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5 Warning Signs It’s Time to Try Couples Counseling

When you first fell in love, you could never imagine that someday the sound of your partner chewing could make you want to scream. It’s inevitable that once we are out of our honeymoon phase and reality sets in, we realize that all relationships take work and compromise. But while some couples may hit bumps in the road every so often, other couples find themselves in bigger trouble, with neither party knowing exactly how to fix things.

If you are in a relationship that is no longer feeling healthy, here are 5 warning signs that it may be time to try couples counseling:

1. There is No Longer Healthy Communication

Once you have a communication breakdown, you are unable to rationally share thoughts, feelings, and concerns with each other. Beyond this, unhealthy communication tends to leave one or both partners feeling depressed, angry and hopeless.

2. Trust Has Been Broken

When there has been infidelity, it is very difficult for the couple to rebuild trust and repair the damage. While there is no magic pill to recover from an affair, a therapist can offer tools and strategies to rebuild trust.

3. You’re More Like Roommates

If you and your partner act more like roommates than romantic partners, this indicates a lack of intimacy and a potential need for professional help.

4. One or Both of You Has Begun Acting Out

You try to mask your real feelings for as long as possible, but then you start to act out the hurt and resentment you may be feeling. For instance, if your partner has been unfaithful and you have agreed to stay in the relationship and work things out. But over time you find yourself lashing out, acting rude and trying to make them believe you are having an affair so they will feel the same kind of hurt. This acting out is unhealthy for both people and is a BIG indicator you need to seek some help.

5. When the Only “Solution” Seems to be Separation/Divorce

A break from negative energy can be very helpful to the relationship. But when a temporary break leads to more and more time away from home and someone renting their own apartment, this indicates a need for counseling. Spending time away from home usually doesn’t lead to any real resolution, just more distance.

 

If you and your partner are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Tips for Coping with Social Isolation

Humans are social creatures and we don’t do well in isolation. That’s exactly why state penitentiaries punish prisoners by putting them into solitary confinement. It causes them great mental anguish.

Many of us have felt like prisoners in solitary confinement over the last couple of months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. And many of us have been feeling our own mental anguish from this extended isolation.

Who knows how long this may go on? While none of us have control over what our governments do, we do have control over ourselves and our perceptions of the world. With this in mind, here are some tips for coping with social isolation, for however long it goes on.

Isolate Yourself from the Media

If you’re paying attention, it almost seems as if the media is trying to confuse us and cause panic more than report on actual news. Watching too much news doesn’t help anyone’s anxiety levels, so stay informed as best you can but don’t binge-watch.

Get Creative

Being isolated can get very boring very quickly so it’s important that you try and get creative with your time. This could mean painting the living room and rearranging the furniture or getting your husband and kids to learn a new language with you. It could mean experimenting with an old recipe or making up a game with your kids. Just have fun and think outside the box!

Reconnect

Now is a great time to reconnect with friends and loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. And technology like Skype and Facetime makes it incredibly easy to chat with someone no matter where in the world they are.

Stay Active

A lot of the anxiety we may feel comes from the fact we aren’t moving our bodies as much as we usually do. It’s important to stay physically active during this time. So get outside and get some sun. Go for a walk or ride your bike. Not only is exercise good for us physically, but physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel good mentally and emotionally as well.

Meditate

The world is a chaotic place right now and it seems we are being hit with noise and negativity from all sides. It’s important to make time each day for some quiet meditation.

If you’ve never meditated before, that’s okay. Just try it.

One of the easiest ways to meditate is through a listening meditation. Find a space in your house where you can be alone and get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out… and simply listen to the ambient sounds.

What do you hear? The buzzing of a light? A fly? Your dog’s collar rattling down the hall as he scratches. Expand your hearing to see what else can you hear outside your house. Birds? Lawnmowers? Traffic?

Simply breathe and listen intently for 5-10 minutes. When you listen, you can’t think at the same time, and so you will notice finally your thoughts go quiet. This is paradise!

If you find that the social isolation is really beginning to trouble you and you’d like to speak with someone, please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay because it will be.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. What can you do with the extra time that isn’t being used to drive an hour or more each day in commuting? Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Tackle them now, you’ll feel great about it later.

