The new month and turn of the season (even if it seems like winter is never-ending) provides us with the opportunity to set new intentions for ourselves. Whether you’ve been successful at sticking with your new year resolutions or not, each month/week/day is a chance to start again. You may also have the urge to “spring clean” all aspects of your life and here are a few intentions to set us on a fresh start for the month and spring.
Enjoy the new month to put a spring in your step!
-THERAPY WEST STAFF
Raising teenagers can be a literal headache at times: moodiness and angst, slammed doors and mumbled words. But when is “usual” teenage angst something to be concerned about? In the Wall Street Journal article, “How to Spot Teenage Depression” by Elizabeth Bernstein, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “In 2016, around 13% of U.S. teenagers ages 12-17 had at least one major depressive episode in the past year, compared to almost 8% in 2006…[additionally] almost 60% of adolescents with a major depressive disorder didn’t receive treatment. Parents don’t always identify the problem—or know what to do about it even when they do.” Many teenagers are moody, but being able to identify when they might professional help is so important.
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued updated guidelines for the first time in a decade in order to screen and better diagnose adolescent depression. While most adults are able to self-identify whether they are feeling depressed or morose, adolescents are not often mature enough to articulate these feelings. Read more of the article here and review these steps below if you feel your child may need professional help.
Keep the lines open: Ask questions without being critical. Although this sounds easier than it is, asking questions and just listening to your child may be what they need to open up to you about their feelings. Validating their feelings is so important, and although you my not agree with them, letting them know “Yes, I hear what you are saying” provides them with support they may need.
Find a therapist: A licensed and experienced child and adolescent Cognitive Behavioral Therapist can help identify what is going on with your child and provide effective treatment. Read more about our services here.
Talk to your community: If you feel something more is going on with your child than just “teenage angst” ask others in your community if they have noticed differences with your child. The school, teachers, friends, and other family may be able to provide insight on whether something more is going on with your child.
- therapy west staff
In the wake of the Florida school mass shooting, we find ourselves once again in mourning for the loss of innocent lives. The shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 dead. This was not the first, second, or third school shooting of 2018, but the 18th school shooting since January 1, 2018. That is one every 2.5 days. The recent Wall Street Journal article, “Florida School Shooting Renews Debate Over Gun Access and Mental Health” by Jacob Gershman, touches upon the call for greater restrictions on obtaining firearms for those with mental-health problems without violating civil-liberties or stigmatizing mental illness.
While federal law bans the sale of firearms to anyone who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” by a lawful authority or involuntarily committed to a mental institution, this still leaves room for those with undiagnosed mental illnesses or under-diagnosed mental illnesses to purchase and obtain firearms. States have the power to enact various legislation regarding firearms that give authorities more legal channels to strip firearms from potentially dangerous owners or ban/confiscate guns, however, these State laws vary significantly State-to-State. Additionally, although it may seem obvious for those with mental or psychological illnesses to be prohibited from purchasing firearms, mental illnesses largely go untreated or are not overtly obvious, causing those who may be a risk to themselves or others to stay largely under the radar and still possess the ability to purchase firearms.
The article states that, “A 2004 study by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education, conducted after the attack at Columbine High School, surveyed “targeted school violence” and found that only one-third of perpetrators had ever received a mental-health evaluation and fewer than 20% had been diagnosed with mental-health or behavior disorder before the attack.” This survey is of note because it indicates how under-diagnosed and/or the lack of mental-health evaluations that are completed in specifically school-shooting perpetrators, demonstrating the difficulty on how to successfully put more restrictions on purchasing firearms on those with mental health issues when they largely go undiagnosed.
While this important to consider within the mental health community and potentially enhancing restrictions for those with diagnosed mental-illnesses or psychiatric problems, the larger issue at hand is the need to change policy on obtaining firearms, period. We need our elected officials to enact commonsense gun control. According to Everytown For Gun Safety, “Research shows—and cops will tell you—that common-sense public safety laws reduce gun violence and save lives.” There are more than 35,000 gun deaths in the US every year. This is something that needs to change. Visit Everytown to learn more about gun-safety and the common-sense laws and policies that can save lives.
