New Year – New Start

Amazing new opportunities that come from learning

By Pamela Feldman

We all are a work in progress, never more so than when we intend to make progress.  Beginnings seem to always have an allure of freshness, even in 2021 when there’s more continuation than new.  Yet, we may be poised exactly where we need to be to make positive changes that we might not have thought we needed or have thought about at all a year ago. 

Flexibility helped my shift to telehealth!

For me, this is a time to reflect on what has happened in the past year and how I am dealing with it.  There are some amazing new opportunities that come from learning new things, such as telehealth.  Though not seamless in the transition, there are many ways that telehealth, and technology in general, have expanded my knowledge and given me a new perspective.  

Change comes from need and sometimes from desire.  I personally embrace change, especially if I think I have some control. Sometimes I just need to think that I do.  So, what change are you going to make? Could I make some suggestions?

Keep your body limber!
  1. Journal.  It’s not an assignment and doesn’t need any kind of consistency.  Just sometimes, it’s nice to write about thoughts, dreams, good and bad things.  I like to record things that interest me, like a podcast that was meaningful, a poem I liked, or a song and artist that I want to hear again.
  2. Practice mindfulness.  Take 10 to 20 minutes to meditate, relax with your breathing, listen to meditative music.  Use an app or YouTube video. Stretch, tune in to your senses, smile.
  3. Learn something.  There are virtual tours, master classes, free Coursera classes, and a plethora of ways to stimulate your thinking.  Try something you’ve never done before.
  4. Reach out to someone you have neglected or someone who made a difference in your life, even if it was a long time ago.  A phone call, a note or email may reestablish a connection that enhances your life. 
  5. Give away more than you bring in to your home.  If you are able, make someone else’s life easier while reducing the heaviness of things in your own life. Sharing really is caring.
  6. Move your body.  In whatever way you are able, keep your body moving and limber.  
  7. Believe.  Whatever you embrace spiritually, take some time to get or stay in touch with that powerful force that helps you feel you are not alone, that you are loved and are precious.

This list is entirely incomplete, so feel free to add to it.  Take each day as it comes and do what you can with it. Things may not be all we wish them to be, but we can work to do the best we can with the day we have. I wish you peace in 2021. 

Stress, Pandemics, and Resiliency

Resiliency

From Pam Feldman, LIMHP:

This article from the New York Times helps us to understand how resilience is important in how we deal with adversity.  We face troubling times and it is more important than ever to look for ways to bolster our ability to stay on course and manage through crises.  We have options of how we handle the many challenges that face us.  I hope this article encourages you to find ways to stay positive.

From the NY Times:

“… the tools common to resilient people are optimism (that is also realistic), a moral compass, religious or spiritual beliefs, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and social connectedness. The most resilient among us are people who generally don’t dwell on the negative, who look for opportunities that might exist even in the darkest times. During a quarantine, for example, a resilient person might decide it is a good time to start a meditation practice, take an online course or learn to play guitar.”

Access the full article here

Workplace Bullying

Have you ever been subjected to Workplace Bullying by a boss or co-worker and not sure what to do about it?

Or have you ever witnessed or been subjected to what appears to be ridicule, intimidation, humiliation, or blame?

These behaviors are not okay at home, nor are they okay in the workplace. The link below will take you to the full article on the Insead.com website. It identifies Workplace Bullying as a silent epidemic. You’ll find out what it is and what you can do.

Kerry Matuszek, MS, LIMHP, CPC

Here’s the link to the full article.

After you’ve read it, do your best to put some of the ideas into motion. Need more help with this? Please call us!

Service Animals

Service Animal documentation

We frequently get asked to provide a letter for someone wanting to travel with an animal – or to have clearance to bring an animal into group housing, such as an apartment complex, dormitory or care facility. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Summary by:
Scarlett Shockley, LPC, LIMHP

Do you have an Emotional Support animal or a Service Animal?  It’s important to know the difference! I reviewed an online post from Kimberly Duff LPC, CRC, and I’ve distilled out the main points for you.

Service Animals

service animal is an animal that has received special training to help a person with a physical, sensory, cognitive or psychiatric disability.

These animals are protected by Title II and Title III of the ADA.

The work of the service animal must be directly related to the person’s disability and certification and documentation of this specialized training is required for purposes of the ADA.

