Warning Signs of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is more common then you may think, impacting approximately 1 in 7 mothers these days. The onset of symptoms often begins in the first three weeks following the baby’s birth. Being tired, overwhelmed, or exhausted is a typical response for a new mom but check out some of the warning signs below to see if it's time to take your baby blues more seriously.

  1. Sadness and hopelessness that anything will ever get better begin to be common thoughts.

  2. Your baby blues don't get better after about 2-3 weeks after the baby is born. It's normal to have a dip in your mood for a couple weeks but it should begin to lift around week 3.

  3. You lose all interest in things you used to enjoy.

  4. You have trouble making decisions and are finding that even the smallest of choice feels overwhelming.

  5. Guilt and shame are common thoughts.

  6. You are having thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or wanting to die.

  7. You are withdrawing or saying no to friends or family coming over that usually would be a huge support to you 

If your identity with more than half of these symptoms and they have persisted for more than 3 weeks, contact your physician to let them know and to discuss next steps. Having a baby is hard work so don’t forget to monitor your own health and well-being in the process.

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The Unique Experience of Grief After a Suicide

For the thousands of mourners affected by the estimated 32,000 suicides a year in the U.S. the grief of suicide is uniquely complicated.    For survivors of suicide grief can be overwhelming and the healing process particularly challenging.

While grief can lack a predictable pattern or timetable, there are elements that are often shared by survivors as they work through the trauma of loss by suicide:

Shock

Often survivors' initial reaction is shock and disbelief. Denial allows the mourner to accept the reality of the loss that they can at that time.  Gradually, recognition and acceptance of the reality sets in, though for some, shock is experienced repeatedly as the survivor bounces back and forth from recognition to denial.

Anger

Many survivors feel angry at the loved one who has committed suicide for leaving them and inflicting emotional pain.  This anger is understandable. Anger is simply not liking how things are…and this feeling is justifiable in the case of suicide survivors.  Moving toward forgiveness is an important step in the healing process.

Guilt

Guilt can be one of the most difficult emotions associated with suicide loss. Survivors often blame themselves for not recognizing warning signs, not providing the person with the help and support they needed or not having taken steps to prevent the suicide. 

The extent of guilt is often dependent on the nature of the relationship the bereaved had with the victim prior to the suicide. Experts stress that it is important to recognize that you are not responsible for the person's actions. 

Depression

Intense sadness and depression often follow the death of a loved one. The stigma and misconceptions associated with suicide can prevent the survivor from seeking needed support. Studies have shown survivors to be more prone to depression than those not affected by a suicide, which places them at greater risk of complicated grief & suicide themselves. 

Finding meaning or purpose in the life of the loved one and the grieving process can help survivors make sense of the trauma and work through depression.

Feelings that are common in survivors of suicide:

  • Overwhelming sadness

  • Loneliness

  • Guilt and/or regrets

  • Rejection or abandonment

  • Confusion

  • Shame

  • Anger

  • A lack of support & dealing with the stigma of suicide

  • Dealing with severe trauma

Remember that survivors of suicide have a greater risk of the following than do many other losses to death:

  • Major depression

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Suicidal ideation and/or behavior

  • Prolonged complicated grief

If you or someone you love needs help with grief after a suicide, don’t suffer in silence and alone with this complicated loss and the grief that follows. Seek help from professionals who can companion you during this dark time in life. 

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Are you Submissive, Assertive or Aggressive?

How do you handle conflict? Do you go along to avoid it? Do you have trouble expressing your thoughts? Or, do you have no problem at all? Generally, there are 3 different styles of interacting when conflict arises: 1.) submissive, 2.) assertive, and 3.) aggressive.  

Submissive personalities are characterized by a lack of self-assertion. They habitually avoid conflict and are too readily to ally or submit to those seen as more capable. 

Assertive personalities have no problem articulating their needs. They have a high respect for self and for other’s rights and needs and will actively fend for it. It is tempered and respectful fighting with legitimate purpose. 

Aggressive personalities, on the other hand, is self serving with no regard for other’s feelings or rights. There is no limits or boundaries that is comes out as disrespectful. At times, it is violent. 

Often, our maladaptive manner of dealing with conflict is influenced by family dynamics. For instance, if we have parents who handle conflict by being aggressive, we may see this as what people do when disagreements arise. Or if we are often being intimidated by an aggressive person growing up, we may sometimes learn that being submissive is the better way to go.  As a therapist, it is important for me to pinpoint why a person chose their manner of dealing with conflict. If a person is aware how they came about the behavior, then maybe they can make conscious choices to act differently. 

