your favorite song
3. Take a walk around your neighborhood
4. Nourish your body with a well-balanced meal
5. Hydrate with a refreshing glass of water
6. Participate in a 5-10 minute guided breathing exercise on a meditation app
7. Enjoy a conversation with a loved one
8. Play with your pet if you have one
9. Read a chapter in a leisurely book
10. Exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes
Those who undergo treatment for substance abuse experience a variety of different symptoms. Some symptoms include anxiety, trouble sleeping, nausea, sweating, muscle aches, nervousness, and even hallucinations. Anxiety is one of the most primary symptoms. Anxiety occurs because the body is detoxing and adjusting to various chemical changes and bodily processes. During these processes, you may experience a temporary period of anxiety. The most important factor for people to remember is that this is a normal feeling. Your body is adapting to the changes going on and therefore, anxiety is expected So, what can you do to help minimize these feelings of anxiety?
1. Work on developing grounding exercises to keep your mind and body calm as the anxiety hits. Some grounding techniques include focusing on your feet as they hit the ground and objects around you that you can touch. Tactile resources can help keep you grounded and focused on the present moment.
2. Find a safe place where you can take deep breaths and focus on your core.
3. Purchase a diary or journal where you can write down and express fears, worries, and emotions that come through your brain during these anxious times. Writing these feelings out on paper will allow for a healthy release and in turn relaxing your mind and reducing anxiety provoking thoughts.
4. Learn how you can engage with the “happy hormones,” such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Simple tasks such as laughing, dancing, engaging with nature, and eating certain foods can boost your mood and help with your anxious feelings.
5. Consider speaking with a mental health professional as they can provide you with a safe outlet to discuss your feelings and give you targeted coping skills to get past these turbulent times.
These times may be challenging, and the anxiety can be overwhelming. However, the most important thing to remember is that this is a phase and as your body adjusts to the chemical changes, your anxiety will begin to fade. Surround yourself with a support system, develop strong and realistic coping skills, and remember that anxiety can be fleeting. Just as you have conquered your substance abuse, you can conquer this anxiety too.
Recurring anxiety can happen for many different reasons. It can be due to a body memory, which means that your body is remembering getting anxious at specific times. For example, if you have suffered a previous trauma, your body might remember the exact time of day it occurred. Therefore, you have an anxious reaction at that specific time because your body learned to experience that feeling from a previous traumatic event that occurred.
Recurring anxiety can also occur due to a lack of proper sleep, nutrition, and water. This can cause low blood pressure and low blood sugar, which in turn can lead to an increase in anxiety. Nourishing your body with proper nutrition, a sufficient quantity of water, and developing a solid, steady sleep routine can help as you work to lessen these anxious occurrences.
All of this is completely normal. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. Some experience it consistently, at random times, and or at recurring times of the day. There are skills that you can develop and routines that you can engage in to help prevent and overcome these anxious feelings.
Here are my 4 tips for coping with recurring anxiety:
1. Try to investigate the feeling to determine the root cause and ask yourself the following questions: Could there have been a past trauma that may have caused this? Is there a specific trigger that is causing this to happen? When did these feelings start? Am I properly nourished with food, sleep, and hydration?
2. Change the environment that you are in when the anxiety occurs. Provide yourself with a safe space to release your emotions and become one with your body and mind. In reconnecting with your body, the mind relaxes—hence anxiety reduces.
3. Find a release for the anxiety or coping mechanisms such as taking deep breaths, taking a walk, relaxing in a warm bath, calling a friend, or dancing to your favorite song.
4. Prepare a list of daily mantras to say that encourage you to get through your anxious moments such as, ‘this is temporary and will pass,’ or ‘anxiety is just a feeling and there is no immediate threat or danger.’
Panic attacks can come on suddenly, without reason, and leave one in a total panic of what to do. Do you know what you can say to someone who is experiencing one? There are many things that you can do and say to someone who is in these moments of the unknown. Next time you encounter someone in a panic attack, try telling them one of these wonderful suggestions below!
Everyone experiences anxiety and panic in different ways. There is no perfect thing to say to help someone who is struggling with panic, but we hope that these tips give you some insight into how you can best help someone close to you.