A letter from a doctor or other professional does not make the animal a verified service animal. Examples of service animals include guide dogs, animals that assist persons with a hearing impairment, and animals that provide a signal of an impending seizure to persons with epilepsy.

Service animals are specially trained to help a person with a disability and are protected by the ADA.

Emotional Support / Comfort Animals

An emotional support animal, sometimes known as a comfort animal, may help provide support to an individual by helping mitigate symptoms of depression, relieving loneliness, and / or providing companionship. 

Because emotional support animals are not trained to provide a service to a person with a disability, these animals are not covered by Title II and Title III of the ADA.

Emotional support animals do not have specialized training and these animals are not protected by the ADA.

When it comes to living and traveling with service animals, it is clear that the ADA protects the owners’ rights. However, a comfort animal can be more challenging, if allowed at all. Comfort animals are not protected by the ADA and should not be allowed in public places unless the establishment permits pets or other animals.  If you have a comfort animal, and are wanting to travel or move into a residence that allows comfort animals, you may need documentation from a health care professional supporting the need for your animal.  Ask the travel venue or the residence administrator if they have a form for you to fill out. If they do not, then speak to your healthcare provider about a letter of verification that includes:

  • The professional’s license, state or jurisdiction of the license
  • The date(s) of the license
  • The individual’s clinical diagnosis
  • A statement that the individual is under the care of this professional
  • That the animal is necessary for the individual’s functioning & treatment plan

 

Device overload item – could it be happening to you?

When the average American looks at his or her smartphone between 90 and 165 times per day, this average American is doing much more than practicing highly questionable personal hygiene.A spate of recent studies suggests that people constantly looking at their smartphones — or, even scarier, simply sitting near their smartphones — have lower rates of the following things: cognition, problem solving, creativity, attention span, sound sleep, affinity, trust and empathy. Basically, we are making ourselves demonstrably dumber and less happy.

Source: Hansen: We are slaves to our smartphones. We are the Facebook Zombie Army. We are the Walking and Tweeting Dead | Matthew Hansen | omaha.com

from Pam Feldman, LIMHP

Is cell phone addiction really a “thing”? If everybody’s doing it, how can it be so bad?

Matthew Hansen’s article in a recent edition of the Omaha World-Herald, is a great example of how our children are becoming affected.

A recent issue of the Family Therapy Networker challenges therapists to address the effects of being constantly connected to cell phones, addicted to gaming, laptops, tablets and watches. Are we losing ourselves without recognizing it?

Next time you’re on your device, ask Siri how cell phones use is affecting children, marriages and other relationships. She’ll plug you in.

 

How Smart People Handle Difficult People

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus — an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success — when stress gets out of co

Source: How Smart People Handle Difficult People

Chances are that you’ve encountered challenges in your work relationships, or elsewhere. The research evidence suggests that it quickly can take a toll on us. Sound familiar? We can help. 402-334-1122

Talking To Kids About Fear And Violence

Kids Get Worried

With everything that happens in the world, your kids will — potentially — get the idea that the world is a dangerous place. They will ask questions. So, you’ll want to be ready to talk about it with them calmly.

“Parents can help children gain a sense of personal control by talking openly about  violence and personal safety.” Recent acts of violence in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin schools have stunned the nation. Children, in particular, may experience anxiety, fear, and a sense of personal risk. They may also sense anxiety and tension in those around them — friends, family members, loved ones, caregivers and other adults who have a direct impact on the well-being of children.

Source: Talking To Kids About Fear And Violence | Mental Health America

HOLIDAY TRADITIONS: IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD

Angst Over Food

It's not about the food!
It’s not about the food!

With the holidays fast approaching, there’s always angst over food. Whether you suffer a food allergy, an eating disorder, obesity, or are just trying to stay reasonably healthy, this is a difficult time of year. Lunch rooms get crowded with baked goods, every event seems to be focused on food, and families plan and prepare for feasts that result in food comas that sometimes end up in napping rather than enjoying one another’s company.

Celebrations

To be honest, we all probably have a few favorite foods that only come out at holiday time and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying that fully. But maybe it’s time to take into account that there are lots of other ways to celebrate and new traditions that engage more than our taste buds. If you are interested in considering making some changes, I’d like to offer a few ideas with the recognition that there may be some resistance and change happens gradually for most of us.