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Attitude Of Gratitude

We've all heard this buzz word before but what does it really mean? Holiday seasons often prompt us to think about what we are grateful for; the people around us, the resources we have, or the experiences we have had over the year. Of course, there are many times the holidays also do just the opposite. But wouldn't it be nice if we could experience the joy of gratitude throughout the year and not just during the holidays?  

Developing an attitude of gratitude is a practice, just like any other mentality. A professional athlete isn't born with a tough and disciplined attitude, they practice it over time and over time it becomes a pattern and this pattern becomes a habit. Having an attitude of gratitude is no different.  

Having an attitude of gratefulness means that on a regular basis, you make a habit of practicing intentional thankfulness and gratefulness for all areas of your life. If you focus on what you DO have, you will tend to see more of it and the good in it rather than focusing on what you don't have you. Some ways to begin making this attitude a habit include:

  1. Every morning, saying out loud 10 things you are grateful for.

  2. Starting a gratitude journal. Write in it a little each day and don't stop until you get to one thousand items.

  3. At the end of each day, tell yourself 3 things you are grateful that you did today.

  4. Each day, express thanks to 3 people in your life for who they are, what they are like, and what you are thankful for in your relationship.

If you are having difficulty being grateful at first, change the wording to what COULD I be grateful for? Instead of what SHOULD i be grateful for. Studies have been showing an increase in physical health for those that practice gratitude, so dont wait any longer! 

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Got Stress?

Most of us do!  For teens and adults alike, stress has an impact on healthy behaviors like exercising, sleeping well and eating healthy foods. Try these things to stay stress free this fall.

  • Be assertive

  • Try meditation for stress management

  • Engage in some kind of exercise everyday

  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink plenty of water

  • Find a hobby

  • Get enough rest and sleep; Your body needs time to recover from stress

  • Steer clear of alcohol and drugs to reduce stress

  • Spend enough time with those you enjoy

  • Positive attitudes are a must

Stress, if not dealt with, can affect your mind, body and soul.  Stress is a normal part of life. Many events that happen to you and around you -- and many things that you do yourself -- put stress on your body. You can experience good or bad forms of stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.Take time for yourself every day to reflect on your stress level and begin to lower your stress by creating and practicing skills that help soothe you.Self-Soothing techniques as simple as making and enjoying a cup of tea can be soothing at the end of a long stressful day.Make your tea the old fashioned way (instead of using a Keurig)! Listen for the sound of the water boiling, and then the whistle of the kettle when it is ready.Smell the aroma of tea before you take a sip. Feel the warmth of the cup in your hands.Your stress has probably decreased just by reading these words. Now, go make that cup of tea!

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Positive Reinforcement

Parenting is hard. It’s probably one the most challenging things a human can possibly do in their lifetime. We as parents have the responsibility of providing for our children’s physical, emotional wellbeing and needs. We need to mold them to be able to care for themselves, learn how to contribute and be part of the family, and ultimately, how to be a healthy contributing member of society. To accomplish the above we need to know how to shape our children’s behavior. One of the ways we shape behavior is by using positive reinforcement. Reinforcement basically consist of things that we do after a behavior to make it more likely that the behavior will be repeated. The main key is in making a conscious effort to notice that something is done right. For example, when a child finishes brushing their teeth we can immediately reinforce it by smiling and giving them a high five. The following are other ways we can reinforce positive behavior.  

  1. Acknowledging words, Encouraging, Praising Words – Love it!” “Nice Work!” “Good job!” “You did it” “you worked really hard on this.” ““Thank you!” 

  2. A Nod (acknowledging) 

  3. Explain how it impacted people- “I appreciated…” “I enjoyed….” “I felt touched when you brought me a glass of water when you saw I was tired…”

  4. Smiling at our kids

  5. Giving them our full attention

  6. Giving them a hug

  7. Stickers 

  8. Points

  9. Special prizes 

Extra privilege that they earned

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Money Talk

We all know that money makes the world go 'round and we all have to pay our bills. However, what level of obsessed are you with your bank account? Being money crazy, money motivated, and overly concerned with money can have some serious downfalls. Now I do believe there is such a thing as a money addict, but that is not who I want to talk to in this blog right now. This blog post is also not for those suffering in poverty and have real financial stress as to how to meet the needs of their family. I want to talk to middle class America, the ordinary lover of money.  

Whether you have much or just enough, your view of money can have a direct impact on your mental health. When we idolize money, prioritize making it over all else in our life, or spend what we don’t have for our own perception, we can create really dangerous habits.  