 

If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via Skype, so you won’t even have to leave your home if your state is in lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf

5 Foods to Keep Your Immune System Strong

As the events of COVID-19 continue to unfold, many of us are focusing on how we can keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible. While social distancing and increased hand washing can be very effective at stopping the spreading of the Corona virus, it is equally important to keep our immune systems strong.

With this in mind, here are some of the absolute best foods you can eat to help support your immune system:

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are loaded with powerful antioxidants. In fact, they contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can boost your immune system. A 2016 study found that flavonoids play an essential role in the respiratory tract’s immune defense system. The researchers found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get sick with respiratory tract infections and the common cold.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is the aromatic spice that makes curry yellow. It is also often used in alternative medicine thanks to its active compound curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to improve a person’s immune response because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

3. Spinach

Popeye knew that spinach would help him be stronger. But I wonder if he knew how good it was for his immune system. Spinach contains vitamin C & E, as well as beneficial flavonoids and carotenoids. Not only are vitamin C & E great for the immune system, but research shows flavonoids may help prevent common colds in otherwise healthy people. So, it stands to reason it may help protect against other viruses as well.

4. Citrus Fruits

Most of us, when we feel an illness coming on, reach for more vitamin C-rich foods. But what is it about vitamin C specifically that makes it so good for our immune systems?

Vitamin C is believed to increase the production of white blood cells. These are the cells responsible for attacking foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses.

Some popular citrus fruits high in vitamin C include:

  • grapefruit
  • oranges
  • tangerines
  • lemons
  • limes
  • clementines

Unlike other animals whose bodies do produce vitamin C, humans must get their vitamin C from the foods they eat or through supplementation. So be sure to add more citrus fruits to your diet.

5. Red Bell Peppers

We can’t talk about vitamin C without mentioning that ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain even more vitamin C than most citrus fruits. So if you prefer veggies to fruits, then be sure to eat more red bell peppers.

While this is not an exhaustive list of immune-boosting foods, it will get you started eating right so you can stay healthy during this pandemic. It’s also important to stay hydrated and eliminate sugars and trans fats from your diet as well.


SOURCES:

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/foods-that-boost-the-immune-system

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322412

How Telehealth May Change the Future of Therapy

A while back there was a very funny television show starring Lisa Kudrow (ditzy Phoebe from Friends) called “Web Therapy.” It was an improvised show and Lisa played a therapist who treated her patients over the Internet. Hence the title of the show.

Well, back when the show was on, the idea of treating mental health patients via a webcam seemed ludicrous. And the show did a great job at poking fun of Lisa’s character and her “wacky idea” of web therapy.

Fast forward 12 years after the show’s debut, and web therapy is now “a thing” thanks to telehealth technology. Yes, psychotherapy appointments can be held between therapist and patient while one is in one building, state, or country and the other is somewhere else entirely.

Why was web therapy a joke 12 years ago but telehealth is now gaining in popularity? The shift is most likely due to the growing popularity of tech solutions among younger generations. There’s also something very attractive about the ease of telehealth; of not having to leave your house or office to get the help you need.

As younger generations have become accustomed to using apps to have food, beer and groceries delivered right to their door, they expect these same conveniences from their health providers. While it may take a few more years before telehealth becomes truly mainstream, indicators suggest that push is more than likely to happen.

Benefits of Telehealth

We’ve already discussed the most obvious benefit of telehealth to consumers, and that is ease. But what about the benefits to the therapists?

To start, telehealth means those people who would otherwise feel too uncomfortable seeking therapy in person will now be open to seeing a therapist “privately.” This means a therapist has a larger number of people to deliver their services to.

Also, since these services can be delivered from a home office, a therapist can easily reduce their practice’s operating costs and overhead expenses.

Many therapists are saying the adoption of telehealth should have come sooner, but support and guidance on telehealth are finally coming from the American Psychological Association (APA) and other psychological organizations.

Therapist Need to Get Ready for the Switch

You can’t expect a therapist who has been treating patients face-to-face for x number of years to suddenly do well sitting in front of their computer’s camera. There are some subtle but important differences in working with patients over electronic connections.