First of all, the holiday itself need not be the central part of the celebration. In many large and busy families, there are just too many places to go on one day. Consider enjoying an activity other than a meal. Locally, there are numerous free or low cost events that allow families to enjoy music, lights, and spiritual aspects of the season. familyConsult the local newspaper and magazines that are full of ideas such as the lighting downtown starting on Thanksgiving evening, and concerts at the museums, churches and other venues. A walk at the Lauritzen Gardens or a nearby lake or park is a way to bring the family together for some exercise. Game nights, making crafts and setting up friendly competitions can become something everyone remembers fondly. Building gingerbread houses, having snowball fights, or caroling can be ways to get at least some of the family involved in a new tradition. Volunteering around the holidays is a special way to generate comradery. Donating to charity by weeding out toys and coats and unused items is another family project that sets the holidays in motion. Just looking at Christmas lights is a fun way to spend an evening.

Keep It Simple

In our family, we try to keep it simple. After years of excessive, exhausting, albeit elaborate Holiday dinners, we now opt for a more people-focused approach. For example, Christmas eve will be at one home with a light meal and gift exchange. Christmas morning will be an egg casserole and sweet rolls at another home to enjoy the children and their Santa presents. We’ll end up at my house after a family traipse through the nearby trails, have soups and sandwiches, play games and tell stories and piece together a jigsaw puzzle. No one need be stressed out or bloated or secretly upset about over indulging. Don’t get me wrong, there will be candy and baked goods. But this year, we decided to forego the heavy meal on top of all that.

A final thought . . .

whatever your holiday includes, pay attention to what you really want to set your focus on. Who needs you to listen? When did you last read a book to a child? Is there an elderly person who would appreciate your attention? Have you connected with your spouse, your children, parents? How does nature, movement or music play a role in your holiday plans? The options are endless. Just let your imagination go.

Like I said, your family may have some awesome, creative holiday traditions. Share!

 

 

Phones & Separation Anxiety

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150111195734.htm – link to original article

iPhone separation linked to physiological anxiety, poor cognitive performance

Cell phone in hand
Must the phone always accompany us through the day?

From Science Daily:

Cell phone use has become a common part of life as mobile devices have become one of the most popular ways to communicate. Even so, very little research exists on the impact of cell phone usage and specifically what happens when people are separated from their phones. Now, research from the University of Missouri has found that cell phone separation can have serious psychological and physiological effects on iPhone users, including poor performance on cognitive tests. The researchers say these findings suggest that iPhone users should avoid parting with their phones during daily situations that involve a great deal of attention, such as taking tests, sitting in conferences or meetings, or completing important work assignments, as it could result in poorer cognitive performance on those tasks.

Let’s talk – without the phone……

I love my smartphone. I don’t have one of Apple’s phones – but a pretty good Android. It pretty much does everything I want it to. It’s a tool, a communication device, a kind of Swiss Army Knife kind of object that I’ve come to appreciate over time. I wouldn’t want to go back to my flip-phone.

We, as a species, mastered fire about 70,000 years ago – as I recall hearing recently. We’ve only had these marvelous devices for 6 or 7 years. We await each new version with breathless anticipation. We stare at the screen to the degree that I’ve started to see articles online about orthopedic problems emerging from high use. We detach from social environments to check our Twitter feed or Facebook status updates. Look around the next restaurant you’re in – and take note of how many people are seated with others, but interacting with their phones. Airports, grocery stores, art galleries – we don’t want to miss anything, apparently.

People are carrying them into psychotherapy sessions, too. To show the therapist the nasty text from a problematic mate or family member. To catch the return call from the pediatrician [this one makes sense to me!] or risk waiting another 24 hours. To monitor emergencies back at the office. On and on.

But to what end?

To do more? Not miss out? Stay in the loop?

Trouble letting go of your continuous connection to everything? Think it through, and consider uninstalling a few apps – or turn off the notifications. Turn off the vibration feature on your phone – fewer prompts to check-check-check who-what-when-why.

Still anxious? Let’s talk it over.

 

Mindfulness… What is it, really?