Here are some questions to ask yourself for keeping yourself in check when it comes to your thoughts about money:

  1. How much time each day do I spend thinking about how much money I have or want to have?

  2. What have I sacrificed in the last day, week, month, or year in order to make more money? Am I sacrificing too many of my values?

  3. If my loved ones were to die tomorrow, but I had all the money in the world, would I be happy?

  4. Am I spending money I shouldn't to keep up with the Jones?

  5. What am I willing to give up to meet my financial goals? If that were to happen, how would I feel? Would it ever be enough, or will the ceiling keep rising?

These are a few questions to start with, if you find yourself thinking more about money and earning it than your other values, it may be time to explore your own mentality surrounding the love of money. As with most of life, there's a balance to everything-even making, having, and spending money :)

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The Chronic Pain Cycle

Acute pain and chronic pain are two different things. They affect us in different ways and their treatment should differ. Acute pain is short-term, lasting up to six months, and usually resolves itself when you fix the underlying cause. Chronic pain lasts longer than 6 months and can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away. The effects of chronic pain can be one big cycle. For example, pain can often cause muscle tension. Then increased muscle tension can increase pain. This cycle continues until pain and muscle tension are unbearable. Since we can’t magically take away all the pain, the goal would interrupt the cycle, decrease muscle tension, and therefore decrease pain. People with chronic pain tend to be less active and mobile when in pain, which is understandable.  We were taught when growing up that if we hurt ourselves just to stay off it until it feels better or heals. This is a good strategy with acute pain but can cause more difficulties to those with chronic pain. The more inactive we are, the more deconditioned our muscles become which makes recovering from an injury or illness even more difficult. It can then lead to weight gain which can contribute to other health problems like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Deconditioning can make you feel weak and tired all the time. Feeling weak and tired all the time can affect your ability to sleep. When you don’t sleep well it can affect your mood, feeling down, frustrated or angry. When you are constantly frustrated and angry you feel tense and the cycle goes on and on. Being stuck only furthers pain and opens you up to a host of other problems affecting your physical and mental health. Feel stuck? Ask for help and break the cycles.

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Left Brain, Right Brain

At some point in life, either through a personality test or just learning about the two types, you may have discovered if you lean more towards being “left-brained” or “right-brained”. Those who function more in the left side of their brain are logically, analytical, and think factually while those who function more in the right side of their brain are emotion centered and creative. 

Most people talk as if they are only one or the other and don’t see themselves taking on traits of the opposite side. Or people might say something like “my emotional side responded that way” or “my logical side thought through this”. The truth is, we function most fully and in a healthy state when both sides of our brain are integrated and working together. This would look like our left and right brain working together to make sense of our lives. 

When people show up for counseling with dis-integrated brains one of the first things we work through is letting their thoughts and feeling communicate with each other. This might look like someone who is highly emotional about their current situation bringing reason into the picture. We might think through things like “Why do you think that person acted that way?” “What are some behind the scenes reasons this may have happened?” Or “What is the probability that this situation will continue?” Adding reason and logic to the emotion helps bring perspective to the situation. It may also look like someone coming into session sharing all of the facts about a situation but still being confused about which decision to make next. They have analyzed all their options but nothing seems to stick out. Depending on if people are angry, sad, happy, etc. about their situation will call for a different response. When we know how we feel about a situation it gives us direction. Emotions and thoughts are both helpful to us and even more so if they are connected. 

Some things to consider:

1. Which side of your brain do you lean on most? 

2. How might you work on integrating your brain? How could you help your right and left side communicate? 

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Positive Intent

One of the concepts from the business world that transfers well to struggling couples is assuming positive intent. Many times couples come in experiencing gridlock in communications and conflict resolution. They are quick to become defensive and assume their partner is always trying to “win or be right.” After weeks, months or years of functioning this way, the environment becomes very hostile and it can be hard to remember the team commitment once made at the alter. This concept is not a novel one and simply implores giving others the benefit of the doubt. This combined with a little empathy can go a long way. 

The first step in assuming positive intent is to create self-awareness around what it is your partner is doing or saying that is bothersome. Identify the trigger and acknowledge your reactive emotion. Then, step back, and ask yourself, “Is that in my partner’s nature to try to frustrate me?” Then allow yourself to step in their shoes for a moment and see the situation from their perspective. More often than not your partner’s behavior is not an attack on you or your relationship. It is simply self-preservation either emotionally, mentally or physically. Then remind yourself that at their best, your partner has your back and would never intentionally harm you. Overall, extend grace to your partner, acknowledge how they feel, and work towards fostering “we is more important than you or me” in your relationship.

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