For instance, in person, when a therapist breaks eye contact with a patient to take down a few notes, there is still a connection there because they are still in the same physical space. But over the Internet, when a therapist looks away to take notes, it may seem to the patient that the client is distracted. Providers interested in offering telehealth services to their patients will have to keep things like this in mind and always assure they are paying attention.

The APA offers continuing-education workshops on telehealth at its Annual Convention, and several divisions have begun providing training in telehealth as well. Therapists can also find online courses and training offered by the American Telemedicine Association.

No one is laughing any longer at the idea of web therapy. Instead, both consumers and therapists are embracing technology to bring about positive change and outcomes.

 

References:

Boundaries in Relationships during COVID-19

As we are all doing everything from one place: working, parenting, homeschooling, eating, playing, learning, exercising, etc…how do we make sure to continue to express clear boundaries with those we love and share space with?

It was much easier when we could leave the house to go to work or school, to drive to the place we exercise, to take a night for ourselves away from our household by meeting up with friends out somewhere.  Now that we are confined to one place and our social outlet is getting on Zoom with friends, how do we still carve out that space that we need for ourselves in order to reset.

I’m going to share a few ways that I am trying to hold up the boundaries and make time for myself and hope they will encourage you to think of ways that you can do this in your own home while we are under stay at home orders:

  • Set clear expectations with those in your home when you are on a personal Zoom call, exercising, reading a book, etc. (many people are only setting up these boundaries in regards to work calls/meetings)  Let them know the time you will be unavailable, for how long, and when you will rejoin them.  This lets them know that it is important and that it is a time when you will need to be left alone.  This can be difficult if you are the only adult in the home with children, but think of ways that you can steal 15 minutes here and there as a reset for yourself.  Something I need each day is some form of exercise and so I let my family know when I will be doing a particular yoga or pilates class and ask them not to interrupt me unless it is an emergency.
  • Have a routine or schedule that helps you and others get the things that need to be done completed while also having time to be alone or family fun time and stick to it.  By keeping on a routine, it gives you and others the ability to set time aside for themselves and still have time together.  This might be really difficult as many of us are working from home and our workday is going longer because of the other responsibilities that we have taken on (homeschooling, babysitting, etc.).  Have a set time, regardless of what you have gotten done, that you will stop your workday and have time to spend together.  Our day consists of some form of exercise, eating, school work, work work, and always ends with bedtime routines and family fun.
  • Go to bed when you need to in order to get enough sleep.  Getting sleep at night is a way for your body to reset, so a good nights sleep is really important.  Again, this can be really difficult because many of us aren’t going into work and we think that we can stay up later because our work day looks different but it benefits you to get the sleep you need to have the energy (mentally and physically for the next day).  Its okay to say what you need, and if what you need is to go to bed early one night- do it!  If you have children, keep them on a bedtime routine as well- they need their sleep to reset too.  If I am feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I tell my family that I am going to sleep and that I will see them in the morning and take that time for myself.
  • Even if you don’t have something set up and just need some personal space., let those around you know that you are feeling like you need your own time out and then have a space that is just yours to go to and recharge.  This could be a room or area of your home or you could even venture out for a walk alone just to clear your head.  Many people are taking to going on drives (not necessarily to go anywhere, just to get out of the house) and for some people going to the grocery store for their family is a welcomed break from the mundane.  Scheduling yoga or pilates or making my weekly trip to the grocery store is a reset for me and feels like a break.
  • Meals and other household tasks can be a way that you set boundaries.  We are all home more than we were in the past and with that being said, we are all contributing to the things that are part of living in a home.  There can be a task chart of what needs to be done and who will do it each week.  It doesn’t have to be one person’s responsibility to cook, clean, homeschool, etc.  By asking for that help or creating that chart, it shows that you are a team working together to get through this by supporting one another.  I have begun to ask my family to help with chores, take on cleaning up after themselves more, and being aware of how they can make our home better.
  • Something as simple as asking to pause a conversation and stating when you can come back to it can be a healthy boundary.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the conversation or the constant questions or requests for help; its okay to say that you can’t talk about it or answer that question right now.  And its okay to tell friends and family that you don’t want to talk about COVID-19 anymore.  While it might be comforting to some to talk about all the precautions they are taking or the latest news or statistics; this can be very anxiety producing for others.  You have the right to set the boundary that while you are talking, that you don’t want to hear about the latest news and to explain how it makes you feel (anxious, depressed, fearful, etc.) and let others know how you will handle it if this boundary is crossed.  An example of this would be to state that you don’t want to talk about COVID-19 and if it comes up you will ask that the person not talk about it while you are on the conversation or that you will have to leave the call.  I haven’t had to do this, but have this plan in place should I begin to get overwhelmed with it.
  • Encourage others in your household to also take time for themselves by asking for space or time to do something they want uninterrupted.  Its no longer an option to have parents ask each other for one night each week that is their’s to do what they want with because we can’t go out with our friends, go shopping, etc.  But it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to still be carving that time out for ourselves and for others to be doing the same.  It can be asking to go on a walk alone, do the grocery shopping this time, or if you can take a nap.  Making sure each person in the family is having time to do something just for them will help the family function as a whole.