- Therapy West Staff
Embracing the new year seems to come with a multitude of resolutions, intentions, habit-changes, and commitments that more than likely we will have trouble keeping beyond even week one. As we find ourselves in the midst of January, perhaps you are struggling to stick with it or have already thrown in the towel. Take a minute. Take a breath. This is hard, but you are stronger than you know. Try to reset your view of your goals/resolutions/commitments etc. Look at whatever is challenging you in small steps. Break it down to changes that aren’t as daunting as, “I’m not doing XYZ ever again,” and look at it as, “I will stop doing this part of XYZ, and then work on the next piece.” For example, if you are trying to abstain from ALL sugary foods, pick your biggest sugar vice to go without. Don’t deprive yourself from ALL sugary foods. Depravation can lead to lapses, which can lead to feeling defeated and giving up altogether.
Another way to attack your goals is to look at them in a logical way:
1. These are habits that I want to change
2. I know I have the power to develop new habits
3. Yes, it takes willpower, but I know it is possible
According to the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, understanding our habits and how they impact us will help to change them. Habits are at the core of everything we do and when we look at them for what they are – a 3-step loop comprised of a cue, routine, and reward – we can begin to understand how to change them. Duhigg states that when we substitute just one part of the loop, the routine, we can shift our habit altogether. By changing the routine, the experience of the habit still remains in tact. We are still receiving the same cue and reward, only changing the action in the middle. For example, say you love having a canned diet soda with your lunch every day. You sit down to lunch, pull out your soda, pop the tab open, and take a sip. In this scenario, sitting down to lunch is the cue, drinking diet soda is the routine, and the reward could be a multitude of things – the bubbles, the taste, the sound of the can opening, etc. If you are trying to stop drinking diet soda, the simplest way to change this habit is to substitute your diet soda for a canned seltzer. The routine of sitting down for lunch, opening the can, and drinking, all remains the same. You are still having the same experience that you crave, only you’ve changed the diet soda habit for a canned seltzer. Duhigg provides interesting comparisons and stories about habits and how they effect our lives at home, in the office, and socially. He also touches upon the most important habit, willpower, and how it is possible to strengthen it over time.
Check out his book for a fun, motivating read this new year. His real-life examples and comparisons make the concepts easy to grasp and teaches the reader how to understand habits and why they are so important in all aspects of life, not just during our short-lived new year resolutions.
- Therapy West Staff
As we have been told many times over, exercise provides us with vast benefits to our health. Consistent exercise has not only physical benefits, but cognitive and mental health benefits as well. In a recent study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, researchers studied the combined effect of physical exercise and cognitive brain training for working memory and processing. The research found that the combined effect of exercise and brain training, provided healthy, young adults with lasting benefits for the brain.
Brain training has gained momentum over recent years as a way to improve the brain’s “plasticity”. Games and apps have been developed in order to “train” and “exercise” our brains, focusing on working memory, processing skills, logic, as well as verbal skills. These activities focus on “working out” our brains, as we work out other muscles in our bodies. This study from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, is important because it shows the importance of not only physical exercise, but mental exercise as well and how they benefit from each other. Exercising both our bodies and our minds increases our overall health and provides the best boost to our memories and working minds.
To read more check out the article in the New York Times, Exercise May Enhance the Effects of Brain Training by Gretchen Reynolds.
- Therapy West Staff
Over the past few months, there have been various articles and studies reporting a correlation between ADHD and sleep disorders. The Washington Post writes, “What if, as a growing number of researchers are proposing, many kids simply aren’t getting the sleep they need, leading to challenging behaviors that mimic ADHD?” Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) states, “Growing evidence has shown sleep disorders are more common in individuals with ADHD...” And, most recently, the Wall Street Journal’s article “Could How You Sleep Be Linked to ADHD?” by Sumathi Reddy on November 6th, 2017, reporting a correlation of ADHD adults and a lack of a regular circadian sleep. In the article, Reddy discusses the research of Dr. Sandra Kooji, an associate professor of psychiatry at UV University Medical Centre in Amsterdam. Dr. Kooji has found that ADHD may be caused by a lack of regular circadian sleep. “Her research found that 78% of adults diagnosed with ADHD have a delayed-sleep phase or circadian rhythm, which means they…don’t get sleepy or tired enough to fall asleep until 2 or 3 A.M.”