A rewarding and fulfilling life

Being mindful is not easy to sustain, really, even for one minute.  We have busy lives, running and running.  Sometimes or often times, we are so busy running we are actually missing our lives! The great poet Thoreau said, “When we die, we are concerned we missed our lives.” As we reflect back on our lives at any time, might it be rewarding to feel as if we did not, in fact, miss our lives during the precious time we we’ve been here thus far?  Another way to put it – if we feel we have become human-doings instead of human-beings, Mindfulness may be a game-changer in our lives. If practiced on a regular basis, it can reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of stress in your life as well as allow for a more rewarding and fulfilling life.

Mindfulness Is Awareness

In a word, Mindfulness is Awareness.  According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Professor Emeritus and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Mindfulness is about us noticing what things we hold in our awareness.  It is not about thinking… or thinking about what we think about… or even thinking about what we think we think about. It is not about “doing” either. So how do we hold things in our awareness without thinking or doing?  We allow ourselves to be present, noticing each moment as it is, without judgment. We all have the ability to hold ANYTHING in our awareness, such as thoughts, emotions, body sensations, relationships with other people, the color of the sky during sunrise or sunset, the sounds of the morning in our home, the temperature of the water we are drinking in any given moment, the feelings we are having in a busy rush hour traffic… you get the idea.  Mindfulness involves paying attention, showing up, noticing what’s happening around you in that moment, noticing what’s happening inside, asking ourselves, “What are we noticing right now?  And now?  And now?”  Jon Kabat-Zinn uses the phrase “dropping in on the body” in order to be mindful of our body sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, and more. He also calls mindfulness the process of “Awarenessing.”  We can practice our awarenessing at any time. http://youtu.be/EU7vKitN4Ro

Cultivating Mindfulness

Mindfulness is cultivated by practicing various forms of meditation or mental training.  It can be performed in formal meditation sessions or during day-to-day activities such as washing dishes simply by being present in the moment while allowing oneself to experience it in its fullness. For example, while washing dishes, one can notice the smell of the dish detergent, the amount of lathering occurring with the soap, the temperature of the water, the different textures of the variety of dishes…and on and on (and now and now) until dish-washing is finished. And if more formal meditation practices are desired, one can certainly incorporate them into the daily routine as well.  Many guided meditations are now available online via YouTube thanks to the very experienced teachers willing to share.

Beginning Practice

If you’d like to pursue a practice of meditation, you can begin by noticing your breathing. Does breathing really offer such great benefits, and if so, how? Donald Altman, a former Buddhist monk and now psychotherapist, has offered a very succinct explanation of how diaphragmatic breathing can be useful to your mind and body. First, it’s important to check to see if you are a chest breather or a belly breather.  Put one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen area, just under your rib cage.  Breathe normally.  If you find the hand over your chest moving most, you are most likely a chest breather.  If you find both hands are moving, you are most likely a chest breather with some belly breathing occurring.  If you find the hand under your rib cage moving most, you are most likely a belly breather.

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is more formally called diaphragmatic breathing. Breathing into the bottom-most part of the lungs sets in motion a process that turns on the body’s relaxation system.

Here’s how it works:

“Breathing into the deepest part of the lungs, presses on the diaphragmatic wall, which in turn presses down on the abdominal cavity.  This causes your belly to expand outward.  It also pushes the abdomen out in the back or presses on the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that runs in front of the spine. Pressure on the vagus nerve is what turns on the body’s relaxation system.  This lower’s blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration.  It also reduces lactate, a chemical in the blood that increases feelings of anxiety.  It also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps improve mood. In other words, it drastically changes your body chemistry by turning down the stress response.  Donald Altman likes to think of it as the air conditioning system for the body and the brain.  When your emotional systems are over-heating, you can cool everything down with conscious breathing. By re-training your breath in this way, you are actually turning off the alert and alarm system of the body which gets activated when you breathe shallowly.” Donald Altman’s CD: Keys to Healing, Relaxation, and Stress Reduction, Part 1 Positions that open the rib cage and stretch a group of muscles called the intercostals that hinge the ribs and actually help them open and make it easier to belly breathe: 1) Hands behind head – take breaths (normal breathing). 2) Hands behind back – take breaths (normal breathing). See what one minute of this breathing each day can do for you.  And enjoy!