While this time may be forcing us to be socially distant from those that don’t live in our household, it is a time when we are spending all our time with those within our households.  By asking for time when you need it or even scheduling it in each day, you are caring for yourself which lets you care for those within your home.

Coping with Working from Home During COVID-19

How many mornings have you shut off that alarm, wishing you could just work from home in your PJs? Well now many of us are getting our wish thanks to COVID-19.

While in theory working from home may seem ideal, the reality for many of us is that it’s, well, kind of a pain. Particularly if you have young children home from school that you now have to teach while still keeping productive at work.

The fact is, this sudden and unexpected disruption to our daily lives has many of us feeling stressed!

Here are some ways you can cope with working from home for the unforeseeable future.

1. Get Your Space Right

If you don’t have a dedicated home office, you’ll want to figure something out ASAP. Having the right space at home will help you focus on the tasks at hand. It will also automatically set boundaries with family.

Do you have a spare room you can use? Is there an area in your finished basement that could work? If not, clear off the dining table and set up there.

2. Keep Your Regular Schedule

You may want to treat the next 2-3 weeks as a sort of family vacation, but it’s best if you and the kids stick to your regular routines. That means getting up and going to bed at the same time, showering, getting dressed and having breakfast as you normally would. Straying from routine will demotivate you to complete the work that needs to get done.

3. Take Advantage of the Flexibility

While it’s important to keep to your routines, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of having more time on your hands. Instead of spending an hour plus on a commute each day, you could use that time to catch up on home projects that have been on your to-do list for a while. You can also use the added time to reconnect with your family.

4. Give Your Kids Structure

Kids need structure, so give them some each day. This could mean giving them three options of how they will spend the afternoon: playing with Legos in the living room, watching a movie or quiet reading in their bedrooms. Be sure to take a break from work every couple of hours to check in with your kids to answer any questions they may have. Lord knows they ALWAYS have some!

5. Get Some Virtual Babysitters

On those days when you have to conduct many meetings and get much done, consider reaching out to family and friends to arrange virtual playdates with the kids. Thanks to Skype and FaceTime, your virtual babysitters can read, play games and interact with your kids online while you get some important work done.

If you find you are getting a bit squirrelly, even after following these tips, you can always reach out to a mental healthcare provider who can give you some more ideas of how to manage the stress.

If you’d like to speak to someone, please reach out to me. At this time, I am able to conduct sessions via phone or Skype, so you don’t even have to leave your home if your state is on lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/biofeedback-and-mindfulness-in-everyday-life/202003/77-strategies-working-home-during-covid-19

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/working-at-home-with-kids-during-covid-19-crisis-with-kids-underfoot.html

Is It Saturday, Again?

What Day is it Again!
 
I have been thinking about how all of our days seem to run together and how usually by the end of the day, I have forgotten what day it even is😂.
 
The beginning of my day starts out fine, I know what day it is, I look at my planner, see what I have set for the day (meetings, webinars, exercise, my zoom meetings, my kids zoom meetings and their homework, etc.). But once I have accomplished the tasks for the day, because there was not movement from one space (work) to a new space (home)- I begin to completely lose track of time and space.
 