These findings are extremely fascinating and could mean a new approach of how we treat individuals with ADHD. However, these studies complicate diagnoses due to the similarity between symptoms of both sleep disorders and ADHD. Inadequate sleep in children and adults and ADHD can both induce hyperactivity, impulsivity or behavioral problems. As frustrating as this is, it is important to remember that screening for sleep disorders should be done when evaluating any behavioral or academic problems. According to CHADD, “Screening for possible sleep disorders should be a part of the evaluation every person with behavioral and/or academic problems, especially ADHD.” If clinicians suspect there may be a sleep disorder present, further evaluation and screenings will be done. As more momentum gains with the correlation between sleep and ADHD, studies will begin to chip away at the cause of growing ADHD rates in children.
Regardless of ADHD or a sleep disorder, sleep is important for all. For those who have difficulty falling asleep or sleep poorly, here are some tips for getting a more restful night of sleep:
- Therapy West Staff
Here’s the funny part of this title…. You never want actually to be stress free. In fact, having some level of stress is vital to our functioning in life. If we didn’t have some level of stress, we’d stay in bed all day, sleep or, possibly, be dead. Think about it, without some level of stress we don’t take action.
Let’s talk about the types of stress and why you need it.
Distress and Eustress. Distress, ‘the bad kind’ of stress or anxiety, is a negative feeling state that can leads to dysfunction. For example, if your mind is racing and your heart rate increases during an exam, you are likely to perform poorly on that test. This type of stress does not help us; in fact it hinders our functioning. It is best to reduce this type of stress.
Eustress, aka ‘the good stress,’ is heightened arousal that leads to optimal performance. In fact, this type of stress usually feels good! Take that same exam for example. Your heart rate increases and you find that you become even more focused on the task at hand. Maybe you had successfully studied the night before and you feel overwhelming confidence. You feel more like Stephan Curry shooting the ball with 3 seconds left in the NBA Finals than a rookie who is forced to take the shot. You know you’re going to hit ‘nothing but the net.’
So, don’t worry if you are feeling a moderate level of anxiety. It is probably a good thing! We’ve known this to be true since the early 20th century. A team of psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson discovered this finding in 1908, which describes this truth. If you want to learn more about this law of stress as it relates to performance, Google it!
Dr. Jeffrey Kassinove and Dr. Kevin Giangrasso
“The smartphone has become a repository of the self, recording and dispensing the words, sounds and images that define what we think, what we experience and who we are.”
Both fascinating and disturbing, the Wall Street Journal article, “How Smartphones Hijack Our Minds” by Nicholas Carr, responds to the growing problem of our reliance on our smartphones. Research has found that with our dependence on smartphones, our intellect weakens and our phones breed anxiety, even when out of sight or not in use. These findings are extremely frightening, given the reliance we place on smartphones and the utter despair many feel when parted with our phones.
One study, conducted in 2015, found, “…when people hear their phones ring but are unable to answer it, their blood pressure spikes, their pulse quickens, and their problem-solving skills decline.” In another study, conducted at the University of Essex, researchers found how much our social skills and relationships can suffer due to our phones. They found that the “…mere presence of mobile phones…inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust and diminished the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding.” For many, the anxiety of being unable to answer their phone or a text, is nothing new, but the finding that problem-solving and social skills suffer greatly from the mere presence of a phone is striking.
How does a device that is not in sight or in use cause our intellect to decline? And why is it that anxiety from not answering our phones or a text is the new normal?
This is something we should not only reflect on (with our phones away and out of sight) but make a commitment to ourselves to put the phones away and spend time without our devices. As parents or caregivers, it is important to set an example for your family that relying on smartphones and other devices is not a healthy life choice. There are real psychological effects from our dependence on our phones and if we don’t learn to put the phones away, our intellect will continue to decline and our relationships will suffer, creating a society of screens and pixels. Take the time to put the phones away; we all could benefit from more meaningful and quality social time and less anxiety and distraction.
- Therapy West Staff
“The Largest Mass Shooting in United States History,” “Hurricane Irma,” “Hurricane Maria,” “Leader Kim Jong Un,” “Equifax Credit Union”….