It makes me feel like I am stuck in Groundhog Day. Remember that movie with Bill Murray where the same day keeps playing over? Everything just starts looking the same, feeling the same, and there are no differences to delineate the work/school week from the weekend.
 
This is when I decide that it must be Saturday, again, because on Saturday, I can sleep in or set an alarm for a later time. I can stay in my pj’s and check emails, or eat breakfast at 11 a.m., I can catch up on things or just lay around and catch up on t.v., or play board games, or go for a walk or bike ride- whenever I want!
 
My life right now doesn’t feel much different than that. I set an alarm but only if I have to be up early- which is usually my want to get exercise in early and not due to a work meeting or scheduled webinar. On zoom calls- I don’t have to show my face and on most webinars the audio and video are turned off because of the large group of people on them. So I don’t have to look dressed up or professional- I do wash my face and brush my teeth but that’s for me! And I can go for a walk or a bike ride right in the middle of the day as long as I don’t have something already scheduled.
 
While I’m trying to express how its all running together and kind of make a joke out of “Is it Saturday, again?”, I’m also trying to express to everyone that while this has distanced us physically from our friends and family- that we can find some things to be grateful for and that those feelings of gratitude will help support us through this.
 
I challenge you to:
-think of one thing that you get to do now that you are home that you couldn’t have done if you were in the office at work and be grateful for the opportunity to get to do it
-pick one thing each day that you want to accomplish/a goal/something to look forward to, do it and let everything else just happen when it will (this is you giving yourself permission to be easy on yourself during this uncertain time)
-try to connect with at least one person a week in some way. Some may be able to do this daily because of their jobs (zoom meetings, phone conferences) but others may not and I don’t want to put the pressure of it being daily on you. But remembering that those connections support you as much as they support others
-be good to yourselves and one another. Everyone is experiencing this differently and we need to validate how they are feeling and accept them as they are and where they are at in this
 
Wishing you well,
Amanda Samuels, MA, PLPC

Free 15 minute video session

I am offering a free 15 minute video session to new clients that would like to see what a telehealth session would look like.  I know that many are nervous about doing video sessions and this is an opportunity to meet me, and for you to tell me more about you and your needs.  This is not a therapy session, but is similar to the first call in to give you the opportunity to try the video platform out and see if video therapy and I are right for you.  Contact me today to set up up this free appointment.

We are all human-ask for help

We are all in this together! I keep hearing that, but never have I felt more alone. I am a social person, I thrive on the connections I share with my family, friends, and co-workers. I know this is heavy- so let me explain.

Yesterday was a really hard day for me, and I’m sharing that because I’ve been doing okay with all of this social distancing, feeling like I have been caring for myself by eating right, getting plenty of yoga and exercise in, getting outdoors for walks or biking and sticking to a routine.

I think I thought that all of those things would keep me from the feelings of sadness or being overwhelmed that I’ve heard so many talk about. But it didn’t. Yesterday was Monday, and on Monday, new homeschooling assignments come out. These assignments aren’t too long or too difficult but they are hard to accomplish when you have 2 active boys that want to wrestle with each other to release some of their energy instead of using the time to do their school work.

I had to step back for a minute and realize that they are going through this too. That their lives have been disrupted, they aren’t playing the sports that they enjoy, seeing their friends, doing the activities that they had been looking forward to (and are still hopeful we will get to do at some point). I had to realize that as overwhelmed as I was feeling yesterday, that they might be feeling that way too.

This was an eye opener for me and a chance to remember and realize that we are all in this right now and that it is hard for each of us in our own way, that it is affecting us each differently and to respect those differences in our families, friends, and co-workers.

Its also a great time to make sure that we are finding alternative ways connect with others- we are hardwired to need this connection. So try to message with someone more, do zoom meetings with those you might have spent time out with, call someone and have a conversation- on the phone, or just text with others if you need a little connection pick me up.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. While we can’t see each other physically, we can be there as a support for one another. So ask those people, that love you and are missing you too, for what you need to help you get through this.

And if you are having a hard time and feel like you need someone to listen, know that I am